067: Don’t use cosmetics containing microplastics

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL

Please don’t use cosmetics containing microplastics

In Europe, plastic microbeads in cosmetics have been banned, but there are still concerns about other plastics in cosmetics, and microbeads in many other countries, which is not only polluting our environment and food, but generating some serious health concerns about users too.

Please, when buying cosmetics, try and use brands that are certified to be free of plastic.

There are two main issues around them – the environment and your health.

Environmental issues

Many cosmetics contain plastic. Most, in fact.

This all ends up in our environment in microplastic form. The damage to our environment from microplastics is becoming clear and is enormous, causing pollution, and poisoning our wildlife. Microplastics are being ingested, in particular, by life at the bottom of the food chain, and is therefore contaminating our own food supplies through the meat and fish we eat.

There are two forms of plastic in cosmetics; microbeads and plastics as ingredients.

Microbeads are a kind of microplastic with specific function for scrubbing or exfoliating. In cosmetics, microplastic refers to all types of tiny plastic particles that are intentionally added to cosmetics and personal care products. They are often used as emulsifying agents or just as cheap fillers. These microplastics, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter them out which is why microplastics contribute to the plastic soup swirling around in our oceans.

Chemical plastic ingredients in cosmetics are hard to identify because manufacturers list them by their chemical names. These include words like these (source: https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/guide-to-microplastics/)

Acrylates, Butylene,
Carbomer, Copolymers, Crosspolymers,
Dimethicone, Ethylene,
Methacrylates, Nylon,
Polyacrylamide, Polyacrylate, Polypropylene,
Polyurethane, Polyvinyl, Propylene,
Polypropylene, PVP, Styrene
Tetrafluoroethylene, Vinyl Acetate

Mmmmm … sounds lovely on your lipstick, doesn’t it! Often, lipsticks contain microplastics like polyethylene or polyethylene-terephthalate (PET). People are likely to ingest lipstick through consuming food or licking their lips.

All of these chemicals are polluting our world. Campaigns to reduce the use of plastics and chemicals in cosmetics have made some progress, but there is a long, long way to go. You can help by only buying brands that contain no plastic.

Health concerns

Microplastics, and what are now referred to as nanoplastics (basically, even smaller particles!), are toxic to your own health. Increasingly, evidence is emerging of links to many health conditions including cancers.

For example, tests show that every time you use anti-wrinkle cream, you put about 90,000 plastic particles on your face! Some plastic particles in this facial cream are smaller than the average diameter of a human hair. Tests found particles that were as small as 1.6μm. If microplastics/nanoplastics like this enter our body, they have the potential to interfere with our organs. We know plastics are in our bodies because they are found in our faeces!

(source: https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/exposure-to-micro-nanoplastics/)


There are alternative out there, but you have to hunt around. some brands, for example, use minerals such as mica instead of microbeads, or ground coconut.

So shop for natural products, and look our for certification.

Brands might be self-certified as plastic-free, and you will have to make a judgement on whether to trust them. There are also schemes such as the beatthemicrobead certified zero scheme, which identifies “clean” brands through a red-amber-green rating. Learn more about this at https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/zero-products/.

The three links in this article all lead to further reading too.


Do your research, check your labels, and please think about the environment and your health when you buy cosmetics.

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