Makeup line grounded in skin-care concern

By Leigh Grogan -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Wednesday, March 12, 2003

What Mother Nature gives, modern medicine can take away.

Brown spots and wrinkles, which are caused by too much sun exposure, are commonly treated with micro-dermabrasion, chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing.

After these treatments, patients must avoid exposure to the sun while the skin recovers. Sunscreen is a must. And finding a makeup line with a sun protection factor, or SPF, is common.

That's why mineral makeup has grown in popularity over the past five years, especially with women who have skin treatments, skin conditions such as rosacea or those who are extremely sensitive to the ingredients in mass-market brands.

Up until now, most mineral makeup lines, including Jane Iredale and Mineral Secrets, have been available only in powder form. Now customers have a choice because an El Dorado Hills-based company, Illuminaré Cosmetics, has created the first line of liquid mineral makeup.

Touted as more natural because they don't contain synthetic ingredients, mineral makeup products earn points for their ability to minimize redness, even skin tone and avoid irritation.

Stacie Wolff, a skin-care specialist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of Northern California in Sacramento, works with patients caring for their skin after the procedures. She says most are "dealing with really red, swollen and ... sore skin for seven to 10 days."

"I recommend the mineral makeup (she carries Jane Iredale) because the zinc oxide in it helps protect from the sun, which patients must do from this point on, and it won't cause breakouts on sensitive skin."

Ruthie Molloy is president of Illuminaré, which is tucked into a business complex off Latrobe Road. What makes her makeup different, other than the fact that it's a liquid?

Molloy offers two answers: heightened protection against the sun and products that are as pure as the earth used to make them.

"We do not include plant extracts or perfumes in our makeup because many of these ingredients can irritate the skin," she says.

Before creating Illuminaré two years ago, Molloy was a total makeup junkie.

"I'm no different from anyone else," she says. "I have tried so many brands of foundation and makeup, hoping to find that elusive 'holy grail.' But nothing ever lived up to the hype."

She created Illuminaré, which means "to illuminate" in Italian, as a liquid because powders are messy to work with and less likely to last through the day.

Each of the three foundation formulas contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which not only protect against the sun's UVB rays but also UVA rays, which cause the most significant damage, including melanoma.

Molloy, who is a certified physical therapist, studied chemistry and knew which inorganic compounds would work best. Her experience helping cancer patients and women recovering from procedures such as laser resurfacing and chemical peels provided an incentive to come up with a product that would protect the skin while improving its appearance.

"I really wanted a product that women would love as a cosmetic to cover redness or other imperfections such as age spots," Molloy says. "They get the added bonus of skin protection that lasts."

Michael Gelman, vice president of Illuminaré, keeps the company's Web site and technological side up and running. He uses the liquid foundation on his hands and chest for protection and to even out his skin tone.

"Our goal has always been to achieve beauty without the (organic and plant) extracts," he says. "The list of ingredients in our makeup is quite short."

Illuminaré is one of the few mineral makeup lines that does not put mica or bismuth oxychloride in any of its products.

Says Molloy, "We purposely left these two ingredients out because they can cause the product to have a shiny appearance."

There also are no oils, talc, alcohol, dyes or salicylate acid.

Working with a chemist in Southern California, Molloy took a year to perfect the formula.

Illuminaré received a positive review by cosmetics cop Paula Begoun, who wrote about the line in her book, "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me." Over the phone from Seattle, Begoun says powder-based mineral makeup in general was designed as an alternative to traditional pressed powder.

"They came in with a bang because they just sound more natural," she says. "The problem with the powders, however, is that because they're made from earth minerals, they absorb anything in their path."

Begoun says the grainy powders usually feel drier on dry skin and thick on oily skin. To reap the benefits of any sunscreen protection, powders would have to be applied liberally. She agrees the liquid formula is easier to use because it's easier to control.

Several local women with a variety of skin-care concerns say the liquid mineral makeup gives them added assurance when it comes to being outdoors.

Debbie Russell, a licensed cosmetologist and certified permanent makeup technician, owns Faces & More salon in Sacramento. She says she's been treated for skin cancer even though she always uses sunscreen.

"I have access to the best stuff on the market, but the sun was still getting through my clothing," she says. "I tried Illuminaré while golfing one day. I put it on my chest and face but not my hands and arms. When I got home and removed my clothing, my hands and arms were burned. I washed my makeup off and I couldn't believe no pink cheeks, not even redness on my nose."

Then there's Carol Joy Trapier, who lives and works locally on a ranch in the Shenandoah Valley. She's 68 and leads an active lifestyle, much of it outdoors. "But I didn't want to look like an old shoe," she says.

"I was looking for a sunblock that wouldn't melt and run into my eyes. Now I use (Illuminaré) Ultimate All Day foundation on my face, arms, chest, wherever the sun might hit. It's nice to have a sunblock that has a little color to it."

In addition to the liquid foundation, the Illuminaré line features liquid blush and eye shadows in coffee colors such as Cafe Latté, Espresso and Mocha Cinnamon. Foundations and blushes both have SPF 21 and cost $20 for a .5-ounce tube. Trial sizes are available. The eye colors, with SPF 15, cost $15.

Molloy hopes to expand the Illuminaré line to include a lipstick with SPF 20 and a waterproof body lotion. The color selection will grow to include shades suitable for darker skin tones, plus more blushes.

"I also hope to get into more retail outlets," Molloy says. "My goal is to keep Illuminaré simple and beautiful. This is the face of the future."

Where to shop: Illuminaré Cosmetics are available at or by calling (916) 939-9888 or toll-free (866) 999-2033.