The 1980s may have been known as “the glitter days” (in the words of Joey Ramone, at least), but the 2020s are about to take hold as the biodegradable glitter days. As we look towards sustainability in all of our beauty products, brands have begun to rethink the way they manufacture glitter. Traditionally, sparkly makeup has been made of plastic, which anyone with access to the Internet knows is not good for the environment. But the new wave of products is made from materials that break down in nature, and won’t hang around in our oceans and landfills from here until eternity.
Thanks to makeup artists like Pat McGrath and Doniella Davy (and the entire cast of Euphoria), glitter makeup is no longer reserved for teenagers and Halloween costumes. There are plenty of sophisticated ways to make glitter appropriate for adults, any day of the year. Read on to find out why biodegradable glitter will be taking over your makeup bag (and not our water supply) this year, plus makeup artists’ favorite ways to use it IRL.
What is biodegradable glitter?
Biodegradable glitter is different than regular glitter in that it, well, biodegrades or over time decomposes in the environment. “Regular glitter is made up of thin sheets of copolymer or PET plastics that are cut up into tiny pieces, whereas biodegradable glitter is made from plant-based cellulose,” explains Detox Market makeup artist Merrady Wickes. “Regular glitter is basically microplastic which ends up in our water, and eventually in our food chain. Biodegradable glitter is much softer, so it eventually breaks down.”
In order to be considered biodegradable, glitter must be plastic free, break down on its own, and pass “the fresh water test,” meaning it needs to totally disintegrate in fresh water. With that in mind, it’s important to know that all “biodegradable glitter” options are not created equal, and brands often slap the term on their labels because it makes for good marketing.
“Compostable, PLA (polylactic acid), cellophane-based and cellulose acetate are the terms being thrown around as the descriptors for these new more ‘earth-friendly’ glitters, but none of the above are actually that great as an alternative,” says celebrity makeup artist Natalia Thomas. “There are a lot of brands out there making false claims just to jump on the biodegradable bandwagon but the only ones worth making the switch are those made from plant-derived regenerated eucalyptus cellulose.” A few terms worth knowing—and avoiding—according to her:
1. Compostable glitter: Needs perfect conditions (temperature, pressure, and bacteria) to decompose, so it’s unable to “decompose in nature” the way biodegradable glitter should.
2. PLA glitter: A polymer made from high levels of polylactic acid molecules, this stuff requires high temperatures and water to break down, and if it isn’t in the proper environment it can stick around in the ocean for hundreds of years.
3. Cellophane-based glitters: This type of glitter can’t biodegrade at all thanks to its chemical structure.
How can you use biodegradable glitter in your makeup routine?
These days, glittery beauty looks are no longer reserved exclusively for New Years Eve or festival season. Even if you’re not going for a disco-friendly look, there are still plenty of ways to use the stuff.
As a highlighter
“My favorite technique is to use a clear-iridescent shade in a fine grate and press it over the high point of the cheekbone or on the corner of the eyelids,” says Thomas. “Because the shine payoff is so strong, it is important to note that the highlight should be used only in the places you’d like to look dewy and natural.” If you’re going for something more over the top, go ahead and max out on the stuff all over.
As an eyeshadow
There are dozens of different ways to add biodegradable glitter to your eyes. Apply it on its own, over a bright bold shade, or just along the lash-line for a subtle hint of shimmer.
On top of lipstick
Turn any matte lipstick sparkly by dotting biodegradable glitter on top of it while it’s still wet. Go all over for a more high-impact finish, or just stick to the center for some added iridescence.
Adding a few specs of glitter in an unexpected place is a great way to give even the most natural makeup a glitzed-out update. Use a wet brush and some loose glitter to apply anywhere you want to add emphasis.
Which brands are actually selling legit biodegradable glitter?
As the pros explained, you need to be careful in deciphering which brands are actually selling biodegradable glitter and which are using the term irresponsibly. To make things easier, we did some of the leg work for you.
Today Glitter, $10
Today Glitter was the first company in the United States to sell bioglitter. It comes in every shade you could possibly imagine, from pinks and violets to your usual silvers and golds, each of which comes in varying sizes so you can use it to create any look you want.
In addition to selling biodegradable glitter in solid shades, this brand also sells multicolored mixes with names like “Blue Lagoon Glitz” (a blue-tinted black) and “Psychedelic Beet Glitz” (a purple and fuchsia blend). For any true “glitter maximalists” out there, you can get an 84-gram jar of the stuff that’s enough to cover your whole body in shimmer.
With every color, shape, and size you can imagine, EcoStardust has got something for every glitter aficionado. And if you can’t decide on only one shade, the brand offers a rainbow set that’s got them all.
Rituel de Fille, $38
Wickes refers to the brand’s Celestial Sphere Eye Soot (pictured above) as “glitter for adults.” She’s a fan of its gel texture and light shifting, “almost holographic” pigments, which offer a more subtle sparkly effect. You can wear them on their own, or layered over another shadow shade for a higher impact look.
Complete your holiday beauty look with one of these ultra-hydrating, winter-weather friendly foundations, and some no-contour face sculpting by way of” blush draping.”