Mariah Carey is famous, in no particular order, for: being a diva, naming one of her twins Moroccan, and for having a "seven-octave" singing range. This last nice bit of fiction is unquestioningly repeated by a credulous media without anyone ever stopping to think, "Wow, seven octaves. Is that even possible?" Because of course, it isn't. The truth is closer to three (which is still impressive).
The beauty equivalent of the seven-octave range is "women consume four pounds of lipstick in a lifetime," a line that gets hauled out anytime someone wants to remind you that makeup is full of toxins and BAD FOR YOU.
See the four pounds of lipstick fable here. And here. And here. And here's a video that ups that number to seven pounds. *sigh* Even Oprah's beloved Dr. Oz claims we go through seven pounds of lipgloss each decade.
But lipsticks are small and I am suspicious by nature. Plus, I learned multiplication and division in public school. So recently I flipped over a lipstick to check its weight and started to do some math.
- A lipstick bullet (the actual lipstick part of the lipstick) weighs anywhere from 2.5 to 4.3 grams. So let's use an average weight of 3.4 grams.
- 28.35 grams in an ounce means 8.34 lipsticks to an ounce.
- 16 ounces in a pound means 133.44 lipsticks to a pound.
- Four pounds of lipstick translates to 533.76 lipsticks.
So, if that "four pounds of lipstick" number were true, we'd be eating -- not just wearing and not leaving smudged on coffee cups, napkins or wineglasses -- 533 full lipsticks in our lifetime. In order to do that you'd have to wear lipstick daily from age 15 to age 70, and reapply enough times a day to go through one full tube per month. Who uses that much lipstick?
OK, maybe Lady GaGa or those nice men in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, but that's it. Even the most lipstick-crazed among us gets bored. We all have half-used lipsticks abandoned at the bottom of our purse or languishing in plastic bins under the bathroom sink.
Oh, and the Dr. Oz lip gloss number? Well, that math (we show our work at the end of this post) means you'd be going though one and a half entire tubes of gloss every week.
So here's the thing. I am interested in green beauty products. I do want to know if what I use is harmful. I do want to know if there are dangerous trace materials in my cosmetics. But when I read that "four pounds of lipstick" line, I just shut right down and assume that everything else that person is saying is suspect or deliberately misleading. Or that their computer doesn't come with a calculator. Or (most often) that they're trying to sell me something – like their own makeup line.
Just because you've decided that you're on the side of angels and that corporations are evil, doesn't mean you get to make stuff up.
I love lipstick and lip gloss, but I really hate being treated like an idiot.
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The Dr. Oz Lip Gloss Math:
- 7 pounds into 10 years is .7 pounds per year
- there are 317.51 grams in .7 pounds
- a lip gloss or balm weighs roughly 4 grams
- at 4 grams each, you need 79.37 lip glosses or balms to make up .7 pounds
- so you'd be "consuming" nearly 80 entire lip glosses or balms in one year