The plastic that is seen with the naked eye in a product, like the microbeads that we have already talked about here (in French), has been in our bathrooms for a very long time. Sailing cheerfully to our sewers and streams at each rinse of our favorite toothpaste or scrub. Today criticized, these microbeads tend to give ground. What is less well known is that the majority of conventional cosmetics contain substances derived from plastic. Polymers and other silicones just to name a few.
The highly malleable qualities of plastics added to their “slippery” properties (how good does it feel when your foundation flows on to your skin in a quick and fluid gesture) make this type of ingredient the favorite of 95% of brands. They are found in supermarkets, perfumeries, and even pharmacies. Whatever the product: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, makeup remover, baby lotion, moisturizer, foundation, deodorant, and even perfumes, plastic is everywhere and you apply it without knowing it all day long and all your life.
=> Liquid plastics are mainly found in after-shampoos and shampoos and in foundations. Be careful and avoid ingredients such as Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Nylon (PA), Polyurethane, and Acrylates Copolymer.
Consequences? For all rinsed products, ounces of microplastics are dumped daily to the sewers. Most of them escape filtrations and contaminate streams (fauna and flora included) in which we draw water from our faucets, in turn polluted with microplastics (count on average 3.8 plastic fibers per liter (33.8 ounces) of drinkable water). Yes, you read correctly, we ingest in turn the plastic that we poured into our sinks, nice return to the sender, isn’t it?
For the past decade, ocean advocacy NGOs such as Surfrider or the Plastic Soup Foundation have alerted public opinion and authorities to the dangers of plastics released into the wild. The message was acknowledged in 2015 when the US voted a ban on microbeads effective in 2017. France acted in July 2016 with the Biodiversity law which bans polyethylene microbeads in several products of hygiene and beauty (scrubs, shampoos) from 2018. Plastic sticks such as cotton swabs are also concerned and will normally disappear in 2020 in the European Union.
In turn, the European Union could legislate on these microplastics following the consultation of the European Commission which ended recently. Its purpose was to gather the opinions of stakeholders and citizens on the solutions to be put in place to reduce the presence of microplastics in the marine environment. We are waiting for the results of the consultation, and we still do not know what the possible effects will be. We’re not out of the woods yet!
Of course, the Slow Cosmétique Association encourages any legislation that will force manufacturers to avoid microbeads, but its volunteers are actively campaigning for a total ban on all microplastics in cosmetics (even liquids).
You have understood: we can’t expect everything from our authorities, who do what they can with regard to other emergencies and with the very strong lobby present in the cosmetics sector. The key to change is in our hands, consumers! Remember that each purchase is a way to tell the manufacturer brand that it validates its product.
But how do you know which brand puts plastic in its cosmetics? How to be sure that a formula is “clean”?
Any cosmetic product must display its complete list of ingredients (INCI), from the most present in the formula (the first of the list) to the most anecdotal (see help for slow decoding here if necessary).
To recognize the most frequently used plastic derivatives, a.k.a. silicones and polymers, stalk:
If one or more of these elements is present in the product, avoid it without regret! Even if it is designed by a large brand of parapharmacy or that is said to be “natural”. Do not forget that a clean packaging or a catchy slogan do not guarantee a proper formula. Marketing is a formidable weapon that the Slow Cosmétique movement invites you to look critically to unravel the true of the fake.
Fortunately, packaging is not evacuated in our sinks but thrown into the trash. This rules out some of the health issues above. But it’s obvious that reducing our waste is just as important. Our planet is already too polluted by our trash. The Slow Cosmétique Association therefore recommends that manufacturers exclude certain types of plastics from their packaging. It recommends favoring the PP (a more “ecological” plastic) or plant-based plastics (still rare). But also glass or aluminum that remain reusable (even if they are not optimal in ecological terms either).
The ideal being “zero packaging”, Slow Cosmétique also strongly encourages zero waste alternatives (washable products, etc.).