Here’s the truth: so many things we’ve come to love, that are beautiful and sparkly, convenient and disposable, that bring joy to our lives, are really just insanely bad for the planet. Glitter is sadly one of those things.
So, in today’s blog we’re chatting about the not so glittery truth about glitter. But also, how to get that irresistible sparkle and shine minus the environmental impact. Keep reading for:
Glitter is essentially plastic wrapped in aluminum, or in science-y terms, it’s “aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate” – glitter sounds much better right?
Glitter is made in every color, in a multitude of different shapes, and in sizes as small as 50 by 75 microns (a micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter) for lip and eye makeup to the much larger sizes used in craft glitter.
Made with small aluminum-coated plastic, glitter has sharp edges and can be very abrasive to the skin. Especially when removing glitter around sensitive areas like the eyes, this rubbing action can cause small micro-cuts on the skin, creating irritation, breakouts, and premature aging through repetitive skin damage.
Most glitter measures less than five milometers long, so when rinsed down the drain, the pieces are too small to be filtered out in water treatment plants. They wind up in our drinking water, rivers, lakes, and oceans. They pose the same issues as microbeads, which were banned in 2015, however glitter has so far escaped the nationwide ban.
Once these small, sparkly particles reach the oceans, fish and birds consume them, mistaking the glitter for plankton. The sharp edges can then cut the fish and birds from the inside out, or cause them to die from starvation when the material collects in their system. And if they survive this painful experience, they can end up on human plates where we consume the glitter particles ourselves.
Plastic-based glitter cannot be recycled, and so will eventually end up in landfills, where it will take a minimum of 1000 years to break down or will wind up in lakes, rivers, and oceans. If we continue producing plastic waste at the current rate, there will be more plastic particles than fish by 2050 (there are already 165 million tons of plastic in the oceans).
Microplastics like glitter act as kind of a “lifeboat for bacteria” – helping these potentially dangerous organisms survive much longer in waterways.
Despite all the sad glitter truths that have been shared by every news outlet, this shimmery microplastic is still the biggest beauty trend of the year. It truly is everywhere - from glitter tears on Euphoria and undereye glitter on Fashion Week runways, to glitter-covered face masks, and needless loose glitter being thrown into already plastic-heavy makeup packaging.
And it's not just the beauty world that's bathing in glitter. A hundred-million-dollar industry, glitter is found in car and boat paint, in credit card designs, in the irises of stuffed animals, in clothing, shoes, and accessories, in toothpaste, and of course in nail polish, eyeshadow, highlighter, skincare products, and lipstick/lip gloss.
And perhaps the most alarming use of all – glitter is found in our food. Edible glitter is used to “augment sparkle and luster in food and beverage products”. Common foods like cakes, lattes, cupcakes, and bagels have been found to use edible glitter to create a more aesthetic appearance.
Most of us cannot resist the glistening, light-catching shine of glitter. Even people who don’t like glitter, are somehow begrudgingly drawn to the sparkle and shine. Why? Some researchers say it’s an innate reaction related to seeking out fresh water for drinking.
We infuse all our products with crystals for their skin soothing & spirit healing qualities, but also for their luminizing, light-reflective sparkle. They’re the glitter dust of nature.
Our latest launch, The Supernova Crushed Diamond Highlighters are infused with real diamond powder to help reflect light away from the face – camouflaging wrinkles and creating a diamond-bright luminescent glow.
Nature’s glitter, mica is a group of minerals that add sparkle and luminescence to beauty products.
Unfortunately, mica isn’t always a slam-dunk ingredient either. Most of the world’s mica is sourced from India, where child labor is rampant. In our products, we use a combination of natural and synthetic mica. When we use natural mica, we source only from suppliers in the US where child labor is prohibited and labor standards are enforced. We choose synthetic mica when we can’t vet and guarantee that the source of our mica is child-labor-free.
There is some hope on the horizon for glitter itself – a chemical Engineer named Stephen Cotton invented glitter made from plant cellulose. In its purest form, this glitter claims to contain no plastic and be fully biodegradable. Other forms, however, still contain small amounts of plastic and can run into the same problems as regular glitter.
So, glitter (and countless other guilty pleasures) are bad. Does that mean you have to give up all the fun, sparkly, colorful indulgences that light up the little moments in your life? Absofreakinglutely not! We are not about a drab, colorless, brown paper bag existence. We believe wholeheartedly in a full-color, fun-filled life. What we do recommend releasing though, are the dated, un-researched options that were developed decades ago.
In beauty for example - 50 years ago we had no idea what was in our makeup or that any of it could be harmful. And the same goes for small things like glitter. Even a few years ago, we didn’t think twice about the planetary impact of glitter. No one was looking into it, and truthfully, most of us were too busy spicing up our lives to worry about the issues that are popping up today.
But now we know more and can choose better. And the fabulous news is, there are so many zero-sacrifice alternatives to the wasteful items we’ve come to love. You can still shine while letting the planet shine on too!
Here’s to #choosingbetterbeauty and refusing to sacrifice your health, the planet, the animals, performance, or other people’s well-being for your beauty products. #expectmore
- Āether Beauty xo
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