Carmine, also called cochineal, is a red colored pigment that is commonly found in lipsticks, eyeshadows, blush, bronzers and sometimes illuminaters and highlighters. Also referred to as Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4 or E120, carmine is sourced from the Cochinal beetle.
Cochinal beetles are native to South America and Mexico and live as parasites on cactus plants. The red pigment is found in the shells of the female insects and in order to extract it, thousands of insects are collected and placed into bags in order and killed by either being immersed in hot water or boiled in steam or gas ovens. They are then crushed and boiled in a sodium carbonate or ammonia solution to obtain the red acidic pigment left behind.. Yes, your favourite shade of red lipstick is manufactured with the body of a creepy, crawly little bug.
Carmine is also found in many foods as a red food colouring- think gummi bears, yogurts, bottled juices and candy. Carmine has been found to cause severe allergic reactions although in the USA, the FDA has found there are no concerns of ‘significant hazard’ while in the EU, synthetic forms of carmine are being used in pharmaceuticals to avoid any damage.
Yes, you are spreading the bodies of thousands of little beetles on your lips. Gross. And don’t be fooled in thinking it is just red shades of make up- carmine is also used when developing many other colours such as shades of pinks, corals and purples. Frustratingly enough, it is also an ingredient in many make up items that have no red pigment what so ever including those from cruelty free brands such as Stila.
If the idea of wearing dead bugs doesn’t gross you out, think of the fact that millions of beetles have died unncessecarily. Don’t care about beetles? Ask yourself why. Are they not cute enough? Do they not have individual personalities? Does it even matter? What makes it ok for us to pluck thousands of little bugs, boil them alive and use them in our make up and food? Who gave us the right to do that? Is it because we are bigger, smarter, more civilised? Is it civilised to crush the life out of another living creature? Yeah, I don’t think so.