Color Cosmetics and Metamerism – The difficulty of creating dupes

You’ve probably seen the social media frenzy over color cosmetic dupes. Dupe is an abbreviation for duplicate and usually indicates a lower cost alternative to premium brands. As a color cosmetic formulator, someone in marketing may have brought you a competitor’s product and asked you to replicate the color. It’s not as easy as it seems due to two complicating factors. They way colorants are list on a cosmetic ingredient statement and a phenomenon called metamerism.

Colorant ingredient statements

A particular line of color cosmetics like lipsticks and eye shadows often share a common base and have numerous colors and multiple shades of a line can be sold together in a palette. In order to simplify ingredient labeling, colorants are segregated from the base ingredients into a section denoted by the terms “May Contain” or “(+/-).” Every colorant used in all shades of the particular product line are listed in this section making it very difficult to know exactly which combination of colorants and percentages of those colorants are in a particular shade.

Metamerism and Color Matching

Illuminant metamerism is the result of the relationship between a light source and an object. Illuminant metamerism describes a situation in which two material samples match in color when viewed under one light source but not another. For example two materials in fluorescent light may not match, even though they are a metameric match under an incandescent light source. Each object produces a particular spectral reflectance curve based on its chromatic properties. When two objects have identical spectral reflectance curves, they will be a visual match under all lighting conditions. However, when the exact combination of pigments is unknown it can be challenging to ensure reflectance curves match to ensure true duplication of color cosmetics.

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