Article by: Perry Romanowski

When I was a kid, I didn’t give much thought to cosmetics. When someone said the word cosmetics, I automatically figured they were talking about lip stick, nail polish, or make-up. I didn’t know that things like shampoos, conditioners, and skin lotions were cosmetics. It turns out they are.

Interestingly, the formulation of powdered cosmetics is not something that most cosmetic chemists will ever be faced with. It is a specialized part of the cosmetic industry and represents a smaller market than things like hair care and skin care. In fact, I can’t remember ever having the opportunity to formulate a pressed powdered cosmetic product. The curse of working in a shampoo factory for my entire career.

Anyway, this article about pressed and loose powders was interesting. It talks about many of the issues that you have to consider when formulating these different types of products and also mentions some similarities.

One of the things the article doesn’t spell out however is a simple listing of some of the specific ingredients that might be included in powdered products. To that end, let’s add to it. When formulating a powdered cosmetic product you need a variety of ingredients including Colorants, Fillers, Binders, and Preservatives.

Powdered cosmetic ingredients

A basic formulation would have ingredients like this.

Colorants – Titanium Dioxide, Iron oxides (yellow, red, black)

Fillers – Talc, Mica

Dry Binders – Zinc stearate, magnesium myristate, or lithium stearte.

Wet Binders – Used to partially wet the pigments. Hydrocarbons, Esters and Silicones

Preservatives – Parabens

Of course, it should be mentioned that making powders and pressed powders requires special manufacturing equipment and it’s rather difficult to make a high quality product without mills and filters. So, this will always be an area that the DIY cosmetic makers just can’t duplicate what the big guys can do.


  1. Avatar
    A. Tread

    Hey Perry do you have any suggestions of the kind of mills and mixers that could be used to create eyeshadows?

  2. Pingback:Breakdown av ingredienser | Tomikos DIY Beauty

  3. Avatar

    Dear Perry,

    I am new to powdered cosmetic area. I am always wondering whether the parabens are still effective in powdered cosmetic since all I know that preservatives must be dissolved in water to be able doing their job.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Great question. The rationale is that powders don’t really need a preservative however by incorporating a powdered paraben in the formula you take care of the time when the formula gets exposed to water. This is the time when it might grow microbes and if there is a powdered paraben around it can dissolve in the water and prevent growth.

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        Does the water you mentioned include water vapour in the air (humidity)? Is it necessary to add silica gel directly into powdered cosmetic products?

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    Nancy Liedel

    I hate to disagree, but I’d put my dry powder cosmetics up against any company out there, that I know of. I make superior dry powders and my pressed are very good. Do I have a kiln to bake off baked powders? No, and I don’t want one, but this is a specialty area of mine and I’m really good at it. Not just me, but a whole range of women and men formulators who are doing it as artisans. It’s a growing segment of small beauty companies and it gets better every year. We are also learning a lot of incis the big guys think they need, are not. Some things the big guys don’t use, because of the changing in marketing they’d have to do, are easy for us. We, small makeup companies, are turning the industry on it’s ear and we have great products.

    Not bragging, but this is one area I am very comfortable with.

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      Hi Nancy. Thank you for speaking up. I hope you can share your DIY procedure. Very intrested.

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      A Wingert

      Seconding a request for Nancy to share (or link to) anything she’s comfortable sharing about her process, ingredients, press techniques/binders/fillers and possibly, specifically, mixing/incorporation techniques.

      Thank you for any information you’d be willing to share, Nancy.

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