On our website, a cosmetic grade color additive is one that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cosmetics. Any color additive which has not been so approved would be considered non-cosmetic (or, "technical grade" or, "industrial grade". The emphasis here is on U.S., because our website does not currently identify which colors are approved (or not approved) by other governments; if you have a question about another country, please feel free to email us and we will respond.
Another difference between a cosmetic-grade and non-cosmetic grade color additive is the level of purity. Iron Oxide Red is approved for use by the FDA in cosmetics generally, but the product you purchase must also meet specific requirements set forth by the FDA. For example, you can purchase Red Iron Oxide which is cosmetic-grade or non-cosmetic grade. The non-cosmetic grade is much less expensive and it used to color cement or concrete (as an example). But it is not pure enough to be used as a cosmetic on your face, lips, and eyes.
While you can't use a non-cosmetic grade color additive in a cosmetic project; you can use a cosmetic-grade color additive in a craft or art project. We do it all the time! Our studio walls have been painted with cosmetic grade manganese violet (for a vivid, resonating purple hue), and our chairs have been glazed with hilite (interference) violet mica. To the left is a photo of a mosaic project where the grout was colored with our ultramarine blue pigment.
If you are a soap maker, you may also use both cosmetic, and non-cosmetic grade color additives for your projects, because the FDA does not consider soap a cosmetic. This is great news because we have some really fabulous neon colors which are very popular with our customers because they are bright, stable and non-bleeding. While they are not cosmetic grade, they were tested by Duke University and shown to be non-toxic.