What you need to know about colour. And why.
Let’s face it, life is busy. Most days fly by in a blur of endless to dos. When it comes to your skincare and cosmetics, you trust that what the brands are placing on their label is the whole truth, or at least not covering up an awful secret. Let’s start from the beginning, what is mica?
It all starts with a four-letter word, mica. Mica is a collective term used for a group of about thirty seven chemical variations of silicate minerals, known as phyllosilicates. They are mined as a thin rock and then shipped to countries, mainly China, where it is milled down into a shimmery powder and shipped to various cosmetic companies across the world.
It can be found in the electrical and paint industry (most notably in car paint products) and in everything from lipsticks, body lotion, BB cream and even toothpaste. It is even used in handmade soap and bath bombs. They can be found on a ingredients list by the names ‘mica’, ‘potassium aluminium silicate’ and ‘CI 77019’.
It is publicised as a more natural alternative to pigments, dyes and plastic-laden glitter and can give one the sense of choosing a more eco-friendly alternative. And on the surface of it, that sounds like a great idea. Use what nature provides right?
Wrong! The truth of the matter is, all over the world, children as young as four or five make up around half the miners digging up this desirable rock, mainly from India to Madagascar. These children are putting their lives at risk to climb into small holes, reporting respiratory complications and physical injuries. There is the risk of mines collapsing while they are inside and all this for nothing more than a few pennies a day to help support their families. This money often only buys one meal a day and the child misses out on an education in the process. Because this is happening in third world countries where there are little to no human rights standards, the industry is not quick to change its ways.
There are very few checks, if any, from companies buying this mica to confirm how it was mined, or the labour used to mine it which leaves the mines run their operations how they see fit, which ultimately puts profits over people.
What can be done?
Of course, your instinct may to avoid any products from these mines but where does this leave the families who depend on that income? Going forward, better regulations, safe working conditions and fair pay would be a start towards making mica a more sustainable and les exploitative option in the cosmetics industry.
A great initiative has been started called the Responsible Mica Initiative who have, since 2017, worked with communities and companies to implement many programs, including workplace standards, to make mica a safer and sustainable product in the future. Their work is critical to the future of and industry that mines around 1.1 metric tons of mica each year.
The best thing you can do as a consumer is to be aware of the situation and the next time you’re in the market for a new eyeshadow or lipstick, have a quick search to see where your brand of choice obtains it’s mica from. You might be surprised by what you find.
What is Pretty Savage® doing?
As you know, some of my products do contain mica as a choice of colourant. Do I use natural mica you ask? Nope. I have decided to sidestep the naturally-mined mica and have instead opted for synthetic mica. While the word synthetic conjures up thoughts of plastic or harsh chemicals, synthetic mica is none of those things. You will find the name of this on my packaging, and product pages as ‘synthetic fluorphlogopite’. It is manufactured by mixing some raw materials in an electric resistance furnace and cooled in a slow and controlled way. While the ingredient itself is more costly than naturally-mined mica, there are many benefits; namely; there has been no case of child labour, the colours are brighter so I use less of it in my products, it is more sustainable as it is not a depleting resource and it is gentler on skin, where natural mica can sometimes contain sharp edges that can scratch and irritate skin.
Choosing sustainable options does not necessarily mean taking from nature, sometimes it means thinking out of the box and finding unique solutions to protect our human family and the earth. Let me know your thoughts on this article below.