Greening My Lippies

by Sonja on April 6, 2009

Eco-Friendly Lipstickimage by coba

Are you greening your beauty routine? I’ve learned so much about toxic gunk in beauty products over the past few years so I’ve been using more eco-friendly alternatives. Now that it’s Earth Month, I’m thinking even more about choosing safer, earth-friendly options. Throughout the month, I’ll be taking a closer look at eco-beauty. Today I’m focusing on lip color with info about potential hazards, the inside scoop on creating “green” lippies, and some brands that I’ve tried and recommend.

Every day, I put something on my lips - whether it’s a lip balm, a lip gloss, or lip stick - and inevitably, I lick my lips and swallow. It’s commonly reported that we’ll eat about four to nine pounds of lipstick throughout our lives (yum) so I’d prefer that my lipsticks, glosses, and balms contain safer ingredients.

Checking for Toxins

If you’d like to see how your lip color fares, check out Skin Deep, a very comprehensive cosmetic safety database from the Environmental Working Group. They provide safety ratings and list ingredients that could be toxic and potentially irritating for more than 40,000 products. There are lots of lipsticks that get frightening hazard scores.

Lead in Lipstick

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also released findings that an alarming number of lipsticks contain lead, something I clearly don’t want to be smearing on my lips. In their report, A Poison Kiss, they explain that lead is a neurotoxin that builds up in the body and can cause learning, language, and behavioral problems. Only problem is that it’s tough to tell if lead is in your lipstick. It wasn’t listed on the ingredients (go figure) in the lipsticks they found to contain lead, which included red and wine shades of lipsticks from L’Oreal, Cover Girl, and Christian Dior, so it’s not like you can look for it on the ingredient list. Fortunately, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is pushing the cosmetics industry to clean up its act. In the meantime, I’m choosing eco-friendly brands in the hopes of steering clear of various toxins when I beautify. Luckily, a few brands, like Gabriel and Zuzu Luxe, make my life easier by specifying that their cosmetics are lead-free.

Creating “Green” Lip Colors

Primitive LipstickTo get some insight into what goes into making a “green” lippies, I checked in with Susanna Ronner, Partner and Creative Director of Primitive Makeup, a lovely line of lipsticks, glosses, and lip pencils. She says they developed the line with the belief that “less is more, and ‘clean’ is best - and so absolutely out was the use of any synthetic ingredients or artificial colorants.” Their products look and feel fabulous, and come in a palette inspired by Moroccan deserts, Balinese beaches, and Caribbean sunsets.

Sonja: What have been the challenges of creating a natural line that also performs well?

We strongly believe that our health should not be compromised by the makeup we wear.

Susanna: That is the challenge indeed. We decided early on, that we wanted to create a beautiful color palette, because no matter how clean a lipstick is, if a woman doesn’t find a color that suits her and enhances her natural beauty, she will not wear it. We felt that the natural market was filled with lipsticks in unusual shades of colors, with odd tastes and textures. So we knew, unless this product rivaled mainstream cosmetics, it would not have enough appeal to convince women to make the switch. It was this reason that we chose to not be exclusively vegan (though a few of our shades are), as this would have limited our color options greatly. Our commitment is to create a natural makeup line that performs wonderfully. Our lipsticks, and our newly released lip glosses and pencils, perform as well as the ‘non natural’ brands - but we feel even better, because it’s free of parabens and other synthetic and artificial ingredients. We strongly believe that our health should not be compromised by the makeup we wear.

Sonja: What’s special about your lip colors?

Susanna: It took us one year alone, to create our lipstick color palette. We find that there is a color for everyone (and usually, much more than one color). The colors are sophisticated and flattering. It is harder to create an appealing palette from natural sources, but it is possible - it just takes a thoughtful eye, and the determination to tweak and tweak until we create beautiful, wearable colors.

Besides our beautiful colors, we are really proud of the way our lipsticks, lip glosses and lip pencils feel. Our lipsticks are creamy and emollient, and like a balm for the lips. Our glosses are silky, and not sticky (that was really important to us) and the color palette is very flattering. Our lip pencils are creamy (great for filling in the lips), yet can line the lips perfectly, as well.

I really like Primitive lip colors, especially Taj Mahal, a sheer gold that can also be used as a highlighter on the cheeks and browbone. They’re wonderfully smooth and creamy; and the glosses are comfortable and non-sticky. Susanna says they plan to expand into a full line of natural, wearable products. She welcomes your input and would like to know what kinds of things you’d like them to develop. Check here for a listing of stores and spas that carry Primitive Makeup.

Green Greats

Primitive is part of a bigger trend of more natural lip products that are just as good as, if not better than, those from mainstream brands. I’ve tried several other “green” brands and been quite impressed. Here are some of my favorites.

Cargo PlantLove(TM)

plantlove-lipstickCargo PlantLove(TM) is a green line that includes 20 sheer and glossy Botanical Lipsticks ($20) that feel great on the lips, are made with natural and organic ingredients, and aren’t tested on animals. The bio-plastic lipstick cases are made from corn, compostable, and greenhouse-gas-neutral to fight global warming. Plant yourself a garden with the boxes, which are embedded with wildflower seeds. Two dollars from every lipstick sale is donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Half of the colors were designed by celebrities. For spring, I’m smitten with Grace, a “shimmering sheer, iced strawberry sorbet” designed by Angie Harmon. Available at Sephora and


Gabriel LipstickGabriel Lipsticks ($15.25) come in 24 matte, sheer or satin shades, are lead- and PABA-free, and formulated with a petrochemical-free base of candelilla wax, emollients and other plant derived conditioning ingredients including jojoba oil, aloe vera and bisabolol to seal in moisture and protect lips from the environment. The formulas feel super silky, are 100% natural, feather-resistant, long-wearing, and contain chemical-free sunscreen. Gabriel Cosmetics uses no animal by-products, and no testing is ever done on animals. If you’re looking for a high-drama red, I highly recommend Pomegranate. Available directly from Gabriel Cosmetics and at health food stores like Whole Foods. Check out their store locator.

Living Nature

Living Nature LipstickLiving Nature is an eco-luxury line out of New Zealand with lipsticks that include many nourishing, natural ingredients, like avocado and macadamia oils, and Manuka honey. They use environmentally friendly packaging and don’t do animal testing. Their lipsticks are exceptionally creamy and comfortable. They stick to a natural palette. I’m a big fan of Dusk, a light, shimmery nude ($37). Available directly from Living Nature, at online eco-stores, like Saffron Rouge, and in stores around the world (check here for locations).

Jane Iredale

Jane Iredale Lip PlumperJane Iredale makes a gorgeous assortment of makeup based on minerals. She has many options for lips – from lip crayons to lipsticks to glosses. I’m a big fan of Just Kissed Lip Plumper ($24), which is  highly moisturizing, beautifully silky, and plumps with mint and ginger. The colors are sheer and shimmery so they’re wonderful for spring and summer. Jane Iredale products are not tested on animals, are made with natural pigments and contain no chemical dyes, synthetic preservatives, or fragrances. Available directly from Jane Iredale, and at and many stores and spas. Check here for locations.

Terra Firma Cosmetics

Terra Firma LipstainTerra Firma doesn’t make lipsticks but they do make some excellent lip stains and glosses. Longevity Lip Stain ($14.99) adds long-lasting, weightless color. It gets its pigment from fruits and vegetables. These are fantastic multi-taskers, because they can also be used as cheek stains and even applied to the nails to add a temporary, sheer wash of color. Top their lip stains with Super Glossy Sexy Lip Gloss ($12.99), a light, sheer gloss that isn’t the slightest bit sticky and contains great ingredients like shea butter and sweet almond oil. The formulas are not tested on animals and are free of parabens and potentially carcinogenic, toxic ingredients, such as propylene, glycol, mineral oils, petroleum, and other harmful preservatives and additives. Available directly from Terra Firma Cosmetics.

Zuzu Luxe

Zuzu Luxe LipstickZuzu Luxe makes clean, all-natural, lead- and cruelty-free cosmetics made with things like rare and exotic essential oils, spring water, herbs, and vitamins. This line is made by Gabriel Cosmetics but has a more fashion forward array of colors, including Uber, which is a sheer lipstick loaded with loads of glamorous glitter. For a seriously sultry look, try Vino De Amor ($16.50). Also available directly from Gabriel Cosmetics and at health food stores like Whole Foods. Check out their store locator.

Do Tell

Are you concerned about the ingredients in lip products? Are you switching to more natural alternatives? What are your favorites?

P.S. Check out our regularly updated Beauty Resources page for some amazing beauty deals from companies like, (carries Jane Iredale), and (also carries Jane Iredale).

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Rowena April 6, 2009 at 4:44 am

Gosh - that’s a lot of lipstick to be eating…

Imelda Matt April 6, 2009 at 6:07 am

I love that stat about how much lipstick a woman eats during her life. Who knew that there was so much to consider when buying a lippie…!

szaza April 6, 2009 at 8:52 am

Thank you for the great post— I am super paranoid when it comes to chemicals in my beauty products. I read every label and try to find the greenest safest products for me— unfortunately the colours I’d like to wear are not usually available in natural cosmetics.

I was shocked to read at Skin Deep that many “natural” cosmetic companies also use harmful substances.

Now I’d like to find a safe, good-smelling, non-greasy sunscreen moisturiser. Any ideas? :)

Sonja April 6, 2009 at 11:29 am

❤ Rowena, crazy, huh?!
❤ Imelda, yeah, it’s gotten a bit overwhelming. It would be nice if we could just get a group to stamp “safe” on products. But our FDA isn’t doing much and doesn’t really enforce their standards. It’s very frustrating.
❤ szaza, you’re very welcome. I hope it was helpful. I’m the same way as you. I read the labels but they’re often confusing. I know labeling things “all-natural” isn’t any guarantee so that makes things extra confusing. I think we’re in this middleground where we’re learning that things can be toxic but there isn’t clear labeling or standards. It makes me want to pull my hair out. I try to not drive myself crazy over it and just do the best I can. I don’t want to turn into Michael Jackson!

Also natural/green cosmetics have come a long way. But it’s very true that the color choices are limited. Tarte and Cargo are good crossover brands that do a pretty good job of being fashionable and safer.

I do find it easier to get really good, green skin care. Marie-Veronique Organics makes very good, non-greasy, light, pretty-much-fragrance-free sunscreens. Their sunscreens rank well on the cosmetics safety database for safety and being effective. Body Deli also makes a really nice sunscreen, Solar Defense, that isn’t greasy, heavy, or funny smelling (like some of the natural ones I’ve tried). ARCONA is also coming out with a new sunscreen that I’m going to try. Hope that helps!

Patti Lee April 6, 2009 at 11:40 am

Yeek - I better be careful what I do put on my lips. Thanks for this article!

Sonja April 6, 2009 at 12:59 pm

❤ Patti, you’re very welcome! I’m amazed at what beauty companies can get away with!

Fashionlover April 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Great post! So much interesting info, although I must admit I haven’t used a lipstick for quite a while now. I don’t really like anything on my lips. Lip gloss…. very occasionally though.

Sonja April 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm

❤ Fashionlover, thank you! Even if you don’t wear lipstick, the basic principles apply to anything you put on your lips and skin. There are many potentially hazardous ingredients in so many beauty products so it’s good to try to go for safer alternatives, especially now that there are so many wonderful eco-brands. I’ve found that JUARA, Ren, and Burt’s Bees makes some wonderful lip balms, which are inevitably eaten just like any other lip product.

Roby07 May 20, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Yes, this is all well and good but do these lipsticks migrate? I cant stand to have lipstick that moves off the lips to other parts of your face. I dont love lipsticks that are made like clay and rips your lips off to remove it either. And if they smell or taste funky? Forget about it. I wear a lot of lipstick so I’d like to see feedback from people who have actually tried these new ones about their potential staying power, migration factor, smell, taste etc…

I have bought and thrown away a fortune in lipsticks so I have learned that if I find one I like, to buy up everyone of them as soon as I can because the minute I get hooked on one, they discontinue it too. It should be so simple but it’s not.

Sonja May 21, 2009 at 12:42 pm

❤ Roby07, I’ve used all these lipsticks. The lipsticks I talk about above all wear pretty much the same as chemical-laden ones. The textures are very nice and feel very good on the lips.

The Terra Firma lip stain totally stays put, doesn’t need to be rubbed off at the end of the day and doesn’t require a special cleanser. It should definitely be topped with something though. But their lip gloss is less long-lasting than others that are available from other companies.

The Jane Iredale Lip Plumper isn’t a traditional lipstick formula so it doesn’t stay on as long as the others. It’s a very sheer, more natural looking formula.

Everything I wrote about smells fine – nothing funky in the bunch.

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