Glitter’s totally having an on-trend moment when it comes to your kicks and your leggings, but if you’ve ever used the loose flecks as part of a school art project or even in a beauty product, you probably understand the shimmery bits as the gift—or maybe more aptly, curse—that keeps on giving. No matter how many times you clean, you find random specks of it everywhere—and it might be just as bad for the environment as it is for your sanity.
Remember when President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015? It banned the use of microbeads, a type of microplastic, found in in personal-care products due to their impact on the environment, and it in effect likely forced you to change your exfoliation routine for the better in the process. Well, glitter gets its shine from microplastics, and according to experts, it poses a similar hazard to the world’s oceans.
A study in the journal PLOS One reports that microplastics actually make up 92.4 percent of the 270,000 tons of plastic in the sea. Not only does it put harmful chemicals in the water, but it also hurts marine life: Because the material is shiny and looks like food, fish and other ocean creatures gobble it up, thinking it’s their next meal.
“I was quite concerned when somebody bought my daughters some shower gel that had glitter particles in it. That stuff is going to escape down the plughole and potentially enter the environment.” —Richard Thompson, PhD
“I was quite concerned when somebody bought my daughters some shower gel that had glitter particles in it,” Richard Thompson, PhD, a professor at Plymouth University who studies the impact of plastic on marine environments, told CNN. “That stuff is going to escape down the plughole and potentially enter the environment.”
While glitter as you know it may be coming to an end if activists and policymakers have anything to say about it, don’t worry: Eco-friendly options are available, like products from Wild Glitter and EcoStardust, which will keep you shiny-chic and also preserve the environment.