After the glitter fades

I’ve decided to end my love affair with glitter. As I clear out lip glosses, spray glitter, nail polish, body wash and other sparkly cosmetics into my “banned” bin, my heart hurts.

Can I be glamourous in vegan, cruelty free, matte colors?

Have I truly accepted adulthood?

Then I remember, this self-imposed ban is for a larger purpose. Because when we rinse off all the glitter, it’s going in the ocean. And scientists are warning us, this is bad news for our ocean friends.

What Is Glitter

Glitter is made of PET, cut from large sheets into small squares. If you’re not familiar with PET, it’s a plastic that is part of the polyester family, and it is derived from crude oil and natural gas. The medical community has raised concerns about possible health issues linked to PET bottles.

We’ve seen the environmental impact of plastic bottles. They sit in landfills, float in the ocean, and they don’t biodegrade. The Pacific ocean garbage patch is comprised of trash and plastic products. In fact, 10 percent of the 260 million tons of plastic produced annually ends up in the ocean.

Glitter is made from these same materials but poses another problem. Because of its size, it’s virtually impossible to clean up.

Why It’s A Problem

Glitter is classified as a microplastic, which is anything smaller that 5mm. Microplastics this small easily pass through filtration systems and into water sources. Once glitter, like microbeads, enters the ecosystem, it can be ingested by smaller organisms. Ocean life as small as plankton can consume microplastics and it is then consumed by fish and other marine animals.

Considering there are now a staggering 8 trillion microbeads entering water sources daily, it’s not surprising that fish are ingesting these as well, confusing them for food. This can continue up the food chain to the point where the microplastics we have rinsed into the ocean are finding their way back to us in the form of our food sources.

We can immediately tackle this problem by reducing our use of plastic products, especially microplastics. Educating ourselves on the long-term impact of ingredients like glitter can be the first step in not being part of this problem.

How to Sparkle… Responsibly

If you can’t live without the sparkle, companies such as Glitter Revolution and EcoStarDust make a biodegradable glitter product out of plant cellulose.

Or you can choose to give up trying to sparkle altogether and leave it to the professionals. When it comes to bioluminescence, sea creatures have it covered. There’s plenty of sea creatures that glow in the dark just because they can – no glitter needed.

Not sure what’s in your cosmetics? If you want to stop using microplastics, check out Ban the Microbead. This website provides listings of cosmetic companies by country and rates products based on ingredients.


After the glitter fades, it goes down the drain and into our water sources. Now that we understand the devastating impact of microplastics on our water sources we can take action. How we consume and what we consume matters –  and it’s the key to making positive changes to the world around us.


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