Why Does Makeup Say 'May Contain' in the ingredients?

Makeup Formula Variances: Why They Differ and You see 'May Contain' in the Ingredients

Why May Contain

Understanding why makeup shades within the same product range can (err, may!) contain different ingredients is important to avoid consumer frustration and fully alert consumers as to what's in their products.

The "may contain" label on makeup products is a regulatory requirement aimed at informing consumers about the potential presence of specific ingredients or allergens, which may vary between different shades or batches due to manufacturing processes. It serves as a precautionary measure to help individuals with allergies or sensitivities make informed choices while enjoying the variety of makeup shades available.

Here, we at Heal Yes! aim to decode the factors behind these variations and explain why certain shades have unique ingredient lists so you can read ingredient lists with maximum understanding and confidence:

signal the possibility of cross-contamination during the manufacturing process

Preview: Key Information

  • The "may contain" label informs consumers about potential ingredient variations in makeup shades due to manufacturing processes.

  • Cosmetic formulation involves using diverse pigments and colorants, contributing to ingredient differences among shades.

  • Shade-specific ingredient variations arise from factors like compatibility, performance, and consumer preferences.

  • Regulatory bodies allow the "may contain" label to indicate allergens or cross-contamination risks.

  • Some ingredient details may be concealed as trade secrets, limiting transparency.

  • Makeup brands offer a range of shades to cater to diverse preferences.

  • Heal Yes! offers mica-free options and maintains ethical mica sourcing.

  • The goal of the "may contain" statement is to balance diverse shades with safety and compliance.

The Role of Pigments and Colorants

One of the key contributors to ingredient variations in makeup shades is the use of diverse pigments and colorants. 

When it comes to makeup, achieving a specific shade isn't just about mixing a few colors together. It involves a careful selection of pigments and colorants to create distinct colors for different shades. . . .

While more ingredients are at play, here we'll touch on some ingredients that can commonly make the 'may contain' part of a label you see in cosmetics such as iron oxides, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mica, chromium greens, ultramarines, and others for specific effects.

iron oxides

Iron Oxide: Adding Depth and Warmth

Iron oxide pigments are commonly used to create various shades in cosmetics, both in conventional and 'natural'* and organic-focused brands. These pigments offer a spectrum of colors, including reds, browns, and blacks, and they are often employed to add depth and warmth to makeup products like eyeshadows, blushes, and lipsticks. For example, a deep red lipstick may contain iron oxide pigments to achieve its rich and vibrant color.

*Related: [Natural?] Hypoallergenic? Non-Comedogenic? The Terms Can Be Marketing Ploys!

Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide: The Whitening Effect

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are known for their whitening and brightening effects. They are often used in makeup products like foundations, BB creams, and concealers to create shades that provide coverage and a more even skin tone. These ingredients offer sun protection as well, making them common choices in products with SPF properties. Hence, a light-toned foundation may contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to achieve a brightening effect.

When and if we use it, it's in non-nanoparticle format!
Our formulas with vs. without titanium dioxide are manufactured separately as to avoid cross-contamination!

dyes and carmine

Dyes and Carmine: Vibrant Hues with a Caution

For some makeup shades, achieving vibrant and intense colors may require the use of dyes or carmine. Dyes are synthetic colorants used to create bold and striking shades, while carmine is a natural pigment derived from crushed cochineal insects, offering rich red and pink hues. These ingredients are commonly found in lipsticks, eyeshadows, and blushes where a vivid color payoff is desired. Please open this article and read next: Why Heal Yes! ALWAYS Avoids Carmine ... and here is a YouTube video we have about dyes (as well as other safety considerations):

Chromium Greens

Chromium oxide greens are often used to create green shades in cosmetics, such as eyeshadows or green-tinted lip products. They provide a natural green hue and are favored for their stability and vibrancy. (We rarely if ever use them, though.)

Ultramarine Blue, Violet, Etc.

Ultramarines are pigments are used to create striking blue and purple shades in makeup. These pigments are known for their intense color payoff and are often found in eyeshadows, eyeliners, and lip products where bold and captivating colors are desired.

ingredient lists in cosmetics, natural

Mica: A Sparkling Ingredient with Potential Variability

One of the common ingredients listed under the "may contain" label is mica. Mica is a mineral often used in cosmetics to add shimmer and sparkle. Its natural variations in color and size can contribute to differences in appearance between makeup shades.

While mica itself is not typically an allergen, some prefer to avoid it for ethical reasons (and some really are sensitive to it). With mica, the "may contain" statement is employed because its presence may vary due to batch differences or cross-contamination risks during manufacturing. This variability highlights the importance of careful ingredient disclosure for consumers with specific concerns, such as those truly needing mica-free options.

If you’re set on mica-free, consider this collection. If finding solace in our ethical sourcing of mica, here is our full range.

clean label manufacturing

Makeup Ingredients: Why Shades Vary

Understanding the Intricacies of Cosmetic Formulation

It's important to note that the presence of a "may contain" disclaimer doesn't necessarily mean that the product contains the listed allergen or irritant.

The variation in ingredients between different shades within the same makeup product range is typically due to differences in pigments, dyes, or colorants used to create the specific shade. The base formulation of the product (such as the foundation, primer, or lipstick base) may remain consistent, but the color additives can vary. Here's why this can happen:

Pigments and colorants

As mentioned above, shades require different pigments and colorants to achieve their unique colors. These color additives are mixed into the base formulation to create the desired shade. Some pigments may be specific to certain shades, while others may be common to multiple shades within the same product range.

Ingredient compatibility

Not all color additives are compatible with every cosmetic formulation. The base formulation of a makeup product may limit the types of pigments that can be used. Some shades may require certain additives that others do not, based on their color composition.

Performance and stability

The choice of colorants can also affect the performance and stability of the makeup product. Some pigments may be more prone to fading, clumping, or changing texture when incorporated into the formula. Manufacturers select colorants that work well with the overall product formulation and meet the desired quality standards.

Consumer preferences

Makeup brands often offer a wide range of shades to cater to different skin tones and customer preferences. This requires the use of a variety of colorants to achieve the desired color diversity.

Supply chain considerations

Availability of certain color additives or pigments can vary due to factors like cost, availability, and sourcing. Manufacturers may choose to use different colorants in different shades based on these considerations.


Regulatory Bodies and the "May Contain" Label

Regulatory bodies, such as the FDA in the United States and similar agencies worldwide, impose stringent guidelines on cosmetics to ensure product safety (though the USA is more 'reactive' whereas locations such as the EU are more 'proactive': Please watch this video that addresses cosmetic safety to learn more!)

Reactive vs. Proactive Regulation

In the United States, the FDA typically responds to safety concerns and adverse events after products have reached the market. This 'reactive' approach means that cosmetic products are introduced to consumers with less stringent pre-market testing. In contrast, the European Union (EU) takes a 'proactive' approach by requiring thorough safety assessments and pre-market approval before cosmetics are made available to consumers. This difference in approach can impact the level of safety assurance for cosmetic products.

The "May Contain" Label: An Ambiguity for Consumers

Addressing Ingredient Variances

Cosmetic formulation is a highly intricate process, with each shade potentially requiring a distinct set of ingredients. To accommodate these variances and inform consumers about potential allergens or cross-contamination risks, regulatory bodies permit makeup labels to include statements like "may contain" or "may contain traces of" specific ingredients.

Consumer Confusion: The Price of Variety

While these disclaimers serve as a precautionary measure, they can also create confusion among consumers. Many consumers are left wondering which shades contain the "may contain" ingredient and which do not. This ambiguity can make it challenging for individuals with allergies or sensitivities to make informed choices about the products they use.

about trade secrets in makeup labels

Cosmetic Trade Secrets: The 'Right' to Conceal the Complete Picture

The Trade Secret Exception

In the world of cosmetics, manufacturers often guard their unique formulations and color recipes as closely held trade secrets. This means that, other than the generic term "trade secret," specific ingredient details do not have to be disclosed on product labels (!). This lack of transparency can frustrate consumers seeking full ingredient transparency.

Heal Yes! does not withhold trade secrets.

makeup labeling requirements


The Creative World of Cosmetics

The cosmetics industry thrives on diversity, offering consumers a kaleidoscope of shades and effects through a creative blend of pigments, colorants, and additives.

Yet, amidst this vivid spectrum lies the challenge of transparency, with the "may contain" label and trade secret safeguards casting shadows on ingredient clarity.

The Quest for Clarity: Consumer Demands and Ingredient Disclosure

As cosmetics continually evolve, the delicate equilibrium between inventive makeup formulations and open ingredient disclosure remains an industry puzzle. Rightfully so, today's informed and discerning consumers demand unambiguous information to make informed choices while reveling in the kaleidoscopic world of cosmetics.

Regulatory Oversight: Navigating the Complexities of Cosmetics

Regulatory bodies, recognizing the intricate nature of makeup creation where every shade may demand distinct ingredients, permit cosmetics labels to include phrases like "may contain" or "may contain traces of" specific elements. This serves as a precaution, alerting consumers to potential allergens or the possibility of ingredient cross-contamination during manufacturing.

The Dynamics of Cosmetics: Final Thoughts on the "May Contain" Label

The "may contain" label also underscores the dynamic nature of cosmetics. Achieving a specific color or effect can necessitate the use of different colorants or pigments, and trace amounts of these ingredients may persist in the final product despite stringent cleaning protocols.

In essence, cosmetics manufacturers harness a palette of diverse ingredients to craft the rich array of makeup shades available today, even in the natural and organic makeup sectors.

Goal with the May Contain Statement

Ultimately, the goal is to create a wide range of shades with diverse colors and appearances within a product line. Makeup companies carefully formulate and select ingredients to achieve the desired aesthetic and performance characteristics for each shade while adhering to safety and regulatory guidelines.

If you have specific concerns about the ingredients in a particular makeup shade, it's advisable to review the ingredient list on the product packaging or the manufacturer's website for that specific shade. Different shades may have different ingredient lists, so it's essential to check each shade individually if you have specific ingredient preferences or allergies.

Needing to avoid specific ingredients?

Heal Yes! homepage

Heal Yes! sample sizes