Making the most of mineral make-up
Making the most of mineral make-up

Minerals used on the skin to beautify and camouflage is nothing new; Cleopatra used minerals combined with animal fat to create her signature kohl-rimmed eyes, for example. Fast-forward thousands of years and mineral make-up is part of a flourishing worldwide trend for more natural cosmetics. At their Global Trends Report 2016, Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) reported a 26% increase year on year of make-up launches in the category of ‘pure and unadulterated’, many of them classed as mineral.

This trend is being driven by consumer desire for ‘cleaner’ products that won’t aggravate skin or cause long-term harm. As a rule, mineral make-up contains fewer ingredients such as preservatives, parabens, fragrances and synthetic dyes, which make it appealing to clients who are worried about what they put on their skin.

So what does this mean for your business? Whether you already stock make-up or are considering adding a range to your brand offering, mineral make-up presents a significant sales opportunity. With a constant stream of clients who are in your salon because they have an interest in taking care of their skin, it makes sense to bring your service full circle and offer professional quality colour cosmetics as well.

Like any product or service you offer, how successful you are in delivering it comes down to expertise. Gain your clients’ trust by knowing exactly what makes mineral make-up different to other cosmetics, and why they should be using it on their skin.


The nature

A mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic (not made from plants or animals) solid. Each mineral has its own chemical composition and is usually of crystal structure. Minerals are generally mined from the earth’s surface and then ground into micro-particles before being used in a multitude of preparations. 

The most common minerals found in cosmetics are mica, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, iron oxide, magnesium and gold. These minerals are ground down until they are small enough to give a silky texture and suitable coverage.


The science: micronised or nano-sized?

The term micronised refers to the micron size of the mineral particles, such as titanium or zinc. If a particle is micronised, it means that the mineral particles have been milled or ground down small enough to be measured in microns. To put it in perspective, mineral make-up particles are generally ground to around 12 microns to give full coverage or six microns to give light to medium coverage, and it takes a million microns to equal a metre. These tiny particles sit close together and reflect light, which blurs fine lines and imperfections, while still allowing skin to breathe. 

Nanoparticles are even smaller – one thousand times smaller than microns – which means they are small enough to be absorbed into the blood stream hence the ongoing debate around their safety in cosmetics. It would take a billion nano-sized particles to equal a metre, and it is their miniscule size that renders them invisible to the eye and therefore useless in providing coverage. If the minerals in mineral make-up were ground to nano-size they would become transparent, hence their use in sunscreens rather than make-up.


The make-up

The ingredients list for most mineral foundations is a combination of the same few ingredients. Often your clients will have read misleading information on the safety of cosmetic ingredients so it is essential that you are armed with the facts.

  • Mica
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide
  • Iron oxides
  • Bismuth oxychloride
  • Talc



A common ingredient in all types of make-up because of its smooth, sparkly nature, mica is actually a series of minerals made out of silica and oxygen. In nature, Mica is formed as layers than can either be split into sheets or ground into powder. 

Mica has come under scrutiny in recent years, due to concerns about its safety when inhaled. Long-term inhalation of mica dust may cause lung scarring which leads to symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, weakness, and weight loss, but according to, mica use in cosmetics is not a concern for consumers. 

When added to mineral make-up, mica gives lustre and sheen, and adds depth to some pigments.


Titanium dioxide

Probably the most common ingredient in mineral make-up, titanium dioxide is synthesised from natural titanium in a lab, where it is extracted then filtered to remove impurities.

Titanium dioxide has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it ideal for clients with rosacea, acne or sensitive skin, or skin that is irritated through environmental aggressors, or skin that is recovering from cosmetic procedures such as peels and IPL. An added benefit is that titanium dioxide physically blocks UVA and UVB rays, without irritating skin like a chemical filter can.

There have been concerns around the use of nanoparticles in cosmetics, however when used in mineral make-up, titanium dioxide is milled to micron size, not nano-size.


Zinc oxide

Although it occurs naturally as the mineral zincite, most zinc oxide is produced synthetically. The healing properties of zinc oxide were documented as far back as 500BC, and it has been FDA-approved as a skin protectant. 

Zinc oxide is not just used in mineral make-up, it is one of the main ingredients in nappy cream, and is the highest broad spectrum UVA and UVB absorber approved for use as a sunscreen. Zinc oxide is considered to be non-allergenic, non-comedogenic and non-irritating, which makes it a terrific ingredient for all skin types. 

Zinc oxide is ground down into nano-particles for use as a physical blocker in sunscreens, which has raised concerns about its absorption into the blood stream. For use in mineral make-up, zinc oxide particles are micronised to micron size, which sits on the surface of the skin and cannot be absorbed. 

Iron oxides

Naturally occurring minerals, the iron oxides used in cosmetics are synthetically prepared to give a range of pigments. 

There have been media reports questioning the safety of heavy metals found in iron oxides, but the levels of heavy metals in cosmetic iron oxides are regulated by the FDA and do not pose a risk to consumers. 


Bismuth oxychloride

Known as ‘synthetic pearl’, bismuth oxychloride is a synthetic ingredient, manufactured by combining bismuth, a by-product of lead and copper metal refining, mixed with chloride (a compound from chlorine), and water. 

Used in mineral make-up for its fine texture and pearly sheen, bismuth oxychloride may cause irritation in some consumers because its crystalline structure can get ‘stuck’ in pores and cause irritation, but the Environmental Working Group ( lists the overall health hazard as low. 



Talc, or talcum, is a naturally occurring mineral made up of thin sheets compressed one on top of the other. Once milled, the sheets break up into millions of tiny plates that glide over one another, which gives talc its slippery softness. Cosmetic talc is milled from mines specifically selected for the quality and purity of the talc seams, then repeatedly checked for purity before being classified as cosmetic grade. When used in cosmetics, talc is good at absorbing moisture, and at filling in lines and imperfections on the skin surface. 

There have been numerous rumours around the safety of talc in cosmetics. In 2010, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) completed an assessment of talc. It was concluded that there is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of perineal use of talc-based body powder. In 2015, following a petition by the US Cancer Prevention Coalition (CDC), the FDA performed a review of the safety of cosmetic talc, using all the relevant scientific literature, and found no evidence of a causal association between talc use in the perineal area and ovarian cancer. The petition from the CDC was denied and FDA concluded that talc was safe as used in cosmetic products. That same year, the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel published a safety assessment of talc as used in cosmetics. It concluded that talc is safe for use in cosmetics in the present practices of use.


It is worth noting that there are no regulations or standards for mineral make-up, which means that a cosmetic can be labelled ‘mineral’ with less than one percent mineral content. Make a point of showing your clients the ingredients list so they can appreciate the quality they are (hopefully) about to purchase.


What’s not in mineral makeup?

The appeal of mineral make-up is as much about what is left out, as what is included.



Preservatives such as parabens are an essential ingredient in most cosmetics, simply because the skin is a thriving community of microbes. Bacteria proliferate in moisture, which is why preservatives are needed to prevent contamination. Mineral make-up usually takes the form of a dry powder, so it can be free from preservatives. 



Minerals themselves have very little odour, so there is no need to add fragrance to make them pleasing to consumers. This is especially beneficial to clients who have sensitive or reactive skin types.

The SPF debate

Mineral make-up is often touted as an effective sunscreen, thanks to the inclusion of zinc oxide and / or titanium oxide minerals. The FDA has approved zinc oxide as a skin protectant and titanium dioxide as a sunscreen, and both are common ingredients in physical sunscreens however the SPF gained from applying mineral make-up is not enough to protect skin from damaging UV rays. 

Once your client has left the salon, you have no control over how much or how effectively they apply their mineral make-up. Any SPF in mineral make-up should be considered a bonus, used on top of their usual sunscreen not instead of. 


Marketing 101: Mineral make-up

Once you have your products in hand and facts straight, it’s time to spread the word about mineral make-up. Chances are you will already have the tools you need at your fingertips.  


Dissect your database

Like any good salon business, you probably have a terrific database of clients who would benefit from using professional mineral make-up rather than any old supermarket brand. If you have recently launched a mineral make-up offering in your salon, or you have a specific product launch or special offer to shout about, by all means send out an email to your whole database. But even when you don’t have a special promotion in mind, you can use your client database to market mineral make-up in other ways. 

Do you offer specialist treatments for conditions such as rosacea, sensitive or acne-prone skin? How about skin peels and IPL? Start by running a report of every client who has experienced one of these treatments in your salon. If they are a regular client or a client with an upcoming treatment, allow a few minutes of extra time after their appointment for a make-up application. If you have samples available, set them aside prior to the appointment. Make a point of explaining the benefits of mineral make-up that are specific to their skin type or condition. For clients who haven’t been in a while, send them an email explaining the benefits of mineral make-up and offering a complimentary make-up application if they book in for a treatment.

If your salon has a natural skin care offering, you have the perfect target market in place. Each and every client who has bought a natural product or service from your salon is a potential buyer of mineral make-up. You could package together a treatment and mineral make-up product, offer complimentary mineral make-up applications after facials or send out an email that highlights the benefits of using a more natural make-up alternative.

Although mineral make-up has been around for years now, it has never been more relevant as clients look for natural products that still deliver professional results. When your clients come to you for your expertise and holistic care, mineral make-up is the perfect opportunity to round out their salon experience while increasing your take-home sales.  υ


Written for BeautyNZ by Erica Kent.

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