Why is Silica in My Lipstick?
Recently, a new ingredient is being used in cosmetics. It’s called silica. You may remember seeing the name from a pair of shoes you purchased. The box could have contained a small, white packet label as “silica gel, do not remove.” While silica is commonly used as a moisture absorbent in shoe boxes, a derivative can also be found in cosmetics.
Crystalline Silica: An Overview
Crystalline Silica or quartz is a natural mineral. However, when inhaled crystalline silica dust can be damaging and carcinogenic. Exposure to crystalline silica over time can cause lung diseases like lung cancer (CDC). This is more likely to happen to construction workers who drill, cut stones or work in tunneling or quarries (CDC).
But how does this ingredient find it’s way into cosmetics?
Firstly, there are different types of silica. In addition to Crystalline Silica, there is also Hydrated Silica and Amorphous Silica (source).
Hydrated Silica is a derivative of silica dioxide. In other words, it is another type or version of silica that is used to make gels and absorb moisture. You will commonly find this listed in toothpaste or foundations.
Amorphous Silica is similar to hydrated silica and used for the same purposes. It absorbs moisture and is commonly used in cosmetics to absorb oils.
So, What’s in My Cosmetics?
That’s where research as a consumer comes in. If you see silica listed on your cosmetic packaging, reach out to the company to ask them what type of silica they use within their product. While synthetically created Hydrated Silica and Amorphous Silica are considered low-risk, Crystalline Silica, the natural mineral, is not.
Merget, R., Bauer, T., Küpper, H. U., Philippou, S., Bauer, H. D., Breitstadt, R., & Bruening, T. (2002). Health hazards due to the inhalation of amorphous silica. Archives of toxicology, 75(11-12), 625–634. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002040100266
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "silica". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Aug. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/science/silica. Accessed 4 June 2022.