Jul 7, 2022
In this Green Beauty Opinion, Formula Botanica CEO and podcast host Lorraine Dallmeier voices her concerns about the pervasive use of microplastics in cosmetics.
Following on from the previous guest interview with Madhuri Prabhakar of the campaigning organisation the Plastic Soup Foundation, this short opinion episode is a call to action to all beauty consumers to spread the word about just how worrying microplastics are. Because most of us just don’t know that they lurk in the majority of our everyday personal care products.
These liquid plastics – or synthetic polymers – are in everyday products from paints and sealants to shower gels and lipsticks. Their traces are found throughout the world from raindrops to our blood stream. Lorraine points out that there is a place for plastic, but not in cosmetics. It is used far too much and to the extent that we could say we have ‘plastified’ our lives.
But the beauty industry is massive and powerful and has spent decades convincing us that the performance of a cosmetic product is paramount. Microplastics are synthetic polymers with low water solubility that enhance glide, skin feel and stability in cosmetics. As nanoplastics they can enter the body, and they also get washed off to enter the food chain and persist in aquatic environments.
With legislation on micro- and nanoplastics pending in the European Union, cosmetics' trade bodies have hit back at calls for a ban on microplastics in personal care formulations. Their argument seems to focus on semantics. Their definition of microplastics would provide a loophole to ensure their beloved synthetic polymers can remain in formulations.
Lorraine stresses the need for the precautionary principle to come into play in this debate with action and legislation to remove microplastics from cosmetics before the extent of their harm is felt – and proved. The UK’s Royal Society of Chemists says that industries should seek to move away from a ‘take, make and dispose’ model of manufacture in order to reduce the amount of liquid synthetic polymers in use. As Lorraine has said many times on Green Beauty Conversations, the mainstream beauty industry thrives on this very cycle of manufacture.
In summing up, Lorraine challenges us all to spread the word about hidden microplastics in cosmetics so more beauty consumers are aware of their choices and can lobby the microplastic-loving beauty giants.