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Cosmetics without microplastics: How to avoid the beauty plastic trap

Microplastics are omnipresent. It arises, among other things, from the decomposition of plastic packaging, from tire abrasion and comes off when synthetic textile fibers are washed in the washing machine. From there it ends up in our waters, where marine animals consume it and finally in our food. What many people are not aware of is that tiny plastic particles are also mixed into many conventional cosmetic products such as shower gels, peelings and make-up and are very difficult for laypeople to identify as such. In this article you will find out how you can recognize the affected beauty products and what options there are to design your daily cosmetic care without microplastics.

Use cosmetics without microplastics with a clear conscience

Photo by KoolShooters and Jill Burrow from Pexels

Cosmetics without microplastics

Let's call the child by its name: There is still no legal ban on microplastics in the EU Cosmetics Regulation. This leaves cosmetics companies free to voluntarily avoid using plastic in their products. A step that some manufacturers have used to garner extremely media attention. However, since there is (still) no general definition of what counts as microplastics, there is often little more than hot air behind the declared ban on plastic:

Although some companies do not use solid microplastics, they keep the use of liquid plastic open as a back door . This leads us to the question:

What is microplastic actually?

Plastic, as we colloquially call synthetic plastics , consists - regardless of its size - of the raw material petroleum . Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are smaller than 5 millimeters and are therefore often barely visible to the naked eye. A distinction is made between small plastic particles that are deliberately produced to be added to cosmetics, for example, and those that are created when large plastic products decompose.

In addition to these solid plastic particles, there is also industrially produced liquid plastic , e.g. B. in the form of waxes or gels.

How harmful are microplastics in cosmetics?

The main problem with microplastics is that they are difficult or impossible to degrade and cannot be completely filtered in sewage treatment plants. Among other things, it enters the ecological cycle via water bodies. Animals, especially sea creatures, absorb it through the water and ultimately it ends up in our bodies through food. Microplastics have already been detected in human stool and tissue samples, as well as in soil and air. The long-term effects on people and nature have not yet been sufficiently clarified scientifically. What is certain, however, is that the plastic particles often contain chemicals that are harmful to health (e.g. plasticizers, stabilizers) and bind other pollutants from the environment .

Which cosmetics contain microplastics and why?

Microplastics can be found in pretty much every type of conventional personal and beauty care product . Products that are not washed off immediately, such as creams and lotions or make-up, are particularly affected. But the tiny plastic particles are also often added to directly washable care products such as liquid soap, toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel or peelings. Sometimes they simply serve as a cheap filler or binding agent for other ingredients. With some products, however, they are intended to produce a very specific (beauty) effect, even if this is more apparent than real.

Microplastics and their effect in cosmetics:

  • Peelings and shower gel : Abrasives provide an emery effect; the skin feels softer.
  • Shampoo and conditioner : The plastic film that covers the hair smoothes it and makes it easier to comb.
  • Creams and lotions : Opacifying agents make the texture look extra creamy and ensure the skin feels supple.
  • Make-up : Plastic beads ensure better adhesion of powders and a shiny effect in eye shadow and lipstick.

📖​ ​We have compiled even more numbers, data and facts about microplastics in cosmetics for you in this article: This is how much plastic is in your cosmetics.

How do I recognize microplastics in cosmetics?

In the EU and Switzerland, cosmetics manufacturers are obliged to list all the ingredients in their products on the packaging, including plastics. Namely in the so-called INCI list (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients). However, by using the Latin or botanical names of the substances, these are often so obscure that they create more question marks rather than provide clarification.

Plastic checklist

Ingredients with the prefix “ Poly- ” or the endings “ -oxan/-oxane ” should ring alarm bells for you in the future. Because behind it there are silicones and other plastics, some of which are even suspected of being carcinogenic, such as: B. the silicone substitute Polyquaternium. Here is our little microplastic ABC , in which we list the names of the most commonly contained plastics in cosmetics and their abbreviations.

The nasty plastic particles are hidden behind all of these names:

Plastics in cosmetics abbreviation

Acrylate copolymer

(AC)

Acrylate Crosspolymer

(ACS)

Dimethiconol

Methicone

Polyamides

(PA, nylon)

Polyacrylates

(PA)

Polymethyl methacrylate

(PMMA)

Polyquaternium

(PQ)

Polyethylene

(PE)

Polyethylene glycol

(PEG)*

Polyethylene terephthalate

(PET)

Polypropylene

(PP)

Polypropylene glycol

(PPG)*

Polystyrene

(PS)

Polyurethanes

(PURE)

Siloxanes

Silsesquioxanes


* especially compounds that are difficult to biodegrade, recognizable by values ​​above 50 (e.g. PEG-120)
Source: Greenpeace, Checklist: Remove plastic make-up | Greenpeace

Tip : Print out this overview for your wallet and take a quick look at the list of ingredients before your next purchase at the drugstore.

Brand and product guide

If you want to subject the cosmetics you have already purchased to a microplastic check but don't want to go through all the ingredients individually, we have another tip. In the purchasing guide from the Federal Government for Environmental and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) you will find a summary of many cosmetic brands and products that contain microplastics.

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Natural cosmetics: cosmetics without microplastics

Now that you have some tools at hand to identify and avoid beauty products containing microplastics, the question arises about the alternatives. And the magic word is clearly: natural cosmetics . Because it does not use plastics in care products and is therefore less harmful to the environment than many conventional cosmetics.

Certified cosmetics with a seal

Certified natural cosmetics with a seal are guaranteed to be free of petroleum-based microplastics. The most well-known and trustworthy seals include Demeter, Cosmos, Natrue, Ecocert and BDIH . Plastics made from renewable raw materials are, strictly speaking, not banned in natural cosmetics (e.g. polylactic acid), but they are just as difficult to degrade in the environment as petroleum-based plastics. Fortunately, there are hardly any natural cosmetics manufacturers who take advantage of this loophole.

FIVE natural cosmetics

Regardless of whether it is our make-up remover , facial oils , shea cream or facial serum – all of our care products are based on natural raw materials. Without a lot of frills, but with a few selected and high-quality ingredients. What exactly is our FIVE philosophy ? We'll tell you!

Natural cosmetics without microplastics at FIVE means:

  • Healthy cosmetics because they protect and care for the skin with a maximum of 5 ingredients per product without overtaxing it. Plastic is not one of them!
  • Plant-based cosmetics that rely on raw materials that are as natural and organic as possible instead of petroleum-based plastics.
  • Sustainable cosmetics because they contain no microplastics and are 100% climate neutral.
  • Vegan cosmetics that neither contain animal substances nor are tested on animals and do not contain any plastic particles that endanger the ecological cycle.
  • Transparent cosmetics because we have no dubious ingredients to hide. All ingredients are printed large on our jars and bottles .

Avoid packaging plastic

Plastic is not only harmful as an ingredient in cosmetics, but of course also in their packaging. In order to avoid as much waste as possible, we at FIVE do not use folding boxes , which usually end up in the trash after being opened for the first time. You will find all legal information printed directly on the product itself. The blue glass containers are recyclable and also protect the products from UV light, making them last longer.

Home remedies: Do it yourself

In addition to commercially available beauty products, it sometimes helps to resort to well-known home remedies based on the motto “what your grandmother knew”. Not all types of creams, lotions or even make-up can be made by laypeople. But it works wonderfully with peelings or facial masks and baths .

💡​ For example, we explain how you can easily prepare a cleansing clay mask or a chamomile steam bath with a clarifying effect in this article: Diet for pimples: How to reduce impurities .

In 4 steps to cosmetics without microplastics

As you can see, using cosmetics without microplastics for daily body and beauty care is definitely not impossible . With a few simple tricks and tips, you will be able to avoid falling into the nasty microplastic trap of many cosmetics manufacturers in the future. If you follow these four steps, nothing stands in the way of a plastic-free beauty routine :

  1. Check according to ingredients (INCI list): What terms do microplastics represent?
  2. Brand check (BUND purchasing guide): Which products from which brands contain plastics?
  3. Rely on natural cosmetics : Recognizable by certified cosmetics with test and quality seals.
  4. Rediscover the good old home remedies : make your own face masks and peelings.
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