Spotlight: In the discussion about “microplastics”, a distinction must be made between solid and dissolved plastics. The critical attitude towards microplastics concerns solid plastic particles. Dissolved polymers need to be distinguished from these and must be considered separately.

What does the term “microplastics” mean?

  • Microplastics: solid, water-insoluble plastic particles in cosmetics
  • Diameter: < 5 mm
  • Are added, more particularly, to peeling or cleansing products
  • Achieve a special cleansing effect

Dissolved polymers must be distinguished from fixed plastic particles (microplastics):

Dissolved polymers in cosmetics

  • Dissolved in the product, no particles
  • Contribute, according to the current state of knowledge, hardly or not at all to marine pollution by microplastic particles
  • Non-toxic
  • Are for the most part filtered out or degraded in wastewater treatment plants

What are the concerns?

  • Fixed plastic particles could be mistaken for food by sea creatures, thus entering the food chain and having an adverse effect on the “sea” ecological system
  • Contaminants could adhere to solid plastic particles and be released later
  • According to experts from the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) the share of microplastics originating from cosmetics in the total occurrence of microplastics in the seas is approximately 1%.

What are the approaches to solve the problem?

  • Far-reaching renunciation of solid, water-insoluble microplastics
  • Voluntary commitment of the cosmetics manufacturers: replace microplastic particles in rinse-off cosmetic products by 2020 with alternative substances

Current development trends in the cosmetics industry:

  • Reduction of the amount of solid, non-degradable plastic particles from polyethylene in rinse-off cosmetic products by 97%
  • Toothpastes no longer include any plastic particles

What about microplastics in so-called leave-on products?

  • Leave-on products remain after their application on the skin, such as make-up or powder
  • Are typically not rinsed off but disposed of via household refuse by removing the make-up