No More Mica For Amryw
Since we founded Amryw, we always wanted to have a collection with a little more sparkle. We thought the best way to do this was to have a collection of Wax Melts for special occasions and add a pinch of Mica to the wax. The Mica gave our wax melts a beautiful swirling shimmer as they melted. This was probably most noticeable in our 2020 Christmas melts. They smelt amazing and looked amazing. We thought we had done all the research needed to safely say our Mica was safe and ethical to use in our products, but after a little more digging, we've decided to stop using it altogether, and here's why.
What Is Mica
First, let's talk about what natural Mica is and how it's produced. Mica is a silicate found naturally in crystals and rocks. It can be found in a range of earthy colours including off-white, silver and bronze. Because of the composition of Mica, it can be ground into a fine powder fairly easily and once ground down, it can be used in a variety of ways. Some of the uses include thermal insulation, brightening pigmentation in paints and as a filler in plastics. However, most people probably recognise Mica from cosmetics where it adds a shimmery effect.
Synthetic Mica is (as the name suggests), not a natural substance. It's sometimes known as synthetic fluorphlogopite. As the name suggests, this type of Mica is not found naturally. Its aim is to replicate the effect and appearance of natural Mica. It can be used to create more vibrant colours whilst maintaining that classic shimmer you'd usually find in natural Mica.
The Problem With Natural Mica
As far as we are concerned, there are two main issues with natural Mica. The first is a simple one, it's a natural product produced from rocks and crystals. These rocks and crystals take millions of years to form and so we think of Mica a little like coal, gold and other minerals. It's not sustainable. Once it's gone, it's gone. For obvious reasons, this isn't great news for the planet. Mining vast quantities of rock so it can be ground down just to add a little shimmer doesn't feel right to us. While Mica has many other valuable uses, we don't feel the huge amount used in cosmetics and similar products is justifiable. But that isn't the biggest problem with Mica.
The biggest problem we have with natural Mica is the way it's produced. Coming from rocks and crystals, Mica has to be mined. The biggest deposits of Mica are found in remote parts of India such as Jharkand and Bihar - dubbed the 'Mica belt'. It accounts for around 25% of all the Mica mined in the world. These remote parts of India are also some of the poorest parts of the country.
In these areas, the Mica mining industry is known to be supported by illegal child labour. Not only that, the working conditions are dangerous and often fatal. Children as young as 5 years old have been known to be put to work deep under the earth to mine away at unstable rocks whilst being exposed to venomous animals, poisonous gasses and hazardous dust. In 2016 an investigation was launched into the so-called 'Mica belt' after seven children died in a two month span.
In recent years, efforts have been made to clean up the Mica industry, improve the situation and regulate working conditions whilst removing the use of child labour. However enforcing the regulations is at best, slow. And with so many mines, and so many undocumented children born over such a vast area, there is a real concern that we will never fully be able to regulate the Mica mining industry.
The Problem With Synthetic Mica
Synthetic Mica seems like the perfect solution. Removing any danger of child labour and mitigating the hazards of producing it. It can be used to create a wide range of vibrant colours and avoids contamination of trace minerals which could be dangerous. One of the problems with Synthetic Mica is the dye used to give it colour. While some claim it's perfectly safe, the fact is there just isn't enough evidence to say one way or the other if it's safe or not. Now we know our wax melts aren't consumed (even if they do smell good enough to eat), but our concern is what happens after they've reached the end of their life. Will the dyes and materials used to produce Synthetic Mica damage the environment? Harm aquatic life? Will they biodegrade over time?
The simple answer to these questions is - we don't know. And we couldn't find anyone that did know with 100% certainty. What we do know for sure is that Synthetic Mica is not soluble in water and often contains Magnesium and Aluminiun. While neither of these things are necessarily hazardous, we'd rather not add them to our products.
Conclusion and Solution
The conclusion is simple. We're trying to make our products in the most natural, eco friendly way possible. We're achieving this by being plastic free, only using natural fragrance oils and recycling everything we possibly can (which explains some of the tattered boxes you might get in the post). We also care about where our materials come from and who produces them. For these reasons, we've decided it's safest to simply stop using any form of Mica all together. We feel there's just no need for it and there are too many risks.
We will never use natural Mica in any of our products, and until there is more research and conclusive evidence to support synthetic Mica as a safe and non-harmful alternative, we won't be using that either. Instead, we're going to stick with the natural colour of our wax and the colours we can achieve with our natural, plant-based dyes.