Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Is Mica Used In Mineral Makeup?

Today I would like to explain the different types of Mica found in mineral makeup and why it is used in most applications. Since some women can have a mica sensitivity I will also explain why we don't eliminate it completely from our formulations and why our products typically don't exacerbate this problem.

What Is Mica?

This is a naturally occurring mineral which has a natural composition of flat plate like structure possessing many earth tone shades providing the luminescent glow, sparkle, shimmer or a semi-matte appearance to products. All these variations are accomplished due to the finished product after the milling procedure. They create the reduced appearance of fine lines by reflecting light, giving a “soft focus” to the skin and were used centuries ago by the ancient Egyptians.

The mica is mined in sheets and then milled for density and structure depending on its planned use. It is extremely heat tolerant and helps to refract light keeping the skin cool. It comes in different micron sizes to be used dependent on if the formula is requiring semi-matte or a glittery finished look.

Improving Mica Quality

There are many in the mineral makeup kingdom that claim it is used for increasing adhesion in mineral powders. Well, the truth of the matter is its' adhesion quality is mediocre to poor in its simple raw milled form. It is great for adding bulk and texture to minerals, however unless surface treated, adhesion is somewhat lacking and is extremely flyaway.

Surface treatments for example are Carnauba Wax (thickener, binder), Magnesium Myristate (emulsifier, binder) or Perfluoroalkyl Phosphate (film former, binder). These are the most commonly used treatments. Others include Dimethicone (silicone oil) and Lauroyl Lysine (surfactant, binder). Micas coated with these treatments helps reduce dust, gives a certain finish to minerals and are capable of providing creamy texture, staying power, matte finish and oil absorption. In feeling these minerals between your fingers, you may notice a heavier, creamier texture yet the coatings used may not be listed on the label. And unfortunately these same coatings are what contribute to a caked look on the face if not careful with application.

Mineral Makeup Effect Created From The Use Of Mica

Mica is finely milled for most makeup application when it comes to a foundation. It is translucent by nature and can give shimmer or sheen to a product. Then once it is surface treated with that particular manufacturers' choice, then you get finishes that are anywhere from matte to a shimmery glow. Eye shadows are a prime example of different particle size of mica. A pearl to glittery finish can be achieved for that high glam look or a semi-matte with slight shimmer look can also be the end result.

No Mica....I Shudder To Think

Now this one is doing research over the years with different formulations, I found it was impossible to achieve the desired effect that is signature to giving that healthy glow to skin without the use of mica. Mica is responsible for giving depth to the face and preventing that dried out, flat appearance that you get with typical face powders or liquid foundations. Bismuth Oxychloride is also used for this purpose, but enough has been written about what the end result is with this ingredient. Mica is the safer alternative when used in the correct proportion.

In fact, when mica is used as a main ingredient, the finish can still be pretty shiny and depending on if it is treated and with what surface treatment, the staying power is not all that great and melt out can occur. Particle size is also a factor as to how much shimmer you wish to give the complexion.

I tried many particle sizes and surface treated mica and came up with a perfect balance. As I have written before, Methicone is my surface treatment of choice. Adhesion is excellent and it encapsulates the mica reducing friction and irritation caused by the micro fine sharp edges which are inherent with this mineral. I also am able to reduce the ratio of this ingredient since the type of Methicone I use creates a lovely subtle sheen which gives the face the impression you just had a facial leaving that freshly polished look to skin. Not overly shiny or matte....but just right!

My Minerals Are A Bit Sparkly

Some women notice that when they apply some minerals to the back of their hand or arm to give it a test before applying it to their face, they notice either a subtle shimmer or sparkle to the minerals. This is common with many mineral products especially if you take them out in sunlight. Tiny micro particles with gleam in the sun.

This is precisely the purpose of using mica. They act like tiny little mirrors reflecting light back away from the face giving that beautiful radiance we had when we were younger. Soft focus is the primary effect we want when we wear mineral makeup. We can get flat looking skin with any other kind of makeup if that is what we are going for so removing mica completely from mineral makeup defeats the purpose of using it.

Understanding Mica Shimmer

When applying minerals to the back of the hand or arm it is all going to depend on whether or not you just applied lotion or not. In most cases these parts of the body tend to be drier due to washing of hands and removal of creams or body oils. The powders will not only show a bit of shimmer but they will also appear more chalky.

This is why skin must be moisturized before applying mineral makeup. Since Mica is a flat platelet it will lay flat against any moisturized skin and do its' job at achieving soft focus. This is why for some women who are nervous about moisturizing skin that are prone to acne they will have a less desirable effect and be disappointed at the end result.

You can test it for yourself....apply it without moisture to the skin on your arm and then apply it after you moisturize or apply a makeup primer, the two different results will be quite dramatic. The mica on the moisturized or primer area will literally disappear against the skin....hence no more sparkle or shimmer yet beautiful depth of shade is the result. Or apply it to dry skin and then spritz over the top and the result will be the same. Color intensifies and the mica particles become part of the skins' surface.

You can achieve the same result with eye shadows. By spritzing distilled water over the color or applying with a moistened brush, the shimmer or sparkle will be reduced, however the color will be much more intense. This is why spritzing the face after applying your powders will intensify the shade and meld it with your natural skin tone immediately instead of waiting for nature to take its course with your own body oils. This method also works really well with Bronzer that may have a bit of a shimmer to it.

Other Brands Claim Of Using No Mica

Now this is an interesting claim and once again, either they don't know anything about product ingredients or they are not involved in the manufacturing process of their own product line.

When I read ingredient lists and the first ingredient is "Sericite" or "Serecite" yet this company claims "No Mica", you have to wonder if we are in the same industry or not, since they are one in the same.

Sericite is a super fine grained mica and its primary function is to achieve the more flat to matte finish in products. It's particle size can be reduced to 1-3 microns. Although this "may" help with mica sensitivity (no guarantee in high ratios) due to the refined nature of this ingredient, it gives me pause due to lung irritation and those suffering from asthma as in my case. Its adhesion unless treated is still the same as regular Mica....poor!

Micron size is very important to me and something I paid very close attention to when bringing my products to the market. As a person who suffers from allergies with bouts of mild asthma, I maintain a micron size of 5-8 on all ingredient fillers. Also the larger the micron size the better the coverage. This is why brands that use micronized minerals will not provide the coverage women want or need since this type of formulation goes on much more sheer. And smaller particle sizes also increase the risk of penetrating deep into the lung tissue.

For gaining a better understanding of micronized ingredients read the article Micronized Minerals vs Nonmicronized Minerals.

How Do They Get Colored Mica?

Mica by nature appears in many different colors and are typically greenish yellow, reddish bronze and golden brown when removed in its non-milled sheets. Once milled it takes on a grayish color to off white. It is then coated with one or more of these colorants of iron oxides, carmine, chromium oxide green, ultra marines, tin oxides combined with titanium dioxide to create adhesion to the mineral. The finished product is one of magnificence and luster.

Nothing is more involved with using this ingredient than eye shadows. So many different looks can be achieved with Mica formulated eye colors. In fact, Mica is my favorite ingredient to formulate with when creating my eye colors since I ogle all the beautiful luscious shades with different textures from low sheen to super sparkly. Usually by the time I am done playing with them, my arms and hands resemble that of a patchwork quilt of amazing color. Shower Time!

Also Mica is used to give lipstick and lip glaze their shimmer or shine which enhances a plumper fullness to the mouth. Recommended for women with thin lips rather than a matte shade. This is why I use Mica in all of my lip colors since lip color with a subtle shimmer will give a face a more youthful appearance and there is no better result.

Mica....Final Results

This is not an ingredient to be feared or shunned. Depending on its use and micron structure it is a very necessary ingredient for achieving optimum results. Many women who have been worried due to their reactions in the past have come to learn the differences through us and have now had exceptional results including the use of our eye colors.

What they once thought was mica creating their irritation problems actually was linked to an all mica formulation or if they dug deeper it was artificial colors or Bismuth Oxchloride. Dyes, lakes and in some cases Carmine (crushed Cochineal Beetle) will cause high sensitivity or reaction to the eye area and should be avoided at all costs.

Colored and surface treated Micas are the definitive answer for the ultimate in a flawless complexion with superior results.


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