Cosmetic Products without microbeads and microplastics [2019]

In this article we shed a light on microplastics in cosmetic products and help you choose plastic free cosmtics for your daily care.

Unfortunately, microplastic is used in many products without the consumers being aware of. Microplastics serve as abrasives, binders, fillers or film formers. In shower gels or liquid soaps they are often used as a cheap filler to produce the consistency of the detergent.

In this article, we introduce brands that do without microplastics and give you hints on how to detect if a product contains microplastics.

What are Microplastics and why are they a problem?

First of all we need to clarify terms and the various forms of microplastics used in cosmetic products.

Whats is the difference between microplastics and microbeads?

There is not a difference Microbeads are subcategory of microplastics. Microbeads, as one type of microplastic, are small solid plastic particles that are less than 5 millimetres in diametre. They do not dissolve, and after they are rinsed down the drain they can end up in in our rivers and lakes for decades, harming fish and other wildlife.

As a solid substance, it is mainly used as an exfoliant in facial scrubs and shower gels. Alone in the US, an estimated 11 billion microbeads go down the drain and pass through wastewater treatment systems every single day.

On December 28, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act (H.R. 1321) which banned the manufacturing and sale of plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic products including toothpaste.

Companies of such products had to cease manufacture of microbead products by July 2017 and sale by July 2018. But it is still in use in other countries

In liquid form, plastics in the form of polymers fulfill various functions in body and hair care products. For instance the Polyquaternium-10 polymer neutralizes the static electricity by neutralizing the electrical charge on the surface. It forms a coherent film on the hair while applying. This form of plastics passes almost unhindered the sewage treatment plants and enters the waters.

A German Fraunhofer study concludes that the use of liquid microplastic causes more than 23,000 tonnes of liquid plastic substances to enter the wastewater each year, in Germany, alone.

The liquid plastics are currently classified as not hazardous to the environment, but so far not much is actually known about the duration and impact of these substances on the wildlife.

How can I identify microplastics in the list of ingredients?

Unfortunately, there is still no transparency about which products contain microplastics, especial in the form of liquid microplastics. Some knowledge of chemistry is required to identify whether a product contains microplastics in the list of ingredients.

Here is a list of ingredients that are considered microplastics:

  • PE – Polyethylene
  • PP – Polypropylene
  • PET – Polyethylenterephthalat
  • Nylon-12, Nylon-6
  • PUR – Polyurethane
  • EVA – Ethylen-Vinylacetat-Copolymer
  • AC – Acrylates Copolymer
  • ACS – Acrylates Crosspolymer
  • P-7 – Polyquaternium-7


Which products use microplastics?


In shampoos acrylic acid copolymers are frequently used as film formers. In the INCIs list of ingredients these substances are referred to as Acrylates Copolymer (AC) or Acrylates Crosspolymer (ACS). Also Polyquaternium-7 is used as a film former or antistatic agents.

Check out our list of Shampoos without chemicals


The use of microbeads and microplastics in toothpastes has be banned in many countries. So it shouldn’t be a problem anymore. To be on the very safe side we recommend to use all-natural or organic toothpastes. In contrast to conventional toothpaste, all-natural toothpastes replace chemical additives with natural plant extracts, essential oils and mineral cleansers such as potassium chloride.

You can find a list of non-toxic toothpastes here.

Face Wash and liquid soaps without microplastic

In liquid soaps Acrylates Copolymer (AC) is generally used. AC reduces electrostatic charging of (such as hair), ensures the cohesion of powdered products and forms a film on the skin, hair or nails.

Especially with a product such as liquid soap, which is used several times a day, enormous quantities of liquid microplastics are released into the environment, the effects of which have not yet been researched.

Check out our list of Face Wash without Microplastics

Face and Body Scrub

Face and Body Scrubs still use microbeads as exfoliants. In this article we have put together a list of Facial and Body Scrubs without microbeads. These brands use e.g. crushed grape seedlings or walnut shells as exfoliants, instead.

Shower Gel without microbeads

What is actually a shower gel?

Shower gel (also shower cream or body wash) is a specialized liquid product used for cleaning the body during showers. Not to be confused with liquid soaps, shower gels, in fact, do not contain saponified oil. Instead, it uses synthetic detergents derived from either petroleum or plant sources. Source:

Although they are both liquid cleansers used on the body, the main difference between the two is textural. The shower gel has a firmer, gel-like consistency, while body wash is more like liquid soap. However, due to the formulation, body washesare more moisturizing and hydrating than shower gels.

To achieve this gel like consistency conventional Shower Gels use microplastic.

Check out our List of Shower Gels and Body Wash without microplastics

Styling Gel

The conventional hair gels contain firming polymers, so-called film formers, which lay like a thin film around and between the individual hairs. This ensures that the individual hair stick to together.

Here you can find 5 Hair Gels and Hair Waxes without chemicals.

Body Lotions

Conventional body lotions often use microplastic, especially acrylate crosspolymer, which serves as an emulsifier for the stabilization and viscosity of the products and makes the creams durable.


Some studies showed that every fourth lipstick contains microplastic, especially polyethylene. With a product that is applied so close to the mouth, you have be aware of the risk that you swallow plastics.

To avoid that check out our list of brands that do not use microplastics.


It’s not just microbeads used as exfoliants in various cosmetic products, it’s the liquid plastics that are released in enormous amounts into the environment every day. Substances of which we know little about their long term environmental impact.

We hope this guide helps you identify cosmetic products without microplastics. Consuming these products reduces the pollution with plastics of our lakes, rivers and oceans.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash