man's face covered in glitter

Photo courtesy of Hybrid/​Unsplash

It’s festival season, folks, and nothing transforms the ordinary into the magical quite like glitter. Many of our fondest, most festive memories would (literally) shine less brightly without the stuff — homemade Valentines, New Year’s invites, everything worn to your first Coachella — you name it.

But have you ever wondered where all that fairy dust eventually goes?

Recently, environmental watch groups have raised concerns that much of the glitter available to consumers should be classified as a microplastic; it is synthetic, non-biodegradable, and too small to effectively collect and contain for safe disposal, making it potentially harmful to the environment. Most glitters on the market are made up of a combination of aluminum and PET, a plastic which may release hormone-disrupting chemicals as it (slowly) breaks down in ecosystems or digestive systems. 

The outcry comes hard on the heels of international campaigns against microbeads (another microplastic) — cosmetic additives now banned in the US and elsewhere. Some activists claim that glitter’s smaller size and eye-catching shine may actually be more dangerous to animal life than the banned beads, and sparkle scrutiny is rising. 

Fortunately, a new generation of alternative products offers hope for shimmer enthusiasts. A growing number of environmentally-conscious companies have begun to produce or incorporate biodegradable glitter into their product offerings. While formulations vary by brand, these guilt-free options are generally made up of naturally-occuring minerals and vegetable starches; some also contain trace amounts of aluminum in quantities claimed to be compost-safe. Most manufacturers state that their products are also vegan-friendly and cruelty free, allowing users to glitter onward with a clear conscience. 

A word to the wise: eco-friendly glitters are still fairly new to the market, so it’s important to shop consciously. When possible, opt for a vetted manufacturer or a brand offering a certified compostable” credential (exact certifications vary by country). With a little research, you’ll soon have festival gear or a make-up kit that’s both smart and brilliant.

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.