The makeup industry has grown a lot in recent years. Beauty stores are always packed with people buying a new product hoping it will fulfill their wishes. While many keep buying more beauty products, not many realize where most of what they are buying comes from.
Refinery29 shed some light on this dangerous and unknown topic. Mica is an ingredient in most makeup pigments. It can be found in anything from lipstick to highlighter. The reason this material is so popular is that it gives the product a shimmer that plastic glitter cannot give. People most likely do not realize the mica that is making their faces shine comes from the labor of illegal child workers who risk their lives to mine for mica in Jharkhand and Bihar, India.
Children as young as five-years-old mine for this precious ingredient. They find mica by squeezing into small underground tunnels with picks, shovels, and baskets and chip away at the walls of the tunnels. They bring up the dirt they have collected and the rest of the children sift it on a large wooden board. Sifting the dirt reveals the chunks of shiny mica they are searching for.
The workers make about 20 to 30 rupees a day, which roughly converts to 43 cents in U.S. currency. The companies that use this material in their products are selling the products for much higher prices than what these tend to produce them and people are buying the makeup. If the children had not mined it for 43 cents a day, the sellers would not be as successful.
Not only is it hard working in the hot sun all day long, mining the same material over and over again, but there is a lot of danger when it comes to being in small man-made tunnels. The dirt is soft, which is why the miners are able to collect so much mica. This also means there is a higher possibility that the walls could collapse on the children working and leave them severely injured, paralyzed, or dead. After working this hard, the children have no clue where the mica is going. They just know to do their job and try not to get trapped in the mines.
After being mined, the mica is taken to China, where it is milled into a fine shimmery powder and ready to be put into cosmetics. Companies are trying to find an alternative synthetic material in exchange for mica because they do not want to support child labor. Doing so would leave families that need the money from mica mining struggling to survive because that is the only money that puts food on the table and helps to keep them alive.
When buying makeup, most people do not think of how their makeup is made or why it looks the way it does. If they do, they would know the dark secrets of the beauty world. The beautiful shimmer in the products come from small children slaving away in risky circumstances for hopes that their family will survive from that pay.