Glitter is on-trend. From supermarket lipsticks to Nicolas Ghesquière’s Autumn/Winter 2019 collection for Louis Vuitton, it’s everywhere. According to research company Mintel, 4.1 per cent of color cosmetics launches contained glitter last year, up from 2.5 per cent in 2017. And the thing about glitter is, no matter how much you try to wash it off… it has a habit of staying around and turning up in the most unexpected of places and at the most surprising of times. Our love of glitter comes with a steep environmental cost.
Glitter is typically made from layering reflective pigment onto sheets of plastic, which are then broken into pieces as tiny as 0.15 millimetres. And those tiny bits of plastic wind up in the water supply whenever someone throws their going-out top into the wash after a night of clubbing, or showers to remove a layer of shimmery body spray.
Plastic trash is the environmental villain of the moment, and complaints about the environmental cost of glitter can be found in the comments section of Instagram posts promoting glitter product launches from brands such as Colourpop and Kylie Cosmetics.
“Any brand that doesn’t [find a sustainable source for glitter] in the next year will fall out of favour,” said Emma Grace-Bailey, beauty editor at WGSN Beauty, a data analytics and trend forecasting agency. “People just won’t buy it anymore.”
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their plastic consumption, especially single-use plastics, and the beauty and personal care market is no exception to this trend. Mintel’s British Lifestyles 2019 report showed that beauty shoppers versus other shoppers are the most likely, at 47 per cent, to take ethical considerations into account before purchasing beauty and personal care goods.
Some say brands still have a long way to go to address those concerns.
Could biodegradable glitter be the answer?