Microplastics in care products An ingredient in the spotlight

Plastic pollution of waters is a major challenge of our time. In connection with the plastic pollution of the seas, microplastics in cosmetics and skin care also subject to ongoing discussions.

Beiersdorf has long been devoting great attention and commitment to this topic. We are working rigorously to replace microplastics in our product formulas and have set ourselves ambitious goals for 2020.

What are Microplastics?

The public discussion on the subject of microplastics is very controversial and often so complex because there is still no internationally established definition of the term “microplastics”. Generally speaking, they are solid, non-water-soluble plastic particles, which are five millimetres or less in size and not biodegradable. Beiersdorf here refers to the grounded definition of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program.

Why are there microplastics in cosmetics products?

In the past, small, solid plastic particles were used in cleansing body care products that can be washed off (e.g. peelings, shower gels) to provide a skin-friendly peeling. Beiersdorf was one of the first cosmetics companies to decide to stop using polyethylene peeling particles, back in 2013, and to replace them with environmentally friendly alternatives in the future.

An image of a product using microplastics

As a result, Eucerin stopped using microplastic particles of polyethylene, known as microbeads, in its products at the end of 2015. Instead of microbeads, the Eucerin formulas now contain microcrystalline cellulose particles as well as mixtures of microcrystalline cellulose, silicon dioxide particles, and castor wax. The biodegradable substitute particles are just as gentle and skin-friendly as their predecessor and have the same peeling effect.

A scientist testing

Where do the microplastics in our environment come from?

Microplastics comes not only from cosmetics and skin-care products, but rather from a variety of sources: Most frequently, the small plastic particles arise from larger plastic parts that are not disposed of properly, or, e.g. when car tires are worn down. Through weathering and erosion, the plastic breaks into many small pieces, which eventually become very small.

Fibres of synthetic clothing lost during washing or smaller plastic particles from consumer products used every day are also called microplastics. According to a 2018 study of the Frauenhofer Institute, four kilograms of microplastics per capita are generated annually in Germany. Of this, only 19 grams, or 0.5%, is accounted for by personal care and cosmetics in total.

An image of a washing machine

Are microplastics in cosmetics bad for health

No, microplastics aren't bad for your health, but are bad for the environment. This lack of health risk was confirmed by an official statement from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in 2014. This applies both to external application on the skin and to microparticles that are accidentally swallowed.

What do Eucerin and Beiersdorf think of the microplastics issue

In light of the current debate about plastics in the world’s oceans, Eucerin and Beiersdorf realised that there was a call for action early on. As part of our corporate strategy, we pay attention to both the quality and the long-term ecological impact of our products, and we take responsibility.

Beiersdorf has also already removed from its formulations other tiny solid synthetic polymers, which are regarded as microplastics, from all Eucerin products that can be washed off. Some of these substances were previously used as opacifiers and were converted to readily biodegradable alternatives. In addition, Beiersdorf will also completely eliminate nylon as an ingredient in Eucerin brand products by the end of 2020.

Our objective: Grooming without microplastics

In brief

 

  • Beiersdorf is committed to eliminating raw materials based on microplastics from its product formulas and to continuously improving the environmental compatibility of its products.
  • We stopped using so-called microbeads for peeling purposes in our products worldwide at the end of 2015. We have replaced the polyethylene particles previously used with environmentally friendly peeling particles.
  • By 2020 at the latest, we will completely switch from the use of opacifiers to easily biodegradable alternatives.
  • We will also completely eliminate nylon as an ingredient by 2020 and adapt the corresponding product formulas.
  • Free of non-biodegradable polymers by end of 2025.

 

Plastic pollution of waters is a major challenge of our time. In connection with the plastic pollution of the seas, microplastics in cosmetics are also subject to ongoing debate. Beiersdorf has long devoted great attention and commitment to this topic. We are working rigorously to replace microplastics in our product formulas and have set ourselves ambitious goals for 2020.

The public discussion on the subject of microplastics is, however, very controversial and often so complex because there is still no internationally established definition of the term “microplastic”. By this, we mean solid, non-water-soluble plastic particles, which are five millimetres or less in size and not biodegradable. In this context, we refer to the grounded definition of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program, and thus follow the widely shared scientific view.

As a first step, we decided in 2013 to completely dispense with polyethylene peeling particles, so-called microbeads, and to use environmentally friendly alternatives instead. Since the end of 2015, all our corresponding formulas have been switched worldwide: Instead of microbeads, they now contain microcrystalline cellulose particles as well as mixtures of microcrystalline cellulose, silicon dioxide particles, and castor wax. The biodegradable substitute particles are just as gentle and skin-friendly as their predecessor and have the same peeling effect.

After this first milestone, we have set ourselves two further ambitious goals for 2020:

To be on the safe side, we also want to completely remove other tiny solid synthetic polymers, which we regard as microplastics, from products. Some of these substances were previously used as opacifiers and should be converted to readily biodegradable alternatives by 2020 at the latest. Opacifiers are responsible for the characteristic creamy texture and colour of a few product formulas. By changing the formulas concerned, all Beiersdorf products that can be washed off will be free from microplastics.

We will also as a preventive measure completely dispense with nylon as an ingredient in our products. We currently still use nylon to improve the smooth skin feeling when applying a few “Leave on” products. “Leave on” products are not washed off and stay on the skin after application.

To meet this self-imposed commitment by 2020 at the latest, we are currently working intensively on the corresponding formula conversions and product launches. We have long since ruled out the use of microplastic-based raw materials for new product developments.

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