I often hear, most especially from my fellow pro makeup artist that makeup with any spf, but specifically Silica, Mica, Titanium Dioxide ( Tio2) and Zinc Oxide ( ZO), will absolutely cause flashback in photography. I have heard, more than once, that the combo of Zinc and Titanium dioxide will always cause flashback.
Welp, I’m here to tell you that Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide together do not HAVE to cause flashback. My line has Tio2, ZO, and Silica as well as a matte mica (yeah a matte mica exists). I was a science major in college. I did A LOT or research when developing this line directly, for photography and film, and I use it in every lighting situation for both still camera and filming. PROPORTION and PERCENTAGE of ingredients, as well as correct, and enough pigmentation of products, will allow you to use these ingredients in professional situations.
The FDA recommends silica ( silicon dioxide) at no more than 3% for efficacy in a formulation, ( meaning at 3% of any formulation you will obtain the benefits of silica ( great wrinkle/line/pore hider + optical blur)
It is, however, FDA safe to use at 100% (great for film only, because at 100%, clearly, it WILL flashback, as there is nothing else in it.) We’ve all seen the celebrity photos with the white powder all over their faces. But, in the 3% proportion silica can give the benefit, without the flashback issues.
There are also differences in the product ingredients themselves, there are minerals that are coated with fats or waxes, Like Zinc Stearate or Magnesium Stearate (usually the stearate is palm oil) or Titanium Dioxide coated with dimethicone ( a silicone). Then there are also fat, or wax-coated oxides and micas.( I really like these) Like a coating of jojoba wax ( it’s a wax, not an oil, btw) or carnauba wax, even petroleum-based oils and waxes or coconut oil based ones like Lauroyl Lysine, another ingredient I like. All of these coatings help dampen the reflectivity, but do more than that, they also increase adhesion ( how well the makeup sticks to your face) and slip/lubricity (how well it spreads or moves across the skin and how draggy/sticky or smooth it feels). They are still listed on label simply as Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide, etc. You will have no real idea if the particle is coated just by reading the ingredients. (in regular ingredients list, not the may contain statement which is if it’s used as a colorant only and not as a main base ingredient) as the wax or oil coating would be listed in descending order, as it is simply the coating, so appears in a lesser quantity ( and yes, we have to actually figure that out for the label. It usually takes ingredient manufacturer assistance to calculate this, ask me how I know?)
Here is a great blog post on this topic from a scientist with a PhD in chemistry- Why Makeup Flashback Happens and How to Avoid It. As you can see, yes the light reflecting particles CAN be an issue, BUT flashback is more dependent upon the type, and style, of lighting, AND the formulation of the product itself.
See more amazing science-y makeup and skincare goodies at her website-Lab Muffin
Flashback is not a foregone conclusion. The best way to know if a product will flashback, is to test it. On your face. With a camera. With the flash.
Now, pretty much any makeup product will give a slight flashback if photographed in a dark situation, using a camera flash straight on. it’s just the nature of makeup.Heck even oily skin will glow whitish in this situation. I’m talking test out in natural situations.
For my fellow pros, this would be perfect to try out at the end of a test shoot, using same model, and same lighting setup, and camera settings by your photographer. Then you could see how it truly performs under work conditions, and if it is a viable product to add to your kit.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! and do check out Lab Muffin- she’s great!