Some of the most beautiful extravagances in the world come straight from the earth—from a sparkly diamond in a ring to a smooth marble countertop—proving that beauty can easily be found right beneath our feet. In the cosmetics industry, companies have long been applying this principle to makeup, asserting that natural mineral makeup creates not only a beautiful effect, but is also better for the skin.
And, once you're aware of the nitty-gritty on mineral makeup and its benefits, you can educate your consumers as well.
While all minerals come naturally from the earth, not all mineral makeup products are created equal.
"The term mineral makeup should not be confused with all natural and organic cosmetics," says Lori Stryker, president of The Organic Makeup Co., based in Markham, Ontario, Canada. The only difference between mineral makeup and regular makeup, according to Stryker, is that "the color pigments are?natural minerals in mineral makeup, whereas regular makeup contains the synthetic versions of these minerals. For example, iron oxide may be naturally mined or synthetically made, but still called iron oxide [in either case]. It should be noted that even mineral makeup can contain petro-based, animal-based or synthetic ingredients."
The best of both worlds
Makeup that is both natural and mineral-based, however, has numerous benefits. Natural makeup is free of synthetics, harsh chemicals and, often, animal-derived ingredients. "We don't use any talc, which is comedogenic, and we use all-natural colors and preservatives. Our products are paraben-free and vegan," says Diane Consalvi, brand manager for Mineral Fusion, a natural mineral makeup company based in Denver.
Stryker says her company avoids using synthetic chemicals by "understanding the chemistry of our ingredients, respecting microbiological safety in all aspects of production, and by giving our products a best before date."
Natural makeup also often includes powerful botanical ingredients to help the skin look its best and maintain optimal health. Mineral Fusion products, for instance, contain antioxidants to fight signs of aging and free radical damage. "We use white tea extract to enhance immune function, red tea for its anti-inflammatory properties, antileukine as a humectant to protect the skin, and pomegranate to heal the skin," Consalvi says.
Besides being free of chemical ingredients, natural mineral makeup goes a step further: It actually helps protect the skin from sun damage because the main ingredients in most mineral makeup, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, act as a form of sun block. "Because the makeup is lying on top of the skin, it naturally blocks sunlight by reflecting and diffusing it. However, the amount of protection you'll get will depend on how much makeup you put on—everyone is different," Consalvi says. For this reason, while mineral makeup can offer some sun protection, it shouldn't replace sun block as your customers' first line of defense against sun damage.
The composition of mineral makeup is also great for women with especially sensitive skin. Since the natural mineral particles are too big to penetrate the skin's surface, the makeup does not interfere with the skin's natural processes. "Mineral-based makeup lies on top of the skin and doesn't penetrate into the pores. This means the products are non-comedogenic and allow the skin to work underneath them like it would normally. Mineral makeup is great for those with acne, rosacea or sensitive skin," Consalvi says.
Because the compounds used in mineral makeup come from the earth and are coarse by nature, it takes vigorous processing to grind them into the fine material used to produce makeup. This procedure is called micronizing, and some argue that micronized makeup is harmful, especially if the makeup is micronized into nano-sized particles.
"Nano particles are dangerous, and unless particles are coarse, like the particulate size we use,?nano particles?will penetrate the cell membrane and cause DNA damage," Stryker says. Research has shown that many types of nano-materials can be toxic to human tissue and cell cultures, resulting in DNA mutation and even cell death, according to an October 2006 report by Friends of the Earth, an environmental watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C.
However, smaller particles appear more attractive on the skin. "We use a triple-milled process to grind down our makeup. This allows us to create products with a matte finish—you can't get that in non-micronized makeup. So our makeup is micronized, but only to a safe level, not into nano-particles," Consalvi says. "The antioxidants in the products are able to mix with the natural oils in the skin, which allows them to penetrate the epidermis. The mineral particles remain on top because they don't mix with the oils and are too big to be absorbed into the skin."
Real Purity, a natural mineral makeup company, also micronizes its products, but only so far. "We coat our minerals with?a natural substance?so they lock together and sit on the skin, rather than penetrating into it," says Karen Easterling, vice president of the Crossville, Tenn.-based company.
Though minerals have been around since the beginning of time, mineral makeup has only been available for a decade or two, and consumers have, until recently, been largely unaware of its benefits. "Consumers don't really realize there's an alternative. National marketing campaigns emphasize conventional brands and that's what people tend to gravitate towards," Consalvi says. "People don't really understand what minerals can do—educating them about this is key."
But mineral-based makeups are on the rise. "The mineral-based market segment will be the fastest growing in the $8 billion U.S. cosmetics category over the next few years. ... This represents a $1 billion opportunity in the U.S. alone," wrote SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst William Chappell in the Feb. 12 issue of Drug Store News.
Mineral Fusion can speak to this growth. The line, which launched in October 2006, has seen a 10 percent sales increase every week since that time, according to Consalvi. The Organic Makeup Co. has seen equally pleasing progress, with sales doubling over the last year, according to Stryker.
A growing market share will hopefully lead to more awareness of the benefits of natural mineral makeup over its conventional counterpart. "Too many people still don't know?that they should?even be concerned about the cosmetics they are using.?The work the natural industry and natural retailers have done has been crucial to building and creating awareness [about this issue]," Stryker says.
Christine Spehar is a Boulder, Colo.-based freelance writer.
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Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 6/p.62-64