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Makeup Memo - mind your minerals

Reviewed by Kristen November 8, 2011 5 Comments
Truth #10



Not all mineral powder foundations live up to the hype.

As a makeup artist working on set or for the red carpet, I’ve been using mineral powder for quite sometime happily and successfully to finish off makeup and help it last for several hours under bright lights, humidity, rain and sweat.

Mineral powder foundation has been around for decades, but one brand with a marketing powerhouse behind it launched mineral powder to the forefront and into the hands of just about every woman in America.  Their convincing infomercials say that a dip, tap and swirl of their product are all you need to make skin look flawless, airbrushed, and glowing – all without clogging pores, while protecting skin from the sun and being resistant to water.  That can be true, but not all brands live up to the hype created around this category, nor is this makeup the answer for every woman.

Women with very dry or very oily skin aren’t well suited for powder foundation.  Powder grabs at flaking skin and separates on oily faces, settling into pores and making it look worse.  Hydrating and exfoliating well, along with a primer will help makeup look great on drier skin.  Using a light moisturizer and skin primer will help those with oily skin be able to successfully wear powder foundation.  Remember: a little goes a long way in application for mineral powders.  Going straight to the face with a brush loaded with powder is a way to make anyone’s face look dull, gunky and ashy.  If you need a refresher on applying powder and not overdoing it in the “powder danger zones” read Makeup Memo: why matte falls flat.

So did you come to believe that all mineral makeup was natural and safe?  That’s an easy assumption to make based on how they are marketed.  Minerals themselves are natural, but there are a variety of chemical fillers companies add to these foundations, which definitely aren’t natural or the best to be putting on your skin, either (see also Copley's post on Mineral Makeup - True or False).

The most popular selling brand of mineral powder foundation, among others, on the market includes an ingredient called bismuth oxychloride. Its purpose is to help with the glowy effect.  That unnatural ingredient is a skin irritant to about 80% of women and can cause severe dryness, rashes and breakouts.  Yes, a product stating that it allows skin to breath and won’t clog pores may still aggravate acne.

If you read Makeup Memo: is there glitter in your eye cream? you might have caught on that sometimes brands so desperately want you to look radiant that they even add sparkle into their cosmetics.  This marketing ploy is just as true in the mineral makeup world and I’ve seen more than a few kinds that have chunks of glitter in them.  In my opinion, any glitter in foundation is to absolutely be avoided.  It settles in weird places on the face and doesn’t really look natural, but instead more like you were doing craft time with kids.  The more subtle form of sparkle you will find in mineral powder ingredients lists is mica, which adds a luminescence and pearl shine to makeup. It’s not as obvious as chunks of glitter, but those with many wrinkles or oily skin may find the sheen doesn’t give their skin a good effect. 

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two of the main ingredients used in pretty much every brand of mineral powder foundation.  These ingredients provide coverage and can offer sun protection.  But the only way to get full protection from the sun is to coat the entire face liberally with foundation; maybe not the look you are going for.  So beware that a light dusting of powder is going to give you a lower sunscreen benefit.

There has been quite a lot of upset surrounding airborne nanoparticles with these two ingredients because some research is indicating that, inhaled over time, nanoparticles can accumulate in a toxic way in the lungs and body, and possibly enter the brain.   To be on the safe side, make sure your brand of foundation isn’t using nano-sized particles.

All that aside, there are some incredible brands of mineral powder foundation on the market, which do a great job keeping the purity of their ingredients. These brands include Alima Pure, which also ships tester sizes to customers from their incredible selection of 60 foundation shades.  I’d love to hear about some of your favorite brands and what your experiences have been.  So leave comments below!
  • March 12, 2012

    by SJT

    Silk Naturals has very questionable customer service. The owner of the company can also be very rude. I used to be a customer but dumped them. For a great brand of GLUTEN FREE mineral makeup, a company which carries extensive foundation shades and which has amazing liquid/cream foundations, try Monave's products. Amazing stuff that can be worn by all skin types. Their customer service is also absolutely stellar. Monave has much much better products and customer service than Silk Naturals. You can also order wholesale, which saves you a lot of money. Monave also has many lip products, cream to powder concealer, cream to powder eye shadow, tons of mineral eye shadows and blushes, spectacular moisturizers, cleansers, mineral foundation, concealer and finishing powder, and many other products. All of their products are absolutely great.

    I use their liquid foundation followed by their mineral foundation as a setting powder in the winter. In the summer I use their loose mineral foundation and concealer. None of their products contain bismuth oxychloride in them.

  • January 16, 2012

    by Kristen Arnett

    Hi Ladies! Thank you all for the comments. Lina, I was so excited to hear that you are in love with your Alima products. I hope you still are. Jenna, thank you for the suggestion on Silk, I'll also look into them too. Do you find you are successful at mixing your own foundation? Ann, you are right on track! Getting samples is the most fun way to experiment, diversify and see what works. Yes, ultimately everything will settle into a wrinkle. Sometimes primers help. I applaud you all for choosing natural products!

  • November 8, 2011

    by Ann

    Hi Kristen: I go back and forth in my mind about whether or not to use cream or powdered make up products. I have read that both settle into wrinkles! Anyway, what I have decided is that I want to go natural. I checked the EWG web site and found both Alima and Nvey Eco are recommended. Both products are available in sample sizes for a few bucks and I now have a wonderful collection of eye make, foundation and blush that rivals any Sephora compilation set at a reasonable price. If you love to play with make up like I do you'll have a blast!

  • November 8, 2011

    by Jenna

    Alima Pure is awesome, but I also love Silk Naturals. It's a smaller company that makes all of their own makeup and skin products. They use only the cleanest ingredients and have kits you mix on your own to create your perfect match!

  • November 8, 2011

    by Lina jacobson

    After reading your former Makeup Memo: Why Matte fall flat, you mentioned Alima. After investigating the product, just yesterday I received my Finishing powder in Keiko the Kitten brush to apply it, the blush in Antique Rose applied with their Blush Brush,(their brushes are very good) and to top it off the Nourishing LIpbalm in Sweet Pea.( for dry lips this is just plain heaven) I would rate everything as Excellent.Thank you for sparing me another round of very mediocre mineral makeup products. Lina-

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