As colorful as “Carmine”.

As women, we all love applying that bright red lipstick. Porcelain skin and red lips are the two most important and indispensable qualities of beauty. But do you know that lipstick you apply contains the extract of insects rather it contains an extract from boiled insects. Yeww!!! as gross as it seems, it is the truth. Carmine is a synthetic food color derived from boiled insects. A vast majority of cosmetic brands use the substance called “Carmine” in their products mostly their lipsticks to give them that red and orangey tinge. Even certain food items do contain this notorious substance which appears to be labelled under innocent names. Lets look deeper into the subject.

As Wikipedia says “Carmine is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminium salt of carminic acid. The pigment is produced from some scale insects such as cochineal scale insects and certain other species”.  So basically speaking the color carmine is extracted from the bodies of insects specifically the cochineal insect that feeds on cacti.

Now here is the real gross description. The substance carmine is produced by boiling the cochineal insects in ammonia or a solution of sodium carbonate. After boiling these poor creatures, the entire matter is filter and alum is added to the clear salt solution of carminic acid to precipitate the red aluminium salt, called as the carmine lake or crimson lake. To get a purple color lime is added to the alum.

The insects are killed by immersion in boiling water, or exposure to extreme sunlight or by heating them in ovens. Depending on the method adopted the color emitted from the dead insects varies. The more gruesome the killing the darker the color.

It was narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar that Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) has said “Two types of animals which have died a natural death and two types of blood have been made lawful to us— the two which have died a natural death are those being the creatures of the sea and the locust, and the two types of blood being the liver and the spleen”.— Al-Tirmidhi(4132)

As simply as the above hadith explains, locusts are the only type of insects that are considered to be halal. Whereas carmine comes from the cochineal bugs and hence it is haram. The way those bugs are boiled is undoubtedly against Islamic laws of slaughtering.

Be quick to check out your cosmetic ingredients list or your food packets for the following euphemisms of boiled bugs—
•Cochineal extract
•Crimson lake
•Carmine lake
•Natural Red 4
•C.I 75470

Cosmetics: Lipsticks, lip-liners, lip-glosses, lip-balms, nail polish, eye-shadows, eye-liners and kohls as far as I know. To be perfectly convinced, check any cosmetic which has color in it.

Food items: Skittles, Mentos, flavored-yogurts, ice-creams, vitamin supplements, and chocolates of certain famous brands do contain carmine. To be free from doubt just check for  the heavenly for vegetarian sign. That way you’ll also spare yourself of the haram animal fats also.

Not all brands use carmine in their products. There are many vegetarian and vegan brands that use plant dyes to give the tinge of color to their products. One has to just check out the list of ingredients and the vegetarian symbol to be sure. Even if a brand states to be cruelty free they might just be against animal testing but might use carmine in their products. Being cruelty free is different from being vegan or vegetarian.

Just to be well convinced and satisfied, Islamic-wise and health-wise be sure to check out for this yucky boiled bugs ingredient. I have stressed on lipsticks because it is a vital make-up product, and as it is applied on lips there is a sure chance on ingestion into the mouth. And as for food items one has to be all the more careful, whether it is carmine or haram slaughtered animal fat both are equally impermissible. Many of us are completely unaware of this ingredient, thus a little enlightenment goes a long way. May Allah(swt) guide us on the right path.

P.S That picture is of a lady bird. Cochineal insects look different.


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