Consumer Guide Released for Valentine’s Day: Research Shows Some Lipsticks Contain Harmful Chemicals

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Dev Gowda

Kara Cook-Schultz

We should be able to trust that the products we buy are safe — especially ones our families use every day, applied directly to our lips. However, today U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a consumer guide entitled “Kiss Off,” which contains examples of lipsticks, lip balms, and children’s lip products which contain ingredients linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive problems. Popular brands such as Maybelline, L’Oréal, and ChapStick made the list.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund surveyed popular lip products that the entire family uses and found that consumers must still be wary when shopping for their everyday lip products. While these findings are  alarming, they are not necessarily surprising, given that the FDA does not require ingredients to be tested or approved for human safety before they are added into our personal care products and cosmetics. As such, manufacturers can use nearly any ingredient they choose.

Our research found that some common lip products to avoid are:

  • Lipsticks:

    • L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Shine Lipstick in Dazzling Doe (contains fragrance)

      • Potential health effects: cancer, reproductive and respiratory problems, allergies

  • Lip balm:

    • ChapStick Classic Original (contains propylparaben and methylparaben)

      • Potential health effects: skin cancer, reproductive toxicity, hormone disruption

  • Children’s lip balm:

    • Maybelline Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm (contains fragrance)

To create the consumer guide, U.S. PIRG Education Fund researchers looked at ingredients listed for many common lip products, cross-referenced them with cosmetic chemical databases and peer-reviewed studies, and developed a consumer guide listing several examples of popular lip products that contain chemicals of concern such as fragrance/parfum and parabens that have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and hormone disruption.

There is good news in the report: several manufacturers have cracked down on lead in their lipstick since 2010. Lipsticks that used to contain lead are now lead-free products. The consumer guide also includes a list of safer alternative lip products that do not contain common chemicals of concern.

“This Valentine’s Day, we shouldn’t be giving our loved ones a toxic chemical-tainted kiss,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, Toxics Director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “We should be able to trust that the products we apply directly to our mouths which we ingest, are safe. Until that’s the case, consumers need to watch out for common potentially hazardous ingredients when shopping for lip products.”

While the lip products in the guide may not necessarily violate any laws, consumers should pay attention to products containing ingredients that are linked to negative health effects, and be aware of how to avoid those chemicals in their personal care routine.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund has the following recommendations:

  • For manufacturers:

    • Remove chemicals of concern and replace with safer ingredients, and disclose fragrance ingredients.

  • For State lawmakers: set policies to mandate personal care product manufactures to disclose fragrance ingredients

  • For Consumers:

    • Avoid products that have common ingredients of concern such as fragrance/parfum, and parabens.

    • Call the companies who make your favorite lip products, and tell them you want their products made without toxic chemicals.

The full consumer guide including links to stores selling the products featured can be found here.

Researchers also provided some examples of safer alternative lip products that consumers can buy to avoid common hazardous chemicals:

  • Lipsticks:

    • Mineral Fusion Lip Sheer – Flashy

    • Coastal Classic Creations Pure Classic Lipstick – Conch

    • Maia’s Mineral Galaxy Mineral Lipstick – Forever Friend

  • Lip balm:

    • Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm (doesn’t contain fragrance)

We can’t definitively say that any particular product is 100% safe for all users. We chose to highlight these products because they are formulated without major chemicals of concern that are found in many lip products. In addition to the toxics concerns that we are raising, it’s possible for people to be allergic to specific ingredients, or have other kinds of sensitivities depending on genetic or environmental factors. It’s best to look for products with low-hazard ingredients, like the ones we highlight on our list.

Access our full consumer guide here, or go to our website at