A Closer Look at The Fashion Industry’s Damaging Overuse of Glitter

The last few years have been some of the best and worst times in terms of glitter use. Just two years ago, magazines and publications were claiming that there is nothing wrong with a little glitter, and “the more glitter, the better”, but this year, we have seen global outcry over the damaging use of glitter and its impact on the environment.

2017 was a different time in terms of glitter use, with restaurants adding glitter to gravy for their Christmas dinners for a little extra festive cheer, teen magazines encouraging readers to become a new “glittery you” just in time for New Years and there was even a viral trend which saw people covering their tongues in glitter.

Now, in 2019, glitter is becoming more known for the hugely damaging effect it is having on our environment. With more people invested in our planet and protecting it from the damage we are causing, it has been found that glitter contributes to the huge plastic waste problem in our oceans and waterways. We are now buying 400% more clothing pieces than we were just 20 years ago and, with glitter a huge trend within the beauty and fashion industry, just what effect is this having on the environment?


What Is Glitter Made From?

Traditionally, glitter was made from very small pieces of plastic or metal, but as the years progressed and it became increasingly popular, more and more manufacturers turned to plastic to create glitter – it was cheaper, easier to produce and could be created in any shape and colour. But, like most other forms of plastic, glitter cannot be recycled. It never breaks down and, if you’ve ever used glitter, then you’ll know that it is almost impossible to clean up, meaning that it finds its way almost everywhere. Much like the tiny, and extremely harmful, microbeads which were recently banned in countries across the world, glitter is classified as a microplastic.

Plastic is entering the ocean at an alarming rate. There are almost 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean, every single day. As the name suggests, microplastics are just that, micro, and makes up over 85% of all plastic found in the environment. Thanks to the micro size, microplastics can be absorbed and ingested by the smallest organisms, thus posing a threat to aquatic life. Microplastics move through the food chain and, as animals eat one another, this plastic climbs higher through the food chain and inevitably means that we also consume it through the fish that we eat.


How Does Glitter Affect The Fashion and Beauty Industry?

Glitter is found almost everywhere in the fashion and beauty industry and, whilst it may seem harmless, it poses a huge threat to the environment. Exfoliating scrubs, on the front of t-shirts, cosmetics and even face masks, there is very little that has not been affected by glitter in these industries. In the beauty world, the use of glittery objects dates backs to ancient civilizations, when women would crush and grind up gems to use on their lips. Glitter began appearing in cosmetics in the late 60s and, since then, it has never really gone. In recent years, social media has driven up the drive and demand for glitter products and led to many trends in the beauty industry, such as #glitterbrows and #glittertongue.

In the fashion industry, glitter and sparkle have been the runway trends for many seasons and there is no denying that glitter is having its moment. Shoppers love sparkle, whether that be on t-shirts, shoes, headbands, jumpers – if it is on there, they’ll buy it. Sparkle tends to have no age limit and appeals to customers of all ages, whether it be a young girl wanting to wear a sparkly t-shirt or a middle-aged woman wanting to relive the 80s with some shimmer. Thanks to fashion designers who have driven the trend by featuring it within their collections, it seems unlikely that the trend is going to slow down any time soon.


What Can We Do About It?

Whilst it may not seem like it, social media and the internet is responsible for much of the driving force behind many trends. As we consume more fashion at cheaper prices, it is unlikely that the glitter fashion trend is going to slow down any time soon. There are many initiatives being trialled across many different stores, such as clothes rentals and swaps, discounts and flash sales, in order to encourage people to reuse and recycle than throw their clothes away, leading to glitter finding its way into the environment.

Many beauty companies are investing in bio-friendly glitter, which naturally decomposes over time. With the UK and European summer festival season soon to take place, many have been working towards creating plastic-free glitter in preparation, as over 60 individual music festivals in the UK have banned the use of single-use plastic and glitter. As festivals usually take place in rural, natural areas, plastic has a devastating effect on the local environment, so this is a great turning point.

For those who are still looking for festival glitter makeup ideas, then bio-friendly glitter is becoming more and more readily available. Often made from cellulose, which is a material made from the cell walls of plants, this glitter will naturally break down over time. A good tip for spotting eco-friendly plastic is the shape – whilst conventional glitter comes in all shapes, colours and sizes, you’ll usually only find bio-friendly glitter in a small selection of colours and a hexagonal shape.

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About the Author

Natalie Wilson is a freelance writer with a particular focus on sustainability and eco-friendly living and has worked with many up and coming brands, including Black & Brown. Whether you’re looking for a new meditation method or some facts on plastic pollution, she’s your girl! When not writing, Natalie can be found heading to the gym or walking her dog. You can connect with her on Twitter @NatWilson976.

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