Sorry, Environmentally-Friendly Glitter Just Doesn’t Exist

closeup of a woman's eye covered in glitter makeupMarilyn Minter, Frostbite, 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

You dip your brush into gold-flecked chocolate, go back for prismatic copper, dab a little shimmering champagne at the inner corners of your eyes, and you're starting to feel pretty good. Glittery makeup is the stuff of weekend nights spent with friends and weekday mornings spent trying to look bright-eyed. It's fun! It's festive!

It’s fraught. It turns out that the sparkle behind every step of your beauty routine — from your highlighter to your nail polish — lives on long after you take it off. Glitter pollution is showing up in rivers, soil, even dust on the street. Now that scientists are taking a closer look at glitter's footprint, we have reason to believe that every iteration — made from materials synthetic or natural, plastic or plant-based — is leaving its mark on the planet.

Glitter in cosmetics is made one of four ways: from microplastics, cellulose, mica, or glass. That first type, which can be colored and treated to shine on the cheap, is similar to the microplastic beads that the FDA banned from cleansers, exfoliators, and toothpastes five years ago in an effort to curb water pollution by plastics. And just as those microplastic beads were banned, glitter microplastics should be banned too, says cosmetic chemist Ginger King. They are not biodegradable and can harm our waterways. 

When you wash off glitter, it may go down the drain and travel to wastewater treatment plants. Some of it will be collected with other solids and become sludge that could be used to fertilize agricultural soil; the rest will slip through filters and go into oceans, rivers, and lakes. "After a single use, thousands of [pieces of glitter] may pass into the waters or soil and accumulate in the environment," says Meral Yurtsever, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Sakarya University in Turkey, who researches microplastics. Those pieces of glitter will "remain intact for centuries." Centuries. 

The potential adverse side effects of microplastics vary depending on their shape. When fish or animals eat them, those rounded beads banned in 2015 may pass through digestive tracts more easily than glitter, with its pointy edges. That means the beads are more readily eliminated by an animal's body, while sharper microplastics can stick around longer and cause intestinal tears.

closeup of a person's lip covered in glitter lipstickMarilyn Minter, Wet Kiss, 2014 Courtesy of the Artist and Salon 94, New York

Says Yurtsever, "[Microplastic glitters] would certainly pose major hazards for living things." We know that microplastic glitter makes its way into our soil — but we don't know if it actually makes its way into the food we eat. "There hasn't been much research on that, but we know microplastics affect soil quality and root length, and we know that we're eating microplastics through fish and sea salt," says Lisa Erdle, manager of research and innovation at 5 Gyres, a nonprofit focused on reducing plastic pollution. "We are literally eating our waste and it is cause for concern." 

In a statement to Allure, the FDA said its microplastics ban covers only "rinse-off" cosmetics intended to exfoliate or cleanse. The "FDA has not approved the use of glitter as a color additive in cosmetics" and would not comment on whether a ban was being considered. But Erdle believes there could be change even without government action: "It's possible that the [beauty] industry will decide to shift to glitter alternatives because of consumer demand."

So just how prevalent are microplastics in makeup? Allure did a random audit of more than 100 glittery and shimmery makeup products at a major beauty retailer, and found 32 percent contained microplastic glitters, which show up on ingredient lists as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). So…pretty prevalent. And how problematic are they? "The area of microplastics and its impact is still a pretty nascent field," says chemist Sherri A. Mason, director of sustainability at Penn State Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania. "But we know the chemicals within plastics may have a variety of human health impacts, from associations with certain types of cancer to issues with regard to reproduction, like sperm motility and pregnancy viability."

There have been some efforts by a small but growing number of brands to move to the second type of cosmetic glitters: those made with cellulose (a plant-based or synthetic fiber). This seems like an exciting step forward, as Allure proclaimed in spring 2020, "When glitter is 100 percent biodegradable, we're more than hopeful — we're inspired."

"After a single use, thousands of pieces of glitter may pass into the waters or soil. And they will remain intact for centuries."

That was about a year before one of the first published studies looking at the environmental impact of different types of glitter, including "biodegradable" options. One cellulose iteration, which is technically modified regenerated cellulose (MRC), acted a lot like microplastic glitters in fresh water. Its presence was associated with a reduction in one plant's root length by about a third, with chlorophyll levels down threefold, and a twofold increase in invasive mud snails that are typically found in polluted waters. "Glitter is like a Reese's cup," says Erdle. "The cellulose core provides shape and structure, but has to be wrapped in other materials that make it shiny and hold it together — and that is almost always aluminum and a plastic polymer film."

But that study, which was published earlier this year, didn't only look at PET and MRC, it also investigated natural and synthetic mica, the third ingredient that gives makeup shimmer and shine. (It's also used in skin care because it creates the illusion of radiance.) "We found that each type of glitter, [PET, MRC, and mica], can negatively affect some aspect of microalgae and aquatic plants, which could have cascading effects on the food web," says Dannielle Green, an associate professor of ecology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, who co-authored the study. 

"I am finishing an experiment to answer the question [why]." But Green makes an important clarification: This pioneering study used very high concentrations of these particles, "reflecting a mass release of glitter" — think Coachella, the World Cup, a presidential inauguration. "We do not know if the effects persist at lower concentrations or in other settings," she says. When it comes to mica, though, we do know there's a huge social cost: One of the world's largest exporters is Madagascar, where approximately 10,000 children, as young as four years old, work in mica mines, according to the United Nations Development Programme's MICA project. This is an industry that has been criticized for opaque supply chains and a lack of global regulation. India is also a large exporter of mica, and some recent reports even suggest that rates of child labor are up there, as families look for new sources of income after losing wages due to COVID. Unfortunately, there is no good way to tell if the mica you are buying has been responsibly sourced just by looking at a product, but certain brands have committed to using child-labor-free mica.

Allure went to some of the world's biggest beauty companies for comment and two — Coty and L'Oréal — confirmed that they are committed to avoiding mica that has been mined with child labor and have programs in place to monitor their supply chain. L'Oréal provided a statement to Allure saying that they only purchase mica from "a limited number of trusted suppliers who have committed to sourcing only from gated mines, where working conditions can be closely monitored and human rights respected. Independent audits are conducted to ensure such commitments are respected."

closeup of a person's eye covered in glitterMarilyn Minter, Bloodshotk, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

And both Coty and L'Oréal are founding members of the Responsible Mica Initiative for eradicating child labor in India's mica mines by 2022. (L'Oréal's makeup brands include L'Oréal Paris, Maybelline New York, Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Essie, Nyx Professional Makeup, IT Cosmetics, Urban Decay, and Valentino; Coty's brands include CoverGirl, Gucci, Sally Hansen, and Rimmel London.)

The fourth ingredient that can make your eyelids gleam and your lips sparkle is, counterintuitively, glass — specifically, borosilicate glass. "It's processed and coated with minerals to provide effects, such as a holographic visual," says cosmetic chemist Marisal Mou. Not a lot of brands use it because it's expensive — if you are going to put glass particles near your eyeballs, they have to be shaped and sized just so. And we don't know if it's more environmentally friendly than the other alternatives. "I am sure the coatings affect the biodegradable potential here," says cosmetic chemist Krupa Koestline. If we've learned anything in this reporting, it's never to assume an ingredient’s footprint is benign without data to prove it. And we weren't able to uncover any studies on the environmental impact of borosilicate glass. Sure, glass and minerals are natural, but "those minerals would normally stay in the rocks. When they are touched by human hands, this can trigger the transport of natural elements in certain parts of the earth's crust to places where they may not belong at all," explains Yurtsever. Put another way: Something no larger than the width of a human hair can have an impact on the planet itself. "Everything that is consumed, natural or not, has a footprint," Yurtsever adds. 

Okay, if you've read this far, you might be feeling a little…pessimistic. But there are signs of hope, and next-generation glitters are already in the works. It will just take time to ensure that they're not "regrettable substitutions," says Erdle. That's environmentalist-speak for when a material is banned or "canceled" only to be replaced with something just as harmful, if not worse.

It would be wonderful if environmental-impact studies were the norm, but they're not, and many beauty products advertise unverified claims. One glittering light on the horizon: Estée Lauder Companies — owner of MAC, Bobbi Brown, and more — issued a statement to Allure saying, "We have begun a phased approach to transition away from non-biodegradable plastic glitters, working with experts and suppliers to find alternatives or to innovate suitable options."

If the beauty industry — the companies that make this stuff, the consumers who buy it, and us, the media reporting on it — take away one lesson, perhaps it should be this: "It makes very little sense to produce something that you're going to use for a day but will be in the world forever," says Janice Brahney, an associate professor of watershed sciences at Utah State University, who has found microplastics in rain and air currents. 

Just this year, a study in the journal Environment International detected microplastics on both sides of the human placental boundary. It is impossible to determine their source, but "there is little doubt that plastics are making their way into humans and our offspring," says Mason, who researches freshwater plastic pollution.

Makeup inspires, it transforms, it brings joy — all the more when it catches the light just so. But as we all look to curb our impact on the planet by means big and small (in this case, just a hairs width), let's make a commitment as an industry to move toward a future that shines in new ways.

This story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.

The Best Colleen Hoover Books

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If you’ve opened TikTok anytime in the last year or so, chances are, you’ve seen a BookTok-er talking about Colleen Hoover (and maybe you’ve even seen Ms. Colleen Hoover herself pop up on your FYP). Her books are seemingly taking over the internet—even though most were published years ago. 

She’s known for the depth of her storylines, the uniqueness of her characters, and the occasional shocking plot twist. She crosses genres and target audiences, writing everything from contemporary romance to new adult to thrillers. And I know from personal experience that once you read one Colleen Hoover book, you’ll want to read them all. However, with almost 20 published novels, it can be hard to decide where to start. That’s why we’ve done the work for you and put together this short list of our favorite Colleen Hoover books.

I also want to note that a large number of Hoover’s books are available on Kindle Unlimited, which means you can read them for free with a membership (more reasons to love a Kindle!). 

Add these four books to your reading list ASAP:


It Ends With Us

Genre: Romance
Goodreads Rating: 4.42/5

This is a unique love triangle story that will keep you captivated until the very end. I still remember the feeling I had when I finished this book over two years ago—it has the type of characters and storytelling that makes you feel every type of emotion possible, and you’ll find yourself personally invested in the outcome of the characters’ lives. It Ends with Us is not your average romance novel, as it has so much depth and underlying meaning that you have to read and experience to truly understand. This is one of those books that you just don’t forget about.

So what is it about? Despite having a tough upbringing, Lily graduates from college and moves to Boston to open her own business. This is where she meets Ryle Kincaid, a stubborn neurosurgeon who has a strict no-dating rule that he breaks just for Lily. But as their relationship deepens, Lily finds herself unable to stop thinking about her first love, Atlas, and everything they shared together—as well as everything that might’ve been.



Genre: Thriller, Romance
Goodreads Rating: 4.36/5

Hoover veered from her usual romance novels to write Verity, which combines thriller, mystery, and suspense (but also has some romance). If you’ve read any of our recent book round-ups here on The Everygirl, you know how much our editors love this book. It created quite the chain reaction, and now, those who have not yet read it are in the minority. Obviously, this means it is a great book, but the real reason we can’t stop talking about it is because of the story—it is truly the most shocking book I have ever read. It also started a huge internet book debate about what really happened, so you’ll be wrapped up in this world even after you finish reading.

So what is it about? Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer when she gets the offer of a lifetime: to ghost write the final books of best-selling author Verity Crawford’s most famous series, which she’s unable to finish after being in an accident. Verity’s husband encourages Lowen to come stay at their home to go through Verity’s office and notes for ideas for the rest of the series—and while she’s there, she finds much more than she bargained for.

Trigger warning: This book contains extremely mature themes, including child abuse and death. Please research all trigger warnings before reading if you are sensitive to specific types of content.


Heart Bones

Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Goodreads Rating: 4.36/5

For those of us who read Sarah Dessen books when we were younger, Heart Bones feels a lot like the grown-up version of her novels. It made me feel both nostalgic and excited to find out what was going to happen next all throughout. It falls in the “New Adult” genre (the main characters are 19 and 20), which is a perfect middle ground between YA and adult fiction. As per usual, Hoover’s characters shine through—each with a depth and uniqueness that fits so perfectly into the storyline. I loved that this book has elements of one of those classic-yet-unexpected romances that we all love but also has a bit of mystery with a pretty significant plot twist.

So what is it about? With only two months separating her from the future she’s built and the past she desperately wants to leave behind, an unexpected death leaves Beyah with no place to go. Her only option is to spend the remainder of her summer in Texas with her father and his family, whom she barely knows. Then she meets Samson, who seems to be her exact opposite. She comes from a life of poverty and neglect; he comes from a family of wealth and privilege. They soon bond over the unexpected and have an immediate connection that can’t be denied. They agree to stay in the shallow end of a summer fling. What Beyah doesn’t realize is that a rip current is coming, and it’s about to drag her heart out to sea.


Regretting You

Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Goodreads Rating: 4.23/5

If you’re hooked on the idea of a “Sarah Dessen for adults,” this one is also for you. Regretting You, however, is unique in that it is told from two perspectives: 16-year-old Clara and her 32-year-old mother, Morgan. Although they both have their own stories to tell, the narrative weaves together seamlessly—and I loved that it felt like a YA novel and contemporary romance, all in one. We not only get two romances, but we also get an extremely unique story of a family facing tragedy and the shocking secrets that come to life because of it.

So what is it about? Morgan Grant and her teenage daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike. With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara. While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see.


Editors’ Picks: The Best Book I’ve Ever Read
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Cleaning Tips: Make Sure Your Home Is Always Clean

Source: Amy Kim

Your home should be an oasis from your everyday hustle and grind. We dream of a day when every time you walk through the door, you’re greeted with a hygge-filled home where candles automatically light themselves, but until that technology comes to fruition, we hardworking ladies have to find a way to maintain our everyday staycation spots so they look good enough to appear on our Pinterest feeds. The trick? Cleaning our houses every single day. Scroll below for 12 cleaning tips you can follow to make sure your house is clean all the time.


1. Make the bed when you first wake up

The minute you jump out of bed, the first thing you should do (besides drinking a large glass of water) is make your bed. It will take you less than a minute to do and will automatically make your room look put together.


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2. Put away clean dishes from the night before while you make breakfast

Just because you’re waiting for your eggs to cook or coffee to brew doesn’t mean you should automatically go on your phone and scroll. Instead, put away the dishes you cleaned the night before so you have room on your drying rack or inside your dishwasher to complete another round.


3. Pick up any leftover loose items from the night before

Sometimes when you just had a long day at the office, the last thing you want to do is to pick up items around your house. When you have one of those off days, make it a priority to clean your living room/kitchen in the morning. Fold that blanket, throw away those used napkins, and put those empty dinner drinks in the sink. All you need is five minutes to make everything seem presentable again.


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4. Hang up your clothes and put away your shoes when you get home from work

I know it can feel like a pain to hang up your clothes when you get home from work, but doing so will save you a lot of time. When you do, you’ll know exactly where everything is and you won’t panic trying to find that one specific item when you’re running late to work.


5. Clean food scraps while you cook

Cleaning while you cook is an easy and effective way to minimize the stress of making dinner. Throw away food scraps when you’re done cutting up the vegetables and do a few dishes while your food is cooking. By the time dinner is done, you’ll probably have already done the majority of the work.


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6. Arrange couch pillows before you go to bed

After you’ve watched your latest binge, turn off the TV and fix the pillows on your couch. Neatly style them so they look like you never sat there in the first place and are presentable to look at first thing in the morning.


7. Wipe down the kitchen counters after you cook

Not only do you need to do the dishes and throw away the food scraps, but you also want to clean the kitchen counters when you’re done cooking. All you need is a cleansing wipe to easily get rid of bacteria and spills so you don’t have to scrub at them in the morning.


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8. Wipe down your bathroom counter after you do your beauty routine

After completing your nighttime regime, take a sponge and clean around the sink to get rid of any hair, toothpaste, or makeup. And while you’re at it, clean your mirror so you won’t be distracted by dirt and dust when you’re trying to do your hair. 


9. Do a load of laundry if you accumulate enough items

If you have kids or live with a S.O. who goes through clothes like it’s nothing, it might be a good idea to do a load of laundry at the end of each day. Doing so will save you time and prevent you from spending a full day washing and folding items.


10. Sanitize the remote controls and phone

Take five minutes and a sanitizer wipe to clean the remote controls and your phone. These two things can carry a lot of germs because we’re constantly touching them with our hands.


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11. Give objects a permanent home

If you tend to easily lose things, you may want to start giving certain items a permanent home. Have a place by your door where you can hang your keys and put your shoes and your jacket, and have a basket on top of your coffee table where you can throw in your mail or your remotes. Creating multiple sections like these in your home will allow your house to look neat without having miscellaneous things everywhere.


12. Deal with spills right when they happen

When you’ve accidentally spilled your morning juice on your glass coffee table or have a glass of wine fall on your carpet, you don’t want to wait a day or two to clean up the spill; it will be 10 times harder to clean it up. Instead, clean it up right then and there so you don’t have to deal with it come morning. 


I’m Organization-Obsessed—These 5 Hacks Help Me Keep My Life Together