Ad Track: Cosmetics companies tout mineral-based makeup

There's a new rock star in cosmetics: mineral-based makeup.

Beauty marketers are rushing to mine the trend with more foundation, blush, eye shadow and other cosmetics with natural-sounding "mineral" formulations and ingredients such as titanium dioxide, mica and potassium. The products with finely ground minerals are being promoted as sheer, "natural" looking and less irritating to skin than chemical-based products.

In-store promotions for Maybelline's new Mineral Power line, for example, describe it as "more natural" and "healthier."

Sales have taken off. Mass-market stores, including Wal-Mart wmt, sold $149 million worth of mineral-based cosmetics last year, according to tracker Information Resources. That was more than double 2006 sales of $69 million, and dwarfs the $4.5 million sold in 2005. Those totals don't include "prestige" or high-end department store brands and direct sales via infomercials and websites.

A third of women said they wanted mineral-based makeup in a 2007 survey by market researcher Mintel.

The industry has responded with a barrage of mineral-based cosmetic products: 451 in 2007, vs. 132 in 2005 in the U.S. market, according to Datamonitor's Productscan Online.

Among recent launches, a line from Revlon and an expansion of the Laura Mercier Luxury Minerals Collection into eye shadows and blush for sale at department stores and high-end boutiques.

The trailblazer has been mineral makeup mammoth Bare Escentuals bare, says Karen Grant, senior beauty industry analyst at The NPD Group. The company, founded in 1976, has recently expanded its mineral-based offerings to include blemish fighters and face cleansers. The company — which sells on its website, on home-shopping TV channel QVC, with infomercials and at retail stores — raked in $511 million in 2007 sales, up 30% from 2006.

April Berman, 37, became a fan of Bare Escentuals' Bare Minerals foundation line after spending $75 last year on a starter kit of mineral powders and application brushes. Berman has rosacea, which can make a complexion look ruddy, and says the makeup provides good coverage.

"I'm really very happy with it," says the Wayne, N.J., resident. "I would never go back to the other (brands)."

Cosmetics expert John Bailey, chief scientist at trade group The Personal Care Products Council, warns buyers that not all mineral makeup is equal. "There's not really a rigid definition of what it is or what it's supposed to accomplish. It really comes down to each company's individual representation of it."

Dermatologist Leslie Baumann, author of The Skin Type Solution, is critical of any claim the makeup is healthier. "It is mainly marketing hype. The minerals in it have never been shown to be beneficial for your skin."

In on the mineral trend:

•Revlon. rev Its ColorStay Mineral Collection launched late last year, but marketing ramped up with new TV and print ads this month. Actress and new mom Halle Berry (the ads were shot when she was four months pregnant) touts the makeup's staying power.

The commercials show Berry applying the makeup, then wearing it to appointments through the day and evening. Packaging also touts "up to 16-hour wear."

"The idea is that it's healthy and natural and beautiful — and that it lasts," senior product manager Erika Kussmann says.

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