Modern glitter was invented by a cattle rancher from New Jersey.
Silicones, polymers, and elastomers along with pigments create a flexible, mesh-like finish across the skin in today’s foundations, and, in the future, this technology will continue to develop and improve.
What is really interesting about the use of silicone both to improve the quality of makeup in general, and to further its long-wearing properties is that the technology can be applied to all types of products. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than the way in which the technology used in today’s foundations is almost identical to that which is used in lipstick.
The very first type of liquid foundation was an emulsion based on the classic skincare formula of oil in water, or water in oil (depending on the volumes of each). Oil in water was good for foundation because the water gave it a fresh sensation on first contact with the skin. But when the pigment (that is, the color) was added to the water, the texture of the foundation tended to be very dry and have a sort of dragging sensation when applied. It also had a distinct lack of playtime which is industry jargon for the amount of time you get to apply and blend makeup before it dries.
A big switch came in the late nineties with inverse emulsion so, using water in silicone oil which gave foundation freshness, a lot of playtime, and a good œslippy application. Following this, the next step for this type of formulation was the addition of volatile silicone oil for a long-lasting foundation just as with lipstick.
The breakthrough in long-lasting foundation technology was to combine both silicone oils and polymers. This had the effect of creating a flexible mesh-like film on the face. Some of the first foundations to launch using this technology were Revlon ColorStay, Lancome Teint Idole, and L’Oreal Color Resist. There was still a problem with this type of foundation, though. Some consumers felt that it didn’t seem fresh enough, as it could feel very slippery while they waited for the silicone to evaporate (which could take a while). So, again, as with lipstick development, the global cosmetics industry took inspiration from Japanese technology and began mixing more water into foundations, giving them a lighter, fresher feel.
The following generation of foundations, which came out around 2000, was also inspired by Japan and the process used to make primers. These were water in silicone oil emulsions with a high level of water in the solution; they were hard to stabilize, but crucially contained alcohol (this is the main difference). A lot of formulations are now made to this pattern, resulting in thinner and more liquid foundations that have a fresher and lighter texture and feel on the skin but which still cover imperfections and perfect the look of the skin light-years away from the thick formulas of old.
To date, the latest phase of this technology has been foundation with no water at all (anhydrous). Instead of water, anhydrous foundations contain a lot of alcohol and a lot of volatile silicones, which means that they evaporate very quickly when applied.
Though foundation has evolved a lot, its components haven’t changed that much, and the essential emulsion remains. It’s by mixing the components differently that you end up with a different product. Really, foundation is all about personal preference, so while the cosmetics industry is always innovating and striving to create the next big thing, it all depends on whether you like using a product that is more water-, alcohol-, or oil-based. That being said, the novelty of the new is always alluring! At the end of the day, whatever effect you like, we’ve come a long way from the too-greasy or too-dry, thickly painted faces of thirty years ago.