BeautyLong read

Why red isn't vegan

Molly Waring-Moore • January 22, 2018

Vegan red carmine

Vegans don’t wear red… well, they can’t always red.

The colour red was one of the first pigments to ever be used in art. We associate it with love, anger and passion, and there’s just something about wearing a red lip that makes you walk a little differently.

A red lip is bold and seductive but it often has a darker secret. When I was seven, I was taught at school that ‘in the olden days,’ women used to use the blood from crushed insects as lip and cheek stains. The memory of being told this stuck with me because I was horrified. I held on to it as a gross fact that I could regurgitate to family members. Of course, I moved on with life, believing that now the world is so much better than that.

Vegan red carmine

Growing up, the colour red became something much more symbolic. It marked the transition into womanhood. As a young teenager starting to wear makeup (without the aid of Youtube), red lipstick was reserved only for performing. Dancers have a trusty red lipstick that you wear for everything. Some clear lip gloss, mascara and maybe a terrible mousse foundation is all you need day to day.

Transitioning into womanhood was going from frosty pink lipstick to deeper, richer colours. “I’m 17 now, I can rock a vampy red lip to school.” And you better believe everyone else was wearing the same lip – Kate Moss for Rimmel.

A red bodycon dress marks a different kind of confidence. It’s a little defiant at that in-between age. You don’t call yourself a woman, but you’re not a girl anymore. The colour red doesn’t symbolise passion, it’s confidence.

Vegan red carmine

But this confident new world of womanhood had a dark little secret.
Turns out, that Rimmel lipstick that everyone owned when we were 17 actually contains carmine. What’s carmine? It’s the red pigment obtained from ‘scale insects.’ They’re essentially crushed down, dried and boiled. Lovely.

Having a colour symbolise so much makes it a little heartbreaking that it can come from such cruelty. Ignoring beliefs on consuming meat and dairy, surely we aren’t still carrying out such medieval practices in cosmetics and food labs?

Well we are and it is regulated for food and cosmetics – but must be declared on ingredients lists. Carmine can also be referred to as cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake, carmine lake, natural red 4,C.I. 75470 or E120. If you ever look at ingredients lists, ‘crushed insects’ never jumps out at you.

Vegan red carmine

Carmine is used in makeup with red, pink, purple, orange and brown tones – making it difficult to avoid. But after years of searching for vegan beauty products, there ARE options. You just can’t pick up the first lipstick off the shelf.

The biggest issue is that we have alternatives and don’t always use them. This isn’t the sad tale of having to get rid of a colour pigment, we should just reassess its production.

Having collected vegan red lipsticks, blushes, warm eyeshadow palettes and nail varnishes that have been some of the best products I’ve ever owned, I know that we already have the technology and means to create great products, without the cruelty, at affordable prices. From high street to high end, you can find red vegan products – you’ve just got to check the labels.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best vegan reds to give you a little inspiration…


Charlotte Tilbury: Hot lips – Tell Laura, Hot lips – Carina’s Love, K.I.S.S.I.N.G – Love Bite, K.I.S.S.I.N.G – Night Crimson, K.I.S.S.I.N.G – So Marilyn, Matte Revolution – Red Carpet Red, Matte Revolution – Bond Girl

Kat Von D: Studded Lipstick – Fire Engine Red, Studded Lipstick – Hexagram, Studded Lipstick – Outlaw, Studded Lipstick – Nahz Fur Atoo, Studded Lipstick – Misfit, Studded Lipstick – Gold Blooded

Makeup Revolution: Iconic Matte Lipstick – Red Carpet, Iconic Matte Revolution Lipstick – Diamond Life, Renaissance Lipstick – Classic


Barry M: Matte Me Up Liquid Lip Paint – Paparazzi

Kat Von D: Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – Underage Red, Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – Nahz Fur Atoo, Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – Outlaw, Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – Vampira

Jeffree Star: Velour Liquid Lipstick – Designer Blood, Velour Liquid Lipstick – Unicorn Blood, Velour Liquid Lipstick – Anna Nicole, Velour Liquid Lipstick – Redrum


Barry M: Classic – Raspberry, Classic – Siren, Gelly Hi Shine – Blood Orange, Sunset Gel – All The Things She Red, Matte – Burgundy Crush

Maggie Ann: Jane, Inga, Aoife, Susie, Florence, Ruby, Maria

Nailberry: L’Oxygéné – Dial M For Maroon, L’Oxygéné – Cherry Cherie, L’Oxygéné – Les Temps De Cerises


Makeup Revolution: Ultra 32 Eyeshadow Palette Flawless 3 Resurrection, Life on the Dance Floor Eyeshadow Palette – Guest List, Pro HD Palette Amplified 35 – Innovation, Re-Loaded Palette – Newtrals 2, Re-Loaded Palette – Iconic Vitality

Juvia’s Place: The Nubian Palette

Nabla Cosmetics: Build a palette

Photography: Rhys Herbert

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