Carmine refers to a deep bright red pigment that is often found in color cosmetics. Other names you may find it listed as are: cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake or carmine lake, natural red 4,C.I. 75470, or E120. Origins of the color trace directly to a specific kind of insect, the cochineal, that looks a beetle but isn’t, and lives on a few different species of cacti, namely the prickly pear cacti. The color comes from harvesting the insects, drying and them crushing them into a fine powder that is then boiled and treated with a chemical compound called alum, along with other substances that help the solution become a solid. It’s reported that 70,000 insects are needed to make only 1 pound of dye.
For many years, the food industry was using carmine to dye foods, but has recently started pulling the dye from formulations as growing concerns of severe allergic reaction began mounting. The EU limits its use in food, mostly for these concerns, as well as in skin care; where allergic reaction may be subtle, from light itching to more severe like swelling.
Since the color is procured from having to harvest and kill insects, carmine is never a component you will find in vegan brands. However, the color carmine may now be found synthetically, and so you may see it listed, but its origins may not be directly traceable to an insect.
At Credo, we understand the desire to procure deep rich pigments that will give color cosmetics their power and longevity. And we are mindful to the concerns growing about the allergens associated with Carmine, and well as the harm to the insect. We keep in close communication with our brands and work hard to convey their methodologies. And we will let you know when a product is using carmine, and work with you to find alternatives.