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Eco-friendly mineral make-up

G Magazine

Make-up that rocks!

Mineral make-up eyeshadows

Credit: Louise Lister

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From the times of ancient Egypt, when Cleopatra outlined her eyes with kohl, women have used make-up as a means of enhancing their features.

But where our ancestors once used natural ingredients such as herbs, roots, essential oils, flowers and minerals, today's cosmetics are often more likely to contain a cocktail of chemicals that sound like they'd be better suited to a plastics laboratory.

Unfortunately, you're just as likely to be putting petrochemicals, preservatives, parabens and paraffin on your face as you are to be putting them in your petrol tank - in fact, it's estimated that the average woman will swallow approximately two kilograms of petroleum in her lifetime just from wearing lipstick.

Make-up wake-up

If that's not enough to make the cosmetics industry seem decidedly ugly, the list of environmentally hazardous ingredients certainly is.

Even the non-petrochemical components can have you reaching for the cleanser.

Palm oil for example, an ingredient you're likely to find in soap, moisturiser and lipstick, takes a significant toll on rainforest wildlife such as orang-utans in Borneo and Sumatra, while 'lanolin' and 'carmine' sound innocuous, but are actually animal by-products (of sheep and insects respectively).

Incredibly, the preservative BHA - which you'll find in many cosmetics, most commonly lipstick and eyeshadow - has not only been proven to bioaccumulate in the tissues of organisms and in aquatic ecosystems, but is, according to the US National Institute of Health, "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen".

Add in the still-common practice of animal testing and the use of crude oil derivatives in everything, and you've got yourself a devastating equation.

Earth-ware

Thanks to a growing number of ethical cosmetics companies and a rising awareness of the need for sustainability, there is a middle ground between going au naturel and having a bathroom cabinet full of environmentally damaging products.

Mineral make-up is different from its conventional cousin for a number of reasons, but the most obvious is in its name - it's made entirely from crushed, sterilised minerals.

Apart from being much less reliant on crude oils (there is still some involved in grinding the minerals), mineral make-up contains no talc, mineral oil, alcohol, artificial colours, synthetic dyes or parabens - which means you're getting none of the pollution, animal testing, or embodied energy associated with conventional products.

Removing these ingredients from the manufacturing process also means removing a ghastly list of potentially toxic chemicals from your skin routine, and from the water system when you wash it off - so you can forget about polluting your body and our waterways.

"Reported allergic reactions are rare, too," explains Jodye Strickland, owner and founder of Australian mineral make-up company Earthy Essences.

"That's because there's no fragrances, dyes, and preservatives, while the main ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, actually create a natural sunscreen for the skin."

Earthy Essences is vegan friendly, certified cruelty free, uses certified organic ingredients, recyclable plastics for packaging and is in the process of switching to corn-based labels.

Better still, she says, it's also extremely concentrated, which not only benefits your wallet, but means "better things for the planet".

We're worth it

Of course, as the minerals themselves come from the planet, mineral make-up isn't entirely without effect on our Earth.

But while many minerals require intensive mining, mineral scientist Bob Flann points out that, "the minerals used in make-up are not really mined, they're simply dug up."

"So if you wanted to consider the total energy in the 10 grams of powder in a make-up container," he says, "the manufacturing process for the packaging would generally be a heck of a lot more energy intensive than that of the ingredients themselves!"

Solve this issue by purchasing from companies that make use of recycled materials for their packaging and marketing materials, Flann says, and you're lessening your footprint by a long way.

Then, enjoy the beautiful colours of Mother Earth in your bathroom, as well as in your backyard - because you, and our Earth, are worth it.