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Where Does Our Makeup Come From: the Origins of Our Favorite Products

Although men and women have been wearing makeup for centuries, the beauty industry today is a far cry from where it began. All across the world, people in ancient Egypt, Rome, and China used coal, beeswax, henna, almonds, lead, berries, and copper in various ways as makeup. Today, however, makeup lovers have never been farther away from the origins of the products they love. 

The makeup sold today is generally a mixture of water, oil, and wax. Along with certain chemicals which act as preservatives, emulsifiers, or are just added in for ease of application. The third ingredient necessary for colorful, shimmery eyeshadows, blushes, lipsticks, and lipglosses is minerals. 

One of the most popular minerals used in makeup today is the group of minerals called Mica. There are 37 different types of Mica mined all over the world for electronics, paint, construction, and cosmetics. Many communities in India and Madagascar rely on mining Mica to survive. Upon inspection of the labor conditions in the Mica mines, The U.N Bureau of International Labour Affairs found that in Madagascar, the largest exporter of sheet Mica, “Approximately 10,000 Malagasy children, as young as age 4, work in the worsts form of child labor alongside their families to extract mica in order to survive.” According to the report, the children who work underground develop respiratory problems from ingesting the Mica particles, along with neck and back problems. 

In response to the report, the U.N launched The MICA Project to “promote environmentally- and socially responsible mica mining.” The MICA Project plans to achieve the project’s goals by giving 3,380 children direct educational services and 1,575 households “livelihood services.”

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