Mineral makeover

By Siobhan Lismore-Scott
Published: Saturday, 24 January 2015

Personal care is often a small part of an industrial minerals producer’s portfolio, with other markets accounting for the lion’s share of revenue and expenditure. However, as Siobhan Lismore-Scott, Editor, finds, this is a growing industry with ample opportunity for many minerals companies.

Trends in industrial minerals tend to follow the fluctuations in GDP and, broadly speaking, the global economy.

A lull in a country’s growth for example will mean that it may not commit to building new infrastructure, which in turns affects the demand for industrial minerals used in these markets.

There are markets however, which are not affected by fluctuations in economy. One is cat litter - an enormous end market for bentonite. Another is the personal care and cosmetics market.

This phenomena has been called the 'lipstick effect’. It is an economic theory which suggests that even in dire times of crisis people will find the money to pay for smaller luxury items over big ticket items (for example, a Chanel lipstick over a pair of designer shoes). 

There are debates which suggest that there is little correlation between financial hardship and sales of personal care products such as lipstick, however. In 2009 The Economist tested the theory with statistical analysis and found holes in the 'lipstick effect’ - but others are willing to accept it at face value.

For industrial minerals markets, personal care is unlikely to contribute significantly to demand; it is a small industry when compared to demand for refractories, glass or ceramics and few minerals are mined solely for this consumer-led market. 

Forecast to grow

The way large companies view the space is changing and it is no surprise when the growth in the cosmetics industry over the last few year is taken into account.

The European Union (EU) cosmetics market was worth €72bn ($83.7bn*) in 2013 at retail price, representing a third of the global cosmetics market, according to The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CPTA). 

A report by Lucintel, released in 2012, pegged the global personal care market — defined as shampoos, conditioners deodorants and cream — to reach $630bn by 2017, led by demand in Europe and Asia Pacific. The global beauty market — defined as cosmetics such as make up — is expected to reach $265bn by 2017, the market researcher noted.

Skincare products revenue alone meanwhile is expected to reach $102bn in 2018, driven by rising living standards and increased spending power, Lucintel outlines in its report 'Global Skin Care Products Industry 2013-2018: Trend, Profit, and Forecast Analysis’.

"New product innovations in the skin care products industry such as a new range of anti-aging, anti-wrinkling and sun care products, resulted in a consistent demand for newer products," the report reads.

Companies are certainly looking at how they develop their industrial minerals products for use in personal care. Imerys, Solvay, Huntsman and BASF have all invested in research and development (R&D) efforts to see how minerals (for example, titanium dioxide (TiO2)) can be produced at the higher specification required for the cosmetics industry.

R&D into polymers and how talc is used in them has also led to discoveries that benefit the personal care industry. Talc has always been used in cosmetics, but it is now being reformulated to behave differently — more intelligently — as part of the polymer.

"Increased awareness in emerging countries has resulted in higher demand for international luxury products. Innovations in skin care products by companies helped to maintain and gain market share. Providing good quality products at low cost is a challenge for manufacturers," Lucintel’s report into the skin care industry highlights.

It has been more than six years since IM looked in depth at the use of minerals in personal care, but this does not mean that this is an area which has been overlooked by industrial minerals companies.

Minerals in personal care





Nail varnish, fragrance, deodorant, colour cosmetics

NaturalNano, a US halloysite developer (which sources its raw material from outside of the US,) supplies halloysite nanotubes mixed with other proprietry products to global leading nail varnish chain Sally Hansen. Applied Minerals meanwhile signed a letter of intent with HCT Group to use Dragonite-PureWhite product in its products. It can also be used as an effective ance treatment (see pp48-51)


Shampoo, facemasks, conditioner, toothpaste

Bentonite or montmorillonite is used in a number of cosmetics and toiletry products as a suspending agent for otherwise insoluble active ingredients. It is also used as a mask to rid the skin of toxins.

Iron oxide

Foundations, facepowders , lipstick, eye shadow,

Used in colour cosmetics. Popular because iron oxides are resistant to moisture, don’t easily bleed or smear and have "staying power". There are three basic grades of iron oxide - black, yellow and red.


Cosmetic powders, toothpaste, cleansers, face masks

Kaolin imparts a matte appearance to skin. Has the advantage of being oil-absorbant, limiting the amount of shine. The amount of kaolin in a face powder can vary from only 3% in a face powder, to 10% in a cake, pressed, or heavy formulation.


Cosmetic powders, eyeshadow,

The has been some controversy surrounding the use of talc in personal care products (see box, opposite page). Talc is used in eyeshadows, face powders, and body powders as well as in creams and deodorant. It is also used in polymers.

Titanium dioxide (TiO2)

soap, cream, suncreams

Used in anything which is coloured white. In suscreen it is used as it is very efficent at reflecting light.

Magnesium sulphate

Epsom salts

Used to relax muscles.


Foundations, eyeshadows, nail varnish,

Mica is used as an opacifier, in any cosmetics which have a 'sparkle’ sheen.


Elementis and hectorite

Hectorite’s use in oilfield applications, as a drilling mud, has been well covered by IM over the past few years. What is less well known however, is that there is one company also using hectorite for its personal care product range.

Elementis Specialities is the only company mining hectorite in the US, at its Newberry Springs Hector mine in California — until Western Lithium’s Kings Valley deposit in Utah is up and running — and its hectorite gels form a large part of the company’s personal care offering. 

Its hectorite mine is located near Mt Pisgah, an extinct volcano, where volcanic ash and dust from the active volcano formed layers within a lake. Subsequent epithermal activity helped to form the hectorite.

Hectorite mined from Elementis’ Hector mine is used in the company’s Bentone range, which encompasses deodorant, suncream, skin cream, shampoo and conditioner, lipstick, mascara and nail varnish.

In January 2015 the company’s Benetone range completed European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients (EFfCI) certification for Good Manufacturing Practice (2012) for Bentone Gel products (see below). 

"The hectorite mine is a big part of what we do; people are looking for naturally sourced minerals and we can control the supply," Miihaja Randriamahazomanana, area sales manager for Elementis, told IM.

In the personal care section of Elementis’ business, six-monthly sales were 21% up in 2014 year-on-year, compared to a 15% fall in sales in the company’s oilfield sales over the same period. 

The speciality products business, which houses the company’s personal care segment, as well as its coatings and oilfield drilling business, registered an operating profit of $99m in 2013, up from $90m the previous year.  Revenue of $502m contributed 65% to the company’s top line.

David Dutro, group CEO, said in the company’s 2013 results that he believed that the three speciality products segments - coatings, oilfield drilling and personal care - were "strategically positioned to capitalise on one or more of the powerful global trends of a rapidly growing middle class in developing economies".


Imerys boosts portfolio

In its 2013 annual report, industrial minerals giant Imerys highlighted that it broadened its ImerCare range, which comprised many of the company’s minerals.

Included in the suite of minerals earmarked for this range are products Imercare 04K and Imercare 07K, which are intended to replace synthetic materials, such as polyethelenes, in cosmetics with minerals produced by Imerys (perlite, kaolin, mica and diatomaceous earth).

Imerys has said that it intends to expand its personal care offering and has highlighted in past reports that it would seek exploit talc and perlite’s unique properties in personal care markets.

The company is working on several ranges which take advantage of the quality of its minerals. Its Imercare perlite scrub range, for example, replaces polyethelene beads used in scrub applications.

Perlite is used effectively in scrubs as it is spherical, rather than perfectly round. This means it is not as abrasive. It is also naturally hard and has good particle distribution.

"Available from 100-300 microns to 100-500 microns, the selections of the grade would depend on a final exfoliation performance requirement such as a body scrub or face scrub," a marketing brochure from Imerys explains.

"The personal care market presents different dynamics with an average growth slightly above other industries served by minerals," an Imerys spokesperson told IM.

"It is a well-established segment within Imerys and we are focusing additional communication support to further development," the spokesperson added.

Part of this was increasing Imerys’ presence at the Society of Cosmetic Scientists (SCS) Formulate tradeshow, where the mineral giant had a stand alongside the likes of Solvay, BASF, Elementis and Huntsman - all companies which have targeted the personal care market recently, albeit on the chemical side of their respective companies.

Steve Dawson, commercial assistant at Blagden Speciality Chemicals, Imerys’ talc distributor in the UK, agreed the market was growing and said that Imerys were becoming more active in the sector.



Unsurprisingly, the production of cosmetics and personal care products is tightly regulated in the EU and the US.

In the EU, regulations are set out across different bodies, but there are trade industry groups to help users navigate these. The EFfCI - European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients - is a European trade association that brings together manufacturers of synthetic and natural ingredients for the cosmetics and personal care industry.

It has over 100 members, but not one of these is an industrial minerals producer, president John Hibbs confirmed to IM.

"Cosmetics is a fruitful market for minerals but it is a very regulated market for very good reasons. If [producers] want to come in they need to understand the market and the environment they are falling into," Hibbs said.

Hibbs confirmed that "there is a lot of work going into TiO2", adding that "purer rutile is the one which will go far" in the cosmetics industry.

Europe is seen as the global leader when it comes to regulating the cosmetics and personal care industry, Hibbs said. Other countries with developing personal care industries, like India, are looking to the EU to see how the market is regulated here and are seeking to use this as a benchmark.

"If you want to be in the European market you have to provide a lot of information," Hibbs told IM.

"The regulations and the safety environment are very unique to cosmetics," he added.

"European cosmetics regulation regulates products sold to the consumer and lays down the principles on how to demonstrate a product is safe. The EU must sign off at every level".

The US cosmetics industry is also regulated heavily and inspected by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The EFfCI is working with trade organisations in the US to bring together the different regulations and provide clarity in the market, Hibbs told IM.

"The US is very regulated and this is being strengthened all the time. More enforcements are coming in and the specifications are being looked at," Georgia Boehm, vice president, regulatory affairs at International Cosmetics Regulatory Specialists (ICRS) — a trade body which provides information on regulation in the US and UK — told IM.

Like the EFfCI, the ICRS has many clients in the cosmetics and personal care field - but no industrial minerals producers hoping to sell into these markets.

"If you’re looking at something like TiO2, it needs to be accepted for use into cosmetics. I think there is an opportunity for producers to learn more about this industry," Boehm added.

Indeed, in order to be accepted for use in the personal care market, colours must be approved and regulated by the FDA. Use of an unapproved colour renders the product adulterated, according to consultancy EAS Consulting Group. 

That said, TiO2 is listed with no restriction on particle size - something lobbyists are arguing should be changed. 

From a distribution point of view, traders selling products into the industry told IM that they are very aware of the different regulations.

Blagdon’s Dawson told IM that talc, for example, typically had a five year shelf life, but underlined that the use of minerals, including talc, was strictly governed in the EU. 

Talc used in personal care products would typically be marked with the information on the mine it came from, the country, specification and a certificate of analysis, he added.

A growing market?

While the personal care market cannot be described as a 'booming’ market for industrial minerals producers - uptake will never compete with demand in refractories products or usage for minerals used in renewable energy for example — it is a growing opportunity.

The cosmetics and beauty sectors are positioned for growth and the luxury market is vying for ingredients that are organic and intelligent at the same time — the industrial minerals industry fits perfectly within this remit.

*Conversion made January 2015

Controversy in industrial minerals and cosmetics markets

Although the personal care industry is strictly regulated in Europe and the US, other countries do not impose such tight restrictions, which has led to accusations of human rights abuses and poor practices.

The amount of bad press cosmetics companies receive on the back of accusations around using carcinogenic minerals or poor practices has prompted some to make public statements vowing to disclose the list of ingredients used in its cosmetics.

Revlon published a list of chemicals it promised to never use in its products in January 2015, after significant pressure from lobby groups. It also went on the record to say it would only use talc in its products which was certifiably asbestos free. It said it would continue to use TiO2 in its products.


In 2014 UK newspaper The Guardian ran a report which uncovered that many of India’s mica mines were guilty of using child labour, adding that 86% of the country’s mica exports in 2010-11 were unregulated. 

As India accounts for around 60% of global mica supply used in cosmetics to create a sparkly appearance to personal care products, this was very worrying for cosmetics producers.

However, many cosmetics and personal care companies said that they require a certificate with each shipment of mica sourced for their products, stating that the cargo is free of forced labour. Others have gone one step further - L’Oreal’s mica supplier Merck has employed human resource consultants to carry out monthly assessments of its mines. 


It is not only social responsibility which has caused controversy. Links between the use of talcum powder (which contains talc - although not all brands do) and ovarian cancer have also been made and court cases are currently running in the US around this subject.

In a new study, scientists from three different laboratories worked for more than a year to track asbestos-contaminated talc from mines to a popular body-powder product, then into the lung tissue of a woman who died of asbestos-caused mesothelioma after years of using theproduct.

"Of course we knew that there was asbestos contaminating the talc in many cosmetic powders, but who would have ever thought that that’s the way these women were being exposed?" said pathologist Ronald Gordon, one of three authors of the extensive study on mesothelioma and talc products published online in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health in September 2014.