Did You Know That There Are Bugs in Your Lipstick?
Written by
Elvira Katelin
September 2015
Written by
Elvira Katelin
September 2015

Hey! Do you use red lipstick? And have you seen an ingredient called "carmine" in its list? It's there. It may be listed as a component of your lipstick or of other beauty product in your cosmetic, but it's there. What that means for you? Oh, just that you are ingesting crush bug shells.

So check your lipsticks, shadows, and blushes, ladies!

This pigment is obtained from the dried bodies and shells of a cochineal. This is a female insect, indigenous to Mexico and Central America. Cochineal Beetles are tiny bugs that feed on cacti and are used to add the red colour to cosmetics. They eat the red cactus berries and when the beetles are crushed the powerful red dye is produced.

Cochineal insects are soft-bodied, oval-shaped scale insects. They are about 5 mm long. I hate insects, hence the regular hiring of a pest control company for a pest inspection. And although these bugs don't thrive around Melbourne, knowing they are in my lipstick is quite scary.

Crushed-Bug-Dye Creating

So crushing the insects is a part of producing carmine, but it's not enough. Firstly, the crushed bugs must be left to sun-dry. After that they are immersed in an alcohol solution and cochineal extract is produced. An interesting fact, 2 dollars worth of dye equals about 70 000 insects. The body of one cochineal is said to contain about 18% carminic acid.

The process in more details contains the interesting fact that cochineal extract delivering from the remains of a parasitic beetle. It was used as a colouring agent as early as the 15th century.

Here is an infographic of lipstick components. Other strange and unusual components that go into lipstick include wax, chili, and these insects.

The infographic is taken from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Allergies From Carmine

But the bugs in the red lipstick are not the worst. The most important thing is that carmine can pose a health risk and could cause allergic reactions with or without the gag reflex and they even could cause shock and hospitalization. Except allergies these bugs can also cause asthma. Because of that the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires carmine to be listed on the ingredient list as “carmine,” “crimson lake" or “natural red 4”. So now is time to check your lipstick.

The extract is used in addition to synthetic red dyes like Red No.2 and Red No.40. Remember that these numbers are carcinogenic.

So who wants to knowingly ingest bug shells with their lipstick?

Other Uses of Cochineal Dye

First cochineal was used for colouring fabrics. But the use of cochineal increased. It provided the most intense colour on clothes with which cotton or agave and yucca fibers are dyed

Besides in cosmetics and fabric dyeing, carmine is used for colouring everyday food and drinks too, like juice drinks, meat, candy, sauces, and jams.

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