Why I Quit Wearing Makeup

Every morning women around the world stand in front of the mirror to carefully apply mineral powders to their eyelids and cheeks to add a shimmer and shine to their complexions.

Photo by Tom Magliery
Photo by Tom Magliery

I got my first eye shadow when I was thirteen. I remember it very clearly. I went with my mom to Wal-Mart and picked out 3 shades of blue eye shadow. I had no idea how to wear makeup. My mom didn’t wear it, but I saw other girls my age wearing it in middle school. I bought my first compact face powder to help cover up acne. I started wearing mascara in high school when I discovered my eyelashes–the same golden red as my hair–didn’t frame my eyes like I wanted. I adopted eyeliner in college, along with liquid foundation for special occasions.

As a professional, my daily makeup routine mostly consisted of eyeliner, mascara, and some brown toned mineral eye shadow. Until two months ago when I quit cold turkey.

It was late into the evening. My husband was already asleep and I was up late reading blog posts, as I often do. I was reading this blog post about mica–the mineral that makes my shades of brown eye shadow shimmer in the light. Mica is a mineral mined in large quantities by child laborers (aka: slaves).

Every day tens of thousands of American women buy makeup. Every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica, which is the little sparklies in the makeup. (from the Slavery Footprint survey)

Kids as young as six years old are working in brutal conditions instead of going to school so that my eyes can shimmer in the light.

These young children work long hours, receive little to no pay, are placed in dangerous working environments, stung by scorpions, bitten by snakes and unable to attend school…

…all so western women can sparkle. -Megan Westra

It occurred to me, all in the flash of about 15 seconds, that I really didn’t need to keep buying makeup.

Men don’t wear makeup (generally speaking). They look just fine. They can be handsome and professional and ready to go without evening out their skin tone or making their eyes pop.

Photo by Jess Hamilton
Photo by Jess Hamilton

Giving up makeup is perhaps the easiest choice I’ve ever made. If the contents of my eye shadow are made possible by the back-breaking labor of children, then it’s really a no-brainer. I’ll just stop wearing makeup.

Of course, quitting wearing makeup isn’t the only option. There are ethical makeup choices, too.

My favorite is Radiant Cosmetics. Its a company that sells makeup made from as many ethically produced products as possible. And they donate a minimum of 20 percent of their profits to fight human trafficking. From their website:

While not every single ingredient is certified (we’re working hard on that), we do have lots of paperwork certifying that our labor is fair and many of our ingredients, especially mica, come from a fair and ethical source. Our products are made here in the US by certified chemists who also must undergo strict regulations and guidelines when creating our products. Feel free to ask more about this, we love knowing our customers care just as much as we do.

Because this makeup is ethically produced, it’s more expensive than department store cosmetics. For me, it’s not in my budget. So until I can justify the cost–either for ethically produced makeup or the cost of children’s lives–I’ll go makeup free.

Meanwhile, I’m doing research. Turns out mica is also used as an insulator in electronics, including televisions, cell phones, computers, and toasters. Information about mica mining and the children who mine it isn’t readily available, but I’m determined to learn more. Maybe giving up makeup isn’t the best way to stop this injustice, but it’s what I will do until I find an alternative.

Here’s the blog post that started it all:

“All That Glitters,” by Megan Westra

And here are some other articles I’ve found useful:

“No more mining please, we are only children.” The Telegraph, Calcutta, India

“Mica in makeup.” IHS Slave Labor

“All that Glitters is not Gold” AntiSlavery.org

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