What is glitter made of?

Ever heard of glitter pollution? Or a call for a global glitter ban? It’s sad but true and it is related to what most glitter is made of, namely, plastic. 

This page explains what glitter is made of, how conventional glitter can harm the environment, and what kind of eco-friendly alternatives are available. 


1. So, what is glitter made of?

Most glitter is made out of a combination of aluminum and plastic, in most cases Polyethylene terephthalate (PET*). Although not as common as plastic-glitter, some craft glitters are made out of metal and glass.

The most important aspect of glitter is, obviously, that it glitters. So even though most conventional glitter that you find, both inside and outside products, are made of plastic, in theory, any kind of small reflective piece that sparkles can be used as glitter.

Commercial glitter is said to range between super-super-tiny to super-tiny, which is around 0.05 to 6.35 mm (0.002 to .25 inches). Due to their tiny size and that theyare made out of plastic, they are in fact considered as microbeads, or microplastics.

PET plastic is most known for its use in plastic drink bottles. If you turn a bottle around you are very likely to find a PET stamp on it.

What is cosmetic glitter made of?

Cosmetic glitter is in most cases also made of tiny particles of plastic, aluminum, and added choice of coloring. Aluminum is the material that makes it reflective, aka sparkle.

As can be read above, the glitter particles are truly tiny and are added to everything from nail polish, eyeshadow and hair spray.

How is glitter made?

The materials used to create the glitter, for example, plastic, aluminum, and preferred color are made into sheets. Afterward, these sheets are then cut into the preferred (tiny-tiny) size.

The difference of how cosmetic glitters and craft glitter are made is that the former is likely to be cut in circular shapes to avoid damaging the skin. Other glitters can have sharp angles, if the small particles are cut in squares, for example. That’s why you should double-check which kind of glitter you use for your DIY-cosmetics.


easily with the Ingredient Scanner

Try Now Free

2. Glitter pollution

Ever heard of the concept of glitter pollution? Spreading glitter-confetti at a party, adding sparkle to cheeks before a festival, glitter eyeshadow on new years eve… in most cases, it all equals to environmental glitter pollution.

And you guessed right, it’s because most glitter is plastic.

How does glitter harm the environment?

Most store-bought glitter products are virtually impossible to recycle due to its material composition (mix of plastic and aluminum). So, when the glitter is used, rinsed off, or spread by the wind, it pollutes the environment when it eventually ends up in water streams, seas, and oceans.

It sadly works the same way as when microplastics harm the environment.

How long does it take for glitter to decompose?

Most glitters are synthetic and non-bio-degradable. Once it’s in circulation it can take hundreds of years, some even say thousand years, before it’s decomposed.

Glitter ban

It has come to such a point where scientists and environmental organizations all over the world are calling for a ban on glitter. As most glitter is made of plastic, both the ones you buy in make-up stores and craft stores, many argue it should fall into the same category as microplastics.

There are not yet any countries that have inforced a glitter ban (November 2019), but some festivals (aka major glitter gatherings) have taken it upon themselves to do it.

3. Clean and Safe glitter alternatives

So lastly, for all sad glitter lovers out there, there is hope! There are actually people out there passionate about bringing a new generation of glitter to you. Glitter 2.0, glitter without microplastics and harmful chemicals. The ultimate, clean and eco-friendly, glitter dream.

What is eco glitter made of?

Also known as guilt-free glitter, eco-friendly glitter is made with biodegradable materials. This means that it can decompose in nature, for example in your compost bin or in the ocean. Eco glitter can be made completely plant-based, vegan, and cruelty-free, and come in both cosmetic grade and in edible versions.

What is biodegradable glitter made of?

Biodegradable glitter is often made of compostable plant-based fill, such as plant cellulose. Many companies advertise that they use sustainable and responsibly sourced materials, such as fibers of eucalyptus trees. Which is one of the fastest-growing trees there is.

Is biodegradable glitter good for the environment?

Compared to conventional, plastic-based glitter, YES. Fully biodegradable products are always preferable compared to plastic, which pollutes the environment and can take many hundred years to decompose.

However, without raining too much on the biodegradable-glitter-parade, we would like to carefully point to the fact that we can’t consume our way to save the environment. At large, we all need to drastically decrease our consumption of most things.

So maybe glitter, even though it’s the eco version, should be saved to the most special occasions, to make them even more sparkling?

What is edible glitter made of ?

Edible glitter is made of ingredients such as sugar, cornstarch, acacia, maltodextrin and color additives specifically approved for food, according to the FDA.

It’s not enough that the glitter is labeled non-toxic – edible glitter need to have a full ingredient list so you can always double-check so that it does not contain any plastics or toxic chemicals that can be harmful to eat.