Why is it that health writers so frequently answer a straightforward question with, “It all depends?”
Because individuals vary so much physically and emotionally, and because products differ in the ingredients and science behind them, not to mention the way they are marketed, the answer to many health questions truly is, unfortunately, “It all depends.”
This can be frustrating for readers and writers both. So, though we may be headed for that inevitable answer in examining mineral makeup, let’s see if we can uncover some information to provide food for thought along the way. Here’s some of the popular lore surrounding mineral makeup and some observations that may be of value.
Mineral Makeup is More Pure
The loose powder foundations and blushes that most people think of as mineral makeup contain finely ground natural substances such as zinc oxide, mica and titanium oxide. Many brands have few or no ingredients found in other cosmetics that can irritate skin—such as dyes, fragrances and preservatives. Dermatologists generally do believe mineral makeup is gentler on the skin and sometimes recommend it to sensitive patients.
On the other hand, noted Dr. Omeed Memar in a 2006 article in the Chicago Tribune, there’s no standard definition for what makes a mineral makeup. And because the cosmetic industry regulates itself, you may not get a lot of information about which minerals, in what percentage, a particular product contains. Any company can claim its products are mineral-based, even if they contain just a small amount of minerals. And there’s no stopping a manufacturer from adding any ingredients they want and still calling the product a mineral makeup.
Mineral Makeup Feels Light and Looks Natural
Investigating the advantages of mineral makeup last year, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute reported that mineral makeup sits lightly on top of the skin and is not absorbed. Therefore, a good product will feel lighter than many traditional liquid-based cosmetics. The researchers did note that it can take a little longer to apply mineral makeup. Another occasional complaint is that it requires some skill and experience to get the coverage right.
Mineral Makeup Does Double Duty As a Sunscreen
It’s true that makeup with a high concentration of minerals such as zinc does have a reflective quality. But many doctors say the SPF (sun protection factor) of mineral makeup alone is not enough, you still need a good sunscreen. Also, the lighter your makeup is in feel, the more likely it is to blow off your face and leave you with very little SPF.
Mineral Makeup Gives a Healthy Glow
The same reflective quality that gives mineral makeup some SPF can also make you look and feel radiant. This is one of the most attractive things about the popular cosmetics. One consideration to keep in mind, however, is that mineral makeup can reflect light too much when you’re photographed, especially with a flash. A makeup artist quoted in the Chicago Tribune article stated that mineral makeup might not be a good choice for your wedding or other special occasion when you’re on camera.
Minerals, as Natural Ingredients, Are Good for Your Skin
Indeed, most minerals are “inert substances,” noted the Good Housekeeping team. Rather than meaning they’re actually good for your skin, the truth is they don’t cause adverse reaction. Not all minerals are automatically OK, however. Experts agree that a mineral to be avoided is bismuth oxycholoride. Although it is a mineral, it’s a byproduct of metal processing, not a natural mineral found in the earth. Bismuth oxycholoride is a skin irritant and can even make cases of acne and rosacea worse, and it’s in several products called “mineral makeup.”
So, we’ve come to the “It all depends” answer to the question about whether mineral makeup is a healthy choice. But that’s not to say you should shrug your shoulders and take your chances. What it does mean is you need as much information as you can gather about the choice you’re considering—including what’s in the product and what the ingredients mean. That goes for mineral makeup and for other decisions ahead of you about your looks and your health.