Friday, August 14, 2009

Mineral make-up ingredients: Bismuth Oxychloride

Bismuth oxychloride (BiOCl) is yet another white powder used in mineral make-up. It's an extremely hydrophobic alkaline organic salt, which means it will stay on your skin well throughout the day and will improve the wear time for all products in which you include it. It imparts a pearlescent effect at higher micron levels (the most common one you'll find in suppliers' shops) or a soft, opaque effect at lower micron levels. A lot of people like it because it imparts a "dewy glow" on the skin that is hard to obtain with other ingredients. It offers good coverage and good adhesion to skin, as well as some whiteness and lustre. It does have poor stability to light, which is why most of the bismuth oxychloride you'll find is called "treated" or there is an implication it has been treated in some way to protect the product from going grey in UV light.

The effect of bismuth oxychloride can be called "shiny", so it's probably not the best ingredient for a foundation for those of us with oily or aging skin. However, it is a great ingredient in eye shadows or lipsticks to impart a pearlescent effect or to increase the wear time on these products. As it is hydrophobic, it's awesome for anhydrous products.

Bismuth oxychloride is fantastic texturizer, or ingredient that imparts a silky feeling. You'll often see it described as "creamy" or "silky". If you are into pressing your powders, bismuth oxychloride imparts a very smooth, very even texture - probably the most even texture of all the ingredient we've covered thus far. It will overcome the drag of other ingredients - calcium carbonate, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide - very very well.

For those of you who want to press your powders as it will impart an even, smooth texture. The feeling of this ingredient has been called "creamy", and it has a silky feeling upon application and on your skin.

It is also an anti-bacterial ingredient, so if you like using botanicals - extracts, starches, hydrolyzed proteins - including bismuth oxychloride could increase the shelf life of your products.

It can be used the way you'd use sericite mica, talc, or Micronaspheres - as the main ingredient in your fillers.

Usage rate: up to 25%

Whiteness or opacity: To make a colour lighter, to cover up imperfections.
Offer some opacity and whitness to your products. It offers good coverage.

Translucency: The base itself is almost invisible once applied.
Isn't that translucent, but isn't really white either.

Skin protection
Does not offer skin protection.

Slip: The product feels nice going on and staying on.
Excellent slip and glide upon application and on your skin. The feeling has been described as "creamy".

Adhesion: The product remains on your skin.
Excellent adhesion and will improve the adhesion of the product overall.

Absorbency: Your colour will remain true throughout the day and not morph into something due to environmental stresses or skin oils.
It loves oils, so it's an excellent absorber.

Light scattering properties: To give your skin a dewy glow.
It scatters light very well and offers a nice glow to your skin with a pearlescent effect. Some say it can hide fine lines and wrinkles, but there is always a chance too much shine can enhance those lines. It is good for skin discolourations.

There is some controversy about using bismuth oxychloride. Some people report itching and prickling when using products with this ingredient, especially in the heat, and this is likely caused by the crystalline shape of the molecule. (This is not because mineral make-up can occlude the skin - moisturizers, liquid foundations, and other products occlude the skin, and they do not have the same effect! For more information on occlusion, please click here).

If you have skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, or acne, if you are heat sensitive, or if you have sensitive skin, bismuth oxychloride probably isn't the best ingredient for you. As with any ingredient, try it before you invest in a large quantity! If you do find you are sensitive to it, make sure you check the composition of your micas - because it imparts a sparkly effect, a lot of micas include bismuth oxychloride.

I could not find one study or reference - apart from people trying to promote their product - that indicates bismuth oxychloride causes cancer.

Regarding bismuth oxychloride and sensitive skin: When I searched on-line, I mainly found the same quotes over and over again (from a dermatologist from Manhattan) from sites trying to sell me on their product that didn't contain bismuth oxychloride. I am dying to know why bismuth oxychloride has this effect on some people's skin - other than the crystalline shape - so you have any links to reliable studies or information on bismuth oxychloride, please let me know by linking it in a comment (so everyone can enjoy it) or e-mailing me (which I'll then link in the comments here). If you use this as an opportunity to post your advertisements for your products on my site, I will mock you.


Caroline said...

I found the same thing when I've tried researching it online. There are no actual medical studies that suggest that bismuth oxychloride is in and of itself horrible for sensitive skin. I'm amazed at how some people say that mineral makeup containing this ingredient has change their skin for the better, and some say that it has completely ruined their face.

Caroline said...

I don't mean to offend anyone who may have had a reaction... it just irks me when people say "stay away from this" when there's no evidence that it's bad for a particular type of skin

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Caroline. I think some ingredients just get a bad name and then people pass that information on as gospel - SLS, for instance. That's what I want to do on this blog - dispel myths, confirm facts, and so I really appreciate your comments!

Ahelya-Nandini said...

It's soooooooo nice to read your articles!
So much information, I really love your blog!

About Bismuth Oxychloride, I'm still looking for info, studies ( I mean serious not myths), but still find the same things everywhere...

I use it in my homemade MMU and it works just fine, even with my dark oily skin.
Before making my own MMU, I had Gemey Maybelline Foudation cream and the complete Bare Escentuals products, and I had terrible spots, black heads etc...I'm black.
When I stopped using the cream foundation and changed the brushes, my skin said "Thank you!!"

So you can have a reaction due to many reasons: products, brushes, or having bad habits regarding skin care, wrong products, sensitive skin doesn't mean it's not good at all, it's just not good for you.

We are all different, so why pointing out this ingredient more than another?

Thank you for this awesome job you're doing here ^-^

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Aheyla-Nandini! I don't know why bismuth oxychloride has been singled out, but then again, I don't understand why many ingredients are singled out for contempt by other people! I think one of the problems is that assumption - if it doesn't work for me, then it mustn't work for everyone - and you see comments about possible allergies as one of the complaints about an ingredient. I think we are all obligated to learn about our ingredients before using them, and if we might have a reaction to an ingredient, then don't use it! I'm with you on this one. I get frustrated when ingredients are maligned!

rbengyel said...

I have recently found out the results of my Hair Analysis. The Bismuth level of my hair is four times that of the safe limit! I have been using Bare Minerals for five years and have been very happy with the product except that lately I was getting strange, itchy rashes on parts of my face. I switched to a different make up and today the entire morning had passed when I realized no itching! I checked in the mirror and the most recent rash is gone.
I loved Bare Minerals and many of my friends had switched to using the product because of me. I am however very disappointed and angry about anybody advertising that Bismuth is a safe additive when it is clearly not.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi rbengyl. Bismuth is a perfectly safe ingredient, so to paint it as being unsafe would be the wrong thing to do. People have reactions to it, but to say it is unsafe for this reason is to say that milk is unsafe because I'm lactose intolerant or that wheat is unsafe because people with celiac can't process it. You can't use bismuth - it doesn't make it unsafe for everyone. (Sorry you had to suffer through those rashes!) And there could be other ways you ingested bismuth - through Pepto Bismol type products or other digestive products.

What were you told is the safe amount of bismuth to have in your hair? Who did the hair test? If you've had too much exposure to bismuth, you can get a black line on your gums. Do you have that? I guess I'm just worried about this information you've received from someone as it seems like it's pretty hard to get overexposure to bismuth.

To learn more about bismuth, click here.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to have skin problems to get an allergic reaction from bismuth oxychloride. I have perfectly fine skin, but then I use make up with this ingredient in it, my skin it gets all itchy and swollen.
Bismuth oxychloride is a stupid ingredient to add to make up if you want as many people as possible too buy your product. Too many brands out there are adding it to their "green" and "natural" make up without a thought that it's very common to be allergic to bismuth.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. If you read the post again, you'll see that anyone can have issues with bismuth oxychloride. Having this kind of reaction isn't an allergic reaction, it's just a reaction. It has to do with the shape of the bismuth oxychloride crystal, not due to proteins it might contain. It's hard to tell how you'll react to it until you try it.

I'm happy that you're sharing your opinion, but calling an ingredient "stupid" is pointless and doesn't convey any information to the reader. For this comment to be more useful to others, it would have been more interesting if you'd shared some information about products you've used that make you have this reaction.

I like what Ahelya said, "So you can have a reaction due to many reasons: products, brushes, or having bad habits regarding skin care, wrong products, sensitive skin doesn't mean it's not good at all, it's just not good for you. We are all different, so why pointing out this ingredient more than another?"

You've obviously had a bad reaction to it and are angry about it, and I encourage you to write the company whose make-up gave you this reaction, but stating that companies should remove it from their products is an extreme reaction to an ingredient that some people love.

Anonymous said...

I had a bad reaction to mineral makeups that include bismuth oxychloride. It caused the skin on my face to peel, and become red. I know not everyone has this reaction, but I certainly did and found a lot on the internet about other people having these reactions...but have noticed in a recent search that this is not showing up as much. If you are sensitive, please note that "pearl powder", which is noted in some ingredient lists for cosmetics, is the same ingredient.