Beauty Without Fuss

Thursday 1 July 2010

Guest Post: So what is all this mineral-makeup stuff anyway?

Please welcome the first of my guest-bloggers, today is the turn of  LiAnn, from Sparklecrack Central and she's writing about one of her main passions, mineral makeup:

While the definition of “mineral makeup” can change depending on who you
ask, generally it’s loose-powder makeup with minimal ingredients – most
specifically, few to no preservatives. There is no government guideline or
definition for what mineral makeup is, just as there is no government
definition for “organic makeup” (at least not in the United States). This
makes buying mineral makeup a bit interesting.

People use mineral makeup for a number of reasons: they want to put as few
chemicals on their skin as possible, they want to avoid certain chemicals
altogether (because of sensitivities or personal lifestyle choices, such
as veganism), they want to support companies that don’t do any animal
testing, they want to support small businesses, they want to buy local,
they prefer the way mineral makeup applies/lasts/feels…and more.

The reasons a person chooses to use mineral makeup impacts their choice of
vendor, either a little (want loose-powder makeup with no preservatives)
to a lot (want or need to buy only vegan products). I do not have chemical
sensitivities, nor am I vegan. Instead, I chose to start using mineral
makeup because I liked the idea that this stuff would never go bad. (I had
a tendency to buy a makeup palette, use it for a week or two, then leave
it in the drawer for a year…or three. Since I usually bought the cheap
palettes, by the time I thought of using the palette again, most of the
pressed-powder items were still somewhat usable, but any semifluid items
like glosses were on the verge of developing language skills.) I continued
using mineral makeup because I liked the wider range of available
eyecolors, the relative ease of blending my own blushes and foundation,
and the lack of a “face-submerged-in-axle-grease” sensation that liquid
foundations always seemed to give me. I started with Bare Escentuals,
arguably the grandmommy of the modern popular mineral makeup revolution;
and quickly branched out to buying on Ebay and trying indie MMU as a way
to avoid the high price of BE’s products. I chose some bad vendors, I
chose some bad products, I found some inexpensive suppliers, I found my
Holy Grail foundation, and I learned a lot. Makeup forums and blogs were a
significant help in finding new vendors to try.

Where you choose to get your mineral makeup will depend on your reasons
for trying it, your own preferences in mineral makeup, your budget, where
you’re located, and possibly your own patience in mixing your own makeup
from pigments, oxides, and base mixes available from wholesalers like TKB
Trading. (I have little patience. I’m more than happy to pay someone else
to find the perfect mix of micas, oxides, and bases.) Whomever you choose
to patronize, you should realize that what works for someone (let’s say
me) might not work for you – even if you have similar skintone,
coloration, and general health issues. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t
find a great foundation right away, and have to try several vendors. When
I started using MMU, BE had 15 different foundation shades. Now they have
25, so it’s easier to find an exact match. (I ended up going with a
different vendor, and am quite happy with my choice. Others very much
prefer Bare Escentuals. It’s all up to the individual.)

Wherever you start off, you’ll need some basics:
Good brushes. There are various brush sets available with starter kits,
travel sets, et cetera et cetera. While much of the makeup world
(including mineral makeup users and artists) raves about the quality of
MAC’s brushes, they are pricey…and they’re not the only high-quality items
available. EcoTools’ sets are good basic MMU brushes, some of Sephora’s
travel sets work quite nicely, and of course there are others. Start with
a set, figure out your preferences for tool usage, brush
firmness/coarseness, et cetera, and build from there.
Brush cleaner. Part of the appeal of MMU is the lack of contaminants –
that includes the bacteria from your own skin. Keeping your brushes and
lids clean helps keep your MMU free from contaminants, extending its
lifespan. Clean your brushes after five uses, or once a month – whichever
comes first. Clean a makeup brush the same way you would clean a paint
brush…just be more delicate.
Cleaning wipes. Loose powder spills, drifts, and wafts all over the place.
You may want to have these on hand for the initial small spills.
Artist’s palette. I use this for foiling or for mixing my powders – to go
just a little further toward keeping my minerals dry and uncontaminated.
This isn’t 100% necessary, but it can keep your MMU lids from getting
gunky while you’re trying to figure out that “foiling” thing (applying
eyecolors wet, for more staying power / more vivid effects.) A $1 three-
or four-well plastic palette from your local craft store will work fine –
no need to go out and spend more than that unless you want something

Good reading-comprehension. Some descriptions are a bit more artistic than
useful. I had no idea what “a fondness of purple” was, but familiarity
with the vendors’ product line helped me zero in on the eyeshadow’s color
(a cool berry-wine, as it turns out.) Since shopping with most indie MMU
vendors means shopping exclusively online, you’ll have to learn how to
mentally “color correct” for your monitor.

Also helpful, no matter what makeup you use:
Patience to try multiple products, vendors, and techniques. It’s not as
simple as opening the compact, using the supplied sponge applicator, and
spreading on the foundation. Wet application, dry application, mixing with
a moisturizer, using fixing sprays, “finishing powder sandwiches”,
stippling versus swirling…you may have to play around a bit before you get
the perfect application technique even after you’ve found the perfect
product and shade.
Strength to ask for what you want, and to refuse what you don’t need.
Maybe it’s because women are taught to catch more flies with honey than
with vinegar, but we’re just not very adept at asserting ourselves – even
at the makeup counter. If you go in for a makeover and the sales associate
uses a shade that you don’t like, or glosses over a technique too quickly
for you to catch it all, speak up! This is especially true if you’re just
learning to use mineral makeup.

•If you decide that you like the results, but not the storage/travel
issues of loose-powder mineral makeup, there are tutorials on YouTube that
show you how to press your own eyeshadows, blushes, and foundations. You
can also buy pressing media, pans, and palettes from several sources,
including beauty supply stores.
•While a lot of makeup – and specifically, indie MMU - vendors mark
themselves as “cruelty free”, this doesn’t guarantee that their suppliers
didn’t test the raw materials on animals. While the cosmetics industry has
been working – hard – to come up with testing methods that do not involve
animals, they haven’t yet found 100% reliable methods and procedures that
will spot any harmful effects while the products are still in the lab.
Don’t let the “cruelty free” symbol be your deciding factor to buy from a
•While we’re on the subject of labels, “organic makeup” doesn’t always
mean a whole lot, either. There is no US government certification for
“organic makeup”, so something can quite legally be marketed and labeled
as organic even if it contains preservatives or artificial ingredients.
(“Natural makeup” is also no guarantee of perfection for everybody – many
of Sephora’s “natural” line of products contain a substance which causes
skin reactions in quite a few people. But because this substance is a
fatty acid derived from coconuts and not adulterated with any inorganic
substances, it’s counted a “natural” ingredient.)
•If you buy any semiliquid products (lipsticks, balms, cream shadow
bases) from a mineral makeup vendor, be aware that these products will
have a shorter lifespan than your average drugstore lipstick – generally 6
to 9 months, but a good vendor should have the estimated product lifespan
prominently available (on the website’s product page, on the packaging,
•While a lot of mineral makeup lines focus on naturalistic colors and a
more neutral palette, there are mineral makeup companies that sell
brighter, bolder, more deeply pigmented eyeshadows. I have purchased from
several of them, and I know that there are others out there.

That’s all for now, otherwise I’m going to get accusations that I’m trying
to take over Louise’s blog in her absence :D If you want to see which
makeup companies I use, pop over to my blog. I’ve got a page where I’ve
actually listed out every single eyecolor I own, grouped by vendor. You
can also check out the blogs and forums I link to, and see what vendors
those folks use.

Sparklecrack Central -
Twinkle twinkle little jar, look how many of you there are.


  1. Fantastic post! Very in depth, plenty of good tips there :)

  2. Excellent overview, I love mineral foundation, bronzer and blush but not too keen on eyeshadows...
    Kat x Click&Make-Up!

  3. @Sirvinya - thanks!

    @Kat O - everyone's different, everyone will prefer this or that - and it's kind of cool that we've got so many different tools at our disposal (aka: toys to play with).

    Just out of curiosity, why do you not like the mineral eyeshadows quite so much?

  4. Great in-depth post :) hopefully it'll help a lot of people realise that Bare Escentuals is not the be all and end all of MMU!

  5. Bare Escentuals can be a good first step into the larger world of mineral makeup, since one can go to malls and boutiques, see the products and try them out, and find plenty of others online who have used BE and can compare the indies' products to Bare Escentuals. It's also possible to find a lot of people who have used Bare Escentuals, but do not use Bare Escentuals exclusively for one reason or another (like me - BE has some good shadows and blushes, and I'm a complete buxom-aholic; but their foundation and primers left me cold. And don't even get me started on the way they sell "Rare Minerals".) There are even some folks who have completely stepped away from Bare Escentuals and moved over to indie MMU, for whatever reasons (price, BE using carmine in many of their products, whatever.) All those people, writing blogs, posting on forums, giving such valuable advice...there's a lot of stuff out there!


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