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Is Foundation Powder Bad for My Lungs?

K is concerned…As I was applying my loose mineral foundation, and it occurred to me that I was inhaling these fine particles daily. Is this ok for my lungs? Is there any research or testing done on the effects of inhaling these powders daily? Thank you for your help! If it matters- my Coastal Scents foundation contains: Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Iron Oxides, Rice Powder, Zinc Oxide, Boron Nitride,Magnesium Myristate, Kaolin Clay, Ultramarine Blue. (They readily list the ingredients on every product they sell. I appreciate that!)

The Right Brain calms K:

You’re right to be concerned about the effects of chemicals that enter your body, K, but in this case there is research that indicates foundation powders are safe for every day use.

Foundation power peril?

There are really two questions here: Do the particles enter your lungs and if they do, are they dangerous? The first question can be answered by looking at particle size. Inhalation is basically a function of size: large particles can’t get into the sensitive areas of your lungs. The general rule of thumb is that particles have to be below 10 microns before they can work their way into your lungs. (For those of you who are metric impaired, a micron is a millionth of a meter. In other words its very very very tiny.)

Here’s why: According the National Institute of Health, our respiratory system is pretty good at keeping airborne particles out of our lungs. The upper respiratory system, consisting of the nasal passages, trachea, and associated airways are good filters. Particles 100 microns or larger don’t really enter the airways at all. Particles between 10 and 100 microns get caught on nasal hairs, nasal mucosa, or mucus-covered ciliated epithelium in the bronchi and bronchioles. It’s the stuff thats smaller 10 microns that are able to travel into the alveolar ducts sacs where respiration takes place.

What size are powders used in makeup?

According to a typical source of cosmetic powders, mica is somewhere in the range of 10 to 60 microns. So there’s little chance it will penetrate deep enough into your lungs to pose a threat. Particles of titanium dioxide, on the other hand, are only about 0.30 microns in diameter which means they are small enough to be inhaled. But that doesn’t automatically mean it presents a health hazard. According the the Annals of Occupational Hygeine, Tio2 has been studied and found not to present an inhalation danger, even in large quantities Similar results were found for zinc oxide, another common ingredient with a particle size of about 0.12 microns.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

There is research done to ensure that cosmetic powders don’t post a health hazard so there’s not much to be worried about from using foundation powder. If you have specific health concerns our legal eagle, Bird Brain, would encourage you to consult your physician. Or you could just cover your face with one of the stylish hats shown in today’s picture while you apply your foundation powder.

What do YOU think? Are you worried about breathing the cosmetics you use every day? Leave a comment for the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Raquel Shields June 1, 2017, 10:03 pm

    I was concerned about iron oxide particle size and kaolin clay particle size. As I understand it, when it says something is a certain size of microns, that is referring to the average size. So, that means some of the particles might be smaller than what the particle size says. Kaolin clay is 3 microns, and I don’t know what iron oxide size would be. What does anyone think about breathing these? They are in many mineral makeup products.

    • Randy Schueller June 2, 2017, 8:16 am

      If you’re buying products from a reputable manufacturer they are most likely using powders that are within the safe range of particle size.

  • Sophia October 5, 2017, 1:50 pm

    As I was testing out the Avon’s MagiX powder, I breathed in a bit of it, I’m kind of worried about it since I had a bit of a pain in my lungs. Will it do any damage?

    • Randy Schueller October 6, 2017, 8:20 am

      Personally I doubt it but you should check with your doctor if you’re concerned.

  • Kelley November 11, 2018, 8:33 am

    Interesting because my understanding was the minerals were too small. So they enter your lungs and stay. So it is recommended to use baked minerals and not loose. As not to risk.

  • pamela abrahams January 25, 2019, 8:13 am

    I have been using loose powder over my cream/liquid foundation for almost 50 years – today’s standards of safety for this type of product almost certainly was not the ‘norm’ through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I have had long standing issues with respiratory illnesses that last for months and then dissipate as fast as they have come – but I never considered the use of facial powder as a possible contributing factor.

  • Disne April 18, 2019, 4:07 pm

    I have never had breathing issues.
    In Jan 2019
    Started bronchitis did not go away .
    Coughed all night for 45 50 days.
    No relief!
    I have been using v loose mineral powder for over 20 years.
    I feel the powder has effected my breathing.
    It has to ..I breathe it every day when I apply the powder.
    My breatbing issue has not gone away.
    Antibiotics has not helped.
    What to do ??

    • Perry Romanowski May 1, 2019, 11:45 am

      You should see a doctor. But if you have been using a product for 20 years and only now are experiencing a problem, it’s likely not the product that caused it.

  • Viv Buckle October 2, 2019, 6:45 am

    Recently i developed a cough and asked to go for an xray. There were scars on my lungs..I am a non smoker….But i have often thought “Am i breathing in the mineral powder. Even though its (i thought) a healthy make up powder…But i have recently read a lot of articles who have said that mineral powder with Titanium Dioxide. Zinc Oxide. Mica and the likes even though very small once ground down can get into the lungs and have shown scars ..This is specifically because the minerals in the beginning are Cut…and therefore have sharp edges even though very small which they are now saying shows scars on the lungs…The Dr cannot figure out why i have these scars? So it has to be something.. So now i am very worried about using so called safe makeup that has these ground ingredients in it. Even though lots of safe makeup sites say theirs is safe?.

  • Natalie D Graham February 10, 2020, 10:29 pm

    Baby powder was safe until it wasn’t

  • Mary February 25, 2020, 1:14 pm

    The face powder I’ve been using for many years has these ingredients: Talc, Calcium Silicate, Zinc Sterate, Mica, Iron Oxide, and Titanium Dioxide. I’ve recently started to wonder like so many others. And even though the micron sizes may be small, most of us trim our nose hair regularly, so they aren’t there to help trap debris. What is your opinion of these ingredients?

    • Perry Romanowski March 10, 2020, 1:16 pm

      Those ingredients can be used safely in cosmetics.