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Carmine - What is it and why is it used in make-up?

Carmine is an ingredient that is contained in many cosmetic products and not everyone knows what it is, what it does and where it comes from. In this in-depth blog post, we are taking a look at Carmine and answering the most important questions about it.

What is Carmine?

Carmine also know as cochineal, crimson lake, natural red 5 or CI 75470 is a bright red pigment that is used in many cosmetics and even as a colourant in food.

Why is Carmine used?

Carmine is used in so many colour cosmetics because it is incredibly safe, non-irritating, easy to produce and has been used as a dye for over 600 years. One of the outstanding properties of Carmine is it is intense colour that is unmatched by many other pigments available.

How is Carmine made?

Carmine is not vegan friendly. It may be quite a surprise to some people to discover that Carmine is from animal origin. It is produced from the scale insect Cochineal, a tiny beetle like creature that live on cacti. They are grown in farms and once they reach 90 days old they are brushed from the cacti and collected up. They are then dried, crushed, boiled then filtered (with a few more steps in-between), producing a vivid red pigment.

Why is Carmine still used by make-up manufacturers?

A large amount of make-up manufacturers have now switched to synthetic pigments or naturally sourced pigments such as Iron Oxide. However, a few manufactures still use Carmine in their products; they typically still use Carmine in make-up products that have been made for a long time, where these manufactures choose not to alter their formula to avoid possible loss in performance and ensure continuity of their colour cosmetics. Another reason may be is that Carmine is an incredibly effective pigment; its colour is deep, vivid and has a high opacity. However, many pigments are available now that are compatible or surpass the performance of Carmine that are not animal derived.

How do I know if a product from Red Carpet FX contains Carmine?

At Red Carpet FX, we try to make sure the ingredients of all the products we sell are clearly displayed before purchase. We know how important it is to know what is in your make-up, so we provide an ingredients list for as many products as we possibly can. You will be able to tell if a product from us contains Carmine because we will put a notice at the bottom of the products description saying it contains Carmine and also put the pigment in bold on the products ingredient list.

How do I know if a product I already own or from a different supplier contains Carmine?

Not all make-up suppliers display the product ingredients on their websites - so be sure to contact them, asking for the products ingredients before ordering. But for items you already own or have just received; take a look on the ingredient label on the product and look out for the words carmine, cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake, cochineal lake or natural red 5. It may not always be as simple as looking out for the previous names, as a lot of manufactures chose to display pigments as CI numbers at the end of the ingredients list; so look out for CI75470 or just 75470 without the CI prefix.


Carmine is a relatively safe ingredient in cosmetics that is incredibly effective at its purpose as a pigment. However it is definitely not suitable for vegans and is being slowly phased out from use in a massive amount of make-up items.

Just remember to always check the ingredients of a product before you purchase it - the more you know about the ingredients in the products you use on yourself or your clients the better.