A look at how lip gloss gets its color

June 14, 2016

Today I'd like to talk a bit about colorants used in the beauty industry. Until recently, this is something that has not applied to Seed, as our skin care products are sans colorants of any kind. Seed explains the different colorants used in cosmetics

Knowing which ingredients are safe vs. unsafe can also be confusing! The blogosphere can be a treasure trove of information -- but there is much misinformation out there too and often science gets ignored. So let's take a look at some of the common colorants that are out there.

With the launch of our lip glosses, though, HOW we color is something I'd like to discuss. There are many types of colorants on the market. Each has its own pros and cons, but we wanted to be able to give richly pigmented colors while remaining true to our company values.

    • The most widely used cosmetic  are FD & C dyes.  Unlike most ingredients, colorants are actually pretty well regulated by the FDA. The FD & C Act that straight colors and lakes must be approved by the FDA in order to be used in makeup.  Despite the certification, there are many limitations -- some are actually unsafe for lips, while others may not be used near the eyes --  and many FD & C dyes are petrochemicals. We do not use FD & C colorants in our lip glosses.
  • Not all colorants are suitable for or used to color lip gloss. For example, Dihydroxyacetone is a 3 carbon sugar colorant that causes a chemical reaction once applied to the skin and later causes a "tan" appearance.
  • Ultramarines are another common cosmetic colorant, however they are UNSAFE for use on the lips. It is a mineral composed of sodium, aluminum, silicate and sulfate. It gives a bold blue appearance. We have been asked on Facebook for a blue lip gloss by a couple of you beautiful ladies, but there is not a bold naturally derived blue that is lip safe. Ultramarines are deemed safe in other makeup applications, but they should not come in contact with mucous membranes.
  • Carmine is another popular colorant. It is use in almost every lip gloss or lipstick that contains a shade of red. Carmine is a really bright crimson hue and is also used to deepen other pinks and berries. You will see products containing carmine marketed as "Natural", although that would really depend on your own viewpoint. Carmine, also known as cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake or carmine lake, natural red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120, comes from crushed and boiled cochineal bugs, which are a member of the beetle family. We do not use any animal ingredients and therefore you will never find carmine in our products.
Seed Satin Lip Gloss

    What do we use?

    So just where does the color come from? Let's take a look at the coloring additives we use to give our Seed Satin Lip Glosses their beautiful colors.

    • Mica is a silicate mineral. The name Mica applies to a group of naturally occuring minerals. Mica is completely safe for use in a lip gloss. There are no health concerns with mica colorants. There is limited evidence that those exposed to a large volume of loose mica regularly (for example, those who work mining it) may inhale the particles, so they wear masks as a precaution so they are not inhaling dust. In cosmetics, mica is safe.
    • Silica is another safe colorant. Silica often gets a bad rap because it sounds like silicone. Silica is a silicon, which is a mineral that you will naturally find in clay and sandstone. Silica makes up 12% of the earth's surface. It gives a reddish and earthy hue (find it in our Sunset Sangria). The type of silica used in cosmetics is referred to as Amorphous Hydrated Silica. This is safe for use in cosmetics and does not have environmental or health concerns. There are other types of silica, included crystalline silica. That form is abrasive and is commonly used in masonry and sandblasting. It has health concerns. Not all "silica" is the same, so it is important to clear up any confusion. Silica in lip gloss is very safe.
    • Iron Oxides are another type of colorant we use. While iron oxides occur naturally, in cosmetics they are created synthetically to carefully remove impurities such as ferric oxide. Iron oxides are safe. This is how we can add red color without using animal ingredients or FD & C dyes.
    • Non-nano Titanium Dioxide is also present in our gloss. Titanium Dioxide is a coloring agent and mineral form of sun protection. It is mined from the earth and is also an FDA-approved food additive. Non-nano Titanium Dioxide is safe. There are health concerns surrounding nanoparticles in titanium dioxide when inhaled or absorbed, as they may harm the lungs. Thanks to scientific research, we know that TD without nano-particles is safe -- and it is easy to find these days.


    CTFA (Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association). 2006. International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook, 11th Edition. Color Additive Information. Washington, DC.


    CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review). 2006. CIR Compendium, containing abstracts, discussions, and conclusions of CIR cosmetic ingredient safety assessments. Washington DC.



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