The science of Powdered Cosmetics

When I was a kid, I didn’t give much thought to cosmetics. When someone said the word cosmetics, I automatically figured they were talking about lip stick, nail polish, or make-up. I didn’t know that things like shampoos, conditioners, and skin lotions were cosmetics. It turns out they are.

Interestingly, the formulation of powdered cosmetics is not something that most cosmetic chemists will ever be faced with. It is a specialized part of the cosmetic industry and represents a smaller market than things like hair care and skin care. In fact, I can’t remember ever having the opportunity to formulate a pressed powdered cosmetic product. The curse of working in a shampoo factory for my entire career.

Anyway, this article about pressed and loose powders was interesting. It talks about many of the issues that you have to consider when formulating these different types of products and also mentions some similarities.

One of the things the article doesn’t spell out however is a simple listing of some of the specific ingredients that might be included in powdered products. To that end, let’s add to it. When formulating a powdered cosmetic product you need a variety of ingredients including Colorants, Fillers, Binders, and Preservatives.

Powdered cosmetic ingredients

A basic formulation would have ingredients like this.

Colorants - Titanium Dioxide, Iron oxides (yellow, red, black)

Fillers - Talc, Mica

Dry Binders - Zinc stearate, magnesium myristate, or lithium stearte.

Wet Binders - Used to partially wet the pigments. Hydrocarbons, Esters and Silicones

Preservatives - Parabens

Of course, it should be mentioned that making powders and pressed powders requires special manufacturing equipment and it’s rather difficult to make a high quality product without mills and filters. So, this will always be an area that the DIY cosmetic makers just can’t duplicate what the big guys can do.

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