Sunday, 4 August 2013

Allergic to lipstick

One of the worst allergic reactions I've had (after a particularly bad firewood episode) was to a bright pick cheap lipstick that we bought to wear to the Sevens in Wellington. After wearing it for two days  my lips tripled in size and I looked like I had gone out to get extreme lip fillers. Because of the nature of the reaction I was also putting papaw cream on it so my lips were super shiny as well. Needless to say it was not only horrible but looked ridiculous as well. My workmates thought it was hilarious (you can't really call in sick for blown up lips) and it lasted for about a week.

Surely after that you'd think after that I'd cut my losses and ditch lipstick? Not quite. First I thought that it was just that type - it only cost NZ$10 and was very cheap brand. When that wasn't the case I've managed to keep it almost under control by applying lip balm first and then the lipstick over top. This reduces the skin exposure but means that the lipstick lasts for about 10 minutes (or slightly longer if you just sit around, don't smile, talk, eat or drink). I don't wear it often but you can't turn up at a wedding (or the races, or a dress up party) with a face full of make-up and bare lips.

Source: tumblr

  Anyway, I presumed that the reaction that I have was because there was rosin in lipstick. And, for the most part, I was right. DermNet NZ does really great fact sheets about allergies. There is a long list of irritants that are known to cause reactions in lipstick including:.
  • Nickel
  • Perfume and flavouring
  • Emollients including this unpronounceable one: isopalmityl diglyceryl sebacate that was used as a replacement for castor oil in Japan but is now being withdrawn from lipsticks and lipgloss.
  • Gloss - this is where the rosin/colophonium comes in
  • Anti-irritant agent’ – bisabolol (main active ingredient in chamomile)
  • Sealant – shellac
  • Cushioning/texture – di-isostearyl malate (fatty ester) 
The list is pretty interesting . I like that one of the listed irritants is 'Anti-irritant agent’ – bisabolol (main active ingredient in chamomile).  
 When you read the list of the common irritants that cause allergies to lipstick, it is easy to be concerned as to why these things are in the lipstick at all. Shellac, nickel, the various chemicals, rosin, preservatives and chemical colouring. Would you eat any of that stuff on its own?? 
Even though Snopes has claimed that women do not eat a couple of kilos of lipstick in a lifetime, I'm not so sure I want to be eating any chemicalised tree sap...

Bare Minerals lipstick - great find

So, where to from here? I've found a couple of brands that appear to be mostly natural. Bare Minerals does a great natural lipstick. I've used it with no problems. Inika is an Australian brand of organic make-up that also does a great lipstick. So there are alternatives out there, it's just a matter of trying to find them! 


  1. some supplements like MSM are already the bioavailable form of a nutrient we need. It has been proven to have a variety of health benefits in multiple trials. allergy treatment

  2. Bare Minerals lipstick makes my lips feel like they're sunburnt. Bought a beautiful color yesterday and will need to return it.