Claim: The average woman swallows six pounds of lipstick during her lifetime.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2002]
I heard women eat an inordinate amount of lipstick during their lifetimes. So I looked it up on the Internet, and post after post lists it at
Origins: The belief that women will swallow some astonishingly large amount of lipstick over the span of their lives has been kicking about for more than a decade. In that time, we’ve seen it repeated with various poundages given, as the following list (gleaned from various news articles) demonstrates:
- In 1998 The Ottawa Citizen said, “According to one report in Glamour magazine, the average woman consumes four to nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime.”
- In 2001 London’s The Express claimed, “The average woman swallows 5.65 lbs. of lipstick in a lifetime.”
- In 2002 Denver’s Rocky Mountain News reported, “Women inadvertently – but harmlessly – eat about four pounds of lipstick in their lifetime,” citing Glamour magazine as its source.
- In 2002, The Sun announced, “The average woman swallows 3lb of lipstick during her life, say researchers in Australia.”
- In 2002, Irish News said the average woman, “Swallows four pounds of lipstick in a lifetime.”
- In 2002 Melbourne, Australia’s Sunday Herald Sun said of lipstick, “The average woman swallows about 4.5kg
[10 lbs.]in a lifetime.”
- In 2005 Charlottetown, PEI’s The Guardian asserted, “The average woman eats five pounds of lipstick per lifetime.”
Notice that even when the claim is authoritatively repeated as revealed fact, there’s no agreement on just how much lip enhancer the “average” woman ingests. According to the different ways we’ve heard the rumor, that number varies between 3 and
While it’s a neat-sounding statistic, common sense rules it out. Here’s why:
Although there is some variance by brand, the average amount of usable lipstick in a typical (not skinny, i.e. Revlon Colorstay) tube amounts to
There are therefore
true, the “average” woman would have to swallow the contents of many, many hundreds of sticks of lip colorant in her life (anywhere between 454 and
As to how many applications there are in a tube of lip goo, we sacrificed another Revlon Super Lustrous to the cause of science and determined its
Assuming 55 years of daily lipstick use (age 15 to 70), 186,140 to 619,920 applications translates to 9 to
While 9 to 31 applications a day might not yet sound entirely outlandish, that’s before we consider the kicker: for this stat to work, the average woman would have to swallow all the lipstick she applied in those 9 to
Another way of appreciating the ridiculousness of the claim variously stated as 3 to
454 to 1,512 tubes of lipstick, which in turn translates to 8 to
Average women don’t buy 8 to 27 tubes of lipstick each year, every year. Of the lipsticks they do buy, they don’t use right down to the last possible swipe every vestige of every tube. Most any gal you question will admit to possessing a handful of lipsticks housed in a drawer somewhere that she fancied at the time of purchase but now doesn’t use, or even cop to throwing out practically full tubes whose color or texture she no longer cared for. Of the lipsticks they do regularly apply, not all of them end up fully expended, in that even favorite tubes of lipstick get lost, or stepped on, or sent through the wash in the pocket of a pair of jeans.
In other words, for any flavor of this “pounds of ingested lipstick” rumor to work, the average woman would have to purchase a far greater number of lipsticks than the 8 to
In 1990, the National Health and Medical Research Council in Canberra, Australia, asserted the average woman could expect to swallow between 500 and
The National Health and Medical Research Council conclusion about how much lipstick women swallow was advanced in agenda papers discussing the need for improved regulation of cosmetics and other health and beauty aids. It should therefore be looked at a bit askance.
As to what is actually in lipstick (swallowed or otherwise), the cosmetic amounts to waxes, oils and fats, emollients, and pigments. The rumor that this beautifier contains vast amounts of lead is false.
Barbara “lipstick chronicles” Mikkelson
Last updated: 14 May 2010
Brannigan. “Let’s Hear It For the Girls.” Irish News. 19 June 2002 (pp.18, 27). Groskop, Viv. “Don’t Worry, High Heels Won’t Bring Us Down.” The Express On Sunday. 11 March 2001. McCormack, Louisa. “Kiss and Makeup.” The [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian. 16 July 2005 (p. C3). Pickett, Debra. “Colorful Economic Indicator Smacks of Luxury, Escape.” Chicago Sun-Times. 27 November 2001 (p. 6). Spicer, Emily. “Kiss and Tell ; Luscious Lipstick Evokes Sensuality, Memories.” San Antonio Express-News. 26 December 2002 (p. D12). Herald Sun. “Kiss and Tell Surprise.” 8 November 1990. The Ottawa Citizen. “WhoWhatWhenWhereWhyHow.” 1 November 1998 (p. D14). Rocky Mountain News. “Dress Code.” 30 May 2002 (p. D3). The Sun. “Lip Loss.” 27 December 2002. [Melbourne, Australia] Sunday Herald Sun. “Danger: Lipstick Can Be Lethal.” 5 May 2002 (News, p. 11).
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