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Applications of Microspheres in Cosmetics – Literature Review

Microspheres – Essential Components in Cosmetic Formulations

Density of powders - Measurements
Applications of Microspheres in Cosmetics

Microspheres in cosmetics have become an appealing and essential aspect of the industry, considerably improving the formulation and efficacy of a variety of beauty and skincare products.

These small, spherical particles, often with a diameter of 1-1,000 microns (1 mm), possess unique chemical and physical properties that make them essential components in cosmetic formulations.

Applications of microspheres in cosmetics are not limited to a singular objective, but rather encompass a variety of functions such as ball bearing, soft focus, exfoliating, opacifying, and color effects.

The Appeal of Microspheres in Cosmetics

What are Microspheres?
What are Microspheres? Definition, Properties, Applications

The appeal of microspheres in cosmetics comes from their versatility and ability to address a multitude of multifaceted challenges faced by consumers and formulators.

The industry has effectively utilized the potential of microspheres in cosmetics, enabling them to achieve noteworthy results that adapt to the constantly changing demands of the business.

Unique properties of Microspheres in Cosmetics

Ball bearing effect of microspheres

Applications of Microspheres in Cosmetics - Color
Green Polymer Microspheres from Cospheric

Microspheres are characterized by their high degree of sphericity, with a smooth and uniform surface, creating a ball-bearing effect. 1

When incorporated into formulations, the inclusion of spherical particles in cosmetics enables a smooth application of the product onto the skin’s surface.

The reduction of sharp edges or irregularities on the surface of the microspheres serves to minimize friction, hence minimizing the sensation of dragging or pulling.

The application of microspheres can serve to provide slip and improve spreadability, creating a luxury feel. In addition, the ball bearing effect promotes better blending on the skin.

Soft-focus effect of microspheres

Applications of Microspheres in Cosmetics
Microspheres in Cosmetics for Soft Focus

Skin imperfections are visible due to high contrast. With microspheres being highly spherical, they can reduce the contrast.

Microspheres scatter and diffuse light in different directions, creating a soft-focus effect. This helps reduce harsh shadows and contrasts that make fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable.

Microspheres in cosmetics even out the skin tone, keeping the skin looking natural.

Exfoliating effect of microspheres

Half-coated glass microspheres - Partial coating on glass particles
Half-coated glass microspheres from Cospheric

Exfoliating cleansers, masks, and facial and body scrubs all incorporate physical exfoliants. However, certain exfoliants, such as broken nut shells, are irritating to the skin due to their sharp edges.

Microspheres possess smooth surfaces that gently remove dead skin cells, dirt, and impurities. 2

The size of the microspheres can be modified to attain varying degrees of exfoliation, ranging from gentle to more pronounced.

For instance, microspheres of larger particle size can be incorporated into foot scrubs while smaller particle size can be used in gentle facial cleansers. 3

Opacifying effect of microspheres

Color-matched microspheres in cosmetics
Color-matched microspheres from Cospheric

In some substances, some light is reflected, some is absorbed, some is scattered, and the rest is transmitted. Since opaque microspheres have a low light transmission, most of the light is reflected, scattered, and absorbed. These microspheres completely inhibit the transmission of light.

The total light-blocking properties of opaque microspheres enable them to efficiently conceal or cover the underlying surface or material, hence increasing the hiding power of each individual microsphere particle.4

This characteristic may be considered advantageous in a variety of contexts that place greater emphasis on opacity and coverage, including sun care formulations.

Color effects of microspheres

Applications of Microspheres in Cosmetics
Microspheres in Color Cosmetics

Microspheres can be manufactured in a wide variety of colors, including fluorescent color microspheres, phosphorescent microspheres, and translucent spherical particles.

Colored microspheres in cosmetics possess the capability to function as pigment substitutes by providing a combination of color and coverage. They provide an enhanced feeling of smoothness due to their spherical shape and smooth surface. 3

Furthermore, the light-diffusing characteristics of microspheres in cosmetics help in the development of a blurring effect. By providing a soft-focus effect and blurring imperfections these characteristics diminish the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles on the skin’s surface.

Delivery of active ingredients

Microspheres for Delivery of Active Ingredients
Microspheres for Delivery of Active Ingredients

Drug delivery via microspheres is a widely recognized method in the pharmaceutical industry. The cosmetics and personal care industries are progressively incorporating microspheres as formulation vehicles.

The microspheres encapsulate the active ingredients and can be released gradually over time.3 This approach helps in the reduction of potential skin reactions and systemic exposure to the active ingredient.

An additional advantage is that sensitive active ingredients can be protected by microspheres against environmental exposures such as UV light, humidity, oxidation, and so forth.

Types of Microspheres for Cosmetic Applications

Polymer Microspheres in Cosmetics

Applications of Microspheres in Cosmetics
2-5micron in diameter – Color Polymer Microspheres in Cosmetics

Composed of natural or synthetic polymers, polymeric microspheres come in a wide variety of colors. The utilization of color polymer microspheres results in a more refined and luxurious feel during application.

The texture of the product contributes to the overall user experience by enabling ease of application and resulting in a smooth and velvety appearance. Furthermore, they possess the ability to absorb excess oil and offer a matte appearance. 3

The incorporation of polymer microspheres into cosmetic and personal care formulations helps reduce the presence of greasiness or stickiness, in products such as sunscreens and moisturizers, where a non-greasy and lightweight texture is desired.

Colored Microspheres in Medical Devices
Colored Microspheres in Cosmetics, Personal Care, and Medical Devices

Cospheric offers an extensive selection of cosmetic-grade polymeric microspheres, ranging from polyethylene, poly(methyl methacrylate) to polystyrene.

Cospheric’s polyethylene microspheres are available in a range of densities 0.96g/cc to 1.45g/cc, including particles neutrally-buoyant in aqueous solution.

Polymer microspheres are produced in fluorescent, colored, and transparent varieties.

Silica Microspheres in Cosmetics

What is a Microsphere? Definition of Microsphere
Silica Microspheres in Cosmetics

Silica microspheres, or silicon dioxide microspheres, can provide a smoother tactile feel, matte appearance, and blurring effects.

Silica microspheres in cosmetics provide lubrication and slip, creating a smooth and silky feel. 5

When used in cosmetic formulations such as primers, spherical particles contribute to the development of a more refined and improved skin texture. Additionally, they can improve in the regulation of excess oil production, resulting in a skin surface that appears matte.

Silica microspheres are frequently used as filler and spacers because of their low absorption and high bulk density. 6 A substantial quantity of these microspheres can be incorporated into the product without changing its viscosity.

In the cosmetic industry, silica microspheres have recently been incorporated to enhance sunscreen formulations. It aids in the product’s application to the skin by reducing its stickiness and scatters light to block UV rays from reaching the skin.  7 Additionally, because silica absorbs oil, it aids in reducing the greasy feeling caused by typical sunscreens.

Glass Microspheres in Cosmetics

Applications of Microspheres in Cosmetics
Glass Microspheres in Cosmetics

The consistent direction and angle of light reflection by glass microspheres offers a novel method for concealing imperfections. A substantial amount of light is transmitted through the microsphere and reflected off the underlying skin due to its transparency.

The combined effect of these two variations of reflections generates a “fuzzy” focus which helps in concealing pigmentation, discoloration, or underlying wrinkles. 8

P2011SL are the smallest solid glass microspheres that are commercially available and are supplied by Cospheric. By acting as a magnifying lens, they enhance the color intensity and vibrancy of pigments and mica particles. In addition, they also produce a soft-focus effect due to the way light is reflected off the glass.

Sourcing Microspheres - 3M Ceramic Spheres and Glass Bubbles
Sourcing Microspheres – Ceramic Spheres and Glass Bubbles

Glass microspheres in cosmetic or personal care applications offer a number of advantages:

  • The roundness of microspheres means that unlike flakes, they can easily flow into cracks and crevices on the skin, giving a smoother, more even appearance to foundations or powders.

  • Glass spheres are efficient anti-mottling agents and very effective in dispersing dyes and flake ingredients within a formulation.

  • When coated with proprietary silane-based coatings, glass microspheres impart a silky, very smooth tactile sensation that rivals that of fine talc but without talc’s dulling, matte appearance.

  • Glass microspheres have also been found to significantly reduce the “glazing” that results when face powders or eye shadows react to facial oils and become “caked” or hardened.


Microspheres have emerged as an essential and versatile component of the cosmetics industry, fundamentally transforming the formulation and efficacy of a wide range of beauty and personal care products. They offer a wide range of benefits, such as smoother application, soft-focus, exfoliation, opacity, color, and active ingredient delivery.

These small, spherical particles, often ranging from 1 to 1,000 microns in diameter, possess unique chemical and physical properties that make them indispensable in cosmetic formulations. Consisting of numerous applications and adaptability, they continue to influence the cosmetics industry by satisfying the constantly changing needs of consumers and formulators.


  1. Recent Approaches In Microspheres: A Novel Drug Delivery System.[]
  2. Colored, Opaque, Transluced, Bi-Color Microspheres, Microspheres and Spherical Powders in Cosmetics and Personal Care.[]
  3. Use of microspheres in personal care formulations.[][][][]
  4. Opaque Polyethylene Microspheres: Applications in Cosmetics and Skin Care.[]
  5. Silica Microspheres – 6 Micron Mean Diameter – Microspheres Online. Microspheres Online. []
  6. Papers Presented at the Annual Scientific Seminar of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (Friday’s Program).[]
  7. Using spherical silica gels  to improve sunscreen.[]
  8. Applications of Glass Microspheres, Beads, Microparticles and Spherical Powders in Cosmetics and Personal Care.[]