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Is the mica in your makeup bag ethically sourced?

A general view of an eye shadow palette. Credit: ITV News

You may never of heard of it. It's an ingredient that has evaded the headlines. Yet mica has pride of place in Britain's thriving beauty business. It adds a sparkle to eye shadow, make-up, nail varnish and much more.

ITV News research shows that some of the biggest manufacturers in cosmetics admit there's a problem.

However, we've also found there are already big questions about the industry's new plan to tackle its problems in sourcing ethical mica.

The big cosmetics firms have known about the risk of child labour in mica mining for years and although the industry has been working since 2008 to tackle this issue and work in India - only now has it started the "responsible mica initiative". It brings together some of the biggest firms in the sector and it's estimated the project will take five years.

Archive photograph of models applying nail varnish. Credit: PA

As part of our research we spoke to leading cosmetics manufacturers:

Estée Lauder say less than 10% of its mica comes from India and says "child labour is unfortunately still prevalent" in the supply chain there.

Clarins says its mica comes from "suppliers with their own mines in areas where child labour is strictly regulated by laws".

The owners of Maybelline, L’Oréal, say there's "a risk of child labour" in the Indian mica supply chain but says its own supply chain of Indian mica is "now almost completely secured".

L’Oréal said in a statement: "In the face of the economic and social challenges, L’Oréal has committed to remaining in India and has implemented a responsible procurement policy to ensure the traceability and transparency of its supply chain. Thanks to these efforts, our supply chain of Indian mica is now almost completely secured."

An archive photograph of a stylist at work. Credit: PA

Rimmel told us: "We are aware of instances of child labour and unacceptable working conditions in this region in India as highlighted in your programme." It says all its mica suppliers are asked to sign and comply with a code of conduct.

Lush had mica in some products – but decided to ban it in 2014.

What Lush discovered should be a warning to others.

As a direct ingredient, mica is easy to identify. But at Lush they found that it can also be part of a complex mix of materials used to make colour and shine in this industry.

It's what the company began to call the "murky world of mica". It still aims to remove all natural mica - and Lush does not knowingly buy it. What they learned shows how hard it is for cosmetic companies to make firm guarantees on mica content.

A model having make-up applied. Credit: PA

It's estimated that around 25% of world production of mica comes from illegal collection - and that 70% of India's output is from unethical sources.

That's a potential image problem for an industry that thrives on the way things look.