Last Updated on March 31, 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 Synthetic or Ethical 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”.
Red Apple Lipstick
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.”
Fat and the Moon
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.
I’m allergic to mica and need to find cosmetics that don’t use it. Anyone!
I’m allergic to mica too! Please help, anyone!
Anna Carmen Hernandez
I am looking for companies that sell ethically sourced mica but still still help these families. Does anyone know of resources?
Hi Everyone, i’m looking to see if mac cosmetics use mica from India’s Jharkhand region… i cannot seem to find anything and their website doesn’t seem to mention it.. i’m concerned because i have spent money with them and i’m now finding out about this.. why isn’t this more widely known? mac is vocal on their site about animal testing and how some governments “makes mac apply for animal testing permits before allowing them to sell to their population.”
Mac’s website doesn’t even mention if it uses responsibly sourced mica.. it seems that they either dont know or dont care, but the amount of publicity theyr products have and the cost of each or their products makes me think they have the resources to find out or to hire an independent panel to investigate.. is mac using child labour products?
my instinct is that they dont know and dont want to know but there seems to be nothing on the web about this.. are they like the makeup mafia or something? Its simply important to me to find out if im buying responsible products or not and to stop buying them if they are.. im sure they dont care about my 50bucks worth of eyeshadow but i do, i work hard for my money.. to know that i may be enabling these practices makes me uncomfortable to say the least.
I actually found my way to this website in the same way. I recently bought my first MAC foundation and it really bothers me to think that by doing so I’ve contributed to child labour.
I was wondering if you were able to get in contact with their team and ever have your question clarified.
Thanks in advance!
They source their mica through Merk, which does use child slave labor in their mines. Sephora Uses Merk as well. ColourPop wont give you a straight answer, which makes me believe they also source through Merk (merk supplies 65% of the cosmetics industries Mica).
Popular indie cosmetic companies I’ve written that DO NOT use slave/child labor Mica are Winky Lux, Feral Beauty and JDGlow
mysappho.com – ethically mined minerals as well as low heavy metal minerals 🙂
Hi JoAnn, I see you’re the owner of Sappho! I actually briefly looked into Sappho because I used to use some of your products. However all I could find on your website is “Mica suppliers are members of the Responsible Mica Initiative”, which as mentioned in this post isn’t very reliable. Can you provide any other info about the ethical sourcing of your mica?
Dab Herb Makeup & Skincare is another cool one! Here’s right on their FAQ page:
“Is your Mica ethically sourced?
Yes! What little mica we use is mined and processed in the USA.
We’re very aware that child labor is a prevalent issue in illegal mica mines. DabHMS is against such unethical practices and our source of mica has made every effort to assure us that the mica they provid is not sourced from mines that utilize child labor.
It is important to us that our sources share our same values. Dab only supports sources and manufacturers that observe ethical sourcing, cruelty free, and fair trade practices and we are very strict when it comes to choosing our suppliers.”
Thanks to everyone else for all of these other brands—lol I have basically purchased one product from each at this point!
Oh—and Eco Lips!! Very cool company based in Iowa very vocal about all things fair trade!!
Here’s a mica statement from Pacifica, a more popular and affordable vegan, cruelty-free, USA-manufactured brand often found at places like Target, Ulta, etc.:
Jan 29, 2021, 9:15 PST
Thank you so much for taking a moment to reach out. As we use natural minerals, many of our color products contain mica. We require that our mica is sourced from companies that have a clear policy on child labor and humane mining practices.
Please do not hesitate to follow up with any further questions or concerns. I am more than happy to help!
Have a wonderful day,
Jan 28, 2021, 22:41 PST
Hello, I am wondering if you might be able to provide me with any information on where the mica in your products is sourced from. i.e., Is it sourced from within the United States? If not, does Pacifica follow fair trade practices with respect to its mica sourcing?
This is sort of vague and obviously not advertized on their products or website. Still, this is a well-established brand built for decades on doing things differently from vegan ingredients to recycled packaging, so I trust that this effort is sincere. Plus, just as a comparison, their eye palettes and mascara are a fraction of the price you see from some of these other brands, e.g. $10 Tiger’s Eye palette vs. $36 Clove + Hallow Sunrise palette or $14 Aquarian Gaze mascara vs. $27 Au Naturale Bold Statement Vegan Mascara. It’s definitely not a knock against some of these other companies doing an amazing job but rather just a reminder that making ethical purchases in the first place can be a fiscal privilege for a lot of us, and some of these other brands that may not seem as up to snuff can still be great options. Hope this helps some of you on this page! I know I really like Pacifica so I was encouraged by this.
I got this response from The Honest Company:
At Honest, we work with trusted suppliers and manufacturers. We require our contract manufacturers to attest and confirm that all mica used in the products has been ethically sourced and is in compliance with all labor and child labor laws relating to hiring, wages, working hours, over-time and working environment, as well as the California Transparency in Supply Chain Act. We also aim to partner with contract manufacturers that are members of the Responsible Mica Initiative, an effort which works to eradicate child labor and unacceptable working conditions in the Indian mica supply chain.
The Honest Company was built around the ethical values of transparency, trust, sustainability and a deep sense of purpose — we continue to live those values by delivering safe and effective products sources from credible manufacturers.
The Honest Company
I emailed Boom by Cindy Joseph. Their mica is manufactured In the US, not mined according to the reply I received.
Jessi Meadows (BOOM by Cindy Joseph)
Nov 30, 2020, 6:14 AM EST
Thank you for reaching out!
Boomstick Color and Boomstick Glimmer do contain mica. The mica we use in Boom products is synthetically produced in a lab in the United States. It is not mined.
We would be happy to share our ingredient list with you.
Please follow these instructions to find the ingredients for any Boom product:
Click here: http://www.boombycindyjoseph.com/pages/store
Scroll down to the Boom product you’re interested in learning more about.
Beneath that product, click the “view details” box.
Once you’re on the product details page, scroll down to where it says “Click here to fall in love with our ingredients” to open the ingredients window. Enjoy!
As always, please let us know if you have any further questions.
Until then, have a wonderful day!
It’s about women. It’s about beauty. It’s about time.
Northlore is a small Canadian company that first drew my attention to this issue, and source responsibly.
I hope more brands turn towards synthetic mica as it’s extremely difficult to guarantee that mines, especially in India, are truly cruelty free. Another issue is that these mines are usually the only job provider in the areas so when Lush, for example, stopped using mica, the workers lost their income, which presents another set of major issues. This problem is so much more complicated than just switching to synthetic mica but something needs to be done. The exact same issues plague the palm oil industry, an ingredient in beauty products and food. Cruelty free doesn’t just mean no animal testing, it means not harming people as well. Thank you for this list of brands!
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!
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!
I’d look at Aether beauty, I think they have a very similar palette
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.
Thank you! I’ve added Omiana 🙂
omiana has mica free makeup
Thanks!! Updated 🙂
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.
Since they operate as an MLM I don’t consider them to be an ethical company.
Got it! Ok, thanks very much for your input :).
What about ilia? Do they use mica? It’s so hard to find out!
I may have missed this in your post. But could you please explain what you mean by an MLM? Thanks in advance!
It stands for Multi-Level Marketing. It’s a business model where the vast majority of people involved actually lose money (and have to work a ton) while the small percent at the top make a lot of money. It’s basically a legal pyramid scheme and many people are unfortunately taken advantage of. Here’s an article that talks about some of the issues with MLMs: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/mlm-pyramid-scheme-target-women-financial-freedom_l_5d0bfd60e4b07ae90d9a6a9e
Yes, I agree all MLM should be illegal. Especially Young Living and Doterra which actually verge on cults.
I absolutely agree with you about MLMs, however, I think you could have shared better sources.
However Verena you mentioned Lush as being an ethical company, however they were actually voted as the least ethical and sustainable supply chain in 2019. They took mica out of their products as consumers were vocal about the practice of using child labour.
I use synthetic mica and the only ethical mica I have been able to source. For us little guys who are using transparent and sustainable practices it is extremely hard to source raw materials that actually are sustainable. Especially when it’s not just about cruelty-free sourcing. I’m in Australia, part of sustainable practice is carbon foot print, therefore sourcing products from the USA and Europe makes our products less sustainable. I find this the hardest part of being a cosmetics formulator. Sometimes it’s simply impossible to source raw materials (produced) in Australia and it means that somehow we have to offset the carbon emissions in our supply chains. I can offset this in other parts of my business. For example in reusable and refillable packaging – we offer a recycling service as well.
Sustainability is also about taking into account social, environmental and economical aspects throughout the whole production chain.
Regarding Lush do you mean the Ethical Consumer rating?
I was really disappointed to see that Sephora now carries Beauty Counter. While they do give the option to buy products outside of their MLM program, it’s the same company and the products are the same overpriced ones that are sold by the MLM. The Body Shop is another one with their Body Shop at Home MLM program. These are predatory pyramid schemes that prey on women, oftentimes stay at home moms, promising them a high monthly income with only a few hours of work per week. What they don’t tell people is that nobody makes money selling the products, they will only do so by recruiting new salespeople. Less than 1% of people actually make the money promised and most end up losing money. These companies need to be made illegal.
I reached out to 100% pure about their mica sourcing and this is what they said!
“Mineral cosmetics are colored with ingredients like iron oxides, talc, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. 100% PURE cosmetics aren’t mineral-based formulas—mostly we use fruit and vegetable pigments for color—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.”
Thanks for sharing that! It’s taken them ages to get back to me.
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!
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!
thank you for recommending this brand! I looked it up and it really looks great!
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.
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.
Does anyone know if the company Avon use synthetic mica or ethically sourced