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Comparatively Speaking: Pressed vs. Loose Powder
By: Anthony J. O'Lenick Jr., Siltech LLC, and Nick Morante, Nick Morante Consultants
Posted: August 7, 2012
Loose powders can come in any type, size, color, flavor, etc. They include, dusting powders, finishing powders, foundations, perfumed body powders, cheek powders, eye shadows, etc. The basic formula for each of these is similar, using many of the same ingredients to deliver the properties exhibited by each. For example, foundations, mineral powders, finishing powders, cheek powders and eye powders all contain the same conventional color additives that are found in every other color and decorative cosmetic product. Loose powders usually do not contain as high a color level as their pressed counterparts, but particle size reduction is usually performed using the same type of grinding apparatus. Particle size is critical to a powder product’s feel and performance.
Dusting powders and perfumed body powders are a bit different in that they must contain ingredients that have a high oil or water absorbance. Body powders are usually applied after a bath or shower, and water absorbance is the key property in them. In a perfumed body powder, high levels of fragrance oil are used. High oil absorbance is required to keep the powder flowing freely without caking due to the high level of oils used in the product. Body powders and fragrance powders are usually marketed in loose form in a box or in a shaker canister. Since both are for after bath or shower and most likely stored in a hot humid environment, they need to be formulated to not absorb any moisture from the air. The right ingredients will prevent this; usually a balance of ingredients that will absorb body moisture but not environmental moisture. The proper balance of absorbent silica and nonabsorbent silica will work best here.
In all cases, loose powders must have adequate adhesion properties so that they will have acceptable wear on the skin but will also be lightweight. Aside from the perfumed body powders, most other loose powders contain the same small level of liquid binder. This liquid binder is in the formula at just enough concentration to prevent the product from dusting and getting everywhere, as well as aid in the product’s adhesion to the skin. In most cases, loose powders can be applied with a puff, although most people prefer to use a makeup brush.
Pressed powders contain many of the same ingredients as the loose powders, but pressed powders are contain a significantly higher amount of liquid binders to hold the formula together. The higher level of liquid binders are needed for compacting and pressing the formulation into aluminum or tin-plated pans,and to improve on the adhesion properties on the skin. The binders also contribute greatly to the overall feel of the product on application. Many different liquid (and solid) binders can be used depending on the properties desired in the particular type of powder. Pressed powders usually require an applicator, but makeup brushes can be used in some cases.