Hourglass and its parent company, Unilever, have developed a vegan alternative to carmine, the beauty industry’s standard red pigment produced from female crushed insects. Reportedly, over 70,000 insects are killed in order to produce one pound of the dye, resulting in as many as 1,000 used for a single, red lipstick. After a three-year-long development process, the brand was able to create a patent-pending pigment, Red 0, marking a major milestone on Hourglass’ journey to becoming fully vegan. The vibrant red hue makes its debut today with the launch of a special-edition Red 0 shade of the brand’s Confession Refillable Lipstick ($40). Here, Hourglass Founder and 2019 CEW Achiever Honoree, Carisa Janes, discusses the process of replicating the pigment, marketing plans to bring awareness to consumers and future plans for the brand.
Beauty News: Why did you decide to look into carmine-free alternatives?
Carisa Janes: The more I learned about carmine and how it’s extracted, the more I knew there had to be a better way. I was floored by the fact that it can take as many as 1,000 crushed female insects to create the red pigment in a traditional tube of lipstick. So, we began collaborating with the incredible R&D team at Unilever to develop a comparable alternative in which no insects would be harmed. As a cruelty-free brand, we pledged to eliminate all animal-derived ingredients from our formulations to become fully vegan by the end of 2020, and Red 0 felt like the perfect product to lead with as we enter this new chapter.
BN: How long did the R&D process take?
CJ: We started working to develop a replacement for carmine in 2018, so it took us three years in total. We tested 36 pigment combinations before landing on the perfect blend of two high-purity vegan pigments that replicate carmine’s color and vibrancy. The R&D team at Unilever is world class, and it’s an innovation that we’re really proud to have created alongside them—an iconic, luxurious shade of red with no insects harmed in the process.
BN: What kind of marketing will be in place to educate consumers about Red 0 and promote the new lipstick?
CJ: We’re excited to host a conversation on Clubhouse, where I’ll talk with industry experts about what cruelty-free beauty means, Red 0, and Hourglass’ journey to becoming 100 percent vegan. It’s a cause that’s very important to me and Red 0 marks a pivotal moment for us as a brand, so I’m excited to be able to share that directly with our customers. Additionally, we’ve produced some really exciting campaign videos that bring the the me and inspiration behind Red 0—zero animal byproducts, zero animals harmed—to life. I think they capture the impact we’re seeking to make with this innovation so beautifully.
BN: After the launch of the Confession lipstick, what other products can we expect to see using Red 0?
CJ: Red 0 is exclusive to this lipstick for now, but we’re always exploring new ways to innovate so there is potential to incorporate it into other products in the future.
BN: Can you share any upcoming initiatives from the brand that will roll out in 2021?
CJ: As we look towards the future, sustainability has become a key focus for us. We’re currently exploring innovative solutions to reduce packaging waste and use more environmentally-responsible materials across the board. We have some exciting launches coming up in 2021, including our biggest innovation to date, which has been years in the making.