Did you know that in the United States it is not permitted by the FDA to just add any old ingredient into your cosmetic for the purposes of changing color? In fact, of all the ingredients in cosmetics colorants are the most highly regulated. This is most likely because historically colorants have also been the most dangerous.
Anyway, the only colorants you are allowed to use in the United States are laid out by the FDA and you can find a list of approved cosmetic colorants here. If you are a “natural” formulator there are only a few on the list of approved colorants that you would be allowed to use. They are as follows.
Chlorphyllin Cu complex
This is a yellow to orange colorant derived from a shrub that grows in a number of places in the southern hemisphere. It can be used in the US, EU and China.
Another yellow to orange pigment that can be used for cosmetics around the world. It’s derived from a fungus and exhibits good stability.
A brown colorant that comes from the burning of sugars like sucrose, dextrose, malt syrup, molasses, etc. It’s highly stable and can be used for formulating products around the world.
This is a bright, red colorant which has a bluish shade. It is derived from female conchineal beetles that are collected primarily in Peru. The color can be used in cosmetic products around the world. It was traditionally used to dye textiles. Carmine is also one of the brightest of all natural colorants.
Chlorophyl Cu Complex
This is a green colorant obtained from alfalfa. To get the final product it is reacted with copper to replace the naturally occurring magnesium found in the molecule. It is approved throughout the world.
This ingredient is a blue colorant that is derived from the chamomile plant. It is legal in the US but is not allowed in products in the EU or China.
This is a brown dye derived from the Henna plant. It primarily comes from India. This natural colorant is allowed in the US but not in the EU or China. However, it is specifically prohibited for use in coloring eyelashes and eyebrows due to its known ability to cause irritation.
This colorant is derived from herring fish scales and has a purplish color. It is used in all types of cosmetic products. It is approved for use in the US but not in EU or China. This is primarily because it hasn’t been economically feasible to go through the testing to get it approved in these countries.
Outside the US
While the colors listed are the natural colorants allowed in the US for cosmetics, there are a number of ones approved outside the US so if you are a natural formulator in these markets you might be able to use some of the following.
Lycopene - reddish / orange color derived from tomatoes
Vegetable Carbon - Black color derived from burnt vegetable matter
Curcumin - Yellow color derived from the spice turmeric
Capsanthin / Capsorubin - Orange color derived from sweet red peppers. Commonly known as paprika
Canthaxanthin - yellow - red color derived from mushrooms or shrimp.
There you have it. The color choices for a natural formulator are limited but you do have some choices.