The Feminist Beauty Project


toxic ingredients? ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines - lime crime, the fda, and the beauty industry

BEAUTY, EDUCATIONElizabeth Nichin1 Comment

With the FDA's recent warning letter to Lime Crime, many makeup lovers are asking questions about two specific ingredients: ultramarines and ferric ferrocyanide. Are these ingredients toxic? Is it safe to use a product with one or both of these ingredients in it? I'm here with some information that I hope will be helpful in learning a bit more about these ingredients.

I want to preface this post by saying that I am not a chemist or a doctor, but as a consumer who suffers from allergic contact dermatitis, I try to educate myself as much as I can about ingredients commonly found in beauty and household products.

I also want to preface this post by saying that this is neither a defense nor an incrimination of Lime Crime. While I think it is great that as consumers we have access to the FDA warning letter (I love the transparency), there are many details that we, as consumers, do not know in this situation. Instead, I hope this post will share some general information about ingredients and government regulations so that, as consumers, we can all make more informed decisions about what we buy and what we put on our bodies.


Lime Crime Velvetine in Red Velvet (photo from the Lime Crime website)

Lime Crime Velvetine in Red Velvet (photo from the Lime Crime website)

I do indeed own Lime Crime's Velvetine in Red Velvet. I purchased a tube in 2012 and cannot find the box, which is unfortunate because I therefore cannot personally confirm or deny the presence of ultramarines or ferric ferrocyanide on the ingredient list.

Here is the Red Velvet ingredient list according to the Lime Crime website (I have no knowledge as to whether this list was altered following the FDA letter):

Ingredients: Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Synthetic Beeswax, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Isododecane, Flavor (Aroma), Kaolin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol. May Contain [+/-]: Red 30 Lake CI 73360, Titanium Dioxide CI 77891, Iron Oxides CI 77491 CI 77492 CI 77499, Red 6 Lake CI 15850, Red 7 Lake CI 15850, Yellow 5 Lake CI 19140, Manganese Violet CI 77742, Red 27 Lake CI 45410, Red 28 Lake CI 45410, Blue 1 CI 42090. VEGAN/CRUELTY-FREE.

Read Lime Crime's response to the FDA warning here.

So what are ultramarines and ferric ferrocyanide anyway?

Ultramarines: "Ultramarine (CI 77007 colorant) is a mineral-derived blue pigment composed of sodium, aluminum, silicate and sulfate; may be produced synthetically" (from the Environmental Working Group website).

Click here to read more about ultramarines.

Ferric Ferrocyanide: "Ferric ferrocyanide is an iron-based inorganic colorant also known as Prussian blue; one of the first synthetic pigments" (from the Environmental Working Group website).

Click here to read more about ferric ferrocyanide.

Both ultramarines and ferric ferrocyanide are classified as colorants or cosmetic colorants.


After spending some time researching these ingredients, here are a few summarizing points of information that I have taken away: 

1. Both ultramarines and ferric ferrocyanide are deemed safe for use everywhere on the body aside from the lips by the FDA. 

This means that if you are a beauty lover like me, you probably have at least one product in your collection that has these ingredients. I took a very quick look through my collection and sure enough found both these ingredients in my Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette, Sonia Kashuk Eye Couture Eye on Neutral Matte Eye Palette, Physicians Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner + Serum eyeliner, and Physicians Formula Mineral Wear® Talc-Free Mineral Correcting Powder (just to list a few). I did not, however, find any other lip products in my collection containing either ultramarines or ferric ferrocyanide, as that would ultimately be an FDA violation.

2. Ultramarines and ferric ferrocyanide are both commonly listed under the "may contain" or "+/-" section at the end of a product's ingredient list on a laundry list of cosmetics. 

According to the FDA, "Many labels list all color additives of a shade line after the phrase "May contain." The color additives common to all shades must be listed before "May contain", and only those not found in all shade formulations may be listed after "May contain."

Because both ultramarines and ferric ferrocyanide are safe for use in cosmetics (aside from lip products), they are both very commonly used products and can be found on many cosmetic ingredient lists, particularly under the "may contain" section.

3. Ultramarines and ferric ferrocyanide are deemed safe for use on the lips per the EU, but not according to the FDA.  

To me, this just shows how subjective these things are. I think it's also important to note that while the EU has deemed thousands of ingredients unsafe for use in cosmetic products, the FDA has only banned a handful of ingredients. The bottom line is that this is an issue with a lot of grey area.  


So is it safe to use a product with ultramarines and/or ferric ferrocyanide in it? I truly believe it is a matter of personal discretion. I haven't stopped using my Chocolate Bar Palette nor my Red Velvet since the release of this FDA warning. I would love to know your thoughts and how you are staying informed!  

in lipstick & solidarity,