mica powder

What Is Mica Powder? Uses, Safety, And More 

We often gravitate towards products that will make your skin glow and shimmer, objects that have a shiny appearance. There is a high chance that these products have mica powder in them. So, what is mica powder? It is present not only in cosmetics, shampoo, soap, and deodorant but also inside your car paint, toaster, or microwave. 

Mica powder is a versatile colorant used for manufacturing several products. You can even use the shiny sheets for your DIY projects like soap-making. However, you need to understand mica powder before you use it. 

Keep reading as we answer the question, what is mica powder? We explore the differences between synthetic and natural mica and how manufacturers produce mica powder. In this article, we also talk about the safety and sustainability of mica powder. 

Related Read: Environmental impact of cosmetics & beauty products & our selections of the best zero waste makeup brands.

What is mica powder? 

pink mica powder
Photo by Leiem on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

Mica is a group of minerals from non-metallic and sheet silicates. It is a group of natural minerals with a unique shimmery effect, used to manufacture many cosmetic, automotive, and construction products.  

There are 37 types of mica powder in various minerals in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. These rocks include metagranite, slate, phyllite, and shale. Mica has lots of unique properties. It is flexible, lightweight, and resistant to heat. It is a popular ingredient in the cosmetic and skincare industry because of its shimmering effect.

Cosmetic producers use it as a color additive, thickening, and smoothing agent. They also use it as a mild abrasive. Mica powder is a versatile colorant used with other cosmetic ingredients to create various effects. They use it to add shimmer to highlighters, thus adding a lighting effect to your brows and cheekbones.

It comes in dark green, silver, purple, rosy, gray, black, yellowish-brown, and transparent. You will find it listed on cosmetic products as:

  • Sericite GMS-ZC
  • Sericite GMS-C
  • Sericite MK-A
  • Sericite MK-B
  • Sericite
  • Mica group materials
  • C177019
  • Golden Mica
  • Muscovite Mica
  • Pigment White 20 

Natural Mica has a distinct two-dimensional layer structure divided into sheet and scrap mica. Cosmetic companies mostly use scrap mica powder, but it has to be a by-product of sheet mica. It is because sheet mica is the highest quality of mica minerals. 

Synthetic Mica Powder vs. Natural Mica Powder

Synthetic mica is an artificial crystalline stone formed through heating, melting, cooling, and crystallization. Manufacturers create it in a lab according to natural mica’s chemical compositions and inner structures.

Producers melt it at 1500°C and tightly control the formation process. They use raw materials like quartz sand, potassium carbonate, aluminum oxide, potassium fluorosilicate, fused magnesite, and other minerals. Synthetic mica doesn't contain heavy metals harmful to the body. 

Synthetic mica powder has more unique qualities than natural mica powder.  It has high chemical stability and doesn't even react when it mixes with hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. Also, synthetic mica has excellent light transmittance from UV to IR. 

Synthetic mica has more heat endurance and electrical insulation than natural mica. It maintains its transparent and clear qualities under high temperature and water pressure. Various industries use mica for windows, microwaves and optics, spacers of electrical vacuum devices, electron microscopes, medical equipment, and electrical components. 

Manufacturers list synthetic mica on ingredients lists as: 

  • Fluorphlogopite
  • Fluorphlogopite (MG3K[ALF20(SIO3)3])
  • Synthetic Fluorphilogopite
  • Synthetic Fluorphlogopite

How To Produce Mica Powders 

As we mentioned earlier, mica powder is from silicate mineral ores. Natural mica has elements of other minerals like iron ore and tin oxide. Manufacturers get natural mica from well-formed indigenous rocks through various extraction methods, known as mica mining. 

There are mica mines in India, China, Brazil, and Madagascar. The cosmetic industry relies on mica from mines in Andhra, Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Jharkhand, India. According to research, in 2022, India exported $68.7 million worth of mica minerals. Apart from imported mica powder, you can find flake mica in Arizona, Dakota, New Mexico, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. 

Once extracted, they transport them to the facility to sort, grade, cut, and turn them into mica sheets. Mica has flat six-sided monoclinic crystals with astounding cleavage in the direction of large surfaces, allowing them to be easily cleaved into optically flat films.

This pattern is the reason we call mica sheet mica. The next step after mining mica is to transform it into fine powder by pulverizing it. Mica powder producers crush mica with advanced tools and sieve mica flakes. Then, the mica flakes go through a long grinding process to turn into fine powder. 

However, sheet mica is different from different mica sheets. Manufacturers form the shimmer sheets by grinding mica into fine particles with a pulverizer. Once they achieve the desired particle size, they add water and colloidal substances to create a mixture. 

The mixture is applied onto a mesh and spread out to allow the viscosity to form even sheets. They get uniform thickness by pouring the mixture on the mesh one at a time.

Is mica powder safe? 

makeup brush with pink powder
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.

I bet you’re wondering about the safety of mica powder since manufacturers mine it from the earth’s crust. I am happy to inform you that mica powders are generally safe for beauty products. They are non-toxic and suitable for all skin types except those with specified mica allergies. The US Food and Drug Administration lists mica powder as an additive exempt from certification.

They ruled it skin-safe, meaning cosmetic manufacturers can use mica powder to add vibrant colors to beauty products like lip gloss, eye shadow, shaving cream, and nail polish. However, natural mica powder might contain some traces of heavy metals since mica is from the earth. 

You don’t have to worry about it because the FDA regulates the levels of heavy metals in mica powders. The small quantity of metals in cosmetics is not dangerous to human health. 

However, there’s a health risk associated with mica powder. It is a long-term inhalation of mica powder. Inhaling mica powder over a long period can cause lung scarring, but safety concerns are for people working in the mica powder production industry. It is best for people who work with mica powder to wear masks to avoid inhaling it.

Related read: Natural Skin Care Ingredients, Uses & Benefits.

Mica Red Flag: Natural Mica Mining Uses Child Labor. 

Another problem with natural mica powder is that it isn’t ethically sourced. Many people use powder in various projects without wondering about its production process. Many mica mines employ child labor, especially in the Indian and Madagascan mines. 

Mica mines are in areas with extreme poverty levels. Mining companies exploit this by employing poor people alongside their children to mine mica. Since mica mining has no regulation, child labor thrives, and with it comes many dangers. 

Madagascar’s poorly regulated mines have about 10,000 children working in poorly ventilated mines. Child labor in the mines divides roles according to gender: boys dig underground to extract mica ore, while the girls move the mica above ground and process it. Girl children are often at risk of sexual abuse as mica collectors solicit for sex1.

The illegal mines are in Bihar and Jharkhand, India’s most impoverished areas. These places have a weak government structure, meaning there are no bodies to regulate against child labor. 

About 22,000 children work in mica mines in Bihar and Jharkhand. They are exploited in every way and are underpaid. Mica mining is so dangerous for children. Mines have narrow shafts that frequently collapse and trap children. They force children to go underground to dig mica2.

Those employing child labor don’t bother providing appropriate tools for them to work. Most children use their bare hands to dig mica, resulting in frequent cuts and skin infections. In addition, children constantly inhale dust, which can cause respiratory problems. 

Some kids can't go to school because they spend all their time in the mines trying to fill their baskets to make enough money. It is a never-ending cycle of abuse and trauma. No child should experience this. 

What is the difference between mica and pigment powders?

Although they both add color to objects, mica powder is not the same as pigment powder. The latter is a ground-up color similar to powdered chalk. In contrast, mica powder is a mineral divideable into extremely slim elastic plates. 

Pigment powders give a matte appearance, while mica powder adds shimmer to objects. Mica gives a metallic, shimmery effect and comes in many colors. Also, they appear saturated to their darkest tone in a medium and tint lighter in an opaque medium. 

Ways To Use Mica Powder 

eyeshadow
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash.

Mica powder is used in many ways but is common in cosmetics and personal products. Many cosmetics producers add mica powder to their products to give them shimmering and exciting colors. Here is a list of beauty products with mica powder: 

  1. Eyeshadow
  2. Lip gloss
  3. Lipstick
  4. Foundation 
  5. Bronzer or Highlighter
  6. Blush
  7. Lip liner
  8. Concealer
  9. Shampoo
  10. Soap  

You can also use mica in your arts and crafts projects because it offers a beautiful, shiny finish. It is also very accommodating of other materials. Mixing mica powder with glue, epoxy resin, polymer clay, and paint works well. 

Adding mica powder to epoxy resin makes resin art pieces unique. You can include it in your homemade soap-making and other beauty craft projects. Mica powder is a great addition when making candles or carving with polymer clay. Mix it with wax or clay or paint the finished object with it. You can use mica in jewelry making, especially when using clear resin. 

Conclusion: What Is Mica Powder?

Using mica powder to add color to resin crafts and other craft products produces beautiful results. However, remember that natural mica mines exploit children. It is best if manufacturers opt for synthetic mica because it is more sustainable and ethically sourced. 

Remember to avoid inhaling mica powder. Manufacturers should put measures in place to protect their workers from lung scarring.

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Pin Image Portrait What Is Mica Powder? Uses, Safety, And More 
1

Antananarivo. (2023). Combating Child Labor in Mica Mining Sector in Anosy Region. U.S. Embassy in Madagascar.

2

Rybarczyk, K. (2022). Ending Child Labor in Mica Mines in India and Madagascar. The Child Labor Coalition.

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