The average woman consumes around 4-9 pounds of lipstick over her lifetime. That's quite the cocktail of toxic chemicals, heavy metals and microplastics. Clean up your mouth and your beauty routine with these non-toxic and cruelty-free red lipsticks.
I love nothing more than a bold, bright red pout. Red lipstick can pull together a look, taking you from femme fatale, lady boss to rock ’n’ roll bad-ass bitch. Scarlet lips can symbolise power, confidence and independence (as it did for the suffragettes in the early 20th century), or glamour and seduction (the silver screen is littered with red pouted sirens). Red lipstick is the beauty equivalent of the little black dress—a staple that can be whipped out for every occasion, and one that has weathered time.
But, many conventional lipsticks contain worrying levels of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, from cadmium; chromium; parabens; lead; oxybenzone; petrochemicals; the preservative butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), which the US Department of Health and Human Services says is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen"; and even dyes like D&C Red 22 Aluminum Lake, which has raised concerns because some research has linked exposure to nervous system damage. Because the cosmetics industry is largely unregulated, beauty companies can put all sorts of ingredients in their products that aren’t great for our health or the planet, and sex it up with seductive marketing campaigns. When you consider that the average woman consumes 4-9 pounds of lipstick over a lifetime, a clean lipstick swap sounds like a pretty good 2020 resolution.
Add plastic to this toxic mix too, and I don’t mean just the lipstick case, although with an estimated 1 billion plastic lipstick containers thrown out every year worldwide we do need to kick the plastic habit. Some of the most popular lipsticks contain polyethylene—found in plastic packaging—as its third ingredient, which means it makes up a significant percentage of the lipstick. Talk about a femme fatale pout. You may be eating vegan, or locally grown organic, but you may also be unknowingly consuming plastics, heavy metals, parabens and phtalates, as well as carmine. That beautiful deep red you find in lipsticks more often than not is attributed to carmine, derived from boiled bugs (now you know).
Fortunately, as consumers we can encourage change through our spending habits, and there is certainly a tsunami of interest in clean beauty. These days there are clean options for just about everything, including lipstick, so it’s never been easier to avoid controversial ingredients. These ten lipsticks are cruelty-free and non-toxic, and several brands have also incorporated sustainable packaging, with refillable or recyclable packaging.
These smaller companies manufacture with integrity, transparency and sustainability in mind. So, before grabbing your usual mainstream lippy brand to smear plastic all over your lips, consider the switch to a clean, non-toxic and cruelty-free lipstick instead.
RMS Beauty Wild With Desire Lipstick
RMS Beauty Wild With Desire Lipsticks are formulated with organic, food-grade raw ingredients and are made with minimal processing to ensure your lips get the most benefit from natural vitamins and antioxidants. They have a velvety-smooth texture, satin finish and rich pigment. Enriched with the signature RMS Beauty Oil and available in ten flattering shades ranging from neutral nude, to red, to deep berry. The colours have great payoff and the formula great staying power. They're also packaged in sleek aluminium recyclable containers. Chic!
Reds we love: RMS Red and Ruby Red (a great clean beauty swap for MAC's Ruby Woo).
Not Vegan – contains beeswax
Ilia Beauty Colour Block Lipstick
Ilia Beauty is focused on creating clean, pure products with organic bio-active botanicals that nourish skin with mostly organic ingredients and safe-for-skin synthetics. The packaging prioritises sustainability with recycled aluminium, glass, and recycled paper. Their Colour Block Lipstick combines customised pigments milled with organic castor seed oil in a mix of classic shades including soft nudes, bold reds, and classic berries offers a solid block of colour with even textures and smooth, creamy finishes.
Reds we love: Tango, True Red, Flame.
Kjaer Weis Lipstick
Kjaer Weis is the crème de la crème of green makeup. This is a luxury brand that offers beautiful, sturdy, sleek and refillable packaging along with its high-quality products. Their makeup is organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable, and their containers are refillable. Their range of lipsticks in pale pinks, berry and a bold red are also complemented by matching lip liners.
Reds we love: KW Red
Sustainable and Refillable Packaging
Axiology The Bullet Lipstick
Describing themselves as '100% evil-free lipstick', Axiology ambitiously set out to make ‘the cleanest and most ethical lipstick on the planet.' Their vegan and non-toxic Bullet Lipsticks and lip crayons are available in a rainbow of colours from nudes to shimmering lavender packed with ingredients like nourishing coconut oil, organic avocado oil, neem oil and elderberry extract, and fragranced with natural orange oil rather than perfumes. Product packaging is 100% recyclable and compostable, and lipstick tubes are aluminium and can be recycled too. To top off it off, the brand donates to animal welfare organisations. Gotta love a brand that puts its money where its mouth is.
Reds we love: Strength, True, Worth
This woman owned company out of Taos, New Mexico, uses organic pesticide-free beeswax, harvesting the honey and wax with smoke rather than the conventional fume boards. Vapour's moisture rich mineral pigment colours come in matte or satin finishes, are hydrating and long lasting, and are infused with organic botanicals like pomegranate seed oil, myrrh, and rose. Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, their lip and cheek formulas are waterless, and they use 50% renewable energy at their headquarters, manufacturing and warehouse facilities.
Reds we love: Legend, Bold and Adore
Not vegan — they use pesticide-free and sustainably harvested beeswax and honey.
Kosas Weightless Lipstick
Enriched with moisturising ingredients like mango, cocoa, green tea and rosehip seed oils, as well as packed with vitamins to support collagen, enhance tone and texture, Kosas Weightless Lipsticks are creamy and have real staying power. The addition of orange oil gives the lipstick an uplifting, summer scent.
Reds we love: Thrillest and Electra.
Not Vegan— contains beeswax and lanolin
This much-loved brand is the recipient of many makeup and beauty awards for the best natural and healthy makeup products. W3LL People's lipstick and lip balm gives your lips sheen colour and is not too thick, heavy, and cakey. This is a deeply nourishing lipstick infused with organic rosehip oils and aloe vera to sooth cracked and chapped lips. The brand has also partnered with Lipstick Angels to support those fighting cancer, with 100% of proceeds from sales of limited edition shade, Brave, donated to the organisation.
Reds we love: Brave and Retrograde.
Inika Organic Vegan Lipstick
Containing certified organic avocado, argan and jojoba seed oils, and without parabens, heavy metals or microplastics, this vegan lipstick has a creamy application that feels super nourishing. Made in Australia, this lipstick is certified vegan, and all tubes are made from recycled materials.
Red we love: After Dark.
Hiro Liquid Lip Paint
Not quite a lipstick, nor a lip gloss, Hiro's Liquid Lip Paints are an all natural, vegan collection of bold creamy lipsticks that can be applied sheer or opaque depending on the amount of coverage you want. You can dab it on with your fingers for a lighter and matte application, or with the applicator for a bold, glossier finish. They can also be applied on cheeks and eyes too. Infused with olive butter, camellia oil, and shea butter, they moisturise the lips, making them look fuller, smoother and healthier.
Reds we love: Re-Coat and Dip.
Ere Perez Olive Oil Lipstick
Aussie skincare and beauty brand Ere Perez have built up a cult following for their natural, non-toxic and vegan products, and this lipstick is no different. Ere Perez lipsticks are available in range of 14 deeply pigmented shades, from nudes to fiery reds, that are super flattering for all complexions. These vegan lipsticks contain olive oil to help moisturise your lips, are non-flaking or drying, and provide long-lasting wear.
Reds we love: Festival , Carnivale, Big-Band and Circus.
RMS Wild with Desire Lipstick in RMS Red, US$36.73 ; Ilia Colour Block High Impact Lipstick in Flame, US$42 ; Kjaer Weis Lipstick in KW Red, US$53.86
Axiology The Bullet Lipstick in Strength, US$32 ; Vapour High Voltage Lipstick in Blaze, US$35 ; Kosas Weightless Lipstick in Electra, US$32
W3LL People Optimist Lipstick in Brave, US$16.99 ; Inika Organic Vegan Lipstick in After Dark, US$26.46 ; Hiro Liquid Lip Paint in Dip, US$20.80 ; Ere Perez Olive Oil Lipstick in Festival, US$23.10
Lipstick Ingredients to Avoid
Chromium – Known human carcinogen and linked to stomach tumors and cancers.
Lead – A neurotoxin and hormone disruptor with no safe limits for the human body.
Cadmium – Accumulative exposure to our body can cause liver damage and fragile bones.
Manganese – Too much of this metal can cause symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Aluminium – A known neurotoxin and carcinogen.
Polyethylene and polypropylene (microbeads or microplastics).
Methylparaben – Preservative; restricted in Europe because of cancer concerns.
Propylparaben –Preservative; known endocrine disruptor and allergen.
Petrolatum – Used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin; used to create mineral oil and dyes like coal tar.
Retinyl Palmitate – Synthetic form of Vitamin A that may be toxic to pregnant women.
Synthetic Dyes: D&C Red 36 and D&C Red 22 Aluminum Lake – Typically tested on animals, and have raised concerns because some research has linked exposure to nervous system damage and other health concerns