Your makeup might not actually be cruelty-free

Updated Jun 11, 2018
7-Minute Read
Makeup is a pretty important part of my everyday life. It’s something my friends, sisters and I bond over. It’s the part of my getting-ready routine that I enjoy the most. And it’s a form of self-expression that I take a lot of pride in.
For most of my friends and I, buying cruelty-free makeup is a no-brainer. I don’t want the colours and pigments I put on my face to be smeared and tested on an animal first. I don’t want to be responsible for an animal’s suffering. Makeup should be fun- not cruel.
So, as much as I can, I try to educate myself on the practices of the companies I buy from. What is their policy on animal testing? What loopholes do they use to get around animal testing laws? What information is available to the public? Between my sister and I, we’ve managed to amass quite a bit of knowledge so that our makeup habits will match our beliefs.

The truth about makeup
Then last year I found out that the “cruelty-free” products I was using might not be cruelty free for children. That’s because a sparkly pigment called mica- the one that gives all our highlighters, eyeshadows and nail polishes that pretty iridescent sheen- is mined in mostly unregulated, unsafe conditions where labour laws are not enforced.
I felt betrayed. All this time I thought I was making kind choices, when in reality, I could be fueling an industry that harms and even kills child labourers.

There are 22,000 children in India working as mica miners.
According to the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, 25% of the world’s mica is sourced from Jharkhand and Bihar, India. In these two states, 22,000 children work in mica mines. Some of them are as young as four or five.

In 2016 an investigation by Reuters found that seven children had been killed in mica mines in India in just two months. Their deaths were quietly covered up so that the industry could continue to profit from child labour.

A family of miners
Two of these children are six year-old Roshni and her brother Kamal (four). Their names have been changed, but these two little ones are very real faces of the mica industry. My colleague Sam spoke to them and their parents in India.
Their father Karan told Sam that his father and grandfather worked in the mica mines. Because of the low pay he receives, even his small children must pitch in. Their two older siblings, who are eight and 10, are 30 km away in the care of their grandmother. A family separated, working in dirty, dangerous and degrading conditions, all for the sake of a little sparkle.

Two small children sit at the mouth of a mica mine.Little Roshni and Kamal sit at the mouth of the mine their family toils in. 

The Canada factor 

World Vision Canada recently did a study of 60 companies that import mica-containing beauty products into Canada. Of those companies, only 18% provided detailed evidence of their commitment to prevent child labour in their supply chains. Considering that, according to the report, Canadian cosmetics imports have nearly doubled in five years, this is a huge problem.
As consumers, our appetite for beauty products is increasing. The World Vision report says that 42% of Canadians buy beauty products on a monthly basis or more. We are a lucrative market for these brands, and most of them provide little to no information for us to make responsible decisions about our glowy makeup.

What's a beauty-lover to do?
I don’t want the products I put on my face to cause cruelty- to animals, or to children. That’s why I’m signing this petition asking the Government of Canada to create legislation so that companies in Canada- beauty and otherwise- will have to report on how they prevent child labour in their supply chains.
I’ll also be writing some of my favourite brands to find out what they are doing to prevent mica that could be mined by children from ending up on my face. It’s not a lot to ask that I know what my hard-earned dollars are funding.

Beauty shouldn't be cruel. Let's start the conversation to make sure it isn't.