Makeup Pigments


Brief Definition

The most basic definition of a pigment describes it as a type of material which affects the color of light reflection and absorption. It is this process of light interaction with a hard substance that actually creates the coloring. The materials selected are chosen because of their unique ability to bring this color to other materials as well. For example the pigments used in makeup products, like the bright red in your lipstick.

Some types of pigment materials are permanent where the colors last with the same intensity for a lifetime. Other types will fade over time. Pigments are different from dyes, although they are both often used interchangeably. A pigment material is actually insoluble and sits within a liquid instead of absorbing into it. This helps it produce an extra richness of color not mimicked in a dye formula. Dyes are usually liquid in nature and do mix into their contents. Pigments occur in both natural forms and synthetic versions. The best example of a naturally occurring version is the melanin in your own skin, which causes the changes of color when you tan. Another common source of natural colors is found in minerals and animal products. Iron oxide was one of the first known pigments used as far back as in the cave drawings of early man. Another natural product was the purple stain derived from the Murex snail mucus. This purple color was so difficult to acquire, it was what originally made it the fabric color for royalty – as to own a purple garment meant you had to possess lots of money.

Cosmetic Pigments

The most important component of tints used in cosmetics is the low toxicity. As pigments come in a variety of forms, those tested for use as cosmetic have to pass rigid guidelines. Most cosmetic versions start as a fine dry powder. This is then added to a binding solution to essentially enable the intense color to stay on your eyelashes, eyelids, lips and more, depending of the product you are using.


Both natural and synthetic types are used in cosmetics. They are the root of color in most makeup products including permanent makeup. You can even buy your own powders for homemade makeup or to enhance your current selection. MAC sells their own line of pigments with 31 different powders to mix and match. Special Effects also offers a nice selection of cosmetic grade colors. Wherever you end up purchasing coloring for home use, just be certain they are truly cosmetic grade to avoid potential allergic and toxic reactions.

Makeup and Color

Color is the key reason for pigments. Therefore, a discussion of color choices is in order. With so many variations of color in makeup today, your selection does not need to be solely based on skin undertones. Color arrives in a large assortment of shades to allow most to wear at least some variation of all the main colors found in makeup. Color is an emotionally based additive. Use it in your makeup to express your mood and highlight your style.

The following are common emotions and associations for the various basic colors:

  • Red – Symbolizing energy and action, red is most often associated with sex, power, and heat. It is a great addition to lipstick and nails.
  • Oranges – Symbolizing the sun and warmth, orange shades are seen in the season of autumn and associated with vitality and assertiveness. Use peachy tones in your cheeks and lips to mimic this effect.
  • Yellow – The symbol of power and life, yellow is the sun, and associated with golds and ancient times. It is a perfect color for highlights both on your skin and in your hair.
  • Blue – Known for images of peace and coolness, blue is commonly associated with water and health. Place it on your eyes and nails to enhance this calming sensation.
  • Green – Symbolizing the green growth of plants and nature, green is the renewal of life, youthful and fresh. Perfect for the eyes and nails, use it lightly for the most natural look.
  • Purple – The symbol of royalty and romance, it is a color that often arouses your sense of smell. Let this color add a little mystery to your eye and lip makeup.
  • Pink – Nothing is more feminine than the color of pink. It is commonly used on the lips and cheeks providing a lovely sweetness and image of purity.

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