Quality Control in Color

In a bid to boost profit margins through better manufacturing techniques, beauty companies are beginning to borrow new quality control techniques from unrelated industries that have made a science of knowing how to replicate formulas for color and appearance.

Manufacturers of paint, coatings and printing inks, and companies involved in textile dyeing, leather tanning and other industries that make products for consumer goods, have adopted the use of optical instruments to control their processes. Without some objective numerical standards, the companies risked losing too much money due to rejected lots, resources devoted to rework products, and customer dissatisfaction.

At the same time, the cost of purchasing accurate spectrophotometers and computer systems for color measurement has plummeted in the past few years, thanks to advances in LED illumination sources and computing power. The result: relatively inexpensive, quick and easy ways to accurately measure hues of subtle colors, shimmer and sparkle of 21st century cosmetics.

X-Rite Inc. unveiled its VS450 optical instrument at the November 2009 SCS Formulate show, sponsored by the Society of Cosmetic Scientists and held in Coventry, U.K. It provides a way to inexpensively and accurately measure the color of nondrying, oil-based products such as foundations and lip glosses.

“We know that some companies in the cosmetic industry now use some pretty elaborate tests to measure colors of these nondrying products,” says Rafiq Mulla, applications manager for the U.K. office of X-Rite. “Yet other cosmetic companies still rely for their quality control on the age-old method of simply dabbing a sample of a test cosmetic on a person’s forearm, next to a standard formula of the cosmetic.

“Our new instrument provides for quicker and straightforward tests that can be used anywhere along a formulation process; because the tests are quick and easy, companies will tend catch and correct mistakes much sooner than before.”

As a new product introduction, the VS450 is X-Rite’s response to customers in the cosmetics industry who are looking for lab-to-production solutions, according to Kenneth Phillips, product manager for Non Contact Industrial Markets. “Instruments that offer accuracy in terms of repeatability allow manufacturers to have confidence in the data they use for monitoring their operations,” he says.