Many people who make handmade products often ask if a certain color is approved in a certain product. Learning to read the FDA Color Tables will give you this information in a quick and easy-to-use format. Learning the color tables is essential in creating your own products, because you will know if “X” color can be used in “X” product while following regulation.
First, it is important to know that true soap is not considered a cosmetic nor regulated by the FDA. Look at our previous blog post What is to determine if the soap you’re making is regulated as true soap or a cosmetic. If your product is true soap, the FDA approved color list does not apply to your product (although you still need to use safe colorants per the CPSC).
For those who make and sell cosmetics, learning the FDA Color Tables is essential. If you have to ask if a product is approved or not and you’re intending to sell, you know you need to study the color tables. Seriously, it’s that important.
Reading the Color Tables
There are six columns in the color tables:
- Color Additive: A color additive, as defined by regulation, is any dye, pigment, or other substance that can impart color to a food, drug, or cosmetic or to the human body. The name of the color additive is in this column.
- Eye Area: The term area of the eye means the area enclosed with in the circumference of the supra-orbital ridge and the infra-orbital ridge, including the eyebrow, the skin below the eyebrow, the eyelids and the eyelashes, and conjunctival sac of the eye, the eyeball, and the soft areolar tissue that lies within the perimeter of the infra-orbital ridge. Whether or not the color additive is approved for use around the eye is in this column.
- Generally (Includes Lipsticks): The FDA definition of this category is not well defined. We do know that general use means use around mucous membrane with the exception of the eye area. This column states if the color additive is approved for lips or products that come in contact with mucous membranes.
- External Use: The terms externally applied drugs and externally applied cosmetics mean drugs or cosmetics applied only to external parts of the body and not to the lips or any body surface covered by mucous membrane. This column will state whether or not the color additive can be used in externally applied products, i.e. lotions, nail polish, body butters, etc.
- Specific Limitations and Comments: If a color additive is approved for use within limitation, those specific limitations will be listed in this column.
- 21 CFR Section: This is a link to the 21 CFR Section for the specific color additive. The CFR sections contain great info! You should read them!
Color Table Example
This example does not contain the last column with the 21 CFR links. To view these links, go directly to the FDA website here.
Let’s say we want to make the following products with Green Vibrance mica:
- Bath Bombs
- Nail Polish
- Eye Shadow
- Body Butter
Green Vibrance mica contains mica, titanium dioxide, chromium oxide green.
- Can the Green Vibrance mica be used in bath bombs? No, because bath bombs are used in bath water that comes in contact with mucous membranes. Green Vibrance mica contains chromium oxide green, which is not approved for products in the category General (includes lipsticks).
- Can the Green Vibrance mica be used in Lipstick? No. Green Vibrance mica contains chromium oxide green, which is not approved for products in the category General (includes lipsticks).
- Can the Green Vibrance mica be used in nail polish? Yes, because chromium oxide green, titanium dioxide, and mica are approved for external use.
- Can the Green Vibrance mica be used in eye shadow? Yes, because chromium oxide green, titanium dioxide, and mica are approved for use around the eye.
- Can the Green Vibrance mica be used in soap? Yes, because true soap is not regulated by the FDA. We don’t need to look at the color tables if making true soap.
- Can the Green Vibrance mica be used in body butter? Yes, because chromium oxide green, titanium dioxide, and mica are approved for external use.
I have formatted the FDA Color Tables into a downloadable .pdf file. FDA Color Tables
The color tables are in two parts – Colors subject to certification and colors exempt from certification. We will learn more about this later. I combined to two sections to make an easy-to-use printed format of the tables. The download is seven pages. you can keep it on hand for a quick reference to color additives and approved use!
Keep the color tables handy. Study them and follow them when making cosmetic products, and you’ll be 100% sure that the color additive you’re using is approved for the product you’re making!