Unethical Enterprise: Mica

What It Is

Mica is a shimmery mineral that is mined in India, China, Russia, Finland, the United States, South Korea, France, and Canada. It can be produced in many different forms, such as being ground into a powder or flattened into a sheet.

Where It’s Found

Since it comes in so many forms, mica can be found in a variety of products, from paint and plastics to roofing shingles and wallpaper, along with a variety of electronics. But for the purposes of this blog post, I will be discussing the use of mica in cosmetics, which is vast in itself. Mica can be found in blush, eye shadow, eye liner, foundation, lipstick, lipgloss, mascara, and nail polish, among many others. This is especially true for shimmery products, such as highlighters; basically, if it’s shimmery, it probably contains mica.

Why It’s Bad

Let me provide you with a statistic: 25% of the world’s supply of mica comes from regions that use child labour. Now, 25% may not seem very high, but if you were the parent of four children and one of them was guaranteed to work in a dangerous mine, you may see that statistic a bit differently. 25% also looks a lot larger when you acknowledge just how vast the use of mica is, especially in cosmetics. Even some of the most ethical cosmetic companies have struggled to remove mica from their supply chain.

India accounts for 60% of the global production of mica, with the majority coming from the hilly forests of Jharkand and Bihar. According to a 2016 report by NGOs Terre des Hommes and SOMO, within these forests you can find up to 20,000 children as young as 10 working in the mines, 90% of them illegally. Children are often forced to work in these mines due to the extreme poverty that is prevalent in the area. Some children have died while working in the dangerous conditions of these mines, and their deaths are often covered up so that the toxic cycle can continue.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has also listed mica as a respiratory irritant, due to evidence from workers who suffered long term lung and other respiratory problems after being exposed to mica for a number of years. So not only are the mines extremely dangerous in themselves, but what is being mined is potentially harmful to the labourers as well.

Alternative Products?

Unfortunately, unlike palm oil (see my post on palm oil if you missed it!), there is no label for consumers to use to recognize sustainable, child labour-free mica from its unethical counterpart, so consumers are left in the dark. Long story short, Nick Grono, the President and CEO of the Freedom Fund, puts it plainly: “It’s not possible to shop completely ethically.” But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I will admit, I have a few makeup products that contain mica, simply due to the fact that I cannot find a blush, for example, that does not contain mica on the market. But there are still actions that can be taken! Firstly, if you so choose, you could vow to never buy blush again. Secondly, if you can’t see your life without blush, you could scour the ingredient lists of every blush you have access to until you find one that does not contain mica. Thirdly, if you can’t find a blush that does not contain mica, you could send a letter or email to some of your favourite brands to ask them what they are doing to eradicate child labour from their supply chain. Public pressure is a more powerful tool than people often give it credit for, and I encourage you to use your voice to make change.

Don’t have enough time to write an effective letter? I’ve got you covered. On the menu of my blog, you will find a tab entitled “Letter Template,” which provides you with a template for you to personalize and can be tailored to virtually any cosmetic or personal care company. All you have to do is insert the company, the specific products you are concerned about, and sign your name, then email or send it to your companies of choice. The letter covers both mica and palm oil, so you can tackle two unethical ingredients in one step! Every small step goes a long way.

In the mean time, here is a list of products that I currently use that thankfully do not contain mica:

– The Body Shop All-in-One Face Base Powder Foundation: https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-ca/makeup/foundation/all-in-one-face-base-powder-foundation/p/p000048

– The Body Shop All-in-One Concealer Stick: https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-ca/makeup/concealer/all-in-one-concealer-stick/p/p000852

– Wet N Wild Color Icon Kohl Liner Pencil: https://www.wetnwildbeauty.com/eyes/liner/color-icon-kohl-liner-pencil.html

– Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara: https://www.toofaced.com/eye-makeup/mascara/better-than-sex-mascara/80021.html

 

Resources: 

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/india-child-labour-mica-mineral-cosmetics

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/28/cosmetics-companies-mica-child-labour-beauty-industry-india-

http://news.trust.org/shorthand/mica/

http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/mica/

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