Ask Me Mondays: Mineral Makeup and Breakouts

Q: I want to try mineral makeup, but I have sensitive acne-prone skin. I've been told that some kinds of mineral makeup can make me break out. What is the deal with that? Is it true?

A: The double whammy of sensitive AND acne-prone skin. It's a difficult combo, and I imagine you have a hard time with a lot of makeup. Mineral makeup has been marketed as a way to reduce breakouts due to it's more "natural" formulation, but that's not always the case.

I went searching around to find out specifically what was causing problems for some people, and I came up with a few answers that might be helpful. It appears that a couple of common ingredients in mineral makeup could be problematic for people with sensitive skin and/or acne-prone skin. The most problematic ingredient for many people is probably bismuth oxychloride, which is a problem since it shows up as the main ingredient in most mineral makeup formulations. It can be an irritant for many people, causing contact dermatitis. It is more likely to cause problems than talc is, due to it's pearlescent qualities, according to Paula Begoun, author of Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. Her explanation of this can be found in a special report on mineral makeup which I found online. You can download the PDF version here.

Another ingredient that can cause problems is zinc oxide (or titanium dioxide). What is problematic about this ingredient is that it is necessary for sunscreen protection. It actually physically forms a shield on your skin providing SPF protection from the sun. It is the same ingredient used in diaper rash formulas. It needs to be listed as an Active Ingredient on your cosmetic for it to be useful as a sunscreen, so make sure to look for that. However, if you are prone to acne or breakouts, zinc oxide could be a problem as it's known to be comedogenic (cause clogged pores).

Bottom line? Hard to say that it will definitively break you out or not. Your best bet is to obtain samples and try it consistently and see which brand/formulation will work for you. I wish I could give you a recommendation, but I haven't had good luck with any of the mineral formulations that I have tried, for various different reasons.


Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

Very good article! I also have acne-prone somewhat sensitive skin and I have been experimenting with different kinds of makeup. bare Minerals was by far the worst for me, it made me break out like no other. When I wore it I always felt like my skin couldn't breathe, so that probably has something to do with it.

So far I like L'Oreal Bare Naturale line and and Alima Pure.

November 5, 2008 at 10:38 AM
Unknown said...

I bought some & it doesn't make my skin break out but it does dry my face out really bad. I can't remember what brand it is but I use this whipped foundation (it comes in a little jar) it feels much lighter.

You just have to remember that just because something is natural/organic does not make it good for you. After all arsenic is organic.

November 5, 2008 at 10:42 AM
Tara Burner said...

Elisa mentioned Bare Minerals...they contain bismuth in their products thus creating probs for some women. Good practice is to read labels and check with to see if a company is listed there as well as for animal testing etc.
The less ingredients the better the product safety.
If you want to try free sample of Affordable Mineral Makeup, email me at I'd be more than glad to send you sample to see if it works better for you.

November 5, 2008 at 10:43 AM

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Meredith Edwards-Cornwall is the founder of online lifestyle websites and She is also known as @retrodiva on Twitter. She specializes in drinking large amounts of espresso, shopping, and enjoying social media. In all of her free time she writes for twice a week, and does various other freelance gigs involving writing, designing, and generally being awesome. While she believes that success is indeed a job in New York, she currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband, two children, and two cats and has hung on to her day job.