You’re running out and forget to bring eye shadow or blush; instead of picking some up from the corner store, you grab your matte lipstick and blend it in on your cheekbones and eyelids. Anyone who wears makeup has done it at some point: took a cosmetic meant for one thing and used it for another. It’s all meant for your face, after all—so what could be the harm?
Don’t put lipstick on your eyes, and vice versa
When you buy lipstick, that product is tested for one use and one use only: your lips. It may seem harmless—if it’s safe around your mouth, it must be safe around your eyes, right? But as cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos told Lifehacker, “Using lipstick in the eye area is just one example of a potentially dangerous substitution because most of the red pigments approved for use in lipstick are not approved for use in the eye area due to the potential for irritation or allergic reaction.”
It’s not just your eyes that you have to be careful about—using eye products on your lips can also be dangerous. Eye shadows, for instance, can have iron in them, as well as ultramarines, ferric ferrocyanide, and chromium oxides. The skincare and natural makeup company Sterling Minerals explains, “These are approved safe for topical skin application found in mineral makeup products and all other forms of cosmetics, but not for use in lipstick or lip gloss.”
What are the risks?
The main risk for cosmetic substitutes is allergic reaction and irritation; the product you are using may contain ingredients that your lips do not react to but could cause a severe allergic reaction around your eyes. The FDA warns against the using cosmetics in areas where they weren’t intended:
Don’t use any cosmetics near your eyes unless they are intended specifically for that use. For instance, don’t use a lip liner as an eyeliner. You may be exposing your eyes to contamination from your mouth, or to color additives that are not approved for use in the area of the eye.
Wear eyeshadow on your lips, meanwhile, and you run the risk of ingesting harmful chemicals.
What are safe cosmetic substitutions?
Using lip liner as eyeliner or lipstick for eye shadow, it seems, is a bad idea. But using eyeshadow or lipstick as blush, or lip liner for eyebrows is relatively safe. In fact, some publications like Teen Vogue suggest people with red hair use lip liner to get an accurate tone for their eyebrows. And makeup tutorial site The Beauty Department offers detailed instructions on using matte lipstick as a substitute for blush.
But be aware: Lipstick used as blush can cause breakouts or what is called “acne cosmetica,” where makeup is the root cause of a person’s acne. Other than a bout of acne, however, there does not appear to be any serious risk to dabbing your cheeks with your favorite lip color. Just try not to mix cosmetics for your eyes and mouth and keep an eye out for harmful additives. And of course, if you notice any serious reactions, stop use immediately and contact your doctor.