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The Lowdown on Mineral Makeup

Can these popular beauty products live up to the hype?

Possible Risks? continued...

Some media reports have advised women to scan labels for bismuth oxychloride, the ingredient that gives makeup its pearly finish. It’s been said to cause skin irritation and acne flare-ups, leading some mineral makeup companies to eliminate it from their formulas.

Jackson says that only a very small minority of people with highly sensitive skin will find themselves irritated by the ingredient. "These are women who react to so many ingredients that they’ll probably want to have their dermatologist perform skin patch tests to identify what might possibly cause a reaction," she says. "For the vast majority of women, bismuth oxychloride is perfectly safe."

Blurred Line

Mineral makeup has gone far beyond its beginnings as a loose powder foundation. Today, you can find blush, bronzer, eye shadow, lipstick, and even liquid foundations presented as mineral products.

A funny thing has happened as mineral makeup has gained popularity. Cosmetics companies have added back the ingredients they omitted when they first introduced mineral products. After reading the list of 12 ingredients in a so-called "mineral eye shadow" from a drugstore brand, Wilson laughs. "If you hadn’t told me that was the ingredients list of a mineral product, I would have said it was just your run-of-the-mill eye shadow."

Wilson says it’s impossible for mineral makeup companies to create a liquid foundation with a pared-down ingredients list. Microbes thrive in water, so liquid formulations must include some kind of preservative, she says. Without it, contaminated products can lead to skin infections.

The bottom line? If you have sensitive skin, you might want to try loose mineral powder foundation. Look for products with the shortest ingredients list. With a longer list of ingredients, there's more chance that your skin will react to something, Jackson points out.

Mineral makeup is also an option for people who don't have sensitive skin. Just keep your expectations in check. "No one product, including mineral foundation, is going to correct problems like large pores and uneven pigmentation," Herta says. "To address those concerns you need primer, concealer, and the right skin care regimen."

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