What makes YOUR lipstick red?

Candace Grenier – Formulator & Founder, Pure Anada Inc.

Lipsticks are one of the most difficult products to formulate with natural ingredients.  Eco-savvy consumers want their lipstick to perform like their favourite conventional brand: vibrant shades, bold colour, and long-lasting.  But they also want it to be vegan and free from everything "synthetic".   It's a bold request that puts a lot of cosmetic manufacturers and the brand they produce for - under a lot of pressure to perform!
For that reason, sometimes when it comes to eco-friendly lip colours, not everything is as it seems.  Due to my experience over the last 12 years, I sometimes come across ingredient lists for lip colours that don't match up with the brand's impressive range of colours.  Before you become enraged, keep in mind that approximately 98% of makeup brands do not produce their own products.  They hire contract manufacturers who may or may not be honest with their clients about what's REALLY making their lipstick red (or pink).
Below I will explain in detail the various pigment options available to cosmetic formulators.  This will help decipher ingredient lists, and help you make buying decisions based on your values.  It will also help you identify counterfeit lists of ingredients.  Things that are different, are not the same! So if your lipstick glides on like a dream and feels scarily too much like your former conventional brand, maybe it's too good to be true.  Unfortunately.


Cosmetic grade mica is the most common substrate used to pigment “natural” lip colours. The mineral, mica is available in a wide variety of shades. The different hues come from how the particle is cut (refractive properties), to what it is coated with. Mica pigments are coated with other minerals such as red and yellow iron oxides or titanium dioxide (white).
Mica is mined from the earth, and for that reason there is valid concern that it is mined ethically, without the use of child or slave labour. Pure Anada's  supplier confirms it pays its workers fairly and even goes so far as providing daycare, medical and schools for the employee and their families. Please request more information if you would like to learn more about this issue.
BENEFITS – Vegan (mineral based), Wide range of shades
DISADVANTAGES – Mica pigments are sometimes referred to as “pearl” pigments and always have a sheen, shine or sparkle.
NOTE: Pure Anada Petal Perfect lipsticks are pigmented with mica. They have a satin, pearly sheen.
OTHER BRANDS: Hynt Beauty (Aria Pure range), Elate (Sheer & Cream range), AxiologySavvy Minerals INIKA, Zao Organic (Pearly Range),


Iron oxides are iron salts. They are available in various WARM shades of yellow, red and umber.
There is also a black iron oxide, that when mixed with yellow and red can create a plethora of beige and brown shades. Iron oxides, combined with Titanium Dioxide are the minerals responsible to create the various shades of foundation for skin tones ranging from pale porcelain to deep ebony black. Iron Oxides are also used to coat mica minerals (see above).
In lipsticks, red oxides are the only way to produce a red shade that is both NATURAL and VEGAN.
You will find iron oxides listed on cosmetic labels as - CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499
BENEFITS – Vegan (mineral based), Red Tones, Matte
DISADVANTAGES – The red tones that are achieved from oxides are always WARM, with an orange, earthy undertone. It is impossible to achieve a cool, true, vibrant red with oxides.
NOTE: Pure Anada Petal Perfect lipsticks incorporate some iron oxides in the formulation.
OTHER BRANDS: Most of the brands listed under "Mica", also have some shades made with iron oxides.  Their "red" lipstick will be more of an earthy/brick red.  Their nudes are warm, earthy and soft.


FD&C stand for Food, Drug and Cosmetic. While these pigments are derived from petro-chemicals, they are the most regulated of all pigments worldwide.
Over the years, these dyes of caused controversy due to severe adverse reactions. Many have been banned and others restricted for use. We are now left with 12 FD&C dyes, which are approved for use in food in the USA, however many more are approved for use in just cosmetics. Each of these dyes, if used in cosmetics or food products must be batch certified. This means, that the manufacture must know which batch of raw material was used in their product. This is more regulation than any other pigment goes through, most likely due to the possible reactions that could occur.
FD&C dyes are the ONLY way it is possible to achieve vibrant, colour-rich, vegan, matte pigments in cosmetics in a wide variety of hues. It’s possible to achieve vibrant hues with mica – but it won’t be matte. It’s possible to achieve matte with iron oxides – but it won’t be vibrant. It’s possible to achieve cool matte tones with carmine – but it won’t be vegan.
This is the largest stumbling block to brands and consumers. What they want, is the shades that can be achieved with FD&C dyes, but unfortunately it cannot be claimed as “all natural”. FD&C dyes are NOT approved for use in certified organic cosmetics (COSMOS Ecocert, USDA, etc).
Ironically, these dyes are sometimes referred to by pigment manufacturers as “organic” dyes because they are derived from petroleum (living matter), even though they aren’t organic as far as we would typically classify other organic ingredients such as plant oils and waxes with USDA certification (for example). Minerals on the other hand, are referred to as “inorganic” pigments because they are non-living.
Some brands opt for using FD&C dyes in lip colours, in a base made from healthy plant oils and waxes. These brands have become popular in the “green beauty” circles because they can rival the shades of the big brands people are used to using.  I personally respect that these brands are honest and disclose that they DO use dyes to achieve their colours.
I question brands who somehow achieve vibrant, cool and/or matte shades with apparently just the use of minerals. I know it’s impossible, so there has to be a link of miss-information either from their manufacturer (since MOST makeup brands do not produce their own product), OR they are knowingly being dishonest.
The infinite array of colours that can be achieved using FD&C dyes would be very appealing to makeup artists who need a large selection of shades, but don’t want to use a completely synthetic formula. It fills a niche market of consumers who want to make a better choice, but aren’t complete purists.
FD&C Dyes will be listed on the ingredient list as a wide variety of CI (colour index) numbers.
BENEFITS – Vegan, Matte, Vibrant Shades, When mixed with Titanium Dioxide can achieve beautiful nude tones. Anything is possible.
DISADVANTAGES – Derived from petroleum. Not natural, or approved in organic formulas.
NOTE – Pure Anada cosmetics do not use FD&C dyes in our formulations, however we do produce lip colours for other brands who choose this option.
OTHER BRANDS - Eco-conscious brands who are honestly using FD&C dyes in their lip colours in order to achieve a "pop" of colour, and matte nudes while still maintaining "vegan" status are:  Elate (Vibrant Range), ILLIAHynt (one shade), Tin Feather (Pure Anada partner)

** There are several brands who I believe are using FD&C dyes to pigment their lipstick, while claiming they only use minerals.  I don't want to publicly list these brands.  So to empower YOU as the consumer.  Here's what to look for.  Vibrant, bold shades, or matte nudes with pink undertones.  These can only be achieved with FD&C dyes.  See the examples I clipped from online (below).  
What to do?  If you suspect the ingredient list doesn't line up with the shade range you are seeing online (or in person), act with grace.  Remember that most brands do not produce their own products.  They may not even know they are being duped by their manufacturer!  Or maybe they do.  Question them!  
If they claim to have tapped into some new technology (more vibrant oxides,  matte micas or fruit pigments) - I would be suspicious.  When a scientific discovery is made, it spreads like wildfire, because new technology means new money!  If a brand has a chemist on staff who made such a discovery - it would be in their best interest to sell it to the other brands in the world than to keep it to themselves.  


This natural pigment has the ability to produce a true pink hue that is matte. On it’s own, it’s a fairly vibrant cool-toned red. Mixed with other iron oxides and titanium dioxide, it is possible to achieve a variety of lovely shades.
The catch…it’s a pigment derived from crushed beetles (cochineal). However it’s also approved for use in food and you’ve probably ingested it several times in your life when drinking a “naturally” coloured beverage. (Fruitopia for example).
You will find carmine listed on ingredient label as: CI 75470.  Certain varieties are approved by Ecocert to be used in COSMOS certified organic products.
BENEFITS – Natural, True Red/Pink, Matte
DISADVANTAGES – not considered Vegan
NOTE – Pure Anada cosmetics at this point in time does not use carmine in our formulations.
OTHER BRANDS - Along with minerals, many natural beauty brands also incorporate Carmine in order to achieve vibrant pinks, reds, and matte nudes.  Burt's Bees, Vapour, Jane Iredale, Dr. Haushka, Zuii, Alima PureRitual de Fille, Lily Lolo, Nudus, Ecco Bella, Kjaer Weis


“Why don’t you just use fruit, vegetable or flower pigment to colour your products?” I am asked this question regularly.  I will be the first to admit that I have not learned everything there is to know about formulating colour cosmetics. However, I do feel I have researched and scoured the globe for these elusive 100% pure fruit and vegetable pigments to use in cosmetics.
To give myself some credibility in this matter, I will briefly share some of my experience. I’ve been crafting makeup for 12 years. Not only do we manufacture cosmetics for our own brand (Pure Anada), but we also manufacture for other brands. Several of these brands are respected and well-known in their territory. Some even have organic certification status.
Together, along with the product development managers of these brands, we have scoured the globe to find plant pigments to use in their products. We have communicated with technical departments of the lead cosmetic pigment suppliers in the world.
In a nutshell, there ARE colorants available which are derived from plant sources: annatto, beta carotene, caramel for example. They are drab, dull, and not light-stable. Furthermore, the majority of them are only water soluble. For lip colors, one needs a pigment that is soluble in OIL.  An extract of Alkenet Root can be made to be dispersed into oil-based products - but there isn't bold payoff.
There is one company who produces oil soluable plant pigments which they call microzests. When I first heard of them years ago I was SO excited! Finally, I could pigment lipstick with “microzest” from rose or bamboo. I sampled them, and unfortunately, they were a tremendous disappointment. The pigments were sheer, with virtually no color pay-off, and weren’t at all what we had hoped.
Then there are fruit and flower EXTRACTS or WAXES. These are beautiful additions to formulas, but they do not provide any color.
Here’s the scoop – some brands load their formulas with fruit, flower, or plant extracts and put a marketing emphases on these ingredients, leading consumers to believe it is these ingredients that are creating the pigmentation. Some brands even state – pigmented with fruit and flower extracts. To my knowledge there is no such thing. This is misleading.  Especially if they do not list the pigments they are ACTUALLY using to colour their product.
BENEFITS – Sounds like an amazing idea! Why isn’t everyone doing it?
DISADVANTAGES – Cannot find a supplier for the mysterious “fruit and flower” pigments.
NOTE – At this point we do not have the knowledge of, or access to fruit, flower or plant based pigments that function in cosmetics.


Is a bright white mineral which gives makeup “coverage”. Without it, mineral makeup (and most traditional makeup for that matter) would be sheer, with little to no coverage. It has natural sun-blocking properties. The more TD in a formula, the greater sun protection the product has to offer.
Titanium dioxide sounds like a villainous ingredient and I’ve replied to many concerns regarding its safety over the years. It’s an ingredient used in many different industries. TD is used in everything from paint, to candy. There are different grades, ensuring different levels of purity.
It’s also available in different particle sizes. A larger particle size offers a more opaque finish (more coverage). The smaller particle size creates a product that is more translucent. A concern that many scientists have regarding minerals are those which are micronized into nano-sized particles (under 100nm). TD in nano-sized particles is often used in sunscreen products because it applies translucent. There isn’t enough research as to the safety of nano-minerals. Do they absorb into the bloodstream? What happens when they are inhaled? Do they pass through the blood/brain barrier?
The TD used in Pure Anada products is approved by COSMOS Ecocert, and has a particle size of approximately 30microns (NOT nano-sized particles).
Titanium Dioxide is used in lipstick formulations to whiten, or lighten the shade. It is also used to coat some mica pigments to give them a light/white hue.
You will find titanium dioxide listed on cosmetic labels as CI 77891
BENEFITS – Vegan (mineral based), Matte
DISADVANTAGES – Only available in White, some controversy over safety
NOTE: Pure Anada Petal Perfect lipsticks incorporate mica minerals that are coated with TD
OTHER BRANDS:  Brands listed above, which use Mica and/or Iron Oxides in their lipsticks will also use Titanium Dioxide to lighten and whiten their colour range.


Ulgramarines are used in mineral makeup and natural cosmetics to offer a vegan and matte alternative to FD&C dyes. They are indispensable to help cool down unwanted warm tones, as a result of using iron oxides to pigment foundations and cheek colours especially.
Without the use of Ultramarine Pink in cheek colors, natural mineral makeup would be either very warm (orange-based) due to the iron oxides, or very shiny/luminous, due to the mica. Other alternatives for matte pigments in the pink tones are carmine (not vegan), or FD&C dyes.
Without the use of Ultramarine Blue in foundations, mineral based foundation would all have yellow/orange undertones. Adding minute amounts of Ultramarine Blue is an effective method to cool down these unwanted tones.
There is some confusion as to the safety of Ultramarines in cosmetics. The FDA states on their website that Ultramarines are NOT permitted for use in LIP products. See this chart HERE from the FDA.  One would think this is because it has been tested to be harmful. In this case (from my understanding), it is the opposite. Ultramarines are not permitted for use in lip colours because they haven’t (yet) been tested to be safe (as other food-grade FD&C dyes).
There is some inconsistencies however. I’ve communicated with a representative from Health Canada, who confirmed to me that Canada does not have these restrictions.
BENEFITS – Vegan, Matte
DISADVANTAGES – Not permitted for use in lips (FDA), Sheer (not a lot of colour pay-off)
NOTE – We do not incorporate ultramarines into any of our lip formulations.
OTHER BRANDS:  Not many brands use ultramarines to pigment their lip colours.


Manganese violet is an inorganic salt ammonium manganese pyrophosphate used as a colorant.
Manganese Violet is used in lipstick formulations to cool down the warmth of oxides used in a 100% natural lipstick.
You will find Manganese Violet listed on cosmetic labels as CI 77742
BENEFITS – Vegan, Matte
DISADVANTAGES – Muted violet tones that aren’t true to colour when incorporated into an anhydrous formulation. For example: Will appear different in the tube, and once combined with the warmth of skin, will oxidize to be a different shade.
NOTE – We do use some manganese violet pigments in our client’s formulations who desire a matte finish, vegan, and 100% natural. It is understood that the shade seen in the tube will be different than the colour applied to the lips.

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