Is Lipstick Made from Fish Scales?

Most lipstick contains the byproduct of fish scales, called pearl essence or pearlescence — as it turns out, the stuff that makes fish scales flash also makes one's lips shiny. Most pearl essence comes from commercially fished herring. Synthetic versions are available, but they are not widely used.

More surprising cosmetics ingredients:

  • Many skin creams that are designed to promote "luminosity" or to smooth the skin contain cerebrosides — the brain tissue of cows, pigs and other livestock.

  • Red products, including lipstick, blushes and shampoo, are often made from cochineal, a dye produced from crushed beetles. It is said to take 70,000 beetles to produce a pound of dye.

  • Several brand-name mascaras include guano, which is essentially rendered bat feces — though this is not a new trend. Geisha in Japan were known for smearing powdered nightingale droppings on their faces for the white, powdery look.
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