Article by: Perry Romanowski

Click here for a complete list of the Cosmetic Formulation basics series.

Foundation

Foundation or skin colorants are designed to enhance the color and appearance of the face.  They are also used to impart a smooth surface for which other color products can be added.

What foundation does

Foundations are available in a variety of forms including emulsions, anhydrous cakes, sticks, and pressed or loose powders.  They are composed of colorants that are applied to the skin to create a continuous even tone.  The colorants are able to smooth out the surface of the skin and scatter light to modify the color.  Some foundations have additional ingredients that can provide benefits such as skin moisturization, sun protection and anti aging.

How foundations work

A foundation formula is composed of a variety of compounds to impart benefits.  The primary functional ingredient is a coverage pigment and coloring pigments.  Additionally there are filling ingredients, fragrances and depending on the formulation type emulsion ingredients, preservatives, antioxidants, and even UV protectants.

The primary coverage pigments in foundations are Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, and Kaolin.  These produce a white color which is able to scatter light and reduce the skin’s natural color.  Some of these ingredients have the added benefit of being UV protectants.  However, foundation is not applied in a manner that can provide significant sun protection so it is rare that any foundation formula would claim it.

Filler ingredients include talc which can help spread the primary coverage pigments around on the face.  They make the product easier to use.  Filler ingredients include talc, mica, sericite and specialty fillers such as bismuth oxychloride.

Color pigments including red, yellow, and black iron oxides can be mixed to create a shade that matches any skin tone.

Fragrances are often incorporated in foundations because consumers generally like pleasantly fragranced products.  If the formula is going to be an emulsion ingredients like emulsifiers, water, and preservatives are also included.

Foundation formula

Here is a typical foundation formula  (click to enlarge)

 

CosmeticFoundation

18 comments

  1. Pingback:Dealing with Pilling or Flakiness when Wearing Foundation, Part 1: Pilling – x Faced

  2. Deb

    I have a client who has loose mineral foundations from another company and she has asked me to do color matching. Unfortunately I am not sure how to do the color matching as the formulas I use formed part of the company I purchased. Is there a “color chart” which shows ratios needed to make different colors for foundations?

  3. hany

    what is the exact % of iron oxides for the cream foundation containg 20% zinc oxide and 4% tit. oxide ? as i am having problem in formulating good skin tones ..they tend to be yellowish everytime .

    1. Perry Romanowski

      See our page on where to find free cosmetic formulas.

  4. Heather

    Do you have any tips (formula wise) for making a white foundation?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      What specifically do you want to know? Titanium Dioxde and Zinc Oxide are typically used to create white colors.

  5. Ana

    Hi,
    I have noticed that liquid foundation formulated with iron oxides has a tendency to oxidize on the skin. Is there a way to reduce that oxidation?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      What makes you think they are oxidizing on your skin? Iron oxides are already oxidized and shouldn’t oxidize further.

      1. Sabine

        Yes, I’ve noticed this oxidization as well. The foundation becomes darker after it’s applied to the skin. How can this be prevented?

        1. Perry Romanowski

          That depends on the formula ingredients. Probably an antioxidant like BHA will work.

          1. Ajay Patel

            You can also use BHT & BHA (2:1)

      2. margie

        Not sure about the chemistry behind it but they change colors. My foundations turn red or orange a few hours after application.

        1. Perry Romanowski

          Sounds like a stability problem.

      3. jim

        I’m going to produce acrylic water-based paint in poor city. Please send me formulation and the amount of raw materials. Thank you
        Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you

        1. Perry Romanowski

          This is a website about cosmetics, not paint. Sorry, I do not have a formula for you.

  6. Judith

    These formulas have been very helpful.
    I am using them as both a check-and-balance system, performing comparisons to market products, and will be using them as a base in creating my own formulas! Can’t thank you enough Perry! 🙂 @Louis-Martin, thanks for the nutri-bullet tip! I’m definitely going to give it a try!:-)

  7. Louis-Martin

    Using a “Magic Bullet” food processor for lab batches has greatly improved our pigment mixing and/or grinding, and has speed up color matching for foundation and other products. Try the small or medium cup and the X blade.

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