By Shannon R., SELF magazine
My must-have, never-leave-home-without-it beauty product is lip gloss. I have them stashed in my purse, house and car just in case! I love shiny, glossy lips! Have you ever wondered just what makes glosses so "glossy"?
What is lip gloss?
Most lip glosses are a gel but some companies do make a stick or pomade version. Regardless of the form, these products are all designed to give your lips shine and color (sometimes they can taste good, too!). Typically these formulas are oil-based and don't contain any water, so there's no need for emulsifiers (chemicals that help water and oil mix together). Let's take a closer look at the 5 basic ingredients used to make lip gloss.
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- Emollients - Many, many different ingredients can be used to make lips feel smooth and add shine. Most formulas use oil (either mineral- or vegetable-based), lanolin derivatives or polybutene (a type of hydrocarbon that mimics silicones). Surprisingly, silicones are not commonly used (silicones are used to add shine and smoothness to many hair and skin care products).
- Thickeners - These ingredients keep the gloss from dribbling down your chin when you apply it. Waxes (like ozokerite) and clays (like kaolin) are commonly used to make glosses thick and add texture.
- Colorant / Glitter - While you can make a colorless lip shine, most glosses do contain some kind of colorant. Typically this is either an FD&C dye (did you know that stands for Food Drug & Cosmetic?), iron oxide or mica (a mineral that adds sparkle!).
- Flavor - What would lip gloss be without all those yummy flavors? The formula may also contain a sweetening agent like sodium saccharin so it actually does taste good!
- Control Agents - These are the ingredients that are added to ensure the product remains stable. Examples include pH adjustors, preservatives, and anti-oxidants. Some lip glosses even include sunscreens.
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So, why are they so shiny?
As I mentioned previously, lip glosses are mostly made of oils (emollients). Oils are shiny and feel slippery and smooth on the lips. Unlike lip glosses, lipsticks use a blend of waxes and oils. The wax in lipstick gives the product a more "matte" appearance but wax also does a better job of sticking to the lips so it's more likely to stay on your lips and less likely to end up on your glass. The oils in lip glosses make them super shiny but it's also harder to get them to stay on your lips.
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Lip glosses are super shiny, fun and easy to apply. The compromise is they generally don't stay put as well as lipsticks. Companies are working on achieving that perfect balance of shine and staying power to create a product that makes your lips glimmer without looking waxy and dull. For now, I'll sacrifice a little staying power for fruity-flavored shine!