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What else makes pink?

What else makes pink?

Pink is a color that is often associated with femininity, love, and warmth. But pink can come from many sources besides the obvious like flowers or makeup. In fact, there are some surprising origins of the color pink found both in nature and man-made. By exploring the various ways that pink is made and produced, we can gain a fuller appreciation of this vibrant and versatile hue.

Pink in Nature

In the natural world, pink can arise in plants, animals, minerals, and even celestial bodies. Here are some of the most common ways that pink appears organically:


Many flowers contain natural plant pigments called anthocyanins that give them pink hues. Some examples include peonies, cherry blossoms, hibiscus, and pink roses. The intensity of the pink depends on the pH levels in the plant cells. Carnations get their pink color from a different class of pigments called betalains.

Some fruits and vegetables turn pink or red when ripening due to chlorophyll breaking down and anthocyanins increasing. Fruits like guavas, dragonfruit, rhubarb, radishes, and pink grapefruit get their distinct pink shades in this way.


Flamingos’ pink feathers come from their diet of brine shrimp and algae which contain pigments called carotenoids. The more carotenoids they eat, the pinker their plumage will be.

Salmon get their name from the pink meat caused by eating astaxanthin, a carotenoid found in krill and algae. Shrimp and lobster shells also turn pink when cooked due to astaxanthin.

The pink color in some bird species like the pink robin comes from carotenoids obtained through berries and insects in their diet.


Some minerals and rocks can display pink hues. Rose quartz gets its soft pink look from trace amounts of titanium, iron, or manganese in the crystal. Rhodochrosite is a manganese mineral that crystallizes in vivid pink and red bands.

Pink halite is a form of rock salt that picks up a pink tint from small amounts of iron hydroxide trapped in the crystals during formation.


In some environments like lakes, forests, deserts, and coastlines, pink sunrises and sunsets can occur. This phenomena is caused by the way light scatters when passing through the atmosphere. The scattering effect is enhanced when there are more particles like dust or water vapor in the air.

Outer Space

The bubblegum pink hue of the nebula NGC 2080 is created by radiation from hot young stars causing hydrogen gas to glow. Other star-forming nebulae like the Horsehead Nebula can also take on pinkish tones from this radiation.

Penitentes are sharp pink ice formations found only on very high altitude glaciers. Their color comes from concentrated red algae sprinkled across the ice.

Pink in Food

Many foods available today are artificially colored pink for aesthetic reasons. Here are some common sources of pink edibles:

Food Source of Pink Color
Cotton candy Red food dye #40
Pink lemonade Red food dye #40
Watermelon candy Red food dye #40
Pink starburst Red food dye #40
Skittles Carmine, carminic acid
Pink cake icing Red food dye #40
Pink cupcakes Red velvet cake + food dye

While many of these pink foods rely on synthetic dyes, some get their color from natural sources. For example, the pink color of pickled ginger comes from the natural pigment shogaol.

Pink frosted cookies sometimes use berry powders or beetroot powder to achieve a more natural pink hue. Grapeskins are also used as a natural food dye to make pink goodies.

Pink in Nature

Various minerals, gems, and synthesized materials can be colored or tinted pink:


We’ve already discussed how minerals like rose quartz and rhodochrosite are naturally pink. But some minerals are actually colorless until processed in a certain way. For instance:

– Pink halite is clear until iron oxides stain it pink.

– Pink coral is bleached white coral that is dyed pink again with iron oxides.

– Alabaster gypsum is pure white but can be stained pink with various pigments.

Synthetic Stones

Some pink gemstones are manufactured artificially including:

Gemstone Composition
Pink cubic zirconia Zirconium oxide + additives
Pink synthetic ruby Aluminum oxide + chromium
Pink synthetic sapphire Aluminum oxide + titanium + iron

These are made by simulating the properties of natural gems through precise processes and additives. The pink color comes from controlled amounts of specific dopants.

Plastics & Dyes

Many mass produced consumer goods get their pink color from synthetic plastic dyes. These include:

– Toys, kitchenware, tools, electronics, accessories etc. colored with organic FD&C Pink dye.

– Clothing like pink shirts dyed with disperse dyes.

– Cosmetics like blush, eyeshadow, lipstick pigmented with organic dyes like D&C Red No. 6.

– Building materials like pink fiberglass insulation colored with azobenzene dyes.

So pink plastics and polymers get their hue from carefully engineered organic dye molecules.

Pink in Culture

The color pink holds different cultural associations and meanings around the world:


In 20th century America, pink became strongly associated with femininity and women, while blue was associated with masculinity and men. Retail marketing trends encouraged gendered color coding of children’s products.


Pink also represents romantic love in American culture. This is exemplified through pink roses, pink candy hearts, pink Hallmark cards, and more.


The soft, light tones of pink give it an inherent sense of harmless cuteness. Using light pink signals warmth, approachability, and innocence.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Since the 1990s, pink ribbons have been a ubiquitous symbol for breast cancer awareness. Pink is the color of solidarity, hope, and strength for those fighting breast cancer.

Calming Effect

Pale or muted pinks are considered calming colors. These tones of pink symbolize nurturing, reassurance, and health. Light pink rooms may have a soothing, tranquilizing effect.

Other Meanings

The color has different symbolic associations in other cultures. In Japan, pink is the color of springtime and new beginnings. In Latin cultures, bright pink is festive and celebratory.


As we’ve explored, pink arises from a diverse array of natural, artificial, cultural, and symbolic sources. This diversity gives pink a richness and depth as a color. Pink contains multitudes – it can be delicate, vibrant, artificial, organic, calming, cheerful and more, all at the same time. The next time you encounter the color pink, appreciate the complex interplay of factors that came together to create this vivid, versatile hue.