Make Up Oxidation

Recently I found myself at Mecca Cosmetica in a department in Melbourne looking at foundations. A very helpful sales assistant approached me and suggested that I try a non oxidizing foundation formulation by Nars.

Non oxidation foundation! That’s the first time I’ve heard of this. What exactly does this mean?

Oxidation is apparently common with mineral make-up and other types of foundation. Oxidization occurs when the minerals and fats in the foundation react with pigments in the skin causing the skin and foundation to look darker, yellow or orange as the day progresses.

The Science Of Oxidation

Oxidation occurs commonly in day to day life. It happens when bananas and avocados and other fruits such as apples go brown in the presence of oxygen. Another common form of oxidation that we see is rust which occurs when iron reacts with oxygen. Meat goes from red to brown when exposed oxygen.

Because oxygen is everywhere, oxidation is hard to avoid.

Blood is a common liquid in the body that becomes brown when the oxygen in blood which  is attached to iron reacts with the air and becomes brown

While the reactions of make – up oxidation can vary from orange to yellow to foundation appearing darker, the result is the same. You don’t look as good as you did when you first applied the make-up.

My take on this, is from my four years of studying chemistry where oxidative reactions or redox reactions as we chem nerds prefer to call it formed part of my regular chemistry experiments.

Redox reactions are about the exchange of electrons from one chemical species to another. This exchange of electrons which is also capable of producing electricity is what’s happening on your skin when oxidation is occurring and you’re going darker, yellow, or orange.

So unfortunately ladies when you have a mixed bag of different layers of portions and chemicals on your skin from your moisturizers and sunscreens and foundations which contain a lot of different minerals, some of those minerals are going to be chemically compatible and react with each other.

A lot of moisturizers are oil in water or water in oil emulsions (another fancy word for creams) and contain oils and fats from plants and animals which can become rancid after reacting with oxygen. Another form of oxidation.

Minerals also love to react with the oxygen in the air. Different minerals give off different colours when they are oxidized. Iron oxide becomes red (rust), Zinc oxides give off a whitish tinge making darker skin look ashy.

All those anti oxidants that cosmetic companies rave on about could actually be the culprits. The reasons why anti-oxidants are added to skin care products is so that they can react with the free radicals in your skin that would have otherwise reacted with your skin cells. Thus protecting your skin from cellular damage.

A lot of sunscreens contain minerals such as zinc oxide for sun protection which is also used as a bulking agent in some foundations.

Nars Foundation - Non Oxidizing

Below are some of the other reasons suggested by other bloggers:

– More acidic skin

– A pink foundation over a yellow undertone skin color

– Foundation components reacting to the sebum in our skin

– Oils in our skin or moisturizer intensifying the color of the pigments

– Makeup does expire so it is in important to keep track of how long it has been opened

So what to do?

Ask your cosmetologist or your beautician if you’re experiencing darkening of your foundation at the end of the day to recommend one that doesn’t oxidize. The lovely beautician at Mecca recommended Nars foundation.

-Cleanse face before applying makeup to strip away some of the sebum so your face wouldn’t be as oily and hopefully this would stop the oxidation from happening so soon, but if you do have quite oily skin eventually (by the end of the day) enough oil will build up on the skin to cause oxidation.

-Try using a primer. This should put a barrier between the skin and the foundation and hopefully stop the colour change. It’s a little like putting lemon juice on apples or bananas to prevent them from browning
-When buying foundation ask for a tester first. Test for a day (at least a few hours) to see how the colour changes
I always think it’s best to avoid any foundation base or moisturizer that contains zinc oxide, (check the ingredients list). This will stop the whitish looking tinge some cosmetics give to darker skin. It always makes you look like the foundation is too light. I find that it makes no difference to my skin if the zinc oxide has been made into micro particles, the effect is the same. Don’t fall for it.

Below is a link that lists some of the metal oxides in cosmetic powders. Be sure to read the ingredients list before buying.

Mineral Powder Foundation Ingredients List



  1. […] the foundation interact with your skin. If you have oily skin, foundation will get darker due to oxidation. Consider going one shade lighter and let it darken to your true hue. Also, the light in makeup […]

  2. Hi, i enjoy how we post on the weblog,

    • Thank you so much. I am due to do another one on make. I forgot how difficult buying make was (lol) as I haven’t bought any in a long time.

  3. Your mode off telling alll in this paragraph is in fact good,
    all can effortlessly be awaare of it, Thanks a lot.

  4. Büşra said

    Hi , ı just read your article because ı have a bb cream which is oxidize with sun. And it has spf 15 protection. And till the begining of the spring ı nearly used it everyday. Then ı noticed that my skin (only the area ı put on bb cream) getting really darker . Whenever ı put my hands near my face , my hands looking much lighter even ı dont use any sun cream to my hands nor my arms. İs it possible that a oxidizing product effects on skin color ?

    • Hello… yes chemical oxidation can cause browning of skin. Think of food, ie apples when cut and exposed to the air, red meat going brown again due to oxidation and rusting… all examples of oxidation. Brown spots or dark spots on skin also… This can be made worse by hormones and hyperpigmentation may also occur in conjuction with hormonal imbalance. hope this helps and sorry for the late reply. I have not actually logged into my blogs for at least two years. Had health issues that prevented me.

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