Know Which Insect Is In Your Lipstick?

Posted by in Body

Beauties far and wide, if you are squeamish, this article is not for you! Those of you who want to know the truth about your favourite trend, proceed with caution. All of you Marilyn Monroe channelers, you Femme Fatales, listen up. You may be smearing crushed up creepy crawlies onto your pouts!

 Lipstick ingredient red

Have you ever wondered how your favourite MAC “Ruby Woo” lipstick gets its vivid, no holds barred colour? Or how your lips are still stained red after hours of wearing Chanel’s “Pirate”?

Turns out the ingredient that gives you that lucid hue is carmine, which comes from the crushed female cochineal insect.

Cochineal insects are scaled, flat, soft-bodied, and oval in shape, and can be found in tropical and subtropical parts of South America and Mexico. They are parasites that thrive on cacti, penetrating the plant with beak-like mouthparts and feeding on the juices.

Although a popular ingredient in lipsticks, carmine appears in red-tinged blushers and eye shadows too! Take a look at the ingredients on the back. Phrases such as 'cochineal extract', 'carmine', 'crimson lake', 'natural red 4', 'C.I. 75470', 'E120', or even 'natural colouring' refer to a dye derived from an insect. Bugs are commonly used now because many commercial synthetic red dyes that used to be around were found to be carcinogenic. Carmine has proved to be generally harmless, although scarily, can induce anaphylactic shock in rare cases.


Thinking of escaping the red dye by putting your makeup bag on the top shelf for a while? Think again! Carmine is widely used in everyday food and drinks, especially items that are bright red, such as juice drinks, candy, meat, jams, and sauces. Turns out, Cleopatra applied the same crushed beetles, applying the mash directly to her lips for a striking lip colour. So when we apply that creamy Tom Ford “Cherry Lush” lipstick to our mouths, we’re just living out her legacy!