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What’s the deal with Mineral Make-Up?

March 19, 2009

Mineral make up is all the rage at the moment. Everyone from the very large to small boutique manufacturers has something to offer those looking to try foundation the mineral way. We took a look at a few products to see what science is behind these products in order to decide what is best!

On first look a lot of the niche mineral make up brands are claiming that their products are  better for your skin because they don’t contain a whole list of chemicals which are supposedly bad. This “naughty” list includes chemicals such as: Bismuth Oxychloride,Fillers (talc), Kaolin, Paraffin, no Carmine based colours and no FD&C type colours.  We will take a quick look at each chemical in turn and run through the reasons that they are sometimes present and will also take a look and see if these things will really eat your skin as claimed! Now while it is great to warn people about ingredients that you don’t use, it is much better to look at what does go into these niche brands – after all, that is what you are going to be wearing!

So, the “pure” mineral brands are made up of lovely natural ingredients such as: Zinc Oxide (not nano sized of course), mica, iron oxides,  titanium dioxide (again, not nano) and that’s about it.  I say natural because all of these things do occur in nature  – you can buy iron oxides in a whole range of shades thanks to irons characteristic as a transition metal!

Iron is the element that makes the earth magnetic and we need it to transport the oxygen around our blood.  Mica  is like a natural glitter. Naturally it can take on different chemical structures – just go along to your local museum’s mineral gallery and see. It is a very attractive mineral.

Mica is present all over the world but India has vast natural deposits and is often the source of Mica pigments for cosmetic use today.  Mica can also be coated with other chemicals (such as zinc oxide) to make them shiny.

Zinc oxide is also found naturally although like the other chemicals above, getting it suitable for cosmetic use takes a fair bit of processing!

OK so that is what is in the purest of the pure mineral make ups and so far everything is looking OK but I would not go so far as to say that this makes a product “Natural”. There’s far too much processing going on for that!

Now, going up a little we see another range of mineral make up that does contain some of the contraband ingredients. The most common ones found are the bismuth oxychloride, talc and kaolin. So, what’s the deal with these?

Bismuth Oxychloride seems to have been hunted down as one of the most evil chemicals every to have graced the face, on googling this I was surprised to find a whole host of stories about how great people’s skin looked now that they had moved away from this nasty ingredient while others were lamenting their still not perfect skin.  Unfortunately we are all different and while some skins will not even notice that this (or any other) ingredient is present, other skins will break out.  Skin also changes with your hydration, the climate, illness, age and nutrition so one day a product could suit you and another day it won’t.

That said I have looked up to see how many cases of Bismuth Oxychloride allergy have been recorded. I couldn’t find any so have asked for help with that. However, what I did find was  that the a) bismuth Oxychloride does not easily penetrate the skin, it can be a skin irritant when used in excess and it is used in medicine. Bismuth Salicylate is used to treat stomach ulcers brought on by Helicobacter Pylori – a very common gut bacteria! The stomach breaks this down to the Oxychloride!  Sounds pretty useful to me but maybe not when applied in large doses to the face – its all about balance!

Anyway the Bismuth is added to make -ups to give the make up a nice slip and good coverage. There are other chemcials that will do this but they will be more expensive.

Talc – This is another ingredient that has had a bad press. Apparently it contains asbestos! Well, some talc can and does but the talc used in cosmetics is extremely pure and while it won’t do you any favors to breath a whole pot of it in, it won’t kill you any time soon.  Talc also gives slip, adjusts the colour, gives coverage and generally helps with binding of the pigments together.

Kaolin – Now it is a bit beyond me why some  mineral make ups don’t like kaolin as this is probably the most natural of all of the ingredients mentioned – it literally comes straight out of the earth.  That said many do contain it. Kaolin is there to mop up excess oil (great for oily skins), give the product more coverage and help with pigment spreading.  Too much can be drying and it probably isn’t great for already dry skin.

As for FD&C Colours well, you are unlikely to see these in any dry mineral cosmetic as they are organic compounds rather than inorganic metal oxides. They are more typically used in food or liquid based products. FD&C stands for Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. As for nanoparticles well, usually Zinc and Titanium are made into nano (small) particles so that you can’t see them. They are then used in sunscreens. This would not be such a good idea in a colour cosmetic unless the particle was there as a sun filter.

OK, so there really is a lot of science behind mineral foundations. As romantic as it sounds there probably isn’t a brand on the planet that is as unprocessed and pure as they like to make out. We don’t think that that is a bad thing as in our eyes mineral make ups have some real benefits over liquid foundation:

* Mineral Make -up is close to 100% active so a little goes a long way. Good for your budget but even better for the planet as you need to buy less.

* Mineral Make-up being dry does not need to be preserved as much as liquid foundations which often contain water. This is probably the key reason why people with sensitive skin should try them.

* Mineral Make-up doesn’t need fragrance to cover a base smell as it has no base (although some may be fragranced). This again makes it a good choice for sensitive skin.

* Some Mineral Make-Up feels lighter and more “naked” than liquid foundation so is perfect for summer or for skin that just needs a little something.

* Mineral Make-Up is great for greasy skins as the pigments have a natural capacity for binding oil.

So, what is the deal with Mineral? Well, there are so many brands it seems like there should be something for everyone.  Dry and mature skin may need to shop around a bit more to find the right balance for them but others should shop with confidence.  After going through another hot Australian summer I for one will be testing them out. However, I will be paying less attention to the ingredients listing and more attention to the way the product feels on my particular skin.

I am currently trying to decide between Smashbox Function 2 Self Adjust powder foundation Or

The ID BareMinerals starter kit. Well then there is the Bloom Pure Mineral Powder. I need a cuppa!  I will let you know how I get on with my venture into mineral. My skin is usually quite mixed up so it would be good to try!

For a Make-up artists perspective we suggest the Make Up Muse. To Source products we love Adore Beauty.

For more sound cosmetic advice direct to your in box JOIN REALIZE BEAUTY now!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2009 6:08 pm

    Your blog is very interesting. I love to read good blogs. Thank You.

  2. May 31, 2009 4:25 pm

    Mineral makeup helps women look beautiful without the negatives of chemically damaging their skin. I believe that any woman looking to improve their appearance and quality of their skin should look at getting mineral makeup.

  3. May 13, 2010 8:35 pm

    Find best deals for mineral makeup products and davinci mineral makeup at Enhance your beauty with array of top skin care products here

  4. October 18, 2010 11:35 am

    I used a major mineral makeup line & unfortunately i had to stop using it. I bought a kit at a high-end salon. I was so excited because i have sensitive skin when it comes to makeup and other toiletries, so i thought that brand would help my skin. Unfortunately it didn’t, i ended up with two very large cyst-like pimples on my chin. 😦 I never used it again and i had only used it twice! So on my long list of skin irritants i added bismuth oxychloride. Then I thought about it, why would i weant to put the same stuff on my face that gets used in Pepto Bismal or Draino?? Lesson learned…


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