I think everyone remembers their first mineral makeup experience. For many, it was a life-changing, great experience while others found that it didn’t live up to the hype. For many mineral makeup users, they find that the loose or pressed powder concoctions feel light on the face and provide a matte finish that doesn’t risk melting off like other liquid foundations. However, there are others that find that mineral makeup unfortunately gathers in their fine lines and makes their dry areas of their face look flaky. Mineral makeup can also be particularly troublesome for women of color that find it difficult to find a shade that actually matches their skin tone.
However, any makeup can look differently depending on your type of skin. The real question is if it is safe for your skin?
For those of you that find mineral makeup to sit well on your face, many dermatologists agree that it is typically better for women with sensitive skin than other options. For women who suffer from eczema, rosacea, or have acne-prone skin, with mineral makeup they find that they can wear cosmetics comfortably, often for the first time in their lives, after making the switch.
Why is mineral makeup better? I’ll be honest with you, it’s not because of the “minerals”. In mineral makeup, you will consistently find the same ingredients – titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mica, and iron oxides. There will be other powered ingredients like vitamin E to nourish the skin, but it doesn’t do much. The above minerals typically aren’t mined in pure forms. For example, zinc oxide is created in a lab, mica comes from quarrying byproducts, and titanium dioxide is extracted from titanium, but only because all titanium is tainted by other minerals. All of this sounds fairly horrible, but it actually isn’t. However, we’ll talk more about this later.
The minerals in mineral makeup aren’t the good part, they just make your face matte and feel light on the skin. The real benefit from wearing mineral makeup from a skin health perspective is really what it DOESN’T have in it. These brands don’t need preservatives, parabens, chemical dyes, fragrance, and most importantly, oil. These are common ingredients in other types of cosmetics, but the light and airy texture of mineral cosmetics just can’t support them. The lack of oil is less likely to trigger acne prone skin while the powder actually works to absorb facial oils. Furthermore, the lack of all the other ingredients (all of which are common irritants, FYI) make it less likely that women with sensitive skin will be triggered.
Of course, even non-sensitive skin can benefit from mineral makeup as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both natural sun blocks. However, because we don’t put mineral makeup on in the same coverage as we do actual sun block, the coverage isn’t enough to fully prevent sun damage for hours out on a sunny day in the Caribbean, but it provides good protection for being out on overcast days or dipping in and out for a few minutes as you go about your day. This is why mineral makeup still needs to be combined with a solid facial sunscreen underneath, but the non-irritating ones typically use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients as it is.
Zinc oxide in particular also has the benefit of being a natural skin protectorant. It is actually present in many diaper rash creams to naturally soothe skin. It’s anti-inflammatory properties can actually make it soothing if there are other ingredients that irritate your skin, which is why so many women with sensitive skin love it.
If you were concerned about the creation process of the minerals in mineral makeup, there is some merit to it. Some labels put more care into where they get and how the create their products, while others, not so much. This can lead to some irritation from contaminants, but the real controversy of mineral makeup comes not from the ingredients, but how they are powderized.
There are some that believe because the minerals are ground up so small that they become nanoparticles. This means that they are actually small enough to be fully absorbed into the body through your skin as well as inhaled. The tragic part for those with sensitive skin is that, as you would expect, absorbing a bunch of small particles can lead to scraping and irritation. This is typically the case with mica in particular. The particles, when ground down, are so sharp that they end up leaving microscopic cuts on the skin, irritating it.
This is why there are those that have so-called mica sensitivities as well as iron oxide and titanium dioxide sensitivities. Usually when you use these, you want them to have some sort of buffer, typically oil, to prevent them from laying right on the skin. This can be combated with the use of primers, BB creams and other “pre-cosmetic” products, but some women just can’t get past the sensitivities, which will rule out mineral makeup completely.
Luckily, if you are worried about these minerals absorbing in your skin, it is important to remember that nanoparticles make terrible makeup. They are so small that they don’t often take to skin. Unfortunately, a mineral makeup can be a combination of the two. Until conclusive studies come in, I can’t say it is completely bad, merely something to be aware of.
Finally, the last risk to be concerned with is the use of bismuth oxychloride. There is some serious controversy surrounding this. Luckily, it isn’t one of those that cause cancer, but rather this ingredient that often gives that pearly finish to mineral makeup is considered a skin irritant and can lead to acne flare-ups. More and more labels are now eliminating this from their formulas now, though.
As with any cosmetics, there will be those with sensitive skin that thrive with mineral makeup and those who still can’t use it. Many dermatologists will recommend a mineral foundation for those with sensitive skin, but like any cosmetic, it is important to run a test on the inside of your wrist or behind your ear (and area with similar sensitivity to your face, basically) to see if it irritates.