Glitter – it’s sparkly and bright and fun. It’s an amazing way to add some glimmer to your face, hair or body, and you’ll find it in a host of cosmetic products today. Of course, there aren’t that many people who actually understand how glitter is made in the first place. What’s it made of? How is it formed? What happens when we throw it away or wash it off our faces or bodies?
First, understand that most of the glitter you’ll find in cosmetic products is made from plastic. There are other types of glitter out there, including glass, but they are not used on the body. They’re more for crafting purposes. So, glitter is plastic (just like microbeads, a relationship we’ll come back to shortly).
In the beginning, glitter starts out as a huge plastic sheet. It’s extruded from melted plastic pellets, and then usually covered with a layer of foil to give it that shine that you love so much. Once the sheet has been formed, it needs to be cut into tiny little pieces. This is done by machine, and there are many potential shapes.
The most common is hexagonal, but square is also pretty common. There are others, as well. There are many different machine setups, blade arrangements and other configurations, but it basically comes down to feeding the sheet of plastic into the machine, where blades cut it (or dies punch it) into the desired shape.
The tiny pieces of glitter are then removed from the machine (or fed out in an automated system) and packaged into the final product, whether that’s a container of glitter pieces, a hairspray formulation, makeup or something different.
Most of us don’t equate glitter with microbeads. One is sparkly, shiny and fun to use. The other is a threat to the environment that you do everything possible to avoid. Here’s the issue – they’re pretty much the same thing. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic. So is glitter. They even do the same things when discarded.
For example, let’s say you’ve just wrapped up your evening out, and it’s time to remove your glittery makeup. You clean off and grab a hot shower, and then head to bed. In the meantime, the glitter you’ve just washed off heads down the drain, through your sewer lines, and to the water treatment plant. Once there, those tiny particles are too small to be captured, and end up being pumped out to the ocean (sounds a lot like microbeads, doesn’t it?).
Once into the ocean, your glitter becomes part of the plastic soup contaminating the water and poisoning marine life. Not quite the end you expected, is it?
There is hope, though. we have a biodegradable glitter made not from plastic, but from biodegradable cellulose. It’s just as bright and shiny, but you can use it without hurting the planet. Ready to learn more? Get in touch.