Posted on September 15, 2017
For Halloween this year, I need to find a bright, vibrant purple eyeshadow to match my costume. I thought a purple eyeshadow would be easy to find, but I quickly realized how finicky this color can be. I swatched sample shade after sample shade on the back of my hand, yet I still couldn’t find the perfect eyeshadow. Products that looked highly pigmented and intensely purple in the pan would become streaky and sheer against my skin or would turn a strange shade of chalky grey.
Cosmetics manufacturers understand this struggle well. Creating formulations for purple eyeshadow has always been notoriously difficult. Even if your formula appears richly-colored when it’s first mixed, this color might not translate well once it’s applied. Today’s modern spectrophotometers allow you to address your formulation challenges through instrumental color measurement, giving you the data you need to create the perfect blend.
Why Purple Hues Are So Challenging
Formulating purple eyeshadow is challenging because the color purple is rarely found in nature, limiting available sources of pigmentation. While other shades, like reds or blues, can come from a variety of different sources (both synthetic and natural), there are only a handful of ingredient options for purple shades. Some of these ingredients offer a greater pigment payoff than others.
One of the few skin-safe ingredients that give off a purple tone is ultramarine, made from a rare clay called lapis lazuli. However, this shade on its own is more of a blue-violet than a true purple, making it largely unsuitable for standalone use.1 To correct this problem, cosmetics manufacturers must turn to other pigment sources, such as carmine, a rich, red colorant made from the shells of the cochineal beetle.2Mixing these two together creates a highly-pigmented purple shade. Unfortunately, these ingredients tend to be more expensive than cheaper alternatives, like iron oxide or synthetic ultramarine, which may not offer the same appealing hues. As such, creating economically viable and aesthetically pleasing purple formulations can be a laborious process of trial and error.
Creating and Evaluating Formulations
Spectrophotometers are invaluable to the cosmetics industry as they allow you to test the color of your product in virtually every step of the development and manufacturing process, from ingredient selection to the final formula’s blend. In order to create the perfect purple eyeshadow, you’ll want to test your product in at least three steps.
Your first step to achieving your desired purple hue is to test your colorants before you create your final formula, determining which one offers the strongest and most appropriate pigment within your budget. For instance, you might have a choice between two different shades of bulk synthetic ultramarine, both similarly-priced. By testing these ingredients in advance, you might find that one shade is relatively pure, with rich blue undertones, whereas the other shade isn’t nearly as vibrant.
Next, you can mix your ingredients together until you reach your ideal shade of purple. You might decide to use more ultramarine to create a violet tone or add more iron oxide to get closer to mauve. Spectrophotometers facilitate this formulation process by detecting even the most subtle changes in color between every test mix and allowing you to create a new color standard once your formulation has been perfected. You can even compare your new shade to other shades that are already on the market, ensuring that your signature purple is utterly unique. This will also make your eyeshadows more appealing for your customers— they know that they won’t be able to find these colors anywhere else.
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