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Safe Lipstick Guide

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Written by Maia, President
Written by Maia, President

The really good–and surprising–news about lipstick is that there is a lot of Good Stuff and Okay Stuff out there. Many brands have created beautiful, effective, non-toxic lipsticks using safe ingredients.

In fact, we found so many brands that met our strict non-toxic lipstick standards that we had to force ourselves to stop vetting products in order to finally get this guide published!

Also in the interest of time, we mostly limited our research to products that are lipsticks, lip crayons, or pigmented lip glosses– not color-less lip balms or other lip treatment products.

And, as you probably guessed, there is a lot of of Bad Stuff and Sneaky Stuff in the world of lipstick. Because you wear lipstick on your lips, where it can be absorbed and ingested, I encourage you to choose Good Stuff and Okay Stuff. This is especially true for all you lipstick addicts out there!

Read on to learn more about what’s in lipstick (including my take on tricky stuff like colorants and lead), why safe lipstick matters, and our brand-by- brand guide to Good Stuff, Okay Stuff, Sneaky Stuff and Bad Stuff.

Note: Products like lipstick are constantly being re-formulated. The information in this post is based on the most current ingredient lists we could find as of early 2017.

My Top Pick For Non-Toxic Lipstick

I use Beautycounter’s Lip Sheer and Lip Gloss. For me, these products strike the perfect balance between safety and performance and I’m a big fan of Beautycounter’s mission.

What is Lipstick Made of?

Cosmetic labels often make my eyes cross—they tend to be long and involve a lot of complicated and problematic ingredients. In the case of lipstick, here are the types of ingredients you’ll generally find:

  • Oils, plant butters, and other emollients are the primary ingredients in lipstick. Some are natural, and some are synthetic; most lipstick brands use a combination of both. Emollients moisturize and give lipstick “glide” and shine. As a bonus, some natural oils and butters have anti-microbial properties.
  • Texturizers—typically really finely ground starches or powders from minerals or crystals—are found in most cosmetic products. In lipsticks, they help thicken and stabilize the formula. Some also have a pearlescent effect. Common texturizers include talc, kaolin, plant starches, mica and silica. Matte lipsticks have more of these ingredients to achieve that less shiny and more opaque look.
  • Thickeners like waxes and polymers also provide shape and stability to lipstick formulas. Waxes preserve moisture, give some shine, give thickness and shape to the product, unify the ingredients, and raise the melting point, so your lipstick is less likely to melt
    in your purse on a hot day.
  • Colorants give lipsticks get their color. Also called dyes, pigments, or color additives, colorants can come from a variety of sources—earth, animal, plant, and chemical.
  • Flavor and fragrance/aroma/parfum ingredients mask the unsavory smell and taste that many lipstick formulas would otherwise have (who knew?), and in some cases, give lipstick a signature scent.
  • Preservatives and antioxidants prevent (or limit) the growth of microbes and keep oil ingredients from going rancid. Because lipstick formulas have little or no water ingredients and often contain oils and waxes with natural antimicrobial properties (like castor oil, coconut oil, and beeswax), lipstick formulas need little or no added preservatives—hooray! That said, you should pay attention to the expiration labels on your lip products.

Runner Up: Best Non-Toxic Lipstick

Although it’s only Okay Stuff, my second favorite non-toxic lipstick brand to use myself (behind Beautycounter) is Dr. Hauschka. I love how deliberate Hauschka is about how they source ingredients, and that they conduct purity testing for their lip product ingredients.

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Why Safe Lipstick Matters

Lips are known to be sensitive and absorptive. They are covered by a layer of skin that’s much thinner than the skin that covers the rest of the face. Underneath is a sensitive mucous membrane. Lip skin also lacks hair and sweat glands, which means that our lips don’t have the same natural defenses provided by other types of skin.

Lips also deserve special consideration because they’re close to the mouth. You may have heard some “facts” about how many pounds of lipstick a woman supposedly ingests in her lifetime. These claims are usually exaggerated and poorly founded. However, it’s true that the majority of what you smear on your lips ends up being ingested. I don’t use lipstick that contains any ingredients that I wouldn’t want to eat (in small quantities, at least).

Lipstick Ingredients to Avoid

There are countless worrisome ingredients in many lipstick products (see Sneaky Stuff and Bad Stuff tabs, below). Here are the most common and concerning types of ingredients to look out for:

  • Conventional (non-organic) castor seed oil and its derivatives are used widely in lip products. Non-organic castor seed oil is potentially tainted with agricultural residues, as well as residues from extraction and other processes used to produce the oil. Castor seed oil is also a penetration enhancer, making the other lipstick ingredients matter more. Not all castor seed oil is bad—in fact, castor seed oil can have some very beneficial properties (see “Lipstick Ingredients That Are Safe” for more on good castor seed oil.)
  • Preservatives and antioxidant ingredients are tricky—we need them to keep products fresh and limit the growth of microbes, but they tend to be problematic. Concerns range from irritation and allergenic effects to hormone distruption and cancer. Fortunately, most lipstick formulas have minimal water content and need little or no added preservatives; also, some lipstick ingredients, like natural oils and waxes, have natural anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties. You’ll still find preservative and antioxidant ingredients in a lot of lipsticks, including some of the Good Stuff and Okay Stuff (where applicable, I noted this for people who are particularly sensitive or concerned). In lipsticks, I look out for ingredients like parabens, terpenes (like synthetic limonene, geraniol, linalool, farnesol, and citronellol), phenoxyethanol, benzyl benzoate, and BHT.
  • Flavor and fragrance/aroma/parfum ingredients can contain many unlisted components, including phthalates, which are hormone disrupters and possible carcinogens.

Are Lipstick Colorants Safe?

When I began researching lipstick ingredients, I was most concerned about colorants, thanks to controversy over “natural” versus “synthetic” colors as well as concerns about lead contamination from mineral-derived pigments. Also, colorants are very confusing. There are many different kinds, as well as different systems for identifying them in the United States, Europe, and Japan. So I was pleasantly surprised when my research led me to be less concerned about most colorants in lipstick—and to conclude that, at least when it comes to colorants in cosmetics, the FDA’s regulations favor consumer safety.

Cosmetics are loosely regulated in general, but one area in which the FDA exercises a lot of scrutiny is colorants. All colorants (called “color additives” by the FDA) used in cosmetics must be approved for use in cosmetics (there are separate lists for food, drugs, or medical devices). The FDA is also specific about which colorants can be used in lip and eye makeup. So the FDA regulates which colorants can be used, for what purposes, and provides guidance on safe amounts. They also specify, colorant-by-colorant, the maximum allowed levels of potential contaminants, such as heavy metals.

There is even a category of colorants– FDA certified– that must be tested batch-by-batch before they can be used. This includes the FD&C or D&C colors, often identified by number (like “Red 6”). For all other colorants—most earth-derived ones, as well as plant-derived pigments—it’s up to the manufacturer to ensure purity and safety. I’m a fan of Beautycounter, because they have an extra level of scrutiny to ensure the purity of their products. Other companies, like Honeybee Gardens and Dr. Hauschka, also conduct some additional testing.

So—are cosmetic colorants used in lipsticks safe? My current conclusion is that most of them are. Here’s some detail:

  • Because of the FDA safeguards, I’m most confident about the safety of colorants that are FDA approved for use in cosmetics (and, specifically, lip products). Of these, synthetic dyes and lakes that are subject to FDA certification (identified by their FD&C or D&C numbers) are the most highly scrutinized for safety.
  • Earth-derived pigments from mineral and crystal sources (like iron oxides, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and mica) that are FDA approved for cosmetic use are in the middle—they’re safest when used by companies who are diligent about ingredient purity (especially heavy metals, which are present in many of the raw materials). Companies have to trust their sources and, ideally, conduct additional testing to ensure safety.
  • Plant-derived colorants, a.k.a. phyto-pigments, are in a grey zone. They aren’t FDA approved for use in cosmetics (not necessarily because they are unsafe, but because no one has submitted petitions to have them reviewed for safety as cosmetic coloring ingredients). Their origins—fruits, vegetables, and flowers—sound nice, but plant-derived ingredients can be tainted with agricultural residues as well as residues from whatever processes are used to extract the pigments from the plant source. Natural ingredients can also be irritating or cause allergic reactions in some people. As with earth-derived colorants, I’m most confident about plant-derived colorants if they’re used by companies that are diligent about ingredient purity.

The line between “natural” and “synthetic” is blurry when it comes to colorants. Many companies claim that mineral-derived pigments are natural, but most iron oxides used in cosmetics are actually synthetically derived from the natural source material. (And that’s a good thing, because using raw iron oxides would expose us to higher levels of naturally occurring heavy metals, such as lead.) Most plant-derived colorants are also highly processed in order create pigments that are concentrated enough for use in cosmetics. When it comes to safety, neither natural nor synthetic wins—the safest colorants are those that are clearly identified and tested for potential contaminants.

(Note: We found that the EWG/Skin Deep entries for many colorants were inconsistent and inaccurate, so we did not rely on them for determining safety.)

Lead and Other Heavy Metals in Lipstick

In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics set off a media storm when they reported that they detected lead in about two thirds of the 66 lipstick products they tested. Eventually the FDA followed up with its own studies. The FDA found lead in more lipstick and other cosmetic products, often at levels higher than those originally discovered.

What is lead doing in lipstick? Lead and other “heavy metals” (such as chromium, cadmium, aluminum, and arsenic) are naturally occurring in the environment, including in the materials used to derive earth-based cosmetic pigments. Also the human use of metals has caused higher levels of contamination in the environment, including sources for cosmetic ingredients. This is why we have heavy metal pollution in our air, water and food supply.

Although it’s widely recognized that there is no such thing as a “safe” level of lead in the body, the FDA’s position is that cosmetic manufacturers can limit the levels of lead in their products so that they don’t pose a health threat. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and others argue that lead exposure is problematic at all levels because lead accumulates in the body over time, and the effects can be very serious for adults and children alike.

My take: I am concerned about heavy metal pollution in general. We use water filters and air filters in our home and limit our intake of foods like brown rice and brown rice syrup, which tend to have higher levels of arsenic. When it comes to lipstick, I prefer brands like Beautycounter and Dr. Hauschka because they source their ingredients carefully and conduct additional purity testing with conservative standards.

I balance my concerns by keeping in mind that the lead and other concerning metals in lip products don’t necessarily add to my toxic load—just because it’s ingested doesn’t mean it’s assimilated into the body. Also, Randy Schueller at The Beauty Brains blog suggests that even a heavy lipstick user would excrete more lead than she ingests.

Non-Toxic Lipstick

Among the Good Stuff and Okay Stuff, you’ll see non-toxic lipstick ingredients such as:

  • Organic waxes, oils and plant butters, such as beeswax, candelilla wax (a vegan alternative to beeswax), carnauba wax, cocoa butter, mango seed butter, shea butter, avocado butter, avocado oil, and coconut oil, to name a few.
  • Organic castor seed oil, if it’s hexane-free and cold pressed, has many benefits—it’s moisturizing and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties—without the drawbacks of conventional castor seed oil (though people with castor allergies probably need to avoid even the organic forms).
  • Safer antioxidants and preservatives, such as rosemary extract, elderberry extract, neem oil, pure tocopherols (vitamin E), and jojoba esters.
  • Straightforward flavoring and aroma ingredients, like vanilla planifolia fruit extract–aside from smelling great, it also has antioxidant and preservative properties.

Axiology Non-Toxic Lipstick

Axiology Non-Toxic Lipstick is made primarly from organic oils, waxes, and butters, including organic castor seed oil. I like the simplicity of their formula (which is vegan, BTW)—it’s short and involves non-problematic, natural ingredients. Due to customer concerns, Axiology recently stopped using phenoxyethanol as a preservative and instead rely on elderberry extract and neem seed oil. They use earth-derived pigments (non-nano) and manganese violet for colorants. I wish they did some purity testing, but they say that they get their colorants from a trusted source.

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Babo Botanicals Hydrating Natural Lip Gloss

This EWG-Verified lip gloss is enriched with natural coconut oil and cocoa butter and free of dyes, fragrances, talc, mineral oil, and more Bad Stuff.

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Babo Botanicals Lip Tint Conditioner SPF 15

Babo Botanicals Lip Tint Conditioner SPF 15 is a nice daytime option, with just a hint of natural color.

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Beautycounter’s Lip Sheer and Lip Gloss

Beautycounter’s Lip Sheer and Lip Gloss products are made with many synthetic ingredients and have few organic ingredients. I call them Good Stuff because their ingredients are safe–Beautycounter is very deliberate about every ingredient they use, and they provided us with detailed information on each of the ingredients we wanted to know more about. Most importantly, they conduct purity testing on every batch of color cosmetics, including screening for 12 metals. I also like that they skip concerning preservatives and use vanilla planifolia fruit extract in place of sketchy fragrances. For colorants, they use a combination of earth-derived pigments and FD&C colors. As I mentioned above, Beautycounter is my top pick for lipstick–and what I use myself.


Crunchi Hydrogloss Lipgloss

Crafted using organic coconut oil, organic sunflower oil, organic shea butter, organic jojoba oil, and elderberry, this formula is non-sticky. Even better, Crunchi lip gloss contains mineral pigments that don’t come from China, and Crunchi cosmetics are third-party tested for heavy metals and fluorine.


Kjaer Weis

Kjaer Weis uses organic castor seed oil in their Lipstick and Lip Tint formulas, both of which are relatively simple and straightforward. Many of their other waxes, oils and butters are also organic. For colorants, they use a combination of earth-derived pigments, carmine, and FD&C colors. Note: Both of these lip products also contain some citral and limonene from the essential oils.

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Honeybee Gardens

Honeybee Gardens has recently transitioned to using more organic ingredients (including organic castor seed oil) in their Truly Natural Lipstick and Luscious Lip Gloss formulas. I also like that they are in the habit of having their products tested by a third party for potential contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. In the Lucious Lip Gloss, they use vanilla planifolia fruit oil rather than a more vague aroma or flavor ingredient. (Bonus: this oil also has antioxidant/preservative properties.) For colorants, they use a combination of earth-derived colorants and one of the D&C red dyes (which substitutes for carmine, making their formulas vegan). Note: When I last checked, the EWG/Skin Deep entries for these lip products were based on old formulas (from 2012).

  • Honeybee Gardens Truly Natural Lipstick from gimme the good stuff
    Honeybee Gardens Truly Natural Lipstick
    $14.99
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Ilia

lia makes its Lipstick, Lip Crayon, and Lip Gloss products from primarily organic ingredients (including organic castor seed oil) and safe colorants (earth-derived pigments and FD&C dyes). Their formulas are relatively simple and contain familiar ingredients. The ingredients they use for extra antioxidant, preservative, and aroma quality are of little or no concern (for instance, vitamin E and vanilla planifolia fruit oil). Note: Ilia lip products are absent on EWG/Skin Deep except for an inaccurate listing for one of their Lipstick shades.

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Olio e Osso

Olio e Osso Lip & Cheek Balm are an essential, versatile product that is nourishing on lips and cheeks, soothing on the skin and hair, and adored by all who discover them. The colors we carry contain no ingredients rated risky by the EWG, and the base ingredients for each balm is shea butter, olive oil, and beeswax. Just simply swipe the Olio e Osso balm across lips or slide over cheekbones for a subtle glow.

  • Olio e osso balms from Gimme the Good Stuff
    Olio e Osso Lip & Cheek Balms
    $28.00
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Poofy Organics

Poofy Organics uses mostly organic ingredients (including organic castor seed oil) in their Lipstick and Lip Gloss. Their ingredients are also easy to recognize and primarily natural. I also like that Poofy skips sketchy preservatives and fragrance/flavor ingredients. For colorants, they use earth-derived pigments and some plant powders (including annatto seed– you’ll want to skip the lipstick if you’re one of the few people who are sensitive to it).


RMS Beauty

RMS Beauty makes their lip2cheek and lipshine products with mostly organic oils (including organic castor seed oil), waxes and butters. For antioxidant and preservative benefits, they use organic rosemary extract and non-GMO
vitamin E. Colorants include earth-derived pigments and some FD&C reds. EWG/Skin Deep gives these products a score of 1-2, depending on the shade.

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100% Pure (Purity Cosmetics)

100% Pure (Purity Cosmetics) makes several colored lip products with mostly natural oils, butters, and waxes, plus plant-derived colorants. Customer service was initially responsive to my questions but never followed up on my more technical inquiries. I call most 100% Pure products Okay Stuff for two reasons:
1. 100% Pure tries to source organically but it’s not clear if the ingredients I was concerned about (like rice starch and rice powder, which can be contaminated with agricultural residues if not cultivated organically) are organic. (The company does claim to do some purity testing in its own labs.)
2. There is little or no safety data available for the plant-derived colorants they use.

If you’re going to buy 100% Pure lipstick, some formulas are better than others: I like the formulas for Cocoa Butter Semi-Matte Lipstick and Fruit Pigmented Pomegranate Oil Anti Aging Lipstick. The Fruit Pigmented Lip Glaze contains a form of cinnamon (cassia) that some people are allergic to. The Lip Caramel (flavored with vanilla extract) should be skipped by people sensitive to annatto seed. Everyone should be wary of the Fruit Pigmented Lip Creamstick because of the raspberry seed oil PEG-8 esters (contamination concerns) used in some shades.


Bite Beauty

Bite Beauty touts their products as being “edible.” They do use a lot of organic oils, butters, and waxes (including organic castor seed oil), but they also have a few ingredients we needed clarification on (for example, “natural flavors”), and they did not respond to our questions. I like the formula for the High Pigment Lip Pencil. The Multistick has as its primary ingredient a new emollient without much safety data available, but the raw material is supposedly certified by Ecocert. (Note: Bite’s Matte Crème Lip Crayon and Amuse Bouche are Sneaky Stuff.)

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Dr. Hauschka

I like that Dr. Hauschka is very deliberate about how they source and conduct purity testing for their lip product ingredients. Customer service informed us that they use organic castor seed oil and organic hydrogenated castor seed oil; the purest lanolin available; non-GMO soy lecithin; and the purest earth-derived pigments. They also regularly conduct their own purity testing. The only thing I don’t like about their Lipstick and Lip Gloss products are the fragrance/parfum blends. They’re probably among the purest out there—Dr. Hauschka regularly tests for the presence of problematic subastances like phthalates—but the fragrances introduce small amounts of concerning sub-ingredients such as benzyl benzoate, benzyl salicylate, farnesol, eugenol, geraniol, limonene, linalool, and citronellol (all with EWG/Skin Deep scores of 4-7). Use these products if you aren’t sensitive to any of these ingredients, and heed product expiration dates.

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Ecco Bella

Ecco Bella gets major points for using just a handful of ingredients (seven, plus colorants) in their FlowerColor Lipstick and Good for You Gloss. I also like that they use vanilla extract for flavoring and complex vitamin E instead of more problematic preservatives and antioxidants. I call this Okay Stuff because they use conventional castor seed oil, though customer service said they are looking into switching to organic. For colorants, they skip FD&C colors in favor of iron oxides, titanium dioxide, carmine and manganese violet. The FlowerColor Lipstick gets its name from the flower-derived wax that’s used to coat the iron oxides; they say this creates a smooth application without the use of silicone or other “slip” ingredients. Note: When I last checked, the EWG/Skin Deep entries for these lip products were based on old formulas (from 2012).

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Honest Beauty

Honest Beauty (of the Honest Company) makes Lip Gloss and Truly Kissable Lip Pencils. Customer service was initially responsive to our inquiries but failed to follow up on important questions, including whether the castor seed oil and other castor seed derivatives they use are from organic or conventional sources. Their formulas include a lot of synthetic ingredients, including relatively new ones, that are currently regarded as being safe. Nevertheless, I’m somewhat reluctantly calling these products Good Stuff; Honest Beauty does skip a lot of problematic ingredients and watches out for unsafe levels of toxins in ingredients such as earth-derived pigments.

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Jane Iredale PureMoist Lipstick

Jane Iredale PureMoist Lipstick is Okay Stuff. I’m on the fence about the primary ingredient, triisostearyl citrate (a natural-ish alternative to petroleum-based emollients, lacking in safety data), and I’m concerned about several of the ingredients in the Cindy shade, but overall the formula checks out. (Note: Jane Iredale Playon Lip Crayon and Lip Fixation are Sneaky Stuff.)

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Josie Maran Argan Color Stick

Josie Maran Argan Color Stick is made primary of natural oils, butters and waxes, and they use earth-derived pigments, carmine, and FD&C dyes. I call it Okay Stuff because it also contains a few ingredients I’m mildly concerned about—ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol and hexylene glycol. (Note: Josie Maran Argan Love Your Lips Hydrating Lipstick is Sneaky Stuff.)

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Juice Beauty

I like that Juice Beauty uses some organic oils (including organic castor seed oil), waxes and butters in their lip products. But they also use a lot of new, untested ingredients (including plant-derived colorants, or “phyto-pigments”) with little or no safety data available, so I’m calling their PHYTO-PIGMENTS Liquid Lip, PHYTO-PIGMENTS Satin Lip Cream, PHYTO-PIGMENTS Luminous Lip Crayon, and Conditioning Lip Color Okay Stuff.


Tata Harper

Tata Harper makes a few lip products using mostly organic and natural ingredients—a Volumizing Lip & Cheek Tint and tinted lip treatments like Be Adored and Be Smitten. The ingredients are all of little or no concern, but I did have questions about some of them, and the company declined to answer.

I’m calling Tata’s lip products Okay Stuff based on lack of detail about their aroma and flavor ingredients, purity testing, and clarification about the colorants they use (there was incorrect or conflicting information on the ingredient lists on their website). EWG/Skin Deep gives the Volumizing Lip & Cheek Tint a score of 2 and Be Adored a 1, though there are some errors and omissions in the EWG ingredient lists for these products.

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We haven’t been able to identify any Good Stuff among drug store brands, and some of the biggest brands have the worst EWG/Skin Deep scores for their lipsticks. I can’t say that all stuff sold at the drugstore is Bad Stuff, but generally I recommend avoiding the drugstore when you’re shopping for lipstick. The same goes for most department store brands, too. The Bad Stuff below is just a tiny sampling of the sketchy lipsticks out there.


Clinique’s Different Lipstick and Long Last Lipstick have relatively short lists of ingredients, but because the primary ingredient is conventional castor seed oil—problematic in its own right, plus a penetration enhancer that makes all ingredients matter more—I’m wary of the other concerning ingredients, such as myristyl lactate, conventional lanolin and its derivatives, and glyceryl rosinate.


CoverGirl Colorlicious Lipstick gets an EWG/Skin Deep rating of 7 thanks to bad ingredients such as parfum/fragrance, polyparaben, and retinyl palmitate. The primary ingredient is castor seed oil, and I’m going to guess that it’s not organic.


Lots of you have asked about LipSense. Not all ingredients in LipSense products are problematic, but there are enough really worrisome ones that I have to call LipSense Bad Stuff. For example, I found: sketchy preservatives, like propylparaben (EWG score of 7); conventional castor seed oil; lots of surfactants, including several polyethylene glycol (PEG)-related chemicals, and octoxynol-40, which has an EWG score of 8; retinyl palmitate, a skin conditioning agent with an EWG score of 9 (!); and “fragrance” and “flavor” compounds.


Revlon Moon Drops Lipstick gets and EWG/Skin Deep score of 7 thanks to parfum/fragrance, geraniol, citral, farnesol, linalool, limonene, BHT, and benzyl benzoate. Also raising red flags are the primary ingredients—non-organic lanolin oil and castor seed oil.


According to the EWG/Skin Deep, Rimmel’s Moisture Renew Lipstick is the baddest of the Bad Stuff, with an abysmal score of 10. Rimmel and its retailers don’t publish ingredients lists, so we couldn’t confirm the EWG listing 100%, but EWG calls out Rimmel for using a bunch of bad ingredients like retinyl palmitate, fragrance, geraniol and linalool, BHT, and phenoxyethanol.


The formula for Bite Beauty’s Matte Crème Lip Crayon is okay except for one glaring issue—they list a dye (Yellow No. 7) that’s not approved by the FDA for use in lip products. We contacted them for clarification (I’m hoping it’s a typo), but they did not respond. Bite’s Amuse Bouche is Sneaky thanks to its second ingredient, glyceryl rosinate, which has an EWG/Skin Deep score of 6, as well as a couple of other mildly concerning ingredients. (Note: Bite’s High Pigment Lip Pencil and Multistick are Okay Stuff.)


With several colored lip products now available, Burt’s Bees has come a long way since the lip balm that became their best seller in the 1990’s. We had several questions after looking into the ingredients used in their Lipstick, Lip Crayon, Gloss Lip Crayon, Lip Gloss, Lip Sheer, Lip Shine, and Tinted Lip Oil products, but customer service provided only shallow and unhelpful responses. These lip products are probably a lot safer than most of what you’ll find at drug stores and other big retailers, but I can’t call them Good Stuff or Okay Stuff without knowing more about the castor seed oil they use, what’s in their flavor/aroma ingredients, whether they screen for heavy metals in their earth-derived pigments, etc.


Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey has been a cult favorite for decades, and it does get some points for being paraben-free and fragrance-free and having a short list of ingredients (just seven, plus color additives). Unfortunately, it’s made with concerning ingredients such as conventional castor seed oil, two other ingredients derived from what I assume is conventional castor seed oil, and polyethylene. Black Honey isn’t going to kill you, but it’s definitely not Good or even Okay Stuff.


Jane Iredale Playon Lip Crayon is Sneaky Stuff thanks to a complicated ingredients list, including conventional castor seed oil, myristyl lactate, PPG-3 myristyl ether, and diethylhexyl adipate. Lip Fixation is a lip stain and lip gloss combo. I like the lip gloss (it’s made with a handful of natural, easy-to- recognize ingredients, none of which raise any flags), but the lip stain contains silicone-based ingredients of which I’m wary. (Note: Jane Iredale PureMoist Lipstick is Okay Stuff.)


Josie Maran Argan Love Your Lips Hydrating Lipstick is Sneaky thanks to several concerning ingredients (such as dimethicone, polyethylene, parfum, convetional castor seed oil, limonene, and geraniol), a long ingredients list (I counted almost 30, not including colorants), and lots of synthetic or highly processed ingredients with limited safety data. (Note: Josie Maran Argan Color Stick is Okay Stuff.)


LipSense wasn’t on my radar when I wrote this guide, mostly because they use some bad ingredients and don’t seem to have anything redeeming as far as good ingredients go. I’m not sure why they have such a big following among my readership, but Lipsense is definitely Sneaky Stuff.


Maia’s Mineral Galaxydespite that great name;)–is Sneaky Stuff. The company claims to offer “a line of natural mineral makeup made from pure botanicals…non-synthetic, non-fragrant, non-toxic, and chemical and artificial color free,” and several of their Mineral Lipstick hues are even EWG Verified. But when you look closely at their ingredients, their claims do not hold—for instance, they do in use some synethic ingredients (including FD&C dyes), not to mention mineral ingredients themselves, such as iron oxides, which are usually synthetically derived. Boron nitride, which is synthetically derived, is the primary ingredient listed for several of their lip products. I’m okay with these ingredients, but I’m wary of Maia’s Mineral Galaxy based on the inconsistencies and the fact that they didn’t respond to multiple attempts to contact them for clarification.


Tarte may be the sneakiest of the Sneaky Stuff. They tout their products as “high-performance naturals,” but a look at the ingredients in their lip products reveals a lot of synthetic and highly processed ones, some of them more concerning than others. Many of the truly natural ingredients in their lip products are not the primary ingredients, and none of them are organic. In Tart’s lippie lingerie matte tint, Amazonian butter lipstick, and Drench lip splash lipstick, we found sketchy ingredients such as polypropylene (a plastic), silicone-based ingredients, limonene and linalool, parfum/fragrance, glyceryl hydrogenated rosinate (an irritant and penetration enhancer with an EWG/Skin Deep score of 5), and BHT (a toluene-based preservative).


There’s a good chance that W3LL People’s lip products are Good Stuff, but I can’t find consistent ingredient lists (on their website or other retailers’), and we’ve tried multiple times (without success) to contact them for clarification. For example, their website currently lists only safflower oil and colorants for their Nudist Colorbalm, which most certainly contains many more ingredients. Also, they claim to use only natural ingredients and “no nasties” like dyes, but they do use FD&C dyes (which are synthetic) in some of their lip products, like the Nudist Multi Use Cream (formerly Universalist Multi Stick) and Bio Extreme Lipgloss. I am okay with these colorants, but W3LL People needs to get their facts straight and provide accurate ingredient listings on their website.

Don’t see your favorite brand in any of the Good, Okay, Bad, or Sneaky tabs? Comment below with your favorite brands!



126 responses to “Safe Lipstick Guide”

  1. Melissa

    I’d love to know if Pacifica cosmetics are good stuff.

  2. Melissa

    I’d love to know if Pacifica cosmetics are good stuff.

  3. Lauri

    I’ve been using Maybelline Super Stay lipstick for 2 decades. How dangerous is it to use, and should it be on the DON’T USE list? It seems that everything we’ve been sold is NOT safe to use. Thank you ??

  4. Ale

    What about bare minerals, YSL?

  5. How safe is mineral fusion and mad hippie lip and cheek stain

  6. Melissa

    Do you recommend Badger Mineral Lip Tint & Shimmer?

    INGREDIENTS
    *Olea Europaea (Organic Extra Virgin Olive) Oil, *Cera Alba (Organic Beeswax), *Theobroma Cacao (Organic & Fair Trade CertifiedTM Cocoa) Butter, *Ricinus Communis (Organic Castor) Oil, *Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe) Extract, and CO2 Extracts of *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Organic Rosemary), *Rosa Canina (Organic Rosehip), & *Hippophae Rhamnoides (Organic Seabuckthorn). Each Tint contains one or all of the following: Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Silica, Iron Oxide. * = Certified Organic

  7. Alice

    ColourPop? Is their new Lux lip Oils safe? Please anyone tell me your thoughts!!

  8. Alice

    ColourPop? Are their new Lux lil oils safe? Please let me know your thoughts!

  9. Tracy Dunivan

    I’m curious to know your thoughts about Origins products.

    Thank you!!

  10. Kristie

    Are you a cosmetic chemist?

  11. Bea

    Would like your thoughts on EVER skincare and makeup. They seem similar to beauty counter in some ways.

  12. Katie

    I am curious what you think about thrive causemetics ? Also what do you like for facial skincare regime? I have been looking into Beautycounter, thrive and Clinique.

  13. Annette

    You did not mention Tangee lipstick. I’m interested in your evaluation.

  14. Ash

    Hi there! Thanks for this page.. was really helpful in understanding some of the good and even sneaky stuff behind our products!
    Would you recommend that pregnant/ nursing ladies lay off on bite beauty’s matte cream lip crayon? While the colours I own (Leche and Honeycrisp) do not have Yellow No.7, I noticed that among the ingredients are hydrogenated castor oil. I’ve read that castor oil can be dangerous during early pregnancy. Just wondering if this should be of concern since lip products are often ingested.

  15. Kalliopi allulis

    I can’t seem to find a clear answer to my question. Is NARS power matte lip pigment in the London calling color tube safe to wear. I called the NARS company twice with this question in the last 5 months, their response was (we will call you back) rudely enough no one has contacted me which leaves me to believe that this company and color does use toxic ingredients.

    Thank you and I hope to hear a response soon.
    Kelly

  16. Shana

    Have you evaluated Neutrogena Moisture Smooth Color Stick? I would love to hear any feedback that you have on its ingredients.

    Thank you!

    1. Sara

      Thank you for this great information! I was wondering if you have ever looked into Colour Pop ultra matte/glossy/metallic liquid lipsticks. They are rated very well on the EWG site, but they aren’t known as a clean brand, so I am second-guessing my collection.

  17. Kate

    Hi there! Another great Vegan-friendly lipstick is Rejuva Minerals! If you’ve never heard of them check them out! I use mine all the time!

  18. Daniella

    Have you looked into Flower Beauty?

  19. Great post Maia, super informative!

    I’m kind of surprised 100% Pure is in the okay category – thanks for letting us know that it’s not as safe as we might have thought! I keep seeing 100% Pure recommend but I think I’ll go for Illa instead after reading this informative post! I hadn’t heard of Beautycounter before – I’m going to check that brand out!
    Just for any beginners to lipstick ingredients, carmine is made from crushed up bugs, and other lipstick ingredients are also commonly derived from animals – like lanolin oil (sheep glands) and beeswax. In case it’s of interest, we recently went through some of the basics to lipstick ingredients (of past and present) here:
    https://makeupscholar.com/what-lipstick-made-of/

    Thanks again for this amazing info and the helpful rating system,

    Laura.

  20. Vicki Knighten

    I’ve just googled “Omiana” skin products and makeup. It claims to be all natural. Most of their makeup (including lipstick, gloss and liners) are Titanium Dioxide free and Mica free. I keep reading that these ingredients are really bad. I see these ingredients in Burts Bees, Sephora and other products claiming to be natural. Omiana is pricy but not horrible. What are your thoughts on this makeup line. There are not many color options, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    1. Sade

      What about Mac lip products?
      Also, these clean beauty – Thrive lip liner?

  21. DQ

    Hi Maia,

    I’ve used about four lipstick brands I buy, and I would appreciate it if you could shed some light on the non-toxicity or toxicity on the following brands.
    Lancome Lipstick & Gloss
    Shiseido Lipstick & Gloss
    Elizabeth Arden Lipstick & Gloss
    Giorgio Amani Lipstick & Gloss

    Thanking you in advance for your time and assistance.

    Cheers,
    DQ

  22. Lindsay

    What about ISH lip statement palette?

  23. Lisa

    Hi! Do you know anything about Perricone MD? Thanks!

  24. Dee

    Hey,
    Thanks so much for all the useful information. Saved me a lot of time, since i didnt need to do the research myslef. I was wondering what your take is on LANIEGE it is a lip sleeping mask.

    Thank you so much!

  25. I’d like to know about LA Colors

  26. Abigail

    Mineral Fusion and Pacifica? Mineral Fusion has high ratings on EWG Skin Deep but Pacifica liquid lipstick is not on there.

  27. Alma

    I was going to purchase Josie Marans color sticks & came upon Suzanne Sommers organic make-up & skin care line. I’m quite interested in her line. I think I came upon her line when I Googled Marans line & up came EWG’s list. I read her website & seems to be very good… What do you think about it? She is known to be very healthy.

    1. Linda Northrup

      Suzanne Somers product line is 100% certified toxic free. I have been using her haircare and supplements for years. My most favorite product from her line is her Bioactive Moisturizer ,Liquid Oxygen Therapy Serum, Shave Gel, Lip Balms, Coconut Oil Moisture Serum, Peach Exfoliating Cleanser, Glutathione Skin Reform Serum , Purifying Mineral Mask , all of her body lotions and all of her body butters, I love her charcoal products because they are made with volcanic charcoal, I also love her hair repair mask and her hair gel. I also subscribe the Life Extension Magazine because Suzanne Somers has been one of their spokespeople since 1999. She personally uses everything she sell on her website and on QVC. Whatever she doesn’t have available on her website she personally purchases it from the Life Extension Website . Basically I follow Suzanne Somers on ever website that she uses and if she uses a product or supplements from a specific brand that I can afford on my limited income I buy it in multiples whenever it goes on sale. By the way she also has a website call facemaster.com which is a device for anti aging that Suzanne uses 6 days a week for 15 -25 minutes each day. She has some skin products under the Facemaster name that she and her formulator created specifically for using with the facemaster device.

  28. Tina

    Hi Maia,

    What do you think of Dandelion Ultra Plush Lip Gloss and Posie Balm both from Benefit Cosmetics? Are they safe to use?

    Thanks a lot.

  29. Lauren

    Maia- what do you think of Glossier’s products? Good, okay, sneaky or bad stuff?

    1. Maia James

      unfortunately, bad stuff:(

  30. Lisa

    *Jane Iredale tinted LipDrink Lip Balm

    Thank you!

  31. Lisa

    I read what you said about Jane Iredale lipstick and lip gloss being okay stuff, but I was wondering about the Jane Iredale Lip Balms?

    Thank you so much!!

    Lisa

  32. Ruby

    Great post; so helpful! I wonder if chanel lipstick is okay?

  33. Megan

    What about Physicians Formula? It scores well on Think Dirty APP and EWG, do you like their ingredients?

  34. Liliana

    And Mineral Fusion?

  35. Gina Haines

    Can you check into Younique lip products please!

  36. Julie C.

    Au Naturale should definitely qualify as best stuff. Please consider adding if you ever revise this list.

  37. Anu

    Hi Maia, Love your work!
    Can you comment on Pacifica cosmetics “Devocean” lipstick? This one feels so good on my lip almost like balm but has more coverage than a lot of others I tried including the Ilia lip conditioner.
    Thanks much <3
    Anu

  38. LC

    Thanks for this post! I noticed none of my favorite natural beauty lipstick brands are on any of the lists. Could you look into Zuzu Luxe, Nu Evolution, Nudus, Vapour, etc.?

    Nu Evolution claims to not use any artificial dyes, but their colors (like Entice) are so much more vibrant than other natural brands and I am wondering if it’s the real deal or too good to be true.

  39. Tara Smith

    I only use bare minerals as I thought it was non-toxic. What are the stats? Do I need to chNge my regime??

    Thanks,
    Tara Smith

    1. Ellen

      I checked the ingredients in my bare minerals rouge and found it to contain carmine/cochineal (also known as red dye number 4) which consists of ground upinsect parts to produce the red color! It went straight into the trash. (Info source was “stuff every vegetarian should know” page 133

  40. Amanda

    How about tarte lipsticks and glosses? I have been moving toward more organic as those seem to be the BEST ingredients w/o all the unwanted synthetic chemicals. I did purchase some of their lipstick recently so I was wondering if they had made any recent changes.

    1. Linda

      I see an earlier post from February about Tarte and it does not look good.

  41. Linda Scianna

    Hello,
    I am confused about why Beautycount lipstick is the top pick since it contains Conventional (non-organic) castor seed oil. I really like what I see on their website and would like to try the lipstick. Is the non-organic caster seed oil a problem in their lipsticks.
    Thank you,
    Linda

  42. Leah Atlas

    What about the brand 100percent pure for lipstick and makeup?

    1. Anu

      I am also interested in 100percent pure!

      1. Julie C.

        She listed the lipstick as okay stuff (see above). I switched from 100% pure to Au Naturale recently and really like it. Au Naturale does independent testing and is very strict on sourcing ingredients. They were listed as the ONLY lipstick truly safe on another blog that I follow. They are also very helpful with colors and you can email consultant and she will send you all sorts of samples. Prices are comparable across brands and Au Naturale has sales pretty frequently. Just got their lipsticks for about $6 each and their glosses are gorgeous too.

  43. Archana

    Please can you let me know if the brands mineral fusion,Pacifica are safe on skin??

  44. Have you tried Beauty Society lip colors? Our products are paraben-free, sulfate-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan, and made in the USA. The company is also eco-friendly. We are the first skincare company to offer refills at a discount to eliminate waste, and we plant a tree with Eden Reforestation products for every refill purchased. I would be happy to share our ingredients list with you and get your opinion. I could probably even be convinced to send you a couple free products to try!

  45. Lucy

    There is a lot of great information on here. I especially like how you categorize things as “Good Stuff,” “Sneaky Stuff,” etc. However, I don’t think there will ever be a make-up that is 100% good for us. All make-up contains ingredients that can be harmful. Maybe not to me, but to someone out there. It is best to try out things and see for yourself what works best. I do stay away from certain brands because of their animal testing policy. Anyway, I appreciate this page. Thank you.

  46. Lucy

    Red Apple is GREAT!

  47. Melissa

    I liked Jane Iredale’s lip stain, and I think the ingredient list looked good…wondered if you knew about them? Thanks!

  48. Deb

    I just spent $60 on Lipsense. I wish I would have seen this information before I did that. Any updates? Also how about Maybelline Color Stay?

    1. Karen

      Ditto on Lipsense because I thought it was Good Stuff! ?

  49. Marci

    I don,t see Mary Kay lipstick mentioned at all. I have used their brand off and on for years. Is it harmful? I have also used some of the drugstore brands mentioned as harmful. Thanks to your informational website I will be purchasing one of the good lipsticks you have recommended. I am so glad to have found your website.

  50. Aileen

    I would love to know what you think about Real Purity’s lipstick!

  51. Sherry

    Red Apple Lipstick? My favorite.

  52. Tammy

    My favorite lipsticks are by Monave, have tried them yet? they use organic, vegan and gluten free ingredients. Their Creme Stix for lips are so on saturated in color and long wearing, my absolute favorite! Their normal lipstick is on the creamy side, but very smooth finish and moisturizing.

  53. Jane

    What do you think of the EccoBella lipsticks? They are supposed to be organic and naturally derived from plants.

  54. Luann

    How about Kat Von D’s lip products?

  55. Makeup Hunter

    What about Sephora? I can’t find it

  56. Kathy

    Thanks so much for this information. I was thinking about Lipsense because I’d heard soooooo much about it. I do like the animal free testing part also. So I asked a rep to send me some information on the ingredients, etc. The list threw up some red flags so I decided to find out more. I will not be buying that product.
    Do you have any information on Younique lip products?? Thanks

    1. Kristine

      Hi Kathy,
      Could you share what ingredients caused the red flags for you? I am new to all of this and their marketing makes you think they are doing a lot of things right.
      Thank you for sharing.

    2. Shannon

      I am curious to know what your red flags were too? I have looked up the ingredients on the EWG website and all seem within range on the low side harmful except for the parfum. Which surprised me because that is never mentioned on other sites saying lipsense is bad.

    3. Lucy

      I was a Younique “presenter” and my beef with them was that the stuff was constantly sold out or back-ordered. With that said, their lip products are really good. I still use some of it. They also claim to be vegan. I’m not sure about that. I never got a straight answer from the company about that. Overall, their products are good but if you want something that is absolutely safe and vegan, Younique might not be your thing.

  57. Heather

    I ran across your page trying to educate myself about all of the items I have in my home I need to replace with a better option. This movement in our lived happened after discovering a solution to start ridding our bodies of toxins through cellular cleansing. Do you manage your health in that way also? You provide a lot of useful info, thank you for all of your investigation and knowledge.

  58. Amy

    I use mostly Origins make-up and skin care. How do they rank on their products?

  59. Kristen

    I was wondering about Butter London. They recently came out with a lip oil.

  60. Stephanie

    I would like to know about limelight by alcone, please!

  61. Bea

    I am allergic to castor seed oil. Does anyone know any good, safe lipsticks made without castor seed oil? Every single product mentioned here in the “good stuff” category unfortunately contains castor seed oil, even RMS Lip2Cheek (although mostly coconut oil based). 100% Pure has some lipsticks without castor seed oil, but I also find their “fruit pigments” questionable as Maia has mentioned. I want to wear lipstick because my face looks so dead without it. I’ve been looking all over, but I still haven’t been able to find a good, safe alternative to my old toxic one.

  62. How about Pacifica products? How are they across the board? They claim to be vegan and use some organic ingredients.

  63. Stefanie

    Wondering about Youngblood lipsticks?

  64. Angela Yount

    Same question on LipSense =)

    1. Maia James

      yes we are looking into LipSense!

    2. Maia James

      Okay, so LipSense wasn’t on my radar, mostly because they use some bad ingredients and don’t seem to have anything redeeming as far as good ingredients go. Not sure why they have such a big following!

      1. Kristine

        You state that they use some bad ingredients. Can you share what they are, please?

        1. mamaoftwo

          Did anyone get an update about lipsense and which ingredients were a red flag?

      2. The reason Lipsense has a huge following is they are a Direct Sales company and I know about 30 people who I’ve known online for 15 years… who are promoting it. It works well apparently – looks great in all the videos I’ve been. However, I also have that same concern that others are asking – If it lasts for 8 hours, then it must have something bad in it to keep it on your lips even when most lipsticks would be worn off within an hour or so. Can you please provide an update?

  65. Ladawn

    Also wondering about LipSense. Thank you so much for all you do!

  66. Jen

    I use a lot of Lauren Brooke cosmetics how does her cosmetics rate in terms of safety?

  67. John

    What about Arbonne products? I heard they will not divulge all their ingredients. If anyone knows, thank you for your response.

    1. Maia James

      We have not been able to obtain a complete list of ingredients from them

      1. kb7507

        I contacted the Better Business Bureau about Arbonne. Their website says that they’re transparent but I contacted them about a concerning ingredient, Retinyl palmitate, and they replied that they don’t have to tell me anything about their ingredients. I don’t call that transparent!

  68. Maria

    Any of the good stuff or okay stuff long lasting? i use Revlon lipcolor overtime since they last long. i wantto stop using it but i need a lipstick that lasts. please let me know which last long. thanks!

  69. Cat

    How about Tarte lipsticks?

    1. Chantelle

      Tarte makeup is toxic too according to EWG website

  70. Lauren

    This link has all the ingredients in W3LL People’s products: http://w3llpeople.com/matched

    Thank you from Austin, Tx!

  71. Victoria

    How about lipliners/gloss? Mostly what I use. Anything good or okay from a drugstore, Target, or easily accessible store? Milani? They wrote me there is no lead in their lipliners, but not sure about other ingredients. Thanks.

  72. Michelle

    MAC? i’m afraid to know because that is all i really use. I do have and love Ilia lipsticks!

    1. Chantelle

      MAC is one of the most toxic makeup lines out there.

      1. Donna

        May I ask, what ingredients in the MAC lipsticks are harmful? Thank you

  73. Nereida

    I use castor oil on my baby’s belly it’s not organic. Is that bad? The Palma Christi brand from Heritage products

  74. Karen

    What are your thoughts on Burt’s Bees?

    1. John

      I believe their lipstick was found to have high levels of lead (?) An integrative doctor from N.Y. ran a test on it because her lead levels were high and this was determined to be the culprit.

  75. Amy

    What would we do without you? You’ve changed the way I take care of myself. Any thoughts on The Balm’s lip liners (I use Fineapple) and Meet Matte Hughes lip gloss? I usually layer Honest Beauty lip sheer over the matte lipstick, so glad to see that’s Good stuff!

    1. Maia James

      You’re so sweet! I will add to our list for when we update:)

  76. SophiA

    Curious about Nars, Chanel, Charlotte Tillbury?

    1. Chantelle

      These are all toxic brands. You can check them on the EWG website

  77. Dee Dee

    What about Real Purity brand?

  78. Shelia Brown

    I am interested to know also about Lipscense?

  79. Haylee

    I’m scared to ask after I spent hours trying to buy these hard to come by lip kits, but what about Kylie Jenner’s line of matte lip glosses? Thank you for all of your research, it’s so nice and helpful to have all of this information in one spot!!

  80. Haylee Bell

    I’m scared to ask after I spent hours trying to buy these hard to come by lip kits, but what about Kylie Jenner’s line of matte lip glosses? Thank you for all of your research, it’s so nice and helpful to have all of this information in one spot!!

    1. Chantelle

      Hate to break it to you but Kylie Jenners makeup (all, of it) totally toxic. Even her new eyeshadow palette smells like hardcore chemicals. Yuck!

      1. Maia James

        Agreed, sadly!

  81. Rejuvaminerals?

  82. Cassandra

    What do you think about LipSense? I really like how long lasting their stuff is, but I’m worried about whether it’s really safe or not. Would love to know you opinion.

    1. Maia James

      Wow, everyone wants to know about Lipsense! I will investigate and let you all know!

      1. Cassandra Alessandrini

        I’m also curious about this! 🙂 I don’t wear much and I usually make Everything but having some color added to your lips with mascara make me feel more put together when I need to be 😛

      2. Looking for Answers

        Any update about LipSense?

      3. Laura

        I would love to know what you discovered about lipsense!

      4. Cheryl Prell

        Any updates on Lipsense? Thanks!

        1. Susan Seagren

          Yes – I’d love to know about Lipsense too – thanks!

      5. Leah

        I’d also love to know about LipSense. I couldn’t find an EWG rating.

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