I decided last year that it was time to take my obsession with shadows to a whole new level and try my hand at mixing my own. I had purchased from indy companies and loved their creativity and uniqueness. As a lifelong MAC lover (the sight of a new MAC shadow still gives me tingles down my spine) I'm a pushover for a gorgeous shadow . . . or gloss . . . or lipstick! But let's stick to the story. Anyway, I started to do some research on what went into eyeshadow. I looked into base ingredients, micas, oxides, and everything in between. I researched methods, materials, tools, etc. The problem was, nobody seemed to give extensive advise unless you purchased a book or took a class. And the problem with the books was that it told you how to make THEIR shadows, not so much how to make your own right off the bat. So I kept digging and digging on line. Sure you can buy pre-mixed bases, but that just felt cheap to me. I wanted my shadows to be MINE.
Pretty soon I'd viewed a million blogs, how-to's, youtube videos, cosmetic supplier sites, natural ingredient encyclopedias and more. After all those months of research I came up with a lot of good tips and a lot of bad or misleading information. Some of the things I learned I had to unlearn after giving them a try with my own shadows. I also found that not everyone who sold eyeshadow ingredients to the general public sold every ingredient I wanted. Trial and error have been a huge part of my journey, that's for sure! But here I am, close to launching my own indy cosmetic company and hoping the world of makeup lovers sees something special in what I have to offer.
Anyway, since I've never been able to find something super helpful on this topic using google (perhaps because the information just didn't hit the search engines high enough or because it didn't exist) I'm trying to make this information accessible to those who are either just curious or who would like to mix their own shadows. The following information is based on my own research and experience, nothing more. Hope this helps!
There are essentially 3 parts to an eyeshadow a lot of the time: 1. the base 2. the micas or oxides that give it its pigment and 3. the binder. It makes sense to discuss each part in this order to stay organized!
1. The Base
The base fills out the shadow and gives it its properties (binding, adhesion, slip, etc.). There are a shitload of different ingredients you can use for the base and a multitude of different proportions. Look up the following ingredients on TKB and Coastal Scents: Serecite, Zinc, Titanium Dioxide, Magnesium Mystrate, Magnesium Stearate, Boron, Kaolin, Silicon, Plain Mica, Talc, Arrowroot powder and Rice powder
Now obviously what you used is based on the performance you want your shadows to have and your personal preference. For example, I don't like talc so I don't use it in my cosmetics. Also, there's a lot of controversy about rice powder. Some people swear by it some people swear it's the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Anyway, what you want to do is look up each of those ingredients on both TKB and Coastal Scents. As you'll notice, Coast Scents sells basic ingredients while TKB sells a lot of combo ingredients. Some people SWEAR by them, but honestly I felt the combos were too hard to control because I couldn't determine exactly what ingredient wasn't working. Anyway, look up their purpose and what percentage of the total composition you should use. Some things are toxic or perform badly if you use a higher amount--always lovely! The difficult part of the base is trial and error over and over to find the right combo. And not every combo will work with every color you create.
2. Mica and Oxides for Pigment
So Micas generally have medium or high shimmer, while Oxides are matte. I've found that highly pigmented colors like blue, green and red are harder to work with by far. They are harder to deal with when it comes to adherence to your skin, binding to the entire formula and staying true to color when you add base ingredients. It's important when you're doing a dark color that you use a transparent or semi-transparent ingredients in your base in order to not get a dull end result. When you do a light color like white or light whatever, you can use ingredients that are semi-transparent or aren't transparent at all. You'll see as you look up the ingredients I listed above what's transparent and what's not. If you understand colors and you know what primary, secondary and complimentary colors are you're good on that front. If you just went to google any of those terms make sure you brush up on your understanding of colors. When you mix colors you don't want to turn to black to darken them whenever possible because A. black will mute the color and B. when you do that you generally end up with black adhering to your lid and the other color may or may not. It's okay to add a whitener to something that needs to be lightened though, just do it carefully with a small bit at a time.
Now the binder is a small but important part of the eyeshadow. After you've created your fabulous eyeshadow and tested it and it works beautifully, you want to spray the powder with a find mist of a binder. The binder gives the shadow more binding powder to itself and can also provide a little bit of glide. Without a binder the powder can be a bit "dusty". People use different things as binders from synthetics to natural oils. Some of the most popular oils used are jojoba and fractioned coconut oil. The reason these two oils are used is because they're NON-OILY oils. Ironically, jojoba oil isn't even an oil it's actually a wax with such a low melting point it's constantly in liquid form haha. Anyway, you have to experiment and see what you like best. Some companies turn to synthetic ingredients in general because synthetics are engineered for performance while naturals are what they are and it can depend on the quality, batch, etc. If you look at fyrrinae for example they use some synthetic ingredients in their stuff. Silicon is a very common synthetic ingredient in cosmetics in different forms.
The next part of the process is mixing!
There are so many different opinions as to how to mix shadows. Some people swear by blenders, some use food processors, some use coffee grinders, and some even use rock tumblers (the hobby ones use to smooth stones). From everything I've read, mixers with covered motors (this is very important because not all have that and if they don't the powder kills the motor quickly) and coffee grinders work best. The downside can be they're HARD to clean!!! I have used both a blender and coffee/spice grinder and it's a bitch to clean up! Also, I've found with coffee grinders that when you mix the base, some of the ingredients plaster themselves to the bottom so you have to stop halfway through and use a brush to brush them loose so they'll mix. The other downside to using anything with blades is that if you mix for too long it can dull micas so that there's no longer a shimmer and color is dull. You should also NOT put glitter in the eyeshadow then grind it. It has the same effect as it does on the mica--dulls the glitter so it no longer has that glittery effect.
It's so important that if you mix shadows for other that you use hygienic practices obviously. You should always wear gloves, use a mask that blocks super fine particles (for your own protection) and disinfect everything constantly! The best thing to use is 90% alcohol. You can find it at the pharmacy. You have to use it on your mixing spoons, grinder, the jars you pot your shadows in, etc. The other thing to consider is that if you create cream or pressed shadows you should use a preservative in them. You can use either natural or synthetic. Synthetics generally have a longer shelf-life, but obviously then you have to be willing to use synthetic ingredients in your mixes. There are a number of different natural preservatives worth using. Just make sure whatever you use can be used around the eye area.
Dyes and Such
Probably a good idea to dedicate one last area to using dyes in shadows and cosmetics in general. Dyes obviously aren't good for you and a lot of people have allergies to them, but aside from that you actually can't sell shadows that include dyed batches of mica or oxides unless you get direct FDA approval. Even if the dyed batch of mica or oxide has been FDA approved (and it would need to be approved for specific areas like eyes, lip, etc. to be sold for use in your cosmetics) it doesn't transfer over to you once you open it. You would have to take your specific shadow containing the dyes and get FDA approval through one of the labs that do FDA approval for cosmetics. Definitely something to be careful of! The FDA doesn't require every cosmetic company to have every product approved (only the ones with dyed batch ingredients) but it's important to adhere because if your products were reported you wouldn't want to get into trouble.
That's the general gist!