How do Pearlescent Pigments work, and What are they?

Nowadays, special effect pigments are gaining popularity and demand in the market. These pigments have a variety of applications in different industries, including cosmetics, plastic, automotive, crockery, etc. Pearlescent pigments are one such special effects pigment available in partly translucent powdered form. They are essentially coated mica platelets formed by depositing titanium dioxide and/or iron salts onto Mica layered with metal oxides. The resulting product provides both captivating colour  and mesmerizing visual effects.


Pearlescent pigments were first developed in the 20th century using mercury and arsenic salts. However, it was only in 1963 that Mica coated with metal oxides was invented, which led to the formation of aluminum-based pearlescent pigments in the 1990s. It is what led to the development of the pearlescent pigments that we know today, which offer great visual effects. These peculiar visual effects are due to their reflection on highly refractive materials and interference effects.



How do Pearlescent Pigments work?

Pearlescent pigments can reflect light in captivating ways due to the way they are formed. Most pearlescent pigments consist of mica platelets coated with titanium dioxide or iron oxide that give white and colour ed effects. Mica coated with a metal oxide is heated at about 732.2 degree celcius to form the crystalline pearlescent layer. Due to this heat, an inert pigment is created, which has many useful properties. For instance, it is insoluble in resins. It has a stable colour and can withstand the thermal stress of plastic processing.


The mica platelets used in these are transparent. It allows white light to travel through them. These pigments have a higher refractive index than pure mica platelets. It further allows the light to refract at different angles. The phase shift caused by the difference in the refractive index of Mica and titanium dioxide produces a distinct interference colour  which is a fundamental characteristic of a pearlescent effect. The iron oxide on these pigments takes a distinct colour  even if there is a tiny layer on the mica substrate. The pigments then produce different colour s depending on the thickness of the coating, like red, blue, green, and gold.


Such colour s are produced when light rays reflect at specular angles from the top and bottom surfaces of the metal-oxide layer. If the viewing angle shifts to non-specular angles, the pearlescent pigments will lose their colour  intensity. Furthermore, another colour  is transmitted through the pigment platelet that is complementary to the reflected one.


To produce varying colour ed pearlescent pigments, manufacturers play with the wavelengths of the particles in the pigments. They fine-tune the wavelength by manipulating the metal oxide and its thickness. It results in the production of personalized and distinctive colours. As we have seen earlier, these pigments, even with small modifications in the platelet, can drastically alter the resulting colour .


Due to this property, they can be produced in varying colours and are widely used in many manufacturing industries. Moreover, they are often easy to produce on a large scale.


Properties of Pearlescent Pigments

The colour , visual effects, and wide industrial use of the pearlescent pigments are based on the characteristic properties mentioned below:

  1. They are bad conductors of electricity.
  2. They are stable under the light.
  3. They have high alkali resistance capacity.
  4. Pearlescent pigments are stable under high temperatures of up to 800 degree Celsius.
  5. They do not support combustion.
  6. They have high acid resistance capacity.
  7. Some of these pigments can resist UV radiation.
  8. They are safe for human use.


Uses of Pearlescent Pigments

Pearlescent pigments are widely used in many industries. They are especially popular in the automotive industry, where they are used successfully as an alternative to metallics. Let’s discuss their other uses:


  1. As mentioned, they are used in the automobile industry. Here, they can provide beautiful metallic shades and are used as alternatives to metallics. They are used as inks to automotive top coats.
  2. They are used in the cosmetic industry in the products such as lacquer, nail polish, blush, etc. They find a wide range of use in the cosmetic industry due to their visual effect properties. They are used to provide glitter, shimmer, and metallic effect to the products.
  3. Many pearlescent pigments are used in the plastic industry. As they are quite stable and can withstand polymer processing, they are used to colour plastic products. Plastic is essentially one industry that uses pearlescent pigments the most.


Pearlescent pigments are essential for many industries. They offer mesmerizing visual effects and attractive colour s. However, the kind of colour  that they will impart to the products depends on their particle size distribution, platelet size, platelet orientation, pigment concentration, and film transparency.


The most commonly used substrate-free pearlescent pigments are micaceous iron oxide, natural pearl essence, Bismuth oxychloride, basic lead carbonate, and Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) flakes. Choosing the right type of pigment and hue for a specific product is an essential part of the manufacturing process. Good quality pearlescent pigments can offer a great advantage for any product in terms of its marketing, branding, and consumer demand.


Here is why Neelikon’s range of pigments is the best option for developing shiny and glittery makeup products:

  • Easy to use.
  • Mixes in any viscous, transparent medium.
  • Highly heat resistant.
  • Non-toxic and cruelty-free.
  • High transparency and purity.
  • Paraben-free.


Neelikon is a reputable and globally dominant producer and exporter of top-notch grade pearlescent pigments. Neelikon offers a wide range of products that cater to multiple industries globally, including food, pharmaceuticals, personal care, and cosmetics. We are known for producing “One World, One Quality” products, ensuring that all our colourants are of the highest standard and comply with FDA regulations. Neelikon is a trusted and reliable source of pearlescent pigments with a long-standing reputation for producing high-quality colourants.

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