Plastic in beauty products not only pollutes our waterways and causes problems for ocean life but it enters our body through our skin and may create havoc with our hormones.
You may unknowingly be adding to the plastic problem in our oceans and waterways because of plastics in the products you use. Just as concerning is how these plastics affect your health.
Micro or nano plastics are used as ingredients in products we use on our skin and around our home. They are a relatively cheap ingredient and are used for a number of reasons – a bulking agent, for controlled timed release of active ingredients, to prolong shelf life or as an abrasive or exfoliant (to name a few).
Plastics as an exfoliant are known as micro-beads. Micro-beads are tiny plastic beads which companies add to face washes and scrubs. They can also be found in toothpaste.
Micro-beads in beauty products have become an international concern.
The problem with micro-beads is that they don’t degrade or dissolve in water. They are not captured by wastewater treatments after washing down drains so they end up in our waterways.
Once in the water, micro-beads are impossible to remove. They can be damaging to marine life, the environment, and human health. The only way to reduce their impact is to prevent them from entering the environment in the first place.
The US is one country which has banned micro-beads but here in Australia, our government opted for a voluntary phase-out which began in 2016. More countries are stepping up and banning or demanding phase-out of micro-beads following studies on waterways around the world.
In 2017, there was an independent assessment of personal care and cosmetic products sold in supermarkets and pharmacies in Australia which found that about 94% of the 4400 products inspected were microbead-free. However, since we are relying on companies to remove them voluntarily (not ideal!) we still need to be vigilant and check the ingredients list.
You can read more about micro-beads HERE.
So let’s discuss the other reason why we don’t want plastics in our beauty products.
Other than micro-beads, there are other micro-plastics which can be found in lipstick, eyeliner, sunscreen, deodorant, nail polish and other home cleaning and care products.
The ingredients to look out for are:
- Polyethylene (PE)
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
- Nylon (PA)
Why be concerned about plastic on the skin?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) list both Phthalates and BPA in their dirty dozen list of endocrine disruptors, both which can be found in plastic. The EWG explain “There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.”
Although more research is needed, there are some facts we can’t ignore, and as explained by the Plastic Health Coalition, it’s the constant unwitting exposure to plastics that we need to be concerned about, especially at the developmental stages if life.
Discoveries surrounding plastic which the Plastic Health Coalition highlight includes:
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as BPA are possibly related to an increasing number of disorders, from reproductive and development issues to an increased chance of hormone-related cancers.
- Although BPA has been banned from an increasing number of products, alternative bisphenols belong to the same chemical group and can be expected to be equally harmful to health. Beware the greenwashing. “BPA free” does not mean EDC free!
- Children born now are much more exposed to plastics than earlier generations and the harmful substances we are exposed to accumulate in the body over time.
- Nanoparticles may cross cell membranes and spread through the entire body. Among the expected consequences is behavioral change.
You can read more research on the Plastic Health Coalition website .
The message is clear. We need to avoid endocrine disruptors which can be found in plastic.
Our skin absorbs products we use and if they contain plastic ingredients these can accumulate in our bodies and affect our health.
Reality is we can’t avoid all plastics but we can control some exposure by choosing products containing only natural ingredients.
Simple steps to avoiding plastics in beauty products:
- Don’t buy products with micro-beads – instead look for products that use natural exfoliant ingredients like sugar, coffee and oats.
- Avoid products listing ingredients with phthalate and ethylene in their name. See the full list of plastic containing ingredients above.
- Visit THIS WEBSITE which lists products still containing plastics.
- Download THIS APP to scan products when out shopping.
- Continue to be aware of greenwashing and buy products that only contain natural and organic ingredients.
- Beat the Microbead
- The Plastic Health Coalition
- The National Geographic
- Environmental Working Group