powder dispersions

Article by: Kelly Dobos

Classical cosmetic pigments are made in large batches so there are unavoidable, slight variations in shade or other quality from batch to batch. The pigments are supplied as dry powders where primary particles exist in various states of aggregation and agglomeration that amplify the variation in color properties when evaluated as dry powders. These pigments must be fully extended or dispersed in a vehicle to get as close as possible to primary particle size to see the full development of color.

Dispersion is the process of wetting, separating and distributing pigment particles in a medium. It requires intense energy input through high sheering in liquids or pulverization in powders. It can also require specialized equipment.

powder dispersions

Quality Controls of Colorants

Things to consider when creating standards

  • Evaluate at least three lots of material from the supplier including the designated standard lot. It is important to note differences in synthesis, substrate, and composition can cause variation in color space between suppliers so they are rarely drop-in replacements and should be evaluated independently.
  • You and your supplier should understand and agree on specifications, standard, and test methods presented by the supplier.
  • Ensure product development is performed with material that is representative of the supplier’s product capabilities. Selecting a lot for development work that is at the edge specifications can be problematic.

Shade Evaluation

Your light source for evaluation must be specified and controlled.

  • Dyes: Visual and spectrophotometric evaluation in solution.
  • Pigments: Pigment cannot be evaluated as received in dry pigment form because the degree of aggregation and agglomeration varies from batch to batch. Wet dry dispersions (depending on the end application) are prepared under defined conditions and to a defined level of dispersion.

As the formulations and compositions of base formulas varies widely between end users or pigments, internal tests can be developed to better understand and prepare for shade adjustments in production as it would be impractical for the supplier to develop a quality method for every possible customer.



  1. Maryam

    Thank you for your help! The isododocane works perfect in my formula I am not sure if other suppliers make pre-dispersed pigments in this particular liquid how would I access this? Is it possible to grind the pigments myself ? Would the glass Muller grind it fine enough or I shouldn’t have bought it ):

    1. Kelly

      Maryam, you can certainly use the muller to grind the pigments into isododecane if you find that works for your formulations.

  2. Maryam

    Tell me step by step,

    1) do I need to both wet and disperse iron oxides as well as D&C lakes (failed attempts I have used Isocaine , Dimethicone 500, & octyldodecanol )

    2) I purchased a glass Muller to better grind the pigments (they weren’t fine enough and crumbled the formula I could feel the pigment on my face / lips) should I put it in the spice blender and then grind using the glass muller?

    3) wetting agents and dispersing agents what is the difference?

    4) how do I choose the right dispersing agent for a liquid matte formula that is free of water and oil?
    How do I choose a dispersing/wetting agent for oil based cream foundations & silicone foundations?

    1. Kelly

      Yes, you need to disperse iron oxides as well. You may wish to buy pigments that are already dispersed if you do not have the proper equipment. Wetting and dispersing are different but the material used is both the wetting agent and dispersant. You might want to try a new blend from Jeen Chemical called Jeechem TD TM-MC.

  3. Miguel Aguilar

    First I would like to thank you for sharing this information, second I want to ask:
    How can you ensure the color tone of a product (lipstick) between production batches? are there standardized tests required and or developed by FDA, Cosmetics Europe or any other regulation authority?
    Thank you very much in advance.

  4. Kelly Dobos
    Kelly Dobos

    What kind of testing are you inquiring about? It seems to me that you mean microbiological testing because you mention water. If you do mean microbiological testing, I feel that you should prove the integrity and stability of your product prior to sale. Even though it is anhydrous, raw materials are not sterile and consumers or environmental conditions can introduce moisture.

  5. Moreen Kasule

    Its good you mentioned the pigments, for 1 year i have making Lipsticks, lip glosses, and Cream-to-powder foundation, i have now decided that i would like to start to sell my products, do i have got to get them tested since they do have any water added to these products. Your help will be appreciated.

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