To many, mineral makeup is more than just a beauty fad. It can be seen as an extension to a skincare routine, based on the perceived benefits of it being healthier for our skin than traditional makeup. Although it’s a relatively recent beauty trend, mineral makeup has been used for thousands of years, its use dating back to ancient cultures like the Egyptians (think Cleopatra eyes).
But what makes mineral makeup so different to the traditional forms of makeup, and more importantly, what makes it BETTER in the eyes of many consumers?
What’s NOT in mineral makeup?
People tend to focus more on what’s not in mineral makeup rather than what is. In a simple sentence, mineral makeup uses minerals that can be found naturally in the Earth such as iron oxides, talc (yes, it’s a mineral – the ‘softest’ one in fact!), zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and bismuth oxychloride that are micronised for makeup application. This means they are ground up or milled into the ‘tiny’ particles that are then used to create cosmetics products. Traditionally, mineral makeup came in the form of loose or pressed powders, however many brands are branching out and developing liquid formulations which still fall under the ‘mineral makeup’ umbrella.
The degree to which minerals are micronised influences the way mineral makeup applies and looks on the skin. Very finely milled minerals sit ‘closer together’ and therefore create a fuller, more opaque coverage than minerals that are milled to a larger size, thereby offering light to medium coverage.
Generally, mineral makeup does not contain emollient ingredients such as oils or waxes and are light on preservatives. Most are fragrance-free although this depends on the company and so are attractive products for those who exhibit sensitivity to fragranced products. Quite a lot of mineral makeup brands boast the exclusion of talc as a filler in their formulations which is a dream for anti-talc consumers but honestly, I’m not convinced by the evidence and reports I’ve researched that talc is toxic to our health. Other reasons some avoid talc is for it’s ‘cakey’ appearance and it’s ‘heavy’ feeling on the skin which can be comedogenic but I’m not too affected by this to make me avoid products with talc in it. Interestingly, I experience more irritation to bismuth oxychloride in mineral makeup than talc. It’s important to note that the above applies to most powder foundations, but many companies have developed liquid mineral foundations which do contain preservatives and fragrances.
So why does it campaign as a better makeup alternative?
Personally, I like using mineral makeup for its comfort on my skin. It’s incredibly light and I really enjoy that feeling. I don’t wear too much makeup at all during the week at work, but when I do, I love to swipe a light layer of powder on my face and mineral makeup powders are always ones I reach for this purpose. This is one of the top reasons that mineral makeup is communicated as a good alternative to traditional makeup products. Most formulations are non-comedogenic and allow our pores to ‘breathe’ as some would put it (save for talc-based powders, where talc has a comedogenicity value of 1, being ‘slightly comedogenic’). Some really finely milled mineral powders provide a really good amount of coverage whilst remaining light on the skin, so can be used as foundations on their own. Others are more largely milled providing light coverage and work great as setting powders as well.
But the more popular school of thought with mineral foundations is that they contain botanicals and minerals found naturally that are meant to be healthy for our skin, whereas ingredients which are thought of as ‘harsh’ or ‘toxic’ by the wider public are avoided. It generally doesn’t contain chemical dyes or some agents which some people can experience irritation to ie talc. Another feature that is heavily pushed with mineral makeup is the use of the minerals Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which are actually among the most effective sun protection agents out there (think of zinc stripes across your nose during Summer). So it’s thought that mineral makeup containing these metal oxides can help protect your skin against UV rays.
As with everything, there are some questions
Could mineral makeup help with acne?
You may hear from time to time that mineral makeup has the ability to clear up acne. While I believe that non-comedogenic mineral makeup formulations are better for acne-prone and congested skin, I’m not convinced that it helps to treat acne. Plus, the label of ‘non-comedogenic’ is not regulated. Ingredients are given a comedogenecity value based on scientific studies yes, but these values can mean nothing once you consider them in the context of a whole product formulation (eg, an ingredient can be comedogenic on its own but could have no effect once added into a product formulation with many other ingredients). Zinc is a skin protectant and an effective ingredient to help calm inflammation and redness, and considering that acne is an inflammatory response characterised by red bumps, it is quite effective in reducing the symptoms. The problem is, is that it doesn’t actually treat acne, just can help to calm it. Mineral makeup shouldn’t make acne worse, but it doesn’t necessarily make it better. The percentage of Zinc may be so low that it might not even have that much of an effect. This would depend on the product formulation though.
Can mineral makeup protect us from the sun?
For sun protection, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide do have lots of research backing their effectiveness in blocking our skin from UV rays and protecting from free radical damage. And because they are used in mineral makeup, it can be seen as a form of sun protection for our skin. However, whether or not you actually apply enough mineral makeup to give you the sun protection you need is a different story. The Chairman of The Skin Cancer Foundation’s (US) Photobiology Committee estimates that consumers would use approximately a quarter of mineral makeup during application than the standardised amount that is actually used in experiments to evaluate the SPF of a product (this is variable however between people who apply different amounts of product). I guess this isn’t just a problem with mineral makeup alone, but for all makeup products that claim sun protective effects. So don’t substitute it for sunscreen, but use it as an extra defence against UV rays during the day.
Does mineral makeup equal natural makeup?
A lot of the ingredients, while being minerals that are naturally occurring, are actually synthesised and/or processed in the lab. Although Zinc Oxide is naturally occurring in the form of ‘Wurtzite’, it is mostly produced synthetically for the beauty and sunscreen industries. Titanium Dioxide, mined from natural Titanium ores, have to undergo extraction and purification processes in the lab to remove impurities. Titanium naturally occurring can be contaminated with other metals such as mercury and lead (dangerous!), so these laboratory processes are absolutely necessary, it’s a good thing! Again, bismuth oxychloride is naturally occurring, however for the beauty industry it is synthetically produced from bismuth, oxygen and chlorine all of which are approved for use by the FDA below certain concentrations. Considering the chemical processes and modifications of these minerals, it could be quite a stretch to label these ingredients as ‘natural’, but that is up for interpretation. Can you call an ingredient that resembles a naturally occurring mineral but has been processed synthetically, a natural ingredient? It’s up to you!
Branching on from that, it is heavily pushed by some marketing campaigns that mineral makeup does not contain ‘chemicals’. This frustrates me, basically everything put on this earth has chemistry. ANYTHING you put in makeup, naturally derived or not, is a chemical. Water, to be scientifically correct, is a chemical. Minerals are chemicals. Plant extracts are chemicals. Also, just because something is powder based (like mineral makeup powders) does NOT mean no chemicals were used in the manufacture of the product.
Why do I use mineral makeup?
The questionable points aside, I actually really enjoy using mineral makeup and have been doing so for years. In saying that, I don’t think I’ve taken a strong liking of one form of makeup over the other. As mentioned before I use mineral makeup powders more frequently than my ‘traditional’ liquid foundations because I don’t like to wear liquids everyday and find mineral powders to sit really comfortably on my skin. My skin being on the oily side, powders are generally my best bet for looking fresh all day at work whilst maintaining maximum skin comfort! Matte foundations are great for keeping oil at bay and are long wearing, but I don’t find them all particularly comfortable to wear for hours. For my daily job where I spend hours on end in the lab, it’s comfort above anything else and mineral makeup fills that need.
Youngblood Cosmetics mineral makeup
What I’ve talked about up until now mainly applies to mineral makeup in terms of powder foundations, but the mineral makeup umbrella expands to cover much more than powder foundations. One international brand leading the way in the mineral makeup is Youngblood Cosmetics, who manufacture a whole range of mineral and natural makeup from powders, to lipsticks and highlighters. Pauline Youngblood, a medical aesthetician developed her makeup range specifically for her patients who had undergone procedures (eg chemical peels) and had traumatizsed skin and experienced sensitivity to conventional makeup. Her aim was to create a makeup line that was healthy for the skin, and safe to use on skin that was ‘vulnerable’.
One of my favourite things about Youngblood is that they don’t push the ‘chemical-free’ label, and they don’t seem to use scare-mongering tactics when it comes to talking about their mineral makeup (from what I’ve seen). They have also addressed the sun protection issue on their website, stating:
Since protective levels depend on application and will vary (i.e., lighter coverage offers less protective benefits than a heavier application), Youngblood doesn’t assign a Sun Protection Factor to its products.
I love this, it means they aren’t misleading consumers by claiming their makeup will give you full SPF but at the same time they are still acknowledging that Titanium Dioxide has skin protective benefits (interestingly they do not formulate their products with Zinc Oxide as it does have a tendency to be drying on the skin).
They do not formulate their products with talc in it too, again good for those who are anti-talc. But as I said before, I’ve never really had bad experiences with talc before so I’m not too proactive in avoiding it. For those who are conscious, the products are vegan and paraben-free too. Because of different milling processes, some minerals can be milled so finely so that they constitute ‘nano particles’, these are great for providing the ultimate flawless full coverage, however the molecular size is so small that they can actually be absorbed by the skin and then into the bloodstream which can become potentially dangerous (they can also accumulate in the lungs). Youngblood avoids the use of these nano particles in their mineral makeup.
One thing I noticed is that Youngblood uses bismuth oxychloride in their products, which I actually get irritated by. I usually avoid bismuth in mineral makeup but for some reason, Youngblood does not irritate me like other mineral makeup has in the past. I think this may be because bismuth is not the main ingredient, or their unique milling process, I’m not really sure. In any case, I was super surprised I didn’t get the ‘itchy’ feeling I usually experience when using bismuth.
Youngblood Cosmetics: My top picks
I’ve had the pleasure of trying Youngblood Cosmetics and I wanted to share with you my top picks from what I’ve trialled. I also have their lipstick in Cedar and their lipgloss in Deja Vu, let me know if you also want a review on their lip products!
Liquid Mineral Foundation (RRP $79.95 AUD)
This is not the characteristic mineral powder formula. As a liquid foundation, this product contains a Deep Sea complex to hydrate the skin. Interestingly, the ingredients specify it ‘may contain Titanium Oxide’ but doesn’t list the mineral as an ingredient, so I’m not confident it’s a conventional mineral makeup product. It does contain preservative and fragrance, but also botanical extracts and squalene. Squalene is super effective for dry skin, it’s an emollient and a natural antoxidant. You usually see it in high quality skincare so I’m impressed to see it in here!
I loved this foundation for a lighter alternative to the traditional liquid foundation. It offers a light to medium coverage but is buildable without getting cakey or streaky. It applies beautifully with a damp sponge which is my favourite way to apply it. The colour match is really good for me, although it’s listed as a shade with cool undertones it adjusted once on my skin to suit me perfectly. It is listed as beneficial for parched skin, but I found it to wear really nicely on my oily skin. I didn’t get shiny or overly oily. Funnily, I wasn’t sure this foundation would suit me at all but I found that I really loved it. It’s nut and gluten free, vegan and paraben free for those who avoid it.
Pressed Powder Foundation (RRP $79.95 AUD)
A traditional mineral powder, but pressed in a compact. I find these really useful because you get the mineral powder formula without the mess of using a loose powder, and the compact size of the palette along with the mirror in the lid makes it easier to travel with. It has a flaterring texture, smooth and velvety without emphasising my skin’s texture and my large pores. It contains zinc stearate mineral, mica, jojoba oil, honeysuckle extract and rice starch instead of talc, which helps to absorb oils.
This is now my everyday powder! As I mentioned, I love to swipe powder over my face for everyday work makeup. I need it to be lightweight, comfortable, oil-absorbing and to provide a good level of coverage. I find this powder to be a perfect match. Some might think it too light in coverage, but it is buildable without looking too crepe-y (although this really does depend on skin type), and it also makes for a really good setting powder that adds a little more coverage to your base. Overall, I think it’s a really good all-rounder face powder.
Illuminate Palette (RRP $89.95 AUD)
And the lord said ‘Let there be light’! This was perhaps the product I was most excited about trying from Youngblood. It is gorgeous. It’s a cream-based illuminator palette featuring 6 illuminators with different shades and undertones from pearls to pinks to bronze in a sleek and stylish leatherette case. Whatever skin tone you are, you’ll find something in here for you. I actually don’t use many cream-based products save for foundation. I am generally quite fussy when it comes to using creamy products because I find them harder to blend and they ‘wipe’ away any of the foundation and concealer I’ve already applied underneath. Again, this one really surprised me.
The texture of these creams means they glide on and blend out so easily. The pigmentation is pretty impressive but is natural enough when they blend and dry out that they create a natural, radiant glow with the finest shimmer particles rather than a glittery glow, my favourite type of illuminator. Despite being creams, they layer really well. The palette is versatile enough that you can use the products as brow highlights, inner corner highlights, bronzer and blush as well as cream eyeshadows. It contains Titanium and iron oxide minerals, jojoba oil, and candelilla wax.
I hope you were able to learn something new about the mineral makeup trend, and got some ideas for some products to try from Youngblood should you wish to explore more mineral makeup. You can purchase their products from their Australian online store here.
Have you tried Youngblood before? Have other favourite mineral makeup products or brands? Let me know in the comments below!
*These products were sent to me for editorial consideration. I was under no obligation to post about them. All opinions and material expressed are genuine and my own.
Reference article for talc toxicity
Wehner, A. P. Cosmetic talc should not be listed as a carcinogen: comments on NTP’s deliberations to list talc as a carcinogen. 2002. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 36: pg 40-50