February 17, 2021
At Kitchen Witch Co., taking the natural approach to life is, well, just plain natural. Once in a while, though, natural isn't always best. Colorants are just one of the hotly debated topics in the soap-making and cosmetic world. Seriously. People get heated and there is more drama than in a whole day's worth of telenovelas. Colorants are a perfect example of how we have grown as a company through education and knowledge. After many years of using mined micas, we decided to switch to lab-made micas as well as mica-based or biodegradable glitters. (We'll address the glitter issue in our next blog.)
What do your eyeshadow palette, toothpaste, BB cream, and your makeup tray have in common? That delicate sheen is probably thanks to mica. Mica brightens, illuminates, and colors. Mica is also available as a matte powder by adding titanium dioxide amongst others. Minerals and dyes are added to the mica to obtain bright colors with a sheen that pops. In the past few years, the beauty industry's dirty secret has been exposed. In response to the exposure of child labor in the mining of mica, we have switched to completely lab-made micas. It was a tough decision to make.
One might ask how a natural mineral such as mica can cause such an ethical dilemma. Mica is commonly found in granite, and granite is common in our area. How is a rock that is everywhere in our local area so controversial? The majority of the mica used worldwide is mined in a relatively small area of India. The "Mica Band" as it has been called. While the Hollywood stereotype of a grizzled old coal miner might come to mind, the reality is not a pretty picture.
Children work alongside their parents, with much of the mica being mined by children as young as five. The lack of supply chains and mob-style control of the mines in the mica industry makes it nearly impossible to ensure that mined mica is ethically mined and processed. Children often suffer from serious wounds and the cumulative effect of breathing in the dust, and many have lost their lives. It isn't cut and dry, though, as these families rely on mining to survive. Many large cosmetic companies have chosen to work with the communities, as the loss of income could cause as much harm. (Albeit in a very different fashion.)
As a small business, it is impracticable to ensure that mined micas are 100% cruelty-free. That, along with the benefits of synthetic mica, made the choice a bit easier. While we would love the opportunity, we are unable to visit the mines and work with the communities at this point. For now, we will work solely with fluorphlogopite, or synthetic mica, when called for.
Fluorphlogopite might be hard to enunciate, but it has benefits that extend beyond being cruelty-free. Purity is improved, making the mica brighter and more pigmented. Natural mica can have sharp edges that cause micro-tears in the skin, whereas synthetic mica will not damage the skin. Synthetic micas are made in many sizes and can replace the plastic glitters that are harming the flora and fauna around us.
We sincerely hope to one day be able to support the co-ops and humanely operated mines being formed by buying their micas. Until a better option exists, we will continue to use cruelty-free synthetic mica in our products. *We are currently working to relabel our product to reflect this change.
How to spot the difference on product labels? Natural, mined mica will be listed as "Mica", "CI 77019", or "Potassium Aluminum Silicate". Synthetic mica will be listed as "Synthetic Fluorophlogopite" or simply as "Synthetic Mica".
August 11, 2020