Beauty You Can Feel Good About 

Beauty You Can Feel Good About 

Why Ethical Mica Sourcing Matters

By Kate Downes

If you’ve ever donned a sparkly eyeshadow or glimmering gloss, you’ve used mica. In fact, there’s probably mica hidden in your appliances, your car, and even the walls of your house. 

Mica’s pearly flecks are nature’s glitter. It can perk up a dull complexion with an instant glow, or add a mesmerizing luster to eyes, lips, and cheekbones. 

But this beautiful mineral has an ugly side. Mica mines in poor regions throughout India are largely unregulated and even exploitative. 

At MO MI, we know you want to feel good about the products you use (including our Modern Minerals eyeshadows and powders). That’s why we’re digging up the dirt on mica, so you can make beauty choices that are safe for all. 

What is Mica?

Mica is a naturally occurring mineral. Actually, it’s several. Mica is the umbrella term for a group of 37 different types of silicate minerals that form in the earth. Its lightweight, flexible, heat-resistant nature makes it a valuable resource for a wide range of industries – including electronics and home building. 

Despite its versatility, mica is best known for its use in cosmetics. Mica is that magical ingredient that adds iridescent shimmer and sparkle to anything from eyeshadows and highlighters to foundations and BB creams. Mica’s reflective properties also add depth to your face, which helps you achieve that healthy glow. 

All That Glitters: The Ugly Side of Mica Mining 

Behind the shimmering facade, some mica has an ugly side. While the mineral itself is natural and harmless to your skin, the way most mica is sourced poses some significant challenges and ethical issues. 

The majority of mica comes from underground mines in India, with over 70% of them operating illegally and unregulated. This is a major problem, considering that the mining process is extremely dangerous and labor-intensive. Miners have to move down narrow tunnels underground to dig up mica-rich dirt and sift the small flakes of mica out by hand. The risk of collapsing walls or wayward falling rocks is high.

Yet in many of the remote regions where these mines are found (such as the state of Jharkhand), regulation, safety, and fair pay are of no concern to the brokers and officials in charge. Accidents, and even deaths, are commonplace. 

Child labor and exploitation is another key issue with most mica mining. Brokers illegally employ children as young as five years old to risk their lives in the mine. Their meager wages are barely enough to survive, coming in at less than 50 cents per day. While families know the dangers of sending their children into the mines, mining work is often their only way to put food on the table in these impoverished areas. 

Does Ethical Mica Exist?

Looking at all the issues that surround mica mining begs the question: is it possible to source mica in a more responsible way?

The good news is that there are ethical ways to source mica. Here’s how we can support honest beauty practices and still enjoy the products we love: 

  • Partnering with ethical mica traders
    As an ethical beauty brand, considering where and how mica and other ingredients are sourced is essential. Not all mica mining is unregulated and illegal – some suppliers are dedicated to offering fair wages and a regulated working environment, as well as abiding by child labor laws. At MO MI, we want to support the traders doing it right so more families can thrive. We’ve done our research to ensure all our mica comes straight from ethical suppliers.

    • Using synthetic mica
      Rather than source ethically mined mica, some companies are ditching mica altogether. Instead, they’re opting for synthetic mica (also known as synthetic fluorphlogopite) made from magnesium aluminum silicate sheets. Synthetic mica is created in a lab, which avoids any possibility of shady practices or exploitation. The downside to synthetic mica is that it is relatively new, and we are still learning about its safety for skin.

    • Buying from brands that support ethical mica mining
      As a consumer, you can make an impact by buying your beauty products from brands that take a stance against child labor and unethical practices. Most conventional drug-store products turn a blind eye to questionable mica mining practices in order to secure the lowest price. Avoid these where possible and shop from brands dedicated to supporting responsible suppliers.

    Beauty You Can Feel Good About 

    The bottom line? Mica isn’t bad – but certain mica mining practices are.

    MO MI’s Modern Minerals line does use mica to give our eyeshadows an alluring natural luminescence and shimmer. But we’re also staunch supporters of efforts to end child labor and unsafe exploitative mining practices. 

    While it is possible to use synthetic mica to get a similar shimmer, natural mica is an abundant and safe natural skincare ingredient. And since many families and communities still depend on a prospering mica business to survive, eliminating mica mining altogether is not the answer. 

    A better solution is for beauty brands to partner with mica suppliers that are mining responsibly and supporting families in need – and that’s what we’ve done to create the MO MI's Modern Minerals line. 

    All mica used in MO MI products is sourced from our trusted suppliers that employ adult workers and pay them a decent living wage. 

    The mica mining problem won’t be solved by us alone. But we can take a stand against exploitative beauty industry practices like this by supporting those who are building their industry responsibly and ethically.