Eye Shadow Ingredients - What is that shimmer all about?

The Art of Eyeshadow on "green eyes"Image by dreamglow pumpkincat210 via Flickr

Reader Vidhya requested for more information on eye shadow ingredients. She pays a lot of attention to ingredients and is careful to avoid potentially hazardous stuff. 

Most eye shadows consist of two parts – the base and the coloring

The base remains common for all eye shadows, what differs is the mineral added to impart the desired color.

Kind of like the ice gola we have on the beach. Same ice base but different flavors added as per desire. 

The base of any eye shadow generally contains

Normal Eye shadow Ingredients:  Talc, Mica, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Zinc Stearate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Silica.  

Colors are impacted by the following ingredients: 

All Shades May Contain (these are the compounds that actually impart the color to the eye shadow): 
  • CI 77891 (Titanium dioxide- white) is added to brighten and intensify the color of makeup, and to give whiteness and opacity. Titanium dioxide is also a natural sun block.
  • CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides): one of the most important color minerals was used by Cleopatra in the form of red ochre as rouge. Today, iron oxides give red, orange, yellow, brown, and black tones to makeup.
  • CI 77007 (Ultramarines) – Blue & Pinks coloring is made from a mixture of kaolin, soda ash, sulfur, and charcoal.
  • CI 75470 (Carmine),
  • CI 77742 (Manganese Violet) - Purple,
  • CI 77510 (Ferric Ferrocyanide),
  • CI 77288 (Chromium Oxide Greens),
  • CI 77289 (Chromium Hydroxide Green),
  • CI 77163 (Bismuth Oxychloride),
  • CI 77000 (Aluminum Powder - silver),
  • CI 19140 (Yellow 5 Lake),
  • CI 42090 (Blue 1 Lake),
  • CI 77400 (Bronze Powder).
Break down of the base ingredients:
Talc - a magnesium silicate mineral
This mineral has a plate kind of molecular structure, which helps it glide smoothly, allowing makeup to be applied easily. They lie across the pores in the skin and lessen the chance of clogging pores, while providing texture to the skin. Yet they are translucent enough not to be seen. Talc is resistant to acids, bases, and heat and tends to repel water. 

Is added to give luster or pearlescence to a product. Mica is resistant to ultraviolet light, heat, weather and chemical attack and adheres to the skin. Like talc, it has excellent slip characteristics and may be used to replace talc in a makeup. When coated with iron oxide, mica flakes sparkle with a gold tint.

Ethylhexyl palmitate 
Is a derivative of palm oil often used as an organic replacement to silicone. It has a ‘dry-slip’ feel that is very similar to silicone’s texture – basically this also imparts smoothness to the texture – so the mineral powders feel soft and smooth when rubbed against the skin. Similar to how your fingers feel if you have rub Livon between them (which has silicon, btw).  Sometimes replaced by Dimethicone

Acrylate copolymers 
For providing excellent water resistance to products. So this makes your eye shadow a little bit resistant to water. This is also what helps it bind better if you have a primer or concealor base on. It adheres to the tiny water molecules. 

Zinc Stearate 
Is used as an anti-caking agent (prevents the eye shadow from clumping up due to water absorption). It exhibits a capacity to absorb excess moisture by coating every makeup particle, making them water repellent. This compound is typically added on powders and foundations to allow high coverage and even sun protection. 

Methylparaben, Propylparaben:  
Are preservatives that inhibit microbial degradation. Typically, more than one paraben is used in a product, to provide preservation against a broad range of microorganisms. The use of mixtures of parabens allows the use of lower levels while increasing preservative activity. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) reviewed the safety of methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben in 1984 and concluded they were safe for use in cosmetic products at levels up to 25%. Typically parabens are used at levels ranging from 0.01 to 0.3%.
Because of its ability to scatter light (light diffusion properties), silica is used as a filler and base to effectively and seamlessly lighten or blur fine lines and wrinkles. Silica allows the makeup to luxuriously slip on the skin. It also has excellent oil-control properties. It is oil absorbent, which enables makeups’ to stay on longer; much like creating a freshly applied look even after hours of application. 

In addition to above, some companies may add additional ingredients based on the formula and the characteristics of the eye shadow.  This varies from company to company. 

Ok. Now that we done with the base ingredients – let’s talk safety. 

Most of the ingredients listed above are safe for use. They are regular minerals that have been used since Cleopatra’s time. 

Except for Parabens (the preservative). 

Parabens' chemical structure is strikingly similar to the hormone estrogen; in fact, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states that all parabens have been proven to have endocrine-disrupting effects. And too much estrogen – or estrogen mimickers – can cause big problems, including weight gain, fluid retention and depression, and possibly even cancer.

Before you get into a swoon and throw everything that has paraben out – consider these things
1. In studies Paraben is used in very high concentrations of 25%, whereas make up actually contains no more than 2% to 5%
2. Secondly make up is applied in nanograms to the skin. So the amount actually absorbed is very very tiny. 

As a result I am ok with Paraben products. Studies as done on date show that make up is safe to use, despite all the controversy around chemicals. 

Use your discretion here. I cannot recommend if you should use or avoid Paraben.  I can just tell you what I do – and that is, I use make up with paraben with on a daily basis. But I make sure that I use only branded things– not Chinese stuff.

By the way, while googling I did find an organic eyeshadow: Tarte Flower Child Natural Eye shadow Palette.

This is formulated without:- Parabens- Sulfates- Synthetic Fragrances- Synthetic Dyes- Petro-Chemicals- Phthalates- GMOs- Triclosan.

Eyeshadow Ingredients: Mica, Zinc Stearate, Dimethicone, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit E acetate), Ascorbyl Palmitate, Retinyl Palmitate (Vit A derivative), Tocopherol (Vit E).
It does still have some of the ingredients listed above and some natural substitutes.
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  1. Thanks for eloborate break-up. Infact I too noticed in Environmental Working Group - they rated paraben as high hazard (7-10 in score). I observed paraben in almost all cosmetic products :( But I dint know that how much % is used / how much % if included is safe to use. Kudos to your science skills.

    In India there is no organic make-up products.If introduced, I would be the first one to grab them ;)

  2. Tanveer, that's an excellent post. You must serve me some tea now. After years I have read so much about chemicals, feeling both good and tired. :D

  3. excellent post! i will go through it when i am not as tired as now. :)
    inglot has paraben free makeup. you might want to check it out. but you're right, a very tiny amount actually gets absorbed into the body.

  4. as usual, u r the encyclopedia of ingredients :) great post, tanvi...

  5. @Vidhya: Yr most welcome :) Glad to help.

  6. @Rati: I too needed a cup of tea after writing this :D LOL..

    I generally don't do such detailed ingridient posts coz I know they get a little bit heavy. But it was a reader request so..

    Glad you enjoyed it

  7. @Rima: Thks a lot :D

    I didn't know about this inglot thing - thks for the tip :).

  8. You always write such informative posts . Thanks for such detailed post . Loved it :)

  9. @Palak: Thks a lot :D I hope yr exams go well & get over soon. Missing your posts :)

  10. Excellent write up Tanvi..

    The part about the colours as well as Parabens is very informative and was much needed. Was quite paranoid after reading many blogs/sites where people said they avoid stuff with paraben and all that blah..

  11. Oh my, I'm feeling dizzy...hehe..I admire the effort u've put into this post


  12. @Poornima: Thks so much :).. Actually even I have heard so much about Parabens that initially even I got confused.

    It seems that these days everything is toxic, right from mineral oil to sulphates to parabens - and there is no clarity on the issue.

    If possible I think avoiding paraben is a good idea - but every thing I own has parabens - my colorbar & NYX blushes, my eyeshadows.. The only other option is throw it all out and go get inglot stuff - which doesn't have a store here :P

  13. Wow Gr8 research!!Was busy wid exams..so couldn't read before..Must have taken so much time..!!

  14. @Simran: Yea, it took me quite long.. LOL..


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