Head into your local department store and notice almost every cosmetic brand on the beauty planet has launched a mineral range of make-up. Why? People with problem or sensitive skin, people seeking more ‘natural’ skincare and people keen to create the ‘I’m-not-wearing-make-up’ complexion are all of the opinion that mineral make-up will answer their call to nature. But does mineral make-up do all of the above? And what is mineral make-up anyway?
Let’s start with a history lesson. The hunt for natural beauty products has been around for decades. In fact, minerals in make-up have been in commercial production since the 1970s and the use of minerals to decorate the face began in ancient times when Cleopatra and her fellow Egyptians ground up natural earth minerals for different purposes including beauty, decoration, war paint and camouflage.
Since then, chemical and synthetic materials overtook the old-fashioned style of using earthly products to beautify our faces but since our renewed focus on inner and outer health, make-up wearers have flocked to the idea of applying mineral make-up to our largest organ of the body – our skin.
From the outset, let’s get one thing straight. Not all mineral make-up is created equal. Let’s clarify:
What’s in mineral make-up?
Minerals are naturally occurring substances, generally mined from the earth’s crust. Most mineral make-up products contain the following minerals:
Titanium dioxide – occurs in nature as well as in the minerals rutile (beach sand), anatase and brookite. It’s the most widely used white pigment because of its brightness and very high refractive index. It’s used as an active ingredient in sunscreen, varnishes and offers a matte finish in foundations. It is anti-inflammatory and provides broad coverage to the skin.
Zinc oxide – a pure white mineral known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties and is approved as an active ingredient in sunscreen.
Mica – provides a light-reflecting quality to mineral make-up and benefits users who have oily skin. It is also often used as a colourant.
Iron oxides – this name covers metals used to provide varying colours to mineral make-up.
Ultramarine blue – a colourant derived from the gemstone lapis lazuli.
These minerals, among others, are pulverised into fine micro particles and added to make-up preparations, from foundations through to nail polish.
Mineral make-up versus conventional make-up?
Mineral make-up is often formulated without fragrances (minerals have such a low odour they are usually classified as fragrance free), emollient oils and waxes, binders, parabens, chemical dyes and preservatives, which eliminates ingredients often associated with skin irritation.
Mineral make-up is preservative free because it’s formulated from 100% inorganic materials and has no liquid base (water or oils), so bacteria cannot grow within its dry powder form – in essence, the minerals act as the preservative. Mineral makeup is also generally non-comedogenic, which means it tends not to clog pores and may therefore reduce aggravation of acne or rosacea conditions.
Benefits of mineral make-up?
Let us count the ways.
1. If you are prone to skin irritation, zinc oxide, which is an ingredient in many mineral products, can be helpful as it’s classified as an anti-irritating ingredient that can be soothing for inflammation.
2. Since mineral make-ups are composed of inorganic minerals and are also oil free, they do not support the growth of bacteria. So in plain English, they benefit skin types that are prone to acne.
3. Because mineral make-up does not contain synthetic fragrances and chemical dyes that may cause allergies, it is considered gentle for sensitive skin types.
REMEMBER, not all mineral make-up is created equal. There are no regulations that define mineral make-up. Currently, any product can be labelled mineral make-up if it contains any mineral as a primary ingredient, even if it contains a whole host of synthetic ingredients as well. Follow these tips to ensure mineral make-up success:
1. Always read the label to ensure you’re buying a good-quality mineral product. If the product claims to be ‘mineral-enriched’ or if the formulation is liquid or mousse, these products may contain ingredients such as paraben preservatives or dimethicone (silicone-based polymer) added to create a smooth texture.
2. Avoid products that contain bismuth oxychloride. This is a common ingredient in many brands of mineral foundation. Bismuth oxychloride is a manmade powder, created as a by-product of refining heavy metals such as lead and copper with water and chloride. Mineral foundation manufacturers add bismuth oxychloride to give skin a shimmery glow. This can cause skin irritation and can aggravate acne and cause rashes in people with sensitive skin.
3. Mineral make-up can also contain talc and synthetic fillers that create problems for some users. In fact, recent studies have shown talc to possibly be carcinogenic.
4. Be aware that Mineral make-up can contain parabens and chemical preservatives that users would assume are not present in ‘natural’ mineral products - Read ALL the ingredients!
The bottom line
Always have a good skin regimen on the go and remove all make-up, no matter how natural your make-up claims to be, before bed. After that, it's a case of trial and error to see what looks best on your complexion and which products are kindest to your skin.