There is still confusion over whether glitter may be used in cosmetics and the FDA stance on it. What makes it even more confusing it that many large cosmetic companies are now commonly use them in their cosmetics. This gives the public the impression that they are in fact approved.
Not all glitters are alike. The type of glitter that comes to question most often and does NOT have FDA approval is made from polyurethane terephthalate more commonly known as PET plastic and aluminum. These sheets of plastic are tinted with various colors and then shredded down to various sizes. Some of the tints may be pigments that are FDA approved for use in cosmetics. These glitters are different yet again from Craft glitter, which may be tinted with pigments that are not approved for use in any cosmetic and should be avoided all together for makeup use.
Another distinction between a cosmetic glitter and a craft glitter is how they are cut. Craft glitter in general will have sharper edges whereas cosmetic glitter will have a smoother edge. The smoothest would be a laser cut glitter. Laser cut glitter is super smooth and has a multi color reflection. They are very popular for use in nail polish, resin jewelry and other craft and industrial applications. All our glitters are also solvent resistant, meaning they will not break down when added to varnish, resins and other solvents.
The next consideration would be what is called “hex size”. The most common sizes of glitter used in cosmetic formulations is .008” and below. .008” is about 203.2 microns. Micro glitter is .004” or 101.6 microns. No mica or glitter type product over 150 microns may be used on the face in the USA. This is a law enforced by the FDA and there is a very good reason for it. These larger microns sized micas and glitters could potentially scratch the cornea of your eye so it makes sense that you don’t want to use this anywhere around the eye. For this reason there is no justification for using a glitter that is .008 hex size or larger on your face or around the eyes area and this would be a clear violation of the FDA guidelines.
Basically micron size is referring to the size of the particles in the powder. The smaller the particle, the smoother the finish and the better the coverage. As the particle size goes up, so does the luster and the coverage is lessened.
COLOR EFFECT vs. PARTICLE SIZE
Particle Size 15 µm or less = low luster, good hiding power
Particle Size 2-25 µm = silky luster and strong hiding powder
Particle Size 10-60 µm = pearl luster with medium hiding power
Particle Size 10-125 µm = shimmering luster and low hiding power
Particle Size 20-150 µm = sparkling luster and transparent
Particle Size 45-500 µm = glittering luster and very transparent
So what is the FDA’s stance on glitter in cosmetics? A popular Beauty Blogger, Phyrra, http://phyrra.net attempted to get to the bottom of it by contacting the FDA and persisting until she received a response that made it clear to her. What she learned was confusing at best.
Here is part of their response to her:
“Color additives used to achieve variable effects, such as those found in pearlescent cosmetic products, are subject to the same regulations as all other color additives. Glitter usually consists of aluminum, an approved color additive, bonded to an etched plastic film composed of polyethylene terephthalate. The FDA considers glitter and mica-based composite pigments to be non-permitted color additives when used in FDA-regulated products, including cosmetics. However, we are exercising enforcement discretion for a period of time. During this time, we will allow glitter and mica-based composite pigments to be released with comment when presented for importation into the US. Once the enforcement discretion period is over, FDA will resume our enforcement of these non-permitted colors.”
Phyrra did ask for further clarification she received this response:
“Enforcement discretion means that we will allow products into the US that contain certain non-permitted color additives, like glitter, while we continue to review data submitted through the petition process and gathered by other means. Once we have completed our review and made a determination, the enforcement discretion period will end.”
I interpret their response to say, no they are not approved for use but the FDA will not enforce the ruling until they have completed their investigations.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel published the following review in 2013. The review panel is an independent panel and not associated with the FDA. They do regular reviews of ingredients used in cosmetics and make recommendations:
The CIR concluded that to date PET is safe to use in cosmetics and that there have been few reports of adverse affects such as corneal damage.
Conclusion: The FDA in the United States has not approved PET glitter for use in makeup. Glitter that is made for cosmetic use a is approved for use in other countries in the EU and Asia.
If you want to avoid using plastic glitter there are other good options available that are approved for makeup use in the US.
Synthetic Mica (Flourphogopite) is a good option if you want to add that sparkle to your eye makeup or lipstick. The Synthetic Micas are superior to their natural counterparts in that they offer a higher grade of purity, the colors are brighter, they have higher chroma and higher reflective properties. Below is a picture comparing a standard 60 micron mica against a synthetic mica 150 microns, and a PET glitter 200 microns. The synthetic mica is approved for cosmetics and within the approved particle range for makeup whereas the glitter is not.
Generally the higher the micron size the less coverage. Glitter in general does not offer the best of coverage. Below is a picture of what sort of coverage to expect with synthetic mica versus glitter. Glitter is on the left side and Synthetic Mica on the right. We call our line of Synthetic Micas from Wholesale Cosmetic Pigments, Superstars. They are a combination of Synthetic Mica, Cosmetic approved pigments, Iron or Tin Oxide and in some cases Ultramarine Blue.