Microplastics in your skin care products and cosmetics

“Do your skin care products actually contain microplastics?”, my husband asked out of the blue.
“Huh what?”, I asked in surprise.
“Personal care products can contain microplastics that are harmful to the environment and your body”, he continued.
“Uhm… I don’t know. But hey, how do you know this?”
“There are signs along the road informing about this.”

Ok, I really never noticed that. And frankly, I haven’t come across those signs yet. Or maybe I should pay more attention. Anyway this ‘microplastics in cosmetica’ do got my attention. As someone who tries to live as environmentally conscious as possible, this wasn’t quite right for me. Why are there microplastics in my personal care products? What effects does that have on my body? And above all it’s very environmentally unfriendly.

Were you aware that your cosmetics may contain microplastics? If not, I’ll explain all about it.

What are microplastics?

Olena Sakhnenko via Getty Images

Microplastics are plastic that disintegrates into smaller parts in the environment, like tiny plastic beads. They are less than half a centimeter and are barely visible to the eye. They are a result of wear and tear on, for example, synthetic clothing or tire shavings.

But microplastics are also deliberately added to products, such as cosmetics, skin care and paints. In skin care products, plastic is mainly used as filling material, because it is liquid. This ensures, for example, that a cream spreads better, the texture improves and that the jar is nice and full. Microplastics can also be found in body scrubs and tooth paste.

Microplastics contained in cosmetics are flushed down the drain and end up in the ocean. That can be up to 100.000 particles during a body scrub! In the ocean they become part of the ‘plastic soup’.

The Plastic Soup
Magnus Larsson via Getty Images Pro

Are microplastics harmful to your body?

Kseniia Zatevakhina via Getty Images

When you use makeup and / or skin care products you expose your body to large amounts of microplastics. Do you use an anti-wrinkle cream? Then every time you use it, 90.000 microplastic particles get on your face. And lipstick also contain plastic. When lipstick gets on your food (and you eat it) you ingest plastic particles.

Is this harmful? Probably! A lot of research is currently being done into the effects of microplastics on your body. What researchers know so far is that it can cause hormone disruption, cause organ problems and can cause development delay in children. Worst of all, many types of microplastics have never been studied!

How do I know if there is plastic in my skin care products / cosmetics?

You can check the ingredients list to see if there is plastic in your skin care products or cosmetics. Yet that is a difficult job to find out, because more than 500 ingredients contain microplastic. The most common microplastic ingredients are:

  • Polyethelyne (PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
  • Nylon (PA)
  • Polyurethane
  • Acrylates copolymer

Fortunately, there is an app that allows you to scan the barcode of your products and find out if they contain microplastic. You can download the Beat the Microbead App in the Play Store and App Store. This way you can easily and quickly contribute to a plastic-free world.

And what’s great, 15 countries have already taken steps to ban microplastics: Canada, USA, UK, Scotland, Wales, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Italy, Finland, South Africa, India, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand. Hopefully more countries will follow!

Front Photo by Adil Janbyrbayev on Unsplash


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