What You Might Not Know: How Do You Get That Pink?

Where did that stunning pink that you’ve got in your closet come from? How do you decide which shade of it to wear on Wednesdays? How do red lollipops, bright pink blush, and wine-tinted lipstick get their glow? 

We’re talking about all shades of that cochineal pink—you know the one. 

You might have heard the term but not know the story, so we’re here to tell you that those hues are all thanks to a bug. More specifically, the cochineal insect.  

Yes, that perfect crimson hue, that deep vibrant red, and much more comes from none other than these bugs, which are responsible for creating around 18 different shades of pink. 

How did we start using cochineal insects?

Cochineal insects are native to South America, Mexico and Central America, and have been the traditional way to dye fabric and a variety of other items for centuries. Aztecs and Mayans have been using cochineal as a dye from as early as the second century B.C. In the 1500s, the Spanish introduced the cochineal insect into Europe, and once it gained popularity it quickly became one of the most sought-after dyes in the region. It even became one of the top choices used to make garments worn by nobles and royalty. However, by the time the 1800s came around and new dyeing methods were introduced into communities, cochineal began to be replaced by synthetic and other natural dyes. 

Even today, it is still being widely used all over the world. 

 

How do you get that colour?

Back in the day, there was great debate over whether the cochineal was an animal, plant, or a mineral. It’s been since confirmed that lustrous pink actually comes from crushing the female cochineal insect; the confusion grew from the fact that cochineal lives and feeds on the Prickly Pear cactus, so can be mistaken for being part of the plant. 

How do you know it’s in what you’re wearing or consuming?

You can see cochineal identified on clothing labels, makeup ingredients, and food packaging under the following terms: 

  • cochineal extract 
  • carmine 
  • CI 75470 
  • crimson lake 
  • natural red 4 
  • or phrased along the lines of "contains carmine as a colour additive"  

What can you dye with cochineal?

The ideal fabrics to catch your cochineal dye are silk and wool, but it also works with cotton and cellulose fibres. Makeup such as lipstick, blush, eyeshadows and various other cosmetics contain it too. You can even find it in shampoos, yogurt, candies (like the red Skittles), lollipops, food colouring, frozen meats and fish (like artificial crabsticks), drinks, ice creams, and so much more. 

As the bugs are so tiny, it can take more than 70,000 of them just to produce one pound of dye. So you can just imagine the amount it takes to mass produce fabrics and foods! It’s quite an interesting debate over the ethics of using cochineal in productsfor example, if you’re a vegan you would definitely want to avoid anything to do with this dye. What are your thoughts on utilizing cochineal products? Let us know in the comments below! Remember with Always Trendin, you can pick your fabrics and choose exactly what you need for your clothing line. Send us a message and we'll be happy to chat more with you.

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