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Mineral Makeup Dangers

Mineral makeups are a huge trend right now, being billed as more natural and safe than traditional makeups.  Let's look at what makes something a "mineral" makeup, compare them with conventional makeups, and look in to the health risks involved with both.

What are Mineral Makeups?

There's no legal definition of a mineral makeup.  More than anything, it's just a marketing term.  The premise of a mineral makeup is that it uses earth-derived pigments like titanium dioxide, iron oxide, zinc oxide, and micas instead of artificial colors like aluminum lake and FD&C colors.  However, there's no law governing how mineral makeups are labeled, so many of the big companies use both synthetic and mineral compounds in their products and market them as mineral.  So, just like any product, always read the ingredients before you buy. (I'll be doing a full follow up article on synthetic dyes soon)

Additionally, the ingredients can vary drastically from brand to brand. Let's compare two "mineral" foundations:

Physician's Formula Mineral Wear


Ingredients:  Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Squalane, Triethylhexanoin, Isononyl Isononanoate, Polyglyceryl 4 Isostearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG 32, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Methicone, Polymethylmethacrylate, Propylene Glycol, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides

Real Purity Healthy Glow Foundation

Ingredients: Distilled Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Kaolin Clay, Rice Bran Oil and Iron Oxides

As you can see, the ingredients are very different.  While the first mineral makeup doesn't use any synthetic colors, it contains plenty of other "bad stuff," including parabens and PEGs.  The second formula, however, boasts a very simple ingredients list. 

The bottom line: just because it says it's "mineral" doesn't mean it's safer.  Always read the ingredients. 

What is the problem with mineral makeups.

Let's say you found a mineral makeup that's free from parabens and dimethicone and all the crazy-sounding ingredients.  The formula was just corn starch, zinc oxide, iron oxide, and jojoba oil.   It sounds like a simple ingredients list.  Would there be a problem with that?

New technologies have enabled cosmetic suppliers to create finer particles of minerals (we're talking iron oxides, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and micas) that apply more smoothly to the skin.  Many of these powders contain nanoparticles, with particle sizes of less than 100 nanometers. As these powders are applied, they become airborn, and have the potential to deeply penetrate the tissue of the lungs, causing an inflammatory response. Source Source  Micas, even at full size, can also aggravate the respiratory system, and can cause internal lung scarring, and in severe cases, pneumonia.  Source 

Titanium dioxide is classified as a class 2B possible carcinogen.  This study found that repeated and prolonged exposure of titanium dioxide nanoparticles through inhalation cased lung cancer.  This study found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles caused oxidative stress when ingested by rats, and led to tumor foundation. Clearly, breathing in these particles is not good for our health. 

Finding a "good" mineral makeup

Of course I recommend using makeup sparingly, and letting your natural beauty show.  But if you "have" to use makeup, I recommend finding a liquid with simple ingredients (free of parabens, fragrance, phenoxyethanol, etc).  Here are some that I've found to be the best around:


Lauren Brooke Cosmetique Creme Foundation

Real Purity



100% Pure Cream Eyeshadow


100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara

Real Purity



Reader Comments (111)

hi im seventeen and i was wondering if revlon products have any harmful ingridients to them

Thu, August 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterana

Thank you so much for this information! I'm so grateful that you do the research and post this information so the rest of us dont have to. One quick question & I apologize if you've already addressed this in previous comments - do you have any brand recommendations for lip gloss? I did read your comment on lipstick but I was wondering if lip gloss would perhaps be less toxic since the colors are usually not as saturated?

Fri, November 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTara

@Ana--yes! Revlon does have many harmful ingredients!

@Tara--Check out Lauren Brooke's lip tints and glosses--great stuff!

Sat, November 20, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Your information about the dangers of mineral cosmetics is really valuable. Everyone is crazy after using mineral products as believe to be pure natural. Thanks for sharing this information. I appreciate your blog a lot.

Thu, December 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermineral cosmetics

You have researched a lot and thank your for warning us about the dangers of the mineral cosmetics. Thanks for sharing this information. This is really useful.

Tue, December 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrachelkum

Glyceryl Stearate and Japanese Honeysuckle are not in the Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Creme Foundation. See full ingredients here: For those who need eye brow color and wish to avoid loose powder... I recommend applying Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques eye colours (Taupe for blondes, Toffee or Chestnut for brunettes or Smokey Quartz for gray hair) with a smaller, wet makeup brush like the Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Angled Eye Liner Brush. Simply tap some of the powder into the lid and stir with the wet brush. Then lightly apply to the eyebrow hairs and carefully create a natural looking line if necessary where brows may be missing.

Sun, January 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoy W.

It's my understanding that the warnings about inhalation of powders like mica refer to industrial settings where it is just blowing everywhere and in huge quantities. Now of course, you never want to inhale large quantities of any powder, regardless of what it's made of, but if you use common sense when applying your mineral foundation powder you should have no health concerns from the powder.

Thu, February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanika Carter

What I'm more concerned about when it comes to mineral powder foundations is the companies that put a few minerals in with a bunch of chemicals and call it mineral foundation. That's not mineral foundation. It's foundation with minerals in it. Not the same thing.

If you are really concerned about the powder, you can use a safe, all natural liquid mineral foundation like Miessence.

Thu, February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanika Carter

Hi again thanks for your reply the brand real purity that you suggested i went on and had a look at but at their products and ingredience i found that they use kaolin clay.....isnt that a 'filler' and can clog pores???

Thu, April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Kaolin clay is not really a "filler", it is used to help balance oil and is often used as a clay masque to remove blackheads and other impurities in the skin. You can Google Kaolin Clay for skin and find lots of information.

Fri, April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoy W.

I use a thing called Minerals Mate to apply my minerals so that I don't get as much dust. What creates so much dust is when you put the remaining minerals back in the jar but with the Minerals Mate you don't have to do this.

Wed, June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Bailey

Interesting concept, Joan!

Fri, July 1, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

100% Pure has a new foundation that does not use nano particles. Can you please comment on this foundation and would you recommend over the other three foundations (Real Purity, Miessence, and Laurn Brooke). Thank you so much!

Mon, August 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSARAH

From what I can tell from their website, their foundation contains both Grapefruit Seed Extract and Japanese Honeysuckle Extract, so I wouldn't recommend this product.

Mon, August 22, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thank you so much for your help!

Mon, August 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSARAH

What is worse make up full of dangerous chemicals (parabens, etc) or natural mineral make up (powder form). In my country I only have this 2 options. I would like to know which one is better.

Tue, August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

@Paz...Probably the mineral makeup, I suppose. But what about the option of going without? :)

Wed, August 24, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I was wanting to use Coastal Classic Creations Base Primer (Kaolinite) and Base Concealer (Fullers Earth,Kaolinite) underneath Lauren Brooke's Creme Foundation.
Are those ingredients safe if applied with a moist cosmetic sponge? Also, I was looking for the 100% Pure cream eyeshadow and I wasn't sure which one was the best choice (was it the pencil?) Finally, will you please offer makeup soon!!!!!!
Thank you so much!

Sat, September 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Hi Stephanie could you check on this brand RMS beauty please .They contain Titanium dioxyde Mica...but they come in a cream.
Thank you so much.
Also i was looking at 100%pure eyeshadows but found the chemicals you said to avoid.Oh or maybe it wasn't the cream eyeshadows as i looked on the UK site. They could not have them.
I want to order from your site .Is it ok living in UK?
What you are doing is awesome. Thank you so much.

Mon, September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterValerie Sobczyk

What about Juice Beauty Foundation: aloe barbadensis leaf juice, organic sesamum indicum (sesame) seed oil, organic fruit & berry seed oils of, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, vaccinium corymbosum (blueberry) seed oil, punica granatum (pomegranate) seed oil, rubus idaeus (raspberry) seed oil, fragaria annassa (strawberry) seed oil,
actinidia chinensis (kiwi) seed oil, vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) seed oil, euterpe oleracea acai), lycium chinense (goji) berry, mica & iron oxides

I good looks yo me

Mon, September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

Oh Stephanie I just saw your comment, well actually I don't use make up, it also think is better this way =). I asked because a lot of friends can't live without mae up I wanted to know which was a better option for them =).

Mon, September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

The ingredients in the Juice Beauty foundation look good...nothing objectionable. However, there is one problem...there does not appear to be a preservative in the formula. Either there's an ingredient that they're not disclosing, or it's unpreserved (which can be dangerous). How are they keeping that aloe vera juice from growing harmful pathogens and bacterial?

Mon, September 19, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood] we go. Juice Beauty didn't full disclose their ingredients on their website. Here is the full ingredients list: Ingredients: Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice (*), Glycerin, Lecithin (*), Ricinus Communis (Castor Seed) Oil (*), Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil (*), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (*), Cera Alba (Beeswax) (*), Vitis Vinifera (Grape Seed) Oil (*), Blueberry (Vaccinium Corymbosum) Seed Oil (Vaccinium Corymbosum)(*), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil (*), Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Seed Oil (*), Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Seed Oil (Kiwi)(*), Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil (*), Fragaria Ananassa (Strawberry) Seed Oil (*), Euterpe Oleracea (Acai Fruit) (Acai)(*), Lycium Chinense (Goji) Berry (Goji)(*), Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla Cera) Wax, Cetyl Alcohol, Xanthan Gum, vitamin E, rosemary & sweet orange oil, phenethyl alcohol, caprylyl glycol May contain titanium dioxide, iron oxides, mica

This makes sense much how it's preserved (phenethyl alcohol) and how the oils and the water phase actually mix (the glyceryl stearate, stearc acid, cetyl alcohol, xanthan gum, caprylyl glycol).

Nothing too bad here or of giant concern. Not fully organic, but at least no ethoxylated compounds or known estrogen mimickers.

Mon, September 19, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I hate when companies don't disclose all the ingredientes of a product ¬¬. Thank you Stephanie =)

Tue, September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

Hey Stephanie!

Just found your website while searching for an alternative to my Mineral Hygienics foundation. Have you heard about Erth Minerals? Ingredients: mica, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, zea mays-2.0 only (cornstarch), & iron oxides. They also claim not to be using any nano-particles, "the smallest particle size we use is .31 of one micron, which is about 3 times the size of a nano-particle & is therefore too large to be absorbed easily into the skin & to cross the blood-brain barrier & thereby, inertl"
Any thoughts on that would be highly appreciated as the more I research the more lost I feel in the mineral make up world!

Sat, September 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersabina

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