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Defining Dispersion

By: Edwin B. Faulkner
Posted: March 6, 2012

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Figure 1 (D&C Red 7 Ca Lake) and Figure 2 (Ferric Ammonium Ferrocynanide) illustrate clearly what dispersion does and why it adds tremendous value to the pigment.

The two images on the left of each display are masstone, meaning that they are prepared with two components–pigment and castor oil. The ones on the right side of each display are tints–prepared by diluting the masstones with zinc oxide. The masstone contains two individual components–the one on the left is made by simply mixing the pigments with castor oil using a spatula, while the one on the right is made by properly dispersing the color into the castor oil. It is easy to see visually the impact dispersion makes on the color.

It is plain to see that the masstones of the mixed preparations are very light and opaque when compared to the dispersed ones. Likewise, the strength of the mixed preparations is extremely weak versus the dispersed ones. Gloss is an important property of lipsticks, lip glosses and nail polish. Their ability to provide shine on the skin is an important property to the appeal of the cosmetic. Improperly dispersed pigments result in more diffuse reflection, which yields a dull finish on the skin. In addition, liquid cosmetic products must exhibit acceptable viscosity and flow properties, commonly called rheology, in order for these products to be easily removed from their container and apply smoothly onto the skin. Improperly dispersed pigments contain large particles that interfere with the rheology of the product, making it difficult to apply to the skin and rub off easily, forcing the consumer to re-apply the product more frequently.

This information is an excerpt from the book Coloring the Cosmetic World: Using Pigments in Decorative Cosmetic Formulations. To learn more about this topic or to purchase the entire book, visit


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