38 Natural Colourants for Organic Skincare | Formula Botanica (2023)

Skincare products using natural colourants are taking the market by storm. In contrast to mainstream products, artisan manufacturers of organic cosmetics are proud of their colourful balms and lotions. The colour in their products does not come from synthetic colourants, trying to imitate the green of apple or the pink of cherry blossom. Instead, their colouring comes from native oils and plant extracts full of natural colourants, which are usually shamelessly removed by mainstream formulators and chemists.

Although the mainstream industry views a colourant as an ingredient which is added in tiny quantities to a formulation to impart colour, we’ve broadened the definition of natural colourants in our article to include any ingredient that is added in any quantity and imparts a colour. In other words, you might add 50% of a colourful oil to your formulation and still view the oil as a natural colourant.

The natural and inherent colour of a product is proof of its authenticity. The green of avocado oil, the orange of buriti oil or the purple of elderberry extract are all signs that your ingredients are loaded with precious skincare ingredients such as beta-carotene or polyphenols.

The natural and inherent colour of a product is proof of its authenticity. #greenbeauty Click To Tweet

We encourage you to embrace the natural colourants found in cosmetic ingredients. In this article we’ve summarised 38 natural colourants for your organic skincare formulations:

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  • INCI:Euterpe oleracea extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic (extract), lipophilic (oil)
  • Main chemical pigment(s):Cyanidin-3-rutinoside andCyanidin-3-glucoside
  • Colour: Purple (extract), green (oil)

Açaí berries are a dark purple in colour. Their main chemical compounds areanthocyanins including cyanidin-3-rutinoside and cyanidin-3-glucoside, which are predominant in açaí fruits. These fruits also contain several flavone and flavonol glycosides, flavanol derivatives, and phenolic acids.The fruit also yields an oil which is deep green in colour and is pressed from the fruits (pulp) of the Açaí palm from Brazil.

2. Alkanet

  • INCI: Alkanna Tinctoria Root Extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophobic
  • Main chemical pigment(s):Alkannin
  • Colour: Red / purple

Alkanet is a herb in the borage family, whose roots yield a dark red dye. Although the plant’s flowers are blue, ithas a dark red root of blackish appearance externally but blue-red inside, with a whitish core. The main chemical compound found in alkanet root is called alkannin, which is soluble in alcohol, ether, and oils, but is insoluble in water. Keep in mind that alkanet root contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are water-soluble compounds toxic for internal use in higher quantities. If you wish to provide a nice pinkish tint to your lip formulations, give preference to oil macerates and avoid using alkanet powder or water-soluble extracts such as glycerites, which may not be suitable (or safe) for this type of product.

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  • INCI: Bixa orellana seedextract
  • Solubility: Lipohilic (Bixin), Hydrophilic (Norbixin)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Norbixin, Bixin
  • Colour: Orange / Red

Annattois an orange-redcolourantderived from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana). The reddish orange colour dye of the annatto mainly comes from the resinous outer covering of the seeds of the plant. The yellow to orange colour is produced by the chemical compounds bixin and norbixin, which are classified ascarotenoids. The lipophilic colour is calledbixin, which can then besaponifiedinto water-solublenorbixin. This dual solubility property of annatto is rare for carotenoids.The seeds contain 4.5–5.5% pigment, which consists of 70–80% bixin.Unlikebeta-carotene, another well-known carotenoid, annatto-based pigments are notvitamin Aprecursors.The more norbixin in an annatto color, the more yellow it is; a higher level of bixin gives it a more orange shade.

4. Avocado

  • INCI: Persea gratissima oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic (oil)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Lutein
  • Colour: Green / Yellow

If you’ve used unrefined avocado oil before, you will know that it has a deep green colour and is so rich that it can even solidify slightly when cooled down. The skin, flesh and oil contain carotenoids and chlorophylls such as lutein, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, neoxanthin, violaxanthin, zeaxanthin, antheraxanthin, chlorophylls a and b, and pheophytins a and b.

One of the main pigments found in avocado oil is lutein, which is one of 600 known naturally occurringcarotenoids. Lutein is synthesised only by plants and like other xanthophylls is found in high quantities ingreen vegetablessuch asspinach,kaleand avocado.

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5. Beetroot

  • INCI: Beta vulgaris (Beet) extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Betanin
  • Colour: Red / Pink

Beetroot is a very well known colourant for water-based natural cosmetics. Its main chemical compound is called betanin,which degrades when subjected tolight, heat, andoxygen.Infuse beetroot powder into glycerin to create a bright pink or red glycerite which you can use in your emulsions or water-based gels and tonics. Remember that beetroot is water-soluble so will not work in oil macerations.

6. Blue Tansy

  • INCI:Tanacetum annuum flower oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic (the essential oil)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Chamazulene
  • Colour: Blue

Blue Tansy is a member of the Asteraceae family, which means it’s related to chamomile. As you’ll see in the list below, German Chamomile yields a compound called Chamazulene. This compound is also found in Blue Tansy (17-38% Chamazulene in the essential oil) and is produced during steam distillation. If you want to give your formulation a blue tinge, you can use Blue Tansy essential oil. Not to be confused with Tansy Oil (Tanacetum vulgare).

7. Buriti

  • INCI: Mauritia flexuosa fruit oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic (the oil)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Beta-carotene
  • Colour: Red / orange

Buriti is a palm also grown in the Amazon region. The fruits are a bit like chestnuts. The fruit pulp is yellow-orange and is used for juice making as well as oil production. The oil is edible and is applied in cooking and frying – can you imagine cooking chips in this oil?! The fruit has an edible oval seed.

Buriti oil contains over 70% oleic acid, which is similar to acai oil. Even more interestingly, buriti is unique due to its high beta-carotene content. The fruit is the richest natural source of beta-carotene and has even more beta-carotene than carrots – a carrot contains 6.6 mg of beta-carotene per 100g carrot pulp while a buriti fruit contains 30mg of beta-carotene per 100g of fruit pulp. The oil is even higher and contains 330 mg of beta-carotene per 100 grams of buriti oil.

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8. Butterfly Pea

  • INCI: Clitoria ternatea flower extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Delphinidin
  • Colour: Purple / Blue

Butterfly pea flowers have a beautiful blue colour and are frequently used as colourants in organic skincare. We even used them as an example in one of our natural gel scrubs! Butterfly pea flowers contain anthocyanins, as well as p-coumaric acid and ferulic acid. Apart from anthocyanins, C. ternatea petals contain a lot of flavonoid compounds such as p-coumaric acid and ferulic acid. Theanthocyanins of blue butterfly pea petals are derived from an anthocyanidin form called delphinidin.

9. Calendula

  • INCI: Calendula officinalis flower extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophobic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Flavoxanthin
  • Colour: Orange

Carotenoids are generally responsible for petal colours in the yellow to red range. The wide range of petal colour in various varieties of calendula originates mainly from combinations of these carotenoid pigments.Nineteen carotenoids have bee identified in extracts of petals of orange- and yellow-flowered cultivars of calendula.Flavoxanthin has been identified asthe main carotenoid of calendula petals, and it is clear that this carotenoid is responsible for the orange colour of calendula’s petals. Other carotenoids identified in calendula include lycopene and lutein.As afood additiveflavoxanthin is used under theE numberE161a as afood colouring,although it is not approved for use in the EUor USA.

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10. Carrot root

  • INCI: Daucus carota sativa root extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophobic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Beta-carotene
  • Colour: Orange

The name carotenoids, is derived from the fact that they constitute the major pigment in the carrot root, Daucus carota, are undoubtedly among the most widespread and important pigments in living organisms. Carotenoids are the pigments responsible for the colours of many plants, including carrot roots.The carotenoids – apart from the chlorophylls – are the largest group of oil-soluble pigments found in nature. Carrot root’s main pigment is derived from beta-carotene.Macerated carrot root in oil is a popular ingredient in making organic skincare and takes on a beautiful orange tinge.

11. Chamomile (German)

  • INCI: Matricaria recutita flower oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic (essential oil)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Chamazulene
  • Colour: Blue

Also known as Hungarian, or Blue Chamomile, this variety of chamomile yields an essential oil that is deep blue due to its high chamazulene content (2-5%). The essential oil also contains a high percentage of alcoholssuch asbisabolol. Chamazulene is only found in the essential oils of both Roman and German chamomile and is created during the distillation process from another compound called matricin. This compound causes the essential oil of German chamomile in particular to go bright blue. Roman chamomile essential oils is often distilled in a way that prevents the formation of chamazulene as the industryprefers this oil to be a pale straw colour.Chamazulene is credited with providing the anti-inflammatory properties of both chamomiles.

12. Dyer’s Rocket

  • INCI: Reseda luteola extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophobic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Luteolin
  • Colour: Yellow

The pigmentluteolin is found in Dyer’s Rocket, Dyer’s weed,Weld,Woold, and Yellowweed. It is one of the oldest yellow dye plants and is found in many parts of central Europe. The leaves and seeds are used, which contain more dye than the stems. An infusion of the plant has been used for treating wounds.

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13. Elderberry

  • INCI: Sambucus nigra extract
  • Solubility:Hydrophilic (extract)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Cyanidin 3-glucoside
  • Colour: Red / purple

Elderberry contains some of the same chemical pigments and natural colourants as those found in Acai berries, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given that they share a similar deep purple colour. Its main pigment is caused by an anthocyanin called cyanidin 3-glucoside which is highly water soluble.

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14. Hemp

  • INCI: Cannabis sativa oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Chlorophyll
  • Colour: Green

Hemp oil has an intensive green colour due to its chlorophyll content. Hemp oil obtained by supercritical CO2 has three times higher chlorophyll content and four times higher total carotene content compared to the cold pressed oil (Aladić, et al., 2014). Chlorophyll is soluble in alcohol and oil, butinsoluble in water.

15. Henna

  • INCI:Lawsonia inermis extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophobic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Lawsone
  • Colour: Red / orange

Henna has been used since antiquity to dye skin, hair and fingernails, as well as fabrics including silk, wool and leather. Henna contains a compound called Lawsone.Lawsone(2-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone), also known ashennotannic acid, is a red-orangedyepresent in the leaves of thehennaplant (Lawsonia inermis) as well as in the flower ofwater hyacinth(Eichhornia crassipes).

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16. Hibiscus

  • INCI: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flower extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Cyanidin-3-sophoroside, Cyanidin-3-sambubioside, Delphinidin-3-sambubioside
  • Colour: Red / pink

The red pigments contained in red flowers of the Hibiscus species are anthocyanins, and are widely used as colouring agents.Cyanidin-3-sophoroside is thought to be the main chemical pigment found in Hibiscus petals of the species Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Extracts are also prepared of a species of Hibiscus called Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), thought to be native to West Africa. The main anthocyanins found in Hibiscus sabdariffa are cyanidin-3-sambubioside and delphinidin-3-sambubioside.

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17. Indigo

  • INCI: Indigofera tinctoria extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Indigotin
  • Colour: Blue / Mauve

The blue pigment found in Indigo is extracted from the plant’s fermented leaves. This produces a blue to mauve colour called indigotin (an indigoid structure).The plant is sometimes also known asPigmentum indicum.A paste exudes from the fermenting plant material which is processed into cakes that are then finely ground. The blue colour develops as this powder is exposed to air.

Indigo dye is a derivative of indican, a glucoside component of numerousIndigoferaspecies and this is converted to blue indigotin using an enzyme process. This dye is quite colourfast and is combined with stabilizers and other compounds to produce a wide range of colourants. Today, almost all indigo used commercially is produced synthetically (Dweck, 2002).

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18. Iris

  • INCI: Iris germanica extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Mangiferin, Delphinidin
  • Colour: Purple / Blue / Green

Botanically derived from the roots of Iris germanica, iris extract possesses a high concentration of isoflavones and rhizomes.Iris contains mangiferin which is thought to be one of the major co-pigments in Iris flowers,producing, by interaction with the anthocyanin (a delphinidin glycoside), a range of purple, mauve and blue shades.

Iris germanica has historically been used to produce Iris Green, a green pigment which was made from perianth leaves of various plants. The pigment was prepared by simply squeezing the juice from the flowers and mixing with an aluminium hydroxide (alum) base. The green colour was made from the perianth leaves of the purple iris. The dye was initially purple, adding alum will change it to blue, and adding calcium will turn it green.

19. Madder

  • INCI: Rubia tinctorum extract
  • Solubility: Mildly hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Alizarin and Purpurin
  • Colour: Red / purple

Madder is native to the Mediterranean and was once widely grown as a dye plant. The generic name,Rubiameans red and the plant has been used as a source of a permanent red dye.The 2–3-year old rootstock of the plants is used medicinally, which remains red when dried. The constituents include anthraquinone glycosides which are two red chemical entities derived from the roots and tubers, which are known as alizarin and purpurin.

20. Monascus Purpureus

  • INCI: Monascus extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s):Rubropunctamine
  • Colour: Red / purple

Monascus purpureus is a species of mould thatis purplish-red in colour. During its growth,Monascusbreak down starch substrate into several metabolites, includingpigmentsproduced as secondary metabolites. The colour is currently available in purple and red. The main chemical pigment found in Monascus purpureus isRubropunctamine, found to comprise between 57-87% of the total pigment produced.

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21. Nettle

  • INCI: Urtica dioica leaf extract
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Chlorophyll
  • Colour: Green

Nettle leaves contain caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, high content of chlorophyll and other pigments.The leaves contain just under 5mg chlorophyll per gram of dry leaves, depending on whether the plant was grown in the sun or shade. Surprisingly, more chlorophyll and carotenoids are found in plants that have been grown in the shade. Chlorophyll is naturally oil soluble.

22. Paprika

  • INCI: Capsicum anuum extract
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Capsanthin, Capsorubin
  • Colour: Red / purple

The pigments present in paprika are a mixture of carotenoids, in which capsanthin and capsorubin are the main compounds responsible for the red colour of the dye. It is rich in carotenoid pigments, including capsanthin, capsorubrin, carotene, luteine, zeaxanthin and cucurbitaxanthin.As well as being a pigment, it is also used in cosmetics in ointments, oils and emulsions for its stimulating effect and as a sports massage.Beware that capsanthin is warming on the skin (as anyone who has ever eaten a chilli will know!) and should be used in very low percentages (<0.1%) in cosmetics.

23. Pomegranate

  • INCI: Punica granatum fruit extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Punicalagin
  • Colour: Red / purple

Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments primarily responsible for the attractive red / purple colour of pomegranate juice, although theinedible fruit peels are the main source of colourants in pomegranate. Its chief constituents such as punicalagin, punicalin, gallagic and ellagic acids. It also contains alkaloids such as isopelletierine. Punica granatum dye and many other common natural dyes are reported as potent antimicrobial agents owing to the presence of a large amount of tannins.

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24. Red Cabbage

  • INCI: Brassica oleracea leafextract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Cyanidin-3-glucoside and Delphinidin-3-glucoside
  • Colour: Pink / purple

Red cabbage, BrassicaoleraceaL. var. capitata, is well known for its pink / purple colour. Its water-solubledye is composed mainly of natural pigment called anthocyanins used as a natural colourant.Eight anthocyanins are found in red cabbage, including cyanidin-3-glucoside and delphinidin-3-glucoside.

25. Red Clover

  • INCI: Trifolium pratense extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Formononetin
  • Colour: Golden Yellow

Red clover contains high levels of isoflavones, including a natural colourant called formononetin(7-hydroxy-4′-methoxyflavone) which is dull, golden yellow in colour. Formononetin is oestrogenicin vitro and in vivo (which has yielded numerous scientific studies looking at the effects of formononetin on sheep), but little information exists on the best time to harvest red clover fields to maximise content of the isoflavones.

26. Red Sandalwood

  • INCI:Pterocarpus santalinum extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophobic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Santalin
  • Colour: Red

The red obtained fromPterocarpus santalinumor red sandalwood is a complex molecule known as santalin. There are a number of forms of this basic structure all of which give quite intense red colours. The stability of this red is quite good compared to the others. It has been traditionally used for many centuries.The chemicals in Red Sandalwood either yield a red colour (Santalin A or Santalin B), or a yellow colour (Santalin Y).

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27. Rosehip

  • INCI: Rosa canina fruit oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Lycopene, Beta-carotene
  • Colour: Red / Orange

The colour of rosehip oil extracted by cold pressing is characterised by its reddish pigmentation, which is associated with carotenoid content.In contrast, the solvent-extracted oil has a yellowish colour, which could be due to the ability of the organic solvent to extract pigments and several other substances from the seeds, and/or to the degradation of the red pigment owing to the high temperature of the oil extraction process.Nine carotenoids are found in rosehips: three carotenes (lycopene, ζ-carotene, β-carotene) and six xanthophylls (neoxanthin, trans-violaxanthin, cis-violaxan-thin, 5,6-epoxylutein, lutein, β-cryptoxanthin). This high number of compounds classifies these fruits among those with the greatest variety of carotenoid pigments.Rose hips contained the highest concentrations of total carotenoids, which are mainly comprised of lycopene and beta-carotene.

28. Safflower

  • INCI:Carthamus tinctorius seed oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic (Carthamin), Hydrophilic (Carthamidin)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Carthamin
  • Colour: Yellow / Red

Safflower contains a pigment called carthamin, which is a yellow-orange colour. On closer examination it is shown to contain two natural colourants, one yellow, the other red. The seeds yield an oil and the flowers give a yellow dye.Carthamin produces a water-insoluble red dye and carthamidin produces a water-soluble yellow colour dye.

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29. Saffron

  • INCI:Crocus sativus extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Crocin, Crocetin, Picrocrocin, Riboflavin
  • Colour: Yellow

The dried stigmas and tops of the styles of theCrocus sativuscontain crocines, crocetins and picrocrocine and safranal. They are delicate colours and should be protected from light. The stigmas ofC. sativusare rich in riboflavin, a yellow pigment and vitamins. In addition, saffron contains crocin, the major source of yellow-red pigment. α-crocin is a carotenoid pigment which is primarily responsible for saffron’s golden yellow-orange colour. The bitter glycoside picrocrocin is responsible for saffron’s flavour. Safranal is responsible for the aroma of the saffron.Not to be confused with the autumn crocusColchicum autumnale, which is poisonous.

30. Sea buckthorn

  • INCI: Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lycopene
  • Colour: Orange

The main pigments that give sea buckthorn berry its distinctive colour are carotenoids. These compounds are present in high amounts in pulp oil in particular. However, the total content of carotenoids varies (300–2000mg/100g) greatly between different growth locations and subspecies.In general, the maincarotenoidspresent in sea buckthorn pulp oil arebeta-carotene,zeaxanthinandlycopene.

31. Spinach

  • INCI: Spinacia Oleracea Leaf extract
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Chlorophyll
  • Colour: Green / Yellow

Spinach leaves contain chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b and beta-carotene as major pigments as well as smaller amounts of other pigments such as xanthophylls.In green leafy vegetables such as spinach, only the green chlorophylls are seen because they mask the bright red, orange and yellow colours of the carotenoids. Blanching spinach reduces its percentage of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is lipophilic.

(Video) How to formulate organic skincare

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32. Spirulina

  • INCI: Spirulina platensis extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s):Phycocyanin and Phycoerthyrin
  • Colour: Blue / Green

Spirulinarepresents abiomassofcyanobacteria(blue-green algae).There are two species,Arthrospira platensis andArthrospira maxima, which produce pigments called phycocyanin andphycoerthyrin. Phycocyanin is a blue-coloured pigment, absorbing orange and red light, and phycoerthyrin is a red-coloured pigment.Pigments of microalgal origin which are currently enjoying high market demand and spirulina falls into this category!

33. St. John’s Wort

  • INCI:Hypericum perforatumflower extract
  • Solubility: Lipophilic and Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Hypericin
  • Colour: Red

Hypericin is a fluorescent red pigment found in St. John’s Wort. Although the herb produces bright yellow flowers, its macerated oil is dark red. Once these flowers have been steeped in the oil over a period of time, the oil turns a dark red which can be used in anhydrous or emulsified formulations. Along with hyperforin, hypericin is one of the best known chemical constituents in St. John’s Wort and is thought to have antibiotic, antiviral and anti-depressant properties.Hypericinhas a unique molecular structure in which one-half of the molecule is hydrophilic (water loving) while the other half is hydrophobic (water repelling).

34. Tomato

  • INCI: Solanum lycopersicum extract
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Lycopene
  • Colour: Red / Orange

The major constituents of the tomato are lycopene, α and β-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and b-cryptoxanthin. Lycopeneis a bright redcaroteneandcarotenoidpigment andphytochemicalfound intomatoesand other red fruits and vegetables, such as redcarrots,watermelons,gac, andpapayas. Lycopene is thepigmentin tomato-containing sauces and is insoluble in water. It can be dissolved only in organic solvents and oils. It constitutes about 80–90% of the total carotenoid content of red-ripe tomatoes. Beta-carotene, the yellow pigment of the carrot is the isomer of lycopene.

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35. Turmeric

  • INCI:Curcuma longa extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophobic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Curcumin
  • Colour: Yellow / Orange

Turmeric is commonly known as Indian saffron. It consists of dried, as well as fresh rhizomes of the plant Curcuma longa. The rhizome has been used as a medicine, spice and colouring agent for thousands of years.Turmeric contains a chemical called Curcumin whichwill give a range of colour from yellow to a deep orange.Turmeric contains about 5% of volatile oil, resin and yellow colouring substances known as curcuminoids. Chemically turmeric contains about 50-60% curcumin, which is responsible for the yellow colour of the natural colourant.

36. Walnut

  • INCI:Juglans nigra shellextract
  • Solubility: Lipophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Juglone
  • Colour: Orange / Brown

Black walnutdrupescontainjuglone(5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone),plumbagin(yellow quinone pigments), andtannin. Black walnuts make a orange-brown dye. The liquid (dye) obtained from the inner husk becomes increasingly darker over time, as the outer skin darkens from light green to black.Jugloneis anisomeroflawsone, which is the staining compound in thehennaleaf.

37. Woad

  • INCI: Isatis tinctoria leaf extract
  • Solubility: Hydrophilic
  • Main chemical pigment(s):Indigotin
  • Colour: Blue / Indigo

Woad is also the name of abluedyeproduced from the leavesof the woad plant. The dye chemical extracted from woad isindigotin, the same dye extracted from “true indigo”,Indigofera tinctoria, but in a lower concentration. It is worth noting that woad is classified as aninvasive speciesin parts of the United States.

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38. Yarrow

  • INCI:Achillea millefolium oil
  • Solubility: Lipophilic (essential oil)
  • Main chemical pigment(s): Chamazulene
  • Colour: Blue

Similar to Blue Tansy and German Chamomile, some essential oils from yarrow can contain chamazulene which gives the oil a dark blue colour. Some yarrow essential oils are dark blue and contain over 15% chamazulene, which can act as a great natural colourant for your skincare formulation.

During the steam distillation of the herb, a compound called matricine is converted to azulene or chamazulene, compounds which are not present in the actual plant. It is only through the application of heat and the process of steam distillation that azulene and chamazulene develop.

Leaf pigments in plants are Chlorophyll, Carotenes, Xanthophylls and Anthocyanins. Click To Tweet

Variation in Natural Colourants for Skincare

As a formulator you must keep in mind that natural ingredients are prone to variation. After all, plants vary between harvests, seasons, locations and habitats. An avocado oil produced by one supplier may have a far deeper green colour than another produced elsewhere.Thismeans that your beautiful wheat germ oil or sea buckthorn oil may present withdifferent colours ranging from supplier to supplier and even from batch to batch. And it may not only be your cosmetic ingredient’scolour that shows variation, but also its scent and its chemical compounds.

Working with variation in ingredients can pose a daunting challenge to any formulator – how do you make sure that your products always look, smell and behave the same?This is the main reason thatthe mainstream industry first strips all plant oils and extracts from their inherent colours and scents and then adds standardised (and of course not always natural) colourants and scents to the product to guarantee a reproducible and uniform colour and scent over decades.

Formulating with Natural Colourants

Legal issues

Many of these ingredients can legally not be viewed as natural colourants in your organic skincare or haircare formulations. Certain cosmetic regulations around the world (such as those in the EU) specify a list of approved colourants to be used in cosmetics – and most of these plants will not feature on those lists.

Thankfully the vast majority of these natural colourants will have other chemical and beneficial properties for your formulations; given their chemical nature and the role they play in the plant, they are often antimicrobial, antioxidant or anti-inflammatory. In the case that your ingredient is not listed on an approved colourant list, it will be considered as a functional ingredient instead.


As you’ve seen in this article, many of the plants we’ve listed contain similar chemicals that function as natural colourants – anthocyanins, carotenoids, etc. Some of these water-soluble pigments are pH dependent. In the case of anthocyanins, depending on the pH, they have a colour spectrum that ranges between dark blue to purple to red.

If you want to achieve the same colour shade and product integrity from batch to batch, then you will need to adjust your formulation’spH to be within a narrow range. Read an article we wrote on this topic previously called:What can go wrong if you don’t control your formulation’s pH?

You will also need to make sure that the pH of your product does not change during its shelf life, which is why stability testing is so important (check out ourCertificate in Cosmetic Stability Testing).


Chelators are often added to cosmetics to improve stability, because they stop or slow-down unstable reactions which are catalysed or promoted by metal ions. A perfect example of such a chemical reaction is a colour change.

If there are metal ions present in your formulation then they can affect the overall colour of the product by attaching themselves to the pigment molecule’s surface or replacing a particular metal ion. Adding a chelator to your formulation would cause it to bind with the metal ion and prevent unwanted colour change. Want to learn more about chelation? We’ll teach you in our Advanced Diploma in Organic Cosmetic Science.

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Which are your favourite natural colourants to use in organic skincare or haircare? Leave us a comment below!


Aladić, K. et al., 2014.Cold Pressing and Supercritical CO2 Extraction of Hemp (Cannabis sativa) Seed Oil.Chem. Biochem. Eng. Q., 28 (4) 481–490 (2014)

Dweck, A. 2002.Natural ingredients for colouring and styling. Int. J. Cosm. Sci. 24(5): 287-302.


What are organic skincare ingredients?

To be verified as organic, skincare ingredients need to be certified by a bona fide certifying body such as the Soil Association which operates worldwide or the US Department of Agriculture. It is not enough for a brand to claim organic status unilaterally although they may wish to say a certain percentage of their ingredients are organic. Organic cosmetics ingredients need to be organically farmed. This means grown without the use of genetically-modified organisms (GM), herbicides, synthetic fertilisers and similar.

What is the difference between natural and organic skincare?

Natural skincare does not mean organic, and in fact, a cosmetic product labeled organic does not need to be 100 per cent organic nor 100 per cent natural. This can seem confusing. Natural is a term that in most parts of the world has no legal definition when applied to cosmetics. Neither the FDA in the States nor the EU has regulatory definitions of natural. This means that cosmetic brands can use it as they wish. A product can be composed of natural ingredients in part or entirety but those natural ingredients do not need to also be organic. Bodies certifying organic cosmetics also have differing criteria about what constitutes organic status. Beauty product consumers often wrongly assume natural is synonymous with organic or that a cosmetic officially labeled organic is in fact 100 per cent organic.

What are the best natural products for skincare?

Natural, botanical skincare products are built on the same principle as mainstream cosmetics with oils, water and hydrolats, emulsifiers, gums, preservatives, solubilisers, surfactants, thickeners, bio-active ingredients and so on. By choosing natural, plant-derived versions of these key cosmetic ingredients, you will be using cosmetics containing often the active, skin beneficial elements in a far less processed and adulterated manner. The thinking is too that many natural ingredients, such as cold-pressed plant oils and butters like shea or sweet almond oil, have been used by man for centuries and are therefore better tolerated on our skin and their side effects well documented. There are of course many shades of natural which is a term not defined nor widely regulated for use in cosmetics’ descriptions. Natural ingredients may indeed be raw and direct from nature, or be nature-derived, nature-identical or contain only some pure natural components. The best natural products are ones that suit your skin type and needs, and this will vary for everyone.

What are the natural pigments?

In natural and organic cosmetics, colour is imparted using and celebrating the natural pigments found in various botanical ingredients. In mainstream cosmetics, most colorants are created synthetically. Natural pigments can be found in all sorts of plant extracts such as cold-pressed oils, tinctures, powders and glycerites and more. Blue tansy oil, buriti oil, rosehip oil, saffron, spirulina, henna, hibiscus extract, indigo and woad are just some of the fascinating, natural pigments around which can be harnessed for natural cosmetic formulation. Here is a list of some 38 natural pigments to research.

Where can I learn to formulate natural skincare and haircare?

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38 Natural Colourants for Organic Skincare | Formula Botanica (16)

Lorraine Dallmeier

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Lorraine Dallmeier is a Biologist, Chartered Environmentalist and the CEO of Formula Botanica, the award-winning online organic cosmetic science school. Read more about Lorraine and the Formula Botanica Team.


What natural colorant is used in cosmetics? ›

For the cosmetics industry, HT carmines are one of the most widely used natural colorants because they provide high shades of red and yellow. In cosmetics, red lip and face pastes have historically been called “carmine”.

Which is the natural colorant? ›

3 Biopigments. Microalgae have three main pigments: chlorophyll that absorbs blue light; red carotenoids that absorb blue and green light; and phycobilins that absorb green, yellow, and orange light. These pigments have been used as natural colorants in food products.

What are natural green Colourants? ›

Chlorophyll derivatives present in the colorant E140i or “chlorophyll”. The natural green colorant E140ii is commonly named “chlorophyllin”.

What is a natural yellow colorant for cosmetics? ›

Chemically turmeric contains about 50-60% curcumin, which is responsible for the yellow colour of the natural colourant.

What are organic colorants? ›

Organic pigments are usually brighter, stronger, and more transparent than inorganic pigments but are not as light resistant. They may be partially soluble in many thermoplastics, with a much greater tendency to migrate. Azo pigments are the largest group of organic pigments; they contain one or more azo (–N.

Is colorant good for skin? ›

They can block your pores and interfere with your skin's natural oil balance, which makes you prone to blemishes. In particular, red dyes seem to have this problem. Still, any irritation can affect your oil production and your risk for acne as well, so it's better to avoid artificial colors altogether.

What are the 4 natural sources of pigments? ›

2 Natural colorants from plant sources. Plant pigments are classified into four main categories: chlorophylls, anthocyanins, carotenoids, and betalains. They account for most of the naturally derived colors from plants.

What are the 3 natural colors? ›

In art class, we learned that the three primary colors are red, yellow and blue. In the world of physics, however, the three primary colors are red, green and blue.

What are the two types of colorants? ›

Natural dyes are classified into two groups – substantive and adjective dyestuffs: Substantive dyestuffs dye the fibres directly.

What are the five natural colors? ›

Every category of fruits and vegetable presents different characteristics. In order to take advantage from each one of them, it is recommended to eat some of every color. Red, yellow-orange, green, blue-purple and white are the 5 identifying colors, determined by a variety of different natural pigments.

What are organic colorants made of? ›

Organic and inorganic colorants

Organic colorants are made of carbon (C) atoms and carbon-based molecules. Most organic colors are soluble dyes. If an organic soluble dye is to be used as a pigment, it must be made into particle form.

What is the difference between a dye and a colorant? ›

A colourant is a substance that is used to impart colour to matter. Dyes and pigments are the main forms of colourant. The main difference between them is that dyes are soluble and pigments are insoluble and are suspended in a medium or binder.

What does natural color mean in ingredients? ›

• A natural colour is a food colour additive that has been derived from a natural source and added to a food or beverage for the primary reason of modifying the colour of the product. • Plant-Ex's natural colours are extracted from a wide range of sources, including plants, spices, microorganisms and minerals.

What are natural color ingredients? ›

Natural colors are made by removing the pigments from the natural sources through selective physical and/or chemical extraction methods. This means that the resulting material contains primarily pigments from the natural color source and excludes any flavors or nutritive elements.

Which is an example of natural organic pigment? ›

Lake colours are examples of organic pigments. Ultramarine Blue, Iron Oxide Yellow, Chromium Oxide Green, Manganese Violet, Titanium Dioxide etc.

What is a colorant in skincare? ›

Colorants are soluble (in water or in oil) synthetic organic colouring agents. They are used to colour cosmetic products such as skin care or toiletries, among others. Meanwhile, pigments are insoluble colouring agents, which when used, remain in the form of crystals or particles.

What are colorants examples? ›

Some examples include:
  • Caramel colouring, made from caramelized sugar, used in cola products and also in cosmetics.
  • Annatto, a reddish-orange dye made from the seed of the Achiote.
  • A green dye made from chlorella algae.
  • Cochineal, a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus.
Apr 13, 2012

Are colorants toxic? ›

A number of chemical food color and flavor additives are routinely added during processing to improve the aesthetic appearance of the dietary items. However, many of them are toxic after prolonged use.

Are colorants harmful? ›

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes sure that all food additives, including dyes, are safe to eat. Yet some people are more sensitive to dyes than others. And even though food dye allergies are pretty rare, they still can occur.

Are colorants safe? ›

"Color additives are very safe when used properly," says Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Office of Cosmetics and Colors in FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). "There is no such thing as absolute safety of any substance.

What are the 3 pigments found in human skin? ›

In humans, melanin exists as three forms: eumelanin (which is subdivided further into black and brown forms), pheomelanin, and neuromelanin.

What are the 3 pigments that contribute to skin color? ›

Human skin colour is influenced by three pigments: haemoglobin, carotenoids, and melanin.

What are the 3 main types of pigments? ›

The major groups of photosynthetic pigments are: Chlorophyll. Carotenoids. Phycobilins.

What are the list of natural colors? ›

Definition. The NCS states that there are six elementary color percepts of human vision—which might coincide with the psychological primaries—as proposed by the hypothesis of color opponency: white, black, red, yellow, green, and blue. The last four are also called unique hues.

What are the seven natural colors? ›

He also noted that the sequence of the colours of a rainbow never changed, always running in the same order. He coined the idea that there are seven colours in a spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (ROYGBIV).

What are five natural dyes and the colors they make? ›

Natural Dye Chart
  • Blue natural dyes: blueberries and blackberries.
  • Red natural dyes: raspberries and beets.
  • Yellow and ochre dyes: lemon and orange peels, turmeric.
  • Green natural dye:spinach leaves.
  • Orange natural dye: onion skins.
  • Purple natural dye: red cabbage leaves.
Oct 14, 2022

What is the need for natural colorants? ›

Since they are nontoxic, their use as food coloring or substrates is much safer for human consumption and are preferable to artificial dyes. They're used in the makeup industry for similar reasons, can be used as pH indicators, and are also popular in art, textiles, and leather making.

What are natural coloring agents? ›

Natural food dyes

Annatto (E160b), a reddish-orange dye made from the seed of the achiote. Caramel coloring (E150a-d), made from caramelized sugar. Carmine (E120), a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus. Elderberry juice (E163)

Which of the following is natural colorant example? ›

the natural colorant is those that are present in nature and is used to color the substance. Some natural colorants are Acai, avocado, alkanet, annatto, beetroot.

What is the most common natural color? ›

The colours most commonly associated with nature are shades of blues and greens. Very rarely does red make a vibrant appearance, and researchers at the University of Cambridge may have explained why.

What is the most natural color? ›

The most intense natural color known to humans, the bright and iridescent blue of the marble berry, is also result of structural coloration. The berries have no pigment, but their cuticle is composed of small microstructures set in a spiral.

What is the most rare natural color? ›

Blue is one of the rarest of colors in nature. Even the few animals and plants that appear blue don't actually contain the color.

What does baking soda do to natural dye? ›

You can also use tannins, iron, cream of tartar, and/or soy milk as a mordant to bind the dye to the fiber, and use baking soda to change the pH and thereby change the color.

What is the best natural dye? ›

Choose a food that has lots of tannins—Pinterest can help you identify which make good dyes, but here are some favorites: black beans for blue, red cabbage for purple, beets for pink, avocado skins and pits for peachy pink, yellow onion skins for yellow-orange, ground turmeric for golden yellow, spinach for green.

What are some good natural dyes? ›

Putting natural colour on cloth involves the use of leaves (such as indigo and henna), barks and woods (logwood, osage), roots (madder, alkanet), flowers (chamomile, marigold, safflower), fruits and nuts (walnut, myrobalan, pomegranate), minerals (alum, iron), and insects (cochineal, lac).

Are colorants and pigments the same? ›

Colorants are either dyes or pigments. Technically speaking, the difference is that dyes are soluble in the host material—typically water—while pigments are not. Another difference is that dyes do not scatter light and look transparent. On the other hand, pigments do scatter light and, thus, they are opaque (see Fig.

Which is better dye or pigment? ›

As a rule, dye inks offer better color gamut and performance compared to pigment inks using the same number of colors. Dye inks will not offer the same fade resistance and in some cases can begin to fade quite rapidly.

Is turmeric and dye the same? ›

What you may not know is turmeric has been used as a fabric dye for hundreds of years. Dyeing with turmeric has been around for centuries and dyeing with natural ingredients is not only fun and creative, its messy, so our first tip, is……

What is the difference between artificial and natural colorants? ›

A color is deemed natural if its origin is vegetal, microbiological, animal or mineral. Whereas, artificial colors were created in labs (and sometimes accidentally) by chemists.

What does 100% natural ingredients mean? ›

The FDA has considered the term "natural" to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.

What is the difference between natural and synthetic colorants? ›

Natural pigments (for example our ochre, earth, etc.), are found in the natural state and undergo only a process of calcination and/or mixtures. Synthetic pigments, on the other hand, are produced by thermal and/or chemical reaction between several materials.

What are the two types of natural dyes? ›

Natural dyestuffs can be divided into two groups; I) Non-mordant dyes (Substantive) and II) Mordant dyes (Adjective). The majority of natural dyes need mordant, which act as a dye fixing agent forming a link between dyestuff and fibre.

What is cosmetic colorant? ›

Organic dyes are considered dyes. Organic lakes and botanicals, as well as all inorganic mineral compounds are considered pigments. In general, when referring to cosmetic color additives, what determines a dye from a pigment is its solubility - dyes are water soluble, while pigments are oil dispersible.

Which dye is used for colouring cosmetics? ›

Mica is used mainly in powder-based cosmetics such as makeup foundation, blush powder etc. Iron oxide is added to achieve red, yellow and black colours for cosmetics. Chromium dioxide is widely used for making green-coloured cosmetics.

What color makes your skin glow? ›

Orange and Gold

Any shade you choose will give you a healthy glow. If you're lucky enough to have a natural tan, this is a great color for you because orange will bring out the brown and red tint in your skin.

What are natural coloring agents examples? ›

Examples include chlorophyll (light to dark bright green) obtained from leaves of various plants, indigo (distinct blue color; a natural dye extracted from leaves of the indigo plant), and catechu (red to a brown color), which is an extract of bark or heartwood of various species of acacia tree.

What are color agents in skin care? ›

Colouring agents are classified in two main groups: colorants (or dyes) and pigments. Colorants are soluble (in water or in oil) synthetic organic colouring agents. They are used to colour cosmetic products such as skin care or toiletries, among others.

What are the 3 types of skin pigment? ›

In humans, melanin exists as three forms: eumelanin (which is subdivided further into black and brown forms), pheomelanin, and neuromelanin.

What UV pigments are FDA approved? ›

Currently, the only FDA approved pigments that are UV reactive are: D&C Orange No. 5, No. 10, and No. 11; D&C Red No.

Is Mica powder safe for skin? ›

Yes, mica or mica powder is a naturally occurring mineral dust often used in makeup foundations, as filler in cement and asphalt, and as insulation material in electric cables. Is mica harmful to the skin? Mica is not harmful to the skin.


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