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Iron Oxides Are the Skin-Protecting Ingredients Your Routine Has Been Waiting For

Photo by Sergey Mironov/Getty Images

As skincare ingredients go, iron oxides may not sound, well, terribly sexy. These scientific-sounding ingredients—which can be both mineral or synthetic—are found in all kinds of beauty products, ranging from eyeshadow to sunscreen. Even better, they have surprising skin benefits to offer, and they’re safe for all skin types. To learn more, we talked to board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD, to find out just what iron oxides are, how they help out our skin, and more.

About the Expert:

Geeta Yadav, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Science Dermatology in Toronto.

What Are Iron Oxides?

Iron oxides are FDA-approved pigments used in beauty products, as well as drugs, foods, and more consumer products. “Iron oxides are a common class of ingredients found in many cosmetic and skincare formulas,” explains Dr. Yadav. “Typically, they're used to add color or tint to products, including foundation.” You’ll also commonly see iron oxides in other color cosmetics like eyeshadow, bronzer, and blush, as well as in skincare products, such as sunscreens.

What Are the Benefits of Iron Oxides?

As mentioned, their initial benefit was—and often still is—to impart color. But it’s handy that iron oxides are so commonly found in beauty products, because they may also help protect our skin. “Iron oxides have been shown to provide defense against high energy visible light, also known as blue light (or HEV light), which is emitted from our digital devices,” says Dr. Yadav. Especially with our collective increase in screen time since the pandemic, it’s thought that the high amounts of HEV light we are exposed to contributes to skin damage.

All the more reason to wear SPF every day, right? Mineral sunscreen already offers some protection against blue light, but according to findings from a 2020 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology from Colorescience, the benefits are optimized when combined with iron oxides. “Those benefits are amplified when the ingredient is paired with mineral sunscreen ingredients, like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,” says Dr. Yadav. 

Are There Any Side Effects?

Want even more good news? “Side effects are highly atypical when using iron oxides,” says Dr. Yadav. Of course, when trying any new product, there is always a small chance a reaction is possible, especially if you have sensitive skin. If you experience any irritation or adverse reactions, stop use and contact your physician, as another ingredient in the product may be to blame.

How to Use Iron Oxides in Your Routine

Because iron oxides are already so commonplace in makeup and skincare formulations, you probably don’t have to change up your routine much, if at all, to use them. “You'll find that iron oxides are in many of your products regardless of the formula type,” says Dr. Yadav. However, there is one way you’ll get the most out of them: “Keep an eye out for them in sunscreen formulas—that's how you'll be able to best reap their benefits,” says the derm. 

Products We Love with Iron Oxides

1. KINSHIP Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen Zinc Oxide Broad Spectrum SPF 32

KINSHIP Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen Zinc Oxide Broad Spectrum SPF 32

Powered by zinc oxide sun protection, antioxidant-rich turmeric, and a probiotic complex, this tinted sunscreen both protects and soothes skin without leaving a white cast. Plus, “Using a mineral sunscreen with iron oxides will help you max out the benefits,” reminds Dr. Yadav. 

Ipsters love this formula, too: “I feel comfortable using this instead of foundation,” raved one reviewer, who added that it’s “perfect for no makeup days.”

2. IT COSMETICS CC+ Cream with SPF 50+

IT COSMETICS CC+ Cream with SPF 50+

A BB cream is another excellent way to enjoy the benefits of iron oxides. This one from IT COSMETICS has mineral-based SPF 50 protection and anti-aging ingredients like hyaluronic acid and peptides to plump up fine lines. Our Ipster community loves its full-coverage effect, too. “I love how it covers and doesn't break out my skin,” wrote one fan.

3. WE ARE FLUIDE Otherworldly Palette

WE ARE FLUIDE Otherworldly Palette

As we mentioned earlier, iron oxides are common in makeup too—like in this colorful eyeshadow palette. With matte, glitter, foil, and pearl shades, you can create all kinds of looks, from simple to supernatural. Plus, the formulas are vegan and cruelty-free.

4. LOTTIE LONDON Ombré Blush in Red Hot

LOTTIE LONDON Ombré Blush in Red Hot

This blush formula lends the perfect lit-from-within glow, and the vegan formula features none other than iron oxides. Even better, it’s gorgeous on all skin tones. “Wasn’t sure how it would do on black skin but the pigment is popping,” shared one Ipster after trying it.

Did you know the IPSY Glam Bag delivers personalized skincare, makeup, and more to your door each month? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated March 11, 2022 12:00 AM