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Glitter is my basic

Well, the build up to Christmas 2017, as expected, was glittery. Very glittery.

Glitter. We love the stuff. But why for the love of Pete, are we so glitter obsessed?

Grown women; lawyers and preschool teachers alike, cannot get enough of the stuff. Just when did all this glitter-hysteria begin?

Prehistoric man started our fascination with all that glitters by grinding dust out of stone like melachite and other finds like crushed insect wings and ground glass. Around 30,000 years ago early man associated anything shiny with the spirit world. Cave paintings were embellished with mica flakes and history tells us of Mayan temples adorned with mica, Egyptian eyes rimmed with exotic silvery eyeliner fashioned from galena, a natural stone used for its iridescence. Other prehistoric humans were believed to have worn makeup form powdered hematite - deeming us not so different from our vain ancestors. Glitter adds that touch of magic to an otherwise dull canvas.

By the late eighteenth century, fabrics were coated in glue and rolled in crushed glass to achieve a spangled effect. Glass-glitter, as dangerous as it sounds, is still produced commercially today. You may be pleased to note the manufacturing process has somewhat softened the edges on this luxury item.

Early nineteenth century saw the first modern day synthetic glitter born. American inventor Henry Ruschmann was the first to purpose-cut Mylar sheets, patenting a mechanism for cross-cutting films, and revolutionizing glitter as we know it today. His company 'Meadowbrook Inventions' still produces glitter. At present over 20,000 glitter varieties are manufactured around the world.

Why have we always had this obsession? Drawn to glittery surfaces like a moth to the flame? Even newborn babies and fish will bypass a matte object time and time again in favor of the sparkly version. Could it be due to evolutionary reasons, could our glitter-love stem from a built in desire to seek out water in the name of survival? Of course our ancestors were obsessed with obtaining glimmering bodies of water, twinkling streams and diaphanous oceans, it was how we stayed alive; and may well account for our inexplicable desire for all that glitters...

Can we blame evolution for glitter brows, glitter beards, glitter tears, glitter roots, and even dare I say it, glitter cracks? Well, we gotta blame something.

I've worked with glitter, copious amounts of glitter, for over twenty five years now, and I should confess, even though I'm a huge fan, I've not put too much thought into it.

It's one of those harmless substances there for our amusement. Just a decorative material. Right?

So, what the actual heck is glitter?

Small reflective particles of micro-plastics that allow light to reflect at different angles causing the surface to shimmer or sparkle. Adored by toddlers and worshiped by burlesque dancers, the staple diet of any self respecting troll....

A bit of man made harmless fun...

Or is it?

Who hasn't had glitter in their belly button from time to time or the odd strand of glitter fringe? It gets down your bra, up your nose and sits daintily on the tips of your eyelashes. We see u-tubers sprinkling that sh*t around like its confetti, but should we be so flippant about our magic unicorn dust?

Turns out no.

Pigments, chrome and glitter dust is made up of millions of minute particles that become airborne and can enter our systems via mouth, nose and skin. If rubbed, larger pieces of glitter can irritate the eye's cornea leading to infection. Consumed in large quantities glitter can be harmful. Micro-plastics (plastic pieces measuring less than 5 mm) in the form of glitter can contain aluminium and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and may absorb toxic chemicals that have a negative impact on our endocrine systems.

Glitter is considered nontoxic and can certainly be used without harm if care is taken. No one in their right mind is actually going to pour spoonfuls of glitter into their morning coffee. In these situations I like to take advice learned from our master Doug Schoon He reminds us of a simple truth penned by sixteenth century philosopher Paracelsus :

"All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison."

This principle relies on the finding that all chemicals, even water, can be toxic if too much is ingested. So, as nail techs, we are concerned with the long term affects of overexposure due to working repeatedly with any specific substance. And just like most of our products, glitter poses no threat if we follow guidelines and respect the process. After perusing a few MSDS's it should be noted, most point out that no evidence of acute or chronic health hazards are associated with the use of cosmetic grade glitter. If, however, glitter is ignited or exposed to elevated temperatures causing decomposition, harmful vapors may be emitted. As for all of our products, store in a dry cool space.

First Aide:

For inhalation - move to an area with fresh air.

Eyes - rinse well with warm water for five minutes, if irritation occurs seek medical advice.

Skin exposure - wear gloves whenever possible, and wash hands after use.

Ingestion - seek medical advice.

Spills - sweep up and place into container or bag to dispose of.

Do - use safety goggles, dust masks and protective clothing as needed.

The smaller the particle, the greater the hazard, as in any form of dust we may be around for extended periods. Avoid overexposure by using a gloved finger or applicator to apply chrome or pigments, a lot of techs use a bare finger to burnish in these powders or push glitter onto gel polish as it works so well, and if this is only an occasional misdemeanor it is probably fine. The risk is using these methods over and over daily for many years, and with nail art being so big right now I think we are wise to err on the side of caution.

As nail techs we work with glitter often, and we know; one dose not simply clean up glitter. They don't call it the herpes of the craft world for nothing, its the stuff of cleaning nightmares. Due to static electricity generated between its tiny layers glitter sticks to EVERTHING.

Where does all that glitter go? Nowhere. And that's a problem.

It ends up being gobbled by marine life. Tonnes of glitter waste is dumped into our waterways everyday, unable to be filtered out by water treatment plants, traces now even found in commercial fish used for consumption (Shellfish found off the coast of France). Sparkle poo anyone?

[[Here in New Zealand micro beads will be banned as of July this year, according to Environment Minister Nick Smith, due to the negative impact on marine life.

Trisha Farrelly, a social anthropologist at Massey University who specializes in plastic waste, says that's just the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic goes into our ocean each year. Plastic in all forms poses various problems, and there is no quick fix unfortunately. Micro plastics are a small part of the bigger picture. Associate Environmental Minister Scott Simpson says "We are currently focused on the larger waste streams entering the environment. However, I understand some manufacturers, for example Lush, are already removing plastic glitter from their products."]]

Source: By Susan Edmunds June 2017

I glitterally can't imagine a life without glitter, but this shiny debauchery is compromising our beautiful planet. If i gave up glitter I would be akin to a vegan in leather shoes, and I really don't want to be that person. But i would like these words to get you thinking. In the near future we may have bio-glitter that isn't compromised by solvents, until then we have somewhat of a glittery glitch in our industry.

Not a perfect end to my little story, but I live in hope that one day we can put an end to this 'inconvenient truth'.

To recap, am I banning glitter from my salon? Hell no! But I will be mindful of my services and try to keep updated with any developments in alternative products.

I invite information from the readers, I'd really like to know more about this conundrum.


Published by Rachel Stevens

Musings of a curious nail tech. Exasperatingly dramatic wordsmith, over thinker and established pen thief. Honorary questioner and lover of simple truths. Rachel has been involved in the nail industry for over two decades now and realizes this makes her sound really really old. Her mission, to expose the big questions that lie within the mani-verse, whilst simultaneously peeling the spuds.

She will continue to buff away at the irksome surface.

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