Mica powders are used to give natural colour and shimmer to products. They are made from the ground mica mineral with various pigments added to produce coloured powders. Fine mica powder is often coated with other natural minerals such as iron oxide or titanium oxide to produce vibrant colours. Mica powder can also be artificially dyed so it’s important to check which your supplier stocks.
What is mica?
“Mica” or muscovite is a natural mineral found in stone with shiny flakes. It belongs to a group of aluminosilicate minerals, and is common in cosmetic products such as foundations, eye shadows, nail varnish and lipsticks due to their ability to provide shimmer and a glitter effect. Mica’s natural colour ranges from shades of white, pink, brown, grey and other earthly tones. However, it is mostly used for its shimmer effect with pigments added to boost its colour payoff. When mica is ground it produces “mica powder” that is often mixed with pigments to be used as colourants.
Ethical issues around natural mica
It is important to note that there are ethical issues surrounding the sourcing of naturally mined mica that has brought its usage into question. The largest deposits of mica are found in northeastern India, also dubbed the “Mica belt”. These regions are often impoverished and heavily reliant on child labour, poor working conditions and low health, safety and environmental (HSE) standards to meet the growing international demand for mica. As with most natural products it is left up to individual companies and buyers to determine whether they use ethical-sourced produce. While many have opted to boycott Indian mica, it is not legally required to do so and can be difficult to trace the true origins of the mica. If the source of the mica is not explicitly stated by a vendor, then it is possible it a product of unethical mining practices.
For such reasons opting to use natural mica alternatives could help stop the continued practice of child labor and unethical working conditions.
Synthetic mica & alternatives
Fluorphlogopite or “synthetic mica” is a man made substance that mimics the natural shimmer and sparkle of natural mica. Whilst being artificial it is made from natural minerals that don’t contain microplastics or involve the exploitation of children and disadvantaged communities. Due to being synthetic it is often brighter than natural mica and comes in a variety of colours.