Mica is a natural mineral which is ground down into a sparkly powder found in all of your favourite shimmery beauty products - think eyeshadows, bronzers, highlighters, as well as skincare products used to give a ‘glow’.
Mica is commonly mined in India and Madagascar, where extreme poverty drives children as young as five to scavenge for mica, due to being small enough to crawl deep into the mines to cut out the mica by hand. This is incredibly dangerous and causes an array of health problems, including open sores, infections, breathing issues due to mica dust and lack of oxygen in the mines.
Sadly it’s not so simple for companies to pull out of mica mining completely, as to do so would leave families without a source of income. Companies such as L’Oreal, who own NYX, Maybelline, Urban Decay and more – continue to source mica in a traceable and transparent manner, bought from suppliers who source from independently verified, gated mines where only adults mine the mica.
On the other side of the coin, companies such as Lush Cosmetics decided to completely remove all mica from their products in 2018 and only use synthetic mica; a biodegradable ingredient created in a lab, which is purer and brighter than natural mica.
There is no transparency available yet to determine whether the mica used in your product was mined from a child or an adult, but one thing for certain is that child labour must come to an end. If you want to avoid mica in your cosmetics and skincare, the best thing to do is to check your labels and recognise whether the mica used is natural or synthetic. Natural mica is listed as ‘Mica’, ‘Potassium Aluminium Silicate’ or ‘CI 77019’, and synthetic mica will be listed as ‘Synthetic Mica’ or ‘Synthetic Fluorphlogopite’.
There has also been the creation of the Responsible Mica Initiative, or RMI, a group that was started in 2017 with the aim of establishing an ethical transparent supply of mica by 2022. Companies that have joined include Chanel, Coty, Shiseido, L’Oreal and Estée Lauder.
You can read more about the RMI here.