Published by PETA Staff.

Ever wondered how your makeup gets its pigment? Most people haven’t—but you should be concerned. That color, my friends, may come from the guts of thousands of beetles. Yep, you read that right. You could be smearing the insides of thousands of bugs onto your lips with your favorite red lipstick or onto your cheeks with your favorite blush.

Tubes of red carmine lipstick in a row

A red dye is extracted from the females of a scaled insect species found in Mexico and Central America.

It’s been reported that more than 70,000 of these beetles are killed to produce just 1 pound of dye, which can be found in many cosmetics and other products.

Don’t believe us? Check the ingredients lists on some of your favorite products for “CI 75470,” “cochineal extract,” “crimson lake,” “natural red 4,” or “carmine”—and be prepared to have your mind blown. Have a look at some of the following items:

  • Cosmetics
  • Shampoos
  • Red applesauce
  • Other foods (including red lollipops, yogurt, drinks, and food coloring)

Food? Yep. That red or purple coloring could very well be from the insides of thousands of beetles. Check out this video:

I guess they call it “natural red 4” because guts are naturally red.

How Can I Avoid Carmine?

Before you totally freak out and start tossing out all your makeup, let’s get something straight: Being vegan isn’t about purity. The goal is to help animals and do the best we can to reduce their suffering and avoid exploiting them while still living a normal life. So try not to stress out.

The next time that you’re shopping for cosmetics, just check the ingredients. If you find “carmine,” “cochineal extract,” or “natural red 4” listed, drop whichever product you’re holding and head for the hills. OK, not really—just look for a vegan item instead! For instance, Urban Decay, KVD Beauty, Fairy Girl and many other brands make some all-vegan lipsticks (check out our list of red vegan lipsticks), blushes, eye shadows, and more. And you can find vegan food colorings at your local health-food store.

To find more brands that don’t harm animals, search our database of cruelty-free products!

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