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3 years ago

Frustration over microplastics in skin care products

Hi. I recently realized how much microplastic (e.g. silicones) is added to skin care products.

Wastewater treatment plants can't filter out this mess so it'll end up contaminating waters, soils, and the oceans.

I also don't feel comfortable saturating my skin with petroleum refining waste products, but it's virtually impossible to avoid or such products are too expensive. I'm always using the 'beat the microbead' app together with WIMJ to identify plastic ingredients.

I'm really troubled by how much petroleum by-products, silicones, and other such pollutants are normalized in skin care media.

On WIMJ such ingredients are described as effective moisturizers. I understand that that's the case, and I really appreciate this database and all the guidance you provide. But these ingredients and their production are harmful for us at the end of the day, and right away for non-human nature.

Perhaps if there was more awareness about microplastics in products people would demand alternatives and manufacturers could be held liable for the pollution they cause…

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Hi! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. I can tell you truly care about doing the right thing for the environment. I hope that in the future WIMJ will be able to provide more guidance for environmentally sustainable choices in skincare - even though at the moment we are not able to evaluate the environmental impact of different skincare ingredients and products.

Unfortunately, it is a very complex topic. Often we honestly do not know what choice is more environmentally-friendly. For example, take petroleum by-products. They do not sound environmentally friendly, but it is very likely that buying a mineral oil based product has less negative impact on the planet than going for a 100% "natural" skincare oil made of organic plants, because the former is made from by-products, and producing the latter meant using a lot of farm land, water and sacrificing wildlife to grow the plants. Farming, both organic and conventional, are texting on the environment, so whenever we can skip it, for example, by synthesising ingredients in a lab or using by-products of other industries, it's usually a good thing for the environment.

The same goes for plastic packaging, for example. Consumers often assume that glass packaging is better for the planet the plastic, but the truth is that we do not actually know. Plastic is lighter, so when we transport skincare packaged in plastic we produce less CO2 than when we transport glass packaging...

Just a small note re microplastics: silicones are actually not microplastics and do not produce microplastic particles, so we can breathe out at least on this one😃. Silicones are made out of sand (quartz), and might be actually one of the least environmentally harmful ingredient types used in cosmetics.

Of course, the most environmentally-friendly choice is to minimize the amount of products one buys and uses in their skincare routine. Less ingredients per product also on average is likely to mean less harm for the environment.

And I 100% agree that manufacturers should be held accountable for the negative externalities they produce (like pollution). This especially needs to be addressed in countries that contribute the most to the ocean pollution like China, Indonesia and Philippines. Unfortunately, only addressing the issue in the US or Europe is not nearly enough to move the needle for the planet.

Anyway, you've raised so many issues in just one post... Let's keep this conversation going.