Lost on the science bit? Concentrate on what it should contain instead then – although you’ll need a wee bit of chemistry for that too, as the answer is half the periodic table if today’s beauty gurus are to be believed. Minerals, such as zinc, mica and iron oxide, they say, are the perfect ingredients for sheer, non-pore clogging coverage.
That of course is the Holy Grail for foundation: make-up that covers the imperfections but looks like bare skin – an achievement which several brands now claim to be able to do. Next week, one of the most celebrated, Canadian make-up brand Cover FX arrives at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh. It is said to be beloved of Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie – she uses it to cover up her tattoos – and TV presenters who have to contend with high definition telly. “HD magnifies everything by ten so anything you put on your skin needs to look virtually invisible but give coverage,” explains Wanda Longo, the brand’s international communications director. And how does it do this? Well, it’s down to minerals, the new buzz word in beauty. Ground up into powdered form, minerals are applied to the face with a brush. There they are said to create a flat layer of overlapping crystals, reflecting light, covering up blemishes and imperfections but also allowing skin to breath.
Many also claim to treat the skin too. Cover FX was created in a Canadian dermatology hospital by Lee Graff, who worked with patients with skin conditions and who needed a foundation with heavy-duty coverage but which was ultra-sensitive. “Lee wanted it to look like skin and take care of skin,” explains Wanda. “Minerals are ideal, they are natural, they come from the earth, the rocks, and they are inert so you don’t get bacterial growth.”
Another brand which claims to treat the skin is Priori. Stocked at Zen Lifestyle’s three salons in Edinburgh, its Perfecting Minerals line also contains coffeeberry, a plant extract said to be high in antioxidants. Staff there say its powder foundation, which costs £38, is a treatment as well as a cosmetic and so can be used straight on the skin after therapies such as micro dermabrasion.
And top-selling mineral brand, bareMinerals, stocked by Jenners and John Lewis, claims you can even sleep with its make-up on and end up with smoother skin in the morning. Its new Pure Transformation Night Treatment, £45, contains the rather alarming sounding ActiveSoil Complex.
And while mineral companies like BM Beauty, Bellapierre and GloMinerals are comparatively new names on the beauty block, the big brands are beginning to muscle in.
Edinburgh make-up artist Amy Irving explains: “Originally the bigger brands were adamant they weren’t going to bring out mineral make-up, that their traditional make-up worked best. But when companies like bareMineral came to the forefront, companies like Mac began to see the potential.”
The Body Shop, Mac, L’Oreal, Max Factor and Estee Lauder all have mineral lines. Even Aldi brought out a limited edition mineral range last month, with a powder for just £2.99, now practically sold out in Scottish stores. And there isn’t just loose powder, eye and lip colours as well as liquid foundations are on offer.
So does any of it live up to the pseudo-scientific hype? Louise Graham, a beauty therapy lecturer at Edinburgh’s Telford College, says: “They are a nice introduction to make-up or for people who don’t use a lot because they don’t clog up the skin.”
And make-up artist Amy, a fan of Lily Lilo, agrees: “I love them. But in my experience, they don’t last as long as your traditional foundations, Mac, Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown and you don’t get the same kind of coverage.”
She believes they’re here to stay. “We have moved away from the days of four inches of foundation, people don’t have the time for that. And they are organic, fragrance free and so on and people want to buy into all of that.”
* Cover FX launches in Harvey Nichols Edinburgh on October 12