How many insects does the average red lipstick contain? Not a comfortable question, but the reality is that a single red lipstick can contain up to a thousand insects. In fact, it’s these bugs which give a large percentage of red lipsticks their color, with carmine a common ingredient. Technically an all-organic substance, carmine is derived from the crushed bodies of the female coccus cacti insect, native to Central America. A er being harvested and dried, the insect shell husks are boiled to extract the naturally occurring carminic acid. The resulting bright red aluminum salt pigment is then light-treated, blended into an emulsion, and added to the lipstick’s wax and oil base.
Used for centuries to dye fabric and faces alike, carmine produces a brilliantly bold shade of red that’s unlike any other synthetic dye in its depth and vibrancy. ‑ e process requires 70 000 of the beetles to produce 500g of carmine, which is used as a red coloring in cosmetics, household, and food products. Also itemized on ingredient lists as “crimson lake,” “natural red 4,” or “cochineal,” it may not be immediately clear to the average woman that her lipstick is sourced from animal extracts. While other shades of red have been produced, none have recreated the true carmine red.
Enter Hourglass. The US brand is led by founder Carisa Janes, who credits her love for animals for inspiring her to launch the cruelty-free brand. “I’ve always felt a close connection to animals – they experience love and happiness, pain and fear just like us,” she shares. Hourglass pledged to become fully vegan by the end of last year, triggering Janes’ research into finding an alternative to carmine. “We wanted to bring awareness to this practice and show how unnecessary it is, by creating a high-quality vegan replacement that offers the same level of intensity and performance,” she explains. “Consumers want to support brands that align with their values and, as a result, there’s an increasing demand for cruelty-free and vegan beauty products around the world.”
During a three-year process with parent group Unilever, Hourglass tested 19 formulations from 175 color experimentations. Hourglass finally alighted on a formula, launching in the Middle East this month. Introduced as Red 0, it’s a new addition to the brand’s Confession Refillable Lipstick range. The satin-finish formula consists of a patent-pending blend of two “high-purity, vegan red pigments,” and is named for the zero animal byproducts used, and zero insects harmed in its creation. It’s enclosed in a chic, special-edition red tube with a stylized beetle motif; a reminder of the shade’s commitment to animal protection. Exclusively available in the region at Ounass.com, the launch of Red 0 is a reminder that even the smallest choices can make a big difference in the littlest of lives.
Originally published in the April 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia