A Special Report by Paula Begoun & Bryan Barron

Here is what you need to know: Of the more popular mineral makeup lines, mineral makeups tend to contain the same basic ingredients, which are bismuth oxychloride, mica, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. Depending on the company you may see the addition of minor ingredients (such as boron nitride), which contribute to the product’s texture or application. Some companies include antioxidants but these extras make up a tiny amount of the product and can’t remain stable in the packaging or even suspended very well in a powder.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide:

  • Serves as the sunscreen
  • Enhance coverage and a matte finish than talc-based powder
  • Must be listed as active ingredients
  • Must be rated with > SPF 15
  • Ideal for sensitive skin e.g. rosacea
  • Occlusive nature can contribute to clogged pores

Bismuth oxychloride:

  • Binding properties give smoothness and texture
  • Provides considerable coverage
  • Ensure longer wear
  • Manufactured synthetically


  • Used as pigment to add a luminescent shine to the finish
  • Silky texture
  • Shine mica imparts makes oily areas look shinier & noticeable wrinkles more wrinkled

Application: Pore Perfect or Poor Performer?

Most mineral makeups provide opaque coverage (this can be blended to within light to medium coverage range), yet the claim is they do so while looking extremely natural, like a second skin.

In real life, these powders (most of which are tricky to blend because they tend to “grab” onto skin and don’t glide very well once they are in place) can be applied sheer, but the very nature of their ingredients results in a textured application that can look powdery and “made-up” on the skin. This is especially true if you have any dry patches on the skin because these mineral powders—many of which claim to be moisturizing which is just ludicrous given the properties of all powder materials, which are absorbent not moisturizing—exacerbate dryness and flaking.

For those with oily skin, mineral makeup can pool in pores and look thick and layered just like any powder can. Generally speaking, mineral makeup is best for normal to slightly oily skin (meaning no signs of dryness and little to no problem oily areas).

OTE: All of the mineral makeups listed in this report are fragrance-free.
Bare Escentuals
Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Foundation SPF 15 ($25)

Pros: Broad-spectrum sun protection from 25% titanium dioxide; mica-based formula has a lighter texture than those based on bismuth oxychloride; Plenty of good shades for fair to medium skin tones; widely available at Sephora stores or the company’s own boutiques.

Cons: Shiny finish that appears sparkling on skin; can look heavy and be more difficult to blend than standard talcbased powder foundations; absorbent nature of the titanium
dioxide and bismuth oxychloride can make skin feel uncomfortably dry by the end of the day; may pool into pores and change color on persons with very oily skin or oily areas;
shades for dark skin tones are available but the titanium dioxidecontent causes them to appear or turn ash.

Bare Escentuals RareMinerals Skin Revival Treatment ($60)

Pros: Very absorbent for those with oily skin; available in a small but good range of shades plus a colorless option; mica base has a lighter texture than mineral powders with bismuth oxychloride as the main ingredient.

Cons: Expensive; no proof that the Jurassic Virgin Soil (the company’s fancy claim for what amounts to dirt) can improve skin in the prodigious manner claimed; can cause
dryness due to the absorbent nature of almost all of the ingredients; as a nighttime treatment, this is akin to wearing makeup to bed, which is never a good idea.

Bare Escentuals Multi-Tasking Minerals ($18)

Pros: Less shiny finish compared to the bareMinerals Foundation SPF 15 above; the Summer Bisque and Honey Bisque shades have 20% zinc oxide as an active ingredient,
rating SPF 20; may be used as eyeshadow base or concealer.

Cons: Same as listed above for the bareMinerals Foundation SPF 15.

Colorscience Retractable Foundation Brush SPF 20

($55; $36 for refills)

Pros: Blends smoothly, has less drag on skin than many other mineral foundations; includes a built-in, goat hair brush for convenient application with minimal mess; uses additional cosmetic pigments for a greater array of skin-realistic colors; proven to be water-resistant (as is most mineral makeup but Colorscience did the appropriate FDA-sanctioned testing to make this claim); uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as active ingredients.

Cons: Same as most mineral makeups: can look thick or heavy on skin, has a dry finish, and imparts shine, which isn’t the best for those with oily skin; the darker shades, while
strongly pigmented, tend to leave a silvery-white sheen that can look a bit ashen; definitely a mineral makeup to sample because many of the shades for fair to medium skin tend to turn slightly pink or peach.

Glominerals GloLoose Base ($37)

Pros: A finely-milled, silky powder that blends beautifully and has a lighter texture than most mineral makeups; soft matte finish with subtle, non-sparkling glow; provides
medium coverage while allowing natural skin tone to show through, resulting in a mineral makeup that looks more natural; several neutral shades for fair to medium skin tones; one to try if you have normal to dry skin.

Cons: Does not list active ingredients so no SPF rating (though it does contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide); no shades for dark skin tones; avoid the Beige shades–all are
too pink; application can be messy.

Be Pure Mineral Makeup ($6.99)

Pros: Silky texture blends well; relatively easy to apply thanks to built-in soft sponge applicator; small but good selection of neutral shades; minimal shine.

Cons: No sunscreen; may be too sheer for some; removing sponge to apply product with a brush or different sponge results in a thick, chalky-looking finish; bismuth oxychloride
can make this feel uncomfortably dry over time.

Be Pure Mineral Powder ($6.99)

Pros: Lightweight, almost airy texture looks attractive on skin and blends well; subtle shine; not as drying as many mineral makeups.

Cons: No sunscreen; component falls apart almost immediately; brush feels terrible on skin; cap cannot be replaced after use without causing the brush to splay; bronze shade
can look ashen.

Jane Iredale
Jane Iredale Amazing Base Loose Minerals SPF 20 ($42)

Pros: Uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as active ingredients; finish is absorbent while looking lighter than most other loose mineral makeups; beautiful range of 15 shades.

Cons: Colors demand careful testing as many go on either lighter or darker than they appear; can look heavier and be more difficult to blend than standard talc-based powder
foundations; absorbent nature of the titanium dioxide and bismuth oxychloride can make skin feel uncomfortably dry by the end of the day; may pool into pores and change color on persons with very oily skin or oily areas.

Jane Iredale PurePressed Pressed Minerals SPF 18 ($48)

Pros: Convenient, less messy application than loose mineral makeup; strong matte finish without an overly thick appearance; sunscreen is a blend of titanium dioxide and
zinc oxide; global shade are non-ashy options for dark skin tones (and Jane Iredale is the only company I’ve reviewed that offers convincing mineral makeup shades for women of

Cons: Not the best for those with normal to dry skin due to its very absorbent nature; does not look good over pronounced wrinkles.

Laura Mercier
Mineral Powder SPF 15 ($35)

Pros: Excellent sun protection with 20% zinc oxide; enviably silky texture from finely-milled ingredients; finishes matte with a subtle, not sparkling, glow; blends better than any mineral makeup I have tested; thoughtful packaging makes this loose powder foundation less messy to apply and transport; every shade is recommended.

Cons: Same potential drawbacks as most mineral makeup; can look and feel too dry over dry or flaky skin; can look thick and eventually pool into large pores on very oily areas;
limited shade selection.

L’Oreal Bare Naturale Powdered Mineral Foundation
SPF 19 ($14.99)

Pros: Features titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as active ingredients; uses talc and a lower amount of bismuth oxychloride for a less shiny finish which is a nice change from
the typical iridescence found in most “mineral” makeups; built-in, dense brush is well-suited for applying this type of makeup and helps minimize mess.

Cons: Not nearly as lightweight as the magazine ads imply; the amount of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide lends a heavy, opaque finish that is difficult to soften (and applying this sheer negates its sun protection).

Monave Loose Mineral Foundation
($25; $2.50 for sample-size jars)

Pros: Offers samples of every shade for a nominal fee; very absorbent finish keeps oil in check for hours; full coverage for serious discolorations; minimal shine on the light to
medium shades.

Cons: So concentrated that even a sheer application produces opaque coverage that looks dry and chalky; difficult to blend; brags about its full-spectrum sunscreen but does not list active ingredients nor an SPF rating; shades darken or lighten when applied, which makes finding the best match more of a challenge; the darker shades have a strong shimmer finish that makes the face look too glow-y.

Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Mineral Powder Foundation

Pros: Packaging includes a built-in brush which makes for minimal mess; application method allows for sheer coverage; layers well for additional coverage; small but good selection of shades.

Cons: Despite the convenience, the included brush isn’t nearly as nice as brushes sold separately with the softness and density needed to apply this type of product; no sunscreen; tends to make oily areas look flaky and flat before the end of the day; no shades for dark skin tones unless you want lots of sparkles.

philosophy the supernatural powder airbrushed canvas
SPF 15 ($35)

Pros: Sunscreen active is zinc oxide; built-in sponge applicator makes for a convenient, minimally messy application; sponge may be removed and washed to keep it sanitary;
long-wearing matte finish suitable for keeping very oilyskin in check; sheer to light coverage.

Cons: Contains more bismuth oxychloride than most mineral makeups, thus can be more drying to skin; finish is more sparkling than shiny, which isn’t the best for daytime wear;
attempting to build meaningful coverage results in a heavylook that doesn’t wear as well over dry or oily areas.

Pürminerals 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup SPF 15

Pros: Sole active ingredient is titanium dioxide; mica- and boron nitride-based formula is dry but unusually silky; smooth application that blends better than most mineral makeup; soft glow finish makes skin look dimensional rather than sparkly;shades for fair to dark skin; sheer to medium coverage that doesn’t look thick; good for all but very dry skin; doubles as a setting powder over liquid foundation.

Cons: Despite the name, this product more closely resembles a really good pressed powder than a standard mineral foundation; can still look and feel slightly dry and will
exaggerate dry patches of skin.

Pürminerals Mineral Loose Translucent Foundation ($21.50)

Pros: Dry, silky texture is ideal for oily skin assuming you’re OK with a soft shine finish; silica contributes to its absorbent finish without feeling heavy or looking thick on skin;
unlikely to pool in pores or turn color on oily skin.

Cons: No sunscreen; only one shade and it’s not translucent enough for tan to dark skin tones; coverage is too sheer to successfully diminish redness as claimed.

Sheer Cover
Sheer Cover Pressed Mineral Foundation ($30; $19.95
member price)

Pros: Beautifully soft, silky texture blends better than most mineral makeup, be it pressed or loose; sheer to medium coverage whose finish feels matte but leaves a soft
glow; does not look thick or powdery; small but outstanding shade selection.

Cons: Formula is closer to a pressed powder foundation, though that’s a plus for some; no sunscreen; no shades for very dark skin.

Sheer Cover Mineral Foundation ($26.95; $16.95 member

Pros: Finely-milled powder makes the drying minerals (titanium dioxide and bismuth oxychloride) apply less opaquely; natural matte (in feel) finish that remains absorbent without being chalky; eight mostly neutral shades (avoid Almond and Nude).

Cons: No active ingredients listed, thus no SPF rating; despite the finely-milled texture it can still be overly drying and turn color over oily areas; very sparkly finish; powder
brushes that accompany the Sheer Cover Intro Kit are inferior.

Skin Alison Raffaele
Skin Alison Raffaele Mineral Powder Foundation ($29.50)

Pros: Very simple formula is suitable for sensitive or rosacea- afflicted skin; mica base contributes to a lighter-than usual texture; sheer to medium coverage, with zinc oxide
supplying some opacity and a dry finish; very neutral shade range.

Cons: No sunscreen actives listed, no SPF rating; can be too drying for normal to dry skin; slightly shiny finish may not please those with oily skin; the darkest shade looks ash; no shades for very dark skin.

Urban Decay
Urban Decay Surreal Skin Mineral Makeup ($28)

Pros: Built-in sponge applicator minimizes mess and allows for quick application; otherwise, shares the same positive traits as the Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Foundation SPF 15 above, minus the sunscreen; small shade selection but all of them are good.

Cons: Same as Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Foundation SPF 15 above; no active ingredients listed, thus no SPF rating; no shades for dark skin tones.

Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics Natural Loose Mineral
Foundation ($34.95)

Pros: Same as Bare Escentuals bareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation above, minus the sunscreen.

Cons: Same as Bare Escentuals bareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation above except Youngblood did better with their darker shades; no active sunscreen ingredients so no SPF rating.

Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics Mineral Compact
Foundation ($37.50)

Pros: Dry texture has a lightweight but very absorbent matte (in feel) finish for oily to very oily skin (assuming you don’t mind a slightly shiny look); provides sheer coverage
that doesn’t look pasty; almost every shade is neutral (avoid Rose Beige) and has options for fair to tan skin tones.

Cons: Powder contains rice starch, which may contribute to blemishes because food-based ingredients can feed the bacteria that cause acne; not recommended for anyone with any degree of dry skin.


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