What is Lipstick Made of?

Table of Contents

Lipstick takes the crown for being the most popular product in the beauty industry. It is a cosmetic product used to color lips. One of the reasons lipstick is so popular, especially among the younger generation, is its ability to enhance the beauty of lips. It is available in a wide range of colors, from pink to red to even black! But what exactly is lipstick made of? How is it able to give different colors to our lips?

Lipstick. Credit: Wikimedia / Jen

Ingredients of lipstick

  1. Wax: One of the key ingredients, the wax provides structure to the lipstick. It is responsible for holding the lipstick together and giving it shape. One of the most common types of wax used is beeswax. Beeswax is natural and renewable. Hence, it is commonly and widely used. Others like carnauba wax and candelilla wax are also available.
  2. Oils: Oils provide moisture to the cosmetic product. If you have ever wondered why lipsticks feel so smooth and soft to the touch, oils are the reason. The presence of oils makes the lipstick easy to apply. Commonly, oils like castor oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil are included.
  3. Emollients: Emollients are responsible for softening the skin and giving it a smooth appearance. They also keep the lips moisturized and prevent them from drying. Lanolin, shea butter, and cocoa butter are some widely used emollients.
  4. Preservatives: You wouldn’t want your favorite lipstick to be contaminated by toxic microorganisms, right? Well, preservatives protect lipstick from microbial attack. They are the reason lipstick has such a long shelf life. Parabens and phenoxyethanol are commonly added.

Pretty colors

Lipsticks come in a wide variety of colors, from the usual light pink and maroon to some unusual colors like black and green. The ingredients responsible for such colors are called pigments . Pigments are mixed in the wax bases. Natural pigments, like beet juice, are available. But usually, synthetic pigments are used.

Does your lipstick contain whale vomit?

Lipsticks can sometimes contain some weird ingredients. In the past, a type of whale vomit, also called ambergris, was used in lipstick preparations. It is a waxy substance made by the digestive system of the whales. It is used as an emollient. Fortunately, today most companies use other alternatives.

Speaking of weird lipstick ingredients, fish scales deserve a mention. To add a shiny or pearly appearance to the texture, a compound called guanine is added to the lipstick. And this guanine comes from fish scales!

If red is your favourite lipstick shade, we have news for you. To get that appealing shade of red, a dye called carmine is needed. And it is produced by grinding the scales of the female cochineal insect!

The cochineal insect. Credit: Wikimedia / Vahe Martirosyan

As you now know, some of these ingredients are animal-based. You may need to consider what your lipstick contains if you follow a vegan lifestyle.

Paraben controversy

Paraben, a preservative sometimes used in lipsticks, has come under fire for its adverse health consequences. Paraben can seep through the skin and get inserted into our body. It disrupts the function of hormones like estrogen. It can also affect the production of hormones. Due to its effect on important hormones like estrogen, it can hamper the reproductive health of the users and can cause fertility issues. There are also concerns that paraben could cause cancer. Lipsticks or any other cosmetic products that contain paraben should be used with caution.


Pigment: Coloring compounds used in cosmetics.

: Excretion of a whale digestive system, used in cosmetics like lipstick and perfume.

Digestive system
: The organ system responsible for breaking down and processing food.

: Red color dye obtained from insects.

: A lifestyle that involves negligible or no usage of animal products.

: A preservative commonly used in cosmetic products like lipstick.

: Chemical messengers in the body that perform important biological functions.

: A type of female sex hormone.

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 61.7

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level:

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