The Cost Of Material Beauty

Disclaimer: This post which is about makeup, is solely intended to raise awareness and not to accuse or incriminate those who do use it. I have no experience in the cosmetic industry. The content of this article is compiled from a variety of authentic sources which I will mention at the end/middle for your reference.

Widely accepted by a variety of cultures, the popularity of cosmetics can be attributed to its potential for creative self-expression and self-identity. These have been in use for thousands of years and are used to enhance, alter or cleanse without affecting the body’s structure. In common parlance, cosmetics mean makeup products such as lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, foundation, blush, highlighter, and several other products.

When it comes to evaluating the contribution of the cosmetic and makeup industry to the global economy, it can be seen that the men and women of the United States, Japan, France, Germany and the UK spend the most on makeup with the US topping the list in terms of usage followed closely by Japan and Russia with the highest cosmetics consumption.

Mica and its
Uses in The Beauty Industry

The global beauty industry is one among the largest consumers of mica. Mica refers to a group of 37 naturally occurring minerals. The composition of Mica allows it to be ground down into a fine powder-like dust, making it versatile and suitable for various industries.

Mica is mainly classified into two types; natural and synthetic with 10, blue 1, red 28 and many other FD&C food dyes derived from petroleum are banned in many countries due to potential links to cancer.

Mica’s delicate shimmer is what gives makeup its distinct glow and sparkle – and 60% of the mica that goes into cosmetics comes from India. Coming to the core of this post, Mica can be found in China, Russia, Finland etc. but the cosmetics industry sources the majority of its supply from India, where it’s often mined by children as young as four or five years old, some who were kidnapped and forced into child labour.

Children as young as four.

Child Labour

The reason for using children is even more heartbreaking. Supposedly, it is because their hands are small enough to fit into the tight crevices where mica is commonly found.

They toil all day long in ‘ghost’ mines (illegal mines) under immensely dangerous work conditions without protective equipment, reinforced walls or prompt medical help nearby. Mining is a very risky business, especially fatal to such young children who not only use hazardous equipment like picks but are vulnerable to mine collapses any moment.

An article in Marie Claire, also draws attention to the fact that these children constantly breathe in fine particles of mica, which can ultimately lead to grave respiratory conditions like asthma, silicosis, and tuberculosis not to mention the risk of serious injuries like snake and scorpion bites, falling rock and skin infections.

Chiseling for mica with hammers in mine shafts that often collapse, smashing large chunks of mica into smaller rocks in order to break it up, and carrying baskets of rocks to the top of the mines to sort through their contents are some of the dangerous jobs that they do.

“A 2016 investigation by Reuters found that not only had children regularly died in these mines, but many of the deaths had been covered up by local officials, making an actual fatality count difficult to nail down. According to Nagasayee Malathy, executive director of Indian advocacy group Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, or KSCF, not much has changed since that investigation. She estimates that there are between 10 and 20 deaths in mines every month, a conservative number based on what we heard on the ground.”  {Quoted from Refinery 29)

The children here are underweight and nearly half of them under the age of five suffer from stunted growth. In addition, illiteracy is also common. Having no other options owing to severe poverty, many families allow their children to find work instead of going to school. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights said that a section of children in the mica mining areas are deprived of opportunities and have started working as labourers to supplement their family income.

A survey conducted by SOMO observes that there are 4,545 children in the age group of six to 14 years in the area of Jharkhand reported as not attending school majorly to collect mica scraps. Most of these children come from a third-world place in India – Koderma, infamous for mica mines, naxalism and child labour.

According to SOMO , a quarter of the world’s mica comes from the eastern Indian poverty-stricken states of Jharkand and Bihar, where more than 22,000 children work in mica mines, around 90 per cent of which are illegal. Despite its mineral wealth, the region is thrust under a heavy and dark pall of poverty and hunger. Of the 33 million people who live in Jharkhand, 13 million live below the poverty line. This makes Jharkhand one of the poorest regions in India. The Kailash Sathyarthi Children’s Foundation working since 2005 in these mica-rich areas estimates that there are close to 500 villages dependant on mica trade. (Stats source – The Quint)

Owing to the perpetual cycle of poverty, as well as a steady slavery industry, one in five people employed in the mines is under the age of 14. These children are also kept in the dark as to where this mined mica is sent. The raw material, excavated by these children, is collected by a broker, who sells it to an exporter, who then delivers it to a manufacturer.

And what does mica do? It adds a distinct shimmer to beauty products. A glow that these children will never experience in their lives if this monstrosity carries on.

In addition to all this, the mining companies or the middlemen refrain from paying fair and sufficient wages to the workers. They are well aware of their deeds and make sure to operate under the radar especially since child labour is illegal and banned in India. This inefficiency on their part to pay wages in turn leads to a situation known as bonded labour or debt slavery. Owing to terribly low wages, it can sometimes take even generations to pay off these loans.

What can you do?

Like plastic, makeup is not a commodity you can just eradicate or ban in one day. Apart from being used to alter or enhance one’s appearnace, makeup has also been linked to increased confidence levels and is used by many to feel comfortable as an individual in a judgemental society.

Use products from brands which are transparent about their supply chains and clearly mention where and how they source their mica. Implementation of safety regulations and ensuring that brands and the industry, force middlemen to treat their workers fairly and abolish child labour is yet another path.

Given below are a few cosmetic brands that use ethically sourced mica:

Pure Anada
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.”
 I really appreciate that this information is included and easily found in their “about” section unlike many other brands where it can be quite hard to find or not publicly available at all.

LUSH
A bath, body, and beauty company who is vocal about mica issues and uses synthetic mica.

Clove + Hallow
What they say: “[Mica is] a natural shimmery mineral that we source ethically within the United States”

Au Naturale
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 “Because 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).
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 US 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
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”
 Note that they just list “Mica” in their ingredients, which is legal however I would definitely prefer if brands specify that it is synthetic mica.

100% Pure
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.”

Beauty Brands who use Ethical Mica, My Green Closet

(The above is an excerpt from an article by Verena Erin Polowy on her blog, My Green Closet. Please click here to read the complete article).

The Responsible Mica Initiative, an alliance formed between cosmetics companies including l’Oreal, Chanel and Estee Lauder, has the goal of eradicating child labor in mica production within the next five years and ensure that their companies only use ethically sourced mica Quoting from an article on The Borgen Project, “Its empowerment programs involve efforts to have more children enrolled in school, to educate people on alternate sources of income, to improve healthcare in villages and to strengthen local institutions.”

There are charities that are working to stop child labour in the mica mining industry, these include:

Anti-Slavery International – click here to donate

Terre des Hommes

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation – click here to donate

Thomas Reuters Foundation – click here to donate


As a student and a female; I am aware of the privileges I have been granted without asking; education and freedom being a few of them and wish the same for children all around the world. I watched the video embed below a few weeks ago and it was absolutely heart-wrenching to realise that this was something that takes place on a daily basis. The fact that it’s happening now calls for an immediate call to action to put a stop to what is frankly, a clear and cruel infringement on human rights.

Numerous children, denied their rights to basic education and a childhood and being forced to work in mines is something that shouldn’t have existed in the first place. This is incredibly cruel, inhumane and just so very wrong. I have friends and peers who use makeup frequently, and as mentioned above, this article was in no way intended or directed towards them. I felt like this was a subject that wasn’t being discussed and acted on enough that it still exists.

Thoughtfully yours,
Introverted Thoughts aka D

Sources referred:

The Borgen Project
ayr skin care
Refinery 29

Cosmetics (Wikipedia)
flare

My Green Closet
Statista

Reuters
India Times

57 thoughts on “The Cost Of Material Beauty

  1. It’s truly sickening to see the truth behind how these products are made. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention and I will definitely be using more ethical makeup in the future.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh dear D, I am proud of myself for not using any of these make up products. I am happy with who I am and rarely I choose to use lip balm when there is a need. 😉
    This is painful to read. Children deserve a better world and am saddened for the parents who are forced to put their children in such a job to get some mere money.
    I believe, this post can create some awareness to the people who are against child labour! Thank you for sharing this with us. ❤️❤️❤️🤝

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post D!! Very informative and helpful to many, I’m sure! The truth will always shine. ✨ Much love and hugs friend 🖤🖤🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  4. While I don’t often use makeup, it is important to know when things like this are going on in an industry. This post was very informative and well written!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you, D, for this informative post. I want no part of products produced from child labor or slavery! Although I use very little makeup, I will look for products not guilty of these practices the next time I buy!

    Take care! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  6. This is a fabulous post, D. Absolutely splendid. Makeup isn’t bad- but we need to be careful what we source and use. Thank you for talking about this!!
    stay sticky,
    [pbs}

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for sharing D!! It was a strong topic which u expressed and I didn’t know anything about it until now. 😊💕❤️ Thanks for the awareness… I love people who talk about things like this. Like child labor and all. Thanks once again, glad to have found ur blog..

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I didn’t either until I watched that video. I agree. It’s so inhumane. It’s coming to light gradually, but law enforcement is slow and consumers are largely unaware.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so happy to hear that! I’m not against makeup but it’s unfair these children have to sacrifice so much for something that’s washed off a day later.
    I’m sure it was, sadly. Me too, it seems absolutely wrong.
    Aw.. thank you so much! I felt like I had to write something after watching that video. My pleasure! I appreciate your taking the time to read and share your thoughts! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you for drawing our attention to this, I never knew about the children mining for mica. Shocking! I use make up so seldom but what I really appreciate is your list of alternative beauty houses for those who want to make a difference to supply and demand.🌷💖🌹🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My pleasure! I didn’t either until I watched that video. It is shocking and painful.
    Aw..of course! I don’t discourage or hate makeup, I just wanted to raise awareness. I hope everyone turns to cruelty-free brands soon, it could make a huge difference. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for this post 👏👏👏👏 to show the ugly side of the beautiful makeup industry 👏👏👏 you did an excellent job here, though I didn’t use makeup I liked how you provided details about the brands which are actually ‘clean 💖💖💖

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I didn’t know child labor was behind makeup.. that is just so sad..
    amazing, informative post D! like Diamond said earlier, you have a very eloquent way of writing your posts (:

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I had no idea! Thanks for sharing… It’s so sad to think that almost every single industry takes advantage of child labour and the less fortunate. What kind of world do we live in!?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow! This is so eye opening! I was just learning about child labor in History today, and here is the proof that it still happens. it’s so sad what people do for money, it’s like they don’t care about people’s (children’s) lives that are threatened do to them.
    I think that it is good that you shared this, and that you shared where you can find makeup that sources it’s mica responsible. Some people may know about this but won’t give up their makeup for it. That being said, I don’t use makeup, but I still appreciate you sharing things like this.
    -Haley

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great and informative post! It’s so terrible to use child labour in any industry, luckily more and more investors are starting to abandon companies which do it and hopefully consumers will start to do the same. As you say, it’s all about choosing your brand with care.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. D, just woah. This has really come as a shock to me and it’s def a topic I was completely unaware of until now. Thank you for raising awareness on this – it’s an important topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Yeah, sadly it’s still an issue taking place in the background. Oh, absolutely. A world that’s struggling to stay afloat, sadly.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you, Haley! Yeah, it’s sad that it’s something that’s still happening. Indeed, wealth is often what renders humans senseless these days.
    Glad you think so! As long as makeup that’s used is sourced ethically, I suppose child labour should go down a steady slope. Of course!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you very much! It absolutely is. I feel raising awareness could contribute too, most of my peers had no idea about this when I asked them. Ah, yes that’s a key point too!
    Thank you so much for reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This was so eye-opening!! I love using make-up all the time to express creativity and for fun, but this is so terrible that these kids are being forced to work to get mica for make-up products!
    Thank you for sharing those make-up companies! Something must be done to stop this illegal child labor… 😦 😦
    *hugs
    -kaelyn

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m glad it was, Kaelyn! I agree, makeup is all good but it shouldn’t exploit so many young souls. It is terrible and so vey wrong 😕
    My pleasure! Absolutely.
    Thank you so much for reading!!❤️
    *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Whoa. I had no idea about any of this 😱
    I watched a documentary called “the dirtiest river in the world,” which is somewhere in Indonesia. That was crazy and sad but what really stood out to me about the documentary was the fact that factories in those cities dump toxic synthetic dye into the water supply, further polluting it. It’s so heartbreaking how many horrible things go on behind the scenes of several business dealings: makeup, clothing, wigs, food… it’s very sad.
    But the more aware we become, we’ll be able to make informed decisions about which brands we’ll support! 💖💛
    Thank you for spreading the word about this D 😊 I’m a light makeup user, but I’d love to buy from some of the brands you listed! Their mission sounds awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. It is painfully clear that children are still subjected to child labour worldwide and that the consequences are staggering! Companies like the cosmetic industry is just one of the many that benefit at the expense of child labour. Thank you for highlighting this industry and showing that we can work together to prevent violence, exploitation and abuse of children.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Aw..that sounds terrible too. I agree. It’s like everything we use to improve life has an even darker origin. I agree! Awareness is essential for change.
    My pleasure! It makes me so happy to hear that! It does!
    Thank you so much for reading!!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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