Mineral make-up not so natural

Mineral foundations not as miraculous as marketers would have you believe.
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Woman putting on makeup

In brief

  • Mineral foundations promise a fresh, natural look and a product that’s good for your skin.
  • CHOICE trialled 14 mineral makeups, from budget to premium.
  • Many mineral foundations don’t deliver the benefits promised. Some also contain potentially dangerous nanoparticles.

For anyone who wears foundation, the benefits of mineral foundations sound like a dream. Far from clogging your pores or being bad for your complexion, this new breed of make-up claims to be so gentle you can sleep in it. Some brands even claim using it will improve your skin.

Despite having been around since the 1970s, mineral make-up is having its 15 minutes of fame right now. Capitalising on what seems to be the public’s passion for all things natural, most major cosmetic brands have launched a line of mineral foundations over recent years and are selling them from department stores to supermarkets.

When CHOICE set out to investigate mineral foundations, we were primarily interested in seeing how this heavily hyped make-up compared with more traditional counterparts. However, we discovered there is a whole lot more to mineral make-up than we initially thought.

Please note: this information was current as of September 2009 but is still a useful guide today.

How is mineral foundation different?

Mineral foundation is marketed as a more natural alternative to other foundations such as liquid and pressed powders. The biggest difference is that it usually contains finely crushed, naturally occurring minerals. Most come in loose powder form and are applied using a special brush.

To apply, after tapping the container to loosen the powder, you dip the brush into it, knocking off any excess, and brush the foundation over your face. The idea is to gradually build up to the desired level of coverage layer by layer, buffing the powder into the skin. For extra coverage under the eyes or on blemishes, additional foundation can be applied with the fingertips and blended in.

It’s a radical departure from the usual quick application of liquid, sticks or pressed powder bases with fingertips or a sponge. Although a little more complicated and messy, the claims you’ll be improving your skin and appearance make the extra effort seem worth it — who wouldn’t want to use make-up that’s good for your skin?

Is it really natural?

Even though it’s claimed mineral foundation has many marvellous qualities, including being great for improving acne, moisturising skin and not clogging pores, dermatologist Philip Artemi says none of these claims are true. “Mineral make-up isn’t anything but an alternative kind of make-up, nothing more,” he says, arguing it does not have a therapeutic effect. As a cosmetic, mineral foundation cannot make any therapeutic claims.

As for being more natural than other kinds of make-up, again mineral foundation fails to live up to its claims. Most of the mineral ingredients naturally contain traces of toxic impurities and require processing to remove them. As ingredients undergo chemical processes and purification to render them safe for cosmetic use, it’s quite a stretch to define them as “natural”, say the experts CHOICE contacted.

CHOICE verdict

Despite the hype, mineral make-up doesn’t improve your skin, nor can it be considered a “natural” alternative to other types of foundations – it is simply an alternative.
If you have sensitive skin, look for a mineral make-up that doesn’t contain fragrance, preservatives or bismuth oxychloride and lists only a handful of ingredients. Check the ingredients, which by law will be listed in order of quantity from largest to smallest either on the bottle, the packaging or should be available at the point of sale.



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