Tools to Predict, Assess and Standardize Successful Color Cosmetics

The VS450 is X-Rite's response to customers in the cosmetics industry that are looking for lab-to-production solutions.
The VS450 is X-Rite's response to customers in the cosmetics industry that are looking for lab-to-production solutions.

To improve profit margins and product quality, cosmetic companies have borrowed quality control assessment methods from other industries that have replicating product attributes such as color, gloss and texture down to a science.

For instance, cosmetic manufacturers are using the same optical instruments employed by paint and coatings manufacturers to objectively measure the color of foundations, lip glosses, nail polishes and eye shadows. This enables product developers not only to meet the defined product specficiations, but also to match inspirations handed down by the marketing department, such as new lines of apparel on the runway or exotic orchids found in nature.

To these endpoints, X-Rite Incorporated and its subsidiaries, Pantone and Munsell Color Services, have designed practical and accurate solutions to advance the ability of cosmetic manufacturers to speed new product concepts to market.

Color Prediction
Design and color trends are not conjured up in a crystal ball, they are the result of observing the surrounding natural world as well as influences from society, the economy, technology, lifestyles and playstyles, diversions, entertainment but most importantly, the needs, moods, fantasies and aspirations of consumers. These factors are then translated into appropriate styling, colors and combinations.

When we look at the world of cosmetics, selecting a color often begins with a color prediction, and Pantone is highly equipped to make this prediction. In fact, color prediction is not new to Pantone; it was established as a manufacturer of cosmetic color cards in the early 1960s and through the years, Pantone has continued to lead the industry with fashion-forward color forecasts. Based on the PANTONE FASHION + HOME Color System, the most widely recognized standard for the selection and communication of color in fashion and home furnishings, Pantone publishes its PANTONE®VIEW Colour Planner color trend forecast on a seasonal basis.

The PANTONE®VIEW Colour Planner provides color and trend direction for the men's and women's apparel market as well as cosmetics, accessories, lifestyles and more—from 18 to 24 months in advance of the season. Trend palettes in the color planner contain instructive trend directions, inspirational imagery and suggested color harmonies that illustrate key seasonal trends.

Color Assessment
Once color and other specifications are defined for a given product concept, assessments must be made to verify that specifications are met. This is the specialty of X-Rite, the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of color measurement systems. The company has designed an array of optical instruments and software packages, described below, to provide relatively inexpensive, quick and easy means by which product developers can accurately measure the subtle hues, colors, shimmer and sparkle of the latest cosmetics.

In the past few months, some of the world's largest cosmetics designers and manufacturers have begun to test and use X-Rite's proprietary non-contact color measurement technology that measures the color of wet, powdered and paste samples from a distance without disturbing the surface appearance of the sample. Measuring a sample in its natural state better represents the way the human eye perceives color, and ultimately how the consumer perceives the finished product on the store shelf, says Kenneth Phillips, the company's product manager for Non Contact Industrial Markets.

"You really need to view cosmetics in their natural state, and that can only be accomplished with non-contact measurement," Phillips says. The standard method for measuring color in the cosmetic industry is accomplished by placing a sample in a cuvette or slide, then placing the sample against the port of a benchtop spectrophotometer. However, this method does not accurately replicate what the eye sees because it adds a transparent barrier between the sample and instrument. "You immediately impart error when you measure color through clear plastic or glass, such as depth of field issues and ambient light piped in from the surroundings," Phillips says.

To eliminate these errors, X-Rite's VS450 spectrophotometer does not need to make physical contact with the test surface; it is designed to measure samples from a distance of approximately 38 mm. By measuring from a distance, the VS450 also can accurately measure the color of nondrying, oil-based products including foundations and lip glosses—products that normally would foul the port of a conventional benchtop spectrophotometer.

The VS450 device is X-Rite's response to customers in the cosmetics industry that are looking for lab-to-production solutions. Phillips explains that the VS450 is a highly accurate spectrophotometer in terms of color accuracy and repeatability, which means manufacturers can maintain confidence in the data being monitored. In regards to ease of use, the VS450 is designed to be portable and uploads its data directly to a computer for analysis, providing for quicker and more straightforward tests that can be performed at any point and anywhere along the formulation process. And since the tests are quick and easy, companies are able to catch and correct mistakes much sooner than before.

Shimmer, Sparkle Color Assessment
In addition to the VS450, X-Rite has just introduced its family of MA94, 96 and 98 multi-angle spectrophotometers that can measure cosmetics without contacting test surfaces. The MA98 is designed specifically to address the challenge of accurately measuring shimmery foundations or sparkling eye shadows that can confuse conventional spectrophotometers.

X-Rite product manager Brian Teunis explains that with twice as many sensors and illuminators as other handheld multi-angle spectrophotometers on the market, the MA98 instrument can detect characteristics of sparkling and iridescent colors that the other instruments miss entirely. He adds that the instrument can effectively be used in cases where quality control personnel observe that two product batches do not match but cannot obtain numerical values to explain why the mismatch is occurring.

X-Rite also has developed its X-ColorQC® software to tie the measurements of the VS450, MA98 and other instruments with data that a cosmetic company may record during production, such as date, time of manufacture, batch, supplier of raw materials and pigments, even process parameters such as particular formulas, mixing times and temperatures.

Setting Specifications
Finally, taking measurements is an act of futility without first setting the appropriate standards by which quality control personnel and lab technicians are to assess products. It is thus crucial to have accurate color vision and lighting booths to provide the exact illumination to view cosmetic samples against standards—and Munsell Color Services rounds out the testing toolbox for cosmetic manufacturers by offering a line of objective tests for this purpose. 

In relation, to show how unreliable the human eye can be, Teunis invites readers to take a free online Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test, which has been used by companies for more than 60 years to distinguish between individuals who have poor, normal or exceptional color vision. While the online version is not exact enough for business purposes, Teunis notes that it illustrates the wide variation in how people perceive color. In fact, according to Teunis, studies show that nearly one in every 12 males and one in every 255 females has some form of color vision defect.

Whether enabling companies to gain an edge by predicting future color trends, or setting the standards by which future color cosmetics will be benchmarked, X-Rite has the tools for cosmetic manufacturers to react quickly to new opportunities and improve upon the quality of their products. For more information on X-Rite, visit the company's Web site.


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