One of the most commonly used animal derived ingredients in cosmetics is carmine and it is also the ingredient which makes a lot nail polishes non vegan (in addition to a few others, of course). Carmine is derived from crushed cochineal bugs – that’s right..BUGS. Whilst for many (if not most) people this is a rather gross realization and enough of a reason to avoid carmine, some people however ask why using carmine might be a “problem”. In today’s video and blog post we are going to talk about carmine, what it is and why we don’t want it in our cosmetics (or anywhere else for that matter).
Carmine – The Bugs in Beauty Products
WHAT IS CARMINE?
Carmine (also called/named cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake or carmine lake, natural red 4, C.I. 75470 or E120) is an ingredient which is commonly used in both our food and cosmetics as a red pigment/dye i.e. to give the food/drink or cosmetic item a red colour. Carmine is derived from crushed cochineal bugs. In food products you can find carmine in drinks such as sodas and juices or in candy, yoghurt or ice creams. Basically, if a brand wants to make e.g. the strawberry ice cream look like actual pink-red strawberry ice cream, they often use carmine as a red dye to really extenuate that red-pink colour. In cosmetics it used in any makeup products which require a red colour/shade e.g. lipsticks, eyeshadow, blushes and, of course, nail polish. It’s important to note that both natural and conventional beauty products use this as a pigment in their cosmetics.
So now you know, that many of the things you might eat or a lot of the makeup you use, probably has crushed bugs in them. Whilst that’s kind of gross why is that considered as “cruel” by those living a vegan lifestyle?
WHY IS CARMINE “CRUEL”?
So why is carmine considered “not ok” by vegans? As mentioned above, carmine is derived from crushed cochineal bugs. That means that living beings are killed purely for the sake of our cosmetics (and foods). We understand that most people don’t love bugs and don’t have any relationship to bugs as we would with other animals but does that mean we would harvest them in order to create a pigment/dye just so we can use it in our cosmetics and food? We think, no. Just like we wouldn’t purposely step on ants (yes it does happen accidentally – but that’s not the same thing) or we would try to let bugs we find in our homes outside before deciding we would need to kill them, right? It doesn’t mean we LOVE bugs, but we do respect them as living creatures which we don’t need to just stomp on or kill for no reason at all.
In order to produce 1kg of carmine you need 100,000 cochineal bugs. Please read that again and try to comprehend the sheer volume of cochineal bugs which are needed to in order to provide all the carmine which the food and cosmetics industry would need in one year. It’s a number so big, it’s incomprehensible for most of us. Thus, it’s important to realize that in order to ever even be able to obtain such a number of cochineal bugs, they of course need to be harvested. Cochineal bugs live on a specific kind of cactus and they are harvested mostly in Peru in farms where these specific cacti are grown in order to be able to harvest the cochineal bugs. This for us is anything but “natural” and just seems quite nasty for the cochineal bugs and not to mention simply unnecessary.
So just like we said we wouldn’t step on a colony of ants on purpose just to kill them (for whatever reason), we also don’t see why we should harvest cochineal bugs for the sake of a red pigment – especially when there are other alternatives. Yes, it’s often claimed that carmine is one of the best and most stable red pigments available for cosmetics and it is also considered a “natural” ingredient however, there definitely are red pigment alternatives to carmine which we at least think are just as good in terms of quality and are definitely more ethical.
So, what is used instead of carmine to create red shades of makeup? This will mostly depend on the brand and product. There are many chemical variations of a red pigments which you will most likely see in many conventional cosmetics and in any nail polishes. However, when it comes to natural cosmetics you will often see things like berry extracts or any variations of vegetable extracts. There really are quite a few chemical and organic red dyes and pigments and listing them all here wouldn’t really make too much sense but basically, if a beauty item is red in colour and it DOESN’T include carmine – than it’s using a vegan red pigment alternative.
When it comes to nail polish, the natural red pigments have proven to not work as they simply don’t mix well with the base of a nail polish to be able to give that vibrant colour which is expected from nail polish. For this reason, the more chemical red pigments are used in nail polish– even in the more natural or free from nail polishes. The chemical red dyes are however safe to use, especially when on our nails and in nail polish but because they can be quite irritating to our skin especially on sensitive areas like the eyelid or lips, some chemical red dyes are better avoided when on our makeup (used on our face). This of course will depend on the red pigment and also on any individual as some people are more sensitive than other to different ingredients.
IS CARMINE VEGAN?
In summary, carmine is derived from bugs and is not vegan and we at Kia-Charlotta are committed to creating 100% vegan cosmetics so we have never and will never include carmine in our ingredients. And we would like to finish this blog post with the question:
If you can choose cosmetics without carmine than why not do so?
That was our blog post for today. We hope you enjoyed and learned something new about vegan cosmetics and carmine. Have an amazing day.
Lots of LOVE,
Your Kia-Charlotta Tea,
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