Fashion (Canada) - - The Draw Contents -

The magic dust we as­so­ciate with fairies and uni­corns is ac­tu­ally a toxic mi­croplas­tic that’s hurt­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

We’ve been glit­ter bomb­ing Mother Na­ture. Now what? By Sarah Daniel

How to clean up glit­ter: (1) Burn down your house. (2) Move. (3) The glit­ter fol­lowed you. There is no es­cape,” tweeted James Break­well, a com­edy writer and fa­ther of four. The hi­lar­i­ously ac­cu­rate sen­ti­ment was likely felt by the back­stage cleanup crews at Fall 2018 shows, such as Preen by Thorn­ton Bregazzi, where makeup artist Val Gar­land ap­plied the tena­cious craft sta­ple along mod­els’ hair­lines, fore­heads and cheeks. Like­wise at Gi­ambat­tista Valli, where she once again en­listed the shim­mery dust to cre­ate glit­ter masks—some mod­els looked like their faces had been planted in the stuff. Gar­land wasn’t the only one to play with sparkle this sea­son. It also showed up at Mai­son Margiela and Os­car de la Renta, pieces of it prob­a­bly still lin­ger­ing, like mi­cro­scopic graf­fiti, long af­ter the tear­down. But glit­ter’s per­sis­tence isn’t just a nui­sance; it’s a con­cern for the eco-con­scious among us, right up there with plas­tic straws and wa­ter bot­tles. “Glit­ter may seem harm­less, but th­ese tiny bits of plas­tic are ac­tu­ally an

en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ard, par­tic­u­larly in lakes, oceans and other wa­ter­ways,” says Sarah Ja­mal, a spokesper­son for En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence. Like its sis­ter the mi­crobead—an ex­fo­lia­tor found in ev­ery­thing from body wash to fa­cial scrub that is now banned in beauty prod­ucts in Canada—glit­ter is a mi­croplas­tic, which means it’s a plas­tic frag­ment smaller than five mil­lime­tres that ac­cu­mu­lates in the en­vi­ron­ment, ex­plains Ja­mal. “Th­ese pol­lu­tants have been found in the far­thest cor­ners and deep­est trenches of the planet, harm­ing wildlife like plank­ton, fish and birds that mis­take them for food.”

Ear­lier this year, the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme launched its first-ever global plas­tics re­port on World En­vi­ron­ment Day to high­light the ur­gency of the plas­tic-pol­lu­tion prob­lem, says Ja­mal. It’s an is­sue com­ing to light dur­ing a time when we’ve reached peak glit­ter, thanks to what feels like a North Amer­i­can mis­sion to spread sparkle every­where, from greet­ing cards to drinks such as Star­bucks’s Uni­corn Frap­puc­cino. Yes, we’re even drink­ing it.

In the beauty world, cos­metic use of glittery ob­jects dates back to an­cient civ­i­liza­tion, when Sume­ri­ans would wear crushed gems on their lips. Glit­ter started show­ing up in cos­met­ics in the ’60s, says beauty his­to­rian Rachel Wein­garten. “If you look at the fash­ions of the time, they were heav­ily em­bel­lished with sequins of all sizes,” she says. “Makeup fol­lowed suit but in mod­er­a­tion—it wasn’t glit­ter the way we know it to­day, al­though com­pa­nies were ex­per­i­ment­ing with adding shim­mer to the ex­tremely bold pig­ments that were pop­u­lar then.” Com­pa­nies like Revlon, Es­tée Lauder and El­iz­a­beth Ar­den were in­spired by French fash­ion de­signer Pierre Cardin’s glittery sheath dresses and tried to cre­ate cos­metic ver­sions by adding shim­mer to lip­sticks, eye­shad­ows and face pow­ders.

Th­ese days, glit­ter is in ev­ery­thing from nail pol­ish to hair­spray; more re­cently, it has crossed party lines and en­tered the world of skin­care in prod­ucts such as face masks and sun­screen, an idea clearly con­ceived by mar­ket­ing ex­ecs more in­ter­ested in dou­ble taps than pro­vid­ing ac­tual skin­care ben­e­fits. Makeup with a glit­ter fin­ish has seen strong dou­ble-digit growth over the past two years, says Amy Chung, a beauty in­dus­try an­a­lyst with NPD Group. This rise has been fu­elled, in part, by “In­sta­gram and other so­cial me­dia, which have re­ally been on the fore­front of driv­ing trends in beauty,” she says. (See #glit­ter­brows, #glit­ter­boobs and 2017’s alarm­ing #glit­ter­tongue.)

While so­cial me­dia has boosted glit­ter’s pop­u­lar­ity, it has also helped to spread the word about the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns sur­round­ing its use. It has led to more than 60 mu­sic fes­ti­vals in the United King­dom ban­ning tra­di­tional glit­ter, along with other sin­gle-use plas­tics, and gal­va­nized brands to find in­gre­di­ents that de­liver a sus­tain­able sparkle, such as syn­thetic flu­o­r­phl­o­go­pite (also known as syn­thetic mica), an eco-friendly ma­te­rial that Lush uses to add a glittery ef­fect to prod­ucts, like its bath bombs. There are also sev­eral new brands pop­ping up, like Bioglit­ter, Glit­terev­o­lu­tion and BioGlitz, that have in­vented re­spon­si­ble glit­ter us­ing re­new­able plant­based ma­te­ri­als like eu­ca­lyp­tus.

Even Mead­ow­brook In­ven­tions has added a biodegrad­able of­fer­ing to its menu. You may not have heard of the New Jersey-based com­pany, but it’s where the story of modern glit­ter be­gan. In the 1930s, Henry Ruschmann, a ma­chin­ist, ac­ci­den­tally fig­ured out a way to pul­ver­ize plas­tic to make large quan­ti­ties of glit­ter, a dis­cov­ery that led him to start his com­pany, now one of the world’s ma­jor bulk glit­ter dis­trib­u­tors (ap­pro­priately, the com­pany’s slo­gan is “Our glit­ter cov­ers the world”), sup­ply­ing its shiny wares to the cos­met­ics in­dus­try among oth­ers, writes Lisa Eldridge in Face Paint: The Story of Makeup.

Yet just as glit­ter can look dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on how the light hits it, we need to start view­ing it through a dif­fer­ent, more prag­matic lens, as we would with any other prod­uct that has the po­ten­tial to harm the en­vi­ron­ment. “Most peo­ple I en­counter ad­mit they don’t think of glit­ter as a toxic mi­croplas­tic; they think of it as a mag­i­cal dust that fairies cre­ate,” says Saba Gray, founder of BioGlitz, a line of glit­ter pro­duced from a biodegrad­able film de­rived from trees that is cer­ti­fied com­postable. “We think glit­ter is magic,” she says. “But it’s also im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge the truth: that glit­ter is a com­mod­ity and, like so many other com­modi­ties, it is cur­rently pro­duced from the cheap­est pos­si­ble ma­te­ri­als with­out any fore­sight of how those ma­te­ri­als af­fect the planet.”

“Most peo­ple I en­counter ad­mit they don’t think of glit­ter as a toxic mi­croplas­tic; they think of it as a mag­i­cal dust that fairies cre­ate.”


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