What is the difference between a LAKE and a DYE, a PIGMENT and a Mica

Posted on 21 May 16:12 , 7 comments

We use 4 main types of colourants: Lakes, Dyes, Pigments and Micas - So What's the difference?

Lakes and Dyes will both "dye" or colour to term more correctly, however generally "dyes" are water soluble and "lakes" are oil dispersal.


A dye is a chemical that shows color when it is dissolved. They are water soluble and may not mix with oils. Dyes can be bought in a granular version and a dusty light powder form and also a liquid form. Renascent Bath and Body offer you either POWDER Dyes or LIQUID Dyes.

They will easily disperse and not settle therefore are the perfect choice to use in liquid soaps.

Our dyes are Certified “D&C” Colors meaning they can be used in Drugs and Cosmetics, but not in Foods.

Our dyes are found here: https://www.renascentbathbody.com.au/collections/dyes

A DYE is a distinct product that shows coloring power as it is dissolved.
Dyes are water soluble, and will not readily mix with oils. 

Benefits of Dye Colors:

  • Easily dissoluble in water, MP soap (can colour morph and fade) and Liquid Soap
  • Will not settle out of suspension
  • The best choice for colouring liquid soaps
  • A drop goes a long way

Our dyes are found here: https://www.renascentbathbody.com.au/collections/dyes



A LAKE PIGMENT is an insoluble material that colours by dispersion.

Lakes are basically a pigment which has been manufactured from a dye by precipitating a soluble dye with a metallic salt. The resulting pigment is called a lake pigment.

Lakes are produced from the FD&C Dyes and are oil dispersible (but generally not oil soluble) and as such they can be mixed with oils, fats and sugars. They can also be dispersed in other carriers such as propylene glycol, glycerin and sucrose (water and sugar).

Lakes are created in specific concentrations of the Dye which is used.

As an example, Red 40 Aluminum Lake is available in Low Dye (generally 15-17% pure dye) and High Dye (36-42% pure dye).

We use the lakes to colour our balms to produce tinted lip gloss or even lipstick, however they can be used to colour MP soap base if blended properly.

Our Lakes are Certified “FD&C” Colors - can generally be used in Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics. (For any edible or lip based product, you must use FD&C products.

Lakes are generally preferred in several applications, including: To color an oil based product, such as balm base, chocolate or compound coatings.


Lakes are generally colour stable, meaning they resist bleeding.

Dyes have a tendency to “bleed”, or migrate from one part of the product to another. A red and white soap, may therefore become all pink int he future if dyes were used. Likewise with colour swirled lip balms or candy canes or any product where there are specific colour borders or stripes. In many cases Dyes can be used in confectionery production, Lakes will be substituted if bleeding is a problem.

Benefits of Lake Food Colors:

  • Lake food colors are highly adaptable and versatile: They can be dispersed in suspension of propylene glycol or sucrose. 
  • Lake colors are stable: Much more stable than water-soluble dye colors.
  • Lake colors can be utilised to color many varieties of products and are commonly used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
  • Lakes are available in different concentrations of colors. 
  • Lake colors are oil soluble and can be mixed in vegetable oils, fats, other cosmetic oils etc.

 Our lakes are found here:  https://www.renascentbathbody.com.au/collections/edible-colours



Mica is a naturally occurring collection of silicate minerals. It is widely used in cosmetics and personal care products.

Mica, named from muscovite mica is used to add sparkle and shine in MP Soap Making, makeup, nail products and skin care products.

Micas can be natural or synthetic (man-made)

Our Mica's are found here: https://www.renascentbathbody.com.au/collections/mica-shimmers



Soap Pigments are essentially oxides. Although many pigments were once collected from the earth, for consistency and safety they are now replicated synthetically in a lab. The FDA enforced this creation as many pigments mined naturally included toxic materials that are deemed unsafe. Lab created pigments will produce beautiful colours safely

Pigments are stable in all soap making processes, are inexpensive and come in a large selection of colors. Pigments will be the best color source for swirls and layers as they will not bleed at all.

Our Pigments are found here:  https://www.renascentbathbody.com.au/collections/pigments-dyes


For those who want more scientific terms *Taken from wikipedia:

What is a color lake?
A lake pigment is a pigment manufactured by precipitating a dye with an inert binder, or "mordant", usually a metallic salt. Unlike vermilion, ultramarine, and other pigments made from ground minerals, lake pigments are organic

What is aluminum lake colors?
According to the FDA, lakes are formed by reacting straight dyes (such as FD&C Green No. 3) with precipitants and salts. Aluminum is often a component. Lakes may be used as color additives for tablet coatings due to their stability, and may also be used for cosmetics such as eye shadows.

What is the difference between a dye and pigment?
Dyes and pigments are substances that impart color to a material. The term colorant is often used for both dyes (also called dyestuffs) and pigments. The major difference between dyes and pigments is the particle size. Therefore dyes are not UV stable whereas pigments are usually UV stable.



Smaller molecules Larger molecules
Chemically bind to a material to become part of the material Stick to the surface of the material like a coating
May attach and become part of the material depending on the chemical nature of the fibres Retain a Crystaline or particulate structure
In natural form have a consistency like Inc In natural form have a thicker consistency like paint
* Auxochrome Not * Auxochrome
Generally requires no binding agent

Generally requires a binding agent

Mostly organic

Mostly inorganic

Light reflects 

Light absorbs

Regular reflection

Diffuse reflection

Selectively colours fibres

Colours or fibres

Not UV stable

Generally UV stable

Absorbs into fibres

Coats the outside of fibres

Dissolves in liquid

Held in suspension in liquid

Often fades and colour morphs

Generally fade proof and colour stable

*An auxochrome is a functional group of atoms with one or more lone pairs of electrons when attached to a chromophore, alters both the wavelength and intensity of absorption.

Pigments can be both synthetic which is generally made from coal tars and petrochemicals or inorganic produced through chemical reactions notably oxidisation which is often found naturally as earths.


 When do you recommend using each:

PIGMENTS: For colouring Bath and Body products:

  • Soaps: MP (Melt and Pour), CP (Cold Processed), HP (Hot Process)
  • Bathing Crystals
  • Available in Liquid and Powder form - from 1gm - 1 Litre
  • Less likely to stain bathtubs (if using in bath bombs or bathing crystals you can add a little polysorbate 80 to prevent it staining the tub)

DYES: For colouring Liquid products:

  • Liquid Soaps
  • Available in Liquid and Powder form - from 1gm - 1 Litre
  • More likely to stain bathtubs, a few drops in liquid soap will easily wash away as used (if using in bath bombs or bathing crystals you can add a little polysorbate 80 to prevent it staining the tub)
  • Bath Bombs / Bath Fizzies

LAKES: For colouring edible products:

  • Edible Products
  • Lip Balms
  • Lipsticks
  • Cupcakes, Frosting
  • Chocolates
  • Available in Powder form - from 1gm Vials

MICAS: For colouring and adding a sparkle and shimmer:

  • Cosmetic Products
  • Eye Shadow, Mineral Make up
  • Soaps: MP (Melt and Pour), CP (Cold Processed), HP (Hot Process)
  • Bathing Crystals
  • Bath Bombs / Bath Fizzies
  • Can be blended through the melted soap base, dry brushed on to the finished product or dry brushed into the mould before the soap is poured in.
  • *If used in liquid soaps, the liquid will need to be thickened or the Mica will settle to the base of the product. A suspending reagent may be required.
  • Renascent Bath and Body also stock edible Micas which can be used as above in the Lakes *Please note not all our Mica's are edible, only those stating "edible".
  • Available in Powder form - from 1gm - 1 KG