What Is In Lipstick? Here Are 10 Ingredients That Will Make You Cringe

Ahh…lipstick. I’m never without it. A must have in my makeup reserve. And so it is for many other women. But do you know what is in lipstick? Ingredients that will make you cringe for sure! This is true for many popular lipstick brands. When you read these ingredients, you may feel sad, mad, or downright sick.  But before you ban lipstick from your makeup case, let me assure you that there are plenty of options that will have you feeling happy again in no time! I will share some of these in this post, but first for the rundown of what might be lurking in many popular lipsticks.

If you have ever read the ingredients on some lipsticks you could probably compare it to reading the label of a processed food. There are probably words there you have never heard of. But how many people ever bother to look up ingredients they don’t recognize? Probably surprisingly few. And most beauty companies are probably ever so glad that a lot of people never do. Let’s go over 10 ingredients found in many different brands of lipstick and you will see why.

Yes, there are more than 10 “bad” ingredients in lipstick, but I chose to focus on some I consider the worst. The first 6 are animal ingredients and the last 4 are harmful chemicals or toxins.

 1. Carmine

You might also see this ingredient listed at cochineal extract, natural red 4, crimson lake, or a host of other innocent sounding names. So what is it really and where does it come from? It comes from the female cochineal beetle in found in central and south America. These beetles eat red cactus berries. When the beetles are crushed, a very vibrant red dye is the product. This dye is used to pigment lipstick, especially shades of red or variations of red.

Even worse, products containing carmine are usually ones that are tested on animals, although there are some products that contain this ingredient that are not tested on animals. But if beetles are crushed to get the coloring, is the product really cruelty-free? I don’t think so.

 2. Squalene

So sad, but squalene is found in sharks’ livers and is commonly used in a lost of cosmetics including lipstick. 100% Pure uses pure olive squalene in the making of cosmetics. Olive squalene comes from a much kinder source….olives!

 3. Lanolin

Lanolin comes mainly from sheep. It is a wax that is excreted from their oil glands. Lanolin is greasy and used in many lipsticks. Nice, huh?

 4. Guanine

If you have worn shimmery or iridescent lipstick, it might have contained guanine. This substance is found in the skin and scales of some fish.

 5. Collagen

If your lipstick has lip-plumping capabilities it most likely contains collagen. Collagen is a protein that is derived from animals.

 6. Tallow

This is possibly the most disgusting ingredient used in cosmetics, especially lipsticks, and it is one of the main ingredients in most soaps on the market today. Not only is it yucky, it just makes me sad to think about dead animals. Yes, dead animals! Tallow is made from the renderings of animal carcasses. The animals may be slaughtered animals, roadkill, or even animals euthanized at shelters.

Why would anyone want this substance on their lips? And who can bear the thought of wearing something on their body anywhere that could have come from a ….dog or cat? Anyone that can even make something like this has to be cold and heartless, even if the animal was dead already!

 7. Heavy Metals

Heavy metals, including lead. We have all heard of lead poisoning, right? You will not find this ingredient (or probably any other heavy metal) listed on a lipstick’s ingredient list. But in 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics did a study and found lead in many lipsticks. In 2010, the USDA tested 400 lipsticks and found lead in all of them. Yet the FDA claims that the levels found are “trace amounts” and therefore do not pose a threat to human safety.  A University of California study found other heavy metals in lipstick and also determined that women reapplying lipstick throughout the day could ingest or absorb a whopping 87 milligrams of lead per day! That doesn’t sound like safe levels to me!

 8. Methylparaben 

This is a preservative that has been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Its use is has been restricted by the European Union because of its toxicity, but it is still allowed to be put in lipstick and other cosmetics in the U.S.

 9. Propylparaben

Another toxin linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Though not considered at harmful as methylparaben, this chemical can cause allergic reactions and irritate skin.

 10. Propylene Glycol

This is not only found in lipstick, it is found in many mouth washes, and even in foods. But guess where else you’ll find it. In antifreeze. Enough said.

Better Choices

Now that you have an idea of the kinds of things found in the majority of lipsticks, I think you will be pleased to know that cruelty-free, non-toxic, natural alternatives are available. Here are some of the best cruelty-free choices. I checked and made sure these lipticks are all cruelty-free and vegan friendly because I know you don’t want lipstick with any of those ingredients I just described!

Colourpop Lippies
Colourpop Best of Lippie Stix Collection One of the Hottest Trends in Cruelty-Free Makeup!

E.l.f. Lipstick
E.l.f. Moisturizing Lipstick Flirty and Fabulous

Pacifical Cruelty-Free Vegan Lipstick
Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick

Lip Ink Collection
LIP INK Organic Vegan 100% Smearproof Henna Red Lip Stain Collection

Lime Crime
Lime Crime Metallic Velvetines Liquid Matte Lipstick

Got a favorite vegan, cruelty-free, natural or organic lipstick you’d like to share? Please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading!

For the Love of Animals,





Featured Image Found on Pixabay


  1. Susan says:

    Hi Linda – Great article. I am always on the hunt for natural-harms-nobody products. I love the way you make an interesting list of types of ingredients to avoid. I use raw coconut oil lip moisturizer named Hurraw! because I like the name, and also the Burt’s Bees lip shimmers. I hope that those are not harmful – have not really checked it out; but I will now, because I have your great list!

    1. Linda Kwasniewski says:

      Hi, Susan! Thanks taking the time to comment. I liked Burt’s Bees Lipsticks extremely well until I found out some not so great information about this company. Burt’s Bees does not test on animals according to PETA. However, the company is not vegan. They do use beeswax in their products and unfortunately, they use carmine for pigmentation which is obtained from crushing female cochineal beetles. Also, the company is now owned by Clorox, and although Burt’s Bees products are not tested on animals, Clorox is certainly not a cruelty-free company. Hope this helps!

  2. Barb says:

    Thanks so much for this great article enlightening me on these 10 cringe worth ingredients.

    Yuck! That’s horrible. I’d love to know who dreamed up using these products for lipstick or any other cosmetic. Dr. Frankenstein? Crushed beetles for red dye? Shark liver? Sheep glands?

    I’m so glad that you presented us with some cruelty free options. I’m definitely going to check them out.

    My favorite cosmetics line is 100 Percent Pure. Have you ever heard of them?

    1. Linda Kwasniewski says:

      Hi Barb. Yes, I use products from 100 Percent Pure, and I have two reviews posted on the site. I have one review of the 100% Pure company and a 100% Pure Second Skin Foundation Review. I love the fact that they are vegan. Their products are fruit pigmented and the colors are gorgeous, proving that you do not have to use carmine (crushed beetle extract) to color cosmetics.

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