Bismuth Oxychloride Safely in Mineral Makeup

Bismuth Oxychloride Overview

Bismuth Oxychloride is an inorganic compound and is one of the ingredients of mineral makeup and other cosmetic products. Recently, this ingredient has been blamed for the many cases of irritation or allergic skin reaction among mineral makeup users. It has been subject to lot of speculation regarding toxicity and safety in usage. In fact, the ingredient, when processed and prepared precisely within FDA specifications, is safe for use. The following discussions hope to bring light to the issue surrounding this Bismuth ingredient.

What is Bismuth Oxychloride?

Bismuth is a brittle metal of white and silver-pink hue. With regards to its placement in the periodic table, the element has Lead, Tin, Tellurium, Antimony and Polonium as its neighbors, which is perhaps the reason why it is associated with these chemicals’ toxic properties. In fact, the Bismuth metal has replaced Lead metal because of its toxicity. In this light, Bismuth has gained significant commercial importance.

A number of Bismuth compound are used in cosmetics, medicines as well as in medical procedures. Bismuth Oxychloride is one of the Bismuth compounds that are used in the manufacturing segment of many industries particularly in the cosmetic industry. In mineral makeup, it takes the form of an inorganic white pigment. It comes in two forms; the diamond shimmery and pearl matte finishes.

Where does it come from? How is it made?

Compared to its neighboring elements (Lead, Tin, Antimony and Polonium), Bismuth is least toxic. However, in its pure form, Bismuth is not safe for cosmetic use. For this reason, Bismuth is refined and combined with other inorganic elements to form Bismuth Chloride. Most of the commercially used Bismuth Chloride is the by-product of refining, lead, Tin and gold ores. As the compound is harvested through the refinement process, it undergoes more refining process to thoroughly get rid of traces of lead. The harvested substance is then chlorinated and forms and acid. Then, the compound is combined with water for it to decompose and replace Chlorine with Oxygen from water. From a toxic chlorinated acid, the harvested compound undergoes hydrolysis leaving the Bismuth, Chlorine and Oxygen atoms to form Bismuth Oxychloride.

Bismuth Crystal (from Dreamscape):

Why would it be used in mineral makeup?

Bismuth Oxychloride is famous for bringing the silky feel-effect on certain mineral makeup. It provides a recipe that converts fine crystals of Bismuth and salt into makeups that applies well to the skin and prevents drag or grab. Its great adhesive properties allow the makeup to stay long on the skin. As a lustrous crystalline powder, it creates a smooth and silky feel. To eye shadows, blushes, foundations and other colored makeups, this is the ingredient that gives visible sheen. Because of its great light refracting properties, it helps draw away attention or it great in camouflaging skin flaws such as wrinkles and discolorations. With these given properties, this Bismuth ingredient generally brings significant selling points to mineral makeup lines.

Is it safe to use?

The Bismuth Oxychloride that are used by industry manufacturers are those compound grades that are approved by the FDA to be safe for use on cosmetic products that are applied on the face, eyes, lips and nails. In fact, this ingredient is one of the most common and traditional ingredient in most of the products of big makeup brands.

FDA approved Bismuth Oxychloride are specified to be free from toxins as it hits the market. The FDA’s Electronic Code of Federal Regulations dictate the acceptable composition of the compound, they specify that the cosmetic grade compound must be produced from a series of refinement processes, making the resulting ingredient 98% Bismuth Oxychloride compound. This explains why buying the compound ingredient from countries with less stringent laws on mineral ingredients is risky. While the compound is way cheaper from these countries, they may not be thoroughly refined and process.

In reality, the cosmetic industry’s demand for Bismuth Oxychloride cannot be meet. While its refinement processes is cost prohibitive and is considered not economical, the resulting compound is safe for all skin types, particularly on problematic and sensitive skin types. This is one of the reasons why there are mineral makeups, particularly those containing Bismuth Oxychloride, is very expensive. Perhaps those that have experienced allergic reactions to makeups containing Bismuth Oxychloride are cheaper in value and have ingredients that are not sourced from Canada or the United States, two of the countries with strict laws on mineral ingredients. Hence, the extraction method used in harvesting Bismuth Oxychloride is crucial to its being safe for skin applications.


Mineral makeups that use refined and FDA approved grades of Bismuth Oxychloride is actually safe for skin applications. While the cosmetic products with this kind of ingredient do not come cheap, they surely achieve the effect and deliver the benefits that most mineral makeup feature. One reason why some Bismuth Oxychloride-containing products irritate the skin is because the ingredient’s refinement method does not meet FDA specifications. Another factor to consider is the tool used for applications. Some people react badly on some materials used on makeup applications such as brushes and sponges. In some cases, the makeup is not the only thing to be blamed when experiencing irritations or allergic symptoms to makeup application.

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