Non-Vegan Ingredients in Lipsticks to Avoid

Would you colour your lips with crushed bugs, moisturize them with sheep wool fat, add a touch of shimmer with fish scales? Sounds like a horror story? Unfortunately, many of us are doing just that without even knowing. Beyond the yuck factor, these ingredients are non-vegan and can cause severe allergic reactions. Here's how to recognize them on an ingredient label and why you should avoid them:


The crimson red colour in many lipsticks, dyes and other cosmetics, comes from crushed Cochineal Beetles. Cochineal Beetles (Dactylopius Coccus) are tiny insects that feed on cactus plants in Central and South America. The beetles are soaked in hot water, dried and then crushed to give the deep red colour. On the ingredient lists, it will be listed under the name Carmine or Cochineal Extract, Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, Brilliant Scarlet, New Coccine, SX Purple. Carmine can cause an allergic reactions in some people, manifesting as soreness of the lips with cracking and bleeding or leading to the development of respiratory problems and even asthma. It is also known to cause hyperactivity in children.

Sadly, Carmine is not only used in some lipsticks and lip glosses, but also in the food industry to colour candy, yogurt, applesauce, baked goods, red-coloured beverages. Still wanting your strawberry yogurt or that glass of Campari? Yuck!



Lanolin is a type of oily or waxy substance that is produced from the wool of sheep. Lanolin is used extensively in lipsticks and other cosmetics to provide barrier protection to chapped skin, soothe dryness, and provide moisture. There are over 100 lipsticks on the market that contain lanolin, including some sold by renowned brands. Some people may have a lanolin allergy, causing them to develop symptoms when coming into contact with wool or other products containing lanolin, such as cosmetic products and lotions. Some of the most common symptoms of an allergy to lanolin include a rash, swelling and nasal congestion. Additional respiratory symptoms may develop in some people and are particularly dangerous for those with lung problems such as asthma.

Fish Scales (Guanine)

Guanine is a crystalline material obtained from fish scales. In lipsticks and other cosmetics and personal care products, Guanine is used to give a shimmer or sheen to the product. Needless to say that if you are allergic to fish, you shouldn’t consider putting fish scales on your lips or skin.

Beside the dangers of developing an allergic reaction to any of the above ingredients and the yuck factor, if you are vegan, you have an extra reason to read the cosmetic labels carefully in order to ensure they do not contain any of these animal-derived ingredients.

You can rest assured that you won’t find any of these ingredients in our makeup. All Sheer Blends makeup products are 100% natural, vegan & gluten-free.