How Mineral Makeup Saved My Complexion

A while ago, I made a post about mineral makeup. At the time, I was just beginning to look into it seriously. I haven’t ever worn much makeup because I have a redhead’s very sensitive skin (yes, okay, my hair is gray now, so the red comes from the graces of henna, but it was natural when I was younger).

But despite my skin sensitivities, I find it fun to play with makeup, and I feel more confident when I wear it. I wish I could consider it more optional; however, society has been influenced by the media so strongly that now, if a woman wears makeup, she is seen as more likable, competent, and trustworthy, and is likely to be paid more. Even worse, if you don’t wear makeup, you might be “…sending signals that you are disorganized, uninterested and unable to cope.”

Sad but true.

But most makeup either feels icky on my skin or is filled with chemicals I don’t want to expose myself to or outright irritates my skin. Even knowing about the career bias, I was just unwilling to compromise my health and comfort.

But then, a few years ago, I started hearing about mineral makeup and was intrigued. The claims for it include that it is much healthier for your skin and not irritating, all of which turned out to be true (but see my later comments about certain ingredients). Mineral makeup is also supposed to help with acne and red skin (rosacea), my personal bane. This sounded good, and after experimentation, trying out different brands and different products, I found that the claims are true.

But I have learned a few things about it–what works and what doesn’t–and am sharing this information with others.

Mineral Makeup Clears Up Acne and Rosacea

One of my first questions was, can mineral makeup help clear up my rosacea? The answer is very emphatically yes. The main ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, have anti-inflammatory properties, which helps soothe skin so it is less red. Zinc oxide also has anti-bacterial properties, which is why it can help clear up acne. After two months of using the mineral makeup several times a week, the results are clear and definite. My rosacea is almost unnoticeable even with bare skin. It seems like a miracle. Now, even when I don’t wear it, I feel confident that my skin looks acceptable, and when I do wear it, I feel great about how I look.

Also, most ingredients used in mineral makeup are non-comedogenic; that is to say, they don’t clog pores. Clogged pores can lead to acne, so this is good. (But see my note about talc, below.)

Mineral makeup lasts, both on your face and in the container. For whatever reason, mineral makeup tends to kind of meld with your skin, giving it a lovely, smooth texture that lasts all day and well into the night without touch-ups. Once you put it on, mineral makeup should be good for the day.  Also, if you don’t contaminate your mineral makeup (assuming it is in powder form), it should last in the container indefinitely.

Avoid Bismuth Oxychloride

However, many of the brands on the market contain bismuth oxychloride, which I found by direct experience irritates my skin. When I tried two different brands, both of which contained it (without my knowing it), my skin very quickly started feeling as though a thousand teensy tiny ants were biting me.

Now, you will find some people in the industry saying that “only a very small percentage” of the population, those who are “particularly sensitive,” need to worry about this ingredient, but my way of thinking about it is this: consider people with sensitive skin to be like the canary in the coal mine. The miners may be more robust and not aware of the danger they are in, but they will be just as dead as the canary if they ignore the warning.

Not that I think bismuth oxychloride is deadly, but if it irritates my skin, it might be doing something to the skin of others even if they aren’t aware of it. So I recommend avoiding it. There are several excellent brands that don’t use it, so it is easy enough to avoid. Some brands I have tried and love are L.A. Minerals, Smoky Mountain Minerals, and Erth Mineral Makeup. Physician’s Formula also does not have bismuth oxychloride, but their range of mineral makeup is very limited.

Avoid Talc

Another ingredient that many brands use is talc. Talc is inexpensive and makes a good filler. however, unlike other minerals used in mineral makeup, talc is comedogenic. Also, some people are sensitive to it; I am not, but I avoid it anyway. Again, there are several excellent brands (including the ones I’ve mentioned) that don’t use talc either, so it, too, is easy enough to avoid.

Binders, Liquids, Preservatives, Oh My!

Some major brands have hopped on the mineral makeup bandwagon and have made liquid makeup that they label as “mineral makeup.” It is true that many of the ingredients in mineral makeup have been used in non-mineral makeups for decades. However, the whole point of mineral makeup is that it is a loose, dry powder that doesn’t contain liquids, binders, preservatives, excipients, etc. (Full disclosure here: I wrote that section of that Wikipedia entry, but it is nonetheless true.) Liquids especially mean that preservatives have to be added; it is difficult in the cosmetic world to find a preservative that isn’t at least potentially harmful to your health.

How To Use Mineral Makeup–Tools and Techniques

But how to wear it? My first experiments resulted in a white, powdery face that was the opposite of attractive. Experimentation led to a simple set of tools and techniques.


The basic tools for mineral makeup is a foundation brush made specifically for mineral makeup. After trying other brands, I have become incredibly fond of the Ecotools line of brushes. Not only are they soft and effective, they are also made from bamboo, recycled aluminum, and synthetic (rather than animal) fibers. And the prices (especially on are much lower than other brands. I own a powder brush that I use for foundation, an eyeliner brush, and a set of brushes for eyes. I also own the retractable kabuki brush, which I carry with me in my purse. If you are getting an Ecotools set, be sure to purchase the ones made for mineral makeup.

In addition, I have a small, shallow wooden bowl to put the foundation in before I pick it up with my brush, and an even smaller clay bowl my daughter made for me, which I use for blush.


This is already a long post, so I will only very briefly describe the techniques that work for me. I discovered by experimentation that I get the very best results from putting a good lotion on a clean face, letting my skin absorb it for 10 to 20 minutes, then putting on the mineral makeup. So my daily routine is to shower, put on lotion, get dressed, and then put on makeup. (My favorite lotion is Shikai’s Borage Therapy Advanced Formula, which gives my dry skin a lovely satin texture without being in any way sticky or heavy. I use it all over, not just on my face.) If your skin isn’t so dry, experiment to see if you can get away without using lotion, or perhaps with using a lighter lotion. But your skin needs some moisture so the minerals will cling.

I first put on a color corrector in places that need it, then put a very small amount of foundation into my wooden bowl. I swirl the foundation brush in the powder, tap off the loose stuff, then dust lightly on my face. If I feel I need another layer, I repeat the process; one of the many nice things about mineral makeup is that you can layer it on as thick as you like. (Though at a certain point it stops looking good.)

Sometimes I use my blush bowl the same way, though often I just use my fingers to apply my blush.

I also use my fingers to apply my eyeshadow. For liner, I sometimes dip my eyeliner brush in water and dip it in the mineral makeup in a tiny sample container I got from L.A. Minerals (which can be refilled from the larger container). Other times I use my fingers to smudge mineral makeup along my upper eyelash line.

I also sometimes put mineral blush over my lipstick to set it and modify the color somewhat. Then I head out the door, ready for the day.

Thank you for reading such a long post; I hope the information was useful enough to have made it worth reading.

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One thought on “How Mineral Makeup Saved My Complexion

  1. I see you’re into mineral make up so I’d love to share the interest 🙂 Mineral make up unlike many other kind of make up allows a very thin layer which I notice thinner than a common powder base, but when you start apply too many layers your skin can take it not just stopped looking good. Your skin at that point is absorbing more mineral make up than it should and importing extra metal is really not a great choice for your skin. That’s the problem with mineral make up too even when you use them at a right amount. Although this technique doesn’t work well with oily skin but it does wonderful on any type of skin other than oily, even extra sensitive one.

    The next time you apply your mineral make up I suggest you add a little amount of rice powder. Don’t use the pre-made powder in your nearest China town, those have been seasons for food processing. You can make rice powder with rice and your coffee grinder or some type of food processors too, just grind them like the coffee beans 🙂 then put it in a low moisture container and add it into your mineral mixture when you apply make up. Since rice powder is smaller than mineral’s they will get to your skin first and prevent extra mineral absorbing while retaining your mineral make up. This method was actually used by ancient Chinese and they work wonders 🙂 (back then women use kaolin and believe me, rice powder helped them a lot 🙂 )

    The perfect ratio would be around 1/5 rice powder but you can alter it to your skin type and colors, they’re extremely white.

    You can color up your rice powder if you roast the rice before you grind them. Just make sure to experiment and find the right shade you want 🙂

    I’m in love with your site and a new comer 🙂 looking forward to see new things soon 🙂

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