Is your mineral makeup posing you any health risks?

I was checking out Lavera Organic Skin Care and got distracted by the following information they’ve posted regarding mineral makeup on their website.

Recent UK studies advise of strong health risks when using Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) in nano particle form in powdered mineral makeup. These inhaled TiO2 nano particles coming in contact with living tissue have a similar effect as asbestos and can cause lung cancer.

However, TiO2 is safe when contained in cream form as it cannot then become airborne. This is typically the case in sun screens. In cream form, TiO2 stays on the upper layers of the skin and does not come in contact with living tissue.

I was rather surprised because I have always regarded mineral makeup to be safer as it uses crushed minerals and unlike most cosmetics, contains no talc, chemical additives, fragrance, fillers, preservatives, or dyes.  In addition, maybe I didn’t understand the second paragraph too well, but shouldn’t they be comparing with nano-based TiO2 in cream form because that’s been generally regarded as potentially risky?

I’ve written before about avoiding nano-based beauty products because nanotechnology involves manipulating properties of tiny particles, measuring one-billionth of a meter.  The concern is that these particles used in skincare products can penetrate our skin, travel into our bloodstream and wreak havoc to our system.   However, despite my initial concern, I am actually using a nano-based sunblock now because there is still very little factual evidence available about the harmful penetration of these nano-particles into our skin. 

But my current concern is, do all powdered mineral makeup contain TiO2 nano particles and are they all unsafe?  And the answer, it seems, is dependent on the actual formulation. 

Mineral makeup without micronized or nano particles
First, not all cosmetic manufacturers of mineral makeup use micronized or nano particles  in their formulations.  So far, the two which I’m currently using, Erth’s mineral makeup and Everyday Minerals, have stated on their websites that their products do not contain nano or micronized particles.  

The other two I’ve tested, Lumiere and Alima, also contain no micronized or nano particles.  In fact, a quick glance at the list indicates that many of the mineral makeup brands avoid micronized ingredients.

(Please note that micronized particles are generally referred to as nano particles in the industry.)

Besides the health concerns, the more important reason I found out from reading an article titled micronized minerals vs non-micronized minerals, is that mineral makeup which contain micronized or nano particles would not provide any notable coverage at all. They are so fine and light that they become airborne very easily.  And the smaller the particle, the more sheer and natural looking the application will be and that would be insufficient for women to obscure redness and fine lines.  

Particle sizes 50 nanometers and larger
Second, for those who do use micronized or nano particles in their mineral makeup line, particle shape, size, density, and composition all figure into their hazard potential. 

For example, Colorescience which uses nanotechnology in their mineral makeup line stated that they use particle sizes 50+ nanometers and particle sizes 50 nanometers and larger cannot be absorbed into the skin.  Additionally, all of the minerals in their products are coated with Organo Silicone and that waterproofs the particles, increases the particle size and protects the particles from being inhaled  and absorbed into the skin.  Finally, Colorescience stated that once different size minerals are blended together, a process called agglomeration occurs.

That means the larger and smaller molecules group together to become larger as a whole, sort of like a magnet. So the final particle size is much larger than even the 50+ nanometers because the minerals are now a group.

I thought this is really interesting information.  I understand better now that not all mineral makeup are created alike and as a mineral makeup lover, I will be actively looking out for micronized particles in any new mineral makeup which I may try and if I should use one containing such ingredients, I will exercise more caution during application.  Some good tips I found on the forums are to keep the fan off when applying your mineral foundation, don’t inhale during application or use a wet brush instead!

© copyright notice


  1. says

    That’s a great piece of info, Sesame. You know, at the end of the day, we don’t even know what’s safe anymore. Even those who claim their stuff is FREE from this and that, they are not obliged to list down every single ingredient if the content level doesn’t exceed a certain quantity. Personally, I believe in moderation and always balance our health with proper eating, exercise and proper relaxation :)

    Doris: Ya, you’re right. Strike a balance. Cannot be too paranoid too. But it’s good to know what you’re in for so that you can make an informed choice at the end of the day.

    • Melissa says

      I know this article is a little old, but the info is still good. However, back in 1997 at Oxford University, a study was done on nano particles (I believe it was titanium oxide, could have been nanos in general) that showed nano-ized particles as being disruptive to DNA. As well, the FDA has known for 10yrs that some chemicals in sunscreens we use on ourselves and our children are actually increasing the incidence of cancers. Any Vit A and it’s derivative in sunscreen has a damaging effect because of how vit A reacts with sunlight.
      So there have been a few more details leaked in recent months about how bad sunscreens really are for you — most of them — and the best thing you can do to combat the effects of the damaging sun rays ((keep in mind, now, that only one form of UV ray is damaging, the other actually gives you your Vit D3)) is to keep yourself pumped with fresh organic anti-oxidant containing fruits–especially red raspberries as they seem to have a natural sunscreen element in their oil and seeds. … and to stay out of the sun at peak hours of the day.

      • Cecelia says

        This subject is coming up more and more recently as people are becoming more aware of what is in their makeup. It is still difficult to find out which companies use the nanoparticles in their makeup. I have tried to get an answer from BE but all I can find is other people saying that it doesn’t contain nanoparticles. BE from all I can find has never come out and said that they don’t use them. Also their products contain cornstarch as well as bismuth oxichloride. They are not addressing this issue but in spite of this they have a very loyal following that would never think about giving up their bare minerals. This loyalty seems to come before all else regarding mineral makeup. I would appreciate feedback on BE because I too have used their products and liked them but I am beginning to see that there are many other companies that sell mineral makeup that are just as good.

  2. says

    I browse the list of the website provided by you and I saw that signature Minerals didn’t state that whether they are using micronized ingredients or not. This is what stated:

    Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Zinc Oxide. May contain Ultramarine Blue.

    I am a user of Signature Minerals. Should I be worried?

    Cyndi: I checked the website of Signature Minerals and they said under their section about ingredient education that they do not use micronized minerals. So no worries…

  3. Lia says

    weeks ago, i was well assured by EM that their products do not contain nano or micronized particles. i am so pleased. :)

    this article is very informative and interesting, you have done up a great post once again! thank you! :)

    Lia: Thanks Lia for the encouraging comments. I’m learning alot myself from blogging about these stuff too!

  4. Theresa says

    This is great piece of information.

    I’m using EM. During my daily route, I always hold my breath when applying, not sure whether this trick helps too.

    Theresa: It should! But since EM doesn’t use micronized ingredients, you also have less to worry.

  5. says

    This is a very interesting information, since I’m also using mineral makeup in a while, because my dry and partly sensitive skin didn’t tolerate any conventional makeup (mostly powder) anymore…

    Since I use mineral makeup (MAC Skinfinish Natural) my skin is relieved from dry flakes what really makes me happy!

    So, it would be more or less upsetting, if that what is assumed to be safer is nothing but a misbelief.

    Well, I have to check the list of ingredients of my mineral powder now…

  6. says

    What an interesting read! I work at a maternity store and in one of the books we have they also suggest that pregnant ladies not wear mineral makeup because “minerals are metals” and we don’t really know the detailed health risks of using them while pregnant.

    Interesting. I am loving mineral makeup personally though!

    I suppose it’s always good to be more careful when one is pregnant but I’m on the same page as you. I love mineral makeup too!

  7. Denise says

    Hi, I tried looking for the ingredient list for Bare Escentuals and i can’t find it. I love that foundation but now i’m slightly paranoid :/

    Denise: Got this from the Ingredient List. Bare Escentuals: i.d. bareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation: Zinc Oxide (CI 77947) and/or Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891). Other Ingredients: Bismuth Oxychloride CI 77163), Mica (CI 77019), Iron Oxides (CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499). (No micronized ingredients used.)

  8. Melissa says

    Thank for you for this article! I thought I was the only the only person concerned about nano particles.

    My favorite foundation is Illuminare, a liquid mineral formula. I wrote the manufacturer and got this reply:
    We do use micronized mineral sunscreen ingredients titanium and zinc oxide in our active ingredients because they are inorganic and non chemical sunscreens, but according to the Consumer Reports, the subject of which and what products would pose a threat of the kind you mention is subject to great debate. However, I understand your concern and would like to say that I don’t think you need to worry about ours penetrating the skin. One reason is that we have suspended the ingredients in a non-penetrating sun screen boosting gel that adheres to only the top surface of the skin, repelling water and keeping dangerous UVB and UVA from penetrating. Other things to consider are the lack of effectiveness of the chemical sunscreens and the rising rate of skin cancer now due to their ineffective nature, and the fact that they are chemicals rubbed onto the skin which must be continually re applied unlike minerals which keep their effective protection as long as they are on the skin.

    Melissa: If yours is a liquid mineral foundation, then you shouldn’t have to worry so much cos the issue is with those that are powdered as the claim is that inhaling micronized minerals can cause damage.

  9. lily says

    Sorry I reposted b/c I saw some spelling mistakes ..I hope this is more coherent …

    I am worried about Zinc Oxide in mineral make-up as well breathing it in just as harmful as Titanium Dioxide …What do u think of …they mix their foundation with organic rice powder , my readings have taught me that means the make-up will go bad but they have a powder mineral foudnation that only has 2 ingredients : organic rice powder and iron oxides …also what is your take on talc and mica use … I have really sensitive skin and I am looking for safe skincare products and make-up ….

    Also ,is shea butter a good alterntive sunscreen …also , lavera products , what do u think of them … they use titanium dioxide in their lipbalm ( but that will be ingested , I saw your link regarding nanoparticles and how titnium dioxide doesnt penetrate the skin but wouldnt eating and touching or even kissing transfer it into our bodies …what is your take on that as well …thanks

    lily: I haven’t come across anything regarding zinc oxide that is harmful. The position on titanium dioxide is in powdered form only because of the potential harm when inhaling it. If you use it in cream form, there is no problem. As for nana particles, it’s because of unconfirmed reports that it could penetrate into our bloodstream due to the nano size…I’m actually using a sunscreen that contains nano zinc oxide because I’m well, willing to take the risk.

    Shea butter is not an alternative to sunscreen but rather, used in some of the formulations. I find sunscreens containing this to be very rich so it’s good if you have dry skin. Otherwise, it could be too greasy.

    As for talc and mica, there are problems associated with it as you might have read. I generally try to steer clear of these ingredients when I can.

    Lily, while I’ve highlighted some of the risks involved in using some of these products, don’t be overly worried. Just avoid those that have been adversely reported and those that are detrimental for sensitive skin, although sometimes this could mean through trial and error.

  10. Judy says

    I am currently using Sheer Cover, and was wondering if their product is safe? How about Bare minerals?… Thanks

    Judy: You have to look up their ingredients and find out if their product uses micronized particles. Bare Minerals seems to be on the clear.

  11. Ashleigh says

    I am just curious. I’ve been using a liquid foundation that contains talc. I know that talc is similar to titanium dioxide in that in powder form, it can lead to certain forms of cancer. Is the risk the same with liquid? I just invested a bunch of money in it, and don’t want to get myself in trouble. Please e-mail me with a reply if possible.

    Ashleigh: I understand that inhaling talc is harmful but liquid formulations seem to be relatively safe based on what I’ve read.

  12. says

    Hi just wanted to mention that doesn’t use micronized or nanoparticles either since you said you only knew a few that didn’t. I just wanted to share that Affordable Mineral Makeup doesn’t.

  13. crystal says

    what about larenim? It looks good and i have tried the samples…what does anyone know about this line?

    Crystal: Sorry…never tried. But I picked this from the website – “Larenim contains no nano-sized materials”.

  14. Patsy says

    Mineral Foundations: Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (12.00%). Other Ingredients: Boron Nitride, Bisabolol, Aspalathus Linearis Leaf Extract, May Contain (+/-): Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Mica, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)
    I found this on the Sheer Cover Site; can you please interpret this for me?

    Patsy: These seem like common ingredients for mineral makeup. Some of them like Boron Nitride & Bismuth Oxychloride may cause allergy to certain skin types (not all though.)

  15. angela says

    could you please help me re minerals and stated that alima is safe but i contacted them and they stated there product is 20 microns.IS THIS SAFE .THANKYOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP.i am having an ongoing skin treatment and i cant use nano or micronised particles

    Angela: It seems that their formula keeps changing. But since you contacted the company, then the info is up to date. When you say 20 microns, what exactly do you mean? Does it mean it is micronized? If that is so, and you can’t use them, then go for another brand.

  16. Ruth says

    How about the Boron Nitride? Is it a harmful ingredient?

    Ruth: I haven’t found it to be harmful in the health sense but I found out that it can cause skin rash with prolonged usage. Please read my post here where I mentioned some ingredients in MMU that can cause skin problems for some pple.

  17. dm says

    I am totally confused. Most sites use micronized and nanoparticles interchangeably, but, according to Bare Minerals, there is a difference. This is the information I received today from Bare Minerals in response to my asking if the company uses nanoparticles:

    “When we mill our bareMinerals, we do so using a process called micronization. This is an extremely precise technique, and all of our products are milled to a particle size of 10 microns or higher. This is a coarse particle size, and it cannot be absorbed into the pores or skin. bareMinerals does not utilize nanoparticles in our products, nor have we ever. We keep up with routine testing both independently and through the FDA to ensure that our products are precise and consistent, and each batch of our bareMinerals does undergo microbiological testing to ensure this as well.”

    So BM apparently uses micronization, but not nanoparticles.

    Is this a difference with a meaningful distinction? I hope so because I really like BM!!!

    dm: Yes, nanaparticles is even smaller than micronized…

  18. Moira says

    I read one of the threads here. MMU is not safe for pregnant woman? “MINERALS ARE METALS”.

    I do not know now which one is safe now. There are lots of ingredients in beauty products that we are not aware harmful.

    Moira: When you’re pregnant, you need to be more cautious. MMU is not safe when they contain non-micronized powder and you’re using a chemical sunscreen containing the ingredient I mentioned in the article.

  19. Laura says

    Hi. I recently bought products from Bella-Pierre Cosmetics. They stated on their webpage that they micronize their ingredients, but then I called the company and the representative told me that they dont use nano-particles nor nano-technology. I havent seen it written that they dont use nanoparticles, thus the reason why I write this.

    I wanted to know if anybody knew anything about Bella-Pierre and their products. They are in the Safe Cosmetics Database, but so are other 1,000 cosmetic brands. If anybody knows what the process of micronizing ingredients is about… pleaseeeeeee answer this. How does one know that micronized ingredients dont contain nanoparticles?

    • Cristina says

      I have read somewhere that during the micronizing process nanoparticles may be produced. I have no experience with Bellapierre but I have tried Jane Iredale Amazing Base (which is micronized). I found it irritative when inhaled (the amount that was in the air during application). I have decided to stay away from it for safety reason.

  20. Abby says

    This is a great start for me. I’ve tried looking online for more information about the difference between nano and micron and haven’t found much. My favorite makeup is Larenim, and I know they don’t use nanoparticles. My question is what brands of makeup and suscreen don’t use nanoparticles, making them safer? Is there a list out there?

    • sesame says

      I doubt there is…the one I pointed out to lists the brands and state if theirs is micronized or not. I don’t see anything on nanoparticles.

  21. Jasmine says

    hi! very informational, but i was wondering is it dangerous if you inhale titanium dioxide that is NOT nano nor micronized?

    • sesame says

      Jasmine: I can’t say for certain because there are also some views about titanium dioxide as a whole. But based on my readings, it seems we should be more concerned with those that are micronized and containing nano particles.

  22. leilahh says

    oh wow! With the lavera products (foundations)does it have that hazard? i thought they were good…

    • sesame says

      Okay, I think you misunderstood the content here. I’m saying that I read this warning from their website. Lavera makeup do not contain such particles. Sorry for the undue alarm.

  23. leilahh says

    Hi again,

    I just found that the lavera make-up is apparently free from nano particles, i’m confused! did they change it or i read it from another source…?


  24. Kacey says

    This is a big issue for me and it was a hard process for me to find a mineral makeup company that does not use micro minerals. After trying several brands I found Faerie Organic Minerals. They state that they do not use nano or microparticles right on their front page so I liked that. I haven’t heard if anyone knows if bare escentuals uses micro particles but after using BE I belive they do. Their foundation has that “feel” to it that others do that use micro minerals. I think I’ll stick with faerie organic’s minerals for now.

  25. Mel says

    ZINC OXIDE (NON-NANO)causes serious health problems:

    • sesame says

      But the database also mentioned that the ingredient has low to moderate hazard depending on usage and formulation.

  26. satrowe says

    Hello i read in Choice Magazine that ” Bismuth oxychloride is a totally syntheitc ingrediient, a by-product of lead, tin and copper finining, which is further refined and combined with water and chloride”
    i just bought a lot of “Bare Minerals” id Mica,zinc,titanium dioxide,iron oxide contain that this as well as all the other plse tell me how do i find products that dont contain any of these anyone know i spent a lot of money of this product thinking it was the best …free of chemicals

    • sesame says

      You have to look at the ingredient list and get those that do not contain such potential irritants.

  27. says

    I actually came accross this quite bt accident. Really glad I did. I am a user and lover of mineral based makeup. Now I will definitely be looking out for these nanoparticles. Thanks for the information, appreciate it.
    Warm regards

  28. Eva says


    I’ve just recently stumbled accross your blog, and i LOVE it! I’m a recent convert to natural & organic skin care + makeup and slowly phasing out the items in my makeup bag for more ‘safer’ products.

    I’m now currently using FaerieOrganics foundation. These are the ingredients listed:

    Looks fairly safe right? I’ve only used it for the past 1 month, so far no irritant yet (knock wood!)

    • sesame says

      The ingredient list is short so it’s good there…I noticed they have boron nitride and magnesium stearate and I’ve had problems with those before but not everyone will react to the ingredients. So if it’s okay for you so far, then it should be fine.

  29. Lauren says

    Do you know anything about Jane Iredale loose mineral powder? I’ve used it for years. Should I worry???
    Thank you for such an informative page!

    • sesame says

      I was told they’re safe…I don’t think they use TiO2 in nano particle form but this info needs to be verified.

  30. nicole says

    I use Jane Iredale as well and per theior website, they do not use nano particle sizes…. so I guess they are ok

  31. says

    I do not understand why anyone would want to use minerals on their skin. The reason that one of the brands warns, “May contain Ultramarine Blue” is that this ingredient that adds color to cosmetics, is made from the Lapis lazuli stone, stone.
    This ingredient in eye shadows often causes redness, irritation and peeling of the eyelids. Much maligned Talc, is a also mineral.
    The worst part about mineral make up is how bad it looks on women over 35. it looks dry and ashy. Not dewy, young or pretty.

  32. Maggie says

    I just found out these things about nano-particles and I freaked out.
    Im using LilyLolo mineral makeup for 3 months now. It claims it does not contain any of those tiny particles but since the business is somewhat auto-regulated I’m worried. Should I stop even this makeup option?

    Please reply, I live with my little sister and shes only 12. I dont want her to come across potential dangerous substances.

    • sesame says

      If they claim they don’t use it, then you have to take their words for it. It’s up to you if you believe them though.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>