Unethical mica mining in cosmetics

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Cynthia Rossi, Staff Writer

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What is mica? Mica is an ingredient commonly found in cosmetics used to give makeup products a shimmering finish. While it is commonly used in highlighters, blushes, and eyeshadows, the dark ways in which mica is sourced are incredibly unethical and inhumane. 

In countries like Madagascar and India, children are being forced to work in mica mines and endure horrendous working conditions. Certain brands are claiming to be “cruelty free”, but are allowing children to work in these dangerous mines full of toxins in which they breathe daily. According to UNICEF, around 10,800 children are working in these mines and one in four children ages five to seventeen are working in an environment that is detrimental to their well-being, however, these children have families that are starving and depend on their income. 

So what brands are continuing to use mica despite knowing the harm it is causing kids in developing countries? L’Oreal (a company that also owns Maybelline, Kiehls, and Urban Decay), is one of the biggest perpetrators of this crime against morality. L’Oreal gets its mica from the suppliers Merck and Kuncai. When these companies were confronted about the dangers of children working in mica mines, they stated that it was simply “too difficult” to find other sources for mica. 

Some brands are claiming the label “cruelty-free” but are continuing to use mica in their products. For example, Jaclyn Cosmetics recently released that their new highlighters would contain mica in them despite claiming to be a “cruelty-free” brand. Why are companies allowed to label themselves as “cruelty-free” but continue to use natural mica despite knowing the unethical ways in which it is sourced? 

This is where we as consumers need to educate ourselves and be informed buyers. If we do not educate ourselves and learn the truth about the products that we use, we can unknowingly support unethical causes, such as child labor. 

Luckily, India is working toward legalizing mica mining so it can be properly regulated and audited by their government. This will make child labor a less prevalent issue and ensure better wages and working conditions for mica miners. However, it will not eliminate child labor entirely as poverty rates are still at 21.9%. 

There is a dire need for international governments to make mica mining and child labor a top priority. Until they do, young children will continue to breathe in toxins and do irreversible harm to their bodies to put food on their tables. We must take action now.