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Why is mineral makeup itchy and irritating?

mineral powder foundation with brush
Loose powder mineral foundation is touted as being a safe, natural makeup with minimal natural ingredients that is perfect for sensitive skin. Not for my sensitive skin!!! Many loose powder mineral makeup brands irritate my skin and make it itch like crazy!

My skin has reacted terribly to Bare Minerals and Youngblood loose powder mineral foundations. There are many people who use both of these brands with no problems at all and truly love them.
youngblood mineral powder foundation
We carry Youngblood makeup at the salon and our clients rave over the loose mineral foundation. It makes my skin itch and it has an occlusive feeling on my face. I can't wait to wash it off! It's the same reaction I have to the Bare Minerals powder foundation.

Using mineral powder foundation is a quick and easy way make your skin look great. It gives you decent coverage with just a little of the product as you swirl it on with a kabuli brush or powder brush. It has a barely there feel, if you are not sensitive to it. It is especially good in the summer when the skin is more oily. That's why I like to use it.

Now, I have used Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Loose Powder with no problems at all. Physicians Formula products are hypoallergenic, formulated for sensitive skin and are free of 150+ known skin irritants. 

I had to get to the bottom of this. Why are these 'good for sensitive skin' powder foundations irritating my skin? What is the problem ingredient?

Let's find out why is mineral makeup itchy and irritating!

The minimal ingredients in the Bare Minerals and Youngblood mineral makeup made it quick and easy to analyze each ingredient.

BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation Ingredients
Titanium Dioxide
Zinc Oxide
Iron Oxides
Bismuth Oxychloride

Youngblood Natural Loose Mineral Foundation Ingredients
Titanium Dioxide
Iron Oxides
Bismuth Oxychloride

Let's have a closer look at each ingredient in the Youngblood and Bare Minerals powder foundations.

Titanium Dioxide is a mineral from the earth used in mineral makeup as a brightener and as a broad spectrum sunscreen. It is safe and non irritating to the skin.

Zinc Oxide is a mineral from the earth used in mineral makeup to create an opaque look and as a broad spectrum sunscreen. It is safe and non irritating to the skin.

Mica is a mineral from the earth used in mineral makeup to create sparkle. There are a variety of colors of mica and it can be ground into different sized particles creating varying degrees of transparency. It is safe and non irritating to the skin.

Iron oxides are mined from the earth or can be made synthetically. They have red, rust and brown colors. It is safe and non irritating to the skin. 

Bismuth Oxychloride is a white pearly coloring agent commonly found in powdered mineral makeup. It is also known as synthetic pearl. It is actually rarely found in nature but is manufactured by combining bismuth, chloride and water. Bismuth is a by product of lead and copper metal refining. 😲

It is a fine white powder with a soft feel that adheres well to the skin. Bismuth Oxychloride has a crystalline structure. The crystals have many spokes. The fine powder easily settles in the pores when applied to the skin where it's crystal spoked structure pokes the skin causing itching and irritation.


It's the Bismuth Oxychloride. I suspect that this ingredient could cause an acne breakout as well. Those spoked crystals are bound to get stuck in the pores causing your natural oils clog in the pores.

Bismuth Oxychloride is not in the Physicians Formula Mineral Powder.
physicians formula mineral wear loose powder foundation
Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Loose Powder Ingredients

lauroyl lysine
zinc stearate
boron nitride
caprylyl glycol
hexolene glycol
iron oxides
titanium dioxide
zinc oxide

There are many people who are not bothered by Bismuth Oxychloride. Their skin is just not sensitive to it.

tarte amizonian clay airbrush foundation
I have recently tried out Tarte Amazonian Clay Airbrush Foundation which also contains Bismuth Oxychloride. It was included in gift box of Tarte goodies my daughters gave me  for Christmas. Surprisingly, I can use this one with very little reaction even though it contains Bismuth oxycloride.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation Ingredients:
camellia sinensis leaf extract
pearl powder
ruby powder
sea salt/maris sal/sel marin
smithsonite extract
bismuth oxycloride
iron oxides
ferric ammonium ferrocyanide
titanium dioxide
zinc oxide

I have a theory about why is doesn't irritate my skin. 

My theory is that #1 it contains much less Bismuth Oxychloride than the Bareminerals and Youngblood products and #2 there are so many more ingredients, particularly  kaolin which is a clay, that I believe sticks to and surrounds the Bismuth Oxychloride crystals so that they are not as sharp.

So there you have it! If you find that your skin get irritated and itchy when you use powdered mineral makeup, go right to the ingredient list and check for bismuth oxycloride. 

Cruelty Free Powder Mineral Foundation Brands with No Bismuth Oxychloride

Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Loose Powder
Shop for Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Foundation

Lily Lolo Mineral Foundation
Shop for Lily Lolo Mineral Foundation

Jane Iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation and Amazing Base Loose Mineral Powder
Shop for Jane Iredale Mineral Foundation

Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation 
Shop for Honeybee Gardens

Gabriel Cosmetics  Dual Powder Foundation
Shop for Gabriel and Zuzu

I hope this post helps you find the perfect powder mineral makeup with no itchy and irritating ingredients. We all need to look and feel a little more beautiful!

       Have a Beautiful Day! 
Licensed Cosmetologist, Esthetician, Makeup Artist
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