What are microbeads?

Microbeads are a kind of microplastic with specific function for scrubbing or exfoliating. In cosmetics, “microplastic” refers to all types of tiny plastic particles (smaller than 5mm) that are intentionally added to cosmetics and personal care products. They are often used as emulsifying agents or just as cheap fillers. 

Why are microplastics a problem? 

These microplastics, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter them outthat is how microplastics contribute to the ‘Plastic Soup’ swirling around in our oceans 

Sea animals absorb or eat microplastics; these particles can then be passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we also ingest microplasticsMicroplastics are not biodegradable and once they enter the (marine) environment, they are almost impossible to remove. 

Using body washes or cosmetics that contain microplastics can put the ocean, ourselves, and our children at risk!  

Exposure to microplastics

Up until now, there has been consistent evidence indicating that exposure to plastics and the additives therein may lead to a variety of health complications. We know that plastic particles have been found in human feces, but what does plastic actually do to our bodies?  

Phthalates, for example, are a group of chemicals that can be found in hundreds of cosmetics such as nail polishes and hair sprays. These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors and may cause certain hormone-related cancers. We already know that many additives in plastic are considered extremely harmful, but there is no complete understanding of the effects of plastic itself on human health yet.  

The health impacts of plastic in all its forms should be a major concern for all of us. We are exposing ourselves to chemicals that are proving to be dangerous to our health and to the health of our fellow species. This is alarming!

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Guide to microplastics

In 2012, we started campaigning against the use of microbeads in everyday products. In 2015, with the research conducted by UNEP and TAUW, we came across a list of 67 microplastic ingredients to be aware of.

Today, with the restriction proposal by European Chemical Agency (ECHA), we are aware of more than 500 microplastic ingredients widely used in cosmetics and personal care products. Not only that, but we are now also targeting more than 100 “sceptical microplastic” ingredients. Some of these ingredients indicate toxicity to human health, some to aquatic life, and for others there is not enough information available.  

All this information can be quite daunting, that’s why we created this easy Guide to Microplastics in Cosmetics for you.  

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Look for the zero

There are cosmetic and personal care brands that are entirely free of any known plastic ingredients. Brands and companies that do not use microplastic ingredients in their products can carry the Zero Plastic Inside logo. 

At a glance, this logo makes it clear to consumers that a product is guaranteed 100% free of microplastic ingredients. We certify brands for your convenience, so that you can use cosmetics and personal care products without worrying about your health or the health of the environment. 

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Impact

SINCE THE BEGINNING OF BEAT THE MICROBEAD, 15 COUNTRIES HAVE TAKEN STEPS TO BAN MICROBEADS. 

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