#IngredientSpotliht: Mica – Is it really safe?

Much controversy surrounds the presence of Mica in cosmetics. However, there is equal misinformation around this naturally occurring mineral. We help you get to the bottom of this misunderstood ingredient in this month’s #IngredientSpotliht!

What is Mica?

Mica is a naturally occurring mineral often used as color additives in cosmetics. They also have reflective properties, allowing for a shimmery effect in mineral foundations and eye shadows.

Because it is naturally produced, it is a particularly well-loved ingredient among organic and natural beauty brands, and is safe to use on almost all skin types with little to no side effects!

What are some of the issues surrounding the use of Mica in some products?

The Jharkhand state in India has the largest deposit of mica in the world. However, due to high demand of this naturally occurring mineral and the abundance of poverty in the region, many factories in India have resorted to employing and exploiting child labor in its mining of mica, which has led to widespread controversy surrounding this industry.

Long-term inhalation of mica poses a health risk to workers, specifically those working in muscovite (the most common form of mica) mills and other occupations such as agriculture and construction work. Long-term inhalation of mica dust may cause lung scarring which leads to symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, weakness, and weight loss.

What are the common misconceptions about this ingredient surrounding the above controversies?

Many people believe that ALL businesses involved in the mining of natural mica use unethical mining and manufacturing practices. At Liht, we have made sure that all the mica in our products is ethically produced with documented assurances from highly reputable suppliers.

Some mineral makeup products contain mica, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and other ingredients in nanoparticle form. Nanoparticles are extremely tiny particles that can penetrate the skin layers, entering the blood stream, and the lungs if inhaled. Despite this, it is not known for sure what long-term effects nanoparticles in makeup could cause. Therefore, Liht Organics has taken it one step further to ensure that our products do not contain nanoparticles.

Synthetic or Natural Mica – what is the difference?

Because synthetic mica is created in a lab, the level of purity is higher, so bolder colors and more reflective effects can be achieved when compared to natural mica. The pros of using synthetic mica are apparent when trying to achieve sparkly eye shadows. On a microscopic level, naturally occurring mica has jagged edges, while synthetic mica has very smooth edges. 

The intensity of the sparkle or shimmer depends on the size of the mica particle. This means a much larger particle size of the synthetic mica can be used to achieve more sparkle. If you were to use the same size of the natural mica particle, this would feel uncomfortable around the eyes so mica particle sizes are regulated for certain products, such as eye shadow, to ensure products are comfortable and safe to use.

Will the Mica industry ever shed its reputation as a misunderstood ingredient?

There is hope for the Mica industry to become more ethical, as some businesses are choosing to support more ethical practices in the mining and manufacturing process. The FDA has also approved the safety of mica on the skin for use in cosmetic products.

At Liht, our suppliers have acquired a mica mine in the United States and decided to pursue a complete in-house mica sourcing strategy, allowing them to regulate working conditions, and offer additional benefits in terms of product quality and consistency. We have documented assurances from our raw material suppliers regarding any mica sourced, and certify that NO CHILD LABOR is involved in the extraction and the manufacturing of mica used in the products.