Microplastics: the invisible danger

They are invisible but a big danger for animals, humans and the environment: microplastic particles. Find out more about these tiny plastic particles: from their origin, over the use up to alternatives.

We can’t see them but they are a big danger for animals, humans and the environment: microplastic particles. These tiny plastic particles are in almost every conventional beauty product.

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More and more plastic: According to a US study around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide since 1950. According to estimates only 30 percent of it are still in use. The rest can be found in the waste. In Germany 5.4 kilos of microplastics per inhabitant are released into the environment each year which decomposes very slowly. Produced in seconds, degraded in decades. It takes, for example, 450 years for a PET plastic bottle and ten to twenty years for a plastic bag to decompose. For comparison: a newspaper decomposes in six weeks, an apple core in two months.

 

What is microplastics and where does it come from?

Microplastic particles are polymers and tiny. According to a definition by the Federal Environment Agency, they are no larger than five millimetres. The plastic particles are solid, insoluble in water and non-degradable. There are two types of these synthetically produced polymer substances. The primary microplastic, which is produced during the production and processing of plastic. And the secondary microplastic, which is produced by abrasion of car tyres or decomposition. This also includes the particles used in cosmetics, detergents and cleaning agents. Especially in the cosmetics industry not only microplastic particles are used but also liquid plastics. In contrast to peeling particles for example we can’t notice them at all.
 
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Unclear consequences of invisible plastic

There are currently no results for long-term research for plastics. However, the consequences for nature, marine life and ultimately for us are highly probable although the particles are hardly visible. This is precisely what makes them so dangerous. Due to their tiny size the particles can pass easily through our sewage treatment plants and end up in the ocean. Once you take a shower with a plastic-adjusted product you transport 100,000 plastic particles into the wastewater. There they are absorbed by sea dwellers in oceans and lakes and thus enter our food chain. So the next time you have an edible fish or seafood such as mussels or shrimps on your plate you may be eating your own waste. Since microplastics is a foreign particle it can cause inflammation in our bodies.

 

Microplastics in cosmetics: Why is it used?

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Whether in solid or liquid form: microplastic particles can be found in almost all conventional cosmetic products. They are mainly used as emulsifiers, thickeners, surfactants, peeling particles, care and preservatives. They are often used in shower gels, shampoos, creams or decorative cosmetics because they are practical and inexpensive for manufacturers.
 
 

Alternatives to microplastics

Of course, there are numerous "natural" alternatives to microplastics that have no devastating consequences for the environment. Certified organic skincare such as those from Santaverde do not contain any microplastics, e.g. our plant-based emulsifiers come from the seeds of the castor plant. Natural thickeners such as xanthan gum and preservatives like anise acid from star anise or basil are used alternatively. Santaverde products contain nurturing oils such as evening primrose or almond oil to leave the skin soft and smooth. Our cleansing products use mild surfactants that cleanse the skin thoroughly but gently such as natural amino acid surfactants from coconut fatty acids.

 

Avoiding plastic: Environmental protection starts at home

A rethinking in society can already be noticed. There are more and more tips for a "plastic-free living" as well as numerous demands, such as the one of the international environmental organization Greenpeace to legally ban the use of microplastics in cosmetics. However, there is no official ban so far. That makes it so important for consumers to become active themselves, starting in their own bathrooms. Taking a look at the ingredients of cosmetic products can be the first step for doing something good for the environment.
 
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Recognising microplastics

With the long INCI lists and the alphabet salad it is not so easy to recognise microplastics. Classical examples you should avoid are: acrylate, copolymer, acrylate crosspolymer, dimethicone, dimethiconol, methicone, nylon, polyamide, polyacrylate, polymethyl methacrylate, polyquaternium, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol (PEG), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), polypropylene glycol (PPG), polystyrene (PS), polyurethane (PUR), siloxane, silsesquioxane.

 

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To identify these ingredients it is worth taking a look at the BUND shopping guide or the Greenpeace "shopping assistant for the wallet", which lists all products with plastic. Apps such as "CodeCheck", "Beat the Microbead" or "ToxFox" offer quick help by scanning the EAN codes. As a general rule organic skincare seals such as the NATRUE seal printed on all Santaverde products offer 100% security - NATRUE only certifies products made from pure natural substances. Because beauty and effective cosmetics can be free from microplastics.
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