Bismuth Oxychloride–A Multifunctional Color Additive

A modern cosmetic product is not simply about color and improving appearance. It is a fashion statement. It reflects individuality and, sometimes, spirituality. Cosmetic formulations are becoming more complex and a product is more desirable to the consumer if it is multifunctional. The texture and feel of a product reflects the level of sophistication and renders an up-scale image.

While many new cosmetic ingredients are entering the market, bismuth oxychloride remains a unique material with many advantageous attributes for cosmetic formulations. Bismuth oxychloride is versatile and various grades are available for different cosmetic applications. It survives all the fashion trends because in cosmetic products it provides the fundamentals: classical natural color effects, silky pearlescence, excellent skin feel, enhanced binding and compressibility and good skin adhesion.

In this article, the important properties of bismuth oxychloride are described in detail and a few formulations are presented to illustrate the unique attributes of this ingredient in cosmetics as well as personal care applications.

Bismuth oxychloride (BiOCl) was the first synthetic non-toxic nacreous pigment. It has been used in cosmetic formulations for several decades. It is practically insoluble under cosmetic and physiological conditions. In fact many antacids contain bismuth salts that neutralize excess stomach acid by forming insoluble and therefore harmless BiOCl. Because of its nontoxicity and brilliance of luster, it is also becoming more popular in many other noncosmetic applications, for example, as a replacement for lead carbonate to give a high pearlescent luster to buttons, in artificial pearls, printing inks and wood finishing. Also, because it is radio-opaque, it has been used in plastic applications for medical devices.

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