An Expert’s Guide to Plastic Ingredients in Beauty #PlasticFreeJuly

Microbeads commonly used in beauty products have been proven to pollute our ocean life and waterways and after much-deserved press, campaigning and consumer pressure the laws were changed. In 2018 in the UK, plastic microbeads in body scrubs and exfoliating rinse-off product were banned.

However, the story and fight for cleaner products and ocean conservation doesn’t end there. There are actually a host of other plastic-based ingredients commonly used in conventional beauty products that are less obvious than microbeads but still cause damage.

For plastic-free July I spoke to Helen Lynn who is a health and environmental researcher and advisor for Women’s Environmental Network and CoolGreen campaign on plastics in beauty and why it’s an important issues. Time to swot up!

“Plastic in the personal care products can be either in solid form such as plastic microbeads or in powder or liquid form called polymers. Polymers are lots of small molecules joined together rather like a line of stitches knitted together.”

“Plastic ingredients are used in deodorants, shampoo, lipsticks, shaving creams, eye shadows and baby care products to name a few.

“Their function in personal care products may be to form films, bind and bulk out products, deliver other ingredients to the skin, or control viscosity.

“While the amounts of plastic type ingredients in cosmetics can be at low levels, it’s the repeated, daily, low-dose and accumulated exposure that can affect our health and once they are washed down the drain or disposed of, they can leach toxic ingredients that contaminate our air, soil, rivers and oceans.”

Plastic ingredients in beauty – what to look for

There are an enormous number of red flag plastic ingredients commonly used and recommended by experts to avoid.

Here are just five examples of synthetic polymers found in cosmetics. Each one of these groups, however, have dozens of other names they go by.

To find out more about these ingredients, what they are used for and why they should be avoided, visit

  • Sodium Polyacrylate 
  • Polyethylene glycols (PEGs)
  • Polyquaternium 7
  • Cyclic Siloxanes
  • Styrene Acrylate Copolymer

How to avoid plastics in beauty products

Trying to read ingredients lists on the back of packs and pick out plastic ingredients that can also go by countless other names, can be mind-bending.

So to choose personal care products that are better for you and the environment look for the logos that give brands the stamp of approval as these make it clear a product is 100% free from plastics.

The NATRUE logo is internationally recognised as a quality seal for organic and natural cosmetics; Weleda for example is a brand that carries this logo. Any product featuring the NATRUE label guarantees:

  • Natural and organic ingredients
  • Sustainable production process
  • Environmentally-friendly practices
  • No synthetic fragrances or dyes
  • No silicone oils, No ingredients from petrochemicals
  • No animal testing
  • No irradiation of end products or herbal ingredients

You can also look for the Plastic Soup Foundation logo, another sound guarantee that your product will be squeaky clean and harm-free. The Plastic Soup Foundation has a ton of amazing resources on the subject of microplastics and ocean waste so do check them out too.

To share any of your own tips or recommendations for avoiding plastics in beauty, let me know in the comments below or @yanarfitness. Thanks!

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