How to make a liquid lipstick- Guide by Luisa Fanzani
last year

[Formulation] How to make a liquid lipstick (long lasting and waterproof)

“How do I make a liquid lipstick?”

This post is going to disclose all the secrets to make a matte long lasting liquid lipstick from scratch.

The info I‘ll provide is also a great starting point to learn how to make liquid lipstick at home and for fun.

At the end of the post, I will also show you which ingredient provides the smudge proof effect and how you can easily control it.

 NOTE: the market for liquid lipsticks is highly competitive and close to saturation.

 To be successful, you need a lipstick that stands out. The variety of formulations and shades is almost comprehensive. For this reason, I do not recommend to start a new beauty line with liquid lipstick as the first product.

 I do not intend to discourage you, I’m simply offering honest advice. If you still want to pursue it,  make sure you have an awesome marketing team and, of course, an adequate budget.

You can find almost all the ingredients you need on the internet or you can purchase a base and add the pigments to create your custom shades.

With so many liquid lipsticks on the market, it’s no surprise to see they have many ingredients in common.

 After talking with hundreds of people, I realized one of the highest rated lipstick is the Jeffree Star- Velour.

 It is a vegan and long-lasting lipstick. It’s not completely smudge-proof, but this is a plus as it doesn’t dry out your lips.

 I‘ve never worked for Jeffree Star nor have any kind of relationship with this company. What I am going to write is merely based on my experience, intuition, and knowledge as a cosmetic chemist.

 PRO TIP: To improve the performance of any lipstick, use a lip scrub before application.

How to make a liquid lipstick- The Ingredients

 

JS liquid lipstick ingredients --- Click here

NOTE: there’s no guarantee the ingredients list you find on the producer’s website is the actual one, but it should list the key ingredients.

 

Isododecane. Is the solvent (carrier) you’ll find in 90% of the lipsticks out there. It is a volatile, colorless and odorless liquid.

Horrible (but cheaper) alternatives are paraffin/mineral oil. Better ones are some volatile silicones (for example trisiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane or dimethicone).  

Isododecane in a liquid lipstick formula is around 60%-65% and provides a non-tacky feeling while also minimizing the color transfer.

 Trimethylsiloxysilicate: it’s responsible for the long-lasting, waterproof effect as film forming agent. Its % goes from about 10% up to 20%. Do not go way over 20% or you’ll get a lipstick that crumbles. Trimethylsiloxysilicate is highly soluble in isododecane.

 Dimethicone contributes to the waterproof effect and acts as both film-forming and emollient. Its concentration varies from 16 to 20%.

Dimethicone

Kaolin: opacifying and mattifying agent.

Synthetic Beeswax it’s used as a thickening agent at around 4%. Not all liquid lipsticks have waxes that are put in them. Fumed silica act as thickening agent, too. If you decide to use wax, do not put too much or the lipstick will be sticky.

Cyclopentasiloxane, Disteardimonium Hectorite, and  Propylene Carbonate: three ingredients that are sold as a unique product called BENTONE GEL® VS-5PC V HV. In the U.S it’s distributed by DD Chemco (See details here). Cyclopentasiloxane is a volatile silicone.

This gel acts as:

 -Viscosity increasing agent.

 -Suspending agent (you need something that keeps your pigments suspended, or after a few days you’ll find them at the bottom of the bottle).

 -Enhances skin feel.

 You can incorporate Bentone Gel in the formula at around 5%. You must use a medium or high-shear mixer. You’ll see chunks at first. Do not proceed until all the chunks have been dissolved.

 I know some of you don’t have a business address (yet! ) and thus don’t have access to ulprospector.com to request samples. As mentioned in my raw material report, most likely you’ll still be able to receive samples if you contact the company directly, and provide your UPS or FedEx account #.

 If you really can’t find this ingredient, no worries. There’s a very close one here

 Hydrogenated Polyisobutene enhances color shine and acts as emollient. I would use it in a lipgloss rather than matte lipstick.

 Silica Dimethyl Silylate is a fumed silica that has been treated with a silicone.

 -It prevents the pigments from  “bleeding” into the lines of the lips.

 – By increasing the viscosity of the formula, It prevents pigments from settling.

 -It provides optimal pigments stability and water resistance.

Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E) is an antioxidant. It’s needed for stability or marketing reasons. Usually, you can’t go wrong by adding it at a 0.2%.

Hydrogen Dimethicone ensures adherence to the skin. It’s a difficult ingredient to source and not necessary.

Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate it’s a UV adsorber and prevents shades variations besides protecting your lips.

Ethylhexylglycerin has a bacteriostatic (limits bacteria reproduction) and moisturizing effect. Due to a synergistic effect, the dosage of the preservative can be reduced when this ingredient is present. Unnecessary in this kind of products.

 Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol is a preservative known as Lexgard HPO. A liquid lipstick, being an oil-based formulation, doesn’t require a preservative. I’ve formulated lipsticks with no preservative that were able to pass stability, pet and microbiological tests. However, remember that not adding a preservative could make you lose customers.

How to make a liquid lipstick-other common ingredients

Nylon12. It’s used to increase payoff and texture.

Synthetic Fluorphlogopite. It helps with the mattifying effect. Can replace talc, kaolin and similar.

Polypropylsilsesquioxane: you’ll often find it in association with trimethylsiloxysilicate. It provides a silky smooth feel.

 –Polyethylene: acts as a binder and increases hardness and slip.

 –Trihydroxystearin is a thickening agent that can replace wax. Having a lower melting point, it can benefit volatile ingredients such as Cyclopentasiloxane (less heating required than waxes). Trihydroxystearin is a naturally derived (modified hydrogenated Castor Oil).

liquid lipstick

Compilation from liquid lipstick with a single color swipe

Liquid lipstick formula

Finally, it’s time to write down a formula.

This step might be tricky if you don’t have any formulation knowledge, but don’t worry because you can simply copy this one. I have eliminated some ingredients and added some others.

 This is just a general formula that will definitely work, but of course, it can be further improved and customized. My goal here is to leave you some practical advice.

 Isododecane 54.6%

Trimethylsiloxysilicate 17%

Dimethicone 15%

Bentone Gel 5%

Synthetic Fluorphlogopite 3%

Synthetic Beeswax 2%

Fumed Silica 2.5%

Tocopheryl Acetate 0.2%

Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol 0.2%

You’ll want to add pigments at the end to obtain your favorite shades. When making those shades, even a 0.01% variation can make a huge difference, so you really want to have an accurate scale. If you’re uncertain on what to buy, Ohaus is an excellent brand (this, in particular, has a readability of 0.01g and 200g capacity).

 For the shades, I suggest you use iron oxides as a starting point as they’re easy to handle and give a very noticeable, strong coloration. Here you can find a great selection of pigments.

liquid lipstick pigments


 If you want to slightly modify the formula, don’t pay obsessive attention to the overall sum of the ingredients (that should yield 100% ) nor to the preservative. You can fix those details later, usually by adjusting the isododecane.

Instead, focus on the 3  key ingredients and try to find the best ratio (= the one that works best for you). The 3 key ingredients are trimethylsiloxysilicate, Bentone gel and dimethicone.

 Feel free to leave out the preservative from your calculation as well. You might not even want to use it.

Procedure

To make everything easier, start by making 100g of product. 

By doing this, you don’t have to make any calculations with the ingredients. It’s straightforward. If the formula says 60% isododecane, the weight is 60 g. It’s that simple!

Need to purchase beakers, scale or other stuff? Take a look at this post.

Weigh the isododecane in a beaker and add the trimethylsiloxysilicate. It will dissolve easily.

Add the dimethicone and then the Benton gel. To exert its full potential, the Benton gel needs to be dispersed using a high shear mixer (this one is perfect).

Add the vitamin E and the preservative (if using it).

Add the fumed silica. This step is very important, fumed silica must be properly dispersed to exert its function. You should be using a high shear mixer and mix for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have a high shear mixer, don’t use the fumed silica. Increase the wax by 2% instead.

Add the wax, melt it, and let it cool down while stirring.

Add the pigments while always mixing. If the mixing of the pigments becomes too difficult after adding the pigments, it’s possible to add them right before the wax when the viscosity is lower.

The most difficult thing when making a liquid lipstick is to achieve the perfect balance between a long-lasting effect and a comfortable wear. There’s no silver bullet for this. My suggestion is to try as many combinations as you can.

 When you increase the trimethylsiloxysilicate, you’re aiming at making a completely smudge-proof, waterproof product. The liquid lipstick will form a hydrophobic film on your skin that gives a drying feel. This kind of lipstick usually has a very short list of ingredients, I would say 6 or 7 plus the colorants (for example this one).

How to remove liquid lipstick

To remove even the most stubborn lipstick, an oil-based remover is your only chance.

When I say oil-based, I don’t necessarily mean oils such as olive oil, coconut oil etc.

From a chemical point of view, what matters, is to use a low polarity substance ( for instance isododecane or Cyclopentasiloxane)

 If you look at this bestseller make-up remover, you’ll see that it contains Cyclopentasiloxane and isohexadecane (which is very similar to isododecane).


Have you ever tried to formulate a liquid lipstick? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments section below