Cheekbones as bright as the sun. Eyelids dazzling like a starry night sky. Lips gleaming like the milky way. I don’t know about you, but almost every step of my makeup routine is dedicated to achieving that healthy, it’s-golden-hour-24/7 glow. Sounds familiar? Well, I’m sorry to burst your sparkly bubble, but underneath your favourite highlighters and iridescent eyeshadows lies something a little less luminous.
And that ‘something’ is either mica or glitter: the two main ingredients brands use to achieve that highly coveted, light-catching finish.
Ethical Mica: What Is It Anyway?
Let’s start with mica. Take your illuminating primer, pearly blush, golden eyeshadow, and all those light-reflecting products in your makeup bag and look at the ingredient list. Do you see the word ‘mica’? That’s what I thought.
So, what is mica? Great question! It’s a natural mineral which, theoretically, is not bad in itself. But the way it’s sourced is a whole different story.
A quarter of mica’s world production comes from India, where—and this is where it gets extremely problematic—over 22,000 children, sometimes as young as 4, are believed to be working in mica mines. Why children? Because their small hands can easily sneak through the tiny crevasses where the mineral is lodged. On top of that, child labour is illegal in that part of the world, so for those mines to operate, they need to do so clandestinely. Meaning: there’s no protection for their (very young) workers whatsoever.
Interestingly enough, mica can be found in many places around the world, such as Finland, the U.S., and even Canada! In other words, there are plenty of ethical and more regulated alternatives out there.
Side note: While researching for this article, I noticed not all brands made it super clear whether they were using ethical mica or not. So I contacted the ones I had doubts about and received an answer under 48 hours. My point is if there’s a brand not mentioned below and you’re unsure about where their mica comes from, just shoot them an email.
Do Yourself a Favour: Avoid Glitter
Now, let’s move on to glitter. Just like the sequins covering your favourite tube top in 1998, the ones in your eyeshadows and bronzer are no exception to the rule. They’re most likely made out of plastic. Usually, you’ll find them under ‘polyethylene terephthalate’ in the ingredient list.
What happens is that when you remove your makeup at night, those microparticles are washed down your drain all the way to the ocean and eventually—you guessed it—make their way into the stomachs of fish, shellfish, and other marine life.
Here’s a little reminder: plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. In fact, some scientists even believe that it may not decompose at all. They think it just disintegrates into tinier and tinier plastic particles, never completely disappearing.
Do you remember the uproar when people found out about plastic microbeads in their exfoliants? Governments eventually ban them. Let’s just hope the same fate awaits plastic glitter.
Brands Doing Things Differently
One thing I learned while writing this article is that most clean beauty companies selling shimmery makeup tend to use ethical mica rather than biodegradable glitter, which has been on the market for some years now. I’m not exactly sure why, but I can assure you that if you want to shine, glimmer, dazzle, those brands won’t disappoint.
RITUEL DE FILLE
Eyeshadow in Exuviae, $ 50, buy here.
Liquid highlighter in Astrid, $ 54, buy here.
Eyeshadow palette, US$ 48, buy here.
Lip gloss in Fascination, $ 52, buy here.
Skin Trio, $ 42, buy here.
Liquid eyeshadow in Globe, $ 37, buy here.
Cream highlighter in Falling Star, $ 36, buy here.
Joëlle Paquette is a sutainable fashion and clean beauty blogger and copywriter based in Montreal, Canada. After 10 years of working as a journalist for different magazines, she now specializes in writing conscious content for brands built on strong environmentally and socially responsible values. She also pet a corgi once—a very special day she will never forget.
Follow her on Instagram to make sure you don’t miss out on anything @veryjoelle 🌼
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