Does Your Foundation OXIDIZE? Talking Oxidation with a Cosmetic Chemist

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As if it’s not bad enough finding a foundation that works with your complexion (check out this post, btw), sometimes when you do find one, some people experience oxidation. This typically shows up as the foundation getting darker or warmer throughout the day than when you initially put it on. I’ve been doing foundation reviews since I started this blog in 2007 and I often get asked if a foundation oxidizes. In fact, a recent question I got on one of my Youtube foundation reviews was the catalyst for this exact post.

Over the years I’ve been able to meet some amazing people in the beauty industry: makeup artists, dermatologists, beauty marketing execs, and even cosmetic chemists who have helped shape some of my content. Today we’re chatting with Principal Scientist/Product Development Chemist Rhonda M. Davis of Alquemie Product Development Group.

If the name Alquemie sounds familiar to you, it’s because they’re the company behind the groundbreaking A.P.D.G. Longwear Liquid Pigment that comes in 40 astonishing shades. Davis is the key reason those shades came about and I remember her posting some of the prototype shades on her Instagram years ago. Given her background and expertise, I had a chat with her via email about oxidation. We also did a breakdown on Drunk Elephant and their coin worthiness that’s worth checking out after you finish this post.

(from Davis’ Instagram)

Now here’s the thing with oxidation: I personally don’t experience oxidation—at least not in recent memory. When I put a foundation shade on, it stays the same shade at the end of the day that it was when I put it on in the beginning of the day. Sure, like most people with oily skin I have some shine breakthrough, but I never experience a change in the foundation color. Then I got curious about oxidation and why some people were experiencing it while others weren’t. I don’t think this will be my last post approaching this subject, so stay tuned.

See my foundation shades and more here

I set out with a few questions about oxidation to which Davis graciously responded.

1. What exactly is oxidation?

Davis: In chemistry, oxidation and reduction reactions occur when a substance gains or loses an electron when exposed to elements, such as oxygen and hydrogen. For color cosmetics, especially foundations, oxidation occurs under the same conditions, which can yield to unappealing results.

2. I don’t think I can remember a foundation that actually oxidized on me—yet I hear people say that some foundations oxidize on them? What’s going on?

Davis: It varies. The formula itself could oxidize on its own, especially if the product contains trace metals, certain natural oils, no antioxidants and if the product is not stored properly. Oxidation may be amplified for some individuals due to their sebum (oil) on the skin, the pH of their skin and even their environment/atmosphere. All of these can play a factor in the entire oxidation process.

3. Can you explain why a foundation may appear darker in color after it dries down matte and why that is not oxidation?

I asked this especially because some people (especially after the initial launch of the Fenty foundation) were saying that the Fenty foundation oxidized, which wasn’t always the case.

Davis: From my experience, certain ingredients such as hydrocarbons, resins and even a high percentage of water in a color cosmetic formula can cause the shades to darken as they dry.

4. How can one prevent oxidation?

Davis: Oxidation is a natural occurrence, so there is no way to eliminate it, however there are ways to delay the process. If the formula itself is prone to oxidation, make sure to look for formulas that contain antioxidants, keep the product closed at all times limiting its exposure to air and follow additional directions for proper storage. If the oxidation is occurring after the product is applied to the skin, consumers should make changes to their skincare products. Because our skin has a naturally acidic pH, due to the acid mantle, consumers should opt for skincare products that have a lower pH (preferably between 3.2 and 6.5). If consumers are prone to oily skin, choose skincare products that help combat oil as the oil on our skin can alter color cosmetics. Using primers as a barrier between the skin and the foundation are ideal, as well as powders to absorb any excess oil and water. If you live in a humid climate, the use of setting sprays can create a barrier to the atmosphere which is also helpful.

Thank you so much to Rhonda M. Davis for contributing so much to this topic! Make sure you also check out our post on Druk Elephant and their coin worthiness.

Do you experience oxidation with your foundations? Tell me about it in the comments!

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas,, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.

2 Responses to Does Your Foundation OXIDIZE? Talking Oxidation with a Cosmetic Chemist

  1. Joanna says:

    Very informative and useful information. I can now better explain to my clients why their foundation oxidized.

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