Article by: Kelly Dobos

Traditional foundation and face powder makeup are an important part of the consumer’s beauty routine and several new trends are contributing to the rise in number and type of cosmetics available for the face. The “alphabet cream” trend has resulted in the development of BB (followed by CC, DD and EE) creams, which have the color correction properties of foundation and a multitude of other benefits from ingredients like sunscreens, antioxidants and botanicals. bb-cream-cosmetic

Contouring is the latest buzzword, with many online tutorials available. Contouring utilizes lighter and darker shades of face make-up to enhance bone structure and enhance facial features.

It is necessary to create numerous shades of face makeup to accommodate the diversity of consumer skin tones. Combinations of the pigments titanium dioxide and iron oxide (red, yellow, and black) are used to create various skin tones in face makeup. Occasionally, ultramarine blue is used in products for very dark complexions, as long at the pH is above 7. Exposure to acid causes the evolution of hydrogen sulfide gas which has a very unpleasant odor.

Most pigments and powders used in cosmetics have a hydrophilic surface comprised of polar hydroxyl groups where water is adsorbed. Consequences of hydrophilic surface in formulation include:

  • Agglomeration of particles contributing to poor skin feel
  • Poor dispersion/wetting in cosmetic fluids
  • Poor dispersion stability and poor formulation stability
  • Poor compression in pressed powder
  • Poor chemical stability of metal oxides

Treated pigments overcome these challenges and provide additional benefits in makeup formulation. They are easier to disperse leading to more consistent color and quality in finished goods and provide long wear, improved sensory attributes or other characteristics.

Color cosmetic history

As more women began to powder their faces in the early 20th century and found the need to ‘touch up’ during the day, they were confronted with the problems of carrying powder around in their handbag. Early loose powder containers suffered from numerous issues – bulkiness, the need for frequent filling, as well as leaks and spills – all of which were sources of annoyance.

In an effort to improve the durability of decorative cosmetics, silicone treated pigments were developed and introduced in Japanese formulations in 1976. These early treatments paved the way for the development of “two-way” make up cakes which could be applied dry or with a wet sponge. Higher in bulk density, metal soap treatments were introduced in 1977 to improve compressibility and impart a creamy skin feel. Amino acid treatments were introduced in 1979. This treatment was particularly useful in the formulation of long wearing liquid foundation.

Treated Pigments

The combinations of surface treatments and substrates have grown dramatically including innovative natural and super hydrophobic options. Below are some currently available surface treatment types from Sun Chemical and their benefits.

  • Disodium stearoyl glutamate – This amino acid based treatment is well suited for liquid makeup. It enhances the perception of moisturization, improves compressibility, and has good compatibility with skin. It is also naturally derived. The slight acidity of this treatment renders the pigments more compatible with skin pH and thus helps preserve the delicate chemistry of the stratum corneum.
  • Dimethicone –Dimethicone treated pigments provides long wear and waterproofing properties, improves dispersion and compatibility with silicones used in emulsions for foundations and other liquid makeup. This treatment also imparts a smooth, creamy feel during application
Kelly Dobos

About the Author

Kelly Dobos

Kelly Dobos is a cosmetic chemist and expert in both skin care and make-up product formulation. She has the coolest job and a passion for teaching others the smartest ways to express their creativity through cosmetic chemistry.


  1. Avatar

    i am interested to learn about BB cream formulation development with mattifying effect

  2. Kelly

    Hi Grace
    A supplier would provide the average composition (generally on the technical data sheet) of the components and you would calculate the total based on the amount of treated pigment added to your formulation.

  3. Avatar
    grace jalon

    Any idea of the percent by mass or volume of dimethicone or DSG added into each batch of foundation powder?

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