The best way to cop a fresh look? Try a new shade of lipstick, of course. But when Florida resident Lily Cleopatra Maurice swiped on a newly purchased lip colour from CoverGirl’s Queen Collection to look cute for her husband’s birthday, she experienced results more akin to the #KylieJennerLipChallenge gone wrong. Instead of partying with her husband, Maurice landed in the ER with her bottom lip swollen to frightening proportions and doctors working to figure out what what went down. (What’s the opposite of Yaaaas, Queen?) She posted about her experience to Facebook, which has since been shared more than 53K times.
We spoke to a few skin-care pros to find out what could cause such an alarming reaction — especially from a mainstream, well-loved product. After taking a look at the lipstick line’s ingredient list, Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist with more than 25 years of experience, didn’t “see any ingredient that stands out as being problematic.” He did note that the lipstick contains fragrance — a common allergen for some. Fellow cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson, who specialises in product formulation and ingredients, agreed, saying, “There is nothing in the ingredient list that jumps out as an unusual ingredient for a lipstick.” Schueller also adds, “CoverGirl is a major brand and I'm sure they vet all their raw materials appropriately.” So, what the actual eff went down here? Maurice’s reaction, as you can see, is very real. New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, explains it this way:
“This is a condition called angioedema, which occurs soon after exposure to certain ingredients. It’s accompanied by severe lower-lip swelling and often, by difficulty breathing and swallowing,” she says. According to Graf, causes for the condition vary, though lipstick is an included culprit. “It is difficult to pin down without a work-up by a physician. However, if or when this type of reaction happens, it is essential to go to an emergency room to treat the immediate problem of swelling,” she says. How can this happen with something as seemingly innocuous as lipstick? What can we do to prevent a similar reaction? “There are so many ingredients including multiple dyes, preservatives, fragrances, as well as other potential allergens [in beauty products], that one must be careful,” notes Graf. If you feel like you might be at risk, "Seek a work-up by an allergist to [find out] which potential ingredients are ‘red flags’ and must be avoided at all costs,” Graf advises, noting that blood tests performed by immunologists can also help identify other products or ingredients to avoid, as well as indicate possible treatments if you are exposed.
In the meantime, Maurice has posted an update her Facebook page, saying, “The swelling has gotten [sic] down slightly and I have been resting from the steroids.” For its part, CoverGirl responded to the incident swiftly. "As soon as we learned of this women’s experience, which would certainly not be expected from lipstick use, we reached out to her to learn more about what happened and see how we could help,” says Laura Brinker of COVERGIRL Communications. “We are glad to hear she is okay and are awaiting her response. At CoverGirl, the safety of people who use our brand is our top priority. We conduct extensive testing on all of our products to ensure they’re safe and effective."