Article by: Kelly Dobos

There are a large number of colorants with good stability in lip cosmetics, giving the cosmetic chemist a lot of creativity in creating numerous finished product shades. The color additives used in lipsticks are divided in several categories: Organic colors are divided in main colors and shading colors categorized by yellow or blue shade. There are some additional specialty colors in the organic category and inorganics that are used as well. Below is a summary of the main colors and shading colors used in lipstick and lip gloss. color cosmetics

Main Colors: These colors constitute the largest percentage of the color additive portion of the formula. They are the main colorants because they are bright and exhibit very good color intensity, making them economical. The colors in this category are:

D&C Red No. 6 Ba Lake
D&C Red No. 7 Ca Lake
D&C Red No. 6

The Red 6 Lake is used as the main colorant in yellow red formulations, while the Red 7 Lake is used in blue shade ones. The Red 6 is used as the main color in yellow shade reds for the Japanese market.

Yellow Side Shading Colors: These colorants are used in combination with the main colors to create various shades in the yellow color space:

FD&C Yellow 5 No. Al Lake
FD&C Yellow 6 No. Al Lake
D&C Red 36

The Red 36 can also be used as the main colorant in orange shades.

Blue Side Shading Colors: These colorants are used in combination with the main colors to create various shades in the blue color space:

D&C Red No. 33 Al Lake
D&C Red No. 27 Al Lake
D&C Red No. 28 Al Lake

The Red 33 Lake can also be used as the main colorant in violet shades, while the Red 27 Lake is the ideal choice for fuchsia shades.

Kelly Dobos

About the Author

Kelly Dobos

Kelly Dobos is a cosmetic chemist and expert in both skin care and make-up product formulation. She has the coolest job and a passion for teaching others the smartest ways to express their creativity through cosmetic chemistry.


  1. Avatar

    I do not want to waste my base formula trying to create different lipstick shades. Is there a method to creating shades without the base? I basically would like to know what my shades will turn out to before adding it to my base.

    1. Kelly

      Hi Simone
      You need to disperse the pigments in your base to “develop” their color. And if your base has color you need to test in the base to determine impact on final shade as well.

      1. Avatar

        I see. Thank you!

        So my only option will be to make smaller batches to test/create different color shades?

        1. Avatar

          I have recently started mixing in a teaspoon of avocado oil and the results have been dead on in my base. I don’t use more than 1/2 teaspoon pigment per 8 grams of base.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you very much for this amazing article. i haven been trying to make lipsticks for my new makeup line, but i was stuck because the final product was not rich in color. now i know what to do. thank you so much. i’m so glad that i found your website

  3. Avatar
    Shantell lewis

    I’m in Houston Texas and i want to start a lipstick line. I’m walking into an unfamiliar zone so i need advice on how to get started.

  4. Avatar
    Jide Alo

    What coloring agent will be appropriate for beeswax based lipsticks?

  5. Avatar

    How can I make my lipstick color rich? When I use the base and mix it, the color is not as rich. Does this mean I’m not using enough coloring? Do you have any suggestion where I can get colors that are rich?

    1. Kelly Dobos
      Kelly Dobos

      If you are using classical pigments you cannot just mix them in, you need to mill the pigments in a medium like castor oil with special equipment (3 roll mill) to get full color development before blending with your base. If you do not have the right equipment you can use pre-dispersed pigments or pigments with special treatments to improve dispersion.

      1. Avatar

        Are all pigments in a formula generally dispersed in one medium or can a formula have pigments dispersed in several media? For example isododecane and isononyl isononanoate used to each disperse different types of pigments (iron oxides vs lakes).

        1. Avatar
          Manaza Mitha

          Hello there, Thank you for this informative article.

          Can you please advise the most effective oil/ emollient to disperse/wet organic and inorganic colour addictives, micas combined with iron oxides and carmine, FD&C, D&C lakes/dyes, iron oxides, carmine?

          Often castor oil is used, but I have tried fractionated coconut oil, dimethicone, and castor oil. I prefer using a dispersing agent to have some transfer resistant or waterproofing properties! I know that a silicone resin is used for waterproofing. I hear that castor oil is most widely used for dispersing. I would like you

          In addition, which D&C red complements medium and olive, warm undertones
          D&C Red No. 6 Ba Lake
          D&C Red No. 7 Ca Lake
          D&C Red No. 6

          There are also FD&C lakes- Red #40. Do FD&C lakes function the same as D&C?

          I look forward to your reply.

  6. Avatar
    Carmen Alvarado

    Thank you Perry, but how about the ultramarines? and blue 1 lake?

    1. Kelly

      Ultramarines are restricted from use on lips by the FDA. FD&C Blue 1 Lake does not have any restrictions.

  7. Avatar
    Selina Jackson

    This is vary good information, thank you, but what about blushes, foundation and eyeshadow?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      We’ve got another article on this subject coming soon.

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