Should You be Concerned about Microplastics?
In recent years, there has been a slow shift in consumer behaviour when it comes to buying beauty products. Because of the rapidly growing awareness and concerns about environmental preservation and health awareness, people started to seek sustainable, natural and eco-friendly options.
Plastic has been a major polluter of the environment. According to Surfers Against Sewage, it is estimated that 8 million pieces of plastic are entering the oceans every single day. This amount of plastic causes undeniable harm to our ocean and marine life.
As if this is not chilling enough, for the first time ever, recent studies show that plastics are now showing up in the human body as well. At this moment, we still don't know what effects it has on human health however, we still need to be aware of the current state of this plastic crisis.
The major breakthrough regarding microplastics was discovered in a study conducted by Prof Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Scientists found that these particles can travel around the body. Humans already consume microplastics through the air we breathe. The same studies published at Environment International also show that these tiny particles are also found in the faeces of 80% of babies and adults tested. Based on Vethaak's study, he acknowledges that the amount and type of plastics found in the blood samples vary. Because this is a new discovery, further studies are still needed to determine the effects of these particles on human health. The big questions still remain - What is happening in our bodies? Are the particles lodged somewhere in our organs? Does it pass the blood-brain barrier? Does it affect the body’s immune response?
Apart from the alarming discovery, microplastics already have a devastating and long-term negative impact on the ecosystem. Because of the minuscule size of microplastics, they can easily enter the food chain. This poses dangers such as its toxic effects on the soil fauna, affecting their health and soil functions.
Not only on land, but microplastics also affect marine life and our ocean and water resources. According to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution the majority of plastics in the ocean are likely suspended in the water or buried in the sediments. This means that the base of the food chain such as planktons can consume these particles which were later on consumed by marine life and finally, us humans.
HOW ABOUT THE MICROPLASTICS IN COSMETICS?
It's actually very alarming that the cosmetic industry is viewed as one of the industries that perpetuates the problem of microplastics. This is more surprising considering the fact that the beauty industry can survive without the use of microplastics. But how did the use of microplastic start?
The use of synthetic ingredients and the addition of microplastics to cosmetic products dates back to 1960. However, it was not until 1990 that manufacturers added them to hundreds of cosmetic and personal products commercially. -They have became go-to ingredients for lotions, face washes, shampoos, sunscreens, etc. because of the silky smooth texture they create. Not to mention it is also affordable and easy to source.
Some of the most common ingredients used are:
Polyethylene (PE’s) derived from petroleum are used in various cosmetics and personal care products. Common names found on the ingredient statement on beauty products include ever-present Polyethylene glycols (PEG’s).
They are is used to:
- Polish teeth and deodorise mouth and teeth.
- Bond surfaces and ingredients of a product.
- Create a thin coating on hair, nails and skin
- Keep the mixture from separating especially the liquid and oil components.
Acrylates Copolymer is a group polymer that are known for its transparency and durability. They are also known as acrylics or polyacrylates. They are more commonly used in hair dyes, mascaras, nail polishes, lipsticks, hairsprays, body washes, sunscreens and anti-aging treatments to:
- Make the cosmetic products waterproof and add protection from humidity
- Add an antistatic or suspending benefit to hair products
- As a binding product
The microplastics in cosmetics are also used as tiny abrasives in exfoliating agents, toothpaste, scrubs, etc. It includes materials like polyethylene, polypropylene and nylon. Some forms of plastics such as liquid polymers are used to give products their consistency. Replacing them may seem to pose a problem for the cosmetic formulators however, there are substitutes that can be found naturally.
Before the use of beaded microplastics, biodegradable ingredients were used in personal care products. These ingredients include ground almonds, sea salt, ground pumice, ground apricot pits and cocoa beans.
Since the world is slowly waking up to the presence of synthetic ingredients and use of microplastics, brands are starting to put ‘ synthetic free labels on their products. At Lük we have always used 100% natural ingredients because we believe in using minimally processed real ingredients sourced from plants and nature. We love the tag line Made from Plants not Plastic. We believe that the recent move in the cosmetic industry to be more transparent with the sourcing of all ingredients and materials used to make beauty products is critical for the health of our people and the planet.
We still have a long way to go as the strictest global beauty regulatory body The European Union beauty legislation via the European Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 has not included all synthetic polymers in the definition of microplastics. Specifically, plastic particles smaller than 0.1 micrometres. All water-soluble, semi-liquid and liquid polymers are not included in the list. This is why a brand can still use a "plastic-free" label on its products even though it is made from synthetics. We can look further afield to an important area of synthetic ingredient use known as FD&C (Food, Drugs or Cosmetics) colourants and dyes that are man made and used in cosmetics to provide long lasting and vibrant colours. These are pigments are insoluble and are derivatives of coal tar apetrochemicals. Generally speaking, many artificial dyes and synthetic colourants are still considered by some to be highly toxic, with concerns relating to cancer, allergies, reproductive & development disorders, neurological problems, kidney/renal problems, lung problems, hair loss, nausea and headaches. Much more research needs to be done in this area as many colourants have already been banned from foods & cosmetics.
Learn more about this as I talk about how Luk Beautifood’s was launched to create products that do not contain these chemicals.
HOW CAN CONSUMERS MAKE SURE THAT THEIR PRODUCTS DO NOT CONTAIN MICROPLASTICS?
Unfortunately, according to the study conducted by Plastic Soup Foundation, 87% of products from the ten best-selling cosmetics brands contain microplastics. One way to figure out if your favourite product contains microplastic is to check out the ingredients list simply. Here is the list of microplastics that you need to check from the Red List of Beat the Microbead and Luk’s Dirty List.
Another way to make sure all your products are safe is to find brands that are synthetic, toxin-free, natural and eco-friendly. Luk Beautifood prides itself on creating beauty products that protect you, our people and the planet. That’s why you can hold our products to the same standard you hold your food.
The Lük Modern Beauty Standard has always been: CLEAN. CONSCIOUS. CREDIBLE. Our mission is to meet the needs of a modern woman who is looking for safety, efficacy and sustainability. Find out more about our Modern Beauty Standard here.