Article by: Perry Romanowski

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


Lipsticks are designed to improve the natural appearance of lips. They typically involve a color change but also increase shine and smooth out the appearance of wrinkles and folds on the lips. They are a solid stick product housed in a molded packaging.

What lipsticks do

When lipsticks are applied, a waxy product film is left behind on the lip surface. The color components of the lipstick block the natural surface color, changing it while the film components help keep the color attached to the lips.

How lipsticks work

Lipsticks are made from hydrophobic materials. When the solid formula is applied to the lip surface, friction melts it briefly and allows for transfer. The material cools and re-forms creating a film that sticks to the surface due to hydrophobic interactions. In addition to the hydrophobic base, color is another key ingredient in lipstick. The color reflects light of a certain wave length to give the impression of a new color on the surface. Silicones and oily materials are also added to reflect light and provide shine.

The main ingredients in a lipstick include a solidifier, diluent oils and colorant. Typcial solidifiers include waxes such as Beeswax, Carnauba Wax or Candelilla wax. Diluent oils are used to help evenly disperse colorants. Examples include castor oil or jojoba esters. Finally, colorants are included in lipsticks including organic colorants such as Red 7 or inorganic colorants like Red Iron Oxide.

A variety of other ingredients are added to lipstick formulas to modify the melting characteristics, the adhesion profile, stability and make production easier.

Lipstick formula

lipstickHere is a typical lipstick formula.  Click on the image to enlarge



  1. Avatar

    Is there a colorant percentage limit in lipstick fomulation using iron oxide? Thank you

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Not a legal limit but there is probably a physical limit to how much you can use and still call it a lipstick.

      1. Avatar

        Hi perry,
        i am a formulator , and all my experience in a skin care not color cosmetics.
        i am now working on lipsticks , and i have no experience how to modify a rubbery lipstick ?
        to make it more clear i have a lipstick batch ( as a finished bulk ) and within melting to pore it on the mold , the lipstick bulk became like a rubber not a liquid even on high temp till 100 c.

        please advice me how to fix it ???

  2. Avatar

    Hi Perry

    I was curious how the formula changes in just the clear top-coat for a lipstick and not the lipstick itself. Specifically, what is the ingredient that makes it more of a protective barrier.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Typically, there is extra silicone added to the formula or a film forming polymer.

  3. Avatar

    What unit are these ingredients in ,grams?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski


  4. Avatar
    Heather Bueltemann

    Sean the item your talking about is found in allure 2016 June issue by Renne Jacques. It was made by a company in China Kailijumei, It is formulated with candelilla resin, cocoa butter, lavender oil and beeswax. Red 27 gives it color shifting properties it claims.

  5. Avatar
    Heather Bueltemann

    To get a red color without the lipstick wax or oily shine, you would want to make a lip stain. Many posts on here that Perry doesn’t answer is because this is a professional site, but Perry offers Excellent workshops and also some great information. He isnt going to give out formulas if thats what your after because you cant just wake up and decide im going to sell make up today! I have been formulating for 4 years, I found out this. You cannot get natural color like mainstream cosmetics! There is no such thing as all natural make up you just research and pick the best possible ingredients. Yes I am a Naturalist but its frustrating that so many people lie. I am No Hype Cosmetics I make products with fully disclosed ingrdients. By the way mica and colorants have to be Batch Certified. If you dont k ow what that is go to the forum, your not ready to sell cosmetics… yet.

  6. Avatar
    Taylor Turner

    I make matte Liquid lipsticks. Two questions. The first is am I supposed to heat up my liquid lipstick base when I mix in my colors? And I am also wondering if there is a way I can mix the color perfectly so it has a smooth even color when I injection the color into the bottle?
    Thank you,

    1. Avatar

      Do you have a suggested site or recipe for the liquid matte lipstick?

  7. Avatar
    Simone Green

    I Perry I am manufacturing my lipstick pencils myself. I had a chemist create the formula and but I am having a hard time with the metric units. Do you have any resources that can help me better understand how convert to grams?


    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Convert from what? I don’t exactly understand your question.

  8. Avatar

    Hi Perry,
    What would be the difference in formulation between a typical lipstick and liquid lipsticks (which is the recent trend now)?

    Some examples would be L.A Girl, NYX, Kat Von D, etc…
    Would there be much differences?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      The viscosity. Solid lipsticks use carnauba wax and other hard waxes. Liquid lipsticks are emulsions. They both use the same ingredients to provide the color.

  9. Avatar
    caitlyn tran

    I have ingredients to make organic lipstick, but i cannot find a chemist to help me to produce it, please help, Mr. Perry!

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I would suggest you check our forum.

  10. Avatar
    Makayla Holbrook

    im trying to start a cosmetic company from scratch with very little money. where could i find a chemist that actually knows what theyre doing? if you dont know that, where could i get all of these ingredients for under $200?

  11. Avatar
    Gustavo Castañeda

    Regards Mr Romanowski, Im from Colombia, sudamerica, I want to make lipstick from coconut oil, do you have a formula? want to know if the lipstick will melt with the high room temperature, is necesary the use preservatives like metilparaben?, thanks for your atention, have a nice day!

  12. Avatar

    Hello Mr. Romanowski,

    I am trying to make a clear/transparent gloss, but that is solid like a lipstick. I saw a picture of someone that did something like it but I cannot seem to find any sort of recipe to make something like it

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I’d need more information than that. Specifically, do you have a product that you can link to with an ingredient list?

  13. Avatar

    Do you have Liquid Matte Lipstick formula I need to Lean About Matte Lipstick

  14. Avatar
    Mohan M.

    Hello Mr. Perry,

    Can you plz help me for improve long lasting and smooth film on lip surface. My formulation containing carnauba wax, but it’s not enough long lasting. Is there any good film former or something through I can improve long lasting and its film.


  15. Avatar

    hello Perry, thank you for the great work, i have been trying to make lipstick, i used, cetyl alcohol, olive oil, GMS, castor oil, mineral oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, carnauba wax, parafin wax, propyl, mica, iron oxide but when i apply it on the lips, it leaves particles, please help me. Brenda

  16. Avatar

    Do you really need a lab and chemist to create your own cosmetics? Or is it possible to create it in your basement?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      If you want to sell products then you’ll want a chemist. If you want to make them for yourself, then you may be able to do it at home.

      1. Avatar
        Sally Nehme

        If I have a formula that turned out great after lots of trials, why do I need a chemist to sell my product?

        Thank you in advance

        1. Avatar
          Perry Romanowski

          You don’t really need a chemist but you do have to be able to prove your products are safe which means you have to do safety testing, stability testing, and also keep all the appropriate paperwork to demonstrate you are following good manufacturing procedures.

  17. Avatar

    Hi! I want to launch my own company and I’m planning on ten years from now. However, I have no idea on how to start formulating products. Please help!!

  18. Avatar

    I’m cc and I’ve always wanted to be in the cosmetic/fashion industries and I’m extremely new to cosmetics, I know near nothing about lipsticks besides what I’ve read here. I would like to ask a few questions if I may, 1.what would I need to type in to google to find a place like a cosmetics lab near me? 2.ive seen a lot of information on liquid lipsticks that dry to matte, I too am interested in that topic so any information would be extremely helpful. would I go about purchasing the ingredients I need to make said cosmetics?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      To find a manufacturer near you type in “cosmetic contract manufacturer” or “cosmetic private label”

      I don’t have any additional information on liquid lipsticks.

      Talk to your contract manufacturer. They’ll be able to help you. You can also get ingredients at

    2. Avatar
      E. White

      There is a formula created an available on etsy. Its a liquid to matte base you just add your pigment.

  19. Avatar
    Amari Jones

    Hey! So the amount of what is used is listed in percentage form, but what is the actual measurement for all of the ingredients used? Ounces,mL?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      That depends on how much you are making. You measure all your ingredients in terms of Grams.

  20. Avatar
    jasmine jones

    hi, im trying to start up my own lipstick line and need help in finding the right ingredients. any help? or advice?

  21. Avatar
    mega cipta

    Hallo. Could u tell me how for modify of formulation solid lipstick to become the liquid matte lipstick.. im indonesian, and in here thereis no formulation about that Iam on research right now, could you help me please.. thanks a lots

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      It depends on the formula but you would need to add a liquid solvent to thin out the formula.

      1. Avatar

        If I am using a basic premate lipstick base, what do you suggest I add to make it into a liquid, matte drying lipstick?

        1. Avatar
          Perry Romanowski

          That’s not enough information to answer. I’d need to know what is in your formula.

          1. Avatar
            mega ciptata

            I have been done to made a liquif matte lipstik it’s good formula and now im doing the evaluation would u tell me about the viscosity information? how the rule about the viscosity of liquid matte ? on CPS, I didnt to find the information about the viscosity of that the liquid matte lipstick..

          2. Avatar
            Perry Romanowski

            Lipsticks are supposed to be solid so viscosity does not apply.

          3. Avatar
            mega ciptata

            But I mean the viscosity requirements for liquid lipstick 🙂

  22. Avatar
    Fhateesha Counts

    I have all the ingredients needed to make a lipstick but some of my colors are coming out very sheer i need help with enhancing the color so color is the color i am making and not sheer or no color at all the lipstick look great but the lighter colors are not coming out right the reds and darker colors are not. Please help

      1. Avatar
        mega ciptata

        But I mean the viscosity requirements for liquid lipstick 🙂

  23. Avatar


    I’m looking for a chemist and a lab to work in and help me begin the process of developing my own cosmetic line. I’m in the greater Toronto area, how would I go about doing this? How do I find a chemist and a lab? I’ve been googling for such a long time and maybe I just don’t know what to google. Help!


    1. Avatar

      Hi Taylor,
      Just saw your post.
      It looks like Beauty Origin Lab may help you with your search. This is exactly what we do – custom manufacturing / private label / product development.
      Please let me know if you interested to explore further.
      Kind regards,

    2. Avatar

      I am a cosmetic chemist, and can consult with you to help find a formulation and contract the work. Cost is negotiable. Contact me if interested!

      1. Avatar

        Hi dear. how can i contact you?

      2. Avatar

        Please contact me I am looking for a liquid to matte lipstick fourmla only natural ingredients. Thank you in advanced

      3. Avatar

        Hello if you could please contact me @ my email . I’ve been looking for a chemist for quite sometime .

  24. Avatar

    Hi I am wondering if you have a recipe to create liquid matte drying lipstick like lime crimes lipsticks? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.
    What would I use to create something like this?
    Thank you

  25. Avatar

    Hi Perry:

    I’m trying to formulate a lipbalm. This formula contains candelilla wax, carnauba wax and different oils (castor,jojoba,sunflower,apricot). My questions:
    Is vitamin E (t-50) enough to protect it from going rancid?
    What’s the percentage of oils and waxes? Is it 75% oil 25% wax?
    Usually what’s the shelf life without using a preservative like BHT? Do you recommend BHT?
    Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Yes, it is better to use BHT. Vitamin E can help but it is not as reliable as BHT. I’m not sure what the shelf life is without using BHT. It depends on the storage conditions. You might also post this question in our cosmetic science forum.

  26. Avatar
    Mauricio Carvalho

    I’m importing some pigment dyes from China. However, I cannot mix them up with my uncolored lipstick paste directly. So, I wanna dilute the dyes in some oil…So, which oil would be the best for it? I’ve tried castor oil and that worked well with red and white, but other colors it raised viscosity…any comments, please!
    Tks, Mauricio

  27. Avatar
    Mauricio Carvalho

    Which are the ‘proper” pigments for lipsticks. I see you’re using red 6 and red 7…which orange, black, yellow, purple etc you recommend!?
    Tks, Mauricio

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Those all sound like reasonable colors. Anything that is FDA approved.

  28. Avatar

    Great website. Am looking at to manufacture lipstick to use that stays on. I am in my mid 50s and lipsticks that I buy now all just slide right off or flake off if they are matte. Hydration is key but also staying power. Can you put primer in a lipstick and if so will it help the lipstick stay in place. I have used the paint on lipstick that dries but it does not feel nice and also peels. Am trying to research a regular twistup lipstick, creamy but neither glossy or matte, that lasts a couple of hours before a touchup. Look forward to your reply, have requested the report via email.

    1. Avatar

      Michelle, you may email me and I can formulate a stay put lipstick for you in your color. The problem with store-bought lipsticks is that they’re using artificial ingredients, aggressive chemicals, and all these do not feel good on the lips! My formulations use more natural items like Shea butter, Beeswax and/or care Caranuba and cadeillia wax. These are what keeps the color and nutrients in place. However, their are more tricks to get better adhesion of the lipstick! ( not using that junkie stuff that you put on color then nasty waxy stick over that).
      Email me if you are still struggling, I will work with you to get the perfect product. And the whole charge will be 8.99.

      1. Avatar

        hi Heather, how does one get a hold of you? I’m interested in your services.

      2. Avatar

        Hi I would appreciate your email. I’m literally a beginner at this I would like some advice (paid of course) of formulars, colors etc
        Look forward to your response

      3. Avatar
        Kristi Davis

        Hi I am interested in your services. How can I get in touch with you?

        1. Avatar
          Kay O

          I am interested how can I get in contact? I have ideas of like to bring to you and also learn from you too. Thanks

      4. Avatar
        Vijay Dhingra

        Same as above for chemical information of long stay matte lipstick and non transfer lipstick, chemicals should be available in india

  29. Avatar

    Great Work here… I just got alot of help for my assignment. Tnx Perry.

  30. Avatar
    clodagh mccarthy

    Hi Perry,

    Just wondering do you have any suggestions regarding cleaning glass ware after making lipgloss , I just made a batch of lipgloss and it is so messy, any useful tips would be greatly appreciated

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      You might fill the container with water & detergent and boil it. Then pour out the water when the lipgloss melts.

  31. Avatar
    Pela Tomasello

    Hi Perry

    I know you from the CosmeticLab forum. I just stumbled on to this site. I want the lip stick formulation, but you seem to have a broken link. Thanks

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      The link is fixed. Thanks for letting me know.

  32. Avatar
    Lakisha E

    I am a NYS License Esthetician. I have been motivated to start my own lipstick line. Is there any advice to starting your own cosmetic line? I will like to hear your knowledge and wisdom to this journey. Thanks hope to hear from you soon.

  33. Avatar

    Hi , do anyone know which chemical is used in color changing lipstick…?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Do you have a link to the product? It’s probably a pH changing dye.

  34. Avatar

    Hi dear
    How can we make liquid lipstick with long lasting property
    I made lipstick bud it cleans easily
    It contain caster oil lanolin kaolen bees wax

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      You haven’t give me enough information to answer. It sounds like you have all the proper ingredients to make a longer lasting product but I can’t know for sure. I would suggest you post the question in our forum (

  35. Avatar

    thank you… my graduation project is about natural dyes i prepared lipstick nail polish hair colors food colors and coating white tablets with those dyes i prepared them from wind flower and purple chrysanthemum petals

  36. Avatar

    I really want to be a busy woman and helpful to the society and my generation and I have passion to open cosmetic factory/bussiness of my own.pls can you help email me ingredients and certain measurements for dandruff hair cream, toothpaste, nail polish and body cream, this your site have just elivated my dreams and I see you now as a saving grace

  37. Avatar

    For some reason the example lipstick formulation will not show up on my computer, is there anyway you could send it to me?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      the link is fixed.

  38. Avatar


    How what type of ingredients that will make my lipstick to be more Matt finish with no shine to it?

    Thanks again

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      More carnauba wax will make it more matte.

  39. Avatar

    I need info on permanent pink lip for guyz.

  40. Avatar

    I wanna ask if you can tell me of making a lip red without using lipstick and it will remain red mainly for guyz.. As if lip is red naturally? Plz email me…look forward to hear frm you soon. Thanks.

    1. Avatar

      you mean lip stain . you can use carmine and add very little amount of water ( drops of water) and a few drops of glycerin

  41. Avatar
    Cary Collins

    Hello Perry,

    I’m interested in knowing how harmful Red dyes with numbers are in lipsticks. I know the FDA allows but are they harmful? Also, what about the “parabens”?

    One more question….what ingredient(s) give lipstick the most staying power as far as COLOR goes?

    Thanks and your site has some great info!


    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      FDA approved lipsticks are not harmful.

      Parabens are not harmful either.

      Staying power depends on the type of formula but in general, carnauba wax based formulas will last longer.

  42. Avatar

    hello Mr Perry Romanowski

    please email for me formulation glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, oven and microwave cleaner and multi- purpose cleaner.
    best regard

  43. Avatar
    Rosalina Tan

    can you recommend some uses for the Manila Elemi essential oil which is said to be analgesic, antiviral, antiseptic and anti bacterial.

  44. Avatar
    Rosalina Tan

    How would you know if your lipstick color contains lead, some do the test by rubbing a coin on the lipstick color apply on your hand? Can you recommend colorants without lead contents? thank you.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Testing lipstick with a coin to see if it has lead does not work. That is a myth. You really have nothing to worry about when it comes to lead in lipstick. The amounts are so low that they are inconsequential.

  45. Avatar
    Paola Segura

    What components add to the application and feel of the lipstick when on your lips?
    For instance some lipsticks have a “heavier” feel, where they are oily and you can feel them on your lips versus some that are lighter, and feel like you are not wearing anything.
    How do you manage this balance, what components do you need to add more or less of to get different effects?

    1. Avatar

      You are talking about slip and adhesion. For a lighter feel lipstick try adding kaolin caly in white, for better adhesion, the clay absorbs oil so it stays put longer. For slip or easy glide on property you want sericite mica.

  46. Avatar
    jayadri dutta

    it is very nice to told you that,its very usefull formulation for the work.if it is possible,please mail me about the G.C.M.S. center who are doing the aromatic compounds manufacturing formulation or accord.specialy incence sticks aroma.please write me as early as possible.thanking you.

  47. Avatar

    Can you explain what is happening to the lip product ingredients while it cools? Why is it so important not to mix it after a certain temperature? I am also interested in color matching information. Where can I find more information about how to formulate lip products?

  48. Avatar

    you are great, Perry , it is very useful to know.

  49. Avatar

    Great siteCan you do an article about color matching for lipsticks?

    1. Avatar

      That’s right, it’s a great article. It’s good to know that kinds of things. I didn’t know that lipsticks are made from hydrophobic material. Write something more about this.

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