Beauty, Skin

What is Mineral Makeup, exactly?


Mineral makeup gained popularity when bare escentuals hit the scene many years ago. Although its been around since the 1970’s, its been relatively recent that womens began using mineral makeup in the hopes of improving their skin.

Soon after the introduction of bare escentuals,  there were various knock-offs and mineral makeup coming at us from all directions. I never knew exactly what mineral makeup was exactly. I know its natural and comes from the earth but how natural is it? I mean, dirt is natural too but I’m not putting that on my face. Flintstones vitamins have minerals too but that’s not makeup.

Mineral ingredients include titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mica, and iron oxides. They are ground up into fine little particles and used to make cosmetics. Did you know that Zinc oxide is made in the lab? This is news to me. “Titanium dioxide, another mineral makeup mainstay, starts out with natural titanium. But it also undergoes an extraction and purification process in the lab.” {source}  Mineral makeup offers natural sun protection thanks to the titanium dioxide and zinc.

According to Paula Begoun over at the Cosmetics Cop, “Mineral makeup is truly nothing more than loose or pressed powder. It isn’t revolutionary, safer, or unique in any meaningful way. By any name, technically speaking, mineral makeup is simply a type of powder foundation.”

Oftentimes mineral makeup is created without parabens, chemicals dyes and fragrances. Because mineral makeup doesn’t contain oil, its less likely to bother those of us with oily or acne prone skin. Zinc oxide has the potential to calm irritated skin.

The bad news is that some makeup companies are adding in more ingredients to mineral makeup and its not as pure as we’d like. Preservatives are also used to prevent bacteria and microbes from spoiling the products. Again, the terms “pure” and “natural” are just labels, not a true reflection of a products ingredients.

A controversial ingredient found in mineral makeup is bismuth oxychloride which is chemically similar to arsenic. This is found in many products but the highest concentration of it is in mineral makeup.  It a “synthetically-prepared powder created from bismuth, oxygen and chlorine that is used in cosmetics because of its abilities to create a white pigment, shimmery look, and silky feel in addition to its exceptional ability to adhere to the skin.” {source}  Mostly its added to give a product shimmer.

While bismuth oxychloride is a mineral, its not natural and I was surprised to learn that its a byproduct of smelting lead or copper. It is a non-toxic heavy metal but known to be a skin irritant causing acne and the even worse cystic acne, those hard bumps under the skin.

To add color to the minerals so you aren’t putting dirt colored dust on your face, iron oxides are added or “lakes” may be used.  The definition of a lake, used in cosmetics is: A term used for pigments or dyes that are precipitated with metal salts such as aluminum, calcium, barium, or others. The vast majority of lakes is synthetically produced from coal tar or petroleum.  Used mostly in eye shadows and lipsticks.

How about Iron Oxides? Here’s what I found: “Iron Oxides are naturally occuring mineral deposits. These compounds are used as pigments in a variety of applications. Iron Oxides used in cosmetic and personal care products are synthetic. Because some of the starting materials for synthetic Iron Oxide may come from the earth there may be trace amounts of heavy metals present.”

Does this change your feeling about mineral makeup? It’s perhaps  not as pure and innocent as I once thought but is it a better alternative to many of the cosmetics available? That’s up to you to decide.

Liked it? Take a second to support Cindy on Patreon!

1 thought on “What is Mineral Makeup, exactly?

  1. Personally, I like the overall feel of mineral makeup. This is especially true for the summer months when I need something that just feels lighter on my skin. I couldn’t imagine going back to heavy liquid foundations in 80-90 degree weather again!

Leave a Reply