Vegan Carmine Alternative Developed By Unilever and Hourglass Cosmetics
Carmine, derived from crushed beetles, gives red lipstick its bright coloring. | Sam Lion/Pexels

Vegan Carmine Developed By Unilever and Hourglass Cosmetics

The new insect-free lipstick took three years to develop.

Hourglass Cosmetics and Unilever’s R&D team have teamed up to create a vegan carmine alternative. The insect-free ingredient is the star of Hourglass’s new special-edition shade, Confession™ Refillable Lipstick Red 0.

Featuring a red applicator embellished with a beetle, Red O “symbolizes Hourglass’ ongoing commitment to animal welfare: Zero animal byproducts, zero insects harmed.”  

Carmine is traditionally made from crushed cochineal beetles. The red pigment is commonly used in a wide range of products—such as cosmetics, paints, and certain foods—to give them their red coloring.

According to Unilever’s CEO, Alan Jope, there are 70,000 insects in a single pound of carmine. You might want to sit down for this bombshell,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post. “There could be as many as 1,000 insects in a single lipstick.”

He continued: “It might have taken three years, but it’s totally worth the wait. Red 0 is sensational. Purpose and product beautifully woven together.”

Vegan Carmine

According to Hourglass, recreating insect-based carmine was a difficult task because of its natural “vibrancy and boldness.” But the two companies were able to mimic the same color intensity in the vegan carmine using patent-pending, insect-free pigments.

“Creating a vegan alternative felt like an impossible feat at times, but it was such an important step,” Carisa Janes, founder and CEO of Hourglass, said in a press release.

“We need to move away from treating living beings as expendable. We’re excited to introduce the new ingredient in such an iconic shade of lipstick, a symbol of our commitment to animal welfare,” she added.  

In 2017, Hourglass announced its plans to go 100 percent vegan by 2020. All of the company’s products are now cruelty-free and fully vegan.

Unilever Embraces Veganism

This isn’t Unilever’s first foray into veganism. In February, Jope called vegan food an “inexorable” trend. “We are seeing in every single country in the world a shift towards more plant-based diets, even in emerging markets,” he told The Guardian.

In December 2019, the company unveiled its new €85 million innovation center, which is located in the Netherlands. Called the Hive, the company will use the center to develop new vegan food.

And back in December 2018, Unilever acquired plant-based meat brand The Vegetarian Butcher. “This acquisition will help us to accelerate our journey towards more plant-based food,” Nitin Paranjpe, the company’s president of food and drinks, said at the time.

More recently, the food industry giant teamed up with Nestlé—partnering with animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming. The companies voiced their support for the non-profit’s End the Cage Age Initiative and called for the phasing out of all caged hens from the European agricultural sector.