Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mineral Makeup Misconceptions

I like to think that I'm pretty impervious to cosmetics marketing BS. I pride myself on not getting suckered into buying products that make dubious claims to eliminate cellulite, lengthen eyelashes and "reduce the appearance of" anything. It's not that I'm not tempted, or that I wouldn't pay up if a tube of cream would actually make my thighs resemble Heidi Klum's, but I know that just isn't going to happen, so I generally just walk on by and waste my money on Us Weekly instead.

So, last week when a reader anonymously commented to let me know about a number of misconceptions concerning mineral makeup (which I've been reviewing), I was shocked to see that I'd been duped by cosmetics marketers, who'd led me to believe that mineral makeup was a totally natural, healthier alternative to "regular" makeup.

In fact, just about any liquid or powder foundation could call itself "mineral makeup," since nearly all foundations contain some kind of mineral ingredients, like talc, titanium dioxide, iron oxides, mica and silica. While some mineral makeup is great for women with sensitive or allergy-prone skin, other brands will irritate or cause reactions, just like regular makeup. And as mineral makeup companies tout the sun blocking qualities of mineral makeup, it turns out that you'd have to apply an unattractively thick layer of foundation to get any significant sun protection.

These companies have led us to believe that chemicals are bad, and by turning to "natural" ingredients, we're doing something good for our skin. But there's no reason why the naturally occurring chemicals in mineral makeup are better than man-made chemicals contained in regular makeup. Bismuth oxychloride, a common ingredient in mineral makeup, can create microtears in the skin, causing irritation and acne. Other popular ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (the chemicals that provide sun protection) cause breakouts in some people, even though they're touted as being non-irritating.

This doesn't mean that mineral makeup isn't a great option for a lot of women. Most mineral makeup brands contain only a few ingredients and are fragrance and preservative-free, which means they're far less likely to irritate sensitive skin. For a lot of skin types (especially women with normal to oily skin), powder foundations look more natural and last longer. And once you get the "swirl, tap and apply" part down, I find that it's easier to get even coverage than with traditional liquid foundation.

If you're interested in trying mineral makeup, I think it's really important to sample a few different brands and compare ingredients before you decide whether it's right for you. L'Oreal's Bare Naturale foundation gave me such a strange reaction that it sent me to the dermatologist (I've since found out that I'm allergic to bismuth oxychloride), but brands that don't contain this ingredient have worked wonderfully. As with all things, it's best to keep your expectations reasonable when you're trying mineral makeup. Despite what the advertisements and websites may claim, it's unlikely that mineral makeup is going to dramatically transform your skin... it's still just makeup, after all.

For more information about mineral makeup, check out these resources:

Makeup, Excavated From a Mine
, New York Times, August 24, 2006

Is Mineral Makeup Better For Your Skin?, The Beauty Brains, May 2, 2006

Mineral Makeup: A Special Report by Paula Begoun and Bryan Barron, 2007

And big thanks to the reader who alerted me to this! I always appreciate being respectfully corrected when I'm wrong about something.


Beauty Bug said...

Great post Meg! I prefer power to liquid too - I too find liquids less natural and too hard to blend. I recently tried mineral makeup and didn't find it to be much better or really any different than my regular MAC Studio Fix Powder. I was looking for it to smooth out my skin as it claims, but I don't see a difference. Sadly, I really don't see why everyone hypes up Bare Minerals so much.

franki durbin said...

I have a running joke about 'all natural' products. For me, I don't care if it comes from a farm or a pharmacy - I just need it to be effective. My husband always like to remind cosmetic counter salespeople that e.Coli and anthrax are 'all natural' as well. Aside from the blank look they give him, he always leaves chuckling. His point (and mine): natural isn't always good for you.

On to your post: Like you an beauty bug, I dislike powdered foundations. I prefer a liquid and I prefer a tinted moisturizer even more. It goes on smoothly yet I can see my skin beneath the this layer of color.

The success of BM is beyond comprehension for me. Glad to hear I'm not alone!

Anonymous said...

I have acne prone skin and have tried many different liquid and powder foundations. As far as my breakouts, oil free liquid compared to my mineral make-up (in my case, bare minerals), did not make any difference on the frequency of makeup, but my bare mineral did offer a bit more pros than liquid. When I wear liquid foundation, I feel so 'dirty' afterwards, as if I slopped on a mask and like you said, it's so much harder to blend in your skin than mineral makeup. Secondly, I've found that for me, mineral makeup lasted a bit longer than liquid foundation and the liquid foundation often provoked the ghastly racoon eyes from my eyeliner and mascara. I have never tried any other brand of mineral makeup other than bare minerals, so I can't compare with other brands. But like all other products, bare minerals did not give me that "flawless, all natural, baby's bottom skin" like it advertised, but it will do.

Queen Michelle said...

I have been wondering what all the mineral makeup was. I have very oily skin and any liquid foundation just slides of my face within an hour, so the thought of a powder foundation did appeal. I just wasn't sure how it would actually blend without being patchy, and give me decent coverage too.

I may try Mac Studio Fix - that's just a normal powder that goes over foundation right?

TheBeautyBrains said...

It warms the Beauty Brains' hearts to see someone embracing their skeptical side. Keep up the great work!

TheBeautyBrains said...

Oh yeah, snake venom, uranium, and viruses are also "all natural"

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reviews-- I've been using BareMinerals, because I have a make-up bias of "whoever was doing it first must've been doing it best" but I definitely think I'll move on to the Flawless Feline. Not for now though; in the summer, even with mattifying stuff, any lightweight foundation slides right off my face.

From watching too many 'What Not To Wear' episodes I decided to try a spray-on foundation, and I've been in love; it's like a tinted moisturizer that feels cool when you swipe it on with a make-up sponge. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not very good for my pores, but maybe the problem would be solved if I upgraded from the drugstore brand I started with.

Anonymous said...

Not to sound like an ad, but much of Clinique has shocked me and done what it claims. Nothing, not Proactiv or Garden Botanica or The Body Shop or anything like that has worked for me before. Occasionally once in a blue moon something actually works. (OF course I'm not a kid w/raging hormoes anymore-so maybe that helps.)

As To Mineral makeup-I tried Bare Minerals on the advice of my aesthetician and I didn't like it-The brush and the powder both irritated my skin and caused bad break outs. Not to mention the powder looked cakey and obvious on my face. I've been trying now something called Tru Minerals w/out the Bismouth (?) and it looks good from a distance and doesn't irritate, but either my technique is off or its overrated because up close it still looks obvious. So at this point I don't think I'd recommend mineral make up.

Ashley said...

I must say that I was once a skeptic towards mineral makeup...But I tried it nonetheless to see what the hype was all about. I've tried different brands from the less popular like Valerie Beauty, Meow, Monave, Lumiere, to the more popular brands Bare Escentuals, L'oreal and Neutrogena. People might contend that mineral cosmetics have basically the same composition but I believe that they are not created equal. Some brands really do offer more coverage and lasts longer than the others. I particularly like Monave and Meow for giving me the finish that I want. I say that it does depend on the makeup's formulation, your technique and the brushes that you use for you to see visible and astonishing results. Popular brands don't necessarily mean that they're better than less known ones.

Having been a MAC studio fix user before, I've really felt the difference between traditional makeup and mineral makeup as MMU didn't give me breakouts at all. I get the occassional breakouts from MAC and not even during my period. But until I discovered mineral makeup, I used to bear with the zit farms that MAC gave me. Good thing I found an alternative that gave me the same effect of MAC minus the harshness.

It may be true that mineral makeup and traditional makeup all contain "natural" products. But one must understand that traditional makeup have preservatives, fillers, fragrances in them which may irritate the skin and clogs the pores causing pimples and whatnot. Zits may be natural too, but that doesn't mean that I want them on my face.

I must also point out that it's more economical to use mineral makeup as you just need a little amount to cover the whole face unlike the foundations that you have to pile onto your skin ever so often to achieve the look that you want. A pinch of the mineral makeup that I use goes a long way. I personally own full pots of mineral makeup that I haven't been able to fully consume since the first time I bought them. And I've been rotating these for over a year now!

For a person who have seen and felt good results with mineral makeup, I don't think there's any misconception. For me, mineral makeup does do good to the skin more than traditional makeup does. It may not deliver the same results to some people as they would have wanted, but a million others who have converted into mineral cosmetics couldn't have done so without a reason. That's just how I look at it.

kimber said...

I have been using bare minerals for over a year. I was like an add for the company. I loved the makeup. I recently have breakouts all over cystic like. There hasn't been any other changes in health, meds or detergeants. Could it be the minerals are clogging my pores? Please help I am so embarrassed and can't go without makeup now.