Let’s be real, I know we all love a nice glittery cut crease and the shimmery glow of highlight applied to our cheekbones. Although I haven’t quite mastered either one, I can definitely appreciate (and envy) them when I see them.
That shimmery glow that we love so much is likely due to a mineral called mica. According to British Vogue, mica is a group of silicate minerals (containing different amounts of silicon and oxygen) that can be ground down into a fine, shimmery powder. Mica is used commonly in cosmetics, construction materials and manufactured products such as car paint.
Basically, if your skin care products are meant to give you a glowing appearance or your blush/highlighter/bronzer/eye shadow shimmers, it probably contains mica.
On the surface, mica isn’t half bad. It has been used by many cosmetic companies—even organic and ethical ones like Lush—because it is a natural mineral and it is safe for most skin types.
However, let’s take a look at how and where mica is produced.
The Guardian reported in 2014 that India is responsible for 60% of global mica production. Much of the mica production in India is actually illegal. In 2010-2011, 86% of India’s mica industry was unregulated. An Australian news outlet called The Age reported that, in 2010-2011, India exported 130,000 tons of mica. However, that’s more than eight times the amount of mica that the country “officially” produced in that year.
The unregulated mines often exploit child labor. Many villages in India are already hyper-vulnerable to child labor practices, because families are so far below the poverty line that they need that income to survive. In 2016, The Guardian reported that around 20,000 children are estimated to work in these mines, 90% of which are illegal.
Not only are children as young as 12 subjected to working in these mines (which is bad enough, considering they should be afforded an education and not forced to perch in dark mines working for mere pennies), there are usually no regulations regarding the working conditions. Since many of these mines are illegal, the conditions are hazardous and overbearing.
So, we stop buying products manufactured with mica, right? Not necessarily.
It certainly helps to read the ingredients labels before purchasing any product to look for mica and other hazardous materials. However, mica can be used in such small amounts that it may not even be listed on the label.
The best way to truly make a positive change when it comes to the link between mica and child labor is to support brands that are actively combating it. Some brands, such as Lush and L’Oréal have committed to making sure that their mica is ethically sourced or not used at all.
In 2014, Lush pulled mica from all of its products because it couldn’t verify the transparency and traceability of the source. Since then, the company has transitioned to using synthetic mica or skipping out on the ingredient altogether.
L’Oréal has focused on improving the auditing for its mica sources. The company has made it a priority to continue to support the economy in these Indian villages while also working to improve the labor practices. The mines used for L’Oréal products are regulated heavily for human rights violations. While this isn’t a foolproof system, because mine owners can definitely make up anything they want on an audit slip, it shows the company is serious about taking a stand against the child labor practices.
Supporting these brands gives them the leverage they need to continue their work agains child labor.
Still looking for that incredible glow but want to skip out on supporting unethical practices? Check out these products for natural, dewy skin every time.
Want to be more involved with the efforts against unethical labor practices? End Slavery Now gives some great, actionable steps to do so and has a comprehensive list of fair trade companies for all of your needs.