DIY Lip and Cheek Tints: A Lesson in Using Natural Pigments

Sometimes, even organics experts don't want to use botanical ingredients.
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Sometimes, even organics experts don't want to use botanical ingredients.

There's nothing like an adorable cheek flush on any human. Whether soft pink, Benetar red, violet, bronzer or anything in-between, throwing on a little rouge can brighten your day and your look, no matter how often you like to smile (or not). 

Lately, I've been into cheek and tint pots for quick daytime looks where I really don't want to use makeup brushes.

I lurve Tata Harper Volumizing Lip & Cheek Tints, but I also love to analyze products; so not only do I use her great formula to play up my cheekbones and lips, but I used it to figure out precisely why it is or isn't better than something I could whip up at home. 

I explored natural pigments to see why even organic pioneers like Tata choose oxides and micas over the many pigments flora has to offer.

Spoiler alert: Botanicals don't always work better!

Spoiler alert: Botanicals don't always work better!

Tata Harper's knowledge of plants and oils is super-apparent in her products. One of the great things about the brand is their complex of herbs specifically grown at a family estate in Vermont, consisting of calendula, borage, alfalfa, meadowsweet and arnica, which are infused into every product. The brand was developed out of a need to find healthy products not only for the people using them, but the environment, too, so ingredients are either grown on site or chosen with care.

The balm is better than almost any you can make without some serious investment. There's a special ingredient that is found in the newly popular "topical botox" called Voluform. It's a compound called palmitoyl isoleucine, which is said to help temporarily fill in fine lines, but also helps plump the skin, so using this is doing slightly more than just adding color. High-quality carrier oils deliver the color, which is a blend of micas and carmine.

Top: Brick red oxide (example only!) Bottom: Tata Harper's Volumizing Cheek Tints in Very Nice and Very Naughty

Top: Brick red oxide (example only!) Bottom: Tata Harper's Volumizing Cheek Tints in Very Nice and Very Naughty

I asked Tata why plant pigments don't get as much play, even in natural brands, and she pointed out that the saturation is nowhere near what consumers are used to in cosmetics, so they can be used to boost color, but not without oxides, micas, and sometimes crushed bugs.

Since natural is not only in fashion but also fascinating and fun to experiment with, I tried some tests using hibiscus, beet, and annatto — and they were soooo not good. I'm talking little to no pigment saturation, even with added zinc oxide. I've had this problem with turmeric, too, and they're just not good on their own as cosmetics... yet. I do think processes may evolve, but micas and oxides aren't terribly harmful (provided they are used where intended). They're not technically natural, as they're often lab creations, but I wouldn't consider a bad thing.

Here's my decidedly less high-tech but still fun-to-play-with DIY:

What you need to play with colors at home. Some of this was just used in my experiment phases.

What you need to play with colors at home. Some of this was just used in my experiment phases.

Supplies:

The ratio is very simple: 30% butter, 45% oil, 25% beeswax, measured to fit your desired container

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Melt down wax, butter and oil in very short microwave bursts until the pellets start to melt.

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Add in at least 1 tsp of pigment.

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Stir well and dispense into clean empty jar or tube.

I don't recommend using only natural pigments — the pilot for this story was an epic fail! My favorite test was the deep red with brick red oxide.

So whether you can afford to buy the fine-quality but Earth-conscious wares of Tata Harper or you want to blaze your own trail, knowing how to blend plant-based ingredients with the ones progress gave us, too, is much more forward-thinking, and in this case, effective!

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Photos: Maria Penaloza