Considering myself a makeup lover, I realised that I actually know nothing about what really goes into making makeup. If someone asked me about ingredients, I could probably not be able to give an answer. After researching a little bit about different ingredients the most famous products have, I came across mica. Not sure what that really was, I investigated a little more and found an awful response.
Mica is a mineral which also receives the name of “nature´s glitter” and it is used on beauty products for that glittery effect. Most products that are marketed as illuminators probably have this mineral, and so do most products that have a shimmer or sparkle in it.
Now, you are probably asking yourself, what is wrong about this mineral? Why are you even mentioning it? There is nothing wrong with the product itself, but there is side that us as consumers do not get to see, and therefore, inform ourselves about it. Mica is found in very poor areas of India, mostly in Jharkand and Bihar, in the north of the country. The mineral is subtracted from the mines by kids as young as 8, they are the ones subtracting the mineral, carrying rocks and sorting the mineral out of the mix to then be sold by intermediaries to processing companies.
I was personally not aware of the situation until I saw a Refinery29 video about it, I have linked the video if you want to see it. The situation of not only the kids, but the families of the area, the lack of safety, and the exploitation they get from mica collectors in order to sell it to big cosmetic companies, really made me want to know more about the situation and how I can contribute to better these people´s lives.
The mineral is usually moved around by intermediaries, and beauty companies usually struggle to follow where the mica comes from, according the a research by the Guardian, the legal and illegal mica get mixed as no one really knows the exact origin of each. That itself is a big problem, companies should know exactly where they are sourcing their products from.
The worst part of the situation is that, even if mica sourcing is solved, and companies are aware and have knowledge about where their mica is coming from and the conditions under it was subtracted from the mines, we still have the poverty issue. All these areas where the mines are located are in extreme poverty, child labour is normal and at the end of the day, people need to survive and will do whatever it takes to do so.
Some companies that are currently using this mineral are:
- Bobbi Brown
- Estée Lauder
- Too Faced
Realise that companies such as Estée Lauder and L’Oréal own a lot of different brands, so the actual brands using the mineral is absolutely immense. Even companies not related to cosmetics also use the mineral, for car paint for example (BMW or Audi).
Just so you have an idea of the immensity of these brands, which I personally use every day, here are two pictures of all the brands only Estée Lauder and L’Oréal own. As it can be seen, the brands are endless.
My question is, can mica be replaced by another product which origin is known? The answer is yes, synthetic mica. Lush Cosmetics creates its own mica in their laboratories “It’s purer and thus brighter than natural mica. It has a more uniform finish which does not contain any sharp edges, making it particularly suitable for makeup products used around the delicate eye area.” They even have a section on their website for the most frequent answers regarding mica and why they decided to switch the ingredient for a synthetic version of it. It is great to see that a multinational company like Lush are aware of the situation, are addressing the issue, and have proven to be able to find a substitute.
If one company has been able to create its own mica, why can´t the rest? Is it more important cutting costs and not caring where you are resourcing your products from? Or being aware of the current situation and spread awareness on this issue?