In recent years, there has been a dramatic rise in the popularity of topically applied products that are labeled as being “mineral.” This may be considered a manifestation of a larger trend: the tendency of consumers, especially those who fall within the Baby Boomer and Generation X age demographic, to make lifestyle choices that they perceive as being “natural” or “healthy.” Over the past decade, make-up that is described as “mineral” has become the fastest growing sector in the multi-billion dollar facial cosmetics market. “Mineral” make-up has been cited as the biggest growth driver of that market,1 with a tenfold greater projected growth (30 percent) than that predicted for the whole genre of color cosmetics (three percent). A casual walk through a local department store or drug store provides strong corroborating evidence for these statistics, in a plethora of make-up products poised to capitalize on the demand by including the word “mineral” somewhere in their labeling or their accompanying signage. However, although many of these products contain one or a few mineral ingredients, they frequently also contain ingredients, such as talc, dyes, fragrances and preservatives, that were eschewed by the original formulators of mineral cosmetics. Claims that these products are a healthier or more natural alternative to conventional make-up are rather analogous to the positioning of “clear” sodas as a wholesome substitute for traditional carbonated drinks.
Given that the majority of female patients who consult us use at least some type of make-up, it is perhaps not surprising that many of them seek our advice in this regard. Even those who do not inquire directly may benefit from the recommendation of medically appropriate make-up; in the absence of physician instruction, they may resort instead to the use of products that are comedogenic, allergenic, or otherwise detrimental to skin health. Such products may actually counteract the beneficial effects of the therapy we have prescribed or the procedures we have performed. In my practice, I have found the use of medical grade mineral cosmetics by my patients to be of benefit by decreasing down time after aesthetic procedures and promoting compliance with sun protection.
Decreasing Down Time
The definition of what constitutes down time varies from patient to patient. Some may be relatively sanguine about temporary ecchymosis or erythema after a minimally invasive “lunch time” procedure, such as injection of a neurotoxin or filler or treatment with a nonablative fractional laser. However, for most, the expectation is that they will be able to return to normal activities immediately without social embarrassment. Patients may opt to postpone procedures that they desire due to concerns about down time, or, worse, they may be dissatisfied with a procedure that has been highly successful from a technical point of view because their expectations have not been fulfilled in regards to down time. It is difficult for patients to visualize the end result of a procedure in this situation. Patients tend to perceive a procedure as more successful when the wounds, however transient, are covered effectively. They may even receive a psychological boost when the visible signs of pain or skin irritation are reduced.
As clinicians, our challenge is to provide these patients with a means of camouflaging the aftermath of a procedure without sabotaging its ultimate outcome. A medical-grade mineral powder foundation can be applied immediately after an injectable (Figs. 1-3) or nonablative fractional laser procedure (Fig. 4) or once epithelialization has occurred following treatment with a more ablative laser procedure. The absence of the carriers, emollients and fragrances found in conventional make-up renders mineral cosmetics less irritating to fragile post-procedure skin.
A number of the ingredients used in mineral cosmetics provide broad-spectrum protection against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Those that provide high levels of UV protection can be utilized as physical sunblocks to protect skin during the healing process after a procedure. This can reduce the duration of post-procedural erythema and may also decrease the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, especially in patients of color. Patients with acne or rosacea who have been prescribed photosensitizing medications such as oral tetracyclines or topical retinoids may also benefit from non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic mineral cosmetics that provide both sun protection and camouflage. Recent studies suggest that titanium dioxide, a primary mineral sunscreen active, may also act as a catalyst or photocatalyst to provide antimicrobial activity.3 For patients with acne excoriée, “covering the wounds” with a protective layer of non-comedogenic make-up may make them less likely to traumatize their lesions (Figs. 5,6).
I have found that the recommendation of mineral sunscreen tends to promote compliance with sun protection since these products are in the form of lightweight powders that are easily portable. They can be carried onto the sports field and also onto airplanes since they are non-liquid, and can be re-applied quickly either over or under make-up. An additional benefit of certain mineral sunscreens is that they are very water resistant as defined by current FDA standards.