By Courtney, Indie & Mineral Makeup Expert
Courtney is the amazing talent behind Phyrra.net, which showcases a veritable treasure trove of looks and reviews, often focusing on indie brands and mineral makeup. She’s my go-to for all things in those areas! I reached out to Courtney to help me and readers like me understand more about indie brands–how can we make sure we’re buying from good companies and getting quality products (and not just repackaged ones)? You can also check out Courtney’s own tried and true list of brands she buys from.
When she isn’t blogging, you can find her with her much loved standard poodle (Phaedra) and pug (Maximus), gaming, or writing (about non-makeup, that is)! She’s not afraid to experiment with color, whether it’s her hair, lips, or on the eyes.
Mineral Makeup: What to Look For When Buying
I first got into mineral makeup in April of 2008. I didn’t know much about it at the time, so I started to try and find as much information as possible. Surprisingly, I didn’t find too many reviews (though some of the best ones I could find came from The Shades of U). This led me to decide to start a blog and write about my experiences with indie cosmetics. Through my trials and tribulations, I’ve learned a lot! I’ve interviewed company owners and experimented on my own. From my experiences over the past three years, I’ve compiled a list of tips to share on how to discern good products.
When you stumble across an indie company that you’re just dying to order from, before you hit that buy button, there are a few things you should do…
Look at the Type of Products Sold
While some great indie and mineral makeup companies only offer eye shadows, so do a lot of companies that merely repackage product. If you’re unsure of what repackaged products are, it’s where a company will buy products wholesale, mark it up 400% and put it into tiny containers to resell it to unsuspecting consumers as a handmade product.
I’ve got no problems with companies that sell unblended shades that are clearly denoted as such, but I often feel it’s duplicitous when a company sells unblended shades at a crazy markup and claims those are handmade when they don’t even add a base to the product. A lot of the great indie (independent) makeup companies out there sell not only eye shadow, but also blush, mixing mediums (Fyrinnae Pixie Epoxy, anyone?), foundation, and lip products. Lip products and foundations are usually a very positive sign of a legitimate company, because many people find creating both of those product lines to be labor intensive, so someone looking to make a quick buck isn’t likely to make either.
Do Your Research First!
First, Google the company name with the word review after it and see what people have to say. Sometimes, I’ve found a neutral or negative review on a product or customer service to be a deciding factor for if I will purchase. Positive reviews, as well as product swatches, are very helpful in deciding if the product is something I want to purchase, too. It is also helpful to see how an indie company handled a problem, like if someone had an item missing from an order, or to see how promptly a company responds to inquiries.
Next, Google the company name with the word repackaged after it. If nothing comes up, that’s usually a good sign. If repackaged links come up, see what people say. Some companies, as mentioned before, do sell some unblended colors. This means that they’re a stock shade, usually with a base added to it to make it a finished product. The most common colors to see that are repackaged are the Pops mica. Many companies have sold these shades.
If you’ve found a company that you’re interested in and they have some colors repackaged but others that are not, chances are they carry the repackaged colors due to customer request. Additionally, if the repackaged shades are a finished product, meaning they have a base added, they should be a good product to purchase and wear. Just be wary if a repackaged color doesn’t have any base ingredients listed!
Check out more tips to help you buy from reputable, quality indie brands and learn what ingredients to look for/avoid!
Look at the Ingredients Listed
This is potentially the most important tip I can share. There are so many companies on Etsy and Artfire right now that are violating FDA regulations by not listing any ingredients for their products. A company needs to list the ingredients for each and every product they sell. If a company lists ingredients such as ‘shimmer,’ ‘pigment,’ ‘frost,’ that’s not correct. Shimmer, pigment, and frost are NOT FDA-approved ingredients. You can find the full list of FDA-approved ingredients here.
Sometimes you’ll see companies touting how their products are made with 100% natural ingredients, but they don’t list the ingredients themselves. I would normally avoid a company like that. Now, sometimes people who are just starting out with a new company don’t know that you have to list ingredients. If you want to give the company the benefit of the doubt, you can try contacting the owner. I know that I’ve contacted a few companies who didn’t realize that they were not FDA compliant. They quickly changed their listings and resolved the issue.
To better understand what an ingredients list should look like for eye shadows, here are some examples of good eye shadows ingredients listings:
- Ingredients: mica, carnauba wax, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, tin oxide, boron nitride.
- Ingredients: Mica, Silica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Stearate. May contain: Iron Oxides, Manganese Violet, Tin Oxide, Ultramarines, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Blue #1, Red #40, Yellow #5, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Chromium Oxide.
- Ingredients: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide, Tin Oxide, Boron Nitride, Magnesium Myristrate
- Ingredients: Mica, Magnesium Myristate, Lauroyl Lysine, Silicon Dioxide, Dimethicone, Sericite Mica, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Stearate, Kaolin Clay, Allantoin, Carnauba Wax, propane/bisaminomethylnorbornane copolymer May contain: Iron oxide, Tin oxide, Titanium dioxide
- Ingredients: Mica (CI 77019), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Boron nitride May contain: Ferric Oxide (CI 77499, 77491, 77492), Nylon-12, Manganese Violet (CI 77742), Ultramarines (CI 77007, ), Hydrated Chromium Oxide (CI 77289), Chromium Oxide (CI 77288), Ferric Ferrocyanide (CI 77510), Nephrite Powder, Tin Oxide (CI 77861), (Silica (+) Bronze/Copper/Aluminum Powder), Tin Dioxide (CI 778161), Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Carmine (CI 175470)
- Ingredients: Mica 77019, Titanium Dioxide 77891, Blue #1 Al Lake 42090:2, Hydrogenated Polyisobutane, Palmitic Acid, Boron Nitride, Magnesium Myristate
For eyeshadows, you typically want to see ingredients like zinc oxide, magnesium myristate, kaolin clay, coated mica, zinc stearatae, carnauba coated mica, or silica, as those ingredients help an eye shadow to have lasting powder, as well as make them easier to apply and to blend. However, if they have too much of an ingredient, such as kaolin clay, they can be more difficult to blend, the color tends to be dull, and they become a hot mess if you try to foil the shade.
Here’s a few examples of the sort of ingredients listings you do NOT want to see:
- Ingredients: mica, May contain: titanium dioxide (Not a finished product. There’s no base listed.)
- Ingredients: mica, shimmer, glitter (Not using FDA-approved ingredients and no base listed.)
- Ingredients: minerals, mica, carmine, cornstarch (Not using FDA-approved ingredients and no base listed.)
Many times, these repackagers will claim to have created eye shadows with no fillers and no talc. Some emphasize that they’re 100% natural and made without preservatives. Other repackagers have made the claim of “What it is formulated WITHOUT: Parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes, petro-chemicals, phthalates” without actually ever listing ingredients. I tend to be amused by the ‘without fragrances’ claim, if only for the fact that I don’t believe I’ve ever purchased an eyeshadow with fragrance.
More on Ingredients
Talc, also known as hydrated magnesium silicate, often gets a bad rap in the indie cosmetic world. However, talc can be useful in mineral makeup in small doses. It has oil absorbing properties, it can add a bit of slip to a product to aid with blending, and it can help with adhesion. In fact, if you look at MAC eye shadow ingredients, you’ll see talc listed.
- Ingredients: Talc, Zinc Stearate, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Isostearyl Neopentanoate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol Eye Shadows may contain: Silica, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Bismuth Oxychloride, Carmine, Chromium Hydroxide Green, Chromium Oxide Greens, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Manganese Violet, Ultramarines, Blue 1 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake
An ingredient that is worthwhile to keep an eye on is bismuth oxychloride. It can help with adhesion and add a pearlescent semi-matte finish or a slight shimmer, but it can also make some people itch. It can irritate acne and rosacea, too. This is actually the first culprit I look for in an ingredient listing if someone contacts me and says that they’ve had a reaction to a product and they’re not sure why.
Carnauba wax, also known as copernicia cerifera, is a favorite eye shadow ingredient of mine! It makes a great eye shadow base or blush base, helping the product to have a creamy consistency, good pigmentation, and makes blending a dream.
Now, I’ve got a few other example ingredients listings for you to look at…
Indie mineral foundations can vary by whoever is making them, just like eyeshadows, but they tend to look very similar to the listings below. As with eyeshadows, I’d avoid any company that doesn’t list their ingredients.
- Ingredients: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Iron Oxides
- Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Kaolin, Magnesium Stearate, Silica
- Ingredients: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides
- Ingredients: Kaolinite (White Clay) (+/-) May contain: Zinc Oxide (CI 77947),Mica (CI 77019), Iron Oxides (CI 77499, CI 77491, CI 77492), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Manganese Violet (CI 77742)
- Ingredients: Oryza sativa (Rice) Powder, Kaolinite (White Clay) (+/-) May contain: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Zinc Oxide (CI 77947), Iron Oxides (CI 77499, CI 77491, CI 77492), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Manganese Violet (CI 77742)
One very important thing to know with indie foundation is that if they make an SPF claim, look at how it is worded. If it says something like ‘this offers great SPF protection,’ I personally am leery. If they say ‘this product does have titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which offers barrier protection, but that we can’t indicate a specific level of SPF’ that is fine. As of right now, the only mineral makeup company that I know of that can make a specific claim is Bare Escentuals. They paid a huge amount of money to get every single shade and every single formula that they offer tested. This is why only a very large company can do such testing. An indie company is just not likely to be able to afford to have every single shade in every single formula tested. So if you see one claiming the same thing as Bare Escentuals, be very wary.
Blushes are sometimes lip safe and cheek safe, but not eye safe, depending on their ingredients.
- Ingredients: Magnesium Myristrate, Carnauba Wax, Lauroyl Lysine, Mica, Palmitic Acid, Silicon DioxideHydrogenated Polyisobutene, May Contain: Bismuth Oxychloride, Iron oxide, Mica, Titanium Dioxide,Yellow #5 Al Lake, Tin oxide
- Ingredients-Magnesium Myristrate, Carnauba Wax, Mica, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Palmitic Acid May Contain: Iron oxide, Carmine, Titanium dioxide, Red #7 Ca Lake (This is not eye safe, but it is lip and cheek safe.)
- Ingredients: Magnesium Myristrate, Carnauba Wax, Mica May Contain: Titanium dioxide, Iron Oxide, Tin Oxide, silica (This is safe for all cosmetic use.)
- Ingredients: Red 28, Polyester 3 Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Magnesium Stearate.
- Ingredients: Boron Nitride, Serecite, Magnesium Myristate, Ultramarine Pink, Iron Oxides. (This is not lip safe.)
Lip products are a favorite of mine from the indie cosmetic world. Many indie companies tend to have unusual shades for their lipsticks, lip stains and glosses, which I love! It’s far easier to find purples, blues and greens in the indie world than in more mainstream cosmetics.
- Ingredients: Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Mica, Caprylic/Capric/Stearic Glycerides, Orbignya Oleifera (Babassu) Seed Oil, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Iron Oxides, Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E, as a natural oil preservative), Flavor (lip-safe fragrance). May contain: Titanium Dioxide, Tin Oxide, Manganese Violet, Synthetic Flurophogopite, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Red #28, Red #21, Red #27, Yellow #5, Blue #1, Red #40, Polyester-3.
- Ingredients: Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Sweet Almond Oil, Bee’s Wax,Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer. Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Tin Oxide, Silica and FD&C Yellow and Carmine.
- Ingredients: Castor Seed Oil, Olive Fruit Oil, Mangifera Indica Seed Butter, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glycine Soybean Lipids, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Lauryl Laurate, Carnauba Wax, Candillia Wax, Cetyl Stearyl Alcohol, Vitamin E, Aloe, jojoba oil, mango butter, Emulsifying Wax NF, Mica, Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides, Tin oxide
- Ingredients: Certified Organic Castor and Jojoba Oils, Avocado Oil, Organic Candelilla Wax, Cranberry Oil, Raspberry Oil, Passionfruit Oil, Carnuaba Wax. Also contains: Mica, Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Tin Oxide
- Ingredients: Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Mica, Vitamin E, Jojoba Oil, Almond Oil, and Mint extract. **May Contain: Carmine, Red #40 and/or Red 27.
By learning these simple, but powerful tips, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision when buying from indie companies.