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The Lowdown on Mineral Makeup

Can these popular beauty products live up to the hype?

What's Not in Mineral Makeup

What makes mineral makeup different from traditional makeup isn't the ingredients it contains but what’s left out. 

For many leading brands, the list of left out ingredients includes preservatives, parabens, mineral oil, chemical dyes, and fragrance. Many dermatologists recommend mineral makeup based on the fact that these left out ingredients are possible skin irritants.

"I’m very bullish on mineral makeup," New York dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD says. "It’s much less likely to cause a reaction in women with sensitive skin. And because it doesn’t contain oil, it won’t aggravate acne-prone skin."

Chicago dermatologist Brooke Jackson, MD, who uses mineral makeup herself, recommends it to her patients with rosacea and eczema. She also suggests it to women with sensitive skin. "Women in their 30s and 40s will come in and say they have bathroom counters filled with products that have caused reactions because of one ingredient or another," Jackson says. "When they try mineral products, many are finally able to wear makeup for the first time in their lives."

Skin Care Benefits

Mineral makeup won’t replace of your moisturizer, acne cream, or anti-aging serum potions. But it does offer some skin care benefits.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are both physical sun blocks, so an even application of mineral makeup provides some sun protection. "It’s sufficient for those days when you’re just running a few errands outside," Jackson says. "But if you’re going to be spending hours outdoors on a sunny day, choose a sunscreen with an SPF 45."

Zinc oxide is also an FDA-approved skin protectant. "It has some anti-inflammatory properties, so you’ll see it in products like diaper-rash ointment," Wilson says. "Since mineral makeup contains a higher percentage of zinc oxide than traditional makeup, it can be useful in calming irritated skin."

Possible Risks?

Some people have been concerned that mineral makeup is micronized into ultra-small particles called nanoparticles that can penetrate the skin’s barrier and trigger potentially harmful reactions.

However, Romanowski says, "if the particles were actually the size of nanoparticles they’d be useless in makeup because they’d become transparent and wouldn’t offer any coverage."

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