Beauty Makeup

Red Flag! How To Find Non-Toxic, Vegan Red Lipsticks

By Chere Di Boscio

Love red lippy? You may want to be sure your cosmetics are insect-free. I know what you’re probably thinking: insect free lipstick? Why wouldn’t my lipstick be insect free? But if you’re a fan of seductive red tones, that’s seriously something to watch for, thanks to cochineal extract.

In case you’ve never heard this rather creepy fact before, cochineal extract comes from little insects that munch on cacti. To be honest, for non-vegans, it’s not a nasty ingredient. The truth is, it’s far, far less dangerous for your health than some other ingredients that form red dyes. Actually, mainstream red lipsticks are pretty damn toxic thanks to some of the nasty ingredients found in this hue, which, of course, end up in your body.

For example, here’s what to watch for:

  • Organic colours: These may sound ok, but they’re actually synthetically created from chemically refined petroleum oil or coaltar derivatives. These are quite different from Inorganic colours, which are comprised of mineral compounds like iron oxides, and normally contain high levels of extremely toxic heavy metals which can easily enter your bloodstream.

Some of these red pigments are actually cancer causing due to their high levels of heavy metals, including  lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and antimony. Over time, these heavy metals build up in the body and can cause severe health problems including allergies, reproductive and developmental disorders, neurological problems, memory loss, mood swings, muscle disorders, kidney and renal problems, lung damage, hair loss, nausea, headaches, and of course, cancer.

Since heavy metals are a byproduct of the “organic” colors made from petroleum and coal tar, don’t expect them to be listed on the ingredients list. The cosmetic industry goes to great lengths to keep these facts out of the hands of the average consumer. Instead of seeing “lead” or “aluminium” on the label, you’ll likely see all sorts of strange names, such as “Blue No. 1 Aluminum Lake” or “Red No. 6.”

In order to give you an example, Axiology lipsticks has researched “D&C Red 6,” a common cosmetic colour ingredient. According to the Environmental Working Group, D&C Red 6 can contain arsenic, lead, gossypol, mercury, PCBs and pesticides!

Unfortunately, this is but one of many incredibly harmful ingredients commonly found in red lipsticks. These are but a few more that should be avoided at all costs:

Red 4, Red 6, Red 7, Red 17, Red 21, Red 22, Red 27, Red 28, Red 30, Red 31, Red 33, Red 34, Red 36, Red 40

Blue 1, Blue 2, Blue 4

Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Yellow 7, Yellow 8, Yellow 10, Yellow 11

Green 3, Green 5, Green 6, Green 8

Orange 4, Orange 5, Orange 10, Orange 11

It’s rather unbelievable that these toxins are allowed in makeup at all, but the truth is, there’s very little control over what goes into cosmetics, especially in the USA. Natural, clean lipsticks are made without heavy-metal bearing artificial colours – instead, they use naturally occurring mineral deposits called Iron Oxide, which you can learn more about here. Not sure if your lipstick is safe? Check its ingredients on the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics Database here.

cocktail dresses

Vegan Horrors

So, let’s get back to cochineal – we turned once again to Axiology to learn that there’s actually a whole lot more to watch out for in lipsticks than this insect ingredient:

Look out for Cochineal Extract
Let’s get back to that insect extract. It’s non-toxic, but it’s pretty nasty – and even more so when you consider that according to recent FDA updates, Cochineal Extract can be listed as Carmine as an ingredient – this is produced by boiling and filtering cochineal insects with other chemicals instead of drying them. Ick.

Mind Your Beeswax
Beeswax is made from melting down, straining, and cooling honeycomb. It’s used in many cosmetics, including lipsticks, as a thickening agent to keep products solid and maintain their structure. Although it sounds harmless on the surface, beeswax, honey, and other products that come from bees are commonly sourced from factory-farms which promote unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation. There are plenty of healthy, vegan alternatives to this wax; PETA has a great resource here.

Lose the Lanolin
Also referred to as wool wax or wool grease, Lanolin is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Basically, it’s an oily or waxy matter that helps lubricate and repel water. These properties make it an ideal ingredient for lotions and cosmetics, including highly pigmented lipstick shades- like reds. Again, because lanolin is an animal-byproduct, vegans should steer clear of it. There are great plant-based oils that can serve as alternatives to achieve supple red lips without drying or cracking.

Vegan Doesn’t Mean Non-Toxic!

We know this is a lot to consider before you buy, but the good news is that there are innovative brands out there who are taking extra steps to reduce negative impacts on animal welfare, your health and the planet – but be careful! As is the case with vegan fashion, many people equate ‘vegan lipstick’ with ‘non-toxic’ or ‘eco-friendly’ –  and that is simply NOT the case. Brands like Color Pop, Kylie Kosmetics and Lime Crime are actually packed with the nasty heavy metals mentioned above. Confused? Don’t worry! We did some digging and found these great reds that cover all the bases.

Axiology Vibration Lipstick 

Every needs her statement red lippy, and Axiology is slaying the lipstick game! Instead of a bright pop of red, Vibration is more of a sophisticated and sensual shade of poppy that will make you stand out whether you’re dressed up for a night out or dressed down in jeans and a simple cocktail dresses on sale . This lipstick has the most wonderful subtle orange scent and glides on in the most effortless way, all whilst nourishing lips and providing a rich coverage that stays put all day long. We’re all obsessed!



Lippy Girl Boss Lady Lipstick

Kick it like a boss with this deep red shade. It’s got slightly burnt red undertones, making it the perfect hue for those with an olive tone to the skin.

Pacifica Nudie Red

Prefer a more sheer red? This is for you! It may look dark red in the tube, but it actually goes on quite light and transparent, like a summer rose.

LUSH Decisive

For an intense, vegan friendly blue red shade that makes a serious statement, try this one by Lush. The best part? It’s priced not to break the bank!

WonderBalm Vivid

On the basis that anything we place on our lips will end up inside of our body, WonderBalm was formulated so that we could still add a pop of vegan-friendly colour to our lips but without harmful, toxic chemicals. Made with plant-based ingredients that have each been selected for their functional benefits, this is a lip balm that feels creamy upon application and leaves your mouth both glossy and hydrated. And if that wasn’t enough to excite you; even the tube is made using eco-friendly paper. Chic and ethical!

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