Traditional vs. Mineral Makeup: What’s the Difference?

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Makeup has been around since ancient times, providing people with transformative powers to achieve the beauty ideal of the period they live in. In the older days, some cosmetics were made of materials that are now known to cause health issues and even death. Fortunately, the beauty industry is constantly evolving and developing new formulas that no longer include deadly elements like lead and arsenic.

The cosmetics industry is a billion-dollar industry that leaves women spoiled with choices. With endless variations of a single product, it’s daunting to pick the one that would best suit your skin and personality. However, in terms of ingredients at least, you can really boil it down to two: traditional and mineral makeup.

Mineral Makeup

Since ancient Egyptian times, men and women have used mineral makeup to make themselves look more appealing to the eyes of the people and their gods. People from these early civilizations used to line their eyes with black powders that are made from compounds such as manganese oxides, galena, iron oxide, copper oxides, and more. While some are toxic—like the galena, which is actually lead sulfide—others are still used to this day, such as iron oxide.

Conventional makeup made with synthetic ingredients has been dominating the market since the beginning of the 20th century. However, buoyed by the back-to-basics movement, affordable organic mineral makeup is increasingly making a comeback. The movement emphasizes skin health, so it’s no wonder women—especially those with sensitive skin—are choosing to go natural.

Pros of Mineral Makeup:

  • The ingredients in true mineral makeup come from nature, and these are milder on the skin than their synthetic counterparts. As such, people with sensitive skin can benefit from choosing mineral over conventional makeup.
  • Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide contained in mineral makeup are actually physical sunblock ingredients that prevent the UV rays from penetrating the skin.
  • Mineral makeup’s zinc oxide is an anti-inflammatory that calms the skin, preventing irritation and rashes.

Cons of Mineral Makeup:

  • It has a limited color range. Since the ingredients are limited to organic elements, expect to find fewer color varieties when you choose mineral makeup.
  • If applied incorrectly, the makeup may appear cakey, especially with oily skin. As powdered mineral absorbs oil, you might have some slight clumping as well.
  • In general, mineral makeup may not last as long as traditional makeup since it doesn’t contain binders and waterproofing ingredients.
Traditional Makeup

In every decade of the 20th century, there’s a makeup trend everyone follows. You can actually specify time periods solely on how women look. In the US, cosmetic companies such as Revlon, Elizabeth Arden, and Estee Lauder build their beauty empires through exciting marketing campaigns that encourage women to always look their best by applying makeup.

When we think of traditional makeup, what comes to mind are Hollywood stars and cover girl models. Conventional makeup products are everywhere, but unlike mineral cosmetics, they contain synthetic chemicals, fragrances, and preservatives that can irritate some skin types. That said, there are a number of reasons why they dominate the market and why women love putting them on.

Pros of Traditional Makeup:

  • Conventional makeup comes in many colors, even colors not found in nature. As such, it’s easy to find the right shade for every skin tone.
  • The products are designed for easier application and come in many forms. For example, a foundation can come in liquid, stick, powder, and cream in a variety of finishes, such as matte, semi-matte, or dewy.
  • Some makeups come with long-lasting formulas, so they are great for events, photo-shoots, and film and TV productions.

Cons of Traditional Makeup:

  • Most of them contain ingredients that can harm sensitive skin and cause irritation.
  • Some makeup products are harder to remove, which may lead to skin breaking out.
  • Some products contain formaldehyde and heavy metals, which may be considered carcinogenic.


There are a ton of options for everyone looking to buy new makeup. Whether you choose traditional, mineral, or a combination of both, it’s always important to look at the ingredients and do your research. Don’t be swayed by marketing gimmicks and trends. Just choose the makeup that’s healthy for your skin and makes you feel the most beautiful.




Cassy is a freelance writer and all-around beauty nut. She is passionate about perfecting her own daily skincare routine and making sure her lashes are always on fleek.

Germ Magazine guest author

… is a contributing guest author for Germ, which means the following criteria (and then some) have been met: possessor of a fresh, original voice; creator of fresh, original content; genius storyteller; superlative speller; fantastic dancer; expert joke teller; handy with a toolbox; brilliant at parties; loves us as much as we love them.

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