The classic red lip has been a beauty industry staple throughout the centuries. But how do bold red lipsticks get their bright colour? There are 4 different types of pigments used – and here’s how to choose safe, clean and ethically sourced reds.


Cosmetic colour additives can be divided into two broad categories: organic and inorganic. In this case, organic indicates that the chemical structure of the colour includes carbon atoms.


Synthetic colourants are commonly used in makeup products since they give a vivid colour payoff and can create all the flaming reds.

There are currently 153 different colourants allowed in cosmetics in the EU, and most of them are synthetic. These organic colourants are synthesised from petroleum oil or coal-tar derivatives that may contain toxic heavy metals. Although allowed in cosmetics and looking so tempting and fierce, some loud neon reds can have their ugly side when it comes to our health.

Makeup containing synthetic red dyes like phloxine (CI 45410) and erythtosine (CI 45430) react under lighting with proteins on our skin, generating free radicals – which can cause skin roughness. Some synthetic colourants may cause dermatological disorders. Red colourant Brilliant Lake Red R (CI 15 800), used in makeup, has been reported as having a sensitising effect – which can be linked to contact dermatitis1.

Synthetic makeup products can be vegan (and made of man-made chemicals instead of naturally-derived ingredients), and many natural makeup brands use a pinch of synthetic colourants to achieve bright reds in their otherwise clean formulas.

What do we think? Risky
Are they vegan? Yes*
Are they cruelty-free? Yes*
Do we use them? No


Carmine is another organic (and natural!) colourant used to achieve vibrant red shades. And still – you might find that it’s not the most appealing option due to ethical considerations.

Carmine is an animal-derived ingredient, produced from ground-up dried tropical insects – cochineal bugs. It takes up to 100,000 killed beetles to produce 1 kg of carmine. For obvious reasons carmine is not a vegan-friendly or cruelty-free ingredient, even though it is allowed and widely used in natural and/or organic certified beauty products.

So if you own a classic fire-truck red lipstick – it is most probably made using synthetic colourants or carmine. These were not options for us, which was why it took quite some time and experimenting to create a classic red lip colour in the MÁDARA Organic Makeup range.

What do we think? Tricky
Is it vegan? No
Is it cruelty-free? No
Do we use it? No



Red Iron Oxide is a very common inorganic pigment, that is used to obtain a juicy, bronzy red colour. It is also the pigment that gives foundations a rosy undertone. The hue of these colourants depends on the manufacturing process and particle size – they can provide endless earthy shades – from natural rosy nudes to deep maroon reds.

Iron oxides are inorganic mineral pigments, commonly found in nature and widely used as food and makeup colourants. Compared to organic-synthetic dyes, iron oxides are safe, stable and non-allergenic.

If you opt for not so loud, rather earthy reds, try MÁDARA Glossy Venom Hydrating Lip Gloss in Vegan Red 75.


What do we think? Lovely
Are they vegan? Yes*
Are they cruelty-free? Yes*
Do we use them? Yes


Last but certainly not least – innovative plant-based pigments. These natural reds are obtained from plants and can create vivid, bright and fierce classic reds.

Not only are these colourants 100% natural, creating extraordinary shades, many of them are powerful antioxidants, too. Certain antioxidants give plants deep purple and red tones, for example, anthocyanins give the intense purple and red colours to blueberries, cranberries and bilberries. When used topically, anthocyanins help to neutralise free radicals and hold back premature skin ageing.

The greatest challenge – incorporating plant-based pigments into beauty formulas, which requires serious know-how and a complicated technological process. So, a shout out to the MÁDARA product development team that turned this ambitious dream into reality.

Check out our very first iconic red – the Glossy Venom Hydrating Lip Gloss in Ruby Red 78 – which is 100% natural, vegan and cruelty-free, ECOCERT/Cosmos certified and formulated without synthetic colourants and carmine.


What do we think? Lovely
Are they vegan? Yes*
Are they cruelty-free? Yes*
Do we use them? Yes

#BOLDISBOLD #madarakind #RubyRed78

*Whether or not a formula is vegan and/or cruelty-free, also depends on other ingredients and the brand’s overall business practice (sourcing, distribution, social responsibility, etc.).

1 Morikawa F, Fukuda M, Naganuma M, Nakayama Y. Phototoxic reaction to xanthene dyes induced by visible light. J Dermatol. 1976;3(2):59-67.


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