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What’s in your Fenty?
If it shimmers real bright, then it’s probably real bad.
Prancing through the aisles of Sephora, Ulta, or, let’s be honest, your neighborhood drugstore for the latest palettes of eyeshadow and highlight is probably one of the top ten most relaxing activities on the planet, at least until the cashier tells you your total. The cosmetics industry is nothing short of booming at the moment, with exciting brands like Fenty, Too Face, and Tarte, constantly coming out with new kinds of makeup you didn’t even know existed. “That highlight is poppin’” is a comment seen on every Instagram post with a selfie-taking at golden hour, face turned to the perfect angle to show off the shimmer on our cheekbones. But what’s really in that Anastasia Beverly Hills Champagne pop or Fenty Gloss Bomb or any of the countless other makeup products to make them shine? The answer is mica.
Mica is a naturally-occurring mineral with incredibly unique chemical properties, the most valuable of which being it’s natural shimmer. It’s thermal stability and electrical conductivity has made it a valuable resource in many areas, especially the makeup industry. The problem lies in the fact that well over 60% of mica is mined by children, many as young as four years old. In fact, the younger the worker the better because children can more easily duck into the small, cramped dark tunnels where mica can be mined, their tiny hands excavating the mineral for hours on end. It is more than a full-time job; these children often work well over eight hours a day, every single day of the week. They have no time to go to school, no time to spend with their family, the vast majority of whom are working long hours for a devastatingly low wage just to be able to afford food to eat. The children mining for mica are paid, on average, less than a quarter a day, and are constantly working under the threat that the dark tunnel could cave in and kill them. In a short documentary by Refinery29, one child mica worker explains how she witnessed a five-year-old worker’s head split open when a rock fell on top of him. Another girl recounts seeing her sister die when the tunnel they were working in came down. It is one devastating story after the next, and even those who manage to survive for another day are ridden with health problems from the toll the work takes on their bodies, especially their lungs.
As devastating as the child labor abuse in the mica mines are, we the consumers almost never see it. In fact, the companies that are purchasing large quantities of mica to use in their products rarely see it either, as mica is highly unregulated. The mineral is often funneled into a system that conceals its true origins, instead indicating that the mica came from a regulated, humane work environment. Many cosmetic companies have become aware of this tragedy and are working to delegate where and how their mica is obtained. The forerunner in this process, Lush, has decided to use synthetic mica as opposed to mined mica. Lush is known for their cruelty-free production and their refusal to test products on animals. However, even this major brand admits the difficulties in ethically sourcing mica, especially considering the unregulated practices being funneled into different areas to cover their tracks. Lush has begun using synthetic mica. Many other popular brands have joined the Responsible Mica Initiative, which strives to take children out of the mica mines and into schools and support the rebuilding of villages. The end of this article will contain a list of companies that are a part of this effort.
In the end, we as the consumers hold the power. Instead of lusting after the makeup products you want, use the ones you have. If you ever find yourself in a position where you just need to have a new highlighter or lip gloss, check out the list at the bottom of this article. These are big brands with a wide array of products, and by purchasing from them and being vocal about how their responsible mica mining led you to choose their product amongst the competitors, you are encouraging all companies to take this stand against putting children in the mines. After all, shouldn’t cruelty-free extend to humans too?
By: Angeline Jacob’20
Categories: News@the Heart