Cosmetics for the beauty of skin and hair often contain irritating and harmful substances, that’s what we are learning from the posts dedicated to the INCI of cosmetics, the label that, by law, must report all the substances included in creams, shampoos, scrubs, toothpastes and lotions. For this reason, learning to understand this label and to recognize the substances that should be avoided or, on the contrary, to be preferred, can be a huge help for our health, since some substances may damage the skin or overcome its barrier and pour into the body substances able to interfere with body hormones, and for the health of the Earth. Today we are talking about microplastics.
Microplastics, also called by cosmetics industry microbeads, are plastic particles, generally of a granular shape with a size of less than 5 mm (Kazmiruk et al, PLoS One, May 2018). They may be included in body and face scrubs but also in shower gel products that promise regenerated skin on first use and even in toothpastes, since these very small particles act as exfoliating agents. However, when the applied product is rinsed, these particles are also removed and they are so small that they can escape from any filter, thus reaching the pipes and therefore the water of rivers and seas, by polluting it and contaminating the living beings that live there. And these microplastics also arrive on our table through the fish, which ingests these particles, and even through the salt that we use to season the dishes (Wagner et al, Environ Sci Eur, Jul 2014 - Ji-Su Kim et al, Environmental Science and Technology, Oct 2018). But we can eat the microbeads also more directly when, for example, we brush our teeth and we swallow some toothpaste and also ... some microplastic particles, which may have an impact on health. In fact, as hypothesized by scientists, microplastics in the human body can trigger inflammatory processes, alter the intestinal microbiota, namely the bacterial flora of the intestine and compromise the immune system (Smith et al, Curr Environ Health Rep, Aug 2018). The European Union has approved a proposal, although non-binding, to ban microplastics from cosmetics from 2020, and in fact, in Italy for example, from 2020, the stop of production and marketing of cosmetics and detergents containing microplastics will be imposed by law, a very important step considering that Italy produces 65% of make-up and cosmetic products globally. A similar ban has already come into force in the UK, United States, Canada and New Zealand. In the meanwhile, while waiting for all cosmetic companies to adapt their products to the new laws, you can also help to protect your health and the health of the Planet by avoiding products that contain microplastics. There are different types of microplastics and the most common names that may appear in INCI are Polyethylene, among the most common substances used in cosmetics, Polypropylene, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Polymethyl methacrylate, Nylon, Butylene / ethylene / styrene copolymer, Polyurethane.