What you should know about MicroPlastics


Microplastics resurfaced in the news this week with a new study discovering microplastics in human placentas. You might have heard about Microplastics back in 2015 when the Obama administration passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. Or if you’re following news about pollution, microplastics tend to be included in the mix due to their effects on aquatic life. So what exactly are Microplastics and how do they affect your health? 

What are MicroPlastics?

Microplastics are literally tiny pieces of plastic. They are found in most products on the market today specifically within cosmetic products. You have probably seen microbeads a form of microplastics in exfoliating scrubs and other personal care products, however, there’s more than just microbeads. Microplastics are found in a variety of cosmetics such as shower gels, hairsprays, baby products as well as a variety of makeup products. The issue with microplastics is that because of their size it’s nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. 

Why are microplastics used in cosmetics?

Microplastics are used in cosmetics for various reasons, primarily to assist with the feel and finish of the product. Silicones, for example, are used to give makeup products a slippery, soft feeling that is desirable amongst consumers when applying foundations or primers. They can act as a bulking agent which means the thickening of the product, in order for the product to flow as desired. 

How do Microplastics affect your health?

Consistent evidence has proven that excessive exposure to the chemicals within microplastics and additives may lead to a variety of health complications. 

For example, Phthalates are a group of chemicals that can be found in hundreds of cosmetics such as nail polishes and hair sprays and are a type of microplastic. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and may cause certain hormone-related cancers.


How to avoid microplastics in cosmetics

Believe it or not, microplastics are avoidable.  Natural cosmetics have dramatically changed the market in the past decade offering clean formulations, toxic-free colors, and textures that have natural, biodegradable ingredients that won’t have a detrimental effect on the environment. The best way to avoid microplastics is to of course read the label however labels with uber scientific names can be confusing so here is a list of ingredients to avoid:


Microplastic ingredients to avoid

Ingredient  What it does

Nylon-12 (polyamide-12)

Bulking, viscosity controlling, opacifying (e.g. wrinkle creams)


Bulking agent, viscosity controlling

Poly(butylene terephthalate

Film formation, viscosity controlling

Poly(ethylene isoterephthalate

Bulking agent

Poly(ethylene terephthalate)

Adhesive, film formation, hair fixative; viscosity controlling, anesthetic agent, (e.g. glitters in bubble bath, makeup)

Poly(methyl methylacrylate)

Sorbent for delivery of active ingredients

Poly(pentaerythrityl terephthalate)

Film formation

Poly(propylene terephthalate)

Emulsion stabilizing, skin conditioning


Abrasive, film-forming, viscosity controlling, binder for powders


Bulking agent, viscosity increasing agent


Film formation

Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon)

Bulking agent, slip modifier, binding agent, skin conditioner


Film formation (e.g. facial masks, sunscreen, mascara)


Viscosity controlling

Acrylates copolymer

Binder, hair fixative, film formation, suspending agent

Allyl stearate/vinyl acetate copolymers

Film formation, hair fixative

Ethylene/methylacrylate copolymer

Film formation

Ethylene/acrylate copolymer

Film formation in waterproof sunscreen,  lipstick, hand creams)

Butylene/ethylene/styrene copolymer

Viscosity controlling

Styrene acrylates copolymer

Aesthetic, colored microspheres (e.g. makeup)

Trimethylsiloxysilicate (silicone resin)

Film formation (e.g. color cosmetics, skin-care, sun care)


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