Does this scenario sound familiar?
You’ve worn traditional makeup for years with little to no irritation. Upon hearing about the benefits of mineral makeup, you decide to give it a try. After all, it claims to be better for your skin and healthier overall so what have you got to lose? And if you’ve never been able to wear traditional makeup without irritation mineral makeup sounds like the answer you’ve been looking for.
You buy your first jar and begin wearing it immediately.
Except… you’re having a reaction you’ve never had before to makeup. Your skin may be red, irritated, itching, having small bumps or pustules, burning or looking swollen. What is this? How can mineral makeup cause such an extreme reaction?
That reaction is likely caused by the ingredient bismuth oxychloride (b.o.). While it is a common ingredient in traditional makeup, as well as mineral makeup, it is used in much higher concentrations in mineral makeup. Mineral makeup lacks traditional fillers (talc, mineral oil, aluminum powder, alcohols and parabens) so with fewer ingredients, including bismuth oxychloride, each has a greater proportion in the recipe.
Why Is It Used In Makeup?
It is not the most expensive ingredient, nor is it the least expensive. It is, however, an industry standard and very common. It also gives a visible sheen to the makeup, so it’s good at refracting light and that helps draw attention away from, and camouflage, fine lines, wrinkles and minor discolorations. That’s a great selling point for makeup.
What Is It?
B.O. is an inorganic white pigment, and usually comes in two forms: diamond and pearl finishes. The diamond is shimmery and the pearl is more matte. Its formula is BiOCl.
Bismuth occurs naturally, but in very small amounts. Most of it produced in the USA is as a by-product from refining lead, tin, copper, silver and gold ores.
Once the bismuth has been harvested it is further refined through several processes to remove dangerous elements like lead. Then it is chlorinated, which results in bismuth chloride (BiCl3). It still poses a severe risk at this point, smelling of hydrochloric acid. When bismuth chloride is combined with water, it starts to decompose and part of the chlorine is replaced by oxygen from the water. This process is called hydrolysis. The remaining compound is bismuth, chlorine and oxygen; Bismuth oxychloride.
Is It Safe To Use?
Bismuth oxychloride is a product that is FDA approved for use in products for the face, eyes, lips and nails. It is a very common and popular ingredient in both traditional and mineral makeup. However, skin irritation from bismuth oxychloride is not unusual.
It is also imperative that it be free from toxins when it hits the market. The FDA does have standards outlining this, and in their Electronic Code of Federal Regulations they dictate the composition must be free of impurities except lead, arsenic, volatile matter and mercury in specific amounts and must be 98% bismuth oxychloride.
Buying from countries with less stringent laws may result in increased health risks, so it is wise for companies to buy from highly regulated countries, like the US and Canada.
Should I Use It?
This is a very personal question. Are you are happy with your current makeup and are suffering no ill effects? Would you feel more comfortable using makeup without it? Do you find that you have to buff minerals with it as an ingredient into your pores or they are more obvious, and this is irritating your skin? Have you found using mineral makeup without it causes your skin relief and the reaction clears up?
These are all questions to ask yourself when deciding to purchase a brand with bismuth oxychloride as an ingredient. There are many good products available, offering the same benefits as products with b.o., but without the ingredient itself.
Beauty Bliss Cosmetics does not use bismuth oxychloride in any of our products.