'Scuse me. I have to go powder my nose.
What once served as a demure exit strategy for ladies who needed to visit the women's room is now legit. The powder is for real - cute little pots, jars, and compacts of it that are showing up in lots of makeup bags, accompanied by large, fluffy brushes to buff it on and smaller brushes to apply it on problem spots.
The stuff is called mineral makeup - minerals that are ground into fine powders and sold in loose or pressed form. Mineral makeup promises natural-looking coverage that protects against sun damage, won't clog pores, stands up to a steamy summer day, and has no fragrance, dye, talc, oil, or preservatives.
"It's phenomenal - we have a lot of requests for it," reports Victoria Espinoza, manager of the Merle Norman Cosmetics stores at Westfield Franklin Park and at Spring Valley, Airport Highway and McCord Road.
"We find a lot of our clients want something that's quick, something that's natural. Even if they don't have sensitive skin, they want fragrance-free, oil-free products. ... If something can cover your skin, protect you from the sun, and is good for you, women love it."
Susan Patton of Northwood, an independent Avon representative, says she also sells quite a bit of mineral makeup, and wears it herself.
"For me, liquid or cream foundation is too heavy," Ms. Patton says. With mineral makeup, "you don't look made-up."
Women who switch to mineral makeup tend to stick with it, she continues. "They're extremely loyal to the product."
Popularized via television infomercials, mineral makeup products - foundation, blush, translucent powder, eye shadow - have worked their way from upscale cosmetics retailers to mainstream discount, drug, and grocery stores. Along the way, it has evolved. Originally all the mineral products were loose powders; more recently, pressed mineral powders have been developed that are less messy and easier to use for touch-ups.
"It reminds me of aromatherapy," laughs Patrice White, owner of Patrice Cosmetics Studio on Oak Alley Court in West Toledo. "Now you can go into a gas station and they have aromatherapy" products.
She attributes a lot of the mineral makeup buzz simply to the fact that it's something different from the usual liquid and cream foundations.
"It's fun to try new things," she points out.
Also driving the trend is environmental awareness, says Emily Massa of Sephora. "There's more awareness of the products we use in our homes, the energy we consume, the water we drink, what we're ingesting, what we're throwing away. It's the same thing with cosmetics," says the Sephora Pro Beauty Team expert in a telephone interview from Chicago.
Miss Massa says that women with any skin type can wear mineral makeup, but that it's especially good for those who have skin allergies and sensitivity, because it is all-natural.
It's also good for oily skin and for anyone on humid, sizzling days, because it will absorb moisture, she adds.
The miraculous beauty transformations presented on infomercials can lead to a misconception that mineral makeup offers maximum coverage, notes Ms. Espinoza of Merle Norman.
"Sometimes women who have used a solid foundation want to try the mineral powder because they see the befores and afters, and they say, 'Well, I can still see my freckles.' This is more for someone who likes a soft, more natural look to their makeup," she says. "It's more of a sheer to medium coverage."
That doesn't mean it's only for young women with enviable complexions, though. "We have been selling it to every age group," Ms. Espinoza says.
According to Mrs. White, the primary ingredients in mineral makeup are the same from one line to another: titanium dioxide (a nonchemical particle that scatters light and offers sun protection), zinc oxide (from zinc ore, offering sun protection and some anti-bacterial properties), and mica (another mineral, for color and texture). In addition, she says, bismuth oxychloride provides color and "pearlization," and dimethicone enhances spreadability and waterproofing.
"Learning how to put the product on is really important," stresses Miss Massa of Sephora. But once you understand the process, application is fast and easy.
Mineral makeup is usually applied with a short, fat brush called a kabuki. Shake a bit of powder into the jar lid or sifting compartment and work it into the brush. Tap off the excess and brush it on your face - buffing in a circular motion, with a light touch.
Then, using a smaller, tighter-bristle brush, apply more powder to areas where you need more coverage, such as broken blood vessels or blemishes. Go back to a large brush to apply blush and translucent powder.
"With normal or combination skin, I think the mineral makeup is very pretty," Mrs. White says. "I don't use it on someone with dry skin, because I prefer to use a creamy moisturizer and liquid foundation. Creamy moisturizers are not compatible with mineral makeup."
That's because mineral powder won't spread easily over a heavy moisturizer, Mrs. White explains.
But Miss Massa - who says she has severely dry skin and wears mineral makeup - suggests avoiding that problem by allowing time for your moisturizer to be absorbed into your skin before applying mineral makeup.
Claims aside, mineral makeup may be worth a try for no other reason than "just because."
"I think we all get bored and need a change, and change is good," Mrs. White declares.
Contact Ann Weber at: email@example.com or 419-724-6126.