Natural cosmetics put a new face on makeup
Vicky Uhland n the family of related concepts, “natural” and “makeup” are definitely not kissing cousins. Because makeup creates an artificial beauty, it’s not always popular with dedicated naturals consumers. But as age spots begin to appear on even the healthiest faces and as new, younger customers wonder why they can’tfind lip gloss in their local natural foods store, manufac-
turers are responding. Naturals companies are introducing everything from mineral foundations to beeswax-based mascaras to lipsticks that give a whole new definition to earth tones. Natural makeup got a boost when mineral-based foundations, blushes, eye shadows and powders hit the shelves a few years ago, says Paula Alexander,director of U.S. marketing for Durham, N.C.-based Burt’s Bees, which makes natural lip glosses and
shimmers. Consequent customer demand has resulted in additional formulations. “As more and more naturals manufacturers are pushing to find more natural minerals or pigments for makeup, the supply is increasing,” she says. “There was an amazing supply increase in the last year.” Although naturalmakeup is not a booming segment of the overall personal care market, sales are growing. SPINS, a Schaumberg, Ill.-based market research
firm for the natural and organic sectors, reports that between July 2007 and July 2008, natural makeup sales in natural foods stores increased about 5 percent, from $16.1 million to $16.9 million. Still, some retailers and their customers greet natural makeups withskepticism. Questions abound: How can a makeup truly be natural? How does it differ from its conventional counterparts? And most importantly: Will it really work? To answer these questions, we asked manufacturers to deconstruct their labels and explain how their natural makeups are formulated and how they contrast with department-store offerings.
The basics of bases
Conventionalfoundations, the base coat for the face, can be a liquid or powder. They contain ingredients such as boron nitride (made from boron and nitrogen atoms), bismuth oxychloride (a heavy-metal pigment), dimethicone (a silicone polymer) and talc (a mineral) to create a smooth base, according to Karen Ress, national sales director for Tampa, Fla.-based Aubrey Organics, which makes natural foundations, blushes andlip tints. Although the Environmental Working Group concludes that these ingredients have low toxicity, some studies show they can irritate the skin. In addition, Ress points out that these ingredients are nonnutritive and therefore don’t benefit the skin. Aubrey’s Silken Earth Translucent Bases are made from silk powder, which comes from crushed silk cocoons. “Silk has an amino acid compositionthat is almost identical to skin. [It also] has antimicrobial and protective qualities,” Ress says. “It is a costly ingredient compared to inexpensive fillers that have no nutritional benefit to the skin.” Other natural powder makeups use mica as a base. This mineral gives the foundation a smooth finish, along with a little shimmer. Look also for waxes, like the Brazilian-palm-based carnauba wax,which helps the minerals adhere to the skin. For customers who prefer a nonpowder foundation, Montclair, N.J.-based Ecco Bella makes a creamy mineral foundation infused with flower waxes, which are created during the distillation process for essential oils. “The flower waxes act like roller balls surrounding the pigments,” says company founder Sally Malanga. “They act like a barrier against theskin, keeping the color on the surface, which makes it stay truer and last longer.” Natural foundations also contain ingredients designed to nourish the skin. While conventional makeup formulators may mix some antioxidant vitamins into their foundations, natural makeups go further. Ecco Bella’s foundation, for instance, contains the skin-boosting herbs comfrey, chamomile, St. John’s wort and...