Is Mineral Makeup Your Best Foundation Choice?

by Janet Wickell

Mineral makeup isn’t new — minerals have been used as cosmetics throughout history, but is mineral makeup the best foundation choice for your needs?

The ancient Egyptians and others used kohl (sometimes derived from a mineral) as an eyeliner and eye shadow.

Titanium dioxide has been a popular lipsticks ingredient and is still used in makeup today, even though it has been labeled a possible carcinogen.

Ancient Greeks used lead powders to lighten the skin, not a particularly good choice since the lead sometimes caused disfigurement or death. Other cultures also wore lead powders, but some researchers feel that amounts used were slight – enough lead to offer antibacterial protection, but not concentrated enough to cause harm to the wearer.

Today, we often associate mineral makeup with the ever-growing number of loose “powder” foundations on the market, but mineral formulations are available compounded in other ways — liquids and pressed versions are two choices. Eye shadows, eyeliners, and blushes are other products that may have mineral contents.

Is it True that Mineral Makeup is a Healthy Makeup?

Infomercials and websites tout mineral makeup as the healthy foundation choice, but some skin care pros disagree, and others say, “it depends.” Even though nearly all mineral makeup manufacturers refer to their products as more “pure” than typical foundations, ingredients vary, and in some case,s they are simply a powdered form of the same foundation we’ve used for decades.

Does Mineral Makeup Offer Sun Protection?

Most mineral makeup companies claim their products offer protection from UV rays of the sun, and Bare Minerals even displays the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of approval on its web site. It varies, but the typical mineral makeup offers an SPF rating of about 15, often due to two well known sunscreen ingredients — titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Dermatologists feel that wearing mineral makeup alone does not offer enough sun protection.

Some of the Ingredients Listed on Mineral Makeup Labels

  • Allantoin – a skin protectant that may help stimulate tissue growth
  • Boron nitride – helps mask the appearance of fine lines; lubricates
  • Dimethicone – an emollient that provides glide
  • Ferric ferrocyanide – a colorant, Prussian blue
  • Mica – a mineral that provides a light-reflecting quality to mineral makeup
  • Iron oxides – metals used to provide varying colors to makeup
  • Kaolin – clay, it offers coverage and a creamy texture
  • Rice powder – a smoothing ingredient used in place of talc or cornstarch
  • Titanium dioxide – a white pigment that offers a matte finish and UV protection; may be carcinogenic
  • Ultramarine blue – a colorant derived from the gemstone lapis lazuli.

Mineral Makeup Pros

  • Mineral makeup is often formulated without fragrances, binders, dyes and preservatives (the minerals act as a preservative), which eliminates ingredients often associated with skin irritation.
  • Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are somewhat anti-inflammatory, and some dermatologists believe they could help people who have issues with rosacea or acne.
  • Mineral makeup tends to be non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog pores.
  • Available in numerous shades — handy to use as either camouflage or corrective makeup.

Mineral Makeup Cons

  • Many brands of mineral makeup contain talc and synthetic fillers that do indeed create problems for some customers
  • Some makeup lines contain parabens, chemical preservatives that many people wish to avoid.
  • Some types of mineral makeup can be drying, which makes wrinkles more noticeable.
  • Some companies use varying amounts of bismuth oxychloride in their formulas, a skin irritant that’s a byproduct of lead and copper processing (always remember that not all “natural” ingredients are good for you).
  • Some brands use microscopic (or nanoparticle) sized minerals. The process may make minerals dangerous if inhaled andcan be irritating to sensitive skin.

Bottom Line

Read labels and research unfamiliar ingredients. Be aware that a cosmetic company can call a product mineral makeup even if it contains only small amounts of a mineral. Steer clear of mineral makeup companies that claim it’s okay to sleep in their products – that’s a red flag to move on to another brand.

The following loose mineral foundation ingredients were listed on company web sites in late 2011; check to determine if formulations have changed.

Triple-milled high-pigment minerals, and an advanced antioxidant complex of Vitamins A, C, and E and green tea extract, glōminerals provides broad-spectrum UV protection and helps to defend against free radical damage, to deliver a radiant, healthy complexion. In addition, glominerals formulas are talc-free, non-comedogenic and free of perfumes and chemical dyes.

Sheer Cover
Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (12.00%). Other Ingredients: Boron Nitride, Bisabolol, Aspalathus Linearis Leaf Extract, May Contain (+/-): Mica, Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)

Bare Minerals
Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 12.6%, Zinc Oxide 21%. Inactive Ingredients: Bismuth Oxychloride, Mica, Iron Oxides, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide

Everyday Minerals
Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Iron Oxides. May contain: Ultramarines.

Alice Cosmetics
Mica, titanium dioxide, iron oxides, zinc oxide, boron nitride, ultramarine blue, kaolin, magnesium stearate, rice powder, ferric ferrocyanide, allantoin. Alice Cosmetics does not use bismuth oxychloride, talc, parabens, cornstarch, nanoparticles, fillers, oils, vitamins, or fragrances.

Jane Iredale
Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891) 14%; Zinc Oxide (CI 77947) 6%; Ingredients: Mica (CI 77019); Boron Nitride; Zinc Stearate; Dimethicone; Stearic Acid; Plankton Extract; Algae Extract; Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract; May Contain: Iron Oxides (CI 77489; CI 77491; CI 77492; CI 77499); Ultramarines (CI 77007); Chromium Oxide Greens (CI 77288)

Prescriptives All Skins Mineral Makeup
Although I could not locate ingredients; web site states no oil, talc or fragrances.

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin
Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c