Understanding How Cosmetics Are Made

Walking down the aisle of the local superstore displays numerous tubes of lipsticks, pallets of eyeshadows, and bottles of nail polish. While people load their cart up with various goods to enhance their appearance, they don’t give much thought to the process behind these products. It involves lots of ingredients and big machinery. Back in the old days, making cosmetics was tedious task. Today, it's a scientific process that requires much trial and error to develop a perfect, usable, piece. 

Makeup Throughout History

According to history, makeup has been used for more than 6,000 years. Though the people of those times couldn’t go to the store and pick up their favorite brands, they used nature to provide their cosmetics. Coal was rubbed on the eyes to make eyeliner and shadow. Different flowers were brushed against the skin to create subtle hues on the eyes and cheeks. 

The Japanese used safflower petals to color their lips for lipstick. Consequently, today’s methods are entirely different. In the past, hunting a particular flower to get the desired look would not have been out of the question. Surprisingly, many of the same ingredients go into the products of today. 

Creating Lipstick Shades


Historical sources tell us that Cleopatra was one of the first women to use carmine beetles and ants to a colorful lipstick. These days, lipsticks are made from pigment, alcohol, oil, and some wax. To be precise, three types of wax are used to make the mixture into the infamous bullet shape; they are carnauba, candelilla, and beeswax. 

The process starts by melting the wax and mixing color and fragrance. The mixture receives some oil, like caster, to keep it from drying out. Each manufacturer has their signature ingredients to give their lipstick and glossy or matte look. Once the mixture is complete, it is commonly transferred to a stainless steel tank or suitable vessel where it is cooled. 

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The Highlighting Effect of Mascara


Egyptians were the first recorded people to wear mascara. In the 19th century, Eugene Rimmel invented petroleum jelly. An early founders of a leading cosmetics company took that jelly and mixed it with coal to form a coating for the eyelashes. Of course, these were the first recipes from around 1914. Over the years, different manufactures have replaced items with various ingredients. Some common types of ingredients in our current day might include: castor, lanolin, and linseed oils. Additionally, manufacturers typically use a powder carbon as the base pigment. Beeswax and carnauba are used to coat the lashes and add volume. Those who look for waterproof varieties have an additive called dodecane placed into their tube. Lastly, the rayon microfibers that add volume are a rather new thing, which seems to have taken off. 

Emulsification predominately used to make mascara. The specially designed equipment disperses pigment and oils which is then  melted into a wax. The mixture would otherwise have ingredients that would repel each other. However, homogenization allows the ingredients to be dispersed with a cream base made with thickeners and water. Once the blend is properly mixed, it’s packaged and shipped to the stores. 

Making Hues For Eyeshadow


Back in Babylonian and Egyptian times, the eyeshadow was made from crushed insects and oxidized copper fragments. Now, it’s made by taking synthetic iron oxides and grinding them down into beautiful pigments. Base colors consist of black, brown, yellow, and red. From these primary hues, 100’s of color selections is made. Once the pigments are ground, additives like oil and zinc are added to create a pressed powder. 

When a shimmering coat is desired, pearl pigments are added to the mix. These pigments help to give the powered some sparkle and allow the eyes to reflect light. When cream eyeshadows are created, they use castor oil, jojoba, silicone, and beeswax. Once mixed, the base is poured into trays where it can set and cool. 

The Creation of Nail Polish

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Nail polish was invented in 3000 BC by the Chinese. They used vegetable dyes, beeswax, and egg whites for their formula. Around the 20th century, nail polishing became popular. Today, this polish has four primary ingredients. Common components include color and film forming agents, solvent, and resins.

A film forming agent, such as nitrocellulose, is combined with plasticizers and synthetic resins. Castor oil, butyl stearate and amyl are the conventional plasticizers used. These additives make the polish resistant to soap and water. Custom mixing equipment is used to add the coloring agent. Once inside the machine, the mixture is ground and makes sheets of finely dispersed color. 

The sheets must be broken into smaller pieces, or chips, and mixed with a solvent. All the materials go into a large stainless-steel kettle. Here, moisturizers, perfumes, and other additives are mixed into the batch, after it has cooled. Once settled, the polish is packaged in a bottle and shipped. 

The Evolution Of Makeup Thanks To Technological Advances

The history of cosmetics is a colorful one. The industry has adapted well to included modern methods of mixing and other technologies. Thanks to modern machinery, makeup can be made and customized with ease. No more smashing bugs or going into the woods to find a color pallet. Shopping, thanks to process equipment, makes finding the right cosmetics simple.


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