“9/10 Beauty Products Contain Micro-plastic.” True Or False?

New research by the Plastic Soup Foundation shows that 87% of products created by 10 of the best-selling cosmetics brands contain this ingredient: micro-plastic.

It’s estimated that every minute, seven+ kilos of micro-plastics from cosmetic and personal care products finds itself in the environment across Europe. The Plastic Soup Foundation have highlighted this issue through their recent report.

The Plastic Soup Foundation is an environmental not-for-profit that is against plastic pollution. Their mission? NO MORE plastic waste in our water, or in our bodies. Simple.

With the cosmetics industry showing a complete lack of transparency towards their micro-plastic use in products, the Plastic Soup Foundation collected data on personal care products, using their ‘Beat the Microbead’ app. The app enables consumers to simply scan a product to see if it contains micro-plastic (or not), and the data from the product is then collected by the app, before being placed on a database, – ready to be assessed.  

This first-of-its-kind study by the Plastic Soup Foundation – focused on ten household brands: L’Oréal Paris, Elvive, Garnier, Nivea, Gillette, Oral-B, Head & Shoulders, Dove, and Rexona and Axe, from Europe’s four largest cosmetics manufacturers: L’Oreal, Beiersdorf, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. And of the ten brands investigated, 7704 different products formed the report’s database.

Unfortunately, the report ‘Plastic – The Hidden Beauty Ingredient’ reveals a sad and grim reality: 87% of these products contained plastic, with only 13% found to be free of micro-plastic.

Sadly, there has been little action to tackle micro-plastic use. And as the EU prepares to introduce new restrictions on the use of micro-plastic in products such as cosmetics, detergents, and pesticides, the Plastic Soup Foundation warns that this legislation might not go far enough.

With debates expected to take place in June, whatever legislative changes are made, are to be implemented by the end of 2022. However, these changes might be based on the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) definition of micro-plastic, which excludes the majority of synthetic polymers.

The ECHA definition will see plastic particles smaller than 0.1 micrometre excluded from the law, and this would omit all water-soluble, semi-solid, liquid, and ‘biodegradable’ polymers. If this is the case, the legislation would apply to less than 4% of the micro-plastics used in cosmetics.

The current proposed definition by ECHA will only tackle a fraction of the problem, as long as it does not cover all types of microplastics,” said the Plastic Soup Foundation’s Founder, Maria Westerbos.

Environmental campaigners are now calling for ALL synthetic polymers to be examined for potential harm, BEFORE they’re allowed in products on the European market. The warning is that not enough is known about the biodegradability and the toxicity of synthetic polymers on both the environment, and… the people that use them.

Maria believes that “far too little is known about these synthetic polymers to allow them unregulated access to people living across Europe. What we do know is that these products, used day-in day-out, contain plastic.” Meanwhile, scientists are also becoming concerned over the consequences of human exposure to plastic and synthetic polymers.

Last month, researchers from the VU University Amsterdam, and the VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (VUmc) revealed that they had found the presence of synthetic polymers in human blood for the first time, in almost 80% of test subjects. Shocking. And with little known about the potential risk and toxicity, campaigners are adamant that they MUST be kept off the market, until clearer data is available.

The effects of micro-plastic pollution are very serious, and we share the preoccupation that without containing this phenomenon, the effects would harm the planet and its inhabitants. No one should underestimate our exposure to micro-plastics. If you carefully read the labels, polyethylene, nylon, polypropylene, and many other pollutants – come in very high percentages in cosmetics,” said Piernicola Pedicini MEP, Group of the Greens/European Alliance.

You can find out more about the Plastic Soup Foundation here, and ‘Plastic – The Hidden Beauty Ingredient’ can be found here.