Not all glitter is created equal

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Not all glitter is created equal

Related tags: Cosmetics

Before the sparkle goes the way of microbeads, many ingredient makers and beauty manufacturers are spotlighting safer alternatives. Cosmetics Design checked in with Kelly Dobos of Sun Chemical--one such company who's doing just that--to learn more.

Microbeads have fallen out of favor and been banned in various markets as part of efforts to minimize micro-plastic buildup in the environment. Water quality, animal health, and ultimately human health concerns are behind the initiatives to stop formulating personal care products with mircobeads.

And from the looks of things, glitter could be the beauty industry’s next microbead. Articles and blog posts have been popping up over recent months about the post-consumer lifespan of glitter and the damage it can do the natural environment and to human health.

“Microplastics are typically defined as small plastic pieces less than five millimeters in length. Because they are not readily biodegradable, accumulation in oceans, lake and other waterways is of concern,” ​acknowledges Kelly Dobos, cosmetics technical manager for the Americas region at Sun Chemical, in a recent email exchange with Cosmetics Design.

“Plastic glitters fall into categorizations as microplastics. While the contribution of cosmetic glitter is likely a small portion of water pollution, it’s an easy to part of the problem to give up glitter when better alternative exists,” ​says Dobos.

Environmental issues

Ingredient makers are indeed getting ahead of the curve on this one. At the 2017 edition of in-cosmetics Global in London, the UK-based metal powder and glitter company Ronald Britton Ltd. was showing Bio-glitter—“a biodegradable glitter developed…in response to increasing pressure on the use of microplastics in the cosmetic industry,”​ according to their signage at the event.  

In response to those same concerns, Sun Chemicals is now featuring its portfolio of synthetic mica as a ready alternative to plastic glitter.

“Plastic glitters are made by coating very thin sheets of polymers like polyethylene terephthalate and polymethyl methacrylate layered with aluminum and absorption pigments,” ​explains Dobos. “These,” ​she affirms, “are the same type of polymers that [were] used in the production of microbeads.”

Alternative sparkles

Glitters are, of course, “used to provide bright sparkling effects and can be cut into various shapes and sizes. They are mainly used for body decoration, decorative cosmetics for the eye area, and nail polishes,” ​says Dobos.

Sun Chemical (where Dobos works) is a specialty ingredient maker whose expertise in the beauty industry centers on pigments; the company makes artificial versions of mica that are commonly used in glittery color cosmetics formulations.

“Synthetic mica is produced in a laboratory to mimic natural pearlescent mica minerals,” ​explains Dobos. “It is purer than the natural mica with regards to heavily metals with greater transparency and luster allowing for greater sparkle and consistency in color.”

Industry regulations dictate how natural and synthetic versions of the material can be used in product formulations. “In addition to other drawbacks, natural micas are restricted to a particle size of 150 microns,” ​notes Dobos. “The particle size range of Sun Chemical’s SunSHINE Super Glitter ranges from 40 – 250 microns and Ultra Glitter effects from 95 to 730 microns allowing for dramatic glittering effects without negative impact to the environment.”



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

Related topics: Market Trends, Color Cosmetics

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