There is a lot of controversy surrounding the ingredient, ” bismuth oxychloride “. It’s in many brands of mineral makeup, including Bare Escentuals, Youngblood, and Jane Iredale.  At Monave, we have opted not to use it in our formulas, the primary reason being that it is commonly known to be an irritant, especially for women with sensitive skin.

I am not going to engage in a scientific conversation here, but rather, base my information on the unending reports from women using mineral makeup containing bismuth oxychloride, of itching, redness, bumps, and irritation. They state that the condition is more pronounced when the weather becomes hot. For anyone wanting to delve into the scientific arguments surrounding bismuth oxychloride, simple google a question,  such as, ‘is bismuth oxychloride irritating to the skin?”. I guarantee that any line that uses bismuth oxychloride, and any supplier that sells it, will defend its use, stating that it’s approved by the FDA, and not a known irritant.

I read one blog that had a comment written by a supplier stating that it is indeed, cheap animal hair brushes that cause the irritation, not bismuth oxychloride. That would imply that all mineral makeup users use cheap animal hair brushes, which clearly is not the case, especially with high quality synthetic brushes now available.  From the Green Beauty Guide comes this statement as to the allergenic nature of bismuth oxychloride:

 ” While bismuth oxychloride has proven antibacterial properties, it can irritate sensitive skin like mad.  “Bismuth oxychloride can aggravate acne, resulting in flare-ups upon use, and even cause the appearance of acne cysts,” says Manhattan-based dermatologist Judith Hellman, MD. “In addition, it may be the source of rashes in patients sensitive to it, especially those with delicate and easily irritated skin, such as rosacea and eczema patients.” No wonder many mineral makeup manufacturers are now eliminating bismuth oxychloride from their formulations “.

So, to put it simply, our customer base at Monave tends to be women with sensitive and problem skin. I’m one of them. We, as a consumer group, like to see simple ingredient list. For myself, I wash my face with warm water, and use moisturizing creams with as little as 5-6 ingredients. It’s the same approach that I have with my food. I look for birthday cake that has flour, sugar, eggs, milk, baking powder and natural flavor. I remember going to Safeway once to get a birthday cake for my son’s party. I asked them for the ingredient list, since it wasn’t on the box, and what they brought to me had about forty ingredients on it. I went back to Whole Foods, and spent more per inch on the cake, and felt totally comfortable with my choice.

So, I naturally extend this philosophy to my makeup and skincare, as do many Monave customers. There are a few other ingredients that we could include in our mineral makeup, but choose not to, not because they’re going to kill us slowly, or because they are horrible ingredients, simply because they cause irritation, and are unnecessary!

mineral foundation without bixmuth oxychloride
mineral foundation without bixmuth oxychloride

The other really obvious issue that is brought up by many customers who have worn mineral foundation with bismuth oxychloride in it, is that it’s shiny! Now, in my estimation, after having applied mineral make up on thousands of women over the years, there are very few who want ” shine ” on their face! A little dewy glow maybe, but the phrases that I’ve seen used by women who use foundation with bismuth oxychloride in it run along the lines of, ” It makes my face glow like a light bulb “.  So,  in terms of foundation alone, bismuth oxychloride does not appear to be a good choice for inclusion in a formula, with or without  the other concerns mentioned above.

So, why is it used then? Bismuth oxychloride has a smooth, silky, creamy texture. Using raw minerals, such as iron oxides and titanium dioxide to create skin tone colors for mineral foundation is a challenge when it comes to providing a good texture. They are very thick and not at all easy to spread. (Think cold butter on soft white bread). So to temper this unweildy texture, a formulator looks for a silky mineral that will add silkiness. Bismuth oxychloride provides silkiness and also adds creaminess, so the powder doesn’t feel as dry to the touch. It also breaks up clumpy pigments so that the finished mineral powders will have an even consistency.  There are other silky, soft minerals that can achieve the same effects as bismuth oxychloride without the irritation. It just comes down to the formulator’s choice in terms of what their customers needs are.

In conclusion, if someone doesn’t find bismuth oxychloride irritating, then she has many options to choose from in mineral makeup brands. But for women who want the simplest ingredient list possible, and who are faced with sensitive, blemish-prone skin, mineral makeup brands without bismuth oxychloride are a better choice. That’s who we cater to. That’s who we are at Monave!


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