Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pucker Up!

Have you ever wondered how lipstick is made? What gives it its consistency? It's shape and strength? Well, lipsticks are made of a mixture of several substances: natural waxes, oils, emulsifiers, and synthetic dyes. The synthetic dye obviously gives lipstick its color and can vary in shade, but are most commonly red or orange-hued.

Lipstick gains its moisturizing properties from the oils and emulsifiers that are found in it. A common emulsifier that is found in lipstick is lanolin. An emulsifier is a moisturizing compound of oils and fats.

Another major moisturizing component of lipstick is the oils that are used. The most commonly used oil in lipstick is Castor oil. This same oil is often used in pharmaceuticals and other cosmetic products as a lubrticant. This ingredient gives lipstick its consistency. As an oil, it allows the makeup to remain as a solid, but to also flow easily when applied to the lips.

The natural waxes grant lipstick is hardness, strength, and shape. These natural waxes are mixtures of long-chain esters. A common natural wax used in lipstick is beeswax. Beeswax contains esters that are formed when alcohols (with 24 to 36 carbon atoms) react with carboxylic acids (with 36 carbon atoms).

This seemingly simple object is a great example of how pervasive chemistry is in our lives. The complex mixture of lipstick demonstrates fundamental chemical aspects while also demonstrating how such chemicals are so versatile.

Baird, Colin. "6.22 Esters form the waxes that are used in lipstick." Chemistry in Your Life. 2nd ed. Boston: W. H. Freeman & Company, 2006. 246-47.

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