Shaz Goddess asked me a question the other day about mica and sensitivity. I tried to answer her question, but realized it’s a long answer, so I decided to post it here, as well as the website. I’ll try to keep this brief, but informative!
I do not believe that there are a large number of women out there that have a ‘sensitivity’ to mica per se. Here’s why:
a. Mica is inert. Normally, a reaction occurs when an ingredient actually enters into the skin. Simply buffing alone would not cause this to happen, and mica is not water soluble, therefore cannot, on its own, enter the capillaries of the skin. An example of a water soluble ingredient that can enter into the skin and cause a reaction would be dye.
b.. It would require very large particles of mica to be ‘abrasive’ to the skin, and generally, the largest particle sized mica pigments that are sold to cosmetics companies are too large to be allowed around the eye area, and too sparkly to be put into foundations.
c. In general, a good cosmetic formulator will opt for very finely ground versions of the mica pigments in order to create a soft and sikly formula. You have to imagine that when someone wants to formulate makeup, they have little pots or baggies of mineral ingredients to sample. Of course, they would naturally gravitate toward those that have the right qualities for the product that they are formulating. Something soft, fine, and silky to the touch would be the natural choice.
d. These pigments are micro-milled in high-tech cosmetic labs to be suitable for use on the skin. How a mineral is cut is essential to how it appears and feels to the touch. The original makeup of a mineral as it exists in nature is not the final version that comes out of a pigment lab. There are a large variety of mineral pigments available for a cosmetic crafter to choose from. Unfortunately, price does dictate quality, and the highest quality pigments are refracted and processed to be quite silky, and soft.
e. Mica is not a publicly known allergen, the way bismuth oxychloride and dyes are.
That being said, here are some problems that may crop up for wearers of mineral makeup:
1. Small companies who purchase pigments from small suppliers may not be provided with technical data on the pigments that they are purchasing. It’s akin to going to a farm to buy your tomatoes; you can probably see how they are grown, and ask questions, but when you buy tomatoes at the supermarket, the grocer may not have information on the growing practices of the farm where the tomatoes are sourced. This is not a blanket statement that all small companies are buying pigments without the proper knowledge, but in some cases, this may be true. Two problems can crop up in this instance:
a. PIgments with too-large particle size may be used in formulas for eye shadows. Also, consumers of mineral makeup products have a propensity to use blushes and bronzers on the eyes as well, and sometimes, esp in the case of bronzers, these larger particles sizes are present, and can irritate the sensitive skin around the eyes, or even the eye itself.
b. So-called ‘mica’ pigments may be coated with irritating substances such as dyes, carmine, or bismuth oxychloride. Technically, ingredients under three percent do not need to be stated on an ingredients list. The hope is that companies provide full disclosure. But if a distributor is once, twice, or three times removed from the manufacturing source, the full ingredient list may or may not be passed down to the final recipient. So, calling a pigment ‘mica’ doesn’t really state specifically what ingredients are coating the mica. Mica is simply a mineral that is coated with a variety of substances to created a colored pigment.
2. Mis-information about the skin: Urban myths abound concerning mineral makeup and its ingredients. There are many unscientific and unfounded threads of information available on the internet, and these myths get passed down from one site or forum to another until they become fact in the mind of the consumer. An aesthetician or dermatologist can explain the makeup of the skin, and how it is affected by ingredients and their application. Business owners (such as myself), unless furnished with the advice of a qualified skincare professional, do not necessarily have the proper information regarding this subject.
3. Other unseen culprits: Many times, a new mineral makeup wearer, or one switching brands, may also swith application tools, techiniques, or skincare, and these can be the hidden culprits. Isolation of the problem becomes difficult in this case. My recommendations: Try a different application method. It is a fact that the brush you are using may be the true culprit, not the product. Although some brushes may feel ultra soft to your fingers, your face may not agree. (see more below). Mixing your mineral makeup powder with a light vegetable oil, aloe, or water may be a great alterative if you have super sensitive skin, or rosacea. Remember, good quality mineral makeup foundation is actually pure pigment, and can be mixed with a variety of subtances to cover your skin, including your favorite moisturizer.
Try purchasing a different brush, if you have determnined that the makeup is not actually the culprit. Cost is a factor when picking brushes; normally, the higher prices ones have what is called the ‘first cut’ of hair, as it relates to animal-hair brushes. The tips of hair come to a fine, soft, thin end, as opposed to a hair that has a cut tip, which would be rougher. Cheaper hair is the second cut, which may also involved some animal cruelty, if the hair is cut too close to the skin. A new alternative are synthetic brushes; the newest range of synthetic hairs are much higher in quality that what was available in the past due to an increased demand for vegan products.
Try individual ingredients first. If you are breaking out from a mineral makeup product, and believe that one particular ingredient is the culprit, send an e-mail to the vendor and ask them if you can try individual ingredients in the formula in order to isolate the one that is causing problems. This may sound far-fetched, but it’s a really good way to get to the bottom of what is making your skin react, and many small companies would be willing to do so.
To test an ingredient, you need to apply it with clean fingers on a small portion of your skin, where a reaction won’t show. An example would be Oriental Beige, or Gold Fine. Many small vendors use these two pigments in their foundations, due to the kits and instructions that Monave created years ago to help small companies learn how to formulate. Try just one of those on your jawline and see if your skin breaks out by the following day. If not, then mica may not be your problem. If anyone suffers from sensitivity to makeup and even mineral makeup, please contact Shazgoddess, and we’d be happy to send ingredients out small sample packs of individual ingredients for you to test, including zinc oxide, serecite, colored micas, titanium dioxide, ultramine blue, and oxides. We only ask that you be willing to follow the first recommendations to eliminate the possiblitiy of other culprits, and that you be willing to post your results, both negative and positive on the forum.