Mica traditionally refers to a group of naturally occurring minerals that have a glittery appearance. There are different types, with slightly different constituents, but they all share this common property.
The type of mica typically used in personal care products is muscovite mica. Many consider muscovite mica from India to be the best quality in the world. Coupled with large deposits and low costs, it’s no surprise that India is a key exporter. However, estimates of exactly how much muscovite mica India exports vary, because information indicates that around 90% of mica mines in India are illegal.
Illegal mines, which do not comply with environmental protection requirements and laws, can cause environmental degradation. Issues such as erosion, sinkhole creation and water contamination are most common.
Because of this, and other poor practices at illegal mines (such as the use of child labour), some companies have taken action to find alternatives. Some make sure that they source their mica from other countries, some are working on transparency and accountability for mica from India, and others are substituting natural mica for synthetic mica. Synthetic mica is also known as fluorphlogophite.
Particles of both natural and synthetic mica that are used in personal care products have to be relatively big to create a shimmer that is visible to the human eye. Because of this, and the constituents of these substances, they are unlikely to be toxic to aquatic life or bioaccumulate.