Yay or Nay on…Carmine


Several months ago, I stumbled across an article discussing the use of carmine as a coloring in cosmetics. I had never heard of carmine before, but it turns out that carmine is a substance derived from bugs. More specifically, a variety of beetle. The bugs are typically farmed, and then they are dried up, ground up, and boiled up until they produce a rich, red coloring. The coloring is used in all kinds of things- food, clothes, makeup. Blech. I grabbed my nearest red-colored product and inspected the ingredient list, and there it was…carmine. I haven’t used this lip balm since I read the article and have consciously avoided inspecting the ingredient lists on my other red products. I’d rather not know.

I am not sure how I feel about using products with carmine in them. Some people might object to using the ingredient because they believe that animals shouldn’t suffer for our products, but that concern doesn’t stop me from enjoying other animal-derived products like meat, leather, or silk (as I learned in Thailand, silk worms are farmed and killed much like the beetles, but the worms don’t end up in the final product). Still, in this case, the bugs’ contribution of coloring to the product is pretty minor because the product could always be formulated differently. Meat, leather, and silk, on the other hand, cannot be modified to exclude the animal-based component, nor do synthetic imitations completely reproduce the unique properties of the real deal. My main concern with using carmine is as follows: Ewwww, bugs…on my lips! But on the other hand, the bugs are so processed that the red coloring is pretty far removed from its original status as a creepy crawly: less ewww? I’m not sure where I come out on this one, and I’d love a rationalization that would allow me to resume using my pretty, red lip balm. So what do you think: yay or nay on carmine?

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Yay or Nay on…Carmine — 8 Comments

  1. I think my vote would be yay because we have already been using lipstick for centuries.
    Your new found knowledge of where the red coloring is derived from can answer the querie, “What are bugs good for?” And how would we look in blue or green lipstick?
    I certainly will stay with the bug enriched color.

    To change to a better subject, how about a simple bread recipe?
    warm wishes,

  2. I think “Yay” on the carmine because it is really a natural coloring, and not a chemical synthetic. Although I personally don’t, people in other lands often eat bugs…and they are not nearly as colorful! Also, think about whale oil and musk from the muskox, whose essence is used in perfume. I am sure there are other natural animal elements that go into many of the products we use. So…”Yay”.

    Thanks for the info…I didn’t know about carmine.
    Much Love,

  3. There is definitely the gross factor… but I don’t think anyone can really use the animal cruelty defense on bugs unless the legitimately let mosquitoes and flies roam free in their house rather than smacking them. Maybe there are people like that, but, I doubt very many. As for the eww factor… a dried up bug is probably not nearly as nasty as some of the facilities that process meat in this country. Not that anyone wants to think about that, but, just sayin’….

  4. I can understand your reluctance to use products made with insects, but I’m sure part of the process MUST include sanitizing of some type…But we eat animal products, (which also touch our ruby red beetle tinted lips!) and we trust that they are processed and decontaminated to make them safe. I’m just hoping that someone at the FDA is also concerned as we are – so I say “yay”.

  5. If you want to be worried about something … Don’t hold your cell phone or let your kids play with your iPad … Mini microwave???

  6. my son told me it was in my yogurt – blech! I’ll be checking all labels – I don’t need the red coloring.

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