Are you still on the fence about whether to switch to mineral makeup? Or are you new to this (now-overblown) beauty trend and torn about tossing your tried and true non-mineral products? It is no easy decision to convert to mineral makeup, which is not definitively superior to other makeup products on the market. Before taking the plunge, you should have a full grasp on the benefits, pitfalls, and ambiguities of mineral makeup.

The premise is pure enough. Mineral makeup is composed of natural, finely ground minerals from the earth, as opposed to the synthetic dyes, oils, binders, fragrances, and preservatives mucking up traditional makeup. It is supposed to allow the skin to breathe and to have fewer chemicals, which can cause adverse reactions both internally (health problems) and externally (clogged pores, breakouts, etc). Marketed as the perfect alternative for sensitive or acne-prone skin, mineral makeup promises to be non-comedogenic. But in no way does that mean you should sleep in it, as is a common misconception thanks to the marketing masterminds of certain makeup companies.

Besides iron dioxide and mica, the crushed minerals most commonly used are zinc and titanium dioxide, both of which are natural physical sunblocks. Bolstering the theory that minerals are skin-friendly, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have anti-inflammatory properties and can have a calming effect on skin troubles like acne or rosacea. However, these ingredients have been the basis for makeup foundations for decades, long before the "mineral" hype took hold. There is no scientific proof that mineral makeup preparations are any purer or safer as a whole. Furthermore, the sun protection in mineral makeup is not sufficient to forgo your regular SPF moisturizer.

Another knock on the mineral makeup industry is that formulas range from flawlessly pure to purely flawed, laced with artificial colors, fillers, and other chemicals. Like the "organic" vs. "natural" cosmetic standards we've covered in the past, there is no regulatory body overseeing just how pure each product is. As long as a formula touts minerals as a primary ingredient, it can get away with being marketed as mineral makeup. Youngblood Natural Mineral Loose Foundation, for example, contains bismuth oxychloride, a bulking agent (derived from lead and copper processing) which can lead to cystic acne, and chromium oxide green, which can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as respiratory problems if inhaled. Even if many of its ingredients stray far from the original intent of mineral makeup, a product might still be promoted with the misleading terms "all-natural" and "all-mineral."

One way to determine whether a powder product is true mineral makeup is to perform this DIY test (provided by Camille Meyer, the founder of Color by Camille Mineral Makeup): Scrape 1/4 tablespoon of powder mix into 1/2 cup of water, stir the blend for 10 seconds, and allow the mixture to settle. If the powder mix transforms into a milky substance or sinks to the bottom, it is not mineral makeup. If the powder floats on the surface of the water, you have the genuine authentic article on your hands. For further proof, insert your finger into the water and remove. A truly all-mineral mixture will change from gooey to powdery when you rub your fingers together.

But why bother with getting to the bottom of mineral makeup's purity if you're not convinced that you want to use it in the first place? Mineral makeup's enthusiasts and critics both make compelling arguments. Does it really give a light, long-lasting glow that can't be duplicated by other types of makeup? Or does this candlelit glow come at the cost of your health, since micronized minerals at nanoparticle size can penetrate your skin and enter your bloodstream? As for aesthetics, does mineral makeup really provide better, more beneficial coverage than chemical-based alternatives?

There is no sweeping answer to account for the more than sixty different brands of mineral makeup out there. While some products can create a healthy look that reflects light to hide wrinkles, crow's feet, and fine lines, other products be so drying that they actually add years to your appearance by accentuating wrinkles. It all depends on how your skin responds to the formula. In particular, complexions with ashy undertones do not take well to mineral makeup. The only way to make out your own compatibility with mineral makeup is to test it on your skin and carefully scrutinize the ingredients label for offending chemicals and irritants. Our Five Best in mineral makeup is a good starting point.