Article by: Perry Romanowski

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


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)




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    How can i make a water based crem foundation like mac can any one give me the formula

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    Hi, thanks for this information. I make powdered foundation for personal use but am not happy with the finish. It tends to be flat and dry and emphasises winkles. I have tried to make a liquid foundation but I find the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide seem to sit in my pores that are not otherwise pronounced. The formula (whether silicone, oil or lotion based) is gritty. Could it be the size of the powder particles? Are you able to share a liquid foundation formula? Thanks.

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    how to remove hot air bubble in cream to powder foundation when pour in lid conteiner ?

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    How to formulate full coverage foundation? Do i have to increased percentage ofprimary coverage pigments or fillers?

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      Perry Romanowski

      See the post above on how to formulate a foundation.

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    I Want ask about the formula
    Can use one type of pigment as iron oxide (red) to make all the formula (500gm)?
    or shoud be add all type of pigment to the formula

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      Perry Romanowski

      Yes, you can use one type of pigment for the formula.

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    Hi dear Perry,
    Would u plz kindly help me? I make a W/Si foundation cream and it seems all is good with good feeling & coverage but in stability test the pigmets are revealed on its surface, i do not know why. please help me if possibel.

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    I am glad that you post easy formulations would you help me out for B.B. cream formula for all skin types and cover oily skin please share The formula.

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    Which ingredient or ingredients impact the amount a coverage (full, medium, light) the foundation gives to the face?

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    Dyvanna Roca

    hello my name is Dyvanna I was curious what ingredients makes foundation more green and more yellow because I have hard time finding the right color of foundation because I have extremely olive skin tone. Also if I want to add more coverage to a tinted foundation what ingredients do I need to get. Thank you for your help.

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      Perry Romanowski

      The ingredients responsible for the color are typically iron oxides or mica.

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    Does anyone have experience making a foundation ( pressed powder or liquid ) that can be used on any skin complexion?

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      Perry Romanowski

      I’d suggest you post your question in our forum

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

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    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?

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    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 .

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      Perry Romanowski

      See our page on where to find free cosmetic formulas.

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

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      Perry Romanowski

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

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    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?

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      Perry Romanowski

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

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

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          Perry Romanowski

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

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            Ajay Patel

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

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

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          Perry Romanowski

          Sounds like a stability problem.

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        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

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          Perry Romanowski

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

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    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!:-)

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    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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