Makeup industry conceals scary truth about child labor

November 4, 2021

The multi-billion-dollar makeup industry is one of the most overlooked manufacturing systems in the world. Millions of Americans spend thousands of dollars a year on makeup, but the process of manufacturing is often overlooked. “Truthfully, I do not know as much as I should about harmful companies,” Senior Lulu Priede said.

One of the darkest secrets of the makeup industry is how mica, a cloud of shimmery dust that is used in cosmetics like eyeshadow, highlight, blush, and lip gloss, is produced through child labor.

According to Refinery29, about 22,000 child labor workers risk death from mica mines collapsing and make just a quarter a day. Many of these mines are illegal but yet they still fall into American consumers’ hands.

According to Refinery29, about 22,000 child labor workers risk death from mica mines collapsing and make just a quarter a day.

The makeup industry has many influencers who promote both cosmetic products and the industry itself. While promoting products oftentimes influencers don’t mention how prevalent child labor is in the industry.

Junior Addy Eby said, “I see animal-cruelty free and assume the company is ethical but now I wonder what the carbon footprint and labor issues are with the companies I use. I hope that the products I’m using are ethically sourced and not built on child labor. I’ve never heard about mica mining.”

Others have heard about child labor, and are upset about how little it is talked about.

“I have known about child labor in relation to makeup production for a long time, and it breaks my heart, especially when makeup influencers do not talk about it, while simultaneously profiting from child labor,” Pride said.

As the makeup industry lacks outspoken individuals the responsibility to educate oneself about the secrets of the makeup industry falls on the consumer.

Priede makes a habit of researching the brands she uses and their ethical standpoints: “I use makeup inconsistently and do not spend the majority of my money on it because it is not super important to me. However, I stay up to date on companies that I use and will stop all use if I hear or read something bad about them,” Pride said.

As consumers took time to educate others and boycott brands, major corporations took notice. “I think many companies are finally starting to acknowledge how harmful and messed up child labor is, which makes me hopeful,” Priede said.
Priede then brought up another point about how some of the ingredients in makeup contain chemicals that can harm your body. “I know that there are a lot of bad companies out there but I try to make a habit of researching the brands I use and make sure that they do not contain chemicals that should not be in makeup,” Priede said.
According to Green America, “89 percent of 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the CIR, the FDA, nor any other publicly accountable institution,” said the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG). “The absence of government oversight for this $35 billion industry leads to companies routinely marketing products with ingredients that are poorly studied, not studied at all, or worse, known to pose potentially serious health risks.”

Although it might seem like clean makeup brands are impossible to come across, simply going one extra step and doing research can really make a difference. According to Green America, some actions to move towards cleaner consumerism include using organic cosmetic brands, ethical mica, and other ingredients, and questioning labels such as ‘natural’ and ‘hypoallergenic.’

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