Titanium Dioxide

What is it? Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is the naturally occurring oxide of titanium.
Appearance Bright white powder
Texture A dry, dusty, relatively fine powder.
Scent Nothing remarkable, perhaps a bit dust-like
Solubility You can purchase both a water dispersible and an oil dispersible version, with the oil version being significantly more useful for most DIY applications (especially cosmetics).
Why do we use it in recipes? It brings wonderful opacity and brightness, and helps boost adhesion in cosmetics.
Do you need it? If you want to make cosmetics, absolutely. Zinc oxide will not do!
Refined or unrefined? You’ll want non-micronized oil dispersible titanium dioxide.
Strengths Its opacity, coverage, and adhesion are unrivalled. It’s very versatile in cosmetics.
Weaknesses It’s a bit difficult to blend into oil bases without pre-grinding it.
Alternatives & Substitutions None, in the vast majority of circumstances. If a soap recipe calls for a bit of titanium dioxide to whiten it you can probably get away with zinc oxide instead, but in any sort of cosmetic application, if titanium dioxide is what the recipe calls for, use titanium dioxide.
How to Work with It It’s a must-have in cosmetics, and great for making white soap. As with all fine powders, use a dust mask when working with it to avoid inhaling it.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, the shelf life of titanium dioxide is indefinite.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks It’s a key ingredient in many sunscreens, but DO NOT make your own sunscreen!
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz) or less. If you’re just making makeup you could probably get away with half that—you’ll use more for soap.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Titanium Dioxide

Zinc Oxide

What is it? A naturally occurring, slightly clumpy, inorganic white powder.
Appearance A dry, mildly clumpy powder.
Texture Dry, and a relatively fine powder (but not silky smooth). A bit chalky to the touch.
Scent Nothing remarkable. A bit dusty.
Solubility Insoluble
Why do we use it in recipes? In cosmetics for opacity, in masks and salves for soothing and anti-chafing properties.
Do you need it? If you want to make makeup, calamine, or diaper cream, it’s essential. Otherwise it’s easy to do without.
Strengths Anti-chafing, astringent, soothing.
Weaknesses The opacity and adhesion isn’t great, so even though lots of people try to use it as an alternative for titanium dioxide in cosmetics, it doesn’t work.
Alternatives & Substitutions In most things where zinc oxide is called for you can’t swap it for anything else. It is not a good alternative for titanium dioxide in cosmetics due to its inferior coverage.
How to Work with It I love it in some cosmetics, anti-chafing powders, and calamine anything. As with all fine powders, use a dust mask to avoid inhaling it. Don’t combine it with flax oil as that can create an exothermic reaction that might ignite.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, zinc oxide has an indefinite shelf life.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Zinc oxide is the key anti-irritation ingredient in calamine lotion and baby cream.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Zinc Oxide

Iron Oxides

What is it? Potent powdered mineral pigments.
Appearance Fine powdered pigment available in brick red, yellow, black, and brown.
Texture Fine, light powder.
Scent Nothing noticeable.
Solubility Insoluble
Why do we use it in recipes? For colour—especially colour that we want to be strong enough to carry over to the skin (cosmetics).
Do you need it? If you want to make cosmetics you absolutely need iron oxides.
Refined or unrefined? The only versions you can purchase are synthesized and refined; while iron oxides do occur naturally there are heavy metal contamination concerns, so the wild harvested variety is not legal for sale. Learn how they’re made by watching this video.
Strengths Because they’re so strong, only a little is needed (I recommend grabbing a set of these tiny measuring spoons to measure them out accurately).
Weaknesses They’re only available in a handful of very earthy colours—no classic red lipstick shades here, sadly.
Alternatives & Substitutions You can look at synthetic FD&C/D&C lake dyes as an alternative, though those colours are usually significantly brighter—iron oxides are where it’s at for more natural hues (they’re especially necessary for foundation).
How to Work with It As with all fine powders, be sure to wear a dust mask around it if they’re going to become aerosolized (like if you’re whipping it up in a coffee grinder).
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, iron oxides have an indefinite shelf life.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Start with less than you think you need and work your way up to it! I once accidentally made leg lipstick while trying to make a tinted body butter bar. Also, because iron oxides are insoluble they will settle out of liquid concoctions—this means you’ll want to stir oily concoctions to keep oxides suspended until the oils have cooled and thickened enough to support the weight of the oxides.
Recommended starter amount 10–30g (0.35–1oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon. If you’re in the USA (or don’t mind paying international shipping), TKB Trading is an amazing source for pigments.

Some Recipes that Use Iron Oxides

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