Mineral Makeup: What to Look For When Buying

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

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.

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About the Reviewer


Christine has normal-to-dry skin with areas of dryness (cheeks, nose, and under the eyes). She has a light-medium skintone with subtle, warmer yellow undertones. Her best foundation matches include: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea in Light-Medium Neutral (best match), Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in Desert Beige 2N1, Giorgio Armani Maestro Glow in 4.0, Hourglass Warm Ivory Vanish Seamless Finish, Laura Mercier Candleglow Soft Luminous in Dusk, MAC NC20/NC25, Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Liquid in Y305 (140). For more matches, please read our full Foundation FAQ. For more information on our review process, please read our Review FAQ.

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I believe I see Fyrinnae pictured!!! My all time favorite eye shadow brand.

Meow Cosmetics foundation has been a blessing for my acne-prone skin. Covers well, lasts all day and doesn’t irritate my skin. I just ordered my ‘winter’ shade last night.

I pretty sure Fyrinnae was one of the first brands Courtney/ Phyrra had bought.

Remember the old Everyday Minerals Courtney?…… Can I still be mad at them. lol

The indie brands I’ve kept are Sassy Minerals, Fyrinnae (close to 200 from them alone) and Naked Cosmetics and The All Natural Face and including some brand that no longer exist. T-T
I spent years and tones of money on indie eyeshadow samples during the experimenting days. lol About 90% of the shadows I use to own I’ve donated/given to people.

Courtney has a lot of great reviews on newer brands but I just CAN NOT buy anymore from these new companies.

This is such a helpful article! I especially like the tip on googling the company to see a variety of reviews and interactions… so important for smaller brands!

Do you have a list of indie companies NOT to buy from? I have had some horrors and I would really like to know who to stay far away from.
Having said that I loved this write up. I buy alot from BFTE and it is a GREAT company. Awesome customer service and great choices.
I’ll definately be checking out the ones mentioned as well.

not Phyrra, but a friend of hers. People like Glittersniffer, FaceFront and a few others. Phyrra herself has a “Banished” list that lists places she won’t shop.

Great post! I haven’t tried very many indie companies, but Meow Cosmetics has wonderful mineral foundations and Shiro Cosmetics has great eyeshadows. I check your personal list, and I’m really happy that they’re both on your “good guys” list 🙂

Thank you for this run-down on mineral makeup! Most of the indie brands I have bought from, it’s upon seeing your review. I know I’m a little lax in my research, so it’s good to know if I’m going to be a follower, it’s at least of someone paying attention!

YAY! Some love for Beauty from the Earth cosmetics!!!!!! They are defiantly one of my favorite online makeup companies! Their prices are very affordable, and the products are amazing!

Wow, thanks for the very detailed information on mineral cosmetics : ) I have always been a fan of mineral and loose eyeshadows because I always feel I get the best color payoff without any of the potential irritation of regular shadows. If you haven’t tried them yet, I HIGHLY recommended Sweet Libertine mineral eyeshadows. They are by far my favorite indie brand with lots of amazing custom blended shadows. And like you said above, the few shadows they have that are not in-house blends are clearly labelled! : )

Thank you so much for this article, Christine! I’m really trying to embrace mineral makeup so this is really helpful. I just checked all the ingredients on my mineral makeup lol 🙂
What happened with Everyday Minerals? All the links are longer valid on Phyrra’s site, I bought a sample pack of foundation minerals from them a while back but I haven’t used them yet. Was it an ingredient issue or CS issue?

Just to let you know, Pur Minerals is professional mineral makeup company, similar to Bare Escentuals but much smaller, that also legitimately advertises SPF protection in their foundation.

honestly i would love to try many of these but just cant because of all the controversy.. and i have no problem with talc–talc is a mineral too.. i would love to try fyrinnae [sp?] though.. still having issue with the base vs not having a base listed thing.. i iz kerfuffled =s did learn a few things.. tyvm <3

Great article! Helps people through the minefield of indie companies. I have a huge love of them as they offer products and colours than mainstream brands wont. But have also seen some horror companies *cough* LimeCrime *cough*

What i’d like to add though is in the UK and Europe, there are different laws regarding certain colours. (This is why some of Illamasqua’s lip colours are only available in the Europe. Also neon dyes for makeup are legal in Europe, which i’ve seen are not available in the US. So any UK indie makeup companies might be able to sell products that companies in the US wouldn’t be able to.

Great article Courtney! So glad to see you on Temptalia- you’re definitely my go-to expert on all things mineral!

One thing I thought I’d mention about the SPF in mineral makeup (all powders, really). I researched the issue for my site a while back, and learned something interesting. The amount of powder you have to use to get the SPF listed by the company is 1.2 grams EACH application. That’s about 14 times the amount most women use! That means that if the label says it’s an SPF 15, you’re probably only really getting an SPF 1!!! So basically, even if an SPF is listed, you still shouldn’t rely on your makeup to protect you!

I LOVE Phyrra! I check her blog many times a day. Her blog has definitely helped me expand my indie collection. I’ve ordered from Fyrinnae multiple times and Geek Chic Cosmetics because of her wonderful posts!

I’ve been looking to buy from indie cosmetics for awhile, but now looking at the ingredients list I’m wondering is a “Glycerin Base Humectant” a legitimate base for an eyeshadow? Hmmm…

This post was super helpful and well formatted! 🙂

That sounds like a binder. But, it’s certainly not an FDA compliant ingredient! They should be listing all of the elements that make up the humectant.

Thanks for this! I love getting into new indie companies; their products are so much more interesting than those of mainstream ones. Who made the lip gloss labelled “Dragonfly”? Looks interesting.

Much as I like Fyrinnae (very hard to get an order in) and Sugar Pill, I am not going to order another product without swatching. They never look like what it is shown on the web page. Your collection is adorable. I love love Pixie Epoxy….use it on all loose shadows.

I’m curious what shadows were not what they look like on the web page? All of my Sugarpill shadows have been just as I expected. Fyrinnae is a little more difficult though I know, as lighting can definitely affect their look.

Pixie Epoxy is definitely the best, I agree. 🙂

I used to buy from small companies pigments but since I found out that some were buying from TKB Trading company their micas and selling them at a higher cost and renaming each color. I got TKB micas and they are so beautiful…but I was really angry when I compaired TKB mica swatches to other companies just to find out that many of the small companies pigments were swatching the same. I think they were buying the micas and repackaging them with new names and there is nothing unique about this when I can go to TKB trading’s website and order one ounce of micas for 5 dollars compaired to 7-8 dollars for a 5 gram mica being called a pigment. I feel sorry for people who are not aware that many companies are doing this. I know because I have the product from the companies I bought from and the TKB micas.

The companies on my trusted list do not do that. The companies I dislike have been known to do what you’re talking about. If you look at Fyrinnae, for example, their colors are quite complex and there is nothing like them available from TKB.

Mmmm, Fyrinnae makes my heart happy. 😀 Awesome article–so detailed! This is so, so helpful. Although the only thing I could think of was “Lime Crime!”…and not in a good way!

Yay! I’ve been reading Phyrra for such a good while now, Courtney is definitely my go-to girl for indie companies, which I really love for makeup now. Courtney, you have done a wonderful job with this article!

Thanks for your reviews! I was a fan of Spell Cosmetics and have about 15 shadows, 8 lippys, 4 blushes, and their foundation. Love the shadows and the gloss, but the foundation looks like I put baby powder on my face. On your site it says “closed”. So did they go under?? To bad, their shadows were so pretty and like you said blended perfectly! My favorite blush is Candlelight Glow. It is the perfect hightlighter!

They didn’t go under, per se, but they did choose to close. I think they may sell wholesale. Elle from Spell had a lot of things going on. Her colors were pretty and I liked the formula.

Great useful post! I am just starting to explore the whole mineral and indie make-up world, and feel like a kid in a candy store now that I’ve realized how much variety there is to find 🙂

Wonderful article! I’m glad I found this because I love cosmetics to the point of addiction, however I have very sensitive skin that makes it extremely difficult to shop for cosmetics. I have one question: I recently had interest in making my own eyeshadows and blushes with natural mica and using natural primer or light silicone as a base. When I asked around about the companies such as TKB Trading, Conservatory and Coastal Scents, a friend that used to work for TKB said that she had concerns about the quality control of buying bulk products from these smaller suppliers. She said that there was an issue with the Pop Color line and that it was pulled because it was being sold as an all natural mineral product but was later found to have chemical dyes in it. Being that I have sensitivities to dyes this alarms me, that could have caused some skin reactions! I know some of these indie companies buy from these suppliers and there’s no way to really know if they are using Pop Colors or if any other bright colors are being mislabeled by the suppliers. Is there any lists of these indie companies that are known to NOT use Pop Colors in their formulations? Also with there being an oversight like that how can we be sure that the supplier is aware of what’s really in their products that they sell to the indie companies and consumers?

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