Makeup lovers might often hear the word mica. You might not know what it is, but you are probably wearing it, even right now. From a sparkly eye shadow to a foundation, the glam of the makeup would seem a little dull without mica. But what exactly is mica in makeup? And is it ethical? Sure mica is a natural element. So then, why are sustainable makeup brands coming up with mica alternatives?
What Is Mica?
Minerals Education Coalition defines mica as a “mineral name given to a group of minerals that are physically and chemically similar.” The group of minerals, aka mica, has 37 different types of minerals. These minerals are soft, lightweight, and can form sheets with particular layers.
What is mica in makeup?
The glow in your foundation is probably due to mica. Mica is one of the best natural ingredients that can give a bit of sparkle and glow and is used in most makeup products like eyeshadow, blush, nail polish, lip gloss, and lipstick. Mica has been used for millennia. Its usage dates back to about 4,000 years ago in India, and it was mostly used in a variety of medicines. At the same time, Mayan civilizations were using mica minerals to decorate walls. Around the 1800s, mica was discovered in the U.S. and was used in many household products.
It was in the mid-1970s that mica made its way into makeup products when there was an increase in “mineral makeup.”
Is mica safe in makeup?
Mica is not toxic in makeup. However, there are certain concerns about mica being used in makeup, like “persistent and bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans and limited evidence of gastrointestinal or liver toxicity.”
Also, since mica is a naturally occurring mineral, it may contain certain amounts of lead, arsenic, and mercury. Sometimes it has also been shown that mica is contaminated with silica or asbestos fibers. If used daily, these can lead to health issues.
But, the US Food and Drug Administration ensures that these all are kept in check. Although mica doesn’t have a higher level of risk, it is better to use it moderately.
How ethical is mica?
Mica in makeup doesn’t impose a great danger to your skin, but that doesn’t mean it goes easy on the environment and society. Mica poses a lung risk, known as fibrosis, to the workers who are exposed to its particles. And when mica is contaminated with silica, it can cause cancer in animals.
Along with that, mica is exported from India, China, Madagascar, South Africa, and Brazil, where the mining of mica is associated with forced child labor. Yeah, that’s the non-glam side of mica in makeup.
Not only that, the mining of mica requires intensive labor work, that is, the use of hammers or ice picks to carve, and sometimes explosives are used for crushing the rocks. There are also frequent deaths and fatal injuries due to the collapse of mines.
With the given financial situation of the families of children who are working in the mines, boycotting mica can’t be the best solution. Working in mica mines is the only way for them to survive. However, nowadays, brands are switching to ethical mica, which comes with supply chain transparency, traceability, no child labor, and better working conditions for the miners.
Another solution is synthetic mica, a human-made substance commonly used in glitter. Synthetic mica is made of natural materials and doesn’t release microplastics.
Sustainable makeup brands that are using synthetic mica or ethical mica:
Our conscious consumerism and sustainable choices have the power to make a shift and bring changes. Though it is not possible to make the shift right away, slow and consistent steps can make it true. And towards that, being informed is the first step one can take!