Since I am an avid fan of mineral makeup, I decided to research the basics of mineral makeup to let you guys know more about it. In a nutshell, all makeup is made from crushed up minerals amongst other synthetic ingredients. Marketers label makeup “mineral” not because it is more “natural” than traditional makeup but because it is an alternative with fewer harsh ingredients.
Mineral makeup is often recommended for people with sensitive skin because it contains less preservatives, parabens, mineral oil, chemical dyes and fragrances. Traditional makeup usually contains pore-clogging chemicals such as Sodium Chloride or Isopropyl Myristate, which can irritate the skin. Mineral makeup incorporates gentler ingredients including Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, which contains sunscreen properties.
Let’s break it down: What are the main components of mineral makeup?
The four main ingredients used in pure mineral makeup are Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxides, Zinc Oxides and Mica. Even though these minerals are naturally occurring, they are not considered organic as they go through chemical and purification processes to become safe for cosmetic use.
Iron Oxides are naturally occurring mineral deposits that give makeup their colour. Synthetic iron oxides are produced in various ways, including thermal decomposition of iron salts, such as ferrous sulfate, to produce reds; precipitation to produce yellows, reds, browns, and blacks; and reduction of organic compounds by iron to produce yellows and blacks.
Titanium Dioxide is a natural mineral made from the metal titanium and oxygen. Due to its whiteness, Titanium Dioxide provides a pearly sheen to colours and is used in sunscreen because of its light reflecting properties. It is a soft ingredient and doesn’t penetrate the skin meaning it won’t clog pores. The uses of Titanium Dioxide in mineral makeup include being an opacifying agent and also a colourant.
Zinc Oxide is the powdered version of the naturally occurring mineral, zincite. It has a variety of uses in cosmetics including as a bulking agent, a colourant and as a sunscreen. Zinc Oxide can block harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and helps to reduce or prevent sunburn and also fends off premature aging of the skin.
Mica, from muscovite mica is a group of silicate minerals that naturally appear as flakes, scraps of sheets. Mica is used in mineral makeup as a colourant and is safe for products applied to the lips and around the eyes. Mica refracts light and creates the shimmering effect you often find in makeup. It is the ingredient that makes colours appear iridescent.
If you are after non-irritant makeup, the general rule is that the less ingredients it has, the more “natural” it is. Two main ingredients to avoid if you are looking for purer makeup are Bismuth Oxychloride and Talc.
The nasty ingredient you want to avoid is Bismuth Oxychloride, especially if you have sensitive skin. Bismuth occurs naturally as a hard and brittle metal but Bismuth Oxychloride is often created synthetically, a by-product of lead, tin and copper refining, which is further refined and combined with water and chloride. It is known to clog pores and possibly enlarge them as well. Bismuth Oxychloride is also responsible for allergies and irritating skin.
Talc is a synthetic mineral composed of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. It is used in cosmetics to help control shine and absorb oil. Talc has gained a bad rep due to its connection with asbestos and is known as a carcinogen. Talc in cosmetics is regulated and is considered safe to use. However, if you are concerned about its properties, it’s best to avoid this ingredient and choose a product that doesn’t contain it.
At the end of the day, once you see through all the marketing, mineral makeup is in no way more natural than non-mineral makeup. It is, perhaps, less harmful on your skin and a better alternative for people with sensitive skin. Mineral makeup should not be confused with organic makeup, as you can see from above that mineral makeup still contains synthetic ingredients. The best way to find the most natural makeup is to familiarise yourself with the ingredients and to choose products that don’t contain the nasty ones.
For further reading here are some great resources that tell you all about the ingredients in makeup: