What Are the Different Types of Raw Materials for Cosmetics?

Andrea Cross

Cosmetics are composed of a number of raw materials that are processed together to produce a final product. The exact ingredients differ among products, but the types of raw materials tend to be the same. These different types include active ingredients, aesthetic additions, and materials that influence product use. Diluents, stabilizers, and adjustment agents are also typical raw materials for cosmetics, as are ingredients that assist ease of production and increase marketing value.

Most makeup products contain stabilizers and preservatives.
Most makeup products contain stabilizers and preservatives.

The first type of raw materials for cosmetics is the active ingredient. These are the materials that make the product work or that provide its functional purpose. These materials include moisturizers, conditioners, and cleansers. Antioxidants and colorants are also included in this category, as are exfoliators and emollients.

Companies that sell homemade cosmetics often formulate their products with organic ingredients.
Companies that sell homemade cosmetics often formulate their products with organic ingredients.

Another main component is aesthetic materials. These are included in a cosmetic to make it more visually appealing to the consumer. They also improve the feel and smell of the product. This includes thickeners such as tapioca starch, color, and fragrance. Another example is inclusions such as jojoba beads, which provide a product with both function and visual impact.

A third type of raw materials for cosmetics are those that influence the way a consumer will use a product. For example, surfactants such as ammonium lauryl sulfate are added to shampoos to create the desired lather. Components such as glycerin are used to give products smooth, physically appealing textures.

Diluents are also added to cosmetics to improve the texture and to reduce the concentration of the active ingredients, minimizing both production cost and risk of skin irritation. Water, oils, and powders such as talc are examples of this. This material tends to make up the largest percentage of cosmetics' ingredients.

Cosmetics also require stabilizers. These help to keep the product from separating and assist in preservation and increasing shelf life. These raw materials for cosmetics include emulsifiers, antioxidants, and preservatives such as potassium sorbate. Polymers and chelators are also considered stabilizers.

To produce a consistent product, ingredients need to be added to adjust the formula so that the same product is produced every time. Agents are required to adjust the pH, color, and viscosity of products. An example of this is sodium bicarbonate, an alkali material used to adjust pH. Production aids are also used, such as propylene glycol and polysorbate, in order to make batch production more efficient.

The final raw materials for cosmetics are those that are used mainly for the purposes of marketing the product. These ingredients are usually interchangeable to keep up with current trends. The materials are promoted as having significant benefits but, in fact, may only be a very small part of the final product. Popular examples of this include herbal, fruit, and botanical extracts.

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Discussion Comments


I would never recommend that anyone uses a cosmetic that contains propylene glycol. This is a synthetic chemical and the effects of using it are not fully understood. I always look for cosmetics that have as few ingredients as possible when I buy them.


Reading this article is very eye-opening about what cosmetics are really made of. It makes you not want to even put them on your face and body. The alternative is to use cosmetic products that are vegan, natural, and organic.

In contrast to the raw materials used to make most commercial cosmetic products, natural products are made of materials such as minerals, fruit oils, and natural colors derived from plants. These products work great, and are less likely to cause skin irritations and pimple break outs. Though natural products may be a bit more expensive than traditional cosmetics, they are worth the cost in my opinion.

The only thing you have to be careful about when buying natural products is to make sure that they truly are natural. Some companies use the word natural as a marketing tool, just like the article mentions. The words vegan and organic are two terms to look for on the packaging of natural cosmetic products. Also, a good rule of thumb is to avoid products with ingredients you can't pronounce. Truly natural cosmetics will have a simple ingredient list.

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