The Secret Behind the Shimmer: All About Mica

Most people who wear makeup regularly are accustomed to the matte, solid, or neutral-colored look. Even so, shimmer-style makeup looks have been re-entering the beauty scene at quite a speedy rate. According to a blog post by L’Oréal Paris USA, shimmer makeup is a style that fits all age groups. When appropriately executed, anyone can pull off a shimmer makeup look for sure. Whether it be your regular workday or a special glam event, shimmer makeup’s versatility got you covered.

Shimmer’s strength lies in its ability to highlight specific features of your face. According to Flekk Cosmetics, since shimmer reacts to light, it helps highlight point areas of your face such as your cheekbones and brow bones, to mention a few. The shimmer does the work of adding dimension to your face.

With all this shimmer makeup talk, doesn’t it make you curious where all the shimmer actually comes from?

Here in Project Greenify, we have continuously encouraged the practice of studying the products that we purchase and use. Makeup, to many of us, is probably something we use on most days, if not every day. This blog explores the background of shimmer makeup in hopes to greenify our beauty purchases in the future. You never know how much that shimmer actually impacts our environment. So together, let’s discover the secret behind the shimmer.

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What Is Mica?

Mica is a naturally-occurring mineral, that when added to makeup products, adds color and gives off a noticeable shimmer when applied.

The term “Mica” is actually an umbrella term for 37 other silicate minerals of similar physical and chemical attributes. It is specifically muscovite mica that is used as a color additive to cosmetics. Cosmetics that make use of mica do not refer to makeup products alone. Nail polish as well as other skincare products contain mica as well. Other than beauty products, it is also used as an extender for paints and other surface treatments.

In other industries, mica serves other purposes as well. Sheet and block mica are used as electrical insulators in different electronic equipment. Ground mica is used as an extender and reinforcing material in the plastic manufacturing industry and inert filler and lubricant in the rubber manufacturing industry. These are a few of mica’s purposes across a variety of industries.

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How Is Mica Found and Mined?

Generally, mica is mined by processes of digging and drilling.

There are two interdependent industries directly related to mica mining: sheet mica production and flake mica production. There are two ways involved in the recovery process of sheet mica. The first is through underground mining, and the second is through open-surface mining. The pegmatite, an igneous rock, is where the mica mineral is found, along with other compositions like quartz and feldspar.

The flake mica is recovered through an open-pit method. It comes from several sources such as schist, a metamorphic rock, placer deposits, a natural mass of minerals, and lastly from pegmatites as well.  

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Is Mica Mining Bad for the Environment?

To some extent, the extraction process of the mica mineral does have a negative environmental impact. The creation of open pits for the recovery of mica has created a negative environmental impact far beyond the mining area itself. In the long run, the process can induce erosion of soil, and consequently, contamination of different water sources. Deforestation was also observed to be an issue in countries where mica mining is prevalent. India, a country large on mining mica has observed the loss of biodiversity as a result of continuous mining.

To compare, the process of mining for flake mica is less environmentally harmful compared to mining for sheet mica. This is largely because it is a by-product of sheet mica mining.

Other than the environmental impact, unfair labor practices related to mica mining have also been brought to global attention. Since its mining process is labor-intensive, the employment of child laborers has been a frequent illegal practice. Other than that, these laborers are often underpaid and are left to work in a hazardous environment without significant safety measures taken.

mica in beauty industry

What Companies Use Mica?

Mica is heavily used in the beauty industry more than in other industries. It is safe to assume that most beauty product producing companies contain mica in their products.

What sets some companies apart, however, is their use of ethical or synthetic mica. LUSH, for example, has publicly stated its commitment to cease its use of natural mica in all of its products. Instead, the brand will be using Synthetic Fluor Phlogopite, a lab-made alternative that mimics the mica’s ability to bring shimmer and glitter to cosmetic products. It is also considered more environmentally friendly than plastic-based glitter which is also considered microplastic.

Similarly, Haut Cosmetics, an eco-friendly cosmetic brand has also released a mica-free product line in support of the movement against child labor. Other green cosmetic brands have also followed suit. Some have also released their mica-free lines while others have been vocal about sourcing their mica from child-labor-free sources in the US.

Is Mica Harmful to the Skin?

The use of products containing mica has little to no side effects.

In general, the use of cosmetics containing mica should not be a source of concern for consumers. However, if you are avoiding mica for environmental and ethical reasons, make sure to check the product’s label for any ingredient under the name “Mica,” “Potassium Aluminum Silicate,” “CI 77019,” or “Muscovite.”

Is Synthetic Mica Eco-friendly?

Synthetic mica is an eco-friendly alternative to natural mica.

Despite it being produced in a lab, synthetic mica is made out of natural minerals. This makes it a greener alternative compared to PET-based glitter that is considered to be microplastic.

While it is not easy and inexpensive to make the switch to the mica-free route, it always pays to start even in the smallest of ways. Greenify by making a habit out of checking your product labels, doing your research, and ultimately, transitioning to a more responsible purchasing behavior.

There is still so much more to this green lifestyle. So, start greenifying today!


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