Makeup made from ground-up rocks has been around for thousands of years (Cleopatra used it to style those iconic eyes). Yet it's enjoying new popularity thanks to the proliferation of brands marketing themselves as totally natural options. Indeed, some mineral makeups are healthier for skin because they don't contain common skin irritants such as preservatives, artificial fragrances, synthetic oils, and dyes. But don't be fooled — many mineral products do. “There are no industry standards for makeup,” explains Sean Gray, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, the nonprofit that created the Skin Deep cosmetics safety database (cosmeticsdatabase.org). “It's buyer beware.”
When choosing a mineral makeup, search out optimal ingredients, such as oils derived from plants and flowers, as well as natural coloring agents such as iron oxide, manganese, and chromium oxide. Avoid products with filler ingredients such as talc — a potential carcinogen often used in powdered cosmetics — and remember that even natural additives like mica and bismuth oxychloride can aggravate sensitive skin.
FaceGet enough SPF. Virtually every mineral cosmetic includes an SPF claim on its packaging. And although mineral cosmetics do provide some protection thanks to ingredients like titanium dioxide, a powdered metal that serves as a natural sunblock, you still need more, says Robin Ashinoff, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology and director of cosmetic dermatology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. “You absolutely have to wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 with broad-spectrum UVB and UVA protection under the mineral makeup,” she says. “It's not enough to put on a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 and then a layer of mineral makeup that is also rated 15,” she warns, because adding them together doesn't yield an SPF of 30.
Women who switch from conventional makeup to minerals often find that problems like acne and rosacea disappear. “Minerals have natural anti-inflammatory and cooling properties,” explains Jennifer Devlin, a licensed aesthetician and makeup artist in Tampa, Florida. And because mineral makeup sits on the skin's surface rather than soaking in, it doesn't clog pores the way some conventional cosmetics do, she says. It also reflects light — like a polished rock — to create a shimmery effect.
- Base: Jane Iredale Amazing Base Loose Minerals SPF 20 is a concealer, foundation, and powder all in one.
- Powder: Ecco Bella FlowerColors Face Powder is pressed, talc free, and gets its pigments from iron oxides.
- Blush: Colorescience Dual Finish Pressed Mineral Pigment Compact contains antioxidant vitamin A and comes in 12 shades.
“Most people who have reactions to eye makeup are reacting to the artificial dye,” says Devlin. “So when choosing a product, look for one that doesn't list any artificial colorants.” Mineral cosmetics contain powders sourced from around the globe. Blue often derives from Mexican lapis; orange from Arizona mudstone. Devlin notes that when applying mineral makeup to the eyes, women should use about one-fourth the amount they use with conventional products. “The minerals go a lot further,” she explains.
- Eye shadow: Zuzu Luxe Eyeshadows are vegan and come in 16 shimmery and matte hues.
- Liner: Gabriel Eyeliner goes on smoothly thanks to jojoba oil, and it won't smudge.
- Mascara: Larenim Mineralash Jet Black Mascara has vitamin E and rice-bran wax to separate lashes.
Just like the powdered products for your face, true mineral lipsticks get their pigments from ground rocks. The good news is that once you apply the color, it lasts for 12 hours, says Devlin. “Still, 90 percent of women who try mineral lip color find that it feels uncomfortably dry,” she says. If you fall into that 90 percent, you may prefer a product that also contains natural plant-based moisturizers.
- Gloss: Mineral Fusion Lip Gloss comes in seven subtle colors and moistens with grapeseed oil and tea-leaf extract.
- Lipstick: Primitive's creamy, vanilla-scented lipsticks moisturize with shea butter and are free of artificial dyes and ingredients.