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Cosmetics without microplastics: How to avoid the beauty plastic trap

Microplastics are everywhere. It is formed, among other things, when plastic packaging decomposes, as a result of tire abrasion and is dissolved when synthetic textile fibers are washed in the washing machine. From there it ends up in our waters, where it is ingested by marine animals and ultimately in our food. What many are not aware of: the tiny plastic particles are also mixed into many conventional cosmetic products such as shower gels, peelings and make-up and are very difficult for laypersons to identify as such. In this article you will find out how to recognize the affected beauty products and what options there are for your daily care with cosmetics without microplastics.

Use cosmetics without microplastics with a clear conscience

Photo by KoolShooters and Jill Burrow from Pexels

Cosmetics without microplastics

Let's call the child by its name: there is still no legal ban on microplastics in the EU Cosmetics Regulation. It is therefore up to the cosmetics companies to voluntarily do without plastic in their products. A step that some manufacturers adorn themselves with in an extremely media-effective manner. However, since there is (still) no universal definition of what counts as microplastic, there is often not much more behind the declared avoidance of plastic than hot air:

Although some companies do not use solid microplastics, they keep the use of liquid plastic open as a back door . That leads us to the question:

What is microplastic actually?

Plastic, as we call synthetic plastics colloquially, are made from crude oil , regardless of their size . Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are smaller than 5 millimeters and are therefore often barely visible to the naked eye. A distinction is made between small plastic particles that are deliberately produced, for example to add to cosmetics, and those that are created when large plastic products decompose.

In addition to these solid plastic particles, there is also industrially produced liquid plastic , for example in the form of wax or gel.

How harmful are microplastics in cosmetics?

The main problem with microplastics is that it is not degradable or only very difficult to degrade and cannot be completely filtered in sewage treatment plants. Among other things, it enters the ecological cycle via water bodies. Animals, especially sea creatures, get it from the water and it eventually ends up in our bodies through food. Microplastics have already been detected in human stool and tissue samples, as well as in soil and in the air. The long-term effects on humans and nature have not yet been sufficiently clarified scientifically. What is certain, however, is that the plastic particles often contain harmful chemicals (e.g. softeners, stabilizers) and bind other pollutants from the environment .

In which cosmetics are microplastics and why?

Microplastics can be found in just about every type of conventional personal and beauty care product . Products that are not washed off directly, such as creams and lotions or make-up, are particularly affected. But the tiny plastic particles are also often added to care products that can be washed off directly, such as liquid soap, toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel or peelings. Sometimes they just serve as a cheap filler or binder for other ingredients. With some products, however, they are supposed to have a very specific (beauty) effect, even if this is more appearance than reality.

Microplastics and its effect in cosmetics:

  • Scrubs and shower gels : abrasives provide an emery effect; the skin feels softer.
  • Shampoo and conditioner : The plastic film that covers the hair smooths it and makes it easier to comb.
  • Creams and Lotions : Opacifiers make the texture look extra creamy and make the skin feel supple.
  • Make-up : Plastic beads ensure better adhesion of powder and Shiny Effect in eye shadow and lipstick.

📖​ ​We have compiled even more numbers, data and facts about microplastics in cosmetics for you in this article: There is so much plastic in your cosmetics.

How do I recognize microplastics in cosmetics?

In the EU and Switzerland, cosmetics manufacturers are obliged to list all the ingredients in their products on the packaging, including plastics. Namely in the so-called INCI list (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients). Through the use of the Latin or botanical names of the substances, however, these are often so cryptic that they provide more question marks than enlightenment.

Plastic Checklist

Ingredients with the prefix " poly- " or the suffixes " -oxane/-oxane " should set alarm bells ringing for you in the future. This is because silicones and other plastics are hidden behind them , some of which are even suspected of being carcinogenic, such as the silicone substitute polyquaternium. So here is our little microplastic ABC , in which we list the names of the most common plastics in cosmetics and their abbreviations.

The nasty plastic particles hide behind all these names:

plastics in cosmetics abbreviation

acrylates copolymer


Acrylate cross polymer





(PA, Nylon)



polymethyl methacrylate






polyethylene glycol


polyethylene terephthalate




Polypropylene glycol








* especially poorly biodegradable compounds, recognizable by values ​​above 50 (e.g. PEG-120)
Source: Greenpeace, checklist: remove plastic make-up | Greenpeace

Tip : Print out this wallet overview and have a quick look at the ingredients list before your next drugstore purchase.

Brand and product guide

If you want to subject the cosmetics you have already bought to a microplastic check, but do not want to go through all the ingredients individually, we have another tip. You can find a summary of many cosmetic brands and products that contain microplastics in the German Federal Environmental Protection and Nature Conservation (BUND) buying guide .

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Natural cosmetics: Cosmetics without microplastics

Now that you have some tools at hand to identify and avoid beauty products containing microplastics, the question arises as to the alternatives. And here the magic word is quite clear: natural cosmetics . Because it does without plastics in care products and is therefore less harmful to the environment than many conventional cosmetics.

Certified cosmetics with a seal

Certified natural cosmetics with a seal are guaranteed to be free of petroleum-based microplastics . The best-known and most trustworthy seals include Demeter, Cosmos, Natrue, Ecocert and BDIH ( Federal Association of Industrial and Commercial Companies for Pharmaceuticals, Health Products, Dietary Supplements and Cosmetics) . Strictly speaking, plastics made from renewable raw materials are not forbidden in natural cosmetics (e.g. polylactic acid), but they are just as difficult to degrade in the environment as petroleum-based plastics. Fortunately, there are hardly any natural cosmetics manufacturers who take advantage of this loophole.

FIVE natural cosmetics

Whether our make-up remover , facial oils , shea cream or facial serum - all our care products are based on natural raw materials. Without a lot of frills, but with a few selected and high-quality ingredients. What exactly is behind our FIVE philosophy ? We'll tell you!

Natural cosmetics without microplastics at FIVE means:

  • Healthy cosmetics because they protect and care for the skin with a maximum of 5 ingredients per product without overtaxing it. Plastic is not one of them!
  • Plant-based cosmetics that use raw materials that are as natural and biological as possible instead of petroleum-based plastics.
  • Sustainable cosmetics because they contain no microplastics and are 100% climate-neutral.
  • Vegan cosmetics that do not contain animal substances, are not tested on animals and do not contain plastic particles that endanger the ecological cycle.
  • Transparent cosmetics because we have no dubious ingredients to hide. All ingredients are printed large on our jars and flacons .

Avoid packaging plastic

Plastic is not only harmful as an ingredient in cosmetics, but of course also in their packaging. In order to avoid as much waste as possible, we at FIVE do not use folding boxes , which usually end up in the garbage after the first opening. You will therefore find all legal information printed directly on the product itself. The blue glass containers are recyclable and also protect the products from UV light, giving them a longer shelf life.

Home remedies: Do it yourself

In addition to commercially available beauty products, it is sometimes helpful to resort to well-known home remedies along the lines of “what grandmother knew”. Admittedly, not all types of creams, lotions or even make-up can be made by laypersons themselves. But it works wonderfully with peelings or face masks and baths .

💡 ​In this article we explain how you can easily prepare a cleansing clay mask or a chamomile steam bath with a clarifying effect: Nutrition against pimples: How to reduce impurities .

In 4 steps to cosmetics without microplastics

As you can see, using cosmetics without microplastics for daily body and beauty care is definitely not impossible . With a few simple tricks and tweaks, you will be able to blindly fall into the nasty microplastic trap of many cosmetics manufacturers in the future. If you follow these four steps, nothing stands in the way of a plastic-free beauty routine :

  1. Check for ingredients (INCI list): Which terms are microplastics hiding behind?
  2. Brand check (BUND purchasing guide): Which products of which brands contain plastics?
  3. Rely on natural cosmetics : recognizable by certified cosmetics with test and quality seals.
  4. Rediscover the good old home remedies : make your own face masks and scrubs.
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