The composition of lipstick


The chemicals that make up lipstick come into direct contact with the skin of the lips and therefore must be absolutely safe.

The composition of lipstick

Regular lipstick has the following composition:

  • Dye — 5%;
  • Titanium dioxide — 10%;
  • Oil — 40%;
  • Wax — 20%;
  • Softener — 25%.

Other components that make up lipstick include: fragrance, preservative that protects against microbes, vitamin E, sunscreen, flavoring.

Oil and wax are selected so that the lipstick lays softly on the lips, but at the same time forms a solid core. It is also important to ensure that the lipstick retains its consistency at temperatures up to 50 ° C.


A variety of types of oils have been used in the manufacture of lipstick: natural oils such as olive oil and cocoa butter; mineral oils (also called liquid paraffins), which are obtained during oil refining. Today, castor oil is considered the most successful, the additional advantage of which is that when it dries, it forms a dense, shiny film on the lips. Some lipsticks are almost half refined castor oil. Castor oil analogues are produced in chemical plants and are colorless, odorless, non-toxic and non-greasy in appearance.


Wax is needed in lipstick to give it shape. Three types of wax are commonly used: beeswax, carnauba wax and candelilla wax. Beeswax is one of the most favorite varieties of wax by cosmetologists, it is a mixture of cerotic acid and myricin, the melting point of this type of wax is 63 ° C. For several centuries, beeswax has been widely used for polishing furniture, in the manufacture of candles, and even for the manufacture of medicines. Carnauba, or, in other words, Brazilian, wax is obtained from the leaves of the wax palm. This wax is harder and melts at 87°C and was previously found in polishes, candles and waterproofing materials. It is still used today as the base for some types of car polishes. The main constituent of carnauba wax is carnauba alcohol. Candelilla wax is made in Mexico and comes from the Pedilanthus macrocarpus plant. The melting point of this wax is 67 ° C, it is used only in cases where beeswax and carnauba wax are too expensive. Candelilla wax once served as a sealing wax for sealing documents, and since then it has continued to impress official stamps.


Lanolin, derived from sheep’s wool, was at one time thought to be the cause of allergies in some people. Now it turned out that the suspicions against him were unfounded, and now lanolin is again being used as a key ingredient in some cosmetics. But they try not to mention him because of his bad reputation in the past. Some lip glosses are 70% lanolin, eye shadows are over 50% lanolin, and lipsticks are over 25%. In addition, a little lanolin is added to various types of cleansing creams, to cream powder, to hand cleaning creams, to night creams, to shampoos, to sun protection products. However, while the future of lanolin looks somewhat uncertain, as there are still doubts about its safety, there is evidence that this substance causes contact dermatitis in a number of sensitive individuals.


The color of lipstick in most cases is represented by various shades of pink or red, it is obtained using many different dyes. The most common lipstick colors are D&S orange #5 and D&S red #22. D&S (Drugs and Cosmetics list) stands for a list of drug and cosmetic dyes approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The chemical names for these dyes are 4,5-dibromofluorescein and 2,4,5,7-tetrabromofluorescein, respectively. The first has two bromine atoms in its molecule (as indicated by the prefix «di»), the second carries four bromine atoms in its composition (this is indicated by the prefix «tetra»). The second dye is also known by the short name eosin.

Both dyes are synthesized from fluorescein, which itself is yellow. When two bromine atoms are attached to a fluorescein molecule, an orange substance is formed, and when two more bromine atoms are attached to it, eosin is formed, which has a red color with a slightly bluish tint. A more intense color can be achieved if it is converted into a lake form, this is a technical term that refers to paint absorbed on an inorganic matrix — aluminum oxide. After applying lipstick on the lips, the color of the dye will be determined by its chemical interaction with skin proteins. The amino groups of proteins bind the dye and thereby not only make it stable, but also change its color.

Titanium dioxide

Titanium dioxide is added to lipstick for the same reason that it is added to paints — this substance has the property of evenly laying down on various surfaces. But in the case of lipstick, the whitening power of titanium dioxide is also important. By diluting red dyes with this substance, it is possible to obtain various shades of pink. Of course, not all lipsticks are red or pink. In search of a way to attract attention and perhaps shock others, some women and even men paint their lips in all the colors of the rainbow, and sometimes black.

The chemists employed by lipstick manufacturers are constantly fighting against the shortage of new dyes. Although today you can get paint in any of the most amazing colors, the problem is getting it approved by various regulatory authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration. Instead of spending years testing new dyes for their health safety and spending huge sums of money and risking failure, today chemists are using the latest technology to produce colors and effects that can meet the demands of changing fashion. The ability of pigments to interfere can be used to obtain almost any color, this is achieved due to the characteristics of the reflection of light by the pigment associated with the substrate — particles of titanium dioxide. Light incident on such particles can be reflected, refracted and scattered in various ways, depending primarily on the properties of the carrier substrate, and not on the dye.

The addition of tiny spherical particles, known as microspheres, improves the texture of the lipstick, making its substance less oily and more colourful. These microspheres are composed of a polymer of polymethylmethacrylate, encapsulated inside ingredients such as vitamin E, folic acid, fluoropolymers, these substances are gradually released from the microspheres, all of which are believed to be able to have a beneficial effect on skin health. What’s more, fluoropolymers make lipstick easier to manufacture by preventing it from sticking to the walls of factory molds, and they also give lipstick a nicer texture.

In the manufacture of lipstick, its ingredients are heated and mixed together until a homogeneous mass is obtained, after which the hot molten mixture is poured into metal molds, where it solidifies to form rods. The resulting rods are brought into an open flame for half a second, as a result of which all possible irregularities are eliminated from their surface, the lipstick becomes smooth and shiny. The pearlescent lipstick contains boric acid, which gives the lipstick iridescence and extra shine. Some lipstick manufacturers add particles of mica or quartz to its composition, which also creates an iridescent effect.

Over the past ninety years, thanks to chemistry, lipstick has been significantly modified, now it is an indispensable component of female attractiveness, which is so important for the flow of chemical reactions between a man and a woman of a special kind. But it often turns out that while a woman’s lips are telling one thing, the rest of her face tells a not-so-beautiful story, and here again the woman can turn to chemistry for help.

Source: based on the book by John Emsley «On the benefits and harms of the products we love to buy»

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