16 Feb 2009

Silica powder - is it safe to use? A controversy analyzed

February 16, 2009

The latest controversy in Youtube-land is the whole debacle over Silica speheres powder which has been lauded by some popular Youtubers to be a much cheaper dupe of the Makeup Forver HD powder (100% silica powder). The silica powder is sold on Coastal Scents' website, as well as other online retailers such as TKB Trading, etc.

However, there has been some controversy surrounding this powder! Here is one video talking about the questionable nature of using silica powder for makeup purposes.

In addition, this thread on Model Mayhem, a makeup forum frequented by professional makeup artists, also discusses the topic. Makeup Artist David Klasfeld writes in conjunction to the silica powder sold on Coastal Scents:
What is sold to be used in formulation as is the case with this site, is often done so in presumptive accordance with appropriate manufacturing regulations (i.e. amount, concentration, method of application). This does not speak to its safety if applied directly or undiluted. For example, pure pigments that are used in formulating eyeshadows, can cause irritation, allergic reaction or dermatitis if applied directly to the skin. In this case, through continued use, you may be risking something more serious: Silicosis

I'm going to assume that Make Up For Ever has found some way to regulate particle size, etc. to prevent this from occuring with the continued use of their powder, but I would never, ever use something that wasn't designed with this as its intended use, like the way the HD Powder evidently was.
He then goes on to write:
What's important to note about this product in particular is that it's being sold as an ingredient, and not as a finished product. If you read the recommendations on the page it's all geared towards being part of a larger formulation (ex: "This can be used for slip in small amounts , oil control formulations of mineral makeup."). They aren't recommending that it be applied directly as a face powder.

Given what I know from the manufacturing side of the cosmetics, I personally wouldn't use any silica product with the potential to become airborne, and I definitely wouldn't recommend using the raw ingredient as a finished product.

As far as silica products that are sold for direct use, there's no reason to assume they're unsafe. Especially if a major company is marketing one, I would presume they took every necessary precaution currently known to ensure its safe use. If there's little or no potential for inhalation (i.e. liquid and creme formulations, pressed powders), then there's probably no cause for concern at all. But again, if you want to err on the safe side, then avoid it.
Kathy, the propriertor of Coastal Scents, goes on to call a loyal customer ignorant for spreading "lack of knowledge" on Youtube, and then posts this in response on the comany's website:

1. No, you will not contract silicosis by using cosmetic grade, fda approved silica powder by itself or mixed with other products.
2. Yes, the silica we sell, and the silica others sell, including companies selling it as a finished product are the same product.
3. Yes, all cosmetic silica has gone through special processing, just as the silica used by finished makeup companies, the same exact process.
4. No, Coastal scents silica is not any different than any other silica being sold on the market, we are not special nor should we be singled out.

You can read the entire stance of Coastal Scents here and I leave it up to you to decide if you want to use silica powder or not. I personally can only add that Coastal Scent's business practices leave much to be desired, to say the least! I feel they could have handled the situation much more professionally. You can read some more discussion on this controversy here, or share your thoughts in the comments!


  1. I definitely agree that the CS lady handled herself in a very unprofessional and immature matter. I do however also believe that some(including that make up guru)tend to sound off fire alarms where you could just turn off the heat to fix the problem. As we have many research engines at our disposal, we should all do our own research and make our own decisions. If we look at things objectively wearing any make up leaves our skin washed out after a while. As make up takes a lot out of it on the daily basis. That might be enough for some to stop wearing it entirely.

    To me listening only to that MA's opinion is t the same as learning a technique of only one make up guru on youtube. We subscribe to a few because we like to have different ways of doing make up. This shouldn't be any different. Also I saw on that gurus page that the CS lady only rated her video poorly. I don't see that as a huge deal, lots of stupid people on youtube give bad ratings to some WONDERFUL gurus. She also needs a bit of a thicker skin. *shrug*

    On a lighter note great post.

  2. They certainally could have done.

    I have done my own research and to be honest although I probably wouldn't use the product everyday I might use it ocassionally... if I were to buy it that is.

    Unfortuantly what has done the lasting damage is not the fact CS were selling a questionable product but they total unprofessionalism and their very underhand and nasty tactics.

    They will soon realise that the loss of customers is due to their poor business practices and not the questionable product.

  3. thanks for sharing this. i was also very shocked at how cs handled the whole thing and find it ridiculous how they bad mouthed Erica. Not cool at all!
    I'll definetely reconsider whether or not I will order from cs again, especially considering that the products they sell can be bought from the source on ebay for a lot less.

  4. CS was inappropriate in the way that they handled this. She needs to hire a PR person because she's losing customers over they way she behaved. Just tacky!

  5. CS needs to hire a PR person to handle issues like this. Now she looks like a scheming bully. I don't think she would be losing me as a customer if she had been more tactful and professional. This was not a personal attack, just a customer expressing a concern that she wanted to share with us. I would have made my own decision about the silica spheres and remained a loyal customer, but now, not a chance!

  6. Anonymous4:57 pm

    I have now written off coastal scents as an etailer which I buy from due to their very unprofessional conduct. The original video posted by ericaleigh777 was not placing any blame on coastal scents at all. I won't be ordering from coastal scents any more, especially as all of their products are available from other resources.

  7. I'd love to see MUFE and also their actual manufacturer speak out on the safety issues.

    CS doesn't surprise me anymore...I've heard so many conflicting opinions on the customer service and their products that it seems not worth the hassle of dealing with them.

  8. Just stopping by to say hello! Love your FOTD's on Specktra.

  9. Anonymous5:56 pm

    Im actually very offended how CS handled the situation with Erica and how they had done that before a year earlier with another youtuber. I wouldnt have taken the Silicia situation so harshly if they hadnt harrassed a costumer of theirs because they had a different opinion then theirs. It sounds like they had something to hide. If nothing was as wrong with the powder they wouldnt of gotten so angry and did that to the makeup guru. It sounds a bit shady to me and I may end up never buyin from them again. I heard Erica could actually sue them for harrasment but she wouldnt because I bet shes better than that. But they better watch it cause they may rub someone the wrong way so bad that they may sue and I'm actually welcoming that day.

  10. Anonymous8:18 pm

    I agree that CS's approach to the issue is just ridiculous.

    But.. I think the question of the safety of the product has been blown out of proportion. I agree with Alexander Pope when he said, "A little bit of learning is a bad thing." I think you should listen to what an actual chemist has to say about the silica spheres instead of listening to an irate southern girl who loves makeup. caffn8me on Specktra seems to have some of the best things to say about this if you want to look into that.

    Personally, I just ordered the silica powder sphere and after reading what caffn8me had to say (along with other professionals who know what they're talking about), I feel safe to use it upon its arrival.

  11. Thanks so much for this post!
    With so much discussion going on about this topic, it's great to see some clarifications.

  12. Anonymous9:50 pm

    I've never really cared for CS after hearing how they conduct business and IMO it seems that they are trying to pass off items as their own when in fact they are all available on ebay for cheaper. Even the gel liners aren't their own formulation. I refuse to buy anything from a company that badmouths their customers the way they have.

    Thank you for posting so much about this!

  13. If you feel it's safe, then by all means, use it. We're all (hopefully) adults. But to call someone who has done their own research and decided not to use it an "irate southern girl"? I mean, she did as much (if not more) research than CS did when they decided to recite Wikipedia (a site that anyone can edit) as a reference. Nor were they capable of editing their own postings. Their response was horrible.

  14. Anonymous1:15 am

    I had a bad experience with CS before long time ago and unrelated to this silica issue. I bought items from them and when I saw my invoice my whole credit card information was visible. Usually, only the last 4 digits are visible not the whole numbers and expiration date. I was concerned about this because I had my letters opened before by strangers (or thief..hehe)...so I emailed them about it. Well, the reply I got from Kathy was that I was wrong and that I am looking at a wrong invoice. The reply was worded out pretty nasty. I emailed again telling them that I was looking at the right invoice. I emailed them a copy of my invoice but by then the husband found out I was right and Kathy never apologized at all. She made it sound like I'm an idiot. I dont want to sound dramatic but if this is happening to you, you would definitely understand.

  15. Anonymous1:52 am

    I'm just saying that she should've calmed down before speaking about the product. I find the horrific response of CS and the questionable safety of the product to be two entirely different situations.

    Props for her exposing a company with rude customer service and bad representation. Who wants to deal with that?

    However IMO she shouldn't have "gone on hollering" about the product that she knew little about. Her research was clearly no deeper than that of CS. It barely broke surface and beamed with fatal falseness.

    Credits to xsparkage for providing this link: http://mollyloretta.com/wordpress/?p=127

    And just to add a little sparkle, I learned a personal lesson from the girl who made the controversy video. Don't open your mouth. Ever. Haha kidding.

  16. I didn't read all the posts here but I just wanted to say that regardless of what the truth is about the silica powder I will not be purchasing from Coastal Scents.

    This is the second time they have completely overracted to a youtuber and Kathy is unprofessional and should never ever do that to her customers who voice legit concerns.

  17. Anonymous6:54 am

    I think people are making a big deal out of the CS and Erica situation. To me BOTH parties acted poorly. CS is not some big monolithic company like MAC. It's a small family run business who buys products wholesale and resells them here. NOTHING wrong with that. A lot of people are happy with their products and service from CS. For those who aren't they don't shop there anymore. GREAT.

    Erica was wrong because - she DID call out CS. Her video was named "CS IS NOT MUFE HD". She didn't name it "Possible problems with Silica Spheres" and did very sketchy research based on some "professional makeup artist" (like we would know that online) statement and some wikipedia and California information. All of which was evident she got from someone else. Unfortunately, even if some of us do research, MOST don't. CS reacted poorly by linking her video and calling her ignorant. To me Erica acted poorly making a "sympathy" video. Quite frankly they both just reacted which is what people do. Cut folks some dang slack.

    Personally, I'm new to youtube. I like my gurus but I am not into guru hating or bashing. I get a strong sense that some gurus don't like the popularity of others or how they recommend products and companies, especially if that guru had a problem with the company/product. I love you guys but remember this, YT (and you) are not the end all be all. This is life, Erica is not some poor little victim and CS is not some big bad wolf. They need to talk, squash this whole thing and keep it moving. Life is just too dang short for all this drama. :O)

  18. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but CS is known for unpleasant customer service. I'm not shocked at all on how they handled the situation. I've read from other blogs about their cattiness and I've seen reviews of their products and quality. Sometimes things are shipped and something is wrong; for example, an eyeshadow palette would have a cracked eyeshadow pan or a bottle would come spilled.

  19. I did not like the lack of professionalism on behalf of Coastal Scent most of all!

  20. Given the fact that the claims that make-up companies are allowed to make without any regulation from the FDA (except to accurately reflect what is in the ingredients) it totally doesn't suprise me that something like this would happen. Crazyness!

  21. Rebecca2:26 am

    I think both Erica and Kathy handled this very poorly. Erica should not have made the initial video given that she has a poor grasp on the safety of silica spheres and was simply repeating false information from the internet.

    Kathy shouldn't have singled her out in the mass email, and should not have been handling this via email AT ALL. She should have written a professional disclaimer on her website.

    And Erica was wrong to volley back a retaliatory video. It's all very juvenile.

    What really makes me sad is the lack of science education in America shining through. If people were more knowledgeable about how to determine if scientific claims were true--and I'm including Erica and all of her subscribers and anyone else that has read "David Klasfeld's" claims--none of this would be an issue.

  22. lindsay4:18 am

    Truthfully, I remember watching that scare video and thinking 'this is ridiculous.' Erica may have had the best intentions, but she was grossly misinformed. Long before that video, I had stumbled across this 'controversy' researching products I was interested in and easily found the difference between the silica the miners work with versus the CS silica powder. I didn't even have to do any SERIOUS or particularly taxing research (ie. science journals, academically-based reputable publishers with information, or even a reputable cosmetics writer with a legitimate publisher) to figure this out. I understand the concern, and this goes to show how contagious fear really is, but coooome on.

    All this being said, CS acted horrendously and actually brought to my attention just how bad their customer service has been in the past - which means I won't be purchasing from them again. I don't particularly like Kathy when I watch any CS videos. I also think she comes across poorly defending her products from all of this, which is unfortunate, because I don't think there is anything wrong with the products themselves. She should invest in a PR rep. to communicate on her behalf through the website, so she doesn't come across so belligerent and (I would go so far as to say) uneducated.

    All of this said, thanks so much Julia for your YT posts in which you direct us to the ebay palettes. I was hesitant because I had never used ebay, but being from Canada it still ends up being more economical to purchase these from China or wherever than from CS. Also, I appreciate that you don't whine about stupid comments or whatever - you just don't care. As stupid as I think flaming youtubers is, I think it's equally as useless complaining about it.. delete delete. No use trying to please everyone. So thanks, because I trust your opinion and I think you're quite logical, as well. :) Sorry this is a novel.

  23. Anonymous12:35 pm

    I don't think the main point is whether this is miners silica or cosmetic silica. You just don't want to be breathing in any type of dense, very fine dust on a regular basis. Given that this is loose powder, so you'll be applying considerable amounts right on your face (around your mouth and nose), I can't see why anyone would want to take the risk. When silica are bound to other constituents in a cream or even in a compact foundation, there is no or very little risk for inhalation.

    (See also cosmeticdatabase: About SILICA: Silica is the most common constituent of sand. Fine silica, typically used in industrial applications and inhaled by workers, is associated with a wide range of disorders. In cosmetics for skin use, regular sand presents little, if any risk to people. *Because the particles might be finely ground down for use in a product that might be inhaled (such as a facial powder), the inhalation scores reflect the underlying data.*

  24. Paula6:04 am

    Although I haven't researched about the silica because I don't really want to buy it LOL I am more disgusted at the unprofessionalism and rudeness of Kathy. Singling out Erica and calling her names is very tacky and makes her look very bad, as well as many other customer service complaints I've seen. I will not be ordering from Coastal Scents because of that. If I have a complaint, I expect a better response. I've found some of the same products on other wholesalers websites (as well as ebay) and I've bought some there. CS will lose a lot of customers because of the unprofessionalism, not because of the product.

  25. I absolutely agree. Coastal Scent's response really bummed me out. I am just starting to get into their products, but after the responses I've read and well as the negativity they showed to a loyal customer really makes me want to re-think making future purchases.

  26. I ordered some palettes from them some months ago, and that's it. I won't be ordering anything else. It just rubs me the wrong way, the entire drama. I don't like her attitude, and Erica was not the only Youtuber she put down.

  27. Lets be logical.

    If Kathy tells you that it is safe to use her silica and you know how she reacted on Erica.. Then it is obvious that her only goal is to make money. I dont believe she cares much about others, and I dont think she is a dermatologist that tested the silica powder. Who knows, many it is a carcinogen?! I also have not tested it! lol

    Now lets look at MUFE. MUFE is a PRO brand. It is on the market since 1987. Most of their products havent changed a lot since then. They stand for high quality. Its not a trendy brand.
    All their products are dermatological tested.

    My mother always told me. If something looks to good to be true, then it isnt true. Be smart. There are differant types of silica. Like there are different types of apples. Its all about quality!

    You only have one skin. Dont take risks. Its not worth it for that ammount of money.

  28. Anonymous4:23 am

    It seems like the greatest danger would be the inhalation of silica particles. As long as you don't breathe it, it seems okay.

  29. e.l.f. makes a great Studio HD loose Powder in three different colors (including translucent) for $6. Works very well as a setting powder.

  30. Anonymous9:17 pm

    There are different types of silica (though they are all called silica dioxide which is where the confusion probably starts). Crystallised silica is very dangerous if breathed in, however cosmetic grade hydrated silica has never been shown to cause lung issues at all, even if breathed in (though you should avoid it just as you would avoid breathing in any powder, including talcum powder or deodorants for that matter). There really is no need for all this panic.

    And yes, it is abrasive (that is why you often find it in toothpaste), so some people with very sensitive skin may wish to avoid it on that front. But all in all, as with most of these 'scares', there is a lot of panic spread through a tiny bit of incomplete knowledge and a big mouth.

    I would posit that the car fumes we breathe in daily are more toxic and carcinogenic than anything deemed safe for our skin.