The Makeup Industry’s Darkest Secret :

Child Labour and Mica-Mining

By LINH NGUYEN | March 7, 2020

Cover Illustration by Rania Djojosugito. Insta: @ray_zorsharp 

Buzz… Buzz… As you slowly roll out of bed, mentally preparing yourself for the day ahead, several children in a remote village in India are already up and working. While adjusting your eyeliner for that perfect flick, those same children are wondering what the minerals they are digging up are being used for. Now, proceed to take a second to look at your eyeshadow palette or highlighter. Continue to scan the ingredients list for the word ‘mica’. Can you find it? Probably. It is this very ‘mica’ that keeps these same children preoccupied on a daily basis, in order to keep millions of stores stocked with glitter eyeshadow palettes. 

Mica is the mineral that makes your glitter eyeshadow. Not long ago, I stumbled upon this Refinery29 article detailing a day in the life of children (some being only five years old) who were illegally mining mica in order to support their families. They earn roughly less than 50 cents a day. To put this into perspective: The cheapest eyeshadow palette at Sephora can currently be bought for 4.99 euro. 

Alarmingly, child labor is not fully outlawed in India. According to The Wall Street Journal, children under the age of 14 are legally able to work in ‘non-hazardous environments’. While, in 2012, an amendment was proposed to prohibit labour for all children under the age of 14, the proposal has yet to be accepted. This loophole allows for illegal farms to operate using child labour, even though one could assume that childrent digging for mica using ‘ice picks, hammers and baskets’ is not ‘non-hazardous’. How is it possible that big manufacturers such as L’Oreal, MAC, Estée Lauder, Too Faced and Bobbi Brown turn a blind eye to the clear human right’s violations which are raised by the mica-mining issue? Is the prospect of economic profit really more important than the life of a child?

If big businesses do not take responsibility, it is on us, the consumers, to reconsider our purchasing choices. We have to demand for the prohibition of child labour and boycott makeup products which contain mica. In simply search for a ‘mica free makeup brand’, I was able to find an article in Peaceful Dumpl, proving that luxury products do not require child labour. There are ethical options out there and it is on us to use them.