Have you ever stopped to think about what’s in the products you’re putting on your face? I never had either until I came across a YouTube video by Refinery29. According to a Refinery29 article, children in India risk their lives in mica mines, not knowing whether or not they’ll make it out alive, merely to add shimmer to your makeup bag.
At eleven years old, Pooja Bhurla wakes up in a cot next to her grandmother in their small house alongside a small herd of goats. Sometimes, she’ll perform household chores or assist in caring for her younger brother, but most days, she labors in the mines with her father in the early morning.
Along with 22,000 other children in Jarkhand and Bihar, some as young as five years old, Pooja climbs into manmade holes with a pick and bowl, chipping at the walls for mica, a shimmery mineral composite. If lucky, she will earn 20 to 30 rupees (about 29 to 43 cents) for a day’s work. Pooja is not only prevented from attending school, but she faces harm, even death, each workday. If a mine collapses, those inside will be injured, paralyzed, or even dead.
According to Spiegel Online, Indian law prohibits those under the age of fourteen from working, especially in jobs as dangerous as mining. In order to avoid authorities, mines are dug even deeper in the ground. Accidents in the mines are rarely reported in fear of punishment from the law, so mining continues despite the danger and perils behind it.
Dealers make the false claim that child labor within their business is nonexistent. Only older men work in such stores, many of whom are Adivasi, or of India’s indigenous ethnic group. Others are Dalits, or “untouchables,” at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Sandeep Jain is the only worker willing to interview with Spiegel Online, and the interview is quickly surrounded by 20 to 30 other men who comment whenever they dislike what Jain says. The men who work here are the poorest of the poor and have to work in exchange for food or even the ability for their children to receive an education.
Some favorite brands such as Estée Lauder, MAC, Rimmel, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Too Faced, Schwartzkopf, Intercos, Sun Chemicals, Tesco, Asda, BMW, Vauxhall, and Audi (mica is also used in car paint) utilize mica in their products. Maybelline, Lancôme, Garnier, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty, Kiehls, Urban Decay (a “cruelty-free” brand), which are all owned by L’Oréal, purchase mica through middle-men like the German company Merck and the Chinese company Kuncai.
The beauty industry is a driving force of our society and is worth billions of dollars. Companies like those listed above can only drive this industry so far, but what keeps the beauty companies progressing is us – consumers. Due to buyer awareness, the industry has made drastic changes in policies on things like palm oil and animal testing. If costumers boycott brands that authorize the unethical sourcing of mica, we can all make the leaders of the beauty industries take notice and make changes.