Mineral Cosmetics: Healthy or Hazardous?
Proponents of mineral-based makeup will tell you that makeup made from crushed, sterilized minerals found in nature is quintessentially better for you and the environment than conventional chemical-based makeup.
This statement is true in some respects, but misleading in other ways. Mineral makeup, like many other things labeled “green”, deserves a closer look to determine if it really is the safer, better choice.
The good news is many brands of mineral makeup contain no talc, oil, artificial colors, chemical dyes, petroleum products, or parabens. Products without these toxins and irritants are definitely better for you than the chemical-laden, potentially toxic makeup you typically see on the shelves.
Reported allergic reactions to mineral cosmetics are relatively rare due to the lack of fragrances, dyes, and preservatives, and the fact that the makeup is non-comedogenic, a characteristic that allows the skin to breathe and does not exacerbate skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, or dryness.
Due to its “pure” attributes, mineral cosmetics are also good for the environment because potentially toxic chemicals are not used in manufacturing, nor are they introduced onto your skin and, as a result, into the water system when you wash it off. They are also not reliant on nonrenewable resources such as petroleum.
Unfortunately, not all mineral makeup is “pure”—in fact, many companies include potentially harmful additives in their mineral formulations to cut costs or to improve the makeup’s performance. Most brands of mineral-based makeup are advertised as “natural”, but this is not always the case.
You must read the labels and know what to look for in order to really know whether the makeup you wear is a good choice for you and the environment.
- Talc – Included in many mineral-based formulations, it is a suspected carcinogen. Some companies use talc as a base filler to weigh down the product so the price can be marked up.
Bismuth Oxychloride – Routinely added to mineral makeup as a texture-enhancing product, it is a skin irritant that can cause redness, itchiness, dryness, flakiness, or other symptoms of irritation.
Parabens (i.e. Methylparaben and Propylparaben) – Used unnecessarily as preservatives (inert minerals cannot support bacteria), parabens have been found in tissue samples from human breast tumors and the estrogenic activity of parabens may be linked to the development of breast cancer.
Synthetic Dyes and FD&C Colors – Used to create makeup shades and colors, FD&C colorants frequently contain coal-tar chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic and have been causally linked with cancer.
Once you begin reading the labels, you will notice that Titanium Dioxide (sometimes listed as Ti02) is a primary ingredient in most mineral-based makeup—in fact, it is a common ingredient in many natural skin care products sold in health food stores.
Recent studies have advised of strong health risks associated with using Titanium Dioxide in “nano-particle form in powdered mineral makeup” because when applied, the inhaled Titanium Dioxide nano-particles had a similar effect as asbestos and could cause lung cancer.
Does this mean that all mineral cosmetics then are unsafe? The answer again depends on the brand and its formulation. Nano-sized particles, also referred to as micronized particles, are used in some mineral formulations, but not all, so again it is necessary to do your homework and learn which brands avoid the use of micronized or nano particles in their ingredients.
Due to the recent concerns, most companies now make this information available on their individual websites, but another helpful resource is The Mineral Powder Foundation Ingredient List.