Slip Into the Future
Silicone came into makeup technology via the medical industry. It’s been used for years to coat the instruments used in internal operations to ensure they glide smoothly. If you have gone into a department store recently to test any makeup or skincare product and waxed lyrical about how amazingly soft, silky, and smooth it feels on your hand, then it definitely contains cosmetic-grade silicone.
In the past fifteen or so years, silicone has been integral to lipstick formulation and development. Early lipsticks were made with oil, generally vegetable-based (such as castor oil), wax, and the allessential pigments (the element that gives the lipstick its color). The key properties of this type of classic lipstick were that it added color and was comfortable on the lips, but it didn’t have much else going for it. What’s more, the vegetable oil went off after time if you have ever smelled an old lipstick, you may have noticed this very particular scent!
The development of long-lasting makeup and the increasing use of silicone are very closely linked silicone has played a huge part in making lipsticks wear better. Science-wise, the first products to be developed as specifically long-wearing were lipsticks. This happened in the early to midtwentieth century, when bromo acids were introduced into lipstick formulas. These prototype lipsticks acted like a dye, creating an indelible stain, but once the moisturizing ingredient wore off, they would have dried your lips like nothing else, leaving them feeling like sandpaper.
Glass pearl technology gives a truly mirrorlike finish to today’s metallic pigments.
The late 1990s saw a revolutionary addition to lipstick formulas. They still contained wax and the all-essential color pigments, but now they had the addition of silicone oil, which evaporated from the lips on application. ColorStay from Revlon was the first of this new breed of lipstick. It was exceptionally long-lasting, but people soon found that it wasn’t that comfortable to wear, as it was too matte and dry (due to the fact that the wax and pigment alone weren’t giving continuous hydration to the lips).
Moving on from this, the next important advancement released (around 2000) was Max Factor’s Lipfinity from Procter & Gamble. This lipstick had a two-step process. The first base coat was full of volatile silicone oil and polymers, which helped the pigment to stick to lips. Afterward, one applied a second shiny coat containing nonvolatile silicone oils which were completely incompatible with the base coat, meaning that they wouldn’t interfere with the color and mess up the original stain. Also, the top coat didn’t evaporate. There were other benefits to this: Silicone oils wear well, as they are not sticky, meaning that this type of top coat didn’t immediately slide off your lips when you ate or drank.
The final frontier was finding a way to combine both volatile and nonvolatile silicone oils into one single lipstick bullet. This new generation of lipsticks was inspired by Japanese technology for mixing these two crucial properties. In these lipsticks, the two incompatible oils are made into an emulsion (a mixture of two or more liquids that cannot normally be blended) without water. You might wonder how this is possible if they are incompatible the answer is that a technique was discovered in which another ingredient, essentially an emulsifier, is added, enabling them to mix. This might all sound a bit complicated (it is) and a bit unstable (it’s not). You can still add extra active ingredients to this type of lipstick mixture to treat the lips, like vitamin E, and a small quantity of vegetable oil for its moisturizing skincare benefits.
Essentially, the difference between lipsticks of the past and now is that new lipsticks are made using mainly silicone oils, with the addition of a very low level of plant oils, which enables them to sit on top of the skin and be long-wearing, without drying the lips.
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