cruel beauty: child labour in the cosmetic industry

The culture of wilful ignorance within the cosmetics industry makes it incredibly difficult to navigate when you’re trying to shop ethically. Though a few admirable companies are reducing their environmental impact, campaigning against animal testing and ensuring human rights are safeguarded, this is by no means the norm. With so many different ingredients in our cosmetics, sourced from all over the world, it’s hard to keep pace.

Mica is a mineral commonly used as an ingredient for products such as eye shadows, powders and lipsticks. Sixty percent of the world’s mica supply comes from the mica mines of India, where exploitation of children is widespread.  I spoke to Reid Maki, the Director of Child Labour Advocacy and Coordinator for the Child Labour Coalition, who was clear on the urgency of this issue. She expressed that ‘more than 20,000 children may be engaged in the production of mica for the benefit of cosmetic companies and consumers at the expense of the health and educational development of children.’

Despite having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, India is yet to unreservedly ban child labour. Article 32 of the Convention states ‘States Parties recognise the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education.’ The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are 5.8 million children currently working in India, with twenty percent of them involved in hazardous work.

Cosmetics companies such as L’Oreal and Estee Lauder continue to use mica within their products, despite being aware of the risks of child labour. Fortunately, a few companies are starting to respond. LUSH, a UK based cosmetics company, with a strict ethical buying policy, stopped buying mined mica in 2014 when their mica supplier stopped allowing LUSH to visit their mines. They now use a combination of synthetic glitters and agar agar glitters (made from seaweed!)

If you’re interested in learning more or donating to a charity that campaigns against child labour, you can do so here. And if you want to show some love to LUSH for their pioneering and meticulous ethical buying policy, take a look at the shimmery beauties below.


Orange Flower Lip Tint  ·  £5.95 · LUSH


Sunnyside Bubble Bar · £4.95 · LUSH


Delighted Eye Jewel · £10.00 ·  LUSH


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