Is mineral make-up the best make-up out there or is mineral make-up just a lot of hype? In my opinion, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The Case Against Mineral Make-up
In the August, 2011 issue of Allure five cosmetic chemists were interviewed for their opinions on which beauty products they admire, which products they think are overrated, beauty dilemmas they would like to solve, and what they think will be the next big beauty breakthrough. Ni’Kita Wilson, vice president of research and innovation at Englewood Lab, listed mineral make-up as the beauty product she thought was the most overrated. According to Wilson:
It seems strange to me to label colored cosmetics as ‘mineral’ when really they all contain minerals. It makes it seem as if the product is made entirely of minerals, when many actually have the same mineral content as traditional makeup.
Paula Begoun has the following to say against mineral make-up:
When all is said and done, after you’ve cut through the hype, misleading information, and lies, mineral makeup is truly nothing more then powder (though now most companies are calling every product they make “mineral” regardless of what it is). It is not revolutionary, safe, or unique in any way. By any name, technically speaking, mineral makeup is simply a type of powder foundation. If you apply a light layer it serves as a finishing powder. Apply a little more and it works more like a layer of foundation providing light to medium (and, depending on the product, nearly full) coverage. In essence, mineral makeup is merely loose or pressed powder created from a blend of “powdery” substances. The hype behind it being different or special for skin is just that: hype.
Another thing to watch out for is the claim or misunderstanding that mineral make-up is “natural” and thus better for your skin. Be sure to check out the make-up’s ingredients before falling for that claim. As Paula Begoun explains:
Ironically the original lines to launch “mineral” makeup were about as natural as polyester. Companies like Youngblood, Bare Escentuals,and Jane Iredale used bismuth oxychloride as the main “mineral” ingredient, yet bismuth oxychloride is not found in nature! Bismuth oxychloride is manufactured by combining bismuth, a by-product of lead and copper metal refining (dregs of smelting if you will) mixed with chloride (a compound from chlorine), and water. Its use in cosmetics is due to its distinct shimmery, pearlescent appearance and its fine white powder texture that adheres well to skin. That doesn’t make it bad for skin, it just makes the marketing claims utterly false and ludicrous.
On the downside, bismuth oxychloride is heavier than talc and can look cakey on skin. For some people, the bismuth and chloride combination can be irritating. All the claims revolving around how mineral makeups are better for skin or are somehow equivalent to skin care is nothing more than clever marketing.
Ironically, mineral make-up got its start as a natural alternative to conventional cosmetics. According to the WebMD article, What’s Up with Mineral Makeup?, the use of natural ingredients to create cosmetics is an ancient tradition – think Egyptian kohl or prehistoric warrior decked out in body paint. The modern development of mineral make-up came in the 1970s:
So who first successfully marketed the concept? One pioneer was Diane Ranger, the cosmetic chemist who founded Bare Escentuals in 1976 and later started Colorescience Pro, another mineral line. She developed her first mineral cosmetics because she felt there was a need and market for natural ingredients and a natural look and feel.
“In 1976, cosmetics firms were required to list ingredients on their products for the first time, and I was shocked at what we were putting on our skin,” says Ranger, who had grown up wearing heavy, traditional makeup.
Then I went through my ‘hippy girl’ phase and discarded makeup along with my bra,” she says.
So while the initial desire was to create a natural and safe alternative to traditional make-up the present collection of mineral products can be anything but. As mineral make-up took off every cosmetic company, large and small, high-end or drugstore, added mineral products to their inventory. This phenomenon is a product of marketing and consumer demand as opposed to an endorsement of mineral make-up as a superior cosmetic product.
Is There Something Special in Mineral Make-up?
According to the WebMD article mentioned above:
To make your makeup, minerals such as iron oxides, talc, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide are micronized, or ground and milled, into increasingly tiny particles. “Different products micronize to different levels,” says Ranger. “A product micronized to six times leaves minerals larger so they go on the skin with light to medium coverage. Products micronized 12 times create fine-size particles that sit closer together and offer more coverage.”
Are pulverized pebbles all that are in your mineral makeup, really? The true difference from conventional makeup is what’s not in mineral makeup.
“It generally does not contain the emollient oils and waxes, fragrance, and preservative ingredients found in conventional formulations,” Hammer says. “Mineral products are usually preservative-free, and since they have very low odor, they are often also fragrance-free,” he says, noting that preservatives and fragrance are frequently what cause irritation.
To ensure you’re buying a quality mineral makeup product, he says, read the label. You are probably getting more than just ground-up rocks if the label reads “mineral-enriched” or if the formulation is liquid or mousse; these products may contain ingredients such as paraben preservatives or dimethicone added for a smooth texture. Nonpowders might also contain moisturizers, antioxidant vitamins, or other ingredients that your skin can use, so it’s up to you to weigh the benefits against your needs.
Mineral Make-up Pros
So what are the pros about mineral make-up? In my opinion there are quite a few:
Mineral make-up powders give sheer coverage that is buidable and blendable. You do not feel as if you are wearing a lot of make-up and you don’t look like you are either. The powders can give you skin perfecting coverage.
Mineral make-up powders will not clog your pores so they are a good option for those who have acne or who are acne-prone. Apparently there is a belief that mineral make-up can clear up acne and this is false, but it certainly will not contribute to acne.
Mineral make-up has a high concentration of zinc oxide and titanium oxide which means it is anti-inflammatory and good for sensitive skin. Though both of these ingredients are anti-sun ingredients, aka they are physical sunscreen ingredients, if your mineral make-up does not have an actual spf rating do not assume that your make-up will give you sun protection. Mineral make-up can contribute to sun protection, but if it does not have a spf rating be sure to apply a sunscreen first before applying your make-up. (I always advocate having a separate sunscreen and not relying on your make-up to give you sun protection)
Mineral make-up naturally has antioxidants in it so that means you are getting protection from free radicals with every make-up application. Our skin only benefits from the topical use of antioxidants so that is an added bonus when you use mineral make-up.
Minerals are inert so true mineral make-up cannot hold bacteria which means your mineral pressed powder can be safe to use for years after you first open the package. Keep in mind though if an outside substance like water mixes with your make-up bacteria most certainly has gotten into your make-up.
Mineral Make-up Tip:
All powder foundations can sink into wrinkles and fine lines so if you like using a mineral make-up be sure to apply a primer first so that won’t happen.
While there is plenty to like about mineral make-up be sure not to be caught up in the hype that comes along with this make-up. If your favorite brand of make-up happens to be mineral make-up then keep using it. If you have acne, rosacea, or have sensitive skin and have not tried mineral make-up consider giving it a try.
Sources and Further Reading:
- Move Over, Estée Lauder – The New York Times: this is an article about Leslie Blodgett, the CEO of Bare Escentuals, who can really be credited with launching mineral make-up mania.
- The Merits of Mineral Makeup – Skin Type Solutions Tips