How To Safely Wear Glitter On Your Face

Because the only thing better than sparkle is safety.
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Alle
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Because the only thing better than sparkle is safety.

If there's one thing we love here at xoVain, it's glitter. Whether it's on our eyes, our lips, our cheeks, or our nails, nobody will EVER doubt our commitment to Sparkle Motion. But something we love better than sparkle is safety. And the he truth is that wearing glitter on your face is always a bit of risk. 

Nobody wants a scratched cornea, so I've put together this Glitter 101 guide to clue you in on some safety facts about this magical substance. 

Glitter: What Even Is It? 

As a kid, I thought that glitter was made of metal and ground rocks. That scared me a bit, but it didn’t stop me from smearing it all over my face. Ah, the ridiculousness of youth!

glitter

Not but two seconds after taking this photo, I spilled this all over the floor. Luckily, I love sparkly carpets!

While prehistoric humans loved stones like mica for their sparkly properties, modern glitter is made out of super-thin plastic or foils like mylar. This is painted with pigments that are safe for use in cosmetics, and then gets cut into thousands of teeny-tiny pieces.

Cosmetic vs. Craft Store 

Tattoo this over your heart, everyone: Never, EVER use craft glitter on your face!

cosmetic glitter

NO.

Cosmetic glitter is made of special plastic that is non-toxic, even if ingested in small quantities. It’s colored with pigment rather than dye, so that the color doesn’t leach out and stain. Cosmetic glitter is much finer than craft glitter, and the individual particles are usually rounded rather than hexagonal. It’s also made in different facilities with super-high standards of cleanliness--nobody wants a rusty machine cutting out the glitter that’s going in their lip gloss!

In short: Cosmetic glitter is designed especially to reduce the risk of irritating skin and eyes, but the FDA sees glitter as an unapproved color-additive, and it’s technically not legal for use in any cosmetic product for sale in the US. The EU says that it’s okay, though, as it considers the potential risks posed by cosmetic-grade glitter to be very small.

OK, But Is It Safe?

Mostly. Personally, I've been dousing myself in glitter since I was a teenager, and I've never had a single glitter-related injury.

That said, nothing in the world is 100% safe to put near your eyes. Glitter has the potential to irritate your peepers and scratch up your corneas, which is VERY painful--but eyes are delicate, and even a contact lens or a rogue eyelash can do the same thing. By using cosmetic-grade glitter you are significantly reducing this risk, but you can’t eliminate it altogether.

Worn on the skin, glitter is pretty safe. Wash your hands well after applying, and don’t commit any crimes while wearing it--glitter is so unique that it’s considered awesome forensic evidence.

best glitter makeup

Caught sparkle-handed!

In nail polish, glitter bonds with the lacquer to form a hard plate that really isn’t going anywhere. Applying loose glitter to nails isn’t hard, but it’s even easier to use polishes with sparkle already in them.

On lips, you’re likely fine. Cosmetic glitter won’t hurt you unless you eat a LOT of it, which you shouldn’t do. You should also be careful not to inhale it. And please don’t take those pills that promise to make your poop sparkle. That’s so gross.

So How Can I Wear It Safely?

Glitter should always be suspended in something--in a gel, on an adhesive, in a gloss, etc. Applying loose glitter directly to your person is a bad idea, as it won’t stick properly and you run the risk of inhaling it or transferring it elsewhere (i.e., into your eyes). So picking good products are very important!

If you’re using loose glitter, you need an adhesive medium to keep it in place. MAC’s Eyeliner Mixing Medium is the best for this, as it provides a quick-setting, budge-proof base for all your sparkle requirements. You can either mix the glitter into the medium first and then apply with a brush as liner, or tap the medium directly onto your skin and press glitter overtop with a flat brush. The choice is yours!

mac glitters

Gonna mix up some beautiful MAC Glitter looks with (l-r) Pink, MAC Mixing Medium, Brass Gold and Silver.

I also love Urban Decay’s Heavy Metal Eyeliners, which are fine glitters suspended in a gel base.

urban decay heavy metal liners

l-r: Midnight Cowboy, Stage Dive, Glam Rock.

You can wear it in a thin line, all across the lid or dabbed atop your cheeks and lips (I’ve even used it on my nails). The gel dries quickly and stays put, so that no glitter will accidentally fall into your eyes.

silver glitter eyes

This is Glam Rock layered overtop silver eye shadow. Sparkle!

My general rules for safe glitter use are mostly common sense: don't rub your face while wearing it, don't give it to kids, NEVER put glitter on your waterline, and to remove it really thoroughly.

Removal

Hate to say it, but rinsing your face in the shower isn’t good enough for glitter. Use an oil-based eye makeup remover on a cotton round or tissue, and wipe away from your eyes.

how to remove glitter makeup

Follow the arrow, and do not rub! Ever!

Use a fresh side or a new cotton round for each swipe until all the glitter is off your eyes. If it’s stuck between the lashes, use a cotton swab dipped in remover to get rid of it.

Depending on the type used, glitter nail polish can be a pain in the ass to remove. I fill a shot glass with nail polish remover, soak each fingernail for about 20 seconds, then scrub the polish off with a cotton ball.

how to remove glitter nail polish

Shot glass from my home town, hand modeling by MY MAD SKILLZ.

It takes a minute, but it works!

What if I Get Glitter In My Eyes?

If you feel something scratchy in your eyes--this applies to everything, not just glitter--for the love of god, DON’T RUB. Use gentle eye drops and irrigate the eye to rinse it out. If you think you’ve scratched your cornea, go see your doctor (preferably an ophthalmologist).

But Alle! I'm Still Nervous!

Nobody, not even me, will force you to use glitter in your makeup! Skipping it in favor of shimmery products is a great way to get some sparkle without the fear. But if you absolutely MUST embrace glitter, keep it above the eyebrow and along the cheekbone for the smallest possible risk.

glitter on cheeks

Well and truly away from the eyes!

  • What's your favorite way to wear glitter? 
  • What's your very best glitter safety tip? 
  • Do you have any foolproof ways to get glitter out of carpets? Asking for a friend (no I'm not).