You usually think of minerals when you buy vitamins. Yet, these days, you're just as likely to find them at the makeup counter.
Companies like Bare Escentuals, Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics and GloMinerals now offer a wide range of makeup made from crushed minerals such as mica, titanium dioxide and iron oxides.
These types of makeup offer broad UV protection, they are non-irritating, they are anti-inflammatory and they provide coverage for skin conditions like acne and rosacea.
Mineral-based cosmetics have been around since Cleopatra and her kohl eyeliner. In the 1980s, people used the ocher crushed powder of 'Indian Earth' to get a glow.
But they resurfaced in the 1990s as companies rediscovered the benefits.
One of the companies responsible for their renewed popularity is Bare Escentuals, a San Francisco-based company that sells its bareMinerals line of mineral-based cosmetics on QVC as well as Bare Escentuals 18 retail stores, Ulta stores and in many spas. It also uses infomercials to tout its products.
"We're basically using crushed rocks," said curlyhead Leslie Blodgett, chief executive of Bare Escentuals. "That's why it's so gentle to the skin. It's like a treatment."
Blodgett, veteran of the cosmetics industry, went to Bare Escentuals nine years ago worked to improve the existing line.
That meant changing the formula, reshading it, repackaging it and expanding the selection.
"It wasn't fashion forward in any way," Blodgett said. "We needed to bring it up to the times. We wanted a makeup that doesn't feel like you're wearing makeup," she said. "We want a makeup that protects you and improves your skin over time."
In addition to foundations, eye shadows and blushes, the line includes special brushes designed to work with minerals.
Blodgett said sales have doubled over the past year, despite overall flat sales in the cosmetics industry.
Jane Iredale started as a casting director, working in television commercials and movies with such actresses as Lauren Hutton, Jacqueline Smith and Cybill Shepherd. She also had her own production company and produced over 50 programs for PBS and HBO.
Throughout her career, she worked with the best makeup artists in the field. She wanted to create a makeup line that not only looked good but benefited the skin. Mineral-based cosmetics are made without fillers and binders and without chemical dyes and preservatives. She formed Iredale Mineral Cosmetics in 1994.
GloMinerals were developed in 1999 by Robin Silber-McGee and Ange Gerhart. They determined mineral-based makeup provided the best coverage and UV protection and began cultivating the best attributes of innovative product lines.
"Mineral cosmetics still comprise a relatively tiny share of the overall industry. But that could change," Blodgett said. "Many customers say they can't go back to traditional makeup."