-verb (used with object), -lat⋅ed, -lat⋅ing.
1. to formulate again.
2. to formulate in a different way; alter or revise: to reformulate our plans.

This week’s word refers to some changes we’ve been working on. I sent out a newsletter earlier this year and mentioned that we’d be reformulating a few of our products. Well, nothing is ever as simple as you think, so it’s taken us a bit longer to make the decisions about our reformulations. We are still working on our sugar scrubs, but have changed the micas, pigments, and other colorings we use in our lip balms.

First of all, please know that all of the ingredients in our balms are lip safe, and always have been. The base of all of our balms contains oils (almond, coconut, avocado), beeswax, and butters (cocoa and shea), along with Vitamin E for its antioxidant properties. We know what kinds of ingredients we want to include in our balms, but it’s just as important to decide what to leave out: petrolatum, mineral oil, and artificial preservatives have always been at the top of that list. We revisit our formulations and reconsider ingredients every so often, and have now decided that bismuth oxychloride and the FD&C and D&C colorings also belong on that list.

Bismuth oxychloride is a by-product of the refining of ores like tin and copper, and is further processed to get rid of lead or any other dangerous elements. The resulting white pigment is used in many cosmetics as a skin protective; it has a nice, silky feel and adheres well to the skin, and also has a pearlescent appearance, so it can help to reflect light to “mask” imperfections on the complexion. It can also cause allergic reactions. Though we’ve never had any reports of adverse reactions to our products, we decided to eliminate this ingredient from our lip-safe micas.

The lip-safe FD&C and D&C colorings we have used in some of our balms also started to concern us. Though they are approved by the FDA for use in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics (FD&C) or Drugs and Cosmetics (D&C), many of these colorings are derived from coal tar and are known carcinogens (when injected into the skin). They are also capable of producing allergic reactions; again, we’ve had no reports of any reactions to these colorings in our balms, but we decided to play it safe and reformulate with other colorings.

As an aside, let me mention that lots of other companies safely use bismuth oxychloride and the FD&C and D&C colorings in their products (we did for years with no problems or reactions). We have simply decided that there are better alternatives for our lip balms that will further reduce the risk of allergic reactions.

It’s easy enough to decide not to use certain ingredients, but it can be complicated to find substitutions. For example, I wanted a nice, true pink to replace the CI 15850 (Red 7) that was in some of my balms, and many of the pink micas contained carmine, a pigment that comes from ground up beetles. The ick factor alone prevented that choice! After a lot of research, I decided that micas and pigments are my favorite ways to tint lip balm. (Remember that our balms still won’t leave color on your lips, and that we can make your custom balm without color, if you prefer…contact us for details.)

Here is the new list of the pigments and micas we have started to use:

• Red and some pink balms contain red mica, which has mica & iron oxides.
• Pale brown balms may contain bronze mica, with red oxide & mica. (Some brown balms also contain Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa!)
• Yellow and orange balms contain gold mica, with mica, titanium dioxide and iron oxides.
• Purple balms contain manganese violet.
• Black or deeper color balms may also contain black mica, with iron oxide, mica, and titanium dioxide.

As always, these ingredients are all lip-safe, but please let us know if you have any concerns about them, or if you prefer to have your balms prepared without any added color. We have already started using these new pigments and micas, and will be updating our flavors page to reflect this change as soon as all of the previous formulations are out of stock. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about these changes!

Read more about bismuth oxychloride, iron oxides, and the safety of other cosmetics ingredients. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients is also a fantastic book if you want to check out what all of that gobbledygook on the label really means!