Okay, Euphoria stans please do not come for me, but I have a small request. As much as we too desperately want to emulate Maddy’s sparkly eye look, I think we gotta stop using glitter makeup. Or, at least, use slightly more eco-friendly glitter makeup (and glitter alternatives).
Syrup is absolutely not out here trying to cramp anyone’s style (or sparkle?). We’re aware that of the many, manyyyy contributing factors to the general environmental shitstorm moseying around the planet right now, glitter makeup looks probably rank lower than continued use of fossil fuels and deforestation.
But why is glitter a problematic fave in the first place? “Glitter is typically made from polyethylene, the same plastic found in plastic bags and a host of other products,” explains Cathy Tolpigin to Syrup. Tolpigin is an organic makeup artist with over 18 years of experience, FYI, and the founder of The Green Edit, a curated green beauty and lifestyle event.
“Because glitter particles are typically one millimetre in size or smaller,” notes Tolpigin, “They can be ingested by a range of sea creatures when glitter is washed into our waterways.” A recent study estimates that humans could be ingesting anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year… tasty.
Because this is a relatively new problem, scientists are still unsure of the health impacts of this on people, but it’s not looking great: different plastics have different toxicities and accumulated plastic could also damage our gut and immune system if we ingest it.
Aside from the environmental and internal damage, glitter makeup could potentially just damage the very face you’re trying to make cute. “The sharp edges of glitter pieces can cause redness, burning, stinging, and an itchy rash called irritant dermatitis,” explained dermatologist Dr. Devika Icecreamwala, and truly worst-case scenario, could get in your eye and cause trauma to your cornea. Please no.
Sidebar: the use of beauty products in and of themselves is cited in one paper as an “understudied source of environmental chemical exposures.” In the great experimental game of companies sliding ingredients (and potential toxins) into consumer beauty products, it is predominantly women who are the guinea pigs.
It’s true that the beauty industry and other “feminine” leaning ones, like fashion, get sledged with shaming around consumption—often more than the ones that are less overtly visible but doing more damage. Car tires, for example, are one of the biggest contributors to microplastic pollution. One study showed they could generate up to 68,000 tonnes of microplastics in the UK annually, a far higher number than the estimated 2,300-5,900 tonnes of fibres generated by washing synthetic clothing.
Nevertheless, individual actions are significant and also serve as important signification. Doing things a lil different starts a conversation, helps people see alternatives and can ripple out into people generally being more conscious of environmental issues. It’s not that deep, but it’s also not that shallow, u feel?
If you’re after some eco-friendlier sparkle options we’ve rounded up some of Tolpigin and our faves below.
Pls note, words like biodegradable and bio-compostable can have different meanings, so if you are buying a glitter, it’s good to check it credentials for what aligns w your own personal brand of eco-anxiety.
Straight Up Sparkle: The Glitter Tribe
For a biodegradable glitter option that is vegan and cruelty-free, Tolpigin suggests The Glitter Tribe. A Syrup fave, these lil friends are marine and freshwater biodegradable and also home compostable. You absolutely love to see it.
Chunky – Bruno Mars.mp4: Universal Soul
Let’s say you’re going hard or you’re going home. Let us introduce you to the plant-based, biodegradable and compostable shiny goodness that is Universal Soul. The brand makes a cellulose-based glitter, that according to the founder Raja Sun also feels better. Universal Soul’s glitters are “super lightweight and soft on your skin compared to plastic glitter, which we love because it doesn’t feel like you have a layer of gunk on your face.”
The Luxe Option: Victoria Beckham Beauty
Home-gal VB coming through with the options for the bad and boujee amongst us. Her eponymous clean beauty line features a Lid Lustre, which uses a natural mica, rather than plastic to achieve a super-luxe, high-shine finish.
Mix It Up: Inika Organic and Kylies Professional Makeup
Tolpigin also creates custom blends of products to achieve a sparkle, but this isn’t a makeup artist only hack!
“I love Inika Organic and Kylies Professional makeup products as they are organic, natural, cruelty-free and high performance. Kylie is a makeup artist who works on creative editorial shoots and Inika Organic are the go-to makeup brand for many designers at New York Fashion week.”
Tolpigin’s tip: “I love to use a stencil in a star shape and I mix little Inika Highlight cream with some of Kylie’s Professional pigment, I then use a facial sponge to apply the pigment to the skin using the stencil.”
All Over JLo Styles Glo: Bod’s Mermaid Shimmer
If you’re looking for a greener alternative for our perennial Queen Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty Body Lava, Tolpigin loves Kylie’s body shimmer. We’re also big fans of this spray-on purple (!!) Mermaid Shimmer (!!!!) from Bod, which features biodegradable glitter and it’s available in three colours, but purple is clearly the go.
Bewitched n bejewelled: get creative with your craft box
Okay, so what about literal jewels? Is there an alternative to single-use stick on items? When she needs to bedazzle Tolpigin gets crafty.
“I also have a few sparkly star shapes I have found in my daughter’s craft box. I reuse them for various shoots and stick them onto a model’s cheekbones using a natural lash glue from Clean Beauty Market, which is gentle on the skin and keeps the stars in place.”
Nailed it: Julisa
“If you love a glittery nail, this nail polish is for you,” says Tolgepin. “No nail polish can be 100% natural, however, I love Julisa as it is certified toxin-free, vegan and cruelty-free, created without many of the usual toxic nail polish ingredients.”
For more of our recs, check out our running list of fav sustainable beauty brands.
Lead image: Euphoria via HBO.