Plastic: The Hidden Beauty Ingredient

young woman applying plastic on her hair

9 out of every 10 cosmetic products contain forever polluting microplastics. We came to this conclusion by analysing 7,704 cosmetic and care products of the most popular brands of the four biggest cosmetic producers in Europe.

In terms of regulations for cosmetics, the current restriction proposal to ban ‘intentionally added microplastics’ might have the opposite effect. If certain ingredients are not included in the definition of ‘microplastics’ within the upcoming legislation to restrict intentionally added microplastics, producers will be allowed to keep using them. Scientists are worried about these exclusions as well.In the mood for some stats and figures on the matter? Find the full report below.

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What are microbeads?

red lipstick with glitter plastic particles inside

Microbeads are a kind of microplastic with a 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.

Microplastics in our care products are not limited to microbeads. The term ‘microplastic’ is not consistently defined but is considered to refer to small, mostly microscopic particles made of a synthetic polymer. They are used in both rinse-off and leave-on products & in cosmetics and personal care products. From sunscreen and shampoos to make-up and deodorants, microplastics are used in all kinds of products.

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Guide to microplastics

ban microbeads in cosmetics

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 in form of a traffic light system.

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Here are 4 ways you can quickly make a difference in the fight against microplastics pollution cause by cosmetics and personal care products.

young man brushing his teeth with plastic toothpaste
Plastic: the hidden beauty ingredient
Want to learn about microplastics in cosmetics and the upcoming legislation on intentionally added microplastics? Click to read our latest report.
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Zero Plastic Inside Brands
Over 150 brands have already gotten the 'Zero Plastic Inside' logo for producing microplastic-free products.
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Check your products for plastics
Plastic in cosmetics is a design error. Are your products free of plastic ingredients? Search our cosmetic database.
Support us with a donation
With you support, we can better our apps, inform people about (micro)plastic pollution and drive them to make the right choice.


Since the beginning of Beat the Microbead campaign, 19 countries have taken steps to ban of the countries that banned microbeads

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Support us

We are a people-funded organisation. Your support and donations are crucial for us to continue our fight for a cleaner and safer cosmetics. All the proceeds are used to better our tools, Beat the microbead app and support our mission.

Do you want to help us change the cosmetics industry for the better? Make a donation today!


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