Ever wondered the linkage between slavery and make-up products?
Or how the shimmery make-ups which brightens your cheekbones, can lead to the darkness of a child’s future?
Quite thought provoking, right?
The tremendous rise in natural beauty products could be encouraging modern-day slavery as ingredients such as cacao, vanilla, and the mineral mica are connected to child labour while the highly profitable cosmetic industry lacks a proper regulatory body for ethical supply chains.
While make-up fanatics crave for make-up made with various fruit, nuts, grains, and minerals, companies that increase the number of natural ingredients in their cosmetics could be risking underprivileged lives. Various major elements such as Shea nuts and wax used as a base for mascara are produced by small scale farming sectors where the risk of labour abuse is significantly high as governments and businesses struggle to monitor conditions.
The urge to look flawless like a perfect diva, with the advent of social media in this era, have led to this make-up boom. This immense surge in revenues earned by the make-up brands is simply due to the beauty standards propagated by beauty bloggers and fashion icons.
Personally I’m not much of a fan of make-ups but regardless of our preferred choices of make-up, one dominating product in every make-up kit is the highlighter- which imparts a glimmering flow to your collarbones, cheekbones and nose. The Scintillating silicate mineral called mica formed in layered structure is found in abundance in the mines of Jharkhand in India. Its shimmery nature makes it widely used in cosmetics such as highlighters, eye shadows, metallic lipsticks, and other cosmetic products. Several body lotions and creams use it too to add that little glow.
The skin-friendly mineral is not only devoid of any side-effects but does not trigger any allergic reactions too. But unfortunately its underlying process of creation and excavation is quite horrifying as children aged only seven to nine are deployed for mining mica caves, thus exposing themselves to hazards such as bruises, cuts, respiratory diseases, and broken bones. Some even get hit by debris that might cause permanent damage. The illegal operators, who mostly hire kids, sell the Mica to middlemen with a valid license of legal mining industries. These middlemen, in turn, sell it to other parts of the country which makes it convenient to conceal the dark origins of the mineral.
Cindy Berman, the head of modern slavery strategy at the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an alliance of trade unions, companies and charities promoting workers’ rights has rightly quoted - “The cosmetics industry carries high risks of modern slavery and child labour”. According to the investigation by Thomas Reuters Foundation in August 2016, death of handful number of children was recorded in the illegal mica mines of Jharkhand, India but they were all covered up. The aftermath followed such that all multinationals who sourced their raw materials from there, pledged to clean up their supply chains and state authorities vowed to accelerate plans to legalise and regulate the sector. But hardly any regulations have been implemented till date.
The source of several raw materials can be traced to the war affected third-world countries, where there’s no regulatory board for the enforcement of labour laws and access to decent jobs, schools, and governmental support are extremely limited for the majority of people struggling to earn a one square meal. They are not even entitled to a trifle of what the beauty industry profits as a whole for that shimmery product.
Whilst a few make-up brands like Lush decided to look the other way of using synthetic mica as the source of the natural pigment is doubtful. Synthetic or lab made mica is made with the same properties as that of natural mica but they have less impurities. Thus, this man-made alternative is certainly a safer option. But there’s a downside to the fact that certain big brands doesn’t want to be associated with child labour and pulled out of India completely. Relinquishing the existing sources worsens the economic conditions the mining communities as a section of the community might be unemployed or might face a decrement in their wages. Thus, an array of other companies like L’Oreal and Chanel chose to join the bandwagon to uplift the underprivileged mining communities of rural India and improve the supply chains. As the beauty industry figures out the complex issues, the innocent kids continue to risk their lives in the dungeons of the dreadful mines.