Q & A: Going green: Cosmetics and lip plumpers

Jun 01, 2008, 4:00am

The green movement is currently a hot topic within the cosmetics industry. This interest has been created by the announcement of large retailers that they will only sell products manufactured by green companies.

Key Points

Q: What are "green movement" cosmetics?

A: The green movement is currently a hot topic within the cosmetics industry. This interest has been created by the announcement of large retailers that they will only sell products manufactured by green companies.

A green company is environmentally conscious, not only in the office and manufacturing buildings it owns, but also in the packaging and ingredients used in the products it sells. This means that green products should ideally be packaged in recycled paper; avoid the use of glossy, unrecyclable pictures on the packaging; use recyclable plastics for bottle manufacture; and contain environmentally friendly ingredients.

Another corollary of the green movement is a ban on animal testing. In the past, most cosmetic testing was done on animals. When the European Union banned animal testing, the majority of global cosmetic companies based in the United States also stopped animal testing. However, raw material suppliers still test their new ingredients on animals. Animal testing may fall out favor completely with the development of the gene chip arrays and the ability to grow engineered skin explants.

Q: How do lip-plumping lipsticks work?

A: Lip-plumping lipsticks became popular as a topical answer to hyaluronic acid fillers.

The quickest way to increase fullness of the lip vermilion is to induce mild irritation. This causes swelling and enlarged lip volume. The two most common irritants employed are capsaicin, well-known to dermatologists as a modulator of substance P, and nicotinic acid, used as a lipid-lowering agent with vasodilatation side effects. The irritant effect is short-lived and mildly uncomfortable.

The second method of increasing lip fullness is to remove the wrinkles of dehydration by increasing the water-holding capacity of the transitional epithelium. Since the lips do not possess a stratum corneum, evaporation from the lips can be rapidly affected. A variety of new synthetic waxes and polymers have been introduced that create a thick film over the lips and retard water loss.

Finally, the lips can be plumped by substances that fill in lip lines and create a smooth surface, while increasing the water-holding capacity of the lips. Topical hyaluronic acid spheres can fill in lip creases and attract water. Usually, the spheres are used in combination with the occlusive films previously mentioned, providing an additive effect.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C.

Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net