Have you ever wondered what makes your favorite glittery eyeshadow sparkle just so? Or how your go-to lip gloss is so lustrous? Pondered why your bronzer gives off that lit-from-within radiance? There’s a good chance mica is the answer to all of those questions. The mineral ingredient is commonly used in cosmetics to add a shimmer, sparkle, or glow effect. That’s why mica is found in everything from nail polish to highlighter, blush, lipstick, and body glitter—to name a few. It also comes in all types of personal care products.
Meet the Expert
“Mica is a silicate mineral whose crystals easily flake into whisper thin layers,” explains Rebecca Marcus, MD, board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Maei MD. “Mica is used in many capacities across a broad range of categories of consumer products. In skincare, it is most often used to give a product a shimmery or frosted appearance. Mica reflects light away from the skin, creating the appearance of smooth, radiant skin.”
Mica in Makeup and Skincare
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: A naturally derived mineral.
MAIN BENEFITS: Provides a shimmer effect; imparts a smooth appearance to the skin.
WHO SHOULD USE IT: It is generally safe for all skin types.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: Safe to be used often.
WORKS WELL WITH: Other ingredients.
DON’T USE WITH: N/A.
Notice mica in skincare? Another reason mica is popular to formulate with is it has great cohesive properties, making it less likely to run, which explains why it’s also often in foundation, concealer and BB cream. Yes, mica is commonly found in makeup—but what does it do? Read on to find out the answer from the experts.
What Is Mica?
Mica is a mineral found in many types of rocks. “It is grinded into small particle sizes and can be used in many types of household products,” says Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and the Founder and CEO of BeautyStat. “It’s unique in that it reflects light very easily and gives a shimmery look when incorporated into products. Mica can also come in a synthetic form.”
What Are the Benefits of Mica?
The perks of mica are all about aesthetics. “Mica imparts a smooth, radiant, brightened appearance to skin,” Dr. Marcus says. “It is the ingredient responsible for shimmer and glitter in many cosmetics products. It is safe for virtually all skin types.”
Though it might sound like a one-trick pony when it comes to its perks of providing a shimmer effect, mica itself can be versatile. “It can come in different colors and range from translucent to opaque depending on its particle size and how it’s combined with titanium dioxide,” Robinson says.
What Are the Potential Dangers of Mica?
Mica is generally considered safe for skin application and only those with a known allergy to mica need to avoid it. “However, there are some concerns are around inhalation during the manufacturing process, so proper ventilation is required to keep workers safe,” Robinson says.
The concerns around mica aren’t about your skin—it’s about people. “There are also some ethical manufacturing concerns as in some places workers might not have safe enough conditions and/or the use of children as workers,” Robinson says.
The biggest downside to mica is the ethical concern, since child labor is a major worry in the mining of mica. “It’s best to contact the brand and ask them how they ensure sustainability and ethical sourcing,” Dr. Marcus says. “Sometimes they will post their sustainability and ethical policies on their website. It can sometimes be difficult to trace supply chains because mica is often sold via intermediaries who are several times removed from the primary source. Many of the concerns around child labor in mining of mica involve mica originating from India.”
The Final Takeaway
Though mica is fantastic for delivering shimmer, shine and glow, it can lose its luster when it comes to ethical concerns. To ensure you’re shopping consciously, ask manufacturers to disclose how their mica is sourced.
When in doubt, you can always play it safe by looking for products that contain synthetic mica, Robinson advises. “The synthetic form is shown on the ingredient listing as ‘synthetic fluorphlogopite’ or ‘synthetic mica,’” he says.