The Evil Dye Carmine!

This past summer (2011), I was sitting at the table eating breakfast while reading a National Geographic magazine. I read a small one-page article called “Red Alert” (, you might need to use the arrow on the side to get to the correct article), thinking about the red lobsterback coats mentioned while chowing down on my yogurt. About a week later, I read the same article and thought “oh crap”.

Carmine dye

This seems like a super disorganized blog, talking about carmine and beetles and a magazine article, but it’s all related. It’s actually all related to make-up. Carmine dye is a bright red dye made from crushing female cochineal beetles, which are native to South America (Since I’m a scholarly college student, here’s the Wikipedia page for those who want more information: The dye isn’t used as much as artificial dyes since artificial dyes are generally cheaper, but carmine dye has one stronghold – make-up. Carmine dye is listed as an ingredient (or listed as “may contain”) in almost all make-up products.

How the heck is all of this related? Well, before things can really get relevant, I have to digress and discuss my history with make-up.

Me without make-up (Junior year of high school)

Sometime between middle school and high school, most girls start wearing make-up. By my senior year, I only knew a handful of girls who didn’t wear make-up (myself included). I didn’t wear make-up for three reasons:

1. I value sleep very much and didn’t want to wake up half an hour earlier.

2. I didn’t feel like I needed make-up. I’m not being vain or anything, there are tons of people who are more attractive than me, but I know I’m not ugly and I don’t need to wear make-up to look good.

3. Whenever I wore make-up, my eyes would itch and I was paranoid that I was going to accidentally have mascara smeared across my face.

Me without make-up when I’m super tired… (1st year of college)

However, this past summer I decided it was time to learn how to put on make-up. The primary reason is that I inherited my grandmother’s super pale, delicate skin. My grandmother has tons of wrinkles and has had skin cancer, so I decided I needed to start taking care of my skin so that I will still look good and be healthy in the future. Both my moisturizer and foundation have SPF, so I figured that wearing make-up was an easy way to protect my skin. I also started wearing make-up because, as a college student, I get less sleep that I used too. Normally I don’t look bad without make-up, but when I’m tired I look terrible. And finally, I decided to learn how to put on make-up because I read an article (can’t remember where…) that said that (even though it’s not very fair) women who wear make-up have better salaries, jobs, etc (the article also said that more attractive people have better salaries, jobs, etc, which goes along the same lines).

So I googled how to apply make-up, asked my mom for help (of course), and started wearing make-up. I still didn’t feel comfortable, my eyes especially felt itchy, but I figured that I just wasn’t used to how makeup feels. But about a week after I first started putting on the make-up,  I applied my pink lipstick and my lips felt completely numb. It felt like someone had injected Novocaine into my lips. I throw away the lipstick, briefly thought about that NatGeo article, but then just assumed that the lipstick was old.

Two days later, I used my favorite eyeshadow when I put on make-up. It was a L’Oreal eyeshadow in shades of brown. I had to take my dog to the vet that morning, and by the time I was paying for the visit my eyelids felt extremely heavy. I felt like I could barely keep my eyes open. On top of that, my eyes were extremely itchy, worse than ever before. By the time I got home, my eyelids were visibly swollen and painful (and it took three days before they were back to normal). I took off my make-up and reread the NatGeo article. I realized that I was part of that unlucky few in the population who were allergic to carmine dye.

This was extremely frustrating to me. I finally understood why I never felt comfortable wearing make-up, but after going through my make-up I realized that my foundation was the only product that didn’t have carmine dye listed as an ingredient. I had just started wearing make-up, and I was devastated that it seemed like I could no longer wear it. I spent an entire day on the computer, going through ingredients in every brand of make-up I knew (and many I had never heard of) but every search ended with the same results – carmine. I even discovered that my favorite chapstick, one of those Burt’s Bees chapsticks, had carmine in it too. I loved the chapstick because it gave my lips a tingling sensation; it was only until after I had a severe reaction that I realized it was just a smaller reaction due to the smaller amount of carmine in the chapstick.


I can wear make up again!

I was just about to give up, but I did a simple google search: “makeup without carmine”. I was sure that nothing would come up, but I did get a relevant result. Someone posted my same question in a Yahoo! Answers forum, and someone else had suggested e.l.f. cosmetics. I had never heard of the brand, but I quickly looked it up and discovered that e.l.f. uses artificial dyes in all of their products – which means no carmine dye. I also discovered one exception to the other brands – so far, all of the self-sharpening eyeliners that I have found don’t contain carmine dye. I was so relieved to find that I wasn’t doomed to never use make-up again. And I was also really glad to learn that e.l.f. cosmetics are usually only $1, although some lines are $3 (which is still much cheaper than most brands).

So, back to my point, the main purpose of this blog is really just to vent about how pissed off carmine dye makes me. Carmine allergies are not rare, but they are not very common either, so finding information about carmine wasn’t very easy. I also decided to write this blog so that in the rare event that someone else had gone through the same experience with a carmine allergy, they can see that e.l.f. cosmetics were a solution for my problem (so hopefully they don’t feel like they could never wear make-up either). And I just want people to know about carmine dye and the small percent of people who suffer with this allergy. I know this wasn’t the most interesting blog, I probably bored you with my personal make-up history, plus this blog is very unorganized (I had a hard time figuring out the best order to write everything to make it seem relevant…), but I hope that at least you learned something new, whether it’s about carmine allergies or just that fact that your make-up contains ground up beetle guts. :)

These are in your make-up…



Filed under Uncategorized

82 responses to “The Evil Dye Carmine!

  1. Ahhh we got E.L.F because it was cheaper. Awesome, though.

  2. You = lovely with or without makeup

    Great post. I really don’t have much to say in response, though. lol

  3. Karen

    Hi, I have had the same issues and allergic reactions to purple eyeliner and shadows. This is very helpful and I will definitely look for e.l.f. cosmetics. thank you!!

  4. Kat from Texas

    I also have a carmine allergy. I learned this after eating Yoplait Whips Yogurt with a major reaction that landed me in the ER two different times. From there, I figured out that this was why some makeup affects me. Be sure to read labels. I think E.L.F. has one product with carmine in it, I think. I ran across it two days ago in a search for carmine free cosmetics. My theory is that many people are allergic, but they haven’t figured out what the problem is yet. Good luck, and I agree that you are beautiful without makeup, but the moisturizers and SPF in makeup are good for you.

    • Alex

      I have found many products from Aveda that I can use! I too have a severe allergy to Carmine that has landed me in ER a few times.

  5. Kat from Texas

    Mineral Blush by E.L.F. lists carmine as an ingredient. Please be careful.

    • Thanks for letting me know! I always sit there in the make-up aisle reading every ingredient before I buy anything, even if I’ve already used it before. My reaction gets worse every time I’m exposed to it, so I try to be very careful. Luckily I seem to only react to it on my skin, I’m able to eat foods with carmine without a reaction (but I still avoid it as much as possible).

  6. Elaine

    A big thank you for the elf info. I, too, am very allergic to carmine, along with fragrance mix (tons of chemicals) and nickel. Life has become very challenging to say the least. I am constantly looking for helpl

  7. Annamarie

    Hi all, I too have the Carmine allergy and I only wear Origins makeup. They are completely carmine free!! Best of luck to you all.

  8. Michelle H.

    Thanks for writing this blog! I thought I was the only one out there. I’ve been finding more and more that Carmine is in so many products: yogurt, pasta sauce, candy, makeup, etc.

    Most of my severe reactions are from ingesting vs. topical application with the exception of the time I used eyeshadow with Carmine. Itchy, swelling eyes!

    Also, I recently found out my favorite brand, Clinique, has carmine in just about every makeup product! :(

    I think cosmetics companies should move away from using this ingredient considering how many people are having an allergic reaction.

    • Silvia

      Oh my gosh! Really? I remember when Clinique first came out way back when (yes, I’m that old!😂) and they were being promoted as like of the FEW “hypoallergenic” (hope I got it right) cosmetics out there. So if their products, for the most part, contain carmine, What does “hypoallergenic” really mean? Oooooh I feel duped all these years!

  9. Tina

    I am a carmine allergy sufferer also! I dont wear alot of make up, usually just foundation ( i use Mary Kay and have for years with no issues) mascara and a little blush. Carmine is also in candy and food. Pink Good n Plenty, Skittles, some imitation crab meat among many others. My eyes swell completely shut and I get an itchy throat and I am extremely congested. Please read your labels my fellow carmine allergy sufferers!

  10. Krystena

    I too am allergic to carmine. I had two anaphylactic reactions in high school, was allergy tested but results were inconclusive. The only constant between the episodes was I had had Dannon Frusion Fruit Smoothies both days, strawberry banana flavored. I’ve ALWAYS had issues with makeup (and have been wearing the SAME eyeshadow for almost 15 years now because it’s the only one that does not cause itching and swelling)… I just never knew what would make me itchy or why, so I gave up on trying new products. Whenever that issue of National Geographic came out, my fiance came across that article, and asked if I thought this was my allergy. Makeup… red yogurt drink… it all made sense! I’ve since looked at labels closely and avoided carmine, and have not had any issues. I’ve been searching for a while for other people who have had problems, and what they do as far as makeup goes! So I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate this blog and am glad you shared your story! :)

  11. Terry

    I just learned about carmine in a news report. Looking back at my own allergy type symptoms over the years (cosmetics, shampoos, conditions, etc.) I am wondering if I am also allergic to carmine. An earlier post suggested there are likely many people with the allergy, but have yet to diagnose. I completely agree. I am now on a quest to find carmine-free products to try. Thanks so much!

  12. julie

    I have had issues with red lipsticks in the past – a burning or tingling sensation- but yesterday I had a lip swelling / some asthma symptoms reaction to Clinique’s Chunky Cherry Chubby Stick for Lips. I was foolish enough to give it a second try and got the same reaction but a little more intense. I am thinking this is loaded with carmine since it is sheer but rather pigmented. It is going back and I will be buying something without this ingredient in it.
    I feel my reaction was bad enough that this should require a warning on it. If it had been any worse I probably would have needed medical treatment.

    • beverly Cooper

      carmine is very dangerous to me as well I am highly allergic have been for years I first found out i was with yogart then chap stick found out in was in make i can touch someone elses make up and get an allergic reaction that way.. I have a epi pen its so bad that stuff will kill you they need to ban it from every thing it is so dangerous

  13. NA

    I am both orally and topically allergic to Carmine. It took me a few years to figure out that Carmine was the culprit. For makeup I use The Body Shop. There vegan stance and public admission that they use no bugs in their products allow me to shop worry free. Their recent new lines have been very impressive.

  14. Abba

    I must contest “NA”‘s assertion that The Body Shop does not use carmine. Although The Body Shop asserts that it’s against animal testing, it’s not a “vegan” company. It uses animal by-products (lanolin, derived from sheep’s wool, and carmine) in its products. Products in The Body Shop Vitamin E line contain both lanolin and carmine.

  15. Dog Lady

    Thank you very much….now you got me wondering. My reaction too eye make up was just horrible. The eye Dr. say i had Dry eye WRONG!!. I figured it out on my own. Carime is what my eye problem is.

  16. Nancy

    I am also allergic to carmine. Yogurt sent me to the ER. Makeup causes major eye swelling and lip burning. Watch labels for Carmine, Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120. Generic azithromycin (antibiotic) also contains carmine. Tylenol 3 with codeine. Maraschino cherries. Red sprinkles. Pink frosted sugar cookies with sprinkles are particularly offensive. Birthday cake frosting in the red families (pink, purple, orange). Lots of Wonka brand candy. All makeup brands except Origins are suspect. Imitation crab (love crab, hate having to ask chefs to confirm their crab is real and not imitation). Cocktail sauce. Thanks for the tip on pasta sauce – now I will watch for that. Potluck dinners are a nightmare. Just last night, a vegetarian served a cheesecake with Cochineal and I just politely passed on dessert – not sure how to politely tell her she was serving beetles to herself and other vegetarians. Be careful, and please, everyone, keep updating the list of offending foods/products – the FDA won’t save us, so let’s work to save each other!

    • Denise

      Thank you Nancy! I hear you loud and clear as a bell.

    • Silvia

      Hey Nancy, I was thinking the same thing! If carmine could potentially be very harmful for some people why doesnt the FDA require companies to indicate it in THE FRONT of their packaging? Not in the back in tiny letters mixed in with the other ingredients? Personally, I’m SUPER sensitive to Gluten, Wheat, Aspartame (I think that’s how it’s spelled, it’s a chemical in diet sodas) and it’s indicated (nice & legible) for the most part on front labels. But like u said, this is not a priority for the FDA, so we have to do the job & warn each other!

  17. Nancy

    I just started a Facebook page for Carmine allergy sufferers:
    One spot where we can warm each other about offensive foods and products.

  18. Patty

    I came across your blog while looking up carmine allergy. I have a severe reaction to carmine. If I ingest it my eyes will blow up. It has only gotten worse over the years. Before I only got itchy eyes from make up or if I happened to touch my eyes after I touched something with carmine in it. If there is some way to send you a picture of my allergy eyes I will. I also use elf make up products. You can also go to whole foods. They sell vegan make up but it’s very expensive.

  19. I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m off to check up e.l.f. make up now. After a few years of having my face swell up for seemingly no connected reason (carmine is present in loads of different foods), I had one huge reaction and went into anaphylactic shock. Now I find myself in the same make up dilemma that you are in, and constantly find myself checking ingredients, only to be disappointed.

  20. ucknewdemographic

    Carmine sneaks into so many products! I have a high allergy to it and have hated not being able to waltz through the make up picking up this and that along the way! This girl loves her make up! Here are the products I have found that do not have carmine:
    Origins blush – Tropical Pink (blush without carmine is almost impossible to find!) You’re welcome. This took me months to find.
    Merle Norman Dual action concealer medium light
    Hard Candy (I got this at Target) Night Out (black) use as eyeliner~A little goes a long way! Easy does it! You put it on to almost wipe completely off.
    Physician’s Formula Sexy Booster (in the really *cheap* red and black lace please, looks like a hooker line) but decent mascara. This line (Sexy
    booster) is carmine free BUT it has a crappy vanilla fragrance in everything else but the mascara. Do I really need vanilla smelling eyeshadow people?

    Good luck! Hope this helps and if anyone else has other products, especially lipsticks! please post!

  21. Elizabeth KRALL

    Carmine has almost killed me once and just made me sick way too many times. As it turns out it can be labeled as a natural food product. It is particularly prevalent in fake maple syrup otherwise known as pancake syrup and anything that says caramel coloring. I don’t normally eat fake syrup like Aunt Jemima or Log Cabin syrup but was served it in a hotel after telling them I had this allergy. The menu said Pure Vermont Maple Syrup. I had anaphylaxis so badly I almost died. It is really frustrating. I had a medicine that I thought I was allergic to but it turns out the coloring was used in the slow release gel caps. Eating can be like walking in a mine field. My daughter has a similar allergy, it is in some candies and sports drinks too. It is also in gravy master. I can use bare minerals powder foundation but not their new liquid formation. Lancome and Loreal lipstick made my lips look like I burnt them. I am okay with some Clinique but not the gel glosses in any brand. It does make life exciting!

    • Nancy

      Origins makeup does not use the dreaded beetles. Good tip on the syrup. In the US, the bug has to be indicated in some way, so caramel color without another indication should be ok. You are right, it is hard to eat out. Imagine how peanut people (and their parents) must feel! At least our bugs usually come with a color warning! Care to say where you were eating the pancakes? It would be good to know who’s representing pure syrup and then apparently substituting, just so we can avoid it.

  22. Clur

    I am fortunate in that I’m only allergic to carmine that goes on my face but it’s been a tough few years figuring it out.
    Try indie cosmetic companies! I’ve had a lot of luck finding pink/purple/blue/red eye shadows from Shiro Cosmetics that are made without carmine. All of the ingredients are listed on every eye shadow.

  23. I am so glad I found your blog. I have suffered from eye reactions to carmine for years. It seems to be anything that contains purple or “rust” tones. I try to stick to basic brown eyeliner but those sneaky cosmetic companies have a habit of throwing in a little carmine and it gets me every time. I wake up with watery, crusty, swollien red eyes. I call it “pig eye” and believe me it’s not pretty. To make matters worse, as soon as I find something that doesn’t cause me a reaction, they stop making the product or change the packaging. AAAAARRRGG!!! Glad to know I’m not alone.

  24. Gemini

    Hi, thank you for your blog. I also have a very bad allergic reaction to carmine, but so far only in eye shadows. Makes my eyes red, itchy, and very painful. I’ve had to give up my beloved purple eyeshadow. Also realized its in rust colored and blue hued eyeshadow. As I’ve gotten older or been exposed more my allergy has worsened. Just recently I purchased Urban Decay’s Naked Basics eye palette in all neutral colors. Well guess what’s in the ingredients; May contain Carmine. I didn’t think to look at the ingredients until my eyes got so red, itchy and swollen I had to get prescription eye drops. So be very wary of neutral eye shadows.

  25. Cindy

    Carmine is in everything. I remember getting a gift of perfume called Emeraude, (I have always called it Evenrude, don’t know why, lol) anyhoo, it made my skin itchy and swollen, turns out CARMINE is in it, ONLY its listed as Red 4, (not to be confused with red 40). Carmine can have about 4 different names. I believe Acid Yellow 5 and E120 are also on the list. Just look them up & you’ll see its in EVERYTHING! WTH? And Guess What! While researching which purple eyeshadows don’t have carmine as an ingredient I found out that Carmine is in TATTOO inks, they list it as a “naturally occurring” ink. Ridiculous! Skin cancer cells are naturally occuring but that doesn’t mean I want to have them in my eyeshadow or put in my yogurt for pete’s sake! Carmine is also in shampoo/conditioners (like Dove), dawn dishwashing soap, face creams, lotions, nail polish, in a long list of foods, processed meats, sports drinks, flavored drinks, geeze, it never ends! Would you like extra toppings of crushed beetle in your yogurt? I don’t even want to think about what this crap does to my insides after seeing what it does to my outsides!

  26. PJ

    Thank you for posting this blog. Just a warning for those of us who have this allergy: Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin & Nails vitamins (sold at Costco) contain carmine color.

    I didn’t think of it in my vitamins (sigh) and after several days of very itchy skin after starting them, I read the inert ingredients. I have contacted the company and asked them to reconsider its use in vitamins and told them of my reaction. I am used to looking for it in makeup, but never had it pop up in vitamins before.

    Over the years have found two makeup brands that don’t seem to contain it in the products I have used: Origins from Macy’s and Korres, a Greek brand which is harder to come by in the U.S. They both use iron oxide instead. Had not heard of e.l.f. (but I am middle aged). Also, didn’t know that about Yoplait yogurt, although I always buy a “natural” local brand. Good to know and thanks to everyone who has made comments.

  27. Debi

    Great blog, not boring at all – especially to those of us that are allergic. I’m so upset right now with Almay, I just got off the phone with their Claims department, was first talking to a customer service rep, when she heard me getting upset that they knowingly use this ingredient, she quickly xfered me to the Claims Dept.; they state they’re hypoallergenic, and even their purple eyeliner she says has Carmine under the “May Contain” ingredient list – what’s that all about, it either does or it doesn’t – why the mumbo jumbo! I typically only by animal cruelty free/natural products still without looking for the Carmine b/c I wouldn’t think they’d use, but after reading – here and other stuff online – guess again! So I figured, what the hay – I’ll give something conventional a try so grabbed Almay again, since they’re supposed to be hypoallergenic and did so without reading any labels because it was before I actually knew to look for Carmine which was just yesterday…my eyes are a red hot mess! :**( Using Similason “Irritated Eye Relief” fka “Pink Eye Relief” regularly since yesterday, not seeing much improvement – yet, guess I’ll keep at it unless anyone has any other suggestions to relieve all these nasty symptoms. Now to be on the lookout for this nasty little devil that can disguise itself under so many names in so many different products – they use in fabrics too! Thanks for bloggin’ ~ thanks for your ear! :))

    • Try 1/4 tsp of boric acid powder dissolved in 1 Cup boiling water. Stir till it dissolves, let cool and bathe your eye with it. soothes about anything eye related and doesn’t have allergens like preservatives.

      • gwen

        Way to go Debi. I’m glad you called Almay. These companies need to get their acts together. Also, people who are Vegans are being mislead. Make up is a different story but why do they find it so necessary to make everything a shade of dark red? I do know they are starting to use beet juice as coloring.

      • Debi

        Thanks Jen, not sure why it took me so long to notice your reply, but greatly appreciated. :~). This blog has been so valuable and love getting notified when new people comment!

  28. gwen

    I’m sorry you all are allergic. I now don’t feel all alone. I also am allergic to Carmine. My eyes swelled 6 times in 2 years before I finally figured it out by luck. I’d eaten 1 red tortellini from Sam’s Club and within 5 minutes my eyes started to itch (left eye always suffered the worst all 6 times) and within 10 minutes I wasn’t breathing so well……had to go to ER on the military base. Then, it all came to me, I was allergic to my eye makeup in the 80’s. What is strange is I use to eat immitation crab meat with no issues but I’m thinking since I had my gall bladder out, things are worse. I can wear some carmine makeup but if it starts to itch I don’t dare rub it but quickly remove it. I also keep ZADITOR EYE DROPS in my car, purse, nightstand. I’ve been tempted to eat some to see if I’m still allergic but afraid. I’m also allergic to Nickel. My belts and metal buttons on jeans leave tiny blisters on my tummy and hip bones. I have no other allergies but do suffer from Seborrheic dermatitis face, scalp) and rosacea on my face (nose area) btw……I’m a 46 year old female. Good Luck to all.

    • Tina

      Gwen, The good news is not ALL crab meat has carmine. Trans Ocean Crab Classic has it but I believe it’s Louis Kemp that doesn’t. I love crab meat but I will not order it in a restaurant. Everyday is an adventure with this carmine allergy… Good luck! Oh and Carmine allergy friends, Skittles, yes those yummy little candies have carmine in them! Steer clear that was my allergy finder.

  29. kara

    thank you for writing this blog and to all of those who’ve responded. Until recently, I could never figure out why I felt like I had dry eye, or pink eye after wearing purple eye shadow. I also have Rosacea and sebhorrheic dermatitis on my face and scalp … so I am wondering if Carmine is causing flare ups of those skin conditions. I found a cruelty free line that contains no beetles … it’s Josie Maran. I tried the purple eye shadow to start and it’s been great. I’ll probably need to change out a number of thing in my make up bag.. and start watching foods.

  30. jackie margolese

    What a wonderful blog. I am a Carmine sufferer and this will be a huge help in replacing my make-up. As I am 77 years old, going without make-up is a pretty scary option😊


  31. jackie

    Bare Minerals has many products without carmine – you just have to cheek each one.

  32. I haven’t been wearing makeup for a year now, since every time I put eyeliner on my eyes would start swelling up and by the end of the night looks I had pink eye. I found this blog and was amazed by how many people are affected by their makeup. Around the holidays I took my husband to every store in the mall on a search for makeup not containing carmine. Everyone I picked up had it (I prefer plum eyeliner). Since reading this blog I have tried the E.L.F. makeup and love it so far. Thank you for opening my eyes to a produce that works.

    • Debi

      That’s great news on the make up of the ELF brand, I’m curious did you end up getting plum or purple because that’s my color of choice as well I don’t seem to have a problem with any other colors, maybe some browns though as they’re most likely made with red too, do both of my fave I can’t wear!! 😔 Thank you good luck all. Debi

  33. MJ

    Thank you for all the great info! I have used Clinique for years and thought it was the best product for me, then find out it has been KILLING my eyes for years!! This Carmine is EVIL!!! Big shout out to the ppl for putting other options out there, saving me the leg work!! :-))

  34. Pia

    I am also allergic to carmine and I have use nowadays only The Body Shop makeup which is vegan and there fore without Carmine totally.
    So no need to check the contents all time. Slightly expensive but good quality makeup.


  35. Kim

    I’m also terribly allergic to Carmine. I thought my purple eyeliner was infected, but turns out my friend insisted she wanted it and nothing happened to her. That was 2010.

    Fast forward, my lips peel when I use lipstick, my eyes water when I use foundation, and even some black mascaras make me have “pink eye.”

    Now I’m on the search for carmine-free makeup….thank you for posting your story!!

  36. Debbie

    For the past month and a half I’ve had the itchy red swollen eyes and I think I’ve pinned it down to my makeup. Never would have know it could be carmine until I read this blog. Thank you for the info I’m going to try these products you suggested. It takes several day for my eyes to clear up after a breakout, what’s strange is that it all of the sudden stared causing me problems.

  37. Cassie

    Oh dear girl, you are a blessing! I have recently (yesterday) learned of carmine. I was in search of a cream to help my allergy eyes only to discover the real problem is carmine. I high tailed it to bareMinerals where I found some lovely colors without coloring. I have gone through almost all of my make up at this point (and to my husband’s frustration) will be tossing much of it out and heading to the nearest e.l.f retailer, thanks to you! I have been going this mor ing and was lucky to find your blog early. 😍☺️

  38. Anna noon

    Have reacted to elf eye shadows. Discontinued use of the shadow and resumed with my previous product. Wash my brushes regularly and today decided to retry the eld shadow. Name reaction occurred (itching, redness, pain). Ironically, have no problem with eye pencil. ELF public relations will be contacted.

  39. I had Centrum multivitamin/multimineral supplement flavor burst (chewable) yesterday. At first glance I knew I had to check the ingredients because they look like gumballs in the colors blue, purple and red. I looked near the end of the ingredients where colors are usually listed. Red 40 lake was there so I assumed I was safe. 30-40 minutes later I could feel an allergic reaction coming on. Itching eyes with rapid swelling. I checked the ingredients on the bottle again. Carmine was #14 on the list. Gahhhhh. Today I woke up and my eyes are still a little puffy and itchy but not as bad as usual. Whenever I realize I’ve eaten something with carmine I immediately drink a ton of water and eat a bunch of food. I don’t know that is medical sound but it’s helped me a couple times.

  40. Mackenzie

    I could hardly read this blog because my eyes are so swollen and I just got a new loreal eyeliner. I am willing to bet that it had carmine dye in it and I am going through exactly what you did, thank you for writing this!!

    • Rebecca Sanchez

      I bought this amazing Loreal Silkissmee purple eyeliner. Loved the color and the silky application. Eyes started itching immediately, was in denial it was the culprit of red and swollen eyes for three days. Had to go to eye doctor and get drops. He said it burned my white part of my eye. Just used Ulta blue eyeshadow for 2 days and am now dealing with the same problem again. After reading this post I have found that carmine is in both products. Redicuous!!!

  41. Dianne Sanborn

    The whites of my eyes today are blood red, I just found out that I am extremely allergic to carmine. 2 days ago I bought a purple eyeliner from the company Marcelle which is known to have hypo allergenic products which are expensive and I am now sitting with very red itchy eyes. I will be giving them a phone call today. Will let you know their response.
    Dianne, Montreal

  42. tikigliders

    Great post! So many people suffer with this allergy. And it is so many products! Yes it’s frustrating to not be able to go into the makeup store and pick anything that looks pretty. I encourage all of you to check out this website for information on carmine and also lists carmine free products:

    Perhaps we could all band together to give product suggestions and come up with a good list of options!

    • Yes, that’s a great site. It contained some of the first info I found about my problem. However, I contributed a comment there in which I included my experience with Urban Decay’s Naked 3 palette (the rose-y neutrals) and encouraged them to remove UD from their list of companies that doesn’t use carmine. Per UD’s website, it’s got that “may contain” bullsh*t line with carmine right in the Naked 3 palette’s ingredient list.

  43. jackie

    Has anyone found a Carmine Free black eyeliner?

  44. Jessica

    ORIGINS is NOT Carmine-free! I just looked up ingredient list for LipZings and read “may contain carmine”.

  45. At the age of 45, I finally found the culprit that’s been giving me eye problems off and on since my teens! I remember having a nasty reaction in high school to a orange/bronze shade in an Almay palette I owned…bumps, red eyes, etc. As I aged I realized I always woke up with goopy, crusty eyes after wearing certain mauve, pink, purple or orange-y shades. Didn’t happen after wearing all pink or mauve shades (may have depended on the concentration of carmine), but when it did I looked like a zombie for 2 days. The bad reaction for me doesn’t also doesn’t seem to occur with lipstick or lip gloss, just eye products….but the eye surface is also extremely delicate, too. It all may depend on how sensitive a person is to carmine, & the amount that’s present.

    Last year I bought Urban Decay’s Naked 3 palette, which is their set of rose-based neutrals. Girrrrrrl…..oh my! It’s been challenging to narrow it down to which shade(s) gave me problems, but it seemed like every time I used that palette I woke up with the goopy zombie eyes. RIP, Urban Decay Naked 3 palette….I love you, but can’t deal with you.

  46. Sandy Carlson

    I am allergic to Carmine. I am still able to wear some Mario that contains Carmine, but I definitely have to stay away from pinks, purples and browns with a reddish hue. Bought a 24 hr. lipstick in a pretty red shade and forgot to even check for Carmine. It didn’t cause an immediate reaction, most lipsticks don’t, but I decided with it being that red, I should have it on my mouth. I have severe reactions to foods/ beverages containing Carmine. It causes my face to swell ( eyes almost swell shut) and my through the swells a little. It also takes 3 days for my face to look normal after taking Benedryl to slow down the reaction. I hate having to always ask what the ingredients are in some beverages at restaraunts. Most the time I just don’t order them.

    • Sandy Carlson

      Where it says “Mario”, it was supposed to say makeup. Where it says I decided I “should” have the lipstick on my mouth, I meant “shouldn’t.

    • MAC has a prolong wear lipstick in the color prolong. If I wear that one more than one day in a row I start to get blisters at the corners of my mouth. I get the puffy eyes thing too. So scary and over counter meds never seem to do much. I just stay home for a day or two if I experienced an extreme reaction.

  47. Firstly – THANK-YOU so much for writing this! I am almost crying reading the comments on this post (but trying not to because, y’know – it hurts!!)

    Even though this is an older blog post, it was one of the first results Google gave me when I suddenly realised, just tonight, that I may have a Carmine allergy.

    I’ve always had super sensitive, Bloodshot eyes. I’ve always had a horrible reaction to Purple eyeshadow but alas – it’s my absolute favourite shadow colour.

    I’m a Vegetarian so am used to checking labels on Food… But I never even think about cosmetics unless it says “Cochineal or Gelatin”. I’m so frustrated at how many names Carmine has!

    I had the realisation that “Cruelty free” / “Not tested on animals” does NOT automatically mean a product is vegan!

    I feel like such an idiot for not realising this labelling assumption sooner!! I now need to go email every cosmetics company I own products from.

    Unfortunately I got 4 pretty pricey Eyeshadow pallettes for Christmas & have recently been restocking my entire cosmetics collection – well.. Let’s just say I’ve wasted a whole lot of money & I wish I’d realised sooner.

    Starting all over again sounds like hell right now.. But not having my eyes constantly screaming at me sounds like heaven.

    Yup – I’ll be making a ‘Ranting at my own stupidity’ video asap!

    • Nancy

      Origins does not contain carmine. Best of luck!

      • Thanks for the info!
        I contacted them over a month ago & just got a reply yesterday.
        Unfortunately it was a bit of a template reply & they said the usual “we abide by all fda laws” etc but did say that I would need to ask about a specific product to get extra information on ingredients. Strange thing is – I did ask about a specific product!
        I’ll check them out again soon :)

  48. Laurel Bush

    Thank you ever so much! I just realized what my allergy is tonight. This blog really helped. My eyes have been going insane. Purple is my favorite eyeshadow and every time I wear it, I react. I’m reading up on all of this and really appreciate your insight.

    • Paige

      I love purple eyeshadow too and found I can wear Josie Maran’s Polynesian purple eyeshadow. I got it at a Sephora. Good luck! I also know they sell it on QVC.

  49. Hey all,

    I’d encourage you to join the Carmine Allergy facebook page. Then you can share info for other people who suffer from this allergy.

    Found our last night that carmine is in Runts candy. :(

  50. Jen

    Holy cow! I have had three severe allergic reactions to make up in the last 4 weeks I tried a new Loreal blue eye liner-and thought I had pink eye. I took the pink eye medication, stopped wearing make-up for a few days and my eyes healed up. I used the eye liner again and my eyes were blood- red again. The eye doctor put me on a prednisone to to reduce the incredible inflammation in my eyes. I realized it was the make-up causing the reaction. I threw it away. I went out and bought new eye line by Almay- a brand I have always used- I bought the purple color. This morning, my eyes are bright red and swollen. I am so grateful to have found this post and can relate to so many others. Now I will be more cautious when I buy make – up.

  51. Haley

    Thank you so much for writing this! The exact same thing happened when I used the L’Oréal palette and I was so miserable! I’m so glad to know that other people have this allergy. I was worried that I could never use eye shadow again but I’m so glad to know elf worked for you. Thanks again!

  52. melanie

    I am also allergic to carmine and was wondering about tattoo ink brands. Does anyone have any information on this?

  53. Jan (Chaelmom)

    This is an outstanding Blog. Thank you so much for writing this article. Just had extensive Chemical Testing (CAMP testing) by a special Dermatologist, and Carmine, Lanolin (in Destin Original, A&D ointment, Aquiphor ointment, which I put on my lips 24/7!) (Praise God Cerave came out with an ointment that has no lanolin!) and many other cosmetics topped the list. Please, I encourage others to get checked, as there are also other chemicals methylchloroisotriazolinone, and methyoisotriazolinone that has reached public awareness hyper sensitizing millions who are totally unaware, and these chemicals are in just about all shampoos, detergents, dish soap, hand soap, body wash. My EYES ARE KILLING ME AND WHO KNEW THAT THE AVEENO PURE AND NATURAL SHAMPOO RECOMMENDED BY ANOTHER DERM WITH NO SULFATES, NO PARABENS, NO PHTHALATES, BUT was FULL OF MSI AND MI WAS POURING OVER MY EYES AND DOWN MY BODY FOR 2 YEARS! I also contaminated myself every time I applied body cream, deodorant, hand lotion, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, mascara, foundation etc. Had to change all my house cleaning products, cleansers, window cleaners, disinfecting cleaners etc, to comply with my Doctor’s recommendations. I have PURGED MY HOME, AND MY HUSBAND IS NOT ALLOWED TO USE ANYTHING I CANNOT USE BECAUSE OF CROSS CONTAMINATION PROBABILITY. Can no longer wear any FRAGRANCE (does PINK COLORED Lancome La Vie Este Belle have Carmine?????? ) No way to find out. My doctor said it will take 2 months to 6 months away from these products to see any relief. I am taking these allergies VERY VERY SERIOUSLY. And to think I used nothing but purple eyeshadows for years, and kept having eye issues without realizing they could be part of the cause!

  54. Jan (Chaelmom)

    CONTINUED FROM ABOVE: My Doctor gave me a 153 page document of the only products that I am allowed to use as a result of these allergies. Even TOPICAL PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS contain the MSI, and MI. One in particular was something I had to have specially compounded and was not even covered by my insurance. I called the pharmacy and the BASE for the cream had the MSI and MI. Do Benadryl caplets contain Carmine? So one would think I have many choices of products to use. ACTUALLY NO, BECAUSE MANY OF THE RECOMMENDED ITEMS ARE DISCONTINUED OR UNAVAILABLE! I cannot tell you the countless hours I spent on the net trying to find any suitable products that were any way close to the quality of what I had been using. Many Cerave products are safe but do not feel the same on my skin as other products I previously enjoyed. I am however grateful for this quality company. Who would think Mabeline Mascara would be the only one I could use (and only one particular style of so many!) I can never eat a red or pink food again (unless it grew out of the ground that way); not a jelly bean, M&M, red candy, Red Velvet Cake, or any other red dye food artificially colored with “natural coloring.” No more LOBSTER BISQUE (CONTAINS “CRAB FLAVORING” (ARTIFICIAL CRABMEAT COLORED WITH CARMINE!!!!!) PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE GET YOURSELF CHECKED AND TAKE THESE ALLERGIES VERY SERIOUSLY. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!

  55. Jan (Chaelmom)


  56. Thanks for posting this – I have a severe carmine allergy. I ended up in the ER in anaphylactic shock one time when I accidentally ate yogurt containing carmine. Only after that happened did I piece together what was happening with my face, I thought I had severe eczema and my doctor kept prescribing a cortisone cream. It turned out that the make-up I was using had carmine. Aveda doesn’t use carmine and I now only buy cosmetics from them.

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