If you have yet to get the memo—lipstick is back, and it’s unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon with so many brands booming in popularity over the ‘90s throwback. Glossy lips are in, as well as dewy, glowing skin and an overall hydrated look. But what, exactly, is in lip gloss that gives it the signature shine that cosmetics consumers love? And what ingredients are put into lip gloss to give it the texture and color that it has without sitting like a sticky mess on your face?
Below you’ll find a list of the most common lip gloss ingredients and why they’re used in lip gloss formulas for different reasons. Not every lip gloss is built the same and some will contain more of one ingredient and less of another, but the benefit of private labeling your own cosmetics line is that it often gives you the freedom of being able to customize your own formula to meet your own needs.
Also known as oils, emollients are the key ingredients in lip gloss that give it the shiny texture that consumers know and love in the product. Emollients can be both natural and synthetic, and are often presented as lanolin, castor oil, jojoba oil, or polybutene, and vitamin E—to name a few. Lip glosses tend to lean more toward waxes than oils to help the texture maintain its thickness and slick look, where lipsticks usually contain more oil than wax to help them feel more velvety on the lips.
In addition to emollients, lip glosses also contain thickeners like other waxes and oils to help them keep their thickness. High quality lip glosses will have a good balance of both oil and wax to keep from dripping off of the lips or appearing smeared like a lipstick might. Again, these ingredients can be either natural or synthetic, depending on the brand or formula.
Also known as pigments, these ingredients are added to lip gloss to give them their color—if there is a color, at least. Most lip glosses use dyes or fruit extracts to give them a certain shade and color tint. Natural products are more likely to use fruit extracts, but don’t be surprised if most companies use dyes in order to get the right shade of neutral pink.
In glittery glosses, most companies will use an ingredient called Mica or Iron Oxide to create the glittery look. As minerals, these ingredients will help give lip gloss its shiny, glittery texture. The ingredient isn’t specific to lip glosses as it’s used in many cosmetics, but any ingredient you find in lip gloss has to be approved by the FDA before it can be added into something that is ingested or put directly on the skin.
Just like in your food, your cosmetics need ingredients that help them maintain their structure over time. If you have ever noticed that beauty products (ahem, nail polish) tend to lose their color, separate, or change texture over a long period of time you can thank the control agents that are in the product. These ingredients range from things like preservatives to antioxidants and pH adjusters to help keep them from going bad before their expiration date.
Most control agents in lip glosses don’t differ much from the ones you’d find in other beauty products, but they can range from natural to synthetic ingredients depending on the brand. Most natural products will avoid using preservatives like parabens because the ingredients are sometimes controversial. Studies have shown that the ingredient can sometimes mimic estrogen levels in the body, which could lead to hormonal imbalances, but there is not enough evidence to support that the ingredients are directly harmful to the body. While this may be good for marketing purposes, it also makes the products more susceptible to expiring sooner, meaning that consumers may likely notice changes to the formula over time as well as the risk of having to throw away unsold product after the expiration date. So keep this in mind when developing your formula.
Fragrances and Sweeteners
Because lip glosses go on the lips it isn’t uncommon for brands to add fragrances and sweeteners into the product to give it a flavor. Like the other ingredients common to lip gloss these fragrances and flavors can either be synthetic or naturally derived (such as from fruit or plant extracts). Once again, though, even synthetic flavors have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in order to be sold in a product that gets ingested or put directly on the skin.