12 Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Glitter For A Green Sparkle

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If you’re looking for all the fun of glitter, without the microplastic-based litter, then I’ve got lots of eco-friendly alternatives to glitter for you to try. Whether it’s for craft projects or cosmetics, there are heaps of sustainable alternatives out there.

Glitter has long been a staple in arts and crafts and cosmetics. Whether it’s adding a bit of shimmer and sparkle to our faces or our artwork, for years we’ve all been reaching for the glitter.

However, traditional glitter is typically composed of microplastics. These are teeny-tiny pieces of plastic that when washed off our hands or bodies can be harmful to ocean and aquatic life.

As well as being considered a microplastic, most traditional glitter is made of a blend of aluminium and a plastic called PET. PET can break down to release chemicals that disrupt hormones in the bodies of both animals and humans. These hormones can in turn cause serious illnesses.

It’s hard to believe that something so fun and seemingly innocuous as glitter could harbour such environmental destruction. Yet it does all whilst leaving behind a sparkly trail. In response to these concerns, in October 2023 traditional glitter was banned across the European Union.

What About Biodegradable Glitter?

Biodegradable glitter might sound like a promising alternative to traditional glitter, however, it’s not all it cracked up to be.

Studies have found that biodegradable glitter causes the same damage to rivers as standard glitter, so it’s not something I recommend.

12 Sustainable Alternatives To Glitter To Try

Jars of blue, silver and dark pink glitter on a peach surface, with a blue text box that reads clever eco-friendly alternatives to glitter to try.

If you can’t live in a world without glitter, but don’t want to damage the environment then fear not. I have twelve eco-friendly glitter alternatives for all your sparkly cosmetic and crafting needs:

Sand & Food Colouring

YouTube video

Adding food colouring to sand is one of the best sustainable alternatives to glitter. Simply add a few drops of liquid food colouring to play sand and leave it to dry overnight. By morning, you’ve got a naturally sparkly material for all kinds of craft projects.

I have tried this technique before with my kids and found that coloured sand works really well for crafting. What I did find is that you do need to use liquid food colouring. The gel food colouring that you can buy just doesn’t work as well as the liquid stuff. It’s much easier to get an even coating with the liquid colouring.

Sea Salt & Food Colouring

Sea salt that’s been dyed with food colouring also makes for a sustainable glitter substitute. If you want to give it a go, then here’s a handy DIY to make glitter from sea salt and food colouring.

I have also tried this method out. What I would say is that using sea salt as an eco-friendly glitter alternative is easy to make, but I think is best suited for kids’ craft projects. It just doesn’t sparkle quite like regular glitter. But if you just want something colourful for kids to paste onto a drawing or a creation made from the contents of your recycling bin then it does the job perfectly fine.

Epsom Salts & Food Colouring

Various shapes of Epsom salt glitter in bowls the shape of a flower.
c/o The Dancing Soap Dish

Epsom salts can also be used to make sparkly glitter that’s kind to the environment. The Dancing Soap Dish has a really useful tutorial on how to make this glitter using Epsom salts.

Raw Sugar & Food Colouring

YouTube video

Sugar also makes for a great eco-friendly glitter substitute. Whilst you can use any type of sugar, I’ve found that using raw sugar (also known as turbinado sugar) gives the best results. It’s a whole lot more sparkly, plus it doesn’t dissolve as easily as refined sugar. This means it does hold up a bit better with glue – although I would use it with Pritt-Stick rather than PVA glue.

Synthetic Mica

Dark haired person with sparkly gold glitter-free eyeshadow from Lush
c/o Lush

Mica offers a dazzling eco-friendly alternative to traditional glitter and is ideal if you’re looking to make your skin sparkle sustainably.

However, conventional mica is mined from rocks – and is associated with illegal mining and child labour. Instead, look for synthetic mica, from brands such as Lush, who offer all the sparkle without the bad bits. Alternatively, look for ethically sourced mica to ensure sustainability and fair labour practices.

Face Paint

Person having their face painted with blue paint

Swap traditional glitter for eco-friendly face paint to add a bold pop of colour to your festival looks, or theatrical performances. Choose water-based, non-toxic formulas that don’t contain glitter or mica – unless it’s synthetic or ethically sourced – for a safe and sustainable sparkle.

Dried Flower Petals

Dried flower petals may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to glitter alternatives, however, it is an eco-friendly way to add a splash of colour and texture to your kid’s artwork.

There’s no need to buy any dried flowers. You can keep it cheap and cheerful by sustainably harvesting a few herbs and flowers from your garden (making sure to leave plenty of flowers for bees and other pollinators) and then drying them out.

Once dried, you can pop the petals into little jars, and your kid can have lots of fun choosing between the different colours – just like they would with glitter.

Oats & Food Colouring

Oats make for another cheap eco-friendly glitter alternative for kids craft projects. Simply dye the oats with a little liquid food colouring, leave them to dry, and you’re done! It doesn’t sparkle, but it does add texture to mini masterpieces.


If you have a bag of dried rice to hand then you can use it to make glitter. Place some dried rice in a bowl (not the boil-in-the-bag or microwave stuff) and then add some food colouring. Spread it out on an oven dish to dry overnight, and the next morning you have a glitter substitute. It’s not as sparkly as using sand, but, like oats, it’s a good way to add texture.

Whilst I leave the grains as they are, I have heard of people putting the dried rice in a food processor to break the grains down into tiny pieces before dyeing them. This could be worth a try!


Halloween pumpkin pictures decorated with dried lentils, as an eco-friendly alternative to glitter.
c/o Fun Littles

I have really fond memories of making pictures with dried lentils when I was at primary school. We would glue them down onto our pictures with PVA glue. Once the glue was dry, we’d then paint the lentils. It was an easy and effective way to add texture to our paintings without using glitter.

As I was looking for examples of this type of art, I was delighted to come across Fun Littles. They’ve gone further, and have cleverly used red and green dried lentils to make pumpkin art. It’s made for a great sustainable substitute for glitter, whilst still being fun for kids.


c/o How Wee Learn

Similar to using lentils, you could use seeds instead of glitter for a more natural approach to crafting. Anything from pumpkin seeds to sunflower seeds, dried corn or spelt could be used. Simply stick, paint and repeat for fun works of art.

Check out How Wee Learn for these beautiful works of art that have been created using a mix of seeds and lentils.

Hole-Punched Recycled Paper

Person holding a handful of recycled paper confetti - ready to use as an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to glitter.

Finally, you can give new life to old magazines, newspapers, unwanted paintings or drawings, or cardboard by transforming them into colourful confetti using a hole punch. You can then use this to add colour to arts and crafts projects while reducing waste.

The Bottom Line

Glitter may look fun, but even biodegradable options are an environmental nightmare. The next time you’re looking to add a touch of sparkle to your face or body, consider synthetic mica or non-toxic face paints. And when it comes to adding glitz to works of art, you are spoiled for choice. From sand and seeds to recycled paper and dried flowers, there are a host of options that are gentle on the earth.

If you find any more eco-friendly glitter alternatives then do let me know in the comments below. Alternatively, if you find an altogether different alternative to glitter then I would love to hear about it!

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