We all love a bit of shimmer, especially during the holiday season, but glitter and glittery products such as eye shadow and other makeup are actually major pollutants to the environment. From contributing to microplastics to being sourced unethically or unsustainably – to even being potentially carcinogenic – conventional glitter is just not great for the earth nor our bodies.
“Conventional pigments, like your everyday glitter, are not produced sustainably,” said senior author Professor Silvia Vignolini from University of Cambridge. “They get into the soil, the ocean and contribute to an overall level of pollution. Consumers are starting to realise that while glitters are fun, they also have real environmental harms.”
Is vegan glitter the answer?
Now, new scientific research hopes to take the litter out of glitter with a recent discovery by the University of Cambridge, which finds a way to make sustainable, non-toxic, vegan and biodegradable glitter from cellulose – the main component of plant, fruit and vegetable cell walls – and it glitters just as well as the original.
This glitter is made of cellulose nanocrystals which are able to bend light to create bright, vivid colours through the same process that produces some of nature’s brightest colours – from butterfly wings to peacock feathers.
What’s great about this discovery is that the intensity of these colours won’t fade, even after a century, and the film of cellulose nanocrystals appears to be industrially scalable, for mass production — for the first time, researchers are looking into how this material could be made into rolls, the way paper is made from pulp.
This could potentially replace the harmful microplastics and mica, or even synthetic mica, we often find in regular glitter and shimmery cosmetics.
If this new discovery can be optimised for commercial and consumer use, it could make commercially available pigments and glitter a reality.
“We believe this product could revolutionise the cosmetics industry by providing a fully sustainable, biodegradable and vegan pigment and glitter.”–Silvia Vignolini
The problem with biodegradable glitter
Even those of us trying to be eco with our party supplies and makeup can’t truly do so when most biodegradable glitters are not what they claim. As it turns out, biodegradable glitter is just as bad for the environment as plastic glitter.
A 2020 study compared bio glitter with regular glitter by placing both in a freshwater habitat. After five weeks, it found that plant growth decreased by half, and chlorophyll levels dropped considerably, demonstrating a reduction in phytoplankton levels. The study concluded that bio glitter had the same effects on the habitat as regular glitter.
Here’s hoping we have truly bio glitter for future new year celebrations. Until then, we’ll have to find other ways to spread some shine.
Follow us on Instagram @8shadesofficial!