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What's in Your Makeup?

We deconstruct the five essentials you use every day. Plus how to apply it and when to throw it away.

2. Blush

What's in it:

Flirting, a bawdy joke, or the revelation of your embarrassing childhood nickname may bring a flush of color to your cheeks. Cosmetics companies accomplish the same by relying on FDA-approved colorants. Typically, three or four of these pigments are combined to create a shade. Chemists add fillers, such as talc and stearic (a natural fatty acid), to dilute the pigments and make that brushed-on blush appear believable, or at least not clownish. Finally, concealing pigments, including mica, zinc oxide, and titanium oxide, "block your natural skin color," says Perry Romanowski, a Chicago cosmetic chemist, "so the blush you apply will be bright and true."

How to apply it:

For the most flattering placement of blush, consider the structure of your face, says Dallas makeup artist Penny Sadler. "If your face is wide, you can make it appear thinner by placing the blush right on the apples of your cheeks and not extending it toward your temples." Do the opposite to make a narrow face look fuller: Apply blush on the outer edges of the apple -- align the starting point with the pupil of your eye -- then sweep your brush toward your hairline.

When to ditch it:

Cosmetic companies test blush to help it remain stable for about 12 months once opened, says Romanowski. But let your cheeks speak. If the color is looking muddy, the red pigment in the blush is likely starting to break down, causing the shade to read as browner. Plus, says Romanowski, "it won't spread as easily, so you may end up with streaks." Powder blush will last two years or so and cream blush, about half that time.

3. Lipstick

What's in it:

Pink or plum, Gwen Stefani-red or Angelina Jolie-nude, all lipstick contains wax, pigment, and oil. Wax gives the lipstick its shape, pigment its color. Oils, including petrolatum, lanolin, cocoa butter, jojoba, castor, and mineral, vary by formula. The more oil, the more intense the color, so you'll find less in sheer lipsticks than in matte.  

Long-wear lipstick contains volatile solvents that deposit the pigment and then flash off, Wilson says, which is why it's hard to find one that doesn't dry out your lips. "What's eliminated are 'wet' ingredients like oils and certain emollients that could potentially cause the pigment to slide around and transfer onto wine glasses or coffee cups. Unfortunately, those are the same ingredients that are moisturizing to the lips!"

Hybrid lipsticks

"Hybrid" lipsticks are a cross between a balm and a gloss, conditioning lips while depositing a sheer veil of color. "There are times a woman doesn't want a very pigmented lip, but she still wants that pop of color," says Hollywood makeup artist Brett Freedman, "and that's what these shiny balms deliver. They have a translucent, lollipop-like finish that's very modern looking." Lots of brands are rolling out these shiny balms, in chubby pencil form or traditional twist-up bullets. Look for words like "glossy balm," "almost lipstick," and "sheer tint" in the lipstick's name.

When to ditch it:

If you haven't used up a lipstick or gloss after a year, you should give it the heave-ho, Friedman suggests. "Preservatives break down in about 12 months," he says, "and that can lead to bacterial contamination or irritation."

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