Is mineral makeup the safest starting point for sensitive skin? Judy Johnson finds out...
'Something on you, is something in you.' It's this quote from organic beauty shop Content Beauty & Wellbeing's website that made me sit up and pay attention. For while I'm cautious around skincare, makeup is where I fall down on my sensitive skin-savvy ways; it's where I experiment. I've always loved colour - I tried out every coloured eyeliner that I could lay my hands on during my teens; my bag of nail polishes is so heavy I can barely lift it; and give me anything that promises to illuminate and I'll have it on my cheekbones in a flash.
Because makeup is so easy to swap and change (a quick swipe with my favourite micellar and poof! it's gone and I can play again) I'd never thought of it as a big worry for my overly sensitive skin. But I have reacted in the past - from a department store's own-brand eyeshadow that left my lids puffy to a liquid eyeliner which was fine in vivid blue, but incredibly irritating in jet black. It's not a good look.
Make-up sinks into your skin just like your serums and creams do, and with more and more products promising to last longer or multi-task so well that you can drop a skincare step (BBs, CCs etc), the ingredients lists are no doubt getting longer; probably with likely irritants such as preservatives, fragrances and more. So if you're prone to those tell-tale prickles of sensitivity, what can you do?
Content Beauty and Wellbeing might just have the answer. A boutique store in the centre of London, they specialise in natural and organic products, offering expert advice, a shop full of handpicked skincare and make-up brands, and treatment rooms for when you need to indulge. And it was their mineral make-up brands that drew me in; cosmetics made with the most natural ingredients possible, chosen as much for their quality as for their earthly ethos.
Being so close to Harley Street, owner of the store Imelda explained that they'll often have customers walk in with a list of ingredients to avoid from their allergy tests, asking for advice on what they can use. You don't get that when you walk into Boots or Superdrug, that's for sure. Mineral makeup is by no means risk-free, though; sensitivity is such that you could still react to even the most natural of products. But it's the cleaner formulas that make it the safest bet, and a great place to start if you don't know your triggers, as Content's resident make-up artist Louise Dartford explains:
"Mineral makeup is a brilliant option for sensitive skin. It is often synthetic preservatives and fillers in make-up that can cause skin reactions or sensitivities; by choosing natural and organic makeup brands you may be already eliminating many of these ingredients. Natural brands will often have a shorter and more easily deciphered ingredients list, so you can pinpoint any triggers more easily."
If you're a little too attached to your beloved foundation or eyeliner, you can also pop into the store and hunt down a good mineral replacement with Louise's help - and there's no compromising on quality, either. On my visit, Louise explained that the new formulas are the best yet. 'It's the new generation of mineral make-up,' she says, taking me through the ranges, including W3ll People, Vapour, Ilia, RMS, Inika, and old-school brand Jane Iredale, the first line to hit the market with mineral benefits. These brands do more than just impress with their colours and textures - they can do your skin some good too with formulas that include zinc or oils.
"Minerals such as zinc may actually help to heal the skin, so can be great for skin that is suffering from a reaction, concealing and calming at the same time," Louise tells me. "W3LL PEOPLE have included ingredients such as organic aloe and organic chamomile in their mineral formulas, which can also be fantastic for sensitive skin, while RMS Beauty uses coconut and jojoba oil, two oils that have great benefits for skin. US brand Vapour uses anti-inflammatory Frankincense, antioxidant Tulsi and moisturising and calming Lotus flowers."
Louise, a professional make-up artist who has been on a mission to clean up her kit, offers make-up lessons in the shop using the mineral brands and it's well worth booking in for her tips alone. In just one session I learned where my blusher should start and finish for a natural radiance that helps to lift the eyes upwards, as well as the unspoken golden rule that foundation doesn't have to go everywhere - just use it where you need coverage and blend outwards so that your healthier skin shines through. Louise then set to work on my eyes and used her blending skills and a gorgeous inky pencil to create a navy smokey eye, before showing me how to add a bracket of black eyeliner at the corners to define without darkening the overall look.
The make-up didn't feel any different on my skin to my usual bag of tricks. But what had looked so innocent before is now laced with doubt in my mind, now that I know the difference between standard, chemical-filled cosmetics and cleaner, mineral brands. From now on my experiments with make-up will take on a different tone: a greener one.
My top 5 product picks
A gorgeous, natural looking blush in a gentle dusky rose hue.
A shimmering pink shade of creamy shadow that works perfectly for a subtle yet pretty daytime look.
A beautiful blue eyeliner pencil which blends seamlessly for a smokey, sultry eye.
A brilliant primer to plump up and even out skin before foundation or concealer appliation.
Use this creamy compact to conceal redness and dark shadows - my skin's never looked so radiant.