Just What's In A Tube Of Red Lipstick?

Its color may seem like the defining characteristic of a tube of red lipstick. But how much of your lipstick is actually color — and how much of it is something else?

Chemistry teacher Andy Brunning put together this graphic that breaks down the major components — and just what percentage of the whole they make up — in a tube of a red lipstick. The majority of the components are, unsurprisingly, oils, waxes, and other fillers that give the makeup its bulk.

Things get much more interesting — and distinctive — however, when you look at the dye and pigment that actually impart color. Brunning explains some of the different dyes you might find that make up your preferred shade of red:

Carmine red, also known as carminic acid, is a common red pigment, which is derived from cochineal bugs, a variety of scale insects that live on cacti. It is prepared by boiling the insect bodies in ammonia or sodium carbonate solution, filtering, and then adding hydrated potassium aluminium sulfate (more commonly known as alum).

Another common colour imparting component is a compound called eosin. This is a dye that actually subtly changes its colour when applied. In the lipstick, it is red, with a slightly blue tinge; when it is applied, however, it reacts with the amine groups found in proteins in the skin, and this reaction causes its colour to intensify to become a deeper red. Another benefit of this reaction is that it makes the dye indelible, or long-lasting.