Today in fascinating: Scientists can now use lipstick to solve crimes

If you plan on committing a crime anytime soon, we’d recommend that 1) you check yourself before you wreck yourself and 2) you remove all your lipstick.

EurekAlert! reveals that, at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, scientists discussed research involving the study of crime scene-based lipstick samples. In the past, researchers used techniques that took up a ton of time and involved a bunch of expensive, special equipment, but Western Illinois University aimed to change this.


Scientists at the university decided that it was time to find a better method for lifting lipstick samples at the scene of a crime. Using 40 different lipsticks, the team smeared them on paper and worked with three types of chromatography (a practice that separates a mixture to show observers the rate at which the mixture’s particles move apart). They used thin layer chromatography (TLC), gas chromatography (GC), and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

HPLC and GC allow scientists to place a lipstick sample in a machine so that results can appear on a computer. On the other hand, TLC has them put the samples on a special surface so they can be examined under UV light. The researchers are then able to compare the resulting chromatography patterns to a lipstick library, which will even allow them to identify the product’s brand. (Investigators can later find out which suspect wears the cosmetic brand and taadaa! Case solved.)


To extract the actual sample from the scene of a crime, the Western Illinois University team came up with an efficient, two-step process. First, the lipstick’s oils and waxes are removed with an organic solvent. Next, another organic solvent is utilized to draw out the remaining sample. Lastly, it can be inspected using chromatography.

“Working on this investigation has opened my eyes to the fact that TV has it wrong – things take much longer in real life,” says undergrad student Bethany Esterlen, the lead researcher working in the lab of Dr. Brian Bellott. Dr. Bellott adds“Right now we are just lifting samples off of paper, but in the future we are hoping to use different articles and media that could be found at a crime scene.”

As of right now, the researchers are performing even more tests so they can add to their lipstick library and make the process as simple as possible. However, what they’ve found out thus far can actually be used to solve crimes today.

With this in mind, we’re going to conclude that lipstick packs a powerful punch when it comes to crime solving.

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