mineral powder of different colors with a brush for make-up

Mineral makeup used to be only found in spas, salons or specialty stores. Today mineral makeup is found on drugstore shelves, making it easily available to everyone. Mineral makeup comes in foundation, blush, lipstick and eye shadows. With a majority of mineral makeup being in loose powder form, concern has arisen about its safety if inhaled.

Potential for Inhalation

Mineral makeup is any form of colored makeup that contains minerals. This type of makeup comes in cream or liquid form and loose or pressed powder. The main ingredients found in mineral makeup are mica, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. These minerals are not inhaled in the cream or liquid forms. However, there is a risk of inhalation while using powdered mineral makeup.

Mica Risks

Mica is used as a colorant in cosmetics to help achieve a pearly or glittery finish. Mica is not a mineral itself but a group of silicate minerals. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) for mica is 20 million particles per cubic foot of air per eight-hour block of time. Mica does affect the body if inhaled. Symptoms of overexposure to mica dust particles are the lung disease pneumoconiosis, coughing, dyspnea, weakness and weight loss.

Titanium Dioxide Risks

Titanium dioxide is a mineral found in many cosmetics and skin-care products, including mineral makeup. It is also a natural sunblock. The PEL for titanium dioxide total dust particle is 15 milligrams per cubic meter of air per eight-hour period. Inhaling titanium dioxide over many years has the potential to cause slight lung fibrosis. Inhaling amounts of this mineral over the PEL can be fatal and according to OSHA it was responsible for one of 20 occupational fatalities reported to the Poison Control Center in 2001.

Zinc Oxide Risks

Zinc oxide is a white powder mineral, and like titanium dioxide it is also a natural sunblock. It is used in mineral makeup as a colorant and natural sunblock. OSHA's PEL for zinc oxide is 15 milligrams per cubic meter of air per eight-hour period. Potential symptoms of zinc oxide overexposure include metal fume fever, a metallic taste in the mouth, headache, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and lower-back pain.


While the main mineral ingredients in mineral makeup have potential serious pulmonary health risks, this occurs if too much of the mineral dust is inhaled over a period of years. OSHA's PEL for these minerals is based upon continual exposure over an eight-hour period. The potential for overexposure while using powdered mineral makeup is minimal. However, if you have accidently inhaled a large amount of mineral makeup at any given time and experience any chest tightness or difficulty in breathing, you should consult your doctor.