What is Carmine?

Feb 23, 2021by Olivia - F&F

Is your makeup made with crushed-up bugs? Yuck! Here at Flora & Fauna, we’re proudly vegan and cruelty-free, which means that none of our products contain Carmine. Carmine is an ingredient that can be found in a lot of makeup, particularly lipsticks. Let’s take a look at how Carmine is made and why we should avoid it!

How Is Carmine Made?How Is Carmine Made?

Image: Sentient Soul

How is Carmine made?

Trigger alert: this is not pleasant and there's no easy way to say it.....Carmine is made by drying, crushing, and then boiling the bodies of cochineal beetles. Usually, the cactus-loving insects are swept off their cactus and killed by immersion in hot water, over-exposure to sunlight, steam or the heat of an oven. Sadly, around 70,000 insects must be killed to produce just one pound of this red dye. The little red insects are native to Latin America and farmed mainly in Peru. 

Cochineal insects have been used as a natural dye for thousands of years — even as far back as the Aztec era. This BBC article outlines the pigment's history and trade throughout Latin America and Europe.

Cochineal-Carmine BeetleCochineal-Carmine Beetle

Image: Peta

What is Carmine typically used for?

Carmine is a common dye found in many foods, beverages, clothing and cosmetics. Anything from strawberry yoghurt and red lollipops to lipstick and blush. Basically, the red colour of any product could be sourced from Carmine. 

In the cosmetics industry, Carmine is typically used to add a vibrant red, pink or orange pigment to lipstick, blush, eye shadow and nail polish. Carmine is the third most common colourant that is used in both natural and traditional (petroleum-based) makeup lines. Just because something says it's natural does not mean it doesn't have carmine - we,re aware of plenty of natural and supposedly cruelty-free products with carmine. 

Starbucks ditches carmineStarbucks ditches carmine

Image: Starbucks

Other names for Carmine

Definitely keep an eye out, because Carmine has many alter-egos… Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, E120. It might even sneak into your makeup under the label of “natural dye”. 

You might remember in 2012 when Starbucks ditched Carmine in their food and beverage products. It came to the attention of the public that the Strawberry and Creme Frappuccino (and other Starbucks foods) were not vegan due to the presence of Carmine. Amid social media backlash and a popular Change.org petition, Starbucks ditched Carmine for lycopene; a natural tomato-based extract used for colouring. It’s amazing to see how businesses respond when we join together and demand change!

Goli Nutrition Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies (60 Pieces)Goli Nutrition Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies (60 Pieces)

Image: Goli Nutrition

Why is F&F proudly Carmine-free?

Apart from not wanting to consume dead bugs, we don’t believe that any animal — big or small — should lose its life to produce goods for us. Flora & Fauna is proudly vegan and cruelty-free; the use of Carmine in any cosmetics, or anything else, does not align with our ethics and core values. 

If you choose to lead a vegan lifestyle, you may want to check the labels on your makeup to see if any products contain Carmine. Cosmetic companies don't make it easy as they aren't going to write bugs in the ingredients! Also, some products labelled as vegan contain carmine so always best to check - we've seen lots of mislabelling. 

Luckily, we don’t have to use dead bugs to produce vibrant colours in our makeup. Here at F&F, we have a broad range of makeup that is 100% carmine-free.  

The Hansen sweet potato ™The Hansen sweet potato ™

Image: Sweet Potato

Plant-Based Alternatives to Carmine

There are lots of vegetables and fruits that naturally produce a red colour like beetroot, tomato, sweet potato, carrots, apples and various berries. 

Plant Based News talks about the new red food dye The Hansen sweet potato ™ in this article and how it's replacing the red pigment in lots of different products. 

Our delicious Apple Cider Vinegar Goli Gummies are coloured with carrots, apples, and black currents. 

Ere Perez Olive Oil Lipstick FiestaEre Perez Olive Oil Lipstick Fiesta

Image: Ere Perez

Ere Perez Olive Oil Lipstick — Circus

Wow. The vibrancy of this true red lipstick shows that we really don’t need Carmine in cosmetics. This natural lipstick contains olive oil to help moisturise and hydrate your lips. 

"I love this lipstick so much! It's my new go-to and makes me look put together with little effort. Great colour and quality!” — Review by Erica, 8/03/2020.

Benecos Matte Liquid Lipstick Trust in RustBenecos Matte Liquid Lipstick Trust in Rust

Image: Benecos

Benecos Matte Liquid Lipstick — Trust in Rust

We love this deep, reddish-orange matte liquid lipstick. If you’re looking for a lipstick that will last all day, this is definitely the product for you. 

Elate LipColour Pencil - Coy Elate LipColour Pencil - Coy

Image: Elate

Elate LipColour Pencil — Coy

Look at this vibrant red lip pencil! Coy is a poppy red with warm undertones. This lip pencil can be used on its own or as an all-over lip colour. 

Ere Perez Carrot Colour Blush Pot HelloEre Perez Carrot Colour Blush Pot Hello

Image: Ere Perez

Ere Perez Carrot Colour Blush Pot — Hello

This lip & cheek tint, made with Carotenoids (from carrots!), is absolutely gorgeous! Dab on the apples of your cheeks and your lips for a moisturising wash of colour. 

Kester Black Rouge Nail Polish (15ml)Kester Black Rouge Nail Polish (15ml)

Image: Kester Black

Kester Black Nail Polish — Rouge 

This bright red nail polish doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals… or crushed up bugs! 

"I only use Kester Black and this colour is gorgeous. I work with clay and it manages to stay on really well!” — Review by Jasmine, 21/06/2020.


Using Carmine in cosmetics is unnecessary and unethical. That’s why we only stock 100% vegan and cruelty-free makeup. You can find all of our ethical cosmetics here

If you found this blog interesting, make sure to check out our other Makeup & Beauty Blogs:

Affordable Vegan Makeup Under $20

Why Choose Vegan Makeup? 

Lipsticks to Brighten This Winter

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