Is Silica in Cosmetics Dangerous?

Lately, there’s been a controversy in the beauty world about whether or not silica is safe to be used in cosmetics. I am not interested in the personal problem between Coastal Scents and Erica, but the whole issue is causing an unnecessary scare. So, I decided to do some research on silica and here’s what I found out:

What is Silica?

Silica is a very common mineral on earth. It is used in cosmetics to make them adhere to skin and improve the smoothness and spread of foundations, creams and powders. It also absorbs oil, helping your makeup last longer.

Forms of Silica

Silica comes in several forms but this controversy is about two of them: crystalline silica and silica microspheres.
Silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust, is caused by crystalline form silica when directly mined. So, unless you work in a mine, you’re not at risk. And as far as I know, miners do wear masks to protect themselves from inhaling this substance.
The type used in cosmetics, instead, has been processed and grounded into microspheres (round form of silica).

Differences between the two types of Silica

These two types of silica have a different chemical structure. Unlike crystalline silica, where the atoms are in a clear order, in silica microspeheres  they aren’t.
In addition, they aren’t processed in the same way, so they don’t come in contact with each other and the finished product won’t therefore be contaminated.

So, is Silica used in cosmetics safe?

Yes. The type of silica that causes health problem, crystalline silica, is a different chemical than silica microspheres, which is the safe form approved to be used in cosmetics. That means that any product that contains silica is safe to be used either alone or with other powders. So, unless you’re allergic to silica, you can keep using it without problems.

Do you use products with silica?

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  1. says

    *whew* thanks for the great informative post, I’ve been wondering about that but always get sidetracked with the Coastal Scents problem , the owner and a buyer !

  2. says

    Nikki: you’re welcome. I guess lots of poeple that know about the controversy tend to take sides and forget about the actual cause of the problem, ie whether silica is dangerous or not. I know I got a bit sidetracked at first too, but now the whole thing has gotten blown up of all proportions, it’s ridiculous.

    Dao: Silica is one of the top oil absorbes and really improves the staying power of their cosmetics as well as their smoothness and spread. The only rason not to use it is if you’re allergic to it, but like you pointed out, that’s a rare case.

    Jnie: thanks. I couldn’t agree more, things have completely been blown out of all proportions *sighs*

  3. says

    What are the allergic reactions?

    I usually don’t use cosmetics, but decided to use Regenerist contour and lift at-home treatment, which contains silica.

    Within a couple of hours my heart started racing. May be a coincidence.

    What do you think?

  4. says

    Well, symptoms of allergic reactions are usually rashes, redness, breakouts and irritation. Silica can cause nausea but only if inhaled or ingested. I highly doubt silica in cosmetics can make your head spin, it’s probably just a coincidence. I would recommend consulting your physician. He/she will be able to tell the actual cause of your symtoms.

  5. Ryan says

    I am really getting annoyed by people getting in a tizzy becuase of things like this. People make up their minds and spew out a bunch of “facts” without actual knowing what they are talking about. From sunscreen to talc and parabens. I think its time somone steps up and clears up this paraben nonsense. Dont wear paraben makeup! but its still okay to eat blueberries and other plants even though they naturally contain parabens.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Ryan, it’s a shame people are so easily scared and stop buying perfectly safe products instead than looking up the scientific facts. They’d realise then that there is really nothing to be worried about. I hope this article will help set the record straight on this issue.

    • ben says

      Actually, parabens are broken down in the stomach. Eating them is fine. It’s through the skin that’s the problem.
      I’d always suggest caution with any chemical that’s new and untested. I avoid all minerals too because they aren’t soluble and IF they get in your lungs, they MIGHT stay there.

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Ben, there is no proof that parabens are bad for you when applied topically yet. There is some proof that they can penetrate skin but the body gets rid of them within 3 days so their accumulation shouldn’t be a concern.

        As for minerals, I think that they’re bad only when inhaled in large quantities. If you apply it carefully, the minimal amount on silica you put on your skin isn’t a problem.

        I understand that not everyone is comfortable using these ingredients and may like to wait until we have further information, but we shouldn’t become paranoid either. After all, everything in concentrations high enough can be harmful.

        • ben says

          It’s a personal choice. Like many things in life.
          If you use parabens regularly then they will be constantly present.
          Lung cancer is more and more prevalent. Who knows what causes what. Evidence can take years or decades to appear.
          In my opinion, caution and common-sense is the best policy when it comes to health. But I can understand people preferring to be care-free.

          • beautifulwithbrains says

            Ben, I do agree that in the end it’s a personal choice but I don’t see why people who decide to trust science are care-free. If the body gets rid of parabens after 3 days, then their levels are always gonna remain stable and too low to cause any harm. Further studies on parabens are certainly needed but all the doctors and dermatologists I’ve talked to so far believe they aren’t bad and no study has as yet proved they are. Until then, I’ll keep using them.

            Cigarettes cause lung cancer. Air pollution causes lung cancer. Even if some minerals caused it, you’d have to be exposed to huge quantities of them. The crap we breathe (and eat) every day will kill us off sooner.

            We should all exercise caution when it comes to our health, but we shouldn’t be paranoid either. After all, everything can be bad in large enough doses. For instance, in high amounts, Vitamin C is toxic. Does that mean that we have to stop using that too? All plants and water contain substances that can be toxic and carcinogenic but because they are present in them in such small quantities our body manages to get rid of them so they won’t harm us. In the end, it’s the quantity that makes the poison.

            • ben says

              Yes, you already said all that.
              It’s not paranoid to value your health over your beauty products. It’s common sense. But if you are exposing yourself to a load of other crap in life (care-free), then you may as well breathe in little bits of rock and carcinogenic mineral compounds like titanium dioxide too. Go for it.

              • beautifulwithbrains says

                Ben, there’s no need for such sarcasm. I agree with you that your health is more important than beauty products. My point is that parabens, silica and other ingredients haven’t been proven to cause cancer yet and so I don’t see any reason to avoid them. If a link should be found, I will be the first to stop using these ingredients and tell my readers to do the same.

                If we were to avoid all potential dangers, we couldn’t even cross the street or take a plane, for instance. It’s up to each one of us to assess whether a risk is worth taking. As for me, if science tells me something isn’t harmful I’ll use it, and I don’t believe I’m being carefree for doing so. After all, if we can’t trust peer reviewed, double blind studies, what can we trust?

  6. Angel Bethany says

    What if you are sifting silica all over your house for pest control, on your bedding, blankets and sheets. Wouldn’t you be inhaling this dust and get ill?

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Angel, I’m afraid I don’t know what type of silica is used for pest control so I’m not sure what to say. Do the instruction of the packaging mention anything about it? In general, though, it’s the dose that makes the poison, so using it for a long period of time may be harmful for human health. But as I mention, my knowledge of silica is limited to the type used in cosmetics, sorry.

  7. TShea says

    They link Silica to Rheumatoid Arthritis And RA is more common in women. Makeup? Something to think about

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      TShea, I believe that could be a concern if you’re exposed to high quantities of silica. If you use only a tiny amount, and are careful not to inhale it during application, you’ll be fine.

  8. says

    I’ve always wondered about silica in cosmetics. I used to work with the bridge crew for my state’s department of transportation and we had to wear masks to cover our face because of silica. If it was used in the building of anything and then it’s disturbed it can ’cause a huge medical issue, not just mining.
    Since then I’ve been overly cautious of anything containing silica because of that fear (some of the training videos were not pretty). So it’s good to know that the silica in cosmetics/beauty products is safe to use. Thanks for the awesome post!
    Bree´s last blog post ..My Pampered Face RoutineMy Profile

    • Gio says

      Bree, you’re welcome, and thank you for sharing your experience with us. Inhaling a big amount of silica can be very dangerous indeed. Thankfully, the type used in cosmetics is harmless.

  9. Carlos says


    excuse my English. I’ve been using for 2 years HairSoReal (web:, microfibers conceal baldness. I have recently noticed that contains silica, but I find information on whether using crystalline form or microspheres. As a powder is probably breathed this fiber rods occasions, my question is, all the cosmetics industry uses non-crystalline form? for both forms the “silica” generic term used for? Thank you

    • Gio says

      Carlos, your English is fine. I believe they are using the microspheres form. That’s what’s usually used in this type of products. In any case, if you used properly, by following the instructions diligently, it shouldn’t cause any problems at all.

  10. Potter says

    I have to dissagree with the statement about miners not wearing masks/not needing them. I can’t speak for miners, but silicosis is very real for anyone working with clay, ceramics etc. most ceramic studios have osha certified ventilation systems, when I worked in the studio processing dry clay, I had to wear a special respirator and everything. One thing that concerns me, cosmetic labels don’t say what kind of silica is used. How can you tell if it’s the safe version or not?

    • Gio says

      Potter, I did say that miners do wear masks. They need them. I also said that UNLESS you are a miner, you don’t need to worry about silica. Saying unless you work with huge quantities of silica, you’re not a risk would probably have been better, as there other professions that may make workers at risk of contracting silicosis.

      But the point remains, that silica in cosmetics is not dangerous. Silica microsheres is the type of silica approved for use in cosmetics. I don’t think companies can use any other type of silica without getting into trouble., Contrary to public opinion, it is illegal to add toxic stuff to cosmetics.

  11. Ro says

    Hi thank you for the post, I’ve always wondered about silica too. Unfortunately, I believe I may be allergic to it. Makeup containing silica always causes my face to itchy and feel really irritated. It caused lots of little bumps on my face. Luckily that was the extend of my allergic reaction. I switched to a natural makeup that doesn’t contain silica and my face hasn’t been irritated since.

    • Gio says

      Ro, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you are allergic to silica, but glad you’ve found something that works for you.


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