The Nerdiest Lipstick Video Ever: Salicylates and Organic Chemistry

After using the NYX Matte Liquid Lingerie Lipsticks for about five years (Exotic color), I decided to try another version they had and I ended up having a reaction! I had to get my magnifying glass out to see the tiny size 7 font that lists that they added Benzyl salicylate (!!!) to their formula. In this video, I will go over some of the ingredients that are okay, questionable, and safe in the two tubes. This is an exercise in basic chemistry while looking at something fun like lipstick.

Overall, my skin is not very reactive. I rarely get rashes from my skin coming into contact with an ingredient, even if it contains salicylates. Normally, my reactions are systemic, meaning my skin will absorb the salicylate that goes into my bloodstream, and it affects me from within. Reactions can vary for me from sneezing, itchiness, heart palpitations, breathing issues, swelling (anywhere, not necessarily where I applied it) or hives. This time, I got back pain and dystonia muscle contractions about 3-5 minutes after trying the lipstick.

In the future I will get into the chemistry of salicylates, but I am still working through some of it. I see the basics like this:

  • All salicylates are phenols, but not all phenols are salicylates
  • Benzoates are very similar to salicylates, and are phenols, but not all phenols are benzoates (some people react to benzoates too)
  • All phenols, salicylates, and benzoates contain a benzene ring functional group – but not all benzene rings are salicylates or benzoates.
  • A benzene (functional group) is an aromatic ring but not all aromatics contain odor (in chemistry aromatic doesn’t mean smelly – although it did once upon a time). Benzenes have a six-sided carbon ring with three double bonds. Not all aromatics are benzene rings. I mention the aromatics/odor thing because if you’re fragrance sensitive, I don’t want you think you’re allergic to all “aromatics” because the words don’t mean the same thing in normal English and chemistry-English.
  • Phenols are EXTREMELY diverse and important in life. Most salicylate sensitive people are not sensitive to all phenols. They include tocopherols, flavonoids, antioxidants, fragrances, salicylates, benzoates, antiseptics, serotonin, adrenaline, azo dyes, and more. This is a nice introduction from Brittanica if you want to read more on phenols. Tylenol, acetaminophen, is a pain medicine generally well-tolerated by people with aspirin or salicylate sensitivity, and it contains a phenol. Some people say they are phenol sensitive.
  • While we’re digging in – organic refers to a molecular formula with a carbon backbone and covalent bonding. It has nothing to do with food, nor how food is grown. Again, normal commercial/marketing-English and chemistry-English are using the same word to describe two completely different things. ALL inorganic chemicals (use ionic bonding) are completely free of salicylates/phenols/benzenes.

NYX Lingerie Matte Liquid Lipstick – Color Exotic #LIPLI12

This has been one of my go-to lipsticks for years. I never reacted to it when I had switched to low-sal, so I never bothered reading the ingredients or replacing it. Looks like it is pretty safe, but test cautiously.

If you are anaphylaxis to salicylates in very small amounts, sensitive to amines, or sensitive to salicylates on contact with skin, the first lipstick is probably not the best item to experiment with. I’m true to the name of my website/channel which is low-salicylate… not zero-salicylate.
Items with an asterisk* contain a benzene ring or phenol.

  • Isododecane – not a phenol/salicylate
  • Mineral Oil – generally safe and considered low-salicylate
  • Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate – not a phenol/salicylate
  • Disteardimonium Hectorite  – not a phenol/salicylate
  • Polycyclopentadiene   – not a phenol/salicylate (cyclopentadine is a five-sided carbon structure)
  • *Tocopheryl Acetate – ATA – a form of vitamin E. Contains a benzene ring, but isn’t considered a salicylate
  • Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil – generally safe and considered low-salicylate
  • *Tocopherol – broad class of methylated phenols that includes vitamin E
  • Alumina  – not a phenol/salicylate
  • Barium Sulfate (CI 77120)  – not a phenol/salicylate
  • *Phenoxyethanol – contains a phenol, but shouldn’t be considered a salicylate (used as an antiseptic/anti-microbial)
  • Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891),  – not a phenol/salicylate
  • Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Inorganic (no carbons)   – not a phenol/salicylate
  • *Red 6 (CI 15850)/Red 7 (CI 15850) – contains phenols – may not be well tolerated; Possibly contains a sodium salicylate in there???? Hard to tell.
  • *Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090) – contains 4 phenols, but none look like salicylates

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream – Color Cannes – DO NOT USE, CONTAINS SALICYLATES

I was really excited about the color of this lipstick but had a reaction right away. I didn’t realize they actually added benzyl salicylate in it. This is why reading labels every time is so important, even when buying from a brand you trust and have used for years.

I didn’t look up every ingredient, but I did look up a few that caught my attention which are in bold.

  • Isohexadecane,
  • Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate,
  • Disteardimonium Hectorite,
  • Dimethicone,
  • Beeswax
  • Glyceryl Behenate/Eicosadioate,
  • Talc,
  • Cyclopentasiloxane,
  • Propylene Carbonate,
  • Silica,
  • Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer (not a phenol)
  • Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate,
  • Dimethicone Crosspolymer,
  • *Rosin/Colophonium/Colophane, Contains a phenol/benzene ring. From plant Rhodiola rosea
  • Barium Sulfate (CI 77120),
  • *Phenoxyethanol – contains a phenol, but shouldn’t be considered a salicylate (used as an antiseptic/anti-microbial)
  • *Flavor/Aroma
  • *Benzyl Alcohol,
  • *Benzyl Benzoate – contains two benzene rings – may be a problem, although not technically a salicylate
  • ***Benzyl Salicylate – definitely a problem!
  • *Hexyl Cinnamal – contains a benzene ring, from oil of chamomile.
  • Hydroxycitronellal. Citronellal does not contain a benzene ring – good to know!
  • Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891),
  • Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499),
  • Manganese Violet (CI 77742), inorganic
  • *Yellow 6 Lake (CI 15985), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), contains benzene rings
  • *Red 6 (CI 15850), Red 7 (CI 15850) – contains benzene rings – may not be well tolerated; Possibly contains a sodium salicylate in there???? Hard to tell.
  • *Red 28 Lake (CI 45410) – contains benzene rings 

Thanks for joining me on this chemistry journey today!

I am building out a list of chemicals/additive that are NOT salicylates/phenols/benzenes on the food page. That way if you see it in vitamins or in a lipstick or something, you can easily get an idea if you should worry about it or not.


Provided for visual learners, improved accessibility, and for translating the page


I think that this might very well could possibly be the nerdiest lipstick video ever made. Also, if you’re a gentleman or a woman that doesn’t wear lipstick, do hang around, because we’re just going to do some basics in organic chemistry, basically, kind of starting the dialogue, what is a salicylate in its molecular structure. So, hang around, and we’re going to talk about some vocab. And then also, we’re going to talk about basically how to read some labels and how to figure out your risk just using some really simple Internet tools. Alright, so first of all, I don’t like talking about mainstream lipsticks or makeup generally on my channel, because I don’t have really any other issues besides salicylates sensitivity, and true allergies. But those don’t come up very often in cosmetics. I am not amine sensitive. My skin is actually not terribly sensitive either. So, you know, if I’m going to have a reaction, like, there are probably a few of you guys before me that will have a reaction. So, I don’t really like talking about these. But I thought that this we could use this more as an exercise and learn a few things about the nature, the molecular nature, of salicylates. So, with that, let’s actually talk about lipstick. If you’re new to my channel, we talk about salicylate sensitivity, or aspirin allergy, casually known as aspirin allergy. And basically, it’s in a lot of things, including a lot of cosmetics. So, what I want to do is, first of all talk about the lipstick that I wear often. This here is NYX Lingerie, and I’ll give you a close up of that. And my color of choice is Lipli-12. And I’ve been using this one probably for about six years or so. So, I bought this and used it not the same tube, obviously, I’m on a different tube. But I purchased this. Oh, it’s color exotic. I purchased this before I went salicylate sensitive. So, I actually didn’t react to it through the transition into salicylate sensitivity and out of normal cosmetics. So, this one got to stay. So mostly it can be absorbed into your skin through your skin. And generally, if I have a reaction from something I put my skin is usually something internal like it goes into my bloodstream. And then I have a reaction that way, so if I can put something on my back of my hand, while people who might be really sensitive might end up with a rash on their hand, right? That’s a contact reaction, I get more of a systemic reaction. So, I might start sneezing or sniffling, or I might get wooshy ears. You know that’s something it goes into your bloodstream and you have reaction that way. So, I tend to do really well with this lipstick in particular. I also enjoy the Maybelline Matte ink. So, I’ve got these in a couple of reds they use a lot for a pinup makeup. And the reason I like both of these and I think even if they do have salicylates, one reason why I might do really well with them is that they actually just dry hard on your skin, it actually doesn’t absorb into your skin. It dries quite fast. And it’s it doesn’t like leech, right, it doesn’t stain your lips. It’s not a cream that’s moist and constantly being absorbed into your skin. So, I think possibly that’s one reason why I might do better with them. Or they just don’t have enough salicylate to make me react. So, I ended up going, I got my passport photos done at Walgreens and while I was there, I was like Oh, I’m going to see if they have my lipstick. And I want this in a lighter shade and I got one that was quite a bit lighter and it looks terrible. And so, I wanted to pick something up that might be a good solution. So, I got this one, which is a NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream and this -don’t use this one! First of all, the font is like a size five font. And even though I’m a botanist and I almost always carry a hand lens. I did not have a hand lens with me that day. And so, I ended up buying it and I use a lot of NYX products. I’ve never had a reaction to any of them. So, I kind of felt like, it was close enough, maybe it won’t matter. And sure enough, this morning I put it on. And within a few minutes, I started having really bad back spasms. So, you guys might not know – and I don’t think it’s a really common reaction for salicylate sensitivity, but I have a muscle disorder called Levodopa Responsive Dystonia.


And one of my main reactions is just muscle spasms. So, I get them in my back, my face, in my eyes, and my jaw and neck. The back ones are really rough. So anyway, within just a few minutes of putting this on, I started having some reactions. I also noticed that it was fragranced, kind of a sweet smell, not like synthetic fragrance like some of them smell, like bubble gum, or maybe like cocoa or food items. But this was just kind of a higher fleeting smell. So anyway, that between those two clues, I thought maybe this one here might have something in it that is making me sick. And sure enough, the main culprit, I’m just going to call it out right now is I think benzyl salicylate. So, excuse me for a moment. Yep, Benzyl salicylate. So, I’m like a litmus test for this stuff. So anyway, but the question was (pointing to Nix Lipli12), does this one have benzyl salicylate or any salicylates in it? And I honestly don’t think it does. But what we’re going to talk about is how to kind of look through and see what your risk is, without knowing a ton about organic chemistry. Now I have, I did a couple of quarters in college of organic chemistry, it wasn’t my strongest subject. I wasn’t very interested, I’m sure if I took it now, I would be much more interested in it because it actually applies to my everyday life, including my health and survival. So, you know, priorities change in interest change over time. So, what I’d like to do is look through and pick out what ingredients may or may not be a risk, and why that might be the case. So, there are four organic chemistry concepts that we’re going to cover today. And one is that when you see this molecular formula, this is a benzene ring. So, a benzene ring is an aromatic ring, you can have an aromatic ring with a smaller amount of carbon atoms in it, but this one in particular has six carbon such as the six points of the hexagon, and it has three double bonds between them. And that is your classic benzene ring. So, all salicylates have benzene rings, but not all benzene rings are salicylates. Okay. The second thing that we’re going to add is we’re going to add an O-H group and this is a basic phenol. So, a phenol, all phenols have benzene rings. And all salicylates are phenols, but not all phenols are salicylates. So that’s number two. And number three, this is what a salicylate molecule looks like. I have seen them fluctuate a little bit. I’m not entirely certain where the line ends and doesn’t end. But basically, this is what you’re looking for salicylate. So, the last thing, and I’ve said very confidently in other videos that this is a salt or this or inorganic compound. What I mean by that is that there is absolutely no salicylate or benzene ring in here. Here’s an example just normal table salt. Sodium chloride NaCl. There’s no carbon in there. It’s just sodium and chloride. Oh, here’s one that’s in here. Barium sulphate. So that should have a Barium atom and a Sulphur atom and some Oxygen. So that one is also an inorganic compound and it is nothing like a benzene ring, right? So, we can be sure that Barium sulphate should be fine. Okay, so let’s look at the offender and this one. This is benzyl salicylate, so that one is the worst one in here. And you can see that it’s got a benzene ring, it’s got this salicylate molecule, obviously, it’s in the name. So that one’s a dead giveaway.


This one here is another one that might be not so good. This one is benzyl benzoate. So, benzoate is very similar to a salicylate. Some people say that it uses the same pathways in our body, that could be a problem. Other ingredients in here that could be a problem are flavor and aroma. So anytime you see a vague ingredient like natural flavors, flavor, aroma, natural colors, anything like that, that could be a natural ingredient that slipped in, that could actually make us quite sick. Mint is an example of a natural flavor that could make us sick. We’re not going to go through all of them, but I’m just pulling up some examples here. Okay, this is another one Hexyl cinnamal. So that one you would think it’s cinnamal as in cinnamon, but that one actually is an (it might be present in cinnamon), they say that it’s a natural ingredient a natural extract of chamomile. So now anytime you hear anything with natural extracts might be a problem. Another one here. I thought I saw one other here that Oh, Rosin. So, this one here, I’ll put the molecular formula up. This one here. I’m not so sure. I doubt that this one’s a salicylate. But it is a pretty complex molecule. Rosin is a, I guess, like a natural resin of pine trees and other plants. So that might also be a risk. And so yeah, so altogether, this was a terrible choice. If I would have had my hand lens, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it. Oh, also, there are some dyes here. Most of the dyes are inorganic, meaning they’re just, you know, different elements squish together, but I believe that if I recall, right, red six, and maybe red seven have phenols in them or benzene rings. And yeah, so altogether, this is a very botanical lipstick with lots of benzenes. Lots of questionable items. So, I would say even if it didn’t have the Benzyl salicylate in it, I still shouldn’t have gotten it. So, you know. Oh, well. This one like I said, I do not react to, I’m actually wearing it right now. I believe that most of these ingredients are safe. I’m not going to go into every single one. But some of the things in here that are safe is mineral oil. So that is not a botanical that is from a petroleum oil and it is very well tolerated among people with allergies. So that one is safe. It’s also in French. So, pardon me while I skip some things here. Tocopherols that does contain benzene, but it is vitamin E and generally well tolerated by people who are salicylates sensitive. Its main oil carrier besides the mineral oil is sunflower seed oil. So that one obviously we all know is a low or negligible salicylate. More tocopherols, there’s more. There’s the barium sulphate. This one here is a little bit questionable. This is a phenol: ethanol. So, these basically you have an alcohol attached to a benzene ring. This one here is not a salicylate. But you know, if you didn’t know better, and you’re just using the benzene ring as like a guide, right as just like a starting point as it could be potentially risky. That would be an option to look at. I believe that the phenoxy ethanol, excuse me, that one is used as kind of the anti-microbial preservative for this. And then the last is some color so titanium dioxide and iron oxides are fine. Those are like I said, inorganic, the ones on here for colors that could be a problem is red six, red seven and blue one. If you are sensitive to lipstick or you’re kind of wanting to get started off with something a little bit more tolerated or well tolerated. I use the scarlet fire or that’s the color. I use the Hemp Organics lipstick. So, this one here, I’ve got them all on my website. This one was recommended by a woman who wrote a low-sal book, The healthier I ate, the sicker I got.


So, she mentioned that she used this lipstick. And so, I picked it up and I love it. This one is like my everyday go-to cream lipstick. Especially, it looks great in zoom meetings, mostly because I have a really crappy camera. So, it kind of compensates for that. But this has a little bit of hemp oil and castor oil, which seem to be somewhat tolerated. I think they’re probably more of like a moderate Sal. I have never seen any tests for them. And I haven’t really seen anybody saying anything about it. And the salicylate community, that’s been divided, because a lot of people say that they react to it and a lot of people say they don’t have a problem with it. So, yeah, I would just like to see the stats personally, but this here might be a good lipstick for you to try on. So, I hope you have enjoyed this lipstick/organic chemistry basic intro lesson. And yeah, why don’t you leave in the comments. If you have salicylate sensitivity and have some favorite makeup items that you like to buy? Leave your comments down below. And if you want to find me out elsewhere, find me on Instagram, or Facebook. And if you liked this video, you’re still here. You didn’t bounce at Benzene ring, make sure that you subscribe and click the bell especially if you want to see content in the future because I may not make it very consistently. So, if you want to find out in a week for three months that I made a video I need to let you know that I posted something new that way you don’t miss it. I think that’s it for now. Have a wonderful day and let me know what you think down below. Thanks.