O/W (?) liquid foundation

Hi everyone,

let me thank you again for accepting me onboard. It's a real pleasure to read all the wonderful stuff you post, I already found some very useful insight in your old discussions.

I'm an Italian researcher in Humanities with a newly-found passion for cosmetics self-production (so I'm the DIY person).
I read the forum rules and I hope I'm not breaking any of them - if I am, please tell me so that I can correct and educate myself.

Here's my current dilemma. I'm trying to reproduce a well-known liquid foundation but I started having doubts concerning the nature of the emulsion involved. At first I thought it was an O/W, not so sure anymore.

Here's the ingredients list:
Water/Aqua/Eau, dimethicone, hydrogenated polyisobutene, butylene glycol, PVP/hexadecene copolymer, stearic acid, phenyl trimethicone, polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate, ethylhexyl hydroxystearate, VP/eicosene polymer, talc, tocopherol, tocopheryl acetate, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange), fusanus spicatus wood oil, Xanthan Gum, triethanolamine, polysorbate 20, magnesium aluminum silicate, trimethylsiloxysilicate, cetyl alcohol, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin [+/- mica, titanium dioxide (CI 77891), iron oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), chromium oxide greens (CI 77288)], <ILN40892>

What's your take, if any?
Thanks in advance.


  • I think your first task is to translate the INCI speak into real life ingredients, particularly PVP/hexadecene copolymer, VP/eicosene polymer, magnesium aluminum silicate and also ensure that all the components are available to small users.

    Regarding the phase relationship, I'm pretty certain it's O/W (from the position of water in the LOI and the presence of stearic acid, polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate and triethanolamine as emulsifiers.

    Personally, as a starting project, I would formulate something easier and with a wider application such as a cream or lotion. Colour cosmetics such as the one you exemplify can be far from easy to prepare without pigment dispersing equipment.
  • Hallo John,

    thank you for taking the time to comment my post.
    I've been making creams, serums, gels etc. for a little while now, so this foundation is not my very first step.
    I should have said that! (Actually I was giving it for granted, for the reasons you just stated.)

    As for the ingredients, I think I'm getting at it; some stuff is not available to small consumers, but maybe a few substitutions will do.

    My real concern was the kind of emulsion. I'm on my 13th take on this foundation, nearly all my experiments look sufficiently stable (fingers crossed) though of course the final result is still far from satisfactory.

    What I truly need at this stage is some experts' advice about the phase relationship.
    I personally don't think that the position of water alone can be conclusive - technically speaking, this could very well be a W/O with a very high content in water. Or a W/O/W. Hence my request : )

    If I said something silly, you're welcome to correct me, and thank you in advance!
  • No, I wouldn't correct you on this. My comments were also influenced not only by the presence of stearic acid and TEA but also of xanthan gum and perhaps magnesium aluminum silicate (if that is Veegum or similar). These last would not be able to fully exert their influence in a W/O system.

    A simple test for emulsion type is to add a small amount of a water soluble dye (solid or in strong solution) to a sample of the product being examined. If the dye dissolves into the mass of the sample then water is the continous phase.

    Have you seen this (it may be of use to you):


  • Mmmh why wouldn't Xanthan Gum and MAS work nicely in a W/O? Gums can improve a W/O spreadability, MAS is a great suspending agent for pigments, and both can stabilize and thicken the water phase, as far as I know. What am I missing? 

    As for TEA, I thought it was just a pH regulator here, but it sounds like I might be off track, so I'm counting on you to correct me on this one as well.

    Thank you for the eBook (downloaded!) and for your tip. Here are my results.

    - I took a powder dye that I assumed is hydrosoluble. Just to be sure, I put it in two separate containers, one with oil, the other with water. In oil, one can now see the small dye particles, in water it dissolved immediately. OK.

    - I then took the product and did the same. I added a fourth container with an O/W cream, to act as a control unit (lol). In the cream, the dye quickly started dissolving; not really so in the foundation, but after a little stirring I now have rose-coloured foundation.

    What can we infer, in your opinion?

    Thanks again for your kind support John : )
  • Can you measure conductivity? It's the best measurement to determine if you have O/W or W/O emulsion. For W/O/W you need a microscope.

    In your emulsion you have a low HLB emulsifier (polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate) and high HLB one (polysorbate 20), so you are likly to form a multiple emulsion or maybe you can have some lamellar phase since you are at a global HLB of your system close to 10.  At this HLB you can have some surprise with temperature. 
  • Hi Jeremien (maybe Jérémien? : ))

    Thank you for offering your advice. This formulation definitely looks tricky...
    By the way, I guess polysorbate-20 is present just in traces here; it's waaay down in the LOI, and I imagine it could be anywhere between 0,05 and 0,5g. If I'm right on the percentage, would it still be able to exert notable influence on the HLB?

    I've been thinking about measuring conductivity since last night. Not quite sure how to proceed though, since I should build something on my own. I'll try and see whether a couple of wires, some batteries and a small soldering iron can do the trick.

    Thanks again for your help : )
  • do you have a pH meter? Normally it indicates the conductivity. 

  • edited March 2017
    Unfortunately, I don't : (
    But a home-made device should work just as well and it doesn't look too hard to build one, so as soon as I have some spare time I'll do this!

    Anyway... dye test positive, dilution test positive... I guess this is really an O/W emulsion. Or to be more precise, a Si/W one.
    I don't care if it's a W/Si/W, since I wouldn't be able to reproduce it anyway, so I'll just stick to Si/W.
  • personally I'd lean towards W/O, based on the fact that polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate is a W/O emulsifier, it's high up in the list, and the only potential O/W emulsifier listed (polysorbate 20) is a) ineffective; and b) very likely not present in a substantial enough quantity to affect the product as a whole
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • Hi Bill, 

    thanks for coming in to help. The reasons you stated are the very same which led me to change route and start thinking that this could be a W/O.

    BUT: Lameform TGI is also an O/W surfactant. It actually seems to be quite an interesting guy... I guess they chose it for its skills in pigment dispersion.

    Plus, if this was really a W/O emulsion, shouldn't there be electrolytes? I can't see any, though probably this is just my ignorance playing games with me.

  • edited March 2017
    @JulietK Lameform TGI  can be used as an O/W co-emulsifier, but only in combination with another, high HLB emulsifier, and there isn't one listed here; and it is not physically possible to create an O/W emulsion with the listed ingredients

    you're right in that electrolytes are usually used to stabilise the water phase in W/O, but they are not compulsory, and given that there are no other stabilisers listed (long-chain polymeric emulsifiers, or oil-phase rheology modifiers) my hunch is that it's been manufactured using an Ultra Turrax or a similar very high shear mixer, and the emulsion is stable by virtue of having a very small droplet size
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • edited March 2017
    Mmmmh, I'm thinking. Hard.

    Let's see... what if this emulsion was held together mainly by means of thickeners and stabilizers? Is this possible? What if stearic acid played a role in this, along with Xanthan Gum, MAS, and the film-forming agents listed?

    From the heights of my complete inexperience, I think you're right about the Ultra Turrax or similar. Not only for the droplets size, but also for optimal pigment dispersion. In fact, I can't see any coated pigments in the list (unless they are dimethicone-treated, and the two ingredients are listed separately, which all in all doesn't seem probable to me).

    EDIT Oh and wait! It it's a W/O, why did the water-soluble dye dissolve?

    I'll have to run the electricity test : ))

    Thanks again for your time, Bill. It's a pleasure to have so much advice in such a short time. Beautiful forum!!
  • Hallo @johnb,

    I did some research based on your first intervention (O/W emulsion).

    My current understanding is that the emulsifying system in this foundation could be the following:
    - Lameform TGI (emulsifier)
    - stearic acid (emulsifier, increases the steric hindrance)
    - cetyl alcohol (co-emulsifier, increases the steric hindrance as well)
    - TEA (used to neutralize stearic acid -> result = surfactant).

    I'm wondering whether you or someone else can confirm, or contradict, my findings.
    If not, thank you all for helping me.

  • That looks right to me, except you left out the Tween 20.

    I'll add a few other bits of info that point towards an O/W emulsion. First, it's really, really difficult to get a W/O emulsion to suspend pigments, and I don't see any of the ingredients in the LOI required for stable pigment suspension in an oil phase.

    Second, having the synergistic water thickening combo of both veegum and xanthan gum in the formula is also a strong indication of an O/W emulsion - if it was a W/O emulsion, you'd want the water phase to be as thin as possible, so that you could process the batch without truly massive amounts of shear.

    It's very likely that this product is being made completely or at least partially in a colloid mill. If so, it will be tough to reproduce without high shear mixing.

    It's also likely that the (probably volatile) dimethicone is being added during cool-down, and is not being heated with the rest of the oil phase.

    Lastly, you are correct in saying that the MAS/gum combo acts as a co-emulsifier, or at least as a very good emulsion stabilizer.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • Your understanding of the term "steric hindrance" is totally at odds with mine and I cannot see any indication that steric hindered structures are present in stearic acid or cetyl alcohol or that either of them contribute to sterically hindered molecules.
  • Hi @Bobzchemist, hi @johnb

    Thank you both for your answers.

    Bob, you're right, I had forgotten polysorbate-20! Thank you so much for providing the additional information, it really helped figure out this thing.
    I know I don't have lots of chances to succeed, but I'll try. Maybe 12,000 rpm will suffice... maybe not. I'll do my best.

    I like your ideas about the volatile silicone. My guess is that this foundation contains both low-density (5 cPs? Who knows) and medium-density dimethicone (maybe 200 cPs or more). I think I'll try and use both, adding the volatile portion at less than 50°C.

    John, I mentioned steric hindrance because during my research I had come across this:

    "It is probably not an accident that all the effective dispersants which operate  by steric hindrance are either liquids or extremely soft solids like stearic acid."

    https://books.google.it/books?id=O-rcBwAAQBAJ&pg=PA36&lpg=PA36&dq=%22stearic+acid%22+%22steric+hindrance%22&source=bl&ots=sFDbjDzO5u&sig=T5cFzJkguugiFbImQEcflZ0bWmo&hl=it&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiEpc22xuLSAhUD1iwKHX_gDDEQ6AEIMDAB#v=onepage&q=%22stearic%20acid%22%20&f=false (p. 238)

    Maybe the author is wrong, my competences are too low to even try an assessment, I just trusted the book. This looks like a minor question by the way, at least at the current stage of my experiments.

    I'll go ahead and experiment more, based on an O/W emulsion hypothesis. I'll come back to relate as soon as I'm done.

    Thank you again for your help, it's precious. I truly appreciate.

  • edited March 2017
    If you look at the pagina 36 in your link you will see that "steric" is quoted to be not confused with "stearic".

    The meaning of steric hindrance is completely different to anything under consideration here at this time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steric_effects

  • The RPM isn't the only component of shear - but good luck.

    I don't know if pre-dispersed pigments are available to you in small quantities, but they would certainly make formulating a foundation much easier.

    Also, is your goal to learn how to formulate, or to make a useable product? If you just want a product, there are much easier ways to do this.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • edited March 2017

    thank you for answering. I'll have a closer look, and try and see what I'm missing.

    thanks again. I'm actually looking for some treated KOBO pigments, which would make my life a lot easier.
    My main goal is to obtain a usable product. Are there easier ways you would think of? You're welcome to suggest anything that will make my task less complicated.

  • The easiest way to make a liquid/gel foundation is to combine an elastomeric gel solution with a liquid pigment dispersion.

    It's expensive to do this, though, and difficult to fill, which is why you don't see many products like this.

    What products/suppliers do you have access to?
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • edited March 2017
    @Bobzchemist thank you again.

    Elastomer: a copolymer or a cross-polymer, like Silsoft Silicone Gel for example? I have just bought some silicone gel (Cyclopentasiloxane (and) Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer). Would that be useful?
    And by "difficult to fill", do you mean with... what? 

    I have some stuff already, including silicones and some film-forming agents, and I'll soon get my hands on products like Antaron WP-66, DC 556 fluid, Xiameter PMX-3031, and KOBO treated pigments.

    As for suppliers, I'm pleased to see that even suppliers who generally only deal with professionals are sometimes ready to sell small quantities.

    If you have a potential list of ingredients which would be useful for me, I'm all ears o:) 
Sign In or Register to comment.