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Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Lauren Zehner
The Makeup of Make-Up
Make-up is a staple cosmetic in American culture.
Today, I am examining which minerals are used in the makeup of well of course,
mineral make-up. Within recent years, new lines of make-up have been promoted in
the beauty market. Brands such as BareMinerals, Bare Escentuals, Arbonne, etc.
have tried marketing a new line of mineral make-up. When we hear that
minerals are used as the core make up for these products, we often also assume
that these products are also natural to some extent. But what are we really
putting on our faces? What minerals are used in this mainstream line of
Today, we will be able to examine mineral make-up’s active
ingredients, while also investigating the positive or negative effects that may
be brought about by such ingredients. Mineral make-up is marketed to be a
healthier form of make-up while also providing some degree of sun protection.
Alongside sun protection, mineral based make-up is marketed to be a more natural option for those with acne-prone skin. The last thing someone with blemishes would want to do is cake on foundation that will clog your pores, so mineral foundation is said to offer a healthy alternative that will not inflame or harbor bacteria on your skin. So far the main concerns I have read about mineral make-up would be the drying effect that it may cause on certain skin-types.
With further investigation, I have been able to expose which components are used
in the composition of mineral make-up. The actual ingredient of each foundation
varies according to each brand, but there are a few active ingredients that
remain consistent throughout. The first two minerals found in almost each of the
foundations, regardless of brand, were zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Zinc oxide is described to be a white powder that is found in multiple grooming and personal care products such as lotions, soaps, and of course, make-up. Zinc oxide is used as a bulking agent as well as a colorant for cosmetics. Bulking agents refers to the product being non-reactive, and are often used to dilute other solids or to increase the volume of a product. Colorants obviously deposit color into cosmetic products to some degree.
Zinc oxide is said to be insoluble by water, but soluble in acids and bases. The way that zinc oxide is able to assist as an agent in sunscreen is by reflecting the UV radiation. Zinc oxide assists in being a skin protectant to a degree, and may also provide relief to skin that has been irritated or exposed to harmful surroundings.
It is not uncommon for many of these mineral make-up brands to contain SPF.
So we already know that zinc oxide has been used for skin protection for many
years. According to
, this is because zinc oxide offers “broad-spectrum protection, shielding you
from both UVB rays, which cause sunburn, and UVA rays, which penetrate more
deeply and may be more dangerous in terms of causing skin cancer.”
As the website above had revealed, titanium dioxide
does work in a similar manner as zinc, yet its safety is not as well-documented
as Zinc’s. Keep in mind that this is one of the only active ingredients
approved by FDA for use of babies less than six months. With that being
said, it is obvious to see why this product has been chosen as the active
ingredient in the makeup of various mineral foundations.
Titanium Dioxide was the second active ingredient that was listed in various mineral foundation brands. Titanium dioxide is an “Inert earth mineral used as a thickening, whitening, lubricating, and sunscreen ingredient in cosmetics.” This material is made-up of the oxides of titanium, these oxides are said to be mined, and further “process and purified” for the use of cosmetic consumers. Titanium dioxide is a natural ingredient, yet in nature it is often affected by potentially harmful elements such as lead and iron. This is why titanium dioxide is purified with the synthetic process for cosmetics and make-up.
A third ingredient found throughout multiple mineral
make-up brand foundations, was mica. Fortunately I have a little more
background information on this mineral due to your course. Mica is from
the silicate class of minerals. One the main characteristics that defines
mica is its flakiness which is a result of the rock’s cleavage. When
ground up mica provides a glimmer or sheen to the powder foundation. Many
people that have oily skin opt to avoid mineral make-up, due to mica enhancing
the appearance of oil on their face.
More recent studies examine the claim of mineral
make-up causing issues throughout the lungs. According to German
scientists, nanoparticles get into the body system through the lungs and may
remain in the body. French scientists further backed this information by
suggesting TD (titanium dioxide) nanoparticles may be as toxic as asbestos in
the sense of it accumulating in the lungs, further causing irritation,
inflammation, and potentially cancer.
Mica (the sheet silicate) has also been reported for harming the
respiratory organs when inhaled. When mica is ground up it breaks flakes
which are able to be ground finer and finer. The issue is the flakes of
the mica still may have sharp edges. Although these edges and angles may
assist in the glimmer of the mica, it also creates a sharp edge that is able to
cut. A concern of such is that the tiny flakes of mica are ultimately
scarring and scratching the interior of the lungs when inhaled. When
construction workers work with mica they often cover their faces to limit the
inhalation of mica, therefore limit the scarring of lungs over time.
Perhaps this may make consumers think twice before wearing mineral make-up.
Ultimately it is up to the consumer as to whether or not they’d prefer to wear mineral make-up. Mineral make-up does appeal to the “healthier” approach of cosmetics due to its natural composition, light weight application, and hypo allergenic ingredients. Even with the cons represented, I still believe Mineral Make-up offers an organic approach to cosmetics that may appeal to most.