Medicinal Makeup

Micro-pulverized Minerals Offer Healthy Skin Options

By Linda Knittel

Originally published in Skin Deep.

When applied properly, makeup should enhance a woman’s appearance without making her look — well, made up. It can hide imperfections, add color, accent features, and boost self-esteem, and, if it is mineral-based makeup, it can do all this while actually improving and protecting the skin. That’s because, unlike many conventional cosmetics, mineral makeup does not contain the preservatives, fillers, and synthetic chemicals that can clog pores, cause blemishes, and trigger allergic reactions. In addition, it’s made from light reflecting minerals such as mica, which can make skin look virtually flawless.

“I am now convinced that makeup is actually part of the solution, not part of the problem, for anybody with skin conditions such as rosacea or acne,” says Jane Iredale, founder and namesake of one of the first and most well-known lines of mineral makeup. “You know your clients are going to use something to cover up what they don’t like, so why not give them something that is going to improve their complexion when they are not seeing you?” she says.

Pure mineral makeup contains no pore-clogging oils or binders, making it safe for sensitive and problem skin. And it’s weightless. In fact, the makers of the bareMinerals line of mineral makeup say their product is so light and smooth, clients will forget they’re wearing any makeup at all. What’s more, it’s makeup so pure you can sleep in it, they say.

Iredale’s line, made from crystals of micro-pulverized minerals and natural pigments, overlap each other on the skin to form a filter that allows the skin to breathe while protecting it from airborne pollutants as well as the sun. Because the products are made from titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, they provide instant and broad-spectrum, chemical-free sun protection ranging from a sun protection factor (SPF) of 17 to an SPF of 20. “Don’t assume all mineral makeup lines have the same sun protection,” Iredale says. “They have to be made from the right minerals, and the label must promise such protection.”

In addition to sun protection, some mineral makeup lines are designed to address other specific skin needs. For example, Scosh mineral makeup from Scottsdale, Ariz., contains therapeutic levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and other healing ingredients formulated to target problematic and overprocessed skin and help combat premature aging and sun damage.

Mineral makeup can also help protect the skin from breakouts since the inert minerals create an environment that does not permit bacterial growth. “Minerals such as zinc oxide also have natural anti-inflammatory properties, which help calm acne and rosacea-prone skin,” says Lisha Keeble, an esthetician at Faces Unlimited in Portland, Ore., where they sell a number of mineral makeup lines. “This makeup is not just for people who have problem skin. I recommend it to all my clients because it simply provides beautiful coverage and is safe and healthy for the skin,” Keeble says.

Unlike its conventional counterparts, most mineral makeup is made without synthetic fragrances, chemicals, and potentially harmful fillers like talc, so it is less likely to cause allergic reactions and the long-term health effects that go along with them. Iredale says, “Many of the ingredients in conventional makeup can cause low-grade immune responses in the body, which create free radicals. Over time, these responses cause cell damage and make you look older.”

Looking older might be the least of a woman’s worries when it comes to cosmetic ingredients. A number of common additives, such as sodium laurel sulfate, paraben, and talc, have all been linked to certain forms of cancer. “You don’t need these chemicals in order to make a good product,” Iredale says. Her company uses ingredients such as olive leaf extract to replace these potentially harmful ones. Other mineral makeup companies have found natural substitutes as well. “Be sure to read the labels carefully,” Iredale says. “Just because a line contains minerals does not mean it will be free of unwanted chemicals.”

The safety and gentleness of mineral makeup are perhaps its biggest selling points; the fact that it looks great is just an added bonus. In fact, mineral makeup is so gentle, it can be applied to the skin directly after a facial or even more intense treatments, such as peels or laser resurfacing. For this reason, Iredale’s line is a favorite of many plastic surgeons and dermatologists, and is only sold by these professionals and estheticians. “I chose to put my products in the professional market, because I wanted them in the hands of people who understand skin and can educate the consumer,” Iredale says. “Proper instruction is the key to sales.” (See “Marketing Mineral Makeup,” sidebar.)

According to Keeble, mineral makeup sells itself. “Once a client sees how well it covers and how super lightweight it is, she will want to wear nothing else.”