The Problem with Glitter: A Little Sparkle with Major Consequences

The Problem with Glitter: A Little Sparkle with Major Consequences

Jun, 21, 2023

The Problem with Glitter: A Little Sparkle with Major Consequences

Who doesn’t love a little glitter and sparkle in their lives? Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that the joy of using glitter negatively affects the environment and our health.

The Problem with Glitter: A Little Sparkle with Major Consequences

The glitter we use for arts and crafts, toys, clothes, and makeup is made of tiny plastic particles called Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). As PET breaks down, it releases chemicals that disrupt hormones in humans and animals, leading to cancers and neurological diseases. 

To make matters worse, glitter is a form of microplastic that measures less than 5 millimeters. Microplastics can be found in synthetic textiles, car tires, city dust, marine coatings, and personal care products such as exfoliants, body washes, masks, and even toothpaste.

Every year, an estimated 800 trillion microplastics are washed down the drain. Water treatment plants are not designed to handle microplastics, so they end up in rivers and lakes. 

Scientists have discovered billions of microscopic plastic particles in the Great Lakes, which hold 20% of the world’s freshwater. Microplastics are found by dragging a finely meshed netting behind boats, but they’re difficult to clean up because they’re so tiny. As a result, they accumulate in the water over time and wreak havoc on our environment.

Fish and other wildlife often mistake these microplastics for food, leading to the transfer of toxins and pesticides into their bodies. This ultimately results in these microplastics making their way up the food chain and threatening other animals, including humans. 

How do microplastics affect human health?

Microplastics have been linked to inflammation, infertility, and cancer in animals. Recent studies have found that plastic particles accumulate in the human brain and tissue, leading to inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis, which are all associated with cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and autoimmune conditions.

We’ve learned to avoid microplastics in personal care products and clothes, but what about other glitter applications? 

Ways to be conscious and cautious:

  • Avoid using glitter for arts and crafts and face painting.
  • Do not rinse glitter down the drain during cleanup time. 
  • Don’t buy personal care products that openly contain glitter. That includes eyeshadows, lipsticks, lip gloss, eyeliner, mascara, moisturizing lotions, body gels, and creams. 
  • Watch out for words like “glow,” “shimmer,” “gleam,” “brightening,” and “radiance” in product descriptions. 

For plastic-free glitter cosmetics, check out:

Minke Bio Cosmetics manufactures eco-friendly, biodegradable body glitter.

Lush has moved to replace its glitter with biodegradable synthetic alternatives.

Eco stardust

For plastic-free glitter for arts and crafts:


Plus vision

Etsy has many shops that sell bio-degradable glitter. 

These options allow you to keep your shine and care for the planet. A win-win!

Ready to to begin reducing your plastic waste? Join us for Plastic Free July coming up and learn lots of practical tips to reduce plastic at home such as toothbrushes, micro plastic and laundry detergent and much more.

Fredrika Syren

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Raakhee Stratton

    June 30, 2023

    My daughter loves crafts and when we’re looking for supplies, the glitter section makes me cringe. Now that she’s 8, it’s easier for me to explain that glitter is little pieces of plastic. I’ve looked at biodegradable glitter but now she prefers to do crafting without any glitter at all.

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