Why Choose Mineral Powder Without Bismuth Oxychloride

Mineral foundation Mineral makeup is considered healthier and safer than conventional makeup. Pure mineral makeup does not contain any toxic substances and is actually good for your skin. It provides sun protection, has a calming and healing effect on the skin and does not clog the pores. True mineral makeup contains only minerals and is therefore always found as a loose powder. A lot of cosmetic brands today use the word mineral in the product names to make it sound better and more natural, but in reality, it is just conventional makeup with small additions of minerals such as mica, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. However, there are problems even when it comes to true mineral makeup. A lot of people trying mineral powder for the first time experience itching, red and irritated skin and breakouts worse than ever. So what should you look for when you choose mineral makeup? Besides the obvious, that the makeup looks good, has the right nuance for your skin and great staying power, there are some ingredients that are important to get the positive effects out of mineral makeup and some ingredients that are irritating to the skin and you preferably should avoid. There are several great brands to choose from. We have listed some of them, but there are others out there so be sure to check the ingredient lists.


What Is Mineral Makeup?

True mineral makeup contains only minerals. Minerals are non-organic, crystalline substances naturally formed in the Earth's crust. Many minerals that were mined before, are synthetically produced today. But synthetic production is not always bad. It guarantees that the minerals are free from contamination of heavy metals, which used to be a problem earlier.


What Should Mineral Makeup Contain?

Zinc Oxide 

Zinc is a trace element highly important for both the antioxidant defense system and the wound healing process [1]. Zinc has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and is important for the skins microbiota, the good bacteria on the skin. Zinc helps to protect against the bad bacteria that cause inflammation, irritations and acne. On the surface of the skin, zinc in the form of zinc oxide slowly dissolves into zinc ions that can be taken up by the skin. This provides a constant supplement of zinc to all the skin's zinc-dependent processes and has a general calming and healing effect on the skin. In addition, zinc oxide acts as a UV-filter protecting against the suns damaging UV-rays.

Titanium Dioxide 

Titanium dioxide is used as a white pigment in makeup and just like zinc oxide, it acts as a UV-filter, protecting against the sun. Mineral makeup provides a sun protection equivalent to about SPF 10-20, depending on the color and how much you put on.


Mica gives the powder color and shine. Mica is a type of aluminum silicate, a mineral that reflects light and creates optical illusions. Mica is often colored, for example with iron oxide and ultramarine.

Boron Nitride

Boron nitride is not a necessary component of mineral powder, but it is a mineral that gives the powder staying power. Boron nitride is better than many alternatives. Boron nitride is stable, inert, does not dissolve and is non-toxic [2]. The mineral structure of boron nitride is too large to penetrate the stratum corneum and is therefore completely non-irritant.

Iron Oxides

Iron has two different states of oxidation, which together can form a range of iron oxides with colors ranging from yellow and red to brown and black. Iron oxides are natural colorants approved to be used in mineral makeup.


Ultramarine is a synthetic variant of the mineral lapis lazuli. Before the discovery of the process to synthesize it in 1826, ground lapis lazuli was the most expensive pigment used among painters. Ultramarine, literally meaning "beyond the sea" in Latin, is a type of sulfur-containing sodium-silicate. It is considered a natural colorant that can be used in mineral makeup.

Kaolin and Illite

The clay minerals kaolin and illite are added to some mineral powders because of their capacity to bind excess oil and water. Might be good for oily skin but can be too drying for sensitive and dry skin.


What Should Mineral Makeup Not Contain?

Bismuth Oxychloride

If the mineral powder itches, clogs the pores and cause pimples, it most likely contains bismuth oxychloride. Bismuth oxychloride is a mineral and is therefore approved in true mineral makeup. In fact, it is one of the main ingredients in the most sold mineral powder from Bare Mineral. The reason for including bismuth oxychloride in cosmetics is its mother of pearl shimmering effect and because it gives the powder great staying power. Bismuth oxychloride is a natural component of the mineral bismoclite, which is both rare and expensive. Therefore, the bismuth oxychloride used in cosmetics does not come from bismoclite but is produced synthetically by chlorination of bismuth. Pure bismuth as well is relatively rare in nature and the bismuth used for the production of bismuth oxychloride is obtained as a byproduct from the purification of other metals, mainly led, but also copper. The bismuth then goes through several purification steps, but even the highest purity grade of bismuth is somewhat contaminated with copper but also with the toxic heavy metals led and thallium. This all sounds rather bad and should be enough to avoid products containing bismuth oxychloride but the biggest problem with this mineral is the shape of its crystals. The small crystals of bismuth oxychloride have very sharp edges that poke and irritate the skin and get stuck in the pores. Of course, this gets even worse when you buff the powder into the skin with a kabuki brush. Bismuth oxychloride simply causes a lot of small cuts in the skin leading to irritation, inflammation and clogged pores. Some people are more sensitive than others and it is mainly people with sensitive or acne-prone skin that reacts with irritation, blackheads and break-outs or more severe reactions like rosacea and cystic acne.


Silicones such as dimethicone and phenyl trimethicone are present in products from some popular brands such as Jane Iredale och Pür Air Perfection. Silicones are not natural minerals.


Cheap starch from rice (Oryza Sativa) or corn (Zea Mays) is also common. Not exactly harmful to the skin but if they are listed high up in the ingredient list, they diminish the content of good minerals and thereby lowering the positive effect of mineral powder.


Talc is a clay mineral, a type of magnesium silicate that is naturally present in the Earth's crust. The bad reputation of talc originates from the fact that talc ores are often contaminated with asbestos. Today talc is mined differently and cosmetic grade talc is strictly controlled to be free from asbestos. In spite of that, there are studies that connect asbestos-free talc with tumor formation [3]. In addition, talc powder can be irritating to the lungs. Together this makes talc a doubtful ingredient in mineral powder that should be avoided until more research proves otherwise.


Hydrated silica or amorphous silica, which is what is used in cosmetics, is unlike crystalline silica, not cancerous or in any other way toxic [4]. However, hydrated silica can have a grinding effect and therefore be irritating to sensitive skin, especially in a product meant to be buffed into the skin.


Mineral Powder With SPF

Many brands today market their mineral powders with claims of an SPF of 15-20. We are talking about products counting zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide among their main ingredients. There are though, several smaller brands with similar ingredient lists that do not state any SPF. In all likelihood, they have not afforded to do the tests required to prove that their products provide UV-protection. Without these types of tests, you cannot claim that your product provides sun protection. So if you are looking for a powder with sunscreen, verify that zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide are found high up in the ingredient list, preferably on the first or second place. Remember though that the SPF always depends on how much powder you use and on a sunny summer day, 15-20 may not be enough. 


Choose   Avoid
Zinc oxide   Bismuth oxychloride
Titanium dioxide   Dimethicon
Boron nitride   Phenyl trimethicon
Mica   Talc
Kaolin   Silica

What Should You Choose?

So what should you look for in the ingredient list to get a mineral powder that is natural, skin conditioning, non-irritating and provides UV-protection? Choose products that have zinc oxide and titanium dioxide listed high among the ingredients. Other approved ingredients are boron nitride, mica och kaolin as well as colors such as iron oxide and ultramarine. Avoid products that contain bismuth oxychloride, dimethicone, phenyl trimethicone or talc. Beware of products where you have a difficulty of finding the ingredient list. That is usually not a good sign.


Mineral Makeup

Brands whose powders contain pure minerals with a high degree of zinc oxide / titanium dioxide without bismuth oxychloride or silicones. The listed ingredients refer to powder foundations from the respective brand.

  • Flow cosmetics (Mica, Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides)
  • YAG Sweden (Mica, Titanium dioxide, Zinc oxide, Ultramarine, Iron oxides)
  • Lilly Lilo (Mica, Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides)
  • Idun Minerals (Mica, Zinc oxide, Iron oxides)
  • Inika Organics (Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides, Ultramarine)
  • TIKei (Boron nitrid, Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides)
  • Back to Earth(Titanium dioxide, Mica, Iron oxide, Ultramarine)
  • c/ o mineralsmink (Mica, Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides, Ultramarine)



  1. Lansdown, A.B. et al., Zinc in wound healing: theoretical, experimental, and clinical aspects. Wound Repair Regen, 2007. 15(1): 2-16.
  2. Fiume, M.M. et al., Safety Assessment of Boron Nitride as Used in Cosmetics. Int J Toxicol, 2015. 34(3 Suppl): 53S-60S.
  3. Fiume, M.M. et al., Safety Assessment of Talc as Used in Cosmetics. Int J Toxicol, 2015. 34(1 Suppl): 66S-129S.
  4. Becker, L.C. et al., Safety assessment of silylates and surface-modified siloxysilicates. Int J Toxicol, 2013. 32(3 Suppl): 5S-24S.

Read more about Toxins in Skin Care