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Scientific name:  Carmine

Animal derived pigment

From the beetle:  Dactylopius coccus

Parts:  whole beetle

Ingredient Features

  • non-toxic

User Benefits

  • safe

Function in Product

  • colorant

Carmine is a strikingly beautiful rich red colorant. Derived from Cochineal, this natural pigment is used in cosmetics. Historically has been used by the Navajo and other native peoples around the world.


Coloring Agents/Pigments

Natural red color that comes from the dried female cochineal beetle. It is sometimes used to color lip gloss, lipsticks, and other cosmetics. The FDA approved carmine for food use in 1977.

EWG Cosmetic Safety Database says:

About CARMINE: Carmine is a red pigment/dye derived from insects native to South America and Mexico that live as parasites on cactus plants. Used as a colorant in food, cosmetics and textiles. Has been associated with severe allergic reactions. This ingredient is listed in the PETA's Caring Consumer guide as a substance of animal origin.

This ingredient is derived from animals. From PETA's Caring Consumer: Pigments from animal, plant, and synthetic sources used to color foods, cosmetics, and other products. Cochineal is from insects. Widely used FD&C and D&C colors are coaltar (bituminous coal) derivatives that are continously tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties. Alternatives: grapes, beets, turmeric, saffron, carrots, chlorophyll, annatto, alkanet.

Function(s): Colorant; Fragrance Ingredient


Carmine, also called crimson lakecochinealnatural red 4C.I. 75470, or E120, is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminium salt of carminic acid, which is produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal scale and the Polish cochineal, and is used as a general term for a particularly deep-red color of the same name. Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products such as yogurt and certain brands of juice, the most notable ones being those of the ruby-red variety.

The English word "carmine" is derived from the French word carmin (12 c.), from Medieval Latin carminium, from Arabic qirmiz "crimson," from Sanskrit krimiga "insect-produced", from krmi "worm, insect". Influenced in Latin by minium "red lead, cinnabar", said to be of Iberian origin.


To prepare carmine, the powdered scale insect bodies are boiled in ammonia or a sodium carbonate solution, the insoluble matter is removed by filtering, and alum is added to the clear salt solution of carminic acid to precipitate the red aluminum salt, called "carmine lake" or "crimson lake." Purity of color is ensured by the absence of iron. Stannous chloride, citric acid, borax, or gelatin may be added to regulate the formation of the precipitate. For shades of purple, lime is added to the alum; thus, the traditional crimson color is guaranteed not only by carminic acid but also by choice of its chelating metal salt ion.

Carmine may be prepared from cochineal, by boiling dried insects in water to extract the carminic acid and then treating the clear solution with alum. Other common substances such as cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate can also be used to effect the precipitation, but aluminum is needed for the color. Use of these chemicals causes the coloring and animal matters present in the liquid to be precipitated to give a lake pigment. Aluminum from the alum gives the traditional crimson color to carminic acid precipitates, which are called carmine lakes or crimson lakes. This color is degraded by the presence of iron salts. Addition of lime (calcium) can give carminic acid lakes a purple cast.

Other methods for the production of carmine dye are in use, in which egg white, fish glue, or gelatin is sometimes added before the precipitation.

The carminic acid used to produce the pigment can also be extracted from various microbes engineered for the purpose. Microbes are dissolved in a containment structure separate from their cultivation vats, and then allowed to settle out. The liquid and suspended carminic acid is then siphoned off, and metal salts are then added to give a lake pigment in a procedure that is mostly identical to the procedure for acid extracted from insects.

The quality of carmine is affected by the temperature and the degree of illumination during its preparation, sunlight being requisite for the production of a brilliant hue. It also differs according to the amount of alumina present in it. It is sometimes adulterated with cinnabar, starch and other materials; from these, the carmine can be separated by dissolving it in ammonia. Good carmine should crumble readily between the fingers when dry.



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