Only Limited by the Imagination: Color Sets Brands Apart

  • The vividness and engaging power of color is one of all beauty products’ greatest assets, but there are ways to use color to really make a particular product stand out.
  • Beauty products benefit from the changing trends in color preferences, updating and creating new product hues and tones to match fashion, culture and other influencers.
  • Color ingredients also can be used to add effects, functional skin benefits and more to help mark the distinctiveness of a product.
  • Color is highly customizable, helping satisfy the current consumer desire for personalization.

One of the most iconic moments of the movie The Wizard of Oz is when Dorothy and Toto land somewhere over the rainbow and open the door to a world of vivid color—yellow brick roads, ruby slippers, the sparkling Emerald City … the list goes on and on. Color helped breathe previously unknown life into the film, and beauty brand owners also know the incomparable importance color brings to beauty products, even in a white cream or a black mascara.

Alexis Capik, marketing manager, Spectra Colors, explains, “Color is the first thing that you see when you reach for something. It is something that is eye-catching, that draws people in.” And Doug Thornley, president, Impact Colors, also notes the critical role color has in beauty products. “Color effect pigments really offer brand owners and marketers an opportunity to provide surprise, elegance and some other very unique qualities that truly enhance their formulations and expand consumers’ perception and enjoyment of their products,” he says. “These pigments deliver tremendous benefits to beauty marketers and consumers because they catch the eye so effectively.”

That eye-catching aspect is incredibly important in cosmetics, and it can often be accomplished courtesy of color effect pigments. “Why do women like pearls?” Thornley asks. “Because they love the depth, effect, tone and elegance of them. In its simplest form, pearl is a stone—specifically, calcium carbonate, but the depth and state of its appearance offers a look of mystery and illusion that isn’t there on any other stone on the planet. It’s the same thing with other gems and why they are so valuable; when you look at a diamond, it refracts light in so many different ways so that light isn’t just a white anymore, it’s a myriad of crystalline color—a sparkle of blue, red, gold, green, pink, orange that fascinates and captures the imagination and the eye.”

Following the Trends

The variety and extent of colors and effects is really only limited by the imagination. However, trends do roll through the color realm, helping beauty companies to develop new products in different shades and hues to match the tones of the day. “I always see cosmetics following the same trends as fashion,” notes Capik. “The hot trends in fashion are going to dictate what types of cosmetics can be paired with the fashion trends.”

EMD Chemicals develops color forecasts twice a year to help match up with these trends. “We always choose four themes, and while they vary from season to season, the tone is pretty consistent,” says Phil Linz, associate manager, cosmetic applications, EMD Chemicals. Included in the trends for spring/summer 2012, Linz notes themes that ranged through a “more striking juxtaposition of color, club looks and language like ‘middle-of-the-road bohemian bourgeois chic’ ” to a toned down alternative “with a recognition that classic beauty is timeless.” Additionally, colors expressing “the urban diva or Amazon [with] an emphasis on female strength and confidence” are also popular, according to Linz.

Capik sees that strength in current colors, as well. “Right now, it’s a lot of bright bold colors,” she says. “A couple of months ago, we had a lot of inquiries for neon colors for cosmetics, which are starting to hit the market now, and from what we’ve seen, kind of a retro look is back. So the whole ’80s—red lipstick, bright blue eye shadow, the colors that pop—are big. Everybody is looking for something that glows or glows in the dark, or is some kind of fluorescent that pops, to put in whatever they’re using.”

However, it’s not just colors that follow trends—the effect pigments follow too. Thornley says that, currently, color effect pigments in facial foundations and sun and skin care products help “add drama and creativity and a beautiful bronzed glow.” And from creams and lotions laced with hints of gold to eye makeup products that use metallized oxide mica-coated pigments for luminosity and color change to lip products that feature lush sheens and beyond, color effect pigments “add pop and vitality by incorporating just a little bit of color and a little bit of an effect pigment,” he says. “Adding even a small amount, perhaps 0.1% to 3% in a lotion for example, can create an enormous amount of fun.”

Impact Colors also develops trend reports, working with a trend and product forecasting studio called Future Touch to determine what color trends and techniques will be hitting in the coming months and years. “We’re in the midst of profiling the themes that we see emerging for 2013,” says Thornley. “There are standard colors—blacks, reds, blues, greens and so on—but we’re adding to those with a surprising sparkle to black, depth and uniqueness with a sparkle to blue, and an unexpected sheen to red—colors that change depending on your vantage point or angle. These standard, typical colors can be dramatically enhanced with high chroma, larger particle size colors and, occasionally even getting into the color travel effect realm [which describes effect pigments that shift shades based on a viewer’s vantage point], to give off great effects.”

Making It Work for You

Color isn’t just reserved for lipstick, foundation, blush and eye shadow, and color ingredients are branching out too. In fact, color cosmetic products aren’t in it for just the color anymore—they’ve also become multitaskers. “In the past five years, EMD has emphasized the importance of the role of functional filler, in which we’re introducing products that do not necessarily add color but rather improve tactile effects, or offer soft focus and/or mattifying effects,” explains Linz. “Especially in combination with active ingredients, these materials can significantly improve cosmetics, certainly as a part of the concepts that makeup isn’t just for color anymore—it needs to promote additional value to the skin.”

Thornley agrees, commenting on the ability of color ingredients to offer more than color. “More people are embracing technology and delivery systems, such as our Bichroma series, that don’t just add color and luminosity and effects but also impart a soft touch and smooth feel to the skin that really adds elegance,” he says. It’s about the whole package and bending the ingredients and products to what works best for your brand and its products.

That can include anything from different colors, color effect pigments and ingredients to different amounts of those ingredients used in products. Linz notes, “The innovative and effective raw materials that are found in a prestige product strongly contribute to the consumer’s experience with the product. In a lipstick, for example, you want good color transfer; good payoff; a smooth, pleasant skin feel; stability of the stick—no oiling out; good wear time; consistency as the product stays on the lips; and a shade that complements the skin. Prestige products will choose innovative and more effective raw materials, and will come closer to achieving those goals.”

Because more and more, consumers are seeking something familiar as well as customized, and that often means color matching. In Spectra’s work to match product colors, Capik says, “We have a color chart, and we have [customers] give us a coordinating number and letter that says, ‘This is the color that I’m looking for,’ so that we know what we’re targeting and we know what they’re trying to match.

“They’ll say, ‘OK, I have this bath gel and I want it to look like this [a certain color and finish],’ so they’ll send it in to us,” Capik continues. “They’ll send in the colored base or what they want it to look like—their target shade—and we’ll also have them send in the undyed base so that we can do the work here. We’re very much about full service. A lot of the times, in any type of formulation, and of course in cosmetics also, there are other ingredients in the product that maybe the customers don’t want to disclose or maybe they don’t know, and it can vary from product to product, so we always like to get the base product here so that we can do the work and say, ‘OK, we know this is going to work. We tested it in this base that you provided.’ We’re more confident that way.”

Because the correctness of that color is so important, it can have a significant impact on a product and its success. “Color effect pigments can be used to dramatically spice up something as simple as a body wash,” Thornley notes. “A small amount, say 0.05%, next to nothing, in a body wash can create a stars-in-the-sky effect that is extremely eye-catching.”

Thornley even recommends using these color pigment effects to draw the eyes of shoppers to the product on the shelves. “In a clear bottle, these colored, pigmented products can really stand out,” he says. “This allows brands to spend less on some packaging components,” and it’s the actual product that’s engaging the consumer.

Thornley also notes that this strategy can be used for shampoos and conditioners, body washes, liquid soaps, makeup, even creams and lotions and beyond, and it’s an instant way to make a range of beauty products stand apart from their competition.

When it comes to color, color ingredients and color effect pigments, it’s all about using them in a way that best fits your brand. Even if that’s sometimes literally out of the box.

Abby Penning is associate editor of GCI magazine. She previously was the assistant editor for Skin Inc. magazine, where she won a silver FOLIO: Eddie award in 2009.

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