Monday, March 7, 2011

A few thoughts on mineral make-up

There's been a lot of talk about mineral make-up lately, and I thought I'd address a few of the issues I've seen…

Fillers: Fillers aren't a bad thing - they're necessary. Fillers are what give the pigments adhesion, water proofing, shine, skin protecting qualities, and so on. Without fillers, you've just got some mica that will rub off your eyes in a matter of a few hours, if you're lucky. Adding ingredients like allantoin, silk powder, calcium carbonate, and others help to protect our skin, soothe problems (not a claim!), reduce sebum production, reduce the look of fine lines, offer some shine, and more.

I wish we had another word for the things we include to help our skin - it's a lot like jewellery making's "findings" or sewing's "notions" as a catch all phrase for everything that isn't the main attraction - but we don't. So if you're buying a product that contains "no fillers", ask your vendor what they mean because odds are you're buying pure pigment instead of a well created product.

Organic: Powdered mineral make-up can't be 100% organic because most of the ingredients are inorganic (by chemical definition). The pigments we use - micas, oxides, ultramarines, and so on - are derived from inorganic things like rocks, so you can never have a 100% organic mineral make-up product that contains any colours (which, by definition, wouldn't be mineral make-up as we require some colour in there!). Some of the fillers used could be organic - like aloe vera, allantoin, proteins, extracts, and so on - but anything that contains a colour can never be 100% organic. It might be considered natural if you consider rocks natural, but never organic.

Liquid mineral make-up products tend to be creams or emulsions, and it is possible for them to contain organic ingredients as well. You can have a product that is mostly organic, like a creamy foundation, primer, or cream eye shadow, but you cannot find a 100% organic version of any of those products. You might be able to find 100% organic primers - for instance, a nice toner or a liquid primer, both of which would be colourless - but those are going to be hard to find.

Vegan: There are very few ingredients in mineral make-up derived from animals. Carmine, beeswax, and silk are amongst those few. If you see a vendor advertising their products are vegan and you notice those ingredients listed, ask them about it.

Very few home crafters will go through all the trouble of being certified organic or approved by an organization like PETA, so I'd be wary of those claims. There's nothing wrong with them making a statement about being vegan or using organic ingredients, but question them if you have any doubts.

Synthetic: I saw an interesting comment about micas being synthetic. Mica itself isn't, but the colours you see are synthetic in the sense of being put there by human beings. If we only stick to those colours nature has given us, we'd be stuck with all the matte, non-shiny, non-glittery colours we can make from iron oxides, ultramarines, and so on, and that would be boring. So accept that to get any form of sparkle, shine, or fun colouring, you are using synthetic colours placed on mica.

I also saw a few comments about brushes being synthetic. They're either synthetic or they come from animals. You have to make a decision about this. If you don't want a brush made from animal hair, then you're going to get a synthetic one. Synthetic doesn't mean cheap or poorly made. It means that it isn't made from genuine animal hair, hide, or skin.

Preservatives: Ask your vendor about preservatives. Most mineral make-up ingredients don't need preserving because they are mainly composed of rocks, but if you're buying a creamy product, you'll want to ask how they avoid contamination. If your vendor is including botanical ingredients in their products, like extracts, you'll want to know what they're using to make sure you don't get creepy crawlies in your foundation powder.

Eye or lip safe: Some of our pigments aren't safe for certain areas of the face. Chromium hydroxide and chromium oxide aren't safe for our lips - but who wants green lips anyway? - and you'll want to avoid ultramarines for lips as well. If you're making your own, make a note of every single colour you have and whether it's eye or lip safe and write it in big letters on the bag or container so when you're creating, you'll know if you can use that colour or not.


TygerMae said...

Thank you so much for this post. You keep me sane when I'm surrounded by people who only want to use "natural". :)

Lise M Andersen said...

Great post Susan!! Thank you! I just did a how-to on making a matt powder foundation on my blog if anyone is interested. There's also links to where you can get ingredients both in Europe and US.

Anonymous said...

I've just found you blog and must admit it's pretty cool.
I need to ask if you are sure that micas (and also e.g. clay minerals) are natural in cosmetics. I'm a geologist and I know how many elements (like lanthanide, actinide, heavy metals) micas and clay minerals can incorportated into their structure and adsorb on their surface, which is great from geological point of view but not so great from biological one. I really can't imagine finding pure phyllosilicates without any substitutions, in the Nature and how difficult must be to purify natural ones, on the other hand it's easy to synthsise pure phyllosilicates like micas and clay minerals. Another thing is if they can react somehow with skin, since they chemically much different from organic material.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous! Welcome to the blog. I can tell you're new because pretty much everyone around here knows I don't use the word "natural" very often, and I don't see it in this post. I wouldn't argue MMU is natural, and I wouldn't argue that micas were natural either.

Instead of "natural", I prefer to use the term "minimally processed" for those ingredients some might call natural because I don't believe there are many ingredients we use in any of our products that could be considered straight from nature without some kind of human intervention.

I wrote this post to argue against those MMU makers who use terms like "natural", "organic", or "vegan" for their products.

Hi Lise! Great blog! I love how you show the colour in the container versus the colour on the pad! It just shows how difficult colour blending can be at times!

Hi TygerMae! Thanks for your kind words! I get a little crazy at times with the whole natural thing, too.

Tara said...

I think most of the micas bought and sold for mineral make up are synthetically made simply for the reason that the above geologist stated. There are too many chemicals in natural mica to warrant them safe for cosmetic use.

zaczarowany pierniczek said...

Thank you both Susan and Tara for your answers
Anonymous geologist

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
Just wondered whether you had any knowledge about incorporating 'Pearl Powder' into Mineral Bases. Let me clarify I do literally mean crushed pearls as opposed to Boron Glow or Micas which give a 'pearl' effect. From what I have managed to research online, pearl is alleged to have great qualities with regard to skin care so it seems reasonable to me that if you could impart some of that into your make up then why wouldn't you, I can't seem to find anything about it's opacity, slip adherence etc. and wondered whether it was something you had played with. I have had a search of your blog and haven't found anything as yet...but there is SO much to read and all of it so interesting I find myself getting drawn off into discussions that have nothing to do with Pearls! Whether you can answer or not I just want to say what an absolutely great blog this is and how much I enjoy reading what you have to say. Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Oh....and I totally agree with your standpoint on 'filler' - it is a terrible word! I wish when it came to MMU people could separate the idea of 'base' from 'colour' - after all it is that 'filler' or what I prefer to call 'base' that does the hard work whatever its composition. This is why I have taken to creating my own. I know my skin and how it reacts, I also know it is ever changing and by understanding all my 'base' options I can create something which suits me perfectly...for example I have a markedly different formulation for winter and summer...the 'colour' element however changes very little. Charlotte.