Makeup has been around for many centuries, and from its genesis it has been used by individuals to enhance their beauty and express their personality. History sends us back to the ancient Egyptians, who are known to be the first that used cosmetics to darken their eyes and stain their lips. Now-a-days makeup is an important part of our daily routine, and it is used as a beauty tool to help us build up our self-esteem and confidence.
Do you ever check the ingredients list of your cosmetic products?
The majority of us are guilty of not doing this, probably because we have little knowledge on these ingredients, or simply due to the fact that we might be purchasing products in a rush. Not only is this harmful to our skin, but also to the society as a whole- when it comes to anything unethical in the makeup industry, we normally think about animal testing or unknown, potentially dangerous ingredients. However, what we don’t realize is that these cosmetic products might be harming children.
Mica, also labelled as ‘CI 77019’ or ‘potassium aluminum silicate’, is a mineral and a sparkly pigment, which is widely used to give us highlights, shiny lips, and glittery eyes and nails. Unfortunately, it is an ingredient that carries with it -and is to be strictly associated to- ethical issues, child labor, and human rights abuses.
This group of minerals is obtained through mining, a form of labor that is mostly unregulated and dangerous due to its unsafe conditions. The lack of regulation leaves space for unethical child labor as well. The raw material is excavated by children as young as 4 years old, who are assigned this task because they can easily reach small spaces and maneuver through the narrow mines. Mica is then collected by a broker, sold to an exporter, and delivered to a manufacturer. After the material is milled into a fine and sparkly pigment, it is lastly used by international beauty companies and brands, which benefit from the low cost of labor and extraction.
According to the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, 25% of the world’s mica is sourced from Jharkhand and India. Solely in these two states, 22,000 children work in mica mines, where they spend their day picking up the mineral and sifting it. During the whole process, children are constantly surrounded by dirt and sharp fallen rocks that cause infections, diseases and permanent damage to their lungs. Apart from this, they are also exposed to the risk of the mine collapsing, leaving them injured, paralyzed or dead.
Fatal cases of children losing their lives inside these mines have been investigated, however discreetly concealed, so that the industry could continue to profit from child labor. In fact, deaths are now such a common phenomenon, that the traders have a set rate they give to families who lose loved ones while mining. “For each person who dies, they give 30,000 rupees” (about 340 euros).
Working in mines is a very common activity for children in these areas, as their families need all the financial support they can get. On a good day, a child might earn 20 to 30 rupees, converted to roughly 0.23 to 0.34 euros with today’s rate. Altogether, this comes at the expense of skipping school and the extreme danger faced every day.
How can we stop this?
We can start by being more conscious of the choices we constantly make, and the brands that we support.
Makeup brands which are 100% cruelty-free and use ethically-sourced or synthetic mica:
Red Apple Lipstick;
Fat and the Moon;
Brands that are now part of the Responsible Mica Initiative include:
L’Oréal (Maybelline, Lancôme, Garnier, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty, Kiehl’s, Urban Decay);
Estée Lauder (Bobbi Brown, Becca, Smashbox, MAC, Tom Ford beauty, Clinique, Too faced);
Coty (Covergirl and Rimmel);
Shiseido (Nars, Bare Minerals, Laura ,Mercier);
The Body Shop;
Brands that have not disclosed any information regarding the topic, nor are linked to ethically-sourced mica:
Wet n Wild;
Anastasia Beverley Hills;
LVMH companies (Fenty, Benefit, Makeup Forever, Kat Von D, Marc Jacobs)
There is no beauty in exploiting children. Please be aware of your choices!