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What Is Mineral Eyeshadow?

By Donna Tinus
Updated May 17, 2024
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Mineral eyeshadow is a loose or pressed powder eyeshadow containing all-natural minerals. The minerals are ground to a very fine microscopic — or even nanoparticle-size — powder. Mineral makeup generally is a popular choice because it is touted as being all-natural and offering a smooth, long-lasting coverage.

Although there is no record of exactly when people started grinding up minerals and using the powder to adorn skin, it is known that many ancient cultures used it for decorating their skin for beauty or before going out to war. Judging from drawings of Cleopatra, she found a way to enhance her beauty by rubbing her lips and cheeks with what might have been red clay and perfecting the art of dramatic eyes with kohl. During the 1970s, cosmetics companies started manufacturing mineral eyeshadow as part of their mineral makeup lines. Women bought this new, natural eyeshadow as an extension of a growing trend toward more natural products. Drug stores and department stores carried several types of eyeshadow, such as cream, powder and stick, but women were intrigued by the natural materials used in the manufacturing of mineral eyeshadow.

A woman who has sensitive skin, or one who has experienced allergic reactions to eyeshadow or other eye makeup, might find that she has better luck keeping her eyes bright while using mineral eyeshadow. It usually comes in a small compact or jar, like regular eyeshadow, with a small brush applicator. Some brands offer sets of colors that complement each other and are made to be worn together. Removing mineral eyeshadow is easy enough using a liquid eye makeup remover and a cotton pad. The user should avoid using a cotton ball, because pieces of cotton can become lodged in the eyelashes and slip into the eye, causing irritation.

Bismuth oxychloride is an ingredient often found in mineral eyeshadow that adds a slight shimmer to the coloring and has come under some scrutiny. It is a byproduct of copper and lead processing. Although copper and lead are found in nature, bismuth oxychloride is not.

Some women have noticed skin irritation when using mineral eyeshadow that contains bismuth oxychloride. During the manufacturing process, the minerals are pulverized into nanoparticles, which are so small that, theoretically, they could be inhaled while putting the mineral eyeshadow on or even enter the wearer's pores. The risk of this incident occurring appears to be very slight, however.

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