Is your Makeup Actually Cruelty Free? Beauty Brands who use Ethical Mica

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Mica is incredibly common – if you check your makeup products you will likely find it listed as an ingredient in most of them (it can also be labelled as CI 77019). Mica is a mineral that gives us glowing highlights, shiny lips, and glittery eyes. It’s also unfortunately an ingredient with ethical issues, child labour, and human rights abuses.

After learning more about mica I started looking for info about where brands were getting theirs, it was incredibly disappointing to see so many brands who market themselves as “cruelty free” having zero transparency about their mica sourcing. Why is this something so many beauty brands seem to be ignoring or trying to sweep under the rug?

So I’ve done some digging (no pun intended) and put together a list of cruelty free makeup brands that also have ethical mica.

But first, what is Mica and why is it bad?

Mica is group of shimmery minerals which are obtained through mining and the industry has a huge child labour problem. Children are unfortunately especially suited to mica mining as they can easily maneuver through the narrow mines and reach small spaces. It’s also extremely dangerous, according to SOMO’s mica mining report, “of all forms of hazardous work, mining is by far the most mortally dangerous sector for children”.

I highly recommend watching this short documentary to get a good overview of the child labour issues with mica:


Also, while I know the term “cruelty free” is used in regards to animal testing, it does feel incredibly hypocritical to call yourself a proud cruelty free brand while having dangerous and unethical child labour in your supply chain. πŸ€”


Ethical Mica

So far the brands who are actually addressing the issue seem to be taking two different routes – some are using synthetic mica created in a lab (also called synthetic fluorphlogopite) while others are trying to ethically and transparently source their mica. While I think both approaches have pros and cons, I definitely think it’s something brands need to be taking action on and looking into their supply chain!

Can you avoid mica by sticking to matte products?

This was one of my first thoughts, but unfortunately no. Even though mica is best known for adding shimmer, it’s also used to colour matte products as well. There are some mica-free products, but generally they’re difficult to find.

FYI – while mica is the base material, it’s actually coated in oxides to achieve the different colours, for makeup titanium dioxide (CI 77891) is most commonly used but I’ve often seen iron oxides used as well.

Are there certifications to look for?

One issue with trying to find ethical mica is there isn’t a third party certification or regulatory body to audit and oversee suppliers. The Responsible Mica Initiative is an organization set up to help monitor and improve child labour and poor working conditions however they rely on “voluntary collaboration” and don’t perform audits.

Unfortunately in almost all cases we have to take the brand’s word that their mica is mined fairly and without child labour. There definitely is some trust involved.

While we can’t be 100% certain, I would like to believe the following brands I’ve researched do care and are honest about their mica sourcing…


Makeup Brands who are Cruelty Free AND use Ethically-Sourced or Synthetic Mica

(note: some affiliate links are used in this list)
Pure Anada mineral pressed eyeshadow with child labour free mica

Pure Anada

A Canadian natural cosmetics and skincare line.

What they say: “Our Mica supplier ensures that their product is mined ethically in India without the use of child labour.  They own their own mines, fund schools and daycare centers so that the quality of life for their employees is fair.”

πŸ‘ I really appreciate that this information is included and easily found in their “about” section unlike many other brands where it can be quite hard to find or not publicly available at all.

LUSH

A bath, body, and beauty company who is vocal about mica issues and uses synthetic mica.

Clove + Hallow

A vegan makeup brand who claims to be “child labor free” and sources their mica from the US.

What they say: “[Mica is] a natural shimmery mineral that we source ethically within the United States”

Au Naturale creme highlighter in "rose gold" with child labor free mica

Au Naturale

A “clean beauty” cosmetics line.

What they say: “our micas are child labor free – mined, processed and distributed sustainably world wide. We take a purists stance when it comes to color – refusing to partake in unethical sourcing practices that are harmful to people, animals or the environment”

And on a mica blog post they say “Because our suppliers own their supply chain from harvesting to processing and distribution, we can assure only the highest quality micas, mined without the use of child labor, are used in our formulations”

Aether Beauty

Vegan “clean beauty” brand which uses both natural and synthetic mica.

They have a whole blog post about mica in makeup. Pertaining to their own use they say: “When we use natural mica, we source only from suppliers in the US or Malaysia. These areas have (and enforce) ethical labor standards which prevent the use of child labor. We avoid all mica from India or Madagascar where labor standards are unregulated and child labor is rampant. We choose synthetic mica when we can’t vet and guarantee that the source of our mica is child-labor-free.”

🚩 I want to note that the SOMO report does list Malaysia as a “high risk” country “suspected of illegal mining” so the part of their statement about Malaysia enforcing ethical standards doesn’t seem accurate.

Red Apple Lipstick Eyeshadow with ethically sourced mica

Red Apple Lipstick

A gluten free, vegan, natural beauty brand (not just lipstick).

I couldn’t find anything on their website, but when I reached out to them they said: “we source all of our ingredients from the United States, a few from Europe and some others from Canada. All of which we make sure do not involve child labor, and that workers are paid fairly.” Specifically about their mica they said, “We source all of our mica from the US from privately owned mines. This allows us to be assured that child-labor is never used, and that miners are paid fairly + treated very well.”

Fat and the Moon

I couldn’t find anything on their website, but when I reached out to them they said they use synthetic mica.

From a DM: “The mica that we use is lab-created, not mined. We know about the horrendous circumstances in which mined mica is a result and do not support those practices. The mica that we use is made of natural ingredients that mimic mined mica”

🚩 Note that they just list “Mica” in their ingredients, which is legal however I would definitely prefer if brands specify that it is synthetic mica.

100% Pure

100% Pure "moonstone glow" Gemmed Luminizer with ethical mica

A natural makeup, skincare, and beauty brand.

What they say: “All of our products use ethically sourced mica.”

I reached out to them for more info and this was their statement: “We condemn the use of child labor in particular, in manufacture and service of any raw materials. All of our mica suppliers are required to annually provide certificates that child labor is not used in mica mining and the subsequent manufacturing processes.”

Dr. Hauschka

A large natural beauty and skincare brand.

I couldn’t find anything on their website, but after reaching out they sent me a statement from their head company (WALA Heilmittel GmbH) which includes this: “Due to close co-operation with the local authorities, a better co-operation with the miners and regular and unannounced on-site audits, our supplier can guarantee, since the middle of 2011, that all mica retrieved by them from India is free of child labour.”

The rep also said that they were in the process of re-doing their website which is why I couldn’t find this info publicly.

Inika

A natural and organic beauty and skincare brand.

What they say: “Our suppliers work within the Ethical Trade Initiative and do not employ child labour in the mining and processing of their products. Our suppliers have been carefully selected with their guarantee that they work within the Ethical Trade Initiative, from regions where ethical business practices are transparent and do not employ child labour.”

RMS Luminizers with child labor free mica

RMS

Organic and “clean” makeup brand.

I couldn’t find anything on their website, but when I reached out to them they said: “All of our ingredients are sourced fair-trade and cruelty-free. For proprietary reasons, we cannot provide specific sourcing information for the mica we use, but please know that our founder Rose-Marie spends much of her time sourcing ingredients from sustainable and environmentally friendly sources. We would never source ingredients from a facility that utilizes child labor.”

And they also said: “We are working on getting ours β€œcertified child labor freeβ€œ but the certification has not been finalized yet.”

I really wish this info was available publicly in their ingredients break-down!

Jane Iredale

A mineral makeup company who uses synthetic mica.

🚩 Note that they just list “Mica” in their ingredients, which is legal however I would definitely prefer if brands specify that it is synthetic mica.

Elate Cosmetics

A Canadian natural and low waste makeup brand. Shopping from the US? You can find them here.

What they say: “The mica used in Elate products is fair trade, and sourced from suppliers who are active members of the Responsible Mica Initiative.”

🚩 Please see above about about certifications and the RMI


Mica-Free Makeup

Haut Cosmetics

Canadian makeup and beauty line with all mica-free products.

Omiana

Has a mica-free collection, they also say the mica in their other products is ethically sourced but so far I haven’t been able to find more information.



Those are the brands I’ve found so far and definitely check back as I will be updating this post as I discover new brands and hear back from brands I’ve reached out to. Overall I still feel there is a lack of transparency which I hope will improve, but I think this is at least a good start.

Also if you know of any other mica-free or ethically sourced makeup brands please share them in the comments!

Is Mica found in Other Products?

I think it’s also important to add that mica isn’t only used in makeup. Electronics is actually the industry that consumes the most mica (about 26%), followed by paint (24%), construction – typically used in drywall (20%) and then cosmetics which uses about 18% of mica produced. (source)

The unfortunate thing is that in these other industries it’s even harder to avoid or find transparent and ethical alternatives. With makeup we at least have some more power as consumers to make better choices.


LAST UPDATED: 23/10/20

18 Responses

  1. an
    | Reply

    Northlore is a small Canadian company that first drew my attention to this issue, and source responsibly.

  2. Kara T
    | Reply

    From What company is the eye shadow palette that is pictured at the bottom of the page? Those are great colors, and I would love to find that palette!

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Unfortunately it’s just a stock photo, but a bunch of the brands mentioned like Red Apple, Pure Anada, and Elate all let you build your own palettes so you can customize it with the colours you like!

  3. Rebecca
    | Reply

    Omiana is also in this category. I don’t have any of their products, but you may wish to include in post. This is something not much spoken about in clean beauty and its great that you are encouraging awareness.

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Thank you! I’ve added Omiana πŸ™‚

  4. Naomi
    | Reply

    omiana has mica free makeup

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Thanks!! Updated πŸ™‚

  5. Meredith
    | Reply

    I found this about BeautyCounter – https://blog.beautycounter.com/beauty-comes-clean-the-truth-about-mica/
    I’m curious if anyone has any thoughts about BeautyCounter in general and if they are doing what they say they are doing.

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Since they operate as an MLM I don’t consider them to be an ethical company.

      • Meredith Rubin
        | Reply

        Got it! Ok, thanks very much for your input :).

      • Sarah
        | Reply

        I may have missed this in your post. But could you please explain what you mean by an MLM? Thanks in advance!

  6. Bri
    | Reply

    I reached out to 100% pure about their mica sourcing and this is what they said!

    β€œMineral cosmetics are colored with ingredients like iron oxides, talc, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. 100% PURE cosmetics aren’t mineral-based formulasβ€”mostly we use fruit and vegetable pigments for colorβ€”but some products do have mineral pigments or mica. To add shimmer to some products, we use cosmetic mica (a shimmery rock) which isn’t dangerous or harmful.

    We also ensure that our mica is sourced within the framework of the Ethical Trade Initiative base code. We are confident that our mica is not only of the highest quality but that it’s produced in the most ethical and safe way possible. The mill, located in Andhra Pradesh, is a modern, high-tech facility, that never utilizes child labor and holds product quality to exceptional standards.”

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Thanks for sharing that! It’s taken them ages to get back to me.

  7. Katerina
    | Reply

    For folks in Australia, I messaged Moogoo regarding their makeup and they have said they are as sure as they can be without regulatory bodies that their mica is ethically sourced. Their makeup is very good and affordable, too!

  8. Paula
    | Reply

    NOTO botanics also sells child labor/slave free beauty products and have a statement on their website especially about pigments under “sustainability” and “faq”. Thanks for your work!

  9. Jessica
    | Reply

    Check out Aether Beauty. They claim to be a sustainable clean beauty brand. They also state that they do not use mica unless it’s ethically sourced. If they can’t get ethically sourced, they state that they use synthetic. They’re also vegan and cruelty free. I love their eyeshadows.

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      They’re added! I was initially skeptical of their statement because what they say about sourcing from Malaysia is contradicted by a child labour report, however I’ve still included them but added my concerns as a note.

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