This blog falls into the same category of last week’s blog as we explore another strange ingredient found in makeup and skincare. Looking at the ingredients on some lipsticks and blushes we see the words “Natural Red 4″. Natural is great right? We only want to the best on our skin, and most likely would never give a second thought after seeing the word natural. But, as we know natural doesn’t always mean safe. You can still be allergic to essential oils, lanolin, and other naturally occurring ingredients.
Let’s get back to Red 4, also called Crimson Lake, E120, or Carmine. Any guess what its made of? Give up? . It’s made from bugs!
Cochineal beetles are a class of scale insects known for their deep red color. These bugs are either crushed, or heated up to release scarlet carminic acid that is added to food, clothing, and makeup. We can thank the Aztecs and Mayans for developing this red dye back in the 15th century.
Just like lanolin, carmine is neither good nor bad; it’s just kind of strange. On the plus side, carmine of the few water soluble colorants that is able to keep a strong, rich color overtime, and is stable when mixed with other chemicals. It’s naturally occurring and is considered safe but only to those without an allergy to it. Some people will find themselves allergic to the dye (if they haven’t found out already). A topical reaction can range from a rash to hives, but in extreme cases can cause anaphylactic shock, asthma attacks, or atrial fibrillation.
If you are allergic, vegan, or just prefer not to have bugs in your cosmetics, you’re in luck! Many brands are trying to end the use of carmine in their products and are turning towards natural colorants such as saffron, beets, and iron oxides. Aveda, DuWop, Jucie Beauty, Alba Botanica, Kiss My Face, and Afterglow cosmetics are just a few of the beetle free brands that are easily available online or in natural food stores. Or, you can try making your own lipsticks with plant waxes and dyes. Hey, if you’re really patient, you may get a DIY lipstick blog in a couple of weeks.