Making your own cosmetics can be highly rewarding, allowing you to create truly custom colors at a fraction of the cost of commercial products, all while avoiding toxic ingredients. Use this how-to article as a guide for using pigment powders when making homemade cosmetic products.

Safety Information and Supplies for Working With Pigment Powders

Pigment powders are safe and non-toxic, and intended for use in soap and cosmetic products. With the exception of a few highlighted below, all are are safe and approved in the US for the eye, lip and skin cosmetics. When working with pigment powders to create homemade cosmetics, it is helpful to have the following supplies on hand:

    • Kitchen Scale
    • Parchment paper or wax paper
    • Gloves
    • Apron
    • Face Mask

Types of Pigment Powders

  • Iron Oxides: These pigments are approved for use in all types of cosmetics. (Black oxide, brown oxide, yellow oxide and red oxide). With careful blending in various proportions, you can create a wide variety of natural looking skin tones using these oxides.
  • Ultramarines: Ultramarines offer a nice range of cool hues (lavender, orchid, cobalt blue). They are approved for general cosmetics and eyes, but not for lip products.
  • White Pigments: White pigments (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) are widely used in all cosmetics. They provide excellent coverage (opacity), and are heat and light stable. Note that the matte white pigment powder is pure titanium dioxide, and comes in two forms: oil soluble and water soluble.
  • Chromium Dioxides: These pigments (teal green and woodland green) are approved for all cosmetics except lip products.
  • Manganese Violet: This brightly colored pigment (matte purple pigment powder) is approved for general cosmetics, eyes and lips.

How To Mix Pigment Powders

Step 1: Place a piece of wax paper on a kitchen scale and reset the scale to zero.

Step 2: Measure pigment powders onto wax paper and combine by stirring carefully with a spoon.

Step 3: For very small amounts, using a scale can help measure by weight. For larger amounts, using teaspoon measurements works fine also.

Step 4: If mixing large amounts of pigment powders, stirring powders through a sifter multiple times helps to thoroughly combine the colors.

Color Terms To Understand

There are many terms used to describe color. Here are some basic definitions to help clarify:

  • Hue: This term is what we refer to often as colors: red, orange, yellow, etc. Hues are differentiated by different wavelengths on the color spectrum.
  • Value: The brightness of a color, or how much light it emits.
  • Tint, Shade and Tone: Tinting a color means adding white to the hue, shading means adding black to a hue, and toning means to add grey to a hue.
  • Saturation: A color of low saturation is closer to neutral than to the pure hue, whereas a highly saturated color is further from neutral and more richly pigmented. Colors can be muted or neutralized by combining them with varying amounts of their color-wheel opposite.
  • Cool/Warm colors: Cool colors are the range of hues surrounding blue, including green and purple. Warm colors are colors surrounding orange, including red and yellow. Reddish-purple and yellow-green are points on the color wheel where cool and warm intersect. For skin tones, cool is typically a more blue or blue combined with pink, whereas warm appears more yellow or golden.

Mixing Pigment Powders for Specifc Homemade Cosmetics

Mixing Colors for Skin Tone Matching Products (Foundation, Powder)

For skin tone matching, you not only want to seek the right hue (color), but also the appropriate saturation and tint or shade.

      • For warm skin tones, (yellow undertones), you will find red oxide, brown oxide, and yellow oxide to be good starting points. If the color is too dark or light, add white (titanium dioxide) or black oxide, respectively. If the color is too saturated, consider the opposite color on the color wheel and slowly add small amounts to neutralize or mute the saturation.
      • For cool skin tones (pink undertones), begin with orchid and small amounts of the oxides: brown, red, or yellow. Note that the oxides will easily overpower orchid, so add in very small increments. Likewise, experiment with color wheel opposites to mute the saturation, and white and black to tint or shade.

Mixing Pigment Powders for Color Correcting Products (Concealer)

For color corrections you generally want to mask a color using its color wheel opposite. The colors across from each other on the spectrum are opposites, so they cancel each other out when used for color-correction. Once you have a base that matches your skin tone, add the following:

      • For purple under-eye circles, add yellow oxide.
      • For fair skin tones with a green-based undereye discoloration, add orchid.
      • For sun spots or freckles, add yellow or brown with orchid to create a peachy apricot.
      • For redness or blemishes, add woodland green.

Mixing Pigment Powders for Eyeshadow

A simple method to create a trio of harmonizing shades is to begin with one hue and create a range of tints and shades to be your light, medium and dark.

For example: lavender, lavender and white, and lavender and black

From here you can experiment widely creating varying hues and saturations by combining 2 or more colors, then various tints, shades and tones of each.

Mixing Pigment Powders for Lip Cosmetics

A wide variety of hues, with varying saturations and shades, can be created using the pigments approved for lips. Remember that all the oxides and manganese violet are approved for lip use, whereas the ultramarines and chromium dioxides are not.

Warm hues can be easily created using red, brown and yellow oxides. Cool hues can be made using purple pigment powder mixed with red or brown oxide. Remember that white can be added to tint a color, black can be added to shade and grey can be added to tone.

To create a more saturated lipstick, add more total pigment powder to your end product.