Making our lips look plump, pouty and perfectly tinted has been a beauty goal for millennia – literally. Though there is anthropological evidence that Mesopotamian women were coloring in their cupid’s bows, the first commercial lipsticks hit the market in the 1930s. Lucky for us, cosmetics are a lot safer these days than they were back then. But that doesn’t mean that all lipsticks are created equal.
In recent years, lip stains, known for their cornucopia of shades and nearly indelible tints, have exploded on the beauty scene. But one can’t help but wonder if such indestructible adornments are a really safe of if there’s something sinister lurking in that candy apple red concoction. Considering that women ingest an estimated four pounds of lipstick and lip products in their lifetime, it’s worth taking a closer look.
What is lip stain?
Lip stains are like the bigger, badder, commitment-laden cousin of lipstick. Instead of a twist-up semi-solid container of pigmented wax, lip stains most commonly come in a tube-and-wand system or a firm tip-pen style, slightly reminiscent of the markers you had in middle school. The consistency varies by brand, pigment style and texture, spanning anywhere from soft and creamy to straight up liquid. The tenacity of these tints runs the gamut, some lasting just a few hours while others need specially formulated removers to even get them to budge.
Applying lip stains can be tricky, as some of them are a one-time chance for getting them right, while other less aggressive lip stains allow a little more leeway. They also come in a variety of looks, including sweet sheer tints, seductive shimmering stains and stalwart opaque paint styles. Pretty much every cosmetic company has gotten in on the lip stain game, and some companies have even sprung up solely to take this hot makeup market.
So, are lip stains safe?
Well, that depends on who you ask and what your personal comfort level is with certain ingredients. Some lip stains are more of a long -asting tint. They give a perky color enhancement to your lips without masking the natural beauty and shape of your mouth. These tend to be less drying and don’t cake, flake off or settle into creases around your lips. Because these more sheer lip stains don’t provide heavy coverage, their ingredients differ from more opaque styles.
You can find a variety of options when it comes to lip stains and, of course, those with the fewest ingredients and the more natural ingredients (such as mineral-based pigments and plant-based colorants) are going to be your safest options.
And what isn’t safe?
Interestingly enough, it’s not the colorants in lip stains that you need to worry about. Although it can be argued that the American cosmetics industry is rather loosely regulated, colorants have some of the strictest regulations attached to them. These are some of the most rigorously tested ingredients and have the least cause for concern. It’s all the other ingredients you want to watch out for.
Watch out for non-organic castor seed oils and pay close attention to “preservatives” and “antioxidants.” Of course these ingredients are needed to keep the lip stain fresh and preserve the color, but if you can avoid chemical ingredients in lipstick such as parabens, terpenes and BHT, you should. It’s also advisable to steer clear of anything containing fragrances or perfumes; there’s really no benefit to them and it’s a good bet you’re looking at unsafe chemicals if “fragrance” is a top-five ingredient.
And not to point fingers, but if you have to buy a special potion just to remove your lip stain, it’s probably safe to say that there’s something in it that you don’t want hitching a ride when you’re sipping your morning turmeric latte.
What alternatives are there?
A tried and true alternative to liquid lip stains is the old lip pencil as a lip stain trick. It’s as simple as it sounds. You have a plethora of shades you can mix and match to create your perfect pout. Choose from one of the natural-based lip pencils on the market. They’re usually made from ingredients like bees wax, jojoba oil and mineral pigments. Use it to fill in as much (or as little) of your lip as you prefer. Then, match a sheer-tinted or moisturizing lip balm to layer on top to keep your lips hydrated and perfectly plump.
DIY red lip stain
For the more adventurous of you out there, you can create your own lip stain by mixing crushed berries with bees wax and keeping it in a small tin for portability. Though it doesn’t have the staying power of a commercial lip stain, you know it’s perfectly safe. Just be sure to use a lip brush and not your finger when applying it to keep out germs. Also, keep the stain refrigerated to prolong its freshness.
You can also make your own peel-off lip stain by mixing 1 to 3 drops of natural food coloring with gelatin. Use a brush to paint it onto your lips, let dry, and then peel off; it will leave behind a fresh and sheer lip stain that will have great long-lasting color.