Cleanser turned BRIGHT PINK! Why?

CandaceCandace Member
edited May 2017 in Science
We've been producing a cleansing facial cream for several years.  On two separate occasions, this typically white cream has turned bright pink!  See photo at this link -!AlsRiqLvt873kzma12TPveRVUZGM

The ingredients are as follows - 
  • Aqua
  • Helianthus Annuss (Sunflower) Oil
  • Decyl Polyglucoside,
  • Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate (Olivem 1000)
  • Glycerin
  • Lemongrass Essential Oil
  • Orange Essential oil
  • Grapefruit Essential Oil
  • Lime Essential Oil
  • Leuconostoc/Aloe Barbadensis Leaf/Sorbus Aucuparia Fruit Ferment Filtrate (Preservative)
After the most recent -  surprise pink batch, we initially assumed it was the pink grapefruit essential oil, so we made a second batch using a white grapefruit oil.  Same thing.  So it has to be one of the other essential oils.  

We have thousands of bottles that we don't wish to see go to waste.  It would be fantastic if I could offer a scientific explanation to our clients - as to why this has occurred.  It doesn't happen every time!  

Any ideas?  


  • johnbjohnb Member, Professional Chemist
    What quality of water fo you use? It should be at least de-ionised and preferably distilled. Impure water can contain metal ions which may react with many things to form colours of various hues. Water should also be sterile in order not to contaminate the final product with micro-organisms. Fungi and moulds can produce a range of colours.

    It may be better as well to use a proper preservative in your cleanser rather than relying on Leucidal as a sole preservative.

    Do you check the pH of your products? Are the discoloured samples a different pH compared with the non-discoloured?
  • crillzcrillz Member
    not sure if helps but I made shampoo that was turning pink and it was due to the citric oils (lime) mixing with the preservative we were using. Suttocide A in our case. Generally took 3 days to turn pink.
  • CandaceCandace Member
    @johnb - thank you for these ideas to note.  We do use distilled water - I'm quite certain the colour isn't due to Fungi or Mould.  We will check the pH out of curiosity. 

    @crillz - This sounds very similar to our situation!  It takes a couple days to turn pink.  We also suspect it's the citric oils causing the reaction.  I wish I knew how to explain what is happening.  And strangely it doesn't happen with every batch.  
  • johnbjohnb Member, Professional Chemist
    I'm quite certain the colour isn't due to Fungi or Mould.

    Do you check this?

  • chemncchemnc Member
    We had the same situation with a hair conditioner. Changed the formulation and it went away but were never able to figure out why. It wasn't microbial.
  • crillzcrillz Member
    We changed our preservative and the problem went away. I posed this similar question several months ago and Belassi knew the problem straight away.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist

    Your problem is definitely one of the essential oils.  Perhaps one of them is adulterated.

    The only way to find out which oil is to do a knock-out experiment to test which of your 4 essential oils is causing the problem.

    It is almost definitely not microbial, but why not do a quick check just to be sure.  Microbial contamination will not change the color this uniformly, nor that quickly.  

    Perhaps adding a chelating agent to your formulation might help with this in the future.

    I would tell clients that this is your new, improved "Pink" formulation ... perhaps there's a tie-in with Victoria's Secret somewhere in there.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details
  • Suggest systematic deletion.Start with separation of water and oil phases and accelerate color formation if you can at 50C.I would bet on the water phase  looking at homogeneity of color and if so do knockout which should be easier with phase separation.Do the same with oil phase.
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