Mineral makeup has taken over at the beauty counter. It’-s the new buzzword in cosmetics and skincare, but what is it and what does it mean for your complexion?

It’-s made from finely ground minerals, like mica, titanium and zinc, hence the name. Mineral makeup has received a lot of attention because of the ingredients it doesn’-t have: fragrances, mineral oils, preservatives and parabens, which are all potential skin irritants and can be harmful. Minerals like titanium and zinc actually have skin healing benefits and are physical sun blocks. These two inert ingredients are anti-inflammatory and non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) which make them ideal for sensitive or acne-prone skin.  Add to this, the performance characteristics of mineral foundations such as its quick and easy application, its natural translucent effect, its wearability and durability- and it is easy to see why women the world over, are making the switch.

Although this may seem like a modern concept, makeup made from minerals is an ancient art. For millennia, men and women have been using ground rocks for body decoration. The famous dark-ringed eyes of the Egyptians were made with kohl, a charcoal dust made from burning almonds. The modern world caught on in the 1970′-s, when the counter-culture movement demanded a return to a more natural lifestyle. Three decades later, the idea has spread to both high-end and pharmacy brands. There are many options and a shade or formula to suit all skin tones and types.

As with any product you put on your body, be sure to take a look at the label. Some brands include inexpensive ‘filler’ ingredients that are not so kind to skin and can clog pores and irritate sensitive skin. Avoid brands with silicons, talcs or bismuth oxychloride on the label. Another concern with mineral makeups is the use of  “-nanoparticles”-. Nano is a unit of measure and is used to describe minerals that have been ground incredibly fine: to give you an idea, there are 1000 nanos in 1 micron. The worry with these teensy particles is that the powder is so fine it can be absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream.

Mineral foundations, blushes, bronzers and eyeshadows are available in many colors at every price point so everyone can enjoy the benefits. But before deciding on a brand be sure to check out the ingredients used and try to determine if nanoparticle ingredients are used. If they are, look for another brand.

Nanoparticles aside, Mineral makeup is a natural and healthy alternative to traditional cosmetics.