Is Mineral Makeup Your Best Foundation Choice?

Mineral makeup isn’t new. Minerals have been used as cosmetics throughout history.

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

Titanium dioxide has been a popular ingredient in lipsticks for years 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 the amounts used were slight, providing antibacterial protection, but not concentrated enough to cause.

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 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. Most 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 people.
  • Some mineral makeup contains 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 sized minerals. The process may make minerals dangerous if inhaled and can 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.