Rocking a bold, red lip can take your night from boring to epic. There is something about lipstick that changes us, makes us feel more brave and beautiful. When we put on lipstick, it’s for a reason — either we’re going out, or we want to achieve a certain look. There are actually scientific studies proving that lipstick changes us and makes us feel more confident. However, there are also studies that show its potential dangers. Before you reach into your makeup bag, make sure you know the truth about lipstick.

 It can dry out your lips

If you suffer from dry skin, especially in the winter, lipstick may not be your friend. The chemicals in many lipsticks can pull moisture from your sensitive lips, leaving them chapped.

“Wearing lipsticks 24/7, particularly low-quality lipsticks, which are laden with chemicals, can zap moisture away from your lips,” Certified Skin Therapist and the Founder of Skin Aspirations Simona Mazenyte told me. “If you have chapped lips, you are better off using a tinted lip balm.” Talk with your dermatologist or makeup artist friend about the best options for your skin.

 It could be bad for you and the environment

It is concerning how many chemicals can be found in a variety of lipsticks. While of course these chemicals aren’t great for our bodies, what are they doing to the environment? “Many lipsticks are made from petrochemicals, which are toxic to us and to the environment. High levels of petrochemicals in the body can interfere with your growth, reproduction, development, and intelligence,” warned Mazenyte. “Formaldehyde, used as a preservative in lipsticks, is a known carcinogen and can cause coughing, breathlessness, and skin irritation. Chromium, a carcinogen linked to stomach tumors, is also sometimes found in lipsticks.”

Always read the ingredients in your lipstick and do your homework. Not only do we ingest lipstick by swallowing it, we also absorb it through our skin. “The term ‘kiss of death’ comes from the fact that lipstick used to be made with poisonous materials,” Director of Beauty and Cosmetics at COLOR Salon Kate Stromberg told me. Make sure yours isn’t.

Once you wash off your makeup for the day, it can still do damage. Many cosmetic products, including lipsticks, are made up of tiny plastic particles. When we wash our face at the end of the day, these particles are washed down the drain and eventually make their way to our water sources. According to The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, these plastic pieces take hundreds of years to biodegrade and are polluting our oceans.

 It might contain lead

Speaking of dangerous ingredients in lipstick, you also have to worry about lead. “There’s been research done that concludes some lipsticks contain lead. Lead is a neurotoxin that can have a harmful effect on the nervous system,” Hillary Kline, freelance makeup artist and beauty blogger, told me. “It’s also been researched that reapplying lipstick multiple times a day can mean heavy metal exposure from those lip products.” Look for natural lipsticks that minimize extra harmful ingredients.

Mazenyte elaborated on what is meant by heavy metals. “Many lipsticks also contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, manganese, and aluminum,” explained Mazenyte. “Some of these heavy metals occur at levels that could pose health problems in the long run.”

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