DIY Mineral Makeup

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When you first test your homemade mineral makeup, put a swatch on your cheek and compare the color to your skin tone.
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In general we want our cosmetics to have these characteristics: slip, adhesion, pigmentation, and opacity.
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The vitamin E oil in our homemade mineral makeup will keep it from going rancid for at least a year.
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Always begin by adding less pigment than you think you'll need; you can add more later, but if you add too much, you'll have to start over.

I grew up in a family of makers. My mother made costumes and curtains, cookies and casseroles. My father made cabinets, staircases, and an amazing treehouse for our imaginative childhood games. I grew up knowing that although clothes, food, and furniture could come from stores, they could also be created at home. But makeup? Makeup was a substance in and of itself, a mysterious subclass of colorful creams and powders that could transform different bits of my face into something new.

Eventually, I started to create my own skin care products — lip balm led to body butter and then to lotion — and at some point, the idea of homemade makeup came onto my radar. I wasn’t a devoted cosmetics user, but once I began to learn what makeup was made of and how those ingredients worked together, I started mixing powders and butters into my own colorful concoctions. I could make lip balm, and I had some pigments — and isn’t that basically lipstick? The power to create and customize was mine in a whole new way!

Choose the Right Equipment

Thanks to the web, making your own cosmetics is more accessible than ever. In the United States, TKB Trading is an excellent source for makeup ingredients and packaging; in Canada, try Windy Point Soap Making Supplies. Makeup ingredients are inexpensive and have long shelf lives; you can purchase the supplies for what might be a lifetime’s worth of mineral makeup for less than $40!

For equipment, you’ll need a standard blade coffee grinder (reserved only for your DIY projects), a dust mask, standard measuring spoons, and a set of small “dash” measuring spoons in 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64 teaspoon. You’ll also need a few disposable pipettes for measuring drops of the oils you’ll use; keep the pipettes in service as long as possible by storing them on the side of the oil bottle with a rubber band.

Gather Your Ingredients

In general, we want our cosmetics to have a variety of different characteristics: slip (ability to spread well, with a nice feel against the skin), adhesion (ability to stay on), pigmentation (strong colors), and opacity (coverage). Of course, we also want our cosmetics to be non-irritating, to feel nice on the skin, and to be safe. For mineral makeup, we’re looking for moderate to high coverage, strong and accurate pigmentation, great slip, and at least 8 to 12 hours of comfortable wear time.

Different ingredients bring different characteristics to our cosmetics, so we blend them to create a perfect final product. A little coverage from this, some adhesion and slip from that, and so on — it’s a lot like cooking in this regard. Many makeup recipes online will tell you that high-quality cosmetics can be made using only common kitchen ingredients, such as cocoa powder and turmeric, but that’s just not true (I’ve tried). We’ll be using pure mineral ingredients to create makeup that’s comparable to the high-quality, store-bought options.

We’ll begin our makeup blends with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, two unassuming, chalky white powders. Both are naturally occurring minerals, though zinc oxide is typically synthesized for cosmetic use. We include them for coverage and adhesion, as well as white pigmentation. Titanium dioxide is the stronger of the two for coverage and adhesion, but zinc oxide adds some skin-soothing benefits. Blended together, they create an opaque white powder that will stay on the skin quite well. However, the mixture alone is also dry and skiddy, so we’ll want to include other ingredients for improved slip.

Magnesium stearate and sericite mica both help improve slip. Magnesium stearate is made from magnesium oxide and stearic acid, a fatty acid found in cocoa and shea butters. It looks like a white powder, but you’ll find it’s surprisingly soft and creamy. In cosmetics, this lovely creaminess improves slip as well as adhesion. Sericite mica is a fine, grayish powder that’s wonderfully silky, further improving slip and adhesion. It also has the unique benefit of diffusing light. This helps improve the skin’s appearance by blurring it softly without added coverage, resulting in a more realistic-looking foundation.

After we blend those four ingredients together, we’ll add a few drops of jojoba oil and vitamin E oil to weigh the mixture down a bit and add more richness to the base. This will leave us with a soft, silky, high-adhesion, high-coverage powder that is bright white. At this point (unless you’re very fair-skinned!), you’ll need to add some iron oxides to the base to transform it into a perfect match for your skin tone.

The iron oxides used here are yellow, red, and dark brown. They’re earthy shades, well-suited to creating skin tones. Iron oxides do occur naturally, but because of heavy-metal contamination, cosmetic-grade iron oxides are synthesized. These pigments are matte, and very potent. I encourage you to start small with your pigment additions to get a feel for just how strong they are.

Yellow is the base for all skin tones, with varying amounts of red and brown added to warm and darken the blend. If your skin is on the fairer side, incorporate more titanium dioxide; and if your skin is quite dark, you may want to include a touch of rich blue ultramarine. A little red goes a long way, especially if you’re fair; it’s easy to accidentally create a foundation that’s too pink, so err on the side of caution. I recommend using a 1/64 teaspoon, or even half of that. You can always add more pigment, but if you add too much, you’ll have to start over.

When you first begin testing your makeup, it’ll probably look too light, but that’s not the whole story. No matter your skin tone, you’re likely not using enough yellow. If you have dark skin, you may not be using enough pigment in general. You can almost always see what you need to adjust by looking at yourself in a mirror in daylight with a makeup swatch on your cheek. You’ll clearly see that the clean skin next to the makeup swatch is more red, more yellow, lighter, darker, or whatever else. If you aren’t sure, I’ve found it’s best to add more yellow before trying more red or brown. If you’re very fair, you may not need any brown in your blend, but everyone needs yellow and red to keep them from looking sickly.

Color blending is the fiddly and fun part, and after you’ve got that down, you’ll be golden! With your notes and your new ingredients, you’ll be set with mineral makeup for years, if not for life. And thanks to the versatility of these ingredients, you’ll also be well on your way to making blush, bronzer, lipstick, and more!

Mineral Makeup Base

Because this makeup doesn’t contain any water, you won’t need to worry about mold, but the jojoba oil in it can go rancid. The vitamin E in the recipe helps prevent this for at least a year, but if your makeup starts to smell like old crayons or worse, chuck it and make a new batch.

  • 1 tsp titanium dioxide
  • 1 tsp zinc oxide
  • 1 tsp sericite mica
  • 3/8 tsp magnesium stearate
  • 20 drops jojoba oil
  • 3 drops vitamin E oil

1. Because we’re working with fine powders and whirring them around in a coffee grinder, begin by putting on a dust mask.

2. Measure the powders out into your cosmetics-only coffee grinder. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the open grinder, and press the lid down on top of the plastic wrap, sandwiching it between the grinding dish and the lid. (This will shrink the volume of the grinder, making for far more efficient grinding.) Blend for about 20 seconds.

3. Let the dust settle for a few minutes before removing the lid, and rap it sharply with the back of a spoon before removing it to knock down any powder that might have crawled up the side of the grinding dish. Stir the powders around to see how they’ve blended; some grinders leave a layer of untouched powder underneath the blades. If this is the case, turn things over with a spoon and blend for another 20 seconds, repeating as necessary until you have a smooth, uniform powder. Be sure to do this between each addition of pigment as well, to ensure an even, accurate blend.

4. Count out the drops of jojoba and vitamin E oils into the grinder, scattering the drops around rather than clumping them together, so they blend evenly. Blend again for about 20 seconds, let the dust settle for a few minutes, and then stir. Sometimes the drops of oil will sink down to the bottom of the grinder dish and stay there rather than incorporating. If that’s the case, scrape the droplets up off the bottom of the dish as best you can, and give the whole lot another whirl. Repeat until the mixture is uniform.

5. Now, we’re ready to start adding pigments! I’ve worked with women of all different skin tones to develop starter blends (see “Color Blends for Beginners” below), but you’ll likely need to do some simple tweaking to nail your personal blend. Choose a starter color blend that you think might work for you, and begin by adding about 2/3 of the pigment called for. Test it on your face in daylight and work from there, making pigment additions and taking careful notes as you go.

6. After you’ve created your ideal color blend, transfer your makeup to a 1-ounce jar fitted with a sifter lid. Label your blend with the date made, and ensure you can tie it back to your notes so you can refer to them and adjust the blend in the future if needed.

Color Blends for Beginners


Fair with pink undertones.

1 tsp titanium dioxide

1/8 tsp yellow iron oxide

3/128 tsp red iron oxide


Fair with neutral undertones.

1 tsp titanium dioxide

7/32 tsp yellow iron oxide

3/64 tsp red iron oxide

1/32 tsp dark brown iron oxide


Medium with neutral undertones.

1 tsp titanium dioxide

7/16 tsp yellow iron oxide

1/64 tsp red iron oxide

7/64 tsp dark brown iron oxide


Cool medium.

1 tsp titanium dioxide

7/16 tsp yellow iron oxide

1/64 tsp red iron oxide

3/8 tsp dark brown iron oxide


Dark with yellow undertones.

1-1⁄4 tsp yellow iron oxide

3/32 tsp red iron oxide

5/16 tsp dark brown iron oxide

1/8 tsp magnesium stearate

5 drops jojoba oil


Dark with red undertones.

11/16 tsp yellow iron oxide

11/32 tsp red iron oxide

5/8 tsp dark brown iron oxide

1/8 tsp magnesium stearate

5 drops jojoba oil


Dark with cool undertones.

1 tsp yellow iron oxide

3/32 tsp red iron oxide

9/16 tsp dark brown iron oxide

1/64 tsp blue ultramarine

1/8 tsp magnesium stearate

5 drops jojoba oil

Shopping List

When shopping for mineral makeup ingredients, it can be tricky to figure out how much you’ll need. In general, I’d recommend 4 ounces of the base powders, which are used in larger amounts, and 1 ounce of each pigment and the magnesium stearate. Feel free to purchase the smallest bottles of the liquid oils you can find — 0.5 to 1 fluid ounce each is more than enough when each makeup batch requires just a few drops!

  • 4 ounces titanium dioxide (oil dispersible, high-micron)
  • 4 ounces zinc oxide (high-micron)
  • 4 ounces sericite mica (plain)
  • 1 ounce magnesium stearate
  • 1 ounce yellow iron oxide
  • 1 ounce red iron oxide
  • 1 ounce dark brown iron oxide
  • 0.5 ounce blue ultramarine (for darker complexions)
  • 0.5 to 1 fluid ounce jojoba oil
  • 0.5 to 1 fluid ounce vitamin E oil (tocopherols T-50, not an oral supplement)

Reprinted with permission from Make It Upby Marie Rayma, published by Running Press, 2016. Rayma is the author ofMake It Up: The Essential Guide to DIY Makeup and Skin Careandthe creator ofHumblebee and Me. She lives in Calgary, Alberta, where she spends her days making messes in the kitchen and taking pictures of them.

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