In a bid to boost profit margins and improve quality, cosmetic companies are now borrowing quality control methods from other industries that have made a science out of knowing how to replicate formulas for color, gloss and textures. For instance, cosmetic companies are beginning to use the same optical instruments employed by paint and coating manufacturers to take objective, numerical measurements of the colors of makeup foundations, lip glosses, nail polishes and eye shadows. By doing so, brand owners can match their colors precisely with manufacturing standards, new lines of apparel, or even the color of any inspirational item such as an exotic orchid.
X-Rite Incorporated and its subsidiaries Pantone and Munsell Color Services have raised the bar in providing practical and accurate solutions that help cosmetics manufacturers bring new products to market quickly.
The selection of colors for cosmetics often starts with Pantone—which publishes its PANTONE VIEW Color Planner based on the PANTONE FASHION + HOME Color System, the most widely used and recognized standard in the world that predicts the use of colors. The system forecasts as far as two years in advance what colors will be popular for men’s and women’s apparel, cosmetics and beauty products, and for other industries. Established as a manufacturer of cosmetic color cards in the early 1960s, Pantone continues to lead the industry with fashion forward color forecasts. X-Rite, the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of color measurement systems, offers a complete assortment of optical instruments and software packages that provide relatively inexpensive, quick and easy ways to accurately measure hues of subtle colors, shimmer and sparkle of 21st century cosmetics.
Instruments such as the VS450 spectrophotometer can inexpensively and accurately measure the color of nondrying, oil-based products such as foundations and lip glosses.
The VS450 can replace "some pretty elaborate and expensive tests" that cosmetic companies use to measure colors of these non-drying products, says Kenneth Phillips, product manager for Non Contact Industrial Markets for X-Rite. For their quality control other cosmetic companies still rely on the centuries-old method of a person simply dabbing a sample of a test cosmetic on the forearm, next to a standard formula of the cosmetic.This method of testing depends on the skill and experience of the individual, and it doesn't provide much data other than whether a cosmetic passes or fails the test.
"Our new instrument provides for much quicker and straightforward tests that can be used anywhere along a formulation process," says Phillips. "Because the tests are quick and easy, companies are able to catch and correct mistakes much sooner than before."
Unlike other spectrophotometers that require a test surface to make physical contact against a viewing port, the VS450 measures samples from a distance of about 38mm. In addition, the VS450 makes it possible for companies to link objective numerical data—for instance, the degree of hue, chroma and saturation of a particular cosmetic sample—with shop floor variables during the manufacturing process—such as the recipe of a particular formula, temperature or mixing time. The VS450 is portable and can load its measurements directly into a computer via a cable to analyze the data, Phillips says.
As a new product introduction, the VS450 is X-Rite's response to customers in the cosmetics industry that are looking for a lab-to-production solutions, Phillips says. "The VS450 is about twice as accurate as comparable instruments in terms of repeatability. That means manufacturers can have good confidence in the data they use for monitoring their operations.”
Another newly introduced measurement technology, xDNA, tackles the problem of accurately measuring the color of shimmery foundations or sparkling eye shadows. Prior technology was confounded by the fact that sparkling colors and iridescence look different under various illuminations and observation angles.
“With twice as many sensors and illuminators as other handheld multi-angle spectrophotometers on the market, the MA98 instrument can detect characteristics of effect (sparkling) color that the other instruments miss entirely,” says Brian Teunis, X-Rite product manager whose division developed xDNA. “It’s truly amazing technology.”
Quality control personnel on a cosmetic production line may observe that two batches don't match properly, but prior instruments could not give measurements to help explain why the mismatch was occurring. Consequently, companies can spend an inordinate amount of time and resources trying to determine the root cause of problems through trial and error.
Teunis says the MA98 instrument collects data that other instruments don't detect, and a software package called X-ColorQC® manipulates the data with proprietary xDNA algorithms to generate easy-to-understand graphs that show unique characteristics of an effect color.
Munsell Color Services rounds out the toolbox for cosmetics manufacturers by offering a line of tests to identify whether quality control personnel and lab technicians have deficient color vision and lighting booths that provide exact illumination to view cosmetic samples against standards.
To show how unreliable the human eye can be, Teunis invites people to take a free online Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test used by companies for more than 60 years to distinguish between individuals who have poor, normal or exceptional color vision.
"While the online version isn’t exact enough to be used for business purposes, it shows how really wide the variation is in how people perceive color," says Teunis. "Studies show that nearly one in every 12 males and one in every 255 females has some form of color vision defect."
Regardless of the application, X-Rite has the tools for cosmetic manufacturers to react quickly to new opportunities and improve the quality of their products. For more information on X-Rite, visit the company's Web site. Find new solutions to assist in managing and controlling the color and formulating the color and appearance of cosmetics products, along with helping you identify which instrument is right for you and your applications.
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