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Why we say no to Bismuth Oxychloride


Though described as a natural ingredient and found in many brands of mineral cosmetics (especially foundation) we have made the decision not to stock products containing Bismuth Oxychloride – why?


Simply because it has been reported as a major skin irritant, especially for people with sensitive skin.  It can clog pores resulting in spots, pimples and acne.  Not what you want from your make up!


It is rare to find naturally occurring Bismuth Oxychloride, it is more usual for it to be manufactured.   Bismuth is a by-product of lead, copper and other ore refining, which is then mixed with chloride (a chlorine compound) and water to make Bismuth Oxychloride.  For us, just knowing the origins of this ingredient is a reason to stop and pause if it’s seen on an product label.


So why do mineral cosmetic manufacturers use Bismuth Oxychloride?  Well, firstly it’s a very cheap filler!  From an esthetic point of view, it gives a silky smooth feel to the product and it also refracts light so helping to camouflage skin imperfections. 


Bismuth Oxychloride also has what is called in the cosmetics world, ‘good slip’.   Slip is how well the product adheres and applies to your skin, so products with Bismuth Oxychloride as an ingredient tend to stay on the skin for longer and can be a little easier to apply.  The down side to these positive qualities is the crystalline shape of the particles.  The sharp edges of these particles make micro cuts and abrasions to the skin which, though helping with product adhesion, could also be the cause of the skin irritation experienced by many users of make up containing this ingredient.


So, if you’ve tried mineral foundations or other mineral based cosmetics before and have experienced skin irritation or breakouts, Bismuth Oxychloride could have been the culprit.  Do not be disheartened though, there are lots of mineral cosmetic manufacturers who have made the decision not to use it, including the brands we stock.  Find our choices in our makeup department.







  1. nic mclean, December 31, 2013:

    That’s really interesting to know as I did try a mineral loose face powder once and it made me break out in spots which I couldn’t understand as it was supposed to be this natural product! Good to know the reason behind it.

  2. I Choose What I Use, December 31, 2013:

    Glad you’ve found this useful Nic, hope you give mineral powders another go now you know what to look out for!

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