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The Truth About Makeup Separation

Have you ever picked up your favorite bottle of foundation to find the formula has separated? For some, this can be a cause for concern. Has it expired? Lost its potency? Gone bad? Will it irritate my skin?

While it’s true that all makeup products eventually go bad, product separation isn’t automatically a sign of expiration or ineffectiveness. In reality, the answer can be found in the emulsion itself. So let’s dig a little deeper into what emulsions are, how they work, and what’s really going on when makeup products separate in the bottle.

What is an emulsion?

You likely already know that oil and water don’t mix. Take salad dressings, for example. When you combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar into a jar, you must shake it up before you pour it over your salad. You may also know that if you add a little Dijon mustard and stir it together, your dressing changes in consistency, has a slightly different flavour and blends well. Now you’ve got yourself a proper vinaigrette.

In this case, the mustard is an emulsifier and the new vinaigrette is an emulsion. Well, most liquid skincare and makeup products (like our No Makeup Blush) are also emulsions: a mixture of water and oil, blended well and in a stable format.

The reason why we make emulsions is because we’re mixing powerful water- and fat-soluble ingredients to create formulas with the benefits we want. By adding emulsifiers, we’re able to deliver a product that’s not only highly efficacious, but combines in a way that’s nice and uniform.

So if you’re using emulsifiers, why is my product still separating?

A lot goes into creating a stable formula, and there are often some tradeoffs. For example, you want to create an emulsion that lasts for a long period of time—ideally, years—and can handle extreme conditions—like being left in the car on a hot summer day, or being carried around in your purse in the middle of winter.

Developing a formula to meet those conditions is a delicate balance, and often requires us to incorporate ingredients that help achieve stability, or to remove ingredients that cause instability. And this is when those tradeoffs come into play.

Here’s a hypothetical example to help paint a picture. We’re working on a new eyeshadow shade, and have found a few pigments to be particularly effective—these pigments provide great, long-lasting wear, are a beautiful color, and make skin look radiant. But when creating the emulsion, we find that a particular pigment just isn’t mixing well with the rest of the formula. We have two options:

  • Option A: Swap out the difficult ingredient with one that emulsifies better. This will result in an improved consistency of the final product, but sacrifices the key efficacious ingredients that make the product great in the first place
  • Option B: Leave the ingredient in. This will keep all the effective components of the formula, but will create a slight emulsion problem—the product will separate in the bottle, and our customers will have to shake it or stir it before use.

Many brands steer completely clear of Option B—they don’t want to take the risk of having the product look bad or of asking their customers to take extra steps, so they’ll sacrifice the functional ingredients.

But at Perricone, our philosophy has always been results and efficacy first. Of second priority are things like “Is the emulsion perfectly stable?”. We’d much rather give you a product that has great benefits for your skin but separates in the bottle, or has a slight base odor, than one that looks and smells amazing in the bottle but leaves a greasy, oily, or tacky feeling on your skin.

This is especially the case because we incorporate key skincare ingredients into our makeup products. These ingredients, like neuropeptides, alpha lipoic acid and Vitamin C Ester, are key to healthy skin, but don’t get adopted into makeup formulas very well.

What should I do when my product separates? How do I know when it has expired?

If your product separates in the bottle, we ask that you simply shake it up or stir it before you apply it. The best technique is to turn the bottle upside down (with the lid closed!) and roll it back and forth between the palm of your hands.

An expired product is a bit different. An important thing to know is that most makeup products come with expiration dates right on the bottle. If your product has any SPF in it (and most of ours do!), an expiration date is legally required. So, before you do anything else, check the bottle.

If your product doesn’t have an expiration date, just keep in mind that you should only be holding on to it for 2-3 years, maximum. If you look at a product that you’ve had for a while and notice that it has an atypical color or a funky odor, throw it out! You’ll be glad you did.

The marriage of beauty and skincare, when done effectively, can be a wonderful thing! We hope that the extra step involved in having to shake our products before use is well worth the lasting radiance and long-term skincare benefits that our ingredients provide. Healthy skin will always be our goal.

Now that you’re comfortable with the truth about product separation, say hello to our No Makeup CollectionWant to discover what skincare product is best suited for you? Check out our new simplified and colour coded chart to help ou quickly identify your new skin regimen.