Prior to the 1500’s when cochineal (the predecessor to modern-day carmine) made its way from central Mexico to Europe, stable red dyes were very difficult to extract from natural sources and incredibly expensive making the color both important and exciting. That is, when you could get your hands on it, because it was also incredibly scarce.  

The ancient Aztec people of central Mexico had perfected the cultivation of the insects that produced carminic acid, the chemical responsible for cochineal’s bright red color, and the species of cactus on which they lived. Spanish conquistadors brought cochineal (and chocolate) back to Europe and in spite of failed attempts by both the British and French to smuggle insects and the cacti on which they live, Spain retained control of its trade for three hundred years. Carmine still finds use in cosmetics as it is one of only two red pigments (which would also be used to create pink shades) permitted for use in the eye area in the United States. The other is Red 40 which is a more yellow shade of red. 

In 1856 William Henry Perkin created the first synthetic organic dye while attempting to produce the anti-malarial drug quinine. As purple clothing was quite fashionable at the time, Perkin’s mauve became a commercial success. The sensation created by mauvine spurred the development of many new dyes which were brighter, less expensive, and more stable than most of the natural dyes available at the time.  The first patent for a material from a new class of colorants called azo dyes, which are typically in the spectrum or red to yellow in color, was issued in 1884. Most of the red pigments used in cosmetics today belong to this class of compounds, including Red 7 Lake which is the most widely used colorant in lipstick and gloss because of its beautiful hue combined with very economical cost (carmine can cost up to 10 times as much).

Below is a listing of red and pink colorants you can find more information about through Covalo’s extensive ingredient listing. These color additives have unique properties and can be used alone or as starting points for creating a palette of pink and red shades. With any product development project using colorants in cosmetics and personal care, it is imperative to review the regulations for color additives in the countries and regions in which the product will be marketed to ensure your product is in compliance because in addition to regional differences there may be restrictions on use area (so colors are ok for lips and not eye cosmetics or vice versa) and concentration. Some notes regarding regulations are included, but these are certainly not intended to be exhaustive nor substitute for your own evaluation of all pertinent regulations.  

Givaudan’s New Red 1805 is a 100% natural pigment based on vegetable-derived anthocyanins that delivers a shade similar to Red 36 Lake (CI 12085). Anthocyanins are approved colorants for general use in the EU; however, they are not permitted for use as color additives in the United States.

DayGlo’s Elara™ Aurora Pink and Corona Magenta are vibrant pigments that can be used to create shocking pink lip and nail colors, bringing some much needed life to a conventional pigment palette. Elara™ pigments have substantially improved lightfastness, an important factor when packaging is transparent and product is exposed to constant lighting in a retail environment. 

Ronastar® Red Allure from EMD Performance Materials is a deep, rich red composite pigment containing red iron oxide (CI 77491) that can be used as starting point for creating vampy shades of burgundy. This pigment requires no milling so it can be easily incorporated into products from lip to nail and its very small particle size contributes to a matte, velvety texture on skin. 

The Innovation Company’s Creasperse® Electric Pink is a ready-to-use, high-quality dispersion of Red 27 Lake (CI 45410), a pigment known for its unique fuchsia color. A stable and consistent degree of pigment dispersion is essential to consistency in manufacturing of color cosmetics.

Red Beet from Proquimac is a water-soluble dye derived from beet root that can be used to tint toiletries like liquid soaps and shampoos to a blue shade of pink. It is stable over a pH range of 4-7 which is suitable for most personal care products, however at alkaline pH the color can shift more violet and eventually degrade. Like anthocyanins, beet root is not an approved color additive for cosmetics in the United States.

Moonshine™ Ultra Effect Hot Pink Sparkle from Croda is a pink pearlescent effect pigment with a borosilicate substrate that provides a very high degree of sparkle compared to mica and synthetic mica substrates. Carmine (CI 75470) is responsible for the beautiful pink bulk tone.

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