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Color Additives
Author: Debbie May
Friday, May 30, 2014

Color additive is dye, pigment or substance that can be added or applied to food, drug, cosmetics, and many other substances. Here is a brief description of the different color additives that can be applied to your soaps.


A color additive is any dye, pigment or substance that can impart color when added or applied to a food, drug, and cosmetic or to the human body.  Four types of color additives used in MP Soap include dyes, pigments, lakes and color micas.  Color may be added to MP Soap Base, as much quantity as desired, as long as the soap bubbles remain white.  If the soap bubbles are colored, then too much color has been used.

Water soluble colors are colors that are capable of dissolving in water.  Dyes are water soluble.  Dispersible colors are insoluble color additives that are uniformly distributed throughout the oil or water.  Pigments and lakes are oil dispersible.  Color micas are water or oil dispersible.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict laws on what color additives are approved for skin contact.  The FDA inspects all batches of dyes for contamination, misrepresentation and approval for release to the market. Oxides, ultramarines, and color micas are not batch inspected.  U.S. law prohibits use of color additives in cosmetics unless it is approved specifically for the intended use. FD&C colors are approved for use in Food, Drug and Cosmetics (FD&C) while D&C colors are approved for use in only Drug and Cosmetics (D&C).

If an additive is being used for purpose other than coloring, and it secondarily produces color in soap, then the additive is not considered a color additive by the FDA.  The FDA lists all approved colors at this internet location:  FDA Color Additives for Cosmetics.

Dye Colors

FD&C and D&C Dyes are typically soluble in water and can be man-made or natural. These colors produce very vibrant color and stay clear in clear soap.  Since they are soluble in water and MP Soap is water soluble, the colors will migrate in multicolored soap. They are not UV-stable (i.e. colorfast) and will fade over time without the use of a color stabilizer.

Lake Colors

Lake colors are commercially produced oil dispersible combination of dyes and an insoluble material.  They produce very bright colors that remain colorfast.  Lakes migrate in multilayered soap.  They are best used in single color soap pours.

Pigment,Oxide & Ultramarine Colors

Pigments are most commonly oxides, ultramarines and titanium dioxide, and are considered inorganic colors. Cosmetic grade pigments are always man made. This is a requirement of the FDA. Pigments are popular because they do not migrate in MP Soap and remain colorfast. They are naturally insoluble in water and need to be dispersed in a vehicle or they will fall out or speckle the surface of MP Soap. Many, though not all, are opaque (deeper in hue) and can cloud clear soap. Titanium dioxide is the industry’s most commonly used pigment, used to make MP Soap opaque white. 

Mica Colors

Micas are man-made colors that sparkle due to optical reflection. The reflection can vary from a bright sparkle to a fine pearl. They are best used in transparent MP soap as the MP soap allows the light to reflect off the mica. They typically do not migrate when layering colors. In white soap, they will provide a dull color. If dyes have been artificially added to the mica they can migrate. 

Neon and Fluorescent Colors

Fluorescent colors are produced by combining D&C certified dyes with a proprietary resin matrix. This pigment technology creates the cleanest, brightest shades possible from existing D&C certified components. It is recommended for use in a wide variety of traditional cosmetic components. 

Only the following fluorescent colors are approved by the FDA for use in cosmetics, and there are limits on their intended uses: D&C Orange No. 5, No. 10, and No. 11; and D&C Red No. 21, No. 22, No. 27, and No. 28.

Glow in the Dark

The FDA has approved only 1 product to be used as a glow in the dark colorant for soap and cosmetics.  They specifically state:  "Luminescent zinc sulfide is the only approved glow-in-the-dark color additive."

UV Color Protectors

Benzophenone-4 is an organic chemical that blocks ultraviolet light from damaging color dyes and fragrance in MP Soap Base. It is the preferred benzophenone for cosmetics; soap and hair care products because it is a benzophenone variant that is soluble in water. It will not act as a sun block in skincare products and should not be used as such. 

Note:  This ingredient is being phased out of many formulas as it has been included on the California Prop 65 list for reportable ingredients.

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