Microplastics present in 90 per cent of cosmetic products, report finds

Lipsticks, shampoos, suncream, moisturisers and deodorants were all found to contain plastic (Getty Images)
Lipsticks, shampoos, suncream, moisturisers and deodorants were all found to contain plastic (Getty Images)

Microplastic particles have been found in nine out of 10 cosmetic products from leading brands, according to a new report.

The ingredients in more than 7,000 products from labels including Garnier, Gillette, Nivea, L’Oréal Paris, Oral-B and Head & Shoulders, were analysed - with only 13 per cent found to be microplastic-free.

The findings come from the Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF), a non-profit group that campaigns against plastic pollution.

With lipsticks, shampoos, suncream, moisturisers and deodorants all found to contain plastic, the PSF is calling for stricter regulation on the use of synthetic polymers.

But the definition of microplastics is a controversial topic, which makes the issue hard to regulate.

Ideally, there would be stricter checks on products for microplastics, before they end up on shop shelves ready for purchase, say campaigners.

In Europe, it’s estimated that approximately 3,800 tonnes of microplastics are released every year by using typical cosmetic products, according to the European Chemicals Agency.

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But the environmental impact of microplastics remains unclear - despite the fact they’ve been located everywhere from Arctic snow to deep under the sea.

In fact a new study from the University of Hull located microplastics in the deepest sections of human lungs, with the concerning implication being that plastic particles are not being filtered out or remain trapped.

In 2018, plastic microbeads were banned in rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products, but PSF say products still contain other types of plastic.

Currently, there is a proposal to ban “intentionally added microplastics”, but PSF says that if certain ingredients - like liquid polymers and water-soluble plastics - are not included in the definition of ‘microplastics’, producers will be allowed to continue using them.

The foundation is encouraging consumers to ask their favourite brands to support a full ban on microplastic ingredients used in personal care products and cosmetics, via their petition.

A Nivea spokesperson says: “We have ambitious sustainability goals and are committed to making sure our products have as little impact on the environment as possible. Since the end of 2021, all Nivea products have been completely free of solid microplastics.

They add: “Public debate around the topic of microplastics is very controversial and extremely complex, as there is no internationally binding definition for the term “microplastics”. At Nivea, we understand microplastics to be solid, water-insoluble plastic particles that are five-millimeters or smaller and not biodegradable. In doing so, we rely on the substantiated definition of the UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, thereby adhering to broadly shared scientific opinion.”

Proctor & Gamble, which owns Head & Shoulders, Gillette and Oral-B, told The Times that the ingredients identified by PSF in its products were not classed as microplastics in regulations because they were liquids.

You can access PSF’s full #DareToCare report here.

The Independent has contacted Garnier, Gillette, L’Oréal Paris, Oral-B and Head & Shoulders for comment.