You’ve Got Makeup… In Your Lungs | Ingredient Alchemy Lab #4

Mineral Makeup clean but still be careful with nano sized Titanium Dioxide and Mica

A Chapter of the Quest in which BEAUTYCALYPTIQUE attempts to beat the dusty answers and the nasty truth out of her Mineral Makeup.


I admit: Some time ago I used to think mineral makeup was THE safest makeup option out there. Like: THE safest. T.H.E. s.a.f.e.s.t.

And look, if chosen wisely, it contains:

  • no fillers,
  • no talc,
  • no Bismuth Oxychloride,
  • no alcohol,
  • no silicones,
  • no mineral oils,
  • no perfume,
  • no PEGs,
  • no preservatives and
  • no synthetic toxins (etc., etc.) – so what’s not to love?

It sure sounds better than a bottle of toxins. So we all sat back, relaxed and thought it’s finally Heaven…

Adventurers, are we d’accord that a product free from all the above is still trouble if it contains other questionable ingredients?


If you look at what’s in the mineral makeup jars, you will always – or on 99,99% of all labels – spot these two ingredients:
Mica and Titanium Dioxide. 

They are widely used in makeup, not just in “pure” mineral makeup:
Titanium Dioxide, a white pigment, and Mica, a mineral glimmer, – I referred to Titanium Dioxide already in this earlier post “Talc is cheap”.

Titanium Dioxide and Mica are silicate minerals (sometimes referred to as silicates, which is not correct). Silicate minerals are, as beauty brands love to describe them, natural.
It means of course: they occur naturally – as in “aren’t man-made”, aren’t synthetic. And this is not a win by itself; many toxins are, in fact, natural. But yeah, it sounds good. Natural. Natural.

But alas! Titanium Dioxide causes just as much controversy as Talc(um), especially Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles. A closer look?


German scientists discovered that nanoparticles get into the body system through the lungs and that they remain in the body.


French scientists proved that TD nanoparticles could be just as toxic as asbestos (a close relative of TD, by the way), accumulating in the lungs and causing lung irritation, inflammation and, ultimately, cancer.

Now, TD is widely used as a white pigment with high coverage, for example in dyes and paint, but most scientists consider this safe.
Also TD used in sunscreen for its UV-absorbent quality is considered “okay” for healthy skin as soon as it’s not nano-particles (but we remember that sunscreen is nothing to use carelessly, don’t we?). TD found in food (declared as E171) is “probably safe” because it’s “probably” not nano-sized.

Isn’t that too much probability for your taste?

The thing is that in cosmetics, both “normal” and nano-sized TD particles can be used. Even the Wikipedia article on TD, and I consider Wikipedia a rather reliable status quo for general information level, points that nanoparticles of the otherwise non-toxic TD cause autoimmune reactions in the lungs.

Just for the record:
While says TD is pretty safe (green light!), EWG’s Cosmetics Database says “moderate cancer hazard if inhaled”.

A good conclusion is given in this article I found on the organic makeup company website, it sums up all of the TD research saying that fine and coarse TD particles are considered safe while nanoparticles are considered toxic.

That’s cool, but how am I to know what’s in my jars of mineral makeup? 


Mica, the mineral glimmer (a sheet silicate) largely used in cosmetics, has been reported for harming the respiratory organs when inhaled – causing irritations and possibly inflammations.

In addition, EWG says it could or could not be bioaccumulative and yet Codecheck gives it a thumbs up claiming it’s anti-inflammatory.
Are you confused yet? Good. So am I.

Can anybody definitely tell me, once and for all – is it safe in cosmetics or not!?


People have been blogging and talking about it since a couple of years. Look, here are just two absolutely randomly picked 2010 articles I found on Modern Mom and Doctor Oz. So what’s the bottom line of that all – today?

I didn’t want to do research on all mineral brands out there that I don’t use anyway – the reason I picked my favourites is I found by research and comparison which seemed the purest. And so I went to the websites of my favourite brands – Alima Pure, Everyday Minerals, Lily Lolo and Inika – and had a look.

Alima Pure, the US-based mineral makeup pioneer, states in their FAQ that they don’t use nanoparticle TD:

Do your products contain nano-particles?
Absolutely not.”

Good news, check.

My favourite UK-based mineral makeup brand Lily Lolo, too, includes their customers growing concerns into their FAQ:

Do you use any nano or micronized particles?
None of the particles are small enough to be classed as micronized or nano-particles.

What is the minimum particle size?
Titanium and Zinc oxide are uncoated and have a minimum particle size of 10 microns

FYI: 10 microns qualifies as “coarse”. Nano is less than 0.1 microns.

Good news, check.

Another beloved brand, Inika from Australia (we tour the world here, huh?) chimes in:

There are two kinds of Titanium Dioxide used in cosmetic products. There is concern about the nano-sized particles of Titanium Dioxide, but INIKA DOES NOT use these in our products. INIKA (…) is extremely confident about the safety of the non-nano sized titanium that we use – which has had no adverse health effects reported. INIKA’s Titanium Dioxide is considered fine with the particles being between 1 and 2 microns.

Fair enough, check.

I couldn’t spot anything about the size of TD used in their makeup on the website of Everyday Minerals, but the online shop where I got my EM products at said EM doesn’t use nano-particles. But since I can’t find this statement in the online shop anymore, I think I’ll just shoot EM’s customer service an email and ask. UPDATE TO FOLLOW!

UPDATE: The customer service have replied!

We do not use micronized or nano-particles. Our products are actually vegan based, free of nanotechnology, carmine, dimethicone, fragrance, animal by products, bismuth oxychloride, silicone and lake dyes.”

It seems that I can keep using most of my faves. Which is a relief indeed.

But wait. There was another ingredient, too?


The Mica thing still bothers me.

I understand that occupational guidelines apply for people who work in mining.

I understand, too, that the workers who inhaled mica dust every day during 8 hour shifts for over a decade show physical signs of exposure: 5 of 6 have pneumoconiosis. Says this guideline paper (link opens a PDF file), you can google it.

I understand that even a makeup artist – the person with most exposure to mica dust after a mine worker – is probably more at risk when s/he goes for a quick cigarette between takes than whn inhaling mica dust from all that powders, glitters, eye shadows and so on.

So what’s the trouble with Mica anyway, you’ll ask.

It is, as mentioned above, a sheet silicate.
Both in its dry ground and sheet state Mica does have very useful properties. It’s chemically inert, flexible, reflective, lightweight, stable when exposed to humidity, light, heat, electricity. Wet ground Mica is pearlescent – it’s for this quality you find it in cosmetics, car lacquer, shimmery plastic, even in air balloons and much more.
Roundabout totes adorbs.

You still with me and still wondering what’s the matter? Good.

Wet grounding means that rather than being transformed into a non-shimmery, powdery mess as it’s used for filling purposes and such, Mica dust preserves what is called cleavage faces. Sounds sexy? The other cleavage, dude.

So the mineral breaks into thinnest flakes which are then wet ground finer and finer but – guess what! – remain flakes. And flakes have edges. So they shimmer. But what do fine edges do, as well? They cut.

When Mica dust is breathed in, what its tiny flakes do is scarring the lungs. There is no valid data on “safe” amounts of Mica in dry-texture-cosmetics such as eye shadow, rouge, mineral makeup or powder.

So what’s the bottom line?


The bottom line is… that I don’t have an answer. But for now, this is going to be my beauty routine until I know better:

  1. Not panic.
  2. Only use products with NOT nano-sized TD particles (Alima, Inika, Lily Lolo for example)
  3. Produce as little dust as possible while working the powder on my face
  4. Wipe the powder from the vanity/bathroom shelf after application
  5. Or use liquid makeup. Since I haven’t found THE GREAT liquid foundation yet, I’ll use my mineral makeup and a moisturiser to create a custom liquid foundation. It’s a good plan, because you can control the coverage from “just a healthy even-out” to camouflage. But this is also the trickiest part of the plan because I, well, how do I put it… erm, stopped using my moisturiser… (“YOU DID WHAT!?” – it’s a Quest, don’t worry)
  6. ???
  7. PROFIT!

I’m ever so sorry, forget the last two. It’s a silly Internet South Park joke 😉

As usual, do share if you find THE perfect foundation, powder or liquid, and share your doubts, remarks, questions in the comments!

Or maybe check the product you use on a daily basis with EWG’s Cosmetics Database (US) and/or Codecheck (Europe).


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

111 Responses

  1. Kay

    Has anyone looked into Earth’s Beauty make-up? It’s made from arrowroot powder, finely sifted. It’s one that I use a lot, but I go elsewhere for eye shadow because of color choices. I just ordered some make up with mica. My husband, who is a self-taught chemist, says that the aluminum in mica cannot be separated from the silica and/or other items without using a chemical process, and so because the aluminum is bound up with the silica or other items, the body cannot break it down into the toxic metal aluminum. So the problem with mica is not that it is bound with aluminum. Have myself only learned of the toxicity of titanium dioxide — I’ve long avoided both micro and nano titanium dioxide — but some nutritionalists claim that it is a brain-toxin even if not nano-sized. I don’t know about this, myself, but I’ve decided to avoid it and it’s a shame because my favorite eye shadows contain titanium dioxide. Thanks for your info.

  2. Deb

    The problem I have with mica is that if you try to figure out what it actually is….you can find that mica is….a grouping or sheets of silica, aluminum and oxygen, or mica is also written as “a type of aluminum silicate”..
    So basically, everyone thinks breathing the silica is the issue- but how much aluminum is in the product and or getting absorbed?
    Pretty clear that aluminum is a neurotoxin these days in the research….so this issue frightens me.
    Can’t believe I used Bare minerals for like 10 years before I found out more about mica. All that time I scrupulously avoided aluminum in my care products.

  3. Her

    Wiki says for pneumoconiosis disease, “The reaction of the lung to mineral dusts depends on many variables, including size, shape, solubility, and reactivity of the particles. For example, particles greater than 5 to 10 μm are unlikely to reach distal airways, whereas particles smaller than 0.5 μm move into and out of alveoli, often without substantial deposition and injury. Particles that are 1 to 5 μm in diameter are the most dangerous, because they get lodged at the bifurcation of the distal airways.” Hard to say which minerals would cause this in makeup, and what exact particle size could cause an inflammatory response. Wish we knew more info about what is harmful and that companies were required to specify particle size range (as no company can guarantee all particles are exactly same size, i.e., it will be a range)

  4. Annie

    Talc mined for example in Italy has asbestos in it. There is no way to know, or for the manufacturer to know where the talc, bought from a distributor, is actually mined. These so called “natural” substances can be somewhat misleading and most certainly potentially toxic. Arsenic and lead for example, are elements created in nature too, but that doesn’t mean they’re not extremely hazardous.

  5. Mica

    I work a manufacturing job where the kind of mica inhalation is the based for the studies that show it’s bad to breathe it. We have huge gallon drums of the stuff that we use to powder pallets of compound multiple times a day. It coats every surface in the place. If you’re directly working with it you leave shimmering from the clouds it throws up. We spend 40 hours a week there. My point is, the little bit you’re breathing while you’re doing your makeup will be just fine. However I find powdered makeup to be to drying so whatever 💄

  6. Ela

    Pure + Simple makes my favourite foundation and skin care. Have you done Any research done on their foundation ?

  7. Debbie

    Great article!!! I too just started on the journey of finding safe cosmetics and have decided to make my own. The only colors I can’t find that are not a food stuff or herb is blue and purple. I have thought about trying dried flowers in these colors and crushing them down to a powder and then adding arrowroot powder and maybe a little water and use as eyeshadow. I have considered buying non-nano mica’s in blue and purple and mixing with the above ingredients too. I think as little as I really use make-up that the exposure would be minimum. Do you know of a good source for non-nano mica’s?

      1. debbiedoo1110

        The problem with buying ready-made is the cost. Also, since I don’t wear eyeshadow everyday I’m thinking I will find a good source for non-nano mica pigments and just experiment. Thanks for the reply.

  8. I was just looking into mica colors for soap making and have decided to pass on them based on your article. Thanks for the info! It’s so hard nowadays to know what to use and what to avoid!

  9. Brittany R.

    Hello, so I am pretty new to “safe/ organic makeups” and I just started my research and found a site called “Nudiskin Cosmetics” ( and they have a powder foundation that is titanium dioxide and mica free. Do you know anything about this brand and if it has any other ingredients that are potentially harmful? Has anyone reading my comment tried this product? I have sensitive combo skin that tends to break out with anything I put on it which is why I want to make the switch to something natural and non-harmful.

    1. debbiedoo1110

      Hi, Have you thought about making your own cosmetics? There are some great recipes out there using arrowroot powder, cacao powder for color, and some other optional ingredients. I’m just starting my journey making my own foundation, blush, eyeliner and eyeshadows. It is so much cheaper than buying one ounce of foundation for $50!!! The great thing is most of the ingredients are edible so completely safe for the skin too!!

        1. debbiedoo1110

          Yeah, I hear you. For those that are really sensitive to numerous things it makes it really hard. My thought is you know exactly what you are mixing together instead of buying something with ingredients that you can’t pronounce!!! I’ll let you know how my mixtures come out!

            1. Sibrina

              You make your own perfumes? Are they available or can you direct me to instructions? I’ve just started delving into this topic! Thank you sooooooo much! 🙂

    2. Sarah

      I recently tried the makeup from Nudiskin Cosmetics and I’m in love with it. I’m sensitive to Mica and decided to try both of their formulas, the mica free and their titanium dioxide and mica free. Before ordering I checked the ingredients against the EWG database and all the ingredients were found safe. Once I tried the makeup on my skin, right away i noticed that I didn’t even feel like I had makeup on. The mica free foundation seems to have slightly more coverage than the titanium dioxide and mica free foundation. I have been using the foundation that does not have mica or titanium dioxide more often and I don’t know if it’s because the foundation is so “clean” or if it’s because they include aloe vera in their foundation but I have not had any irritation on my skin and I find that the little bumps that I usually get on my forehead are going away. So far I am really liking their makeup and definitely recommend it.

  10. Nouf

    Thanks for your effort!
    I noticed some ingredients are okay when in liquid foundation for example and not good as a powder and vice versa ..can you make a list please?

  11. jolanda

    What do you think of epic mineral cosmetics?
    and how about the ingredient ultramarine blue and boron nitride?
    Thank you very much!

      1. jolanda

        Thank you very much for your quick reply!
        The reason I am asking as Epic Cosmetics states that their products may contain ultramarine and/or boron nitride.
        Like you I say I am a bit concerned about these ingredients looking at the information of the EWG skindeep database.
        I emailed Epic Cosmetics asking them which products do contain ultra marine/boron nitride.
        And I asked them as well about their iron oxides in the products

        What do you think of the brand Rejuva Minerals?
        Their raspberry blush does not contain mica, ultramarine, titanium dioxide. Their conceiler does contain boron nutride but they say its from a natural mineral.

        Right now I use Au naturale cosmetics. I am quite satisfied with it, buttt it does contain mica..
        I am considering switching to Epic, but first waiting if they have ultramarine free products! As I think mica and ultra marine are both not nice!

        Very confusing all of this and a lot of research and research!

        Is their any clear/perfect chemical free brand??

          1. jolanda

            Thank you very much for your reply!
            The conceiler from Rejuva Minerals is a dry product with boron nitirde, so I guess not that good….
            The conceiler from Au naturale is a liquid product, but does contain mica.
            Epic answered me by email and most of their products are ultra marine and boron nitride free, they emailed me a list.
            They will be launching conceilers soon, so wait and c what is in them;))

        1. Barbie

          I have avoided ultramarines and use Epic Mineral Beauty and am really loving it. They say they have ulramarines in just a few products that have ‘purple’ to them. So not a lot of products considering they seem to have a ton of options. A couple blushes have it, when I emailed them to ask. I highly recommend!!

          1. Anonymous

            Yes you are right, that is what they answered to me as well..
            just waiting for them to amplify their products with conceiler etc

          2. jolanda

            You are right, they answered to me as well by email.
            Just waiting for them to amplify their products with conceiler etc

  12. jolanda

    what do you think of epic mineral beauty?
    and what about the ingredient ultra marine blue and boron nitride?

    thank you!

    1. Barbie

      Also, doesn’t Epic Mineral Beauty use boron nitride in the bronzers but not anything else? I found that reassuring and just use one of their foundations as a bronzer too.

  13. The problem with mica too is that the majority of it is a product of child slavery. Very few companies can or are willing to produce information about how their mica is sourced. I know because I’ve emailed all my favourite vegan & natural brands and only a couple of them have given me proper answers. DeVita have a whipped liquid foundation that is mica free, but that is the only decent one I’ve been able to find. I settle for others that contain mica from verified legal sources like 100% Pure whose supplier is from a mine in India where the workers are adults and have a union.

  14. I was just looking into mica colors for soap making and have decided to pass on them based on your article. Thanks for the info! It’s so hard nowadays to know what to use and what to avoid!

  15. Gege O

    This is all so very helpful. I am currently looking at Epic Mineral Beauty. ( They say mica free, titanium dioxide free, talc free, bismuth free, nanoparticle free, carmine free, zea mays free, propylene glycol free, dimethicone free, coal tar free, phthlate free, paraben free, bht & bha free, gmo free, fragrence free, gluten free, cruelty free, no synthetic anything, no coated particles, and nothing artificial.

    The list of what they say is not in their products is huge.
    It is looking promising but I noticed that you said synthetic iron oxides are the safe ones, not the natural iron oxides due to metals.

    Anyway, I am trying to figure out what is in their products since so much is not in them. LOL!

  16. Melissa

    You mention four brands above (Alima pure, lily Lola, everyday minerals and inika). What products do you trust from each? Or would I be ok if I ordered all my makeup from one of these brands? Also, what brand do you use for skincare such as face cleanser, face scrub, toner, and moisturizer? Thanks for your help.

  17. WhatILookLike

    The easiest answer for me is to forget about makeup. I no longer wear it, but still hope to find some with no mica, no iron oxide and none of the crud you’ve mentioned. Or make my own. For now, clean feels so much better.

  18. Amy

    Can we say powders containing silica is somehow better than mica?
    Or are they the same?

  19. Melody

    I loved the article and was wondering what you think of make up with iron oxides?

    I found some all natural eyeliners without mica but they have iron oxides for coloring is that safe?

  20. Love Nature

    Hey there, I must say its a great piece of information you gathered. I completely agree with you. I prefer home made makeup products that you can make it yourself by using different colors of clay, natural stuffs like cocoa powder, turmeric, arrowroot powder etc. Theres no point in discussing over which company uses non-evil ingredients for their products, ofcourse they use some of it, if not all of it. The best makeup can be made at home which you can wear all the time without any concern. I make my own, both in powdered and liquid form. I heard no complaints yet. I wish you all the best for your posts and research!

      1. cran

        I actually came here because I have been exhausted with searching and searching for answers regarding the safety of mica, titanium dioxide, and iron oxides in almost every lipstick I’ve found – except for some fruit dyed 100% Pure lipsticks. Ingesting the chemicals in lipstick seems just as harmful as breathing in the powder you speak of in this very helpful article. Can you point me in the direction of more info regarding safe or harmful pigments/ingredients in lipstick? So far I’ve concluded the best way to avoid mica, etc. is fruit dyes for pigment! Might even have to make some myself with berries and beet root powder.

  21. Emily Marie

    Do you know anything about Ecco Bella products. They use Mica, titanium Dioxide, etc but on their faq they say that hey do not use nanotechnology.

  22. Emily Marie

    Hi!! This article is really helping me. I’m trying to figure out of Gabriel Cosmetics is a safe brand to use. On their website they state this : “formulated free of Nano/Micro sized particles” – their products contain Titanium Dioxide, Mica, And Zinc Stearate so what does their statement mean? Are their products safe? What would you say? Specifically their eye shadow. Thanks

  23. Jamie

    I noticed that you rave about EM makeup but when I went to check it out (because I’m freaking out now about my BM makeup and don’t want to use it anymore) the EM website states they use Mica. Why do you still use it? Is it a safe amount? Thanks!

  24. Anonymous

    so what mineral make up do you feel most comfortable using because of the ingredients and NON nano-particles?

  25. Hello! Interesting article; I’m a makeup artist and beautician so this is all relevant information for me.

    How do you find the mineral makeup + moisturiser combo? How buildable is that coverage? And does your favourite mineral makeup have a shiny finish? I’ve only tried Bare Minerals but cannot bring myself to use it; too shiny and gathers in fine lines.

    Lastly, due to my background in skincare I’m also curious as to whether you have resumed using your moisturiser? I’ve wondered about many of those chemicals!

  26. […] My personal solution: I have sworn by pure oils and liquid soap, but got obsessed with this super-efficient, gentle Pai Skincare cream cleanser lately. If the musslin cloth feels too harsh on certain days, I use a Konjac sponge instead. For makeup, I use the Everyday Minerals Jojoba Base in ‘Cream’ that I apply with a wet brush to avoid breathing in the dust. […]

  27. elainne

    I like Epic Mineral Beauty. They don’t use titanium dioxide or mica. Had a hard time getting them on the phone but when I finally did their customer service is great. They email fast. (I sound like a needy customer? Haha) I love the powders…they seem to help my cystic acne and cover well unlike another brand I tried that seemed decent. No bismuth in Epic Mineral Beauty either. What is everyone’s understanding of rice powder? Is organic safe? Like cornstarch I have heard multiple viewpoints about it…thx

  28. Sheena Dean

    Thank you for this!!!!!! I have avoided wearing even ” natural,” & ” organic” bc they all contain lung contaminates…Including serecite! I mean every product from the foundation to the lip liner, eye products, cheeks,… everything. Have you looked into serecite? It is just as bad as mica, & even rice powder is a possible contaminate bc the rice itself that is used in makeup or by itself, has been contaminated with chemicals. Ugh, so discouraging as I don’t enjoy arrow root powder on my face, but I need something non toXic to take away the shine from the only perfect sunscreen I could find…Badger spf 35. I hacen’t found a sunscreen that protects as well as this one & it is important bc I live in the California dessert…I am getting a double whammy or very dry air & blazing sun. The badger is a good protector, but it is tiring bc I have to mix iron oxides with it & then take the shine out by applying with a brush: Arrow root, but it is way too drying, so I am looking into corn starch & maybe kaolin clay… Thank you again for this article!!!

      1. Din

        Somehow I missed this post completely. Anyway, sometimes the extra shine, especially during the summer season, requires some powder, but usually I am totally fine using the blotting paper you recommended some time ago.

    1. elainne

      Does cornstarch harbor bacteria? Like I mentioned, Epic Mineral Beauty uses rice powder, and I am hoping it is unlike cornstarch?

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