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Do you need Lipstick without Carmine?


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Wondering whether you should get lipstick without carmine? Lipsticks adorn everyone’s makeup kits. Lipstick is an essential part of makeup. A quick swipe of lipstick is enough to highlight your lips and makes your face look fresh. Lipstick lovers have shades ranging from same-looking nudes, adorable peaches, and tangy corals to candy pinks, coffee browns, blood reds, and goth purples (some even go as far as weird blues and greens and emo blacks).  And don’t also get me started on neon shades and glow-in-the-dark lipsticks.

Lipstick without Carmine – Do You Need It?

We use some of the other kind of lip products every day. We have various shades and flavors of lip balm, matte lipsticks, satin finish lipsticks, those with little glimmer lipstick, lip gloss, lip scrub, lip liners, lip this and lip that (let’s not forget the fancy lip kits). We just can’t seem to leave our lips alone. Some even spend an eye-widening amount on lip products (like gold plated lipstick covers).

See what your lipstick shade says about you! Click here!

Have you ever wondered what makes the red lipsticks red? Well, what if somebody tells you that your lipsticks (especially the perfect reds, purples, and pinks that you spend hours and dollars looking for) contain crushed carcasses of icky little bugs?

Yeah. You read that right. Your blood reds, bright reds, classy plums, and princess pinks most probably have Carmine, Cochineal, or Carminic acid extracted from odd-looking wee insects. Cochineal insects thrive on cactus. They are found even in other lip products as well as eyeliners, nail paints, blushes, eye shadows, and different makeup.

Most of the people (especially biology students) are aware that some insects find their way into our food supply accidentally or otherwise (reminds me of Bear Grylls). But others might not be so comfortable with the idea.

This article will hopefully answer all your queries and solve your doubts about Carmine. It will even provide you with some additional exciting information about Carmine and lipsticks.

What is carmine?

The cochineal bug. Image courtesy – handicraft store

Carmine (chemically, C22H20O13), is a red pigment derived from the female insect called cochineal. It is boiled, sun-dried, and then crushed to generate those pink and red hues. This creepy-crawly is native to South America and Mexico. The word ‘Carmine’ is also used to describe a particularly deep vivid shade of red.

Why is it in lipsticks?

Typically, the cochineal extract is used to achieve those bright or deep shades of red, pink, and purple in lipstick. It is costlier than its other substitutes. Carmine’s synthetic substitutes can dry out lips and irritate them. As it is a naturally occurring insect, it fits well in the “organic” label.

Lipsticks can also be made without Carmine. The same shade can be achieved by other natural as well as synthetic ingredients.

How is carmine extracted?

Cochineal pouches on Nopales. Image courtesy- business insider

Now, we will take a quick look at how Carmine is extracted from the cochineal bugs. The Nopal Cactuses are cultivated for these cochineal insects. The Nopales have big, flat-leaf pads. Only the females can give enough amount of carminic acid; the males evolve into a mosquito-like fly.

Cochineal bugs collected from cactus. Image courtesy- botanicals

Approximately 20 females and 200 eggs can yield 40,000 cochineal hatchlings. The life cycle of these insects is three months. These eggs and female insects are then put inside little pipe-shaped pouches along with a net cover and then attached to the Nopal leaf pads. The babies then crawl out of the pipes after the eggs hatch and feed off the cactus juices, metabolize and then produce the red solution called the carminic acid.

Carmine powder and solution. Image courtesy- imbrex

The cochineals are scaled insects (rather than beetles) and have no blood. It takes about 1,40,000 bugs on 600 to 1000 cactuses to produce a kilogram of carminic acid solution. The cochineals on a single Nopal leaf pad delivers 3 to 4 grams of Carmine.

The bugs are brushed off of each Nopal pad and then crushed. This crushed substance is then mixed with water to produce the famous ‘carmine’ red dye.

Is carmine toxic?

Carmine extract has been used in beauty and cosmetic products since around the 15th century. Cleopatra was known to use carmine bugs with wax to achieve the iconic red lips. The Aztecs can be credited to discover its uses in day to day life while the Spanish started to export Carmine across the world.

It is not known to be toxic. Carmine is also used as a food and textile colorant. It is used in juices, milkshakes, yogurts, candy, ice cream, meat, jams, jellies, pills, and even your favorite red velvet cake. The FDA approves it. Most people turn a blind eye to the presence of bugs in their food as well as makeup. It has no harmful effects.

However, vegans might have an issue with bugs. Also, people who do not consume animal products or some religious beliefs that are against meat consumption might have problems with these insect contents.

People might just be troubled or disgusted by the fact that their favorite yogurt or lipstick has pulverized insects in it.

Are there any Side effects?

Most of the time, Carmine does not have any side effects. However, some people might be allergic to Carmine, and it may cause some mild allergic reactions. In some cases, the allergic person may develop hives headache, irritation of skin, and eyes. And in sporadic cases, it can cause anaphylactic shocks.

Other than that, it does not cause serious health hazards. As some people can develop an allergy, it is listed in the ingredient list as Cochineal extract, Carmine, Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural red no.4, C.I.75470, or E120. If you are allergic to Carmine, just go for lipsticks without Carmine. You can go for products labeled “vegan.”

It is important to note that no significant health hazards have been reported due to Carmine.

Other Stuff in Lipsticks

You will be astonished to find that your lipstick might contain chilies, beeswax, eosin, capsaicin, titanium dioxide, castor oil, fish scales, parabens, etc.

The most common ingredient in lipstick is oil (castor oil or other vegetable oils) and wax (beeswax or other wax). The wax gives shape to the lipstick mold, and oil moisturizes the lips.

Other ingredients, such as eosin is used for generating deep, deep shades of lipsticks. Some lipsticks have chili extracts to irritate your lips a little and make them appear plump. Titanium dioxide is like the white base, and it is mixed with darker colors to dilute the shades.

The infamous paraben in lipsticks (and numerous other cosmetics and self-care products) is supposed to protect your products from going rancid (prevent the growth of bacteria and molds). It is a kind of preservative. But it is considered to be very harmful and is associated with cancer.

Here is a detailed article that will enlighten you about the facts about paraben and its possible side effects. Click here.

You must also remember the time when it was discovered that fish scales are used in lipstick. Yeah, some lipsticks as well nail polishes contain “pearl essence” and “guanine” which is derived from fish scales. The pearl essence is a silvery substance is used for sparkly effect, while guanine gives a crystalline effect.

What should you do?

Carmine is not toxic, and in a way, it is a natural dye. If you are grossed out by the thought of smearing dead icky bugs on your lips, then you should just opt for lipstick without Carmine. Some companies have an exclusive range of lipsticks without Carmine. As mentioned earlier, you can just opt for “vegan” lipsticks as they do not contain any animal products.

In such cases, they make those reds and pinks in lipsticks with iron oxide or natural colorants like pomegranates, tomatoes, beetroots, etc.

Do you need a Lipstick without Carmine?

Now, the million-dollar question, do you need lipstick without Carmine? It depends on you. If you are okay with insects in your lipsticks, then go ahead! You can simply ignore it if it does not bother you or causes you any allergic reaction or irritation; it is safe to use it. The chances are that you already own many lipsticks with Carmine.

Carmine extract is technically a natural dye (also organic) and has been used in ancient times as well. It is a natural and renewable resource. Some cosmetic companies have ranges that make the perfect carmine color from pure carmine extracts.

It is much more expensive than petroleum jellies or its other synthetic alternatives. Even the cheapest lipsticks, as well as the most expensive ones, contain a certain amount of carmine extract in it.

But if the bugs in your favorite pinks and reds distress you, then you can pick lipsticks without Carmine. Some brands create and promote carmine free lipsticks.

Make sure you carefully check the ingredient list the next time before buying makeup or smearing something on your face. Don’t ignore the chemicals just because their names are unpronounceable.  There are other alternatives suitable for your needs in the market.

Want to know why women wear makeup? Click here!



Do you need lipstick without Carmine?

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