Monday, July 14, 2008

7 Days and 7 Nights: Introduction to Mineral Makeup

Happy Monday! Welcome to our first installment of the "7 Days and 7 Nights" series on mineral makeup (MMU). Recently, MMU has been at such a rage that even Sephora featured it on their front page! That's when you know MMU finally hit mainstream.

Mineral Makeup on Sephora front page in April 2008
Image copied from Ms. K's blog

So what is mineral makeup and why people get so excited about it?

The term "mineral makeup" was coined by Diane Ranger, the owner of Colorscience and founder of Bare Essentuals, in 1977. After reading Egyptian history, Ms. Ranger discovered that ancient Egyptians used minerals as sun protectants and it inspired her to use minerals as makeup. The raw minerals used in MMU are minerals from the earth and the sources are all over the world. (1)

Common ingredients in MMU are:
  1. Titanium dioxide: inert minerals that provides coverage and sun protection;
  2. Zinc dioxide: inert minerals, gives sun protection and has anti-inflamatory property;
  3. Mica: inert minerals, diffuses light and provides smoothness to the skin. Mica is a group of mineral ingredients that come in different colors, varying from pale green, brown, black or colorless;
  4. Bismuth oxychloride: inert minerals that gives the creaminess to MMU, most commonly used in mass-produced MMU in big makeup companies. Bismuth oxychloride is known to cause skin itches in people who are allergic to it, myself included;
  5. Iron oxides: inert minerals, depending on its oxidative states, iron oxides can have various colors from red, brown, black, orange, and yellow.
There are also other ingredients that are used as color pigments such as manganese violet, chromium oxide green, ultramarine blue, carmine, and ferric ferrocyanide. Some companies such as Silk Naturals also add silk powder which is a natural ingredient to their products to provide smoothness, absorb extra moisture (on oily skin) or pulls moisture from the air (for dry skin).

To me, a makeup product is considered "mineral makeup" when it has the first three ingredients as the major ingredients. Also, it does not contain any skin irritants and pore clogging ingredients such as mineral oils (petrolatum, petroleum oil,...), talc (big no no as it clogs pores major time!), parabens (a preservative which we don't need in MMU). When you read a label of a product that said "mineral makeup" and it has more than 10 ingredients, most of which you can't pronounce their names, chances are they are not real MMU.

Since ingredients of MMUs are inert and they are in powder form, they are self-preservative as bacteria cannot grow on them. Also, MMUs are non-fragrant products which eliminate another cause of skin irritation. So, a product with no preservatives, no fragrants, no additives but just pure earth in the mineral form can be a good thing. For people with acne-prone or sensitive skin, switching to MMU is the way to go as the real MMU products are really gentle for the skin. Also, MMU has other micronized ingredients that are good for your skin such as zinc oxide to calm irritated skin.

Bismuth oxychloride, while is a natural mineral, can cause skin irritation to those who are allergic to it. Yours truly is one of them and I found out the hard way as well. My first MMU kit was Bare Essentuals and it has bismuth oxychloride in all of the products. Whenever I went to the sun and sweat, my cheeks and face were on fire. Later on, my face had more zits than when I used regular foundation and I could not figure out why. Until I realized that I am allergic to bismuth oxychloride, I did not touch a fleck of MMU. And it was a long time!

Another potential allergic ingredient to your skin is pure silk. Although allergy cases to pure silk is rarer than those of bismuth oxychloride, they do occur. So if you start using a new product and feel itchy, my suggestion is to stop using it totally for some days to see what happens. If continuing usage lets to itchiness then you should stop using that product all together.

Using MMU is fun in my opinion because you get to try different brushes and application tools. If you are a creative person and simply love makeup brushes, I guarantee you will collect a whole lot of them in the future, once you start using MMU.

I guess I just covered the basics of mineral makeup. As we progress into the week, we will discuss more aspects of this new makeup trend. Please feel free to ask me any questions. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a nice week ahead,
Your Makeup Blogger


  1. Hi Dao,

    Thanks for the breakdown on mineral makeup. I haven't gotten on the bandwagon as of yet, but am going to try some brands just for fun. You never know what looks good until you try it on, right?

    Have a good one. :)

  2. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for coming. I'm glad you found the information useful. Please stay tuned during this whole week when I'm reviewing some of the MMU products. It may save you some trial and error time, I hope.


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