Mineral make-up more than just a new beauty trend

LOVE 'em or leave 'em seems to be the response to mineral make-up, but next-generation formulas mean it's time to mine deeper into the appeal of these polarising products.

It has been around five years since what was a niche cosmetic, often promoted as an easy, non-irritating, natural approach, broke through to the mainstream with a host of "me too" launches.

The craze has plateaued, but this year several more mineral make-up brands have arrived, including Australia's biggest seller Nude By Nature and powders from our own natural skincare company Antipodes.

Leading international brands Jane Iredale and Bare Minerals have reasserted their presence in the face of competition from fashion-forward, colourful ranges from other imports such as Australia's Inika and US brand Youngblood, not to overlook the clever Tauranga-based selection from Bella Vi, which has developed a following in beauty salons.

Elizabeth Arden's mineral foundation remains one of its best-selling products and most big-name brands have at least a token nod to minerals in their ranges. They're popular among direct marketers, often promoted as a cost-effective, one-product solution to all your make-up needs,though few make-up artists would wholly agree.

The main rub, however, is that not all minerals are created equal.

"The bottom line of what I call the copycat minerals is when you actually look at the ingredients they're not even a proper mineral," says Miranda Bond, founder of Inika cosmetics.

Talc is the biggest giveaway, as are preservatives such as parabens.

Minerals are supposed to be a non-comedogenic product, meaning they don't block pores, and it's precisely because they sit on the surface of the skin rather than absorb into it like liquids and creams do that dermatologists have promoted them as a good post-surgery or post-laser option.

They also offer a degree of physical rather than chemical sunscreening.

Minerals are inert which, Bond says, means there's no need for preservatives.

"The only reason you need a preservative is if you're putting something in there that makes it not a proper mineral."

Preservatives certainly have a role in stabilising some cosmetics, but the types used are behind much of the "nasties" debate that has spurred the growth of natural and supposedly natural brands across the beauty industry, something minerals have piggybacked on.

To confuse the issue, one of the newer developments in mineral makeup products is the addition of skincare ingredients to their formulas - a trend in cosmetics generally - but this too is blurring the lines of what a mineral is.

Combining agents are often needed to incorporate antioxidant-bearing or hydrating ingredients, whether they're naturally derived or not.

Nude By Nature creative director Clint Dowdell believes 70 per cent of today's customers come to minerals for their effectiveness and 30 per cent for their natural story.

"The mineral customer as a loyal customer base is still there, but customers now are more about quality and effectiveness that ties in with price."

They also expect ranges with more than just powders, but should be aware that powders from some brands are comprised of just 50 to 60 per cent actual minerals.

Most mineral brands now offer liquid and compact mineral foundations in addition to loose powders, which helps widen their customer base to include the significant number of women who prefer less messy fluid or cream formulas.

These provide a dewier look for dry or mature skin.

However Bond says loose powders should remain the go-to product for those with sensitivities, allergies, acne or rosacea. They also work well for mattifying oilier skins.

But formula isn't the only litmus test of a true mineral. Women with sensitive skin who turn to loose powders may still end up with an irritating, impure product, cut for cost reasons with filler ingredients.

Even minerals can cause issues.

One such example is bismuth, which has illuminating qualities but has a particle structure that can catch on the skin, making it itch.

Individual reactions vary and bismuth is still a common ingredient (although mica can be used instead), but for those with sensitive skin, avoiding it might make all the difference to a comfortable mineral experience.

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