I Dream of Alima: An Interview with Founder Kate O’Brien

To be perfectly honest, I never really understood the whole mineral foundation craze. With a long-standing preference for liquid coverage, the idea of rubbing minerals all over my face seemed…well…kind of prehistoric. But then I tried it and, as often happens once you actually try something, I gained a better understanding of why women were so jazzed about rubbing minerals all over their faces.

Still, I knew little about this realm of maquillage, and most of what I had been hearing was not so great. The Skin Deep database recently started dinging companies who used Titanium Dioxide in their formulations, and other groups were claiming that the inhalation of these minerals could lead to lung-related illnesses. To better understand the land of mineral cosmetics, and get some perspective on these concerns, I spoke with Kate O’Brien, the founder of my favorite mineral-based cosmetics company, Alima Pure. The following is an excerpt from our chat. To read the entire interview, click here.

T: What are your thoughts about the recent talk about possible contamination of mineral cosmetics? How do you know yours are pure?

K: Every batch is tested for safety. The FDA is famous for not regulating cosmetic chemicals, but they are fussy about pigments, and minerals are pigments. They keep a close eye on mineral pigments, so we have documentation for everything sent to us. There is a lot of processing of the minerals. They are all processed in countries with good environmental records. We are also certified by the BDIH. We wanted to show that we were working hard to keep our products natural and safe, even though it meant getting a higher-grade iron oxide than what we needed for approval in the U.S.

T: So why is the Skin Deep raising the red flag on various mineral-based products and certain ingredients in them?

K: They have this wrong, as there really aren’t concerns about contamination due to regulation. My biggest frustration with Skin Deep is how they list Titanium Dioxide. There is some concern that nanoparticles can cause problems, because they are so small. But nano-sized Titanium Dioxide was created to go into sunscreens, and there was some concern that they were so small they could penetrate skin barrier. But as the research comes out, that is turning out not to be the case. Another concern is that they can go into the lungs which aren’t able to expel the minerals – the jury is still out on that, but it’s looking like that’s more of a concern for people working in the factories. In any case, any mineral makeup that is using Titanium Dioxide is using it for its opacity, so there is no reason to use nanoparticles as that would defeat the purpose.

T: But what about breathing it in? That just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

K: Generally with mineral makeup, unlike with talc powders, you work it into your brush so you’re not sending it in big clouds. Using flocked sponge reduces it even more. If you search Pub Med, many, many studies have been done on the inhalation of Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, and there is just no evidence that it’s problematic. Of course, it’s always good to be thoughtful when you’re around particles of any kind and not send big clouds flying. With mineral foundation, you use small amounts, so it’s not like fluffing it on with fluffy brush.

T: What are you doing to be an environmentally-friendly company?

K: Our boxes are 100% recyclable and made from post-consumer paper. We have a recycling program for people who send jars back to Alima. Plus, the jars are recyclable. We just became a B-corporation – a certified sustainable business. We had to go through quite an extensive evaluation of our business practices.

Written by Terri Bly

Terri Bly is the founder of The Nature of Beauty, LTD, an all-eco website, shop, and spa. She is a freelance writer, currently residing in Minneapolis.

French Cosmetics: local action, global beautification

Organic Perfume with a French Touch