Last Updated on May 29, 2023
Mica is incredibly common in makeup. If you check your cosmetics you will likely find it listed as an ingredient in most of them (it can also be labelled as CI 77019 or serecite). 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 into where brands were getting theirs from. It was incredibly disappointing to see many brands who market themselves as “cruelty free” with zero transparency about their mica sourcing. Why is this something so many beauty brands seem to be ignoring or hiding?
So I’ve done some digging (no pun intended) and put together a list of green and cruelty-free makeup brands that also use ethically sourced mica.
What Is Mica and Why Is It Bad?
Mica is group of sparkly minerals which are obtained through mining and used in a variety of products including makeup and beauty items. If it’s got shimmer it’s most likely mica in your makeup!
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 extremely dangerous and children often suffer from cuts, broken bones and lung disease. “Of all forms of hazardous work, mining is by far the most mortally dangerous sector for children,” according to SOMO’s mica mining report.
I highly recommend watching this short documentary to get a good overview of the child labour issues with mica mining:
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.
Can You Avoid Mica in Makeup by Sticking to Matte Products?
This was one of my first thoughts, but unfortunately the answer is no. Even though mica is best known for adding shimmer, it’s also used to color matte products as well. There are some mica-free products, but generally they’re difficult to find.
While mica is the base material, it’s actually coated in oxides to achieve different colours and finishes. In makeup, titanium dioxide (CI 77891) is most commonly used on mica as well as iron oxides.
Ethical Mica in Makeup
The brands who are actually addressing the issue with mica generally take two different routes: some use synthetic mica created in a lab (also called synthetic fluorphlogopite) while others are trying to ethically and transparently source their mica.
While both approaches have pros and cons, I definitely think it’s something all brands should be taking action on and looking into their supply chain!
What Is Synthetic Mica and Is It Safe?
Synthetic mica (synthetic fluorphlogopite) is made from magnesium aluminum silicate sheets, weakly bonded together with potassium, which allow it to be separated into thin pieces. Even though it is synthetic I think it’s important to note that it’s not made of plastic.
I cannot find any evidence of risks with synthetic mica in cosmetics. The only potential hazard is lung damage due to inhalation but this is the same with natural mica. It might actually be more safe than natural mica as there’s a chance natural mica can contain trace heavy metals. Synthetic mica also has a more uniform shape, unlike natural mica which can have sharp points and edges that may damage the skin.
Are There Ethical Mica 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, but they rely on “voluntary collaboration” and don’t perform audits.
In almost all cases, we have to take the brand’s word that their mica is mined fairly and free of child labour. There definitely is some trust involved.
While we can’t be 100% certain, I do think the following brands I’ve researched care and seem honest about their mica sourcing.
Makeup Brands Who Use Ethical Mica or Synthetic Mica
(please note: some affiliate links are used in this list which means we might get a small commission with purchases)
Vegan beauty brand which uses both natural and synthetic mica.
What they say: “We use a combination of natural and synthetic mica. When we use natural mica, we source only from U.S. suppliers with ethical labor standards. 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.”
ATHR’s eyeshadows are our top pick for ethics, sustainability, and performance of all the ones we’ve tried!
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.”
A bath, body, and beauty company.
What they say: Lush has been vocal and transparent about mica issues. “When we were no longer able to guarantee transparency in the supply chain, we decided to make the change to synthetic mica. As of January 1, 2018 we will not be using natural mica in production.”
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: “Since 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”.
A gluten free, vegan, natural beauty brand (not just lipstick).
What they say: 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 U.S. 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.”
A bath, body, and beauty company based in herbalist traditions.
What they say: 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.”
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.”
A natural beauty and skincare brand.
What they say: 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.”
This is also what they say on their website regarding fair trade standards and mining: “Where minerals come from the third world and emerging countries, we demand the relevant certificates, and we have these for many raw materials, including mica.” However they also acknowledge that traceability is not always straightforward but they try hard. I appreciate the honesty regarding transparency issues.
A natural and organic beauty and skincare brand.
What they say: “INIKA Organic is very aware of the issues associated with the mining of Mica. Our suppliers have been pro-active in assuring that they work within the Ethical Trade Initiative and do not employ child labour in the mining and processing of their products.“
Organic and ‘clean’ makeup brand.
What they say: In an email: “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 ‘certified child labor free’ but the certification has not been finalized yet.”
I really wish this info was available publicly in their ingredients break-down!
A brand with mineral makeup and skincare formulated for sensitive skin.
What they say: In their ingredients glossary, they say they use synthetic mica to avoid heavy metals that may be present in natural mica.
A Canadian natural and low-waste makeup brand. Shopping from the U.S.? 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.” (Although please see above about about certifications and the RMI)
Mica-Free Makeup Brands
Canadian makeup and beauty line with all mica-free products. They have many blog posts about mica and their stance on it, including: “natural mica vs synthetic mica,” “the importance of titanium dioxide free and mica free makeup,” and “mica – beyond the ethical concerns.”
Omiana is a mineral makeup brand for people with sensitive skin. They have a mica-free makeup collection. It is not clear from their website whether the mica in their other makeup is synthetic or ethically mined.
Almost all Rejuva Minerals makeup is mica-free, with the exception of a few products, which they list on their Product Safety page. They say they use “ethically sourced mica” for those products. This is a great brand for people with sensitive skin!
For some ethical mica inspo, my friend Kassia created this gorgeous look featuring some of these brands!
Mica products used:
- Pure Anada pressed eye shadow in Sweetheart – lid
- RMS Beauty eye shadow in Enchanted Moonlight – outer corner
- RMS Beauty Sensual Skin Trio
- Blush in Demure
- Luminizing Powder in Madeira Bronzer
- Luminizing Powder in Grande Dame – highlight
- Red Apple Beauty lipgloss in Sun Sparkles
And check out the shimmery holiday makeup post we did together for more ethical mica makeup looks!
Those are the brands I’ve found so far! Check back as this post will be updated as I discover new brands. Overall, there is still a huge lack of transparency about this issue, which I hope will improve; however, this is at least a good start to better awareness and more responsible sourcing.
If you know of any other mica-free or ethically sourced makeup brands please share them in the comments!
Is Mica In Other Products As Well?
It’s also important to know that mica isn’t only used in makeup. The electronics industry 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: Global Mica Mining and the Impact on Children’s Rights)
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, but this isn’t the only area where child labour in mica mining is an issue.