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Plastic in Skincare Products

As we're celebrating #plasticfreejuly, it's a good moment to discuss plastics in skincare products. Not plastic in packaging, but plastic in the actual products, creams, moisturisers, scrubs... We're sure that all of you are already making efforts to do good to our planet by reducing plastic in our lives, recycling, buying refillables and so forth.


There, however, might be a possibility that you are unintentionally pouring plastic down your plughole. Things like glitter used in synthetic cosmetics, for example, is plastic. Lots of shampoos, cleansers and make-up contains liquid or microplastics that eventually end up to oceans, and can affect your health, too.


Not good.


Want to know how to avoid them? Here's how.




Liquid plastic and Microplastic

Microplastics are plastic particles that measure 5 millimetres or less in diameter. However, not all plastic in cosmetics is in visible form. A high number of cosmetics include Polyethylene (a form of plastic, synthetic polymer) in their formula in other forms to provide the product with different types of benefits.


Microplastics are used for multiple reasons. Plastic in skincare is there to, for example, increase thickness in things like shampoos, conditioners, creams, and lotions. The product appears more luxurious, smooth, and creamy. Silicones make you think that the product is working even though it is just temporary and at surface-level. They even create an outer layer on the skin, to make it feel silky and the hair so that it looks healthy and shiny. It's good to keep in mind though that polymers do not hold any nourishing properties.


Microplastics are literally everywhere. They are used as emulsifiers, to dilute in everyday skincare products like body and facial creams and cleansers, or to add waterproof properties to make-up products, to polish teeth and reduce oral odour, just to name a few.


Even though microplastics might create a wonderful skin-feel - the product you just applied makes your skin feel smooth and soft, that's not the case. On the contrary, polymers will create a barrier on your skin that prevents any treatment penetrating your skin. They will also clog your pores which can lead to impurities and dull-looking complexion. You would not want to pay for these effects, right?

How to spot microplastics in the products?


Spotting microplastics from the cosmetics products means a ton of ingredients list reading. It can feel like an exhausting and never-ending project, but after a short while, you'll start recognising the unwanted ingredients easily.


To help you out, we've listed down the most common synthetic polymers, but the list is not exhaustive.


Look out for these when you are scanning through the ingredient lists:

  • Polyethylene glycols (PEGs)

  • Carbomers

  • Polyimide-1/11

  • PVP/VA copolymers

  • Polyquaternium-6/7/11


You can use apps like Think Dirty to spot them.


The easiest way, of course, to avoid microplastics in your skincare products is to buy certified organic skincare as all plastic is banned in them and replaced, for example, with natural clays.

Check also Beat the Microbead for more info and to check your products.


Read more about The Plastic-Free July Challenge and how to take part.

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