We all know the beauty industry produces a lot of waste. From shampoo bottles to mascara wands, products come packaged in plastic. While we regularly swipe our lips with lipsticks or powder our cheeks with blush, unknown to a lot of us beauty-obsessed – makeup contains forms of microplastic in the formulas. (Yuck!) And as the average consumer ingests between three to seven pounds of lipstick in their lifetime, we think it's safe to say that you shouldn’t be ingesting plastic everyday from your lip products!
When we talk about microplastics in the cosmetic industry, we have often focused on the big issue of microbeads. Thankfully these were banned in the UK in 2018. So it's time to turn our attention to the other effects, as microplastics in beauty go a lot further than just those tiny beads.
Browsing through your favourite makeup store, pick up any cosmetic product, and it will most certainly contain some form of microplastic in the ingredients list. Microplastics are used in cosmetics to help with the feel and finish of the product. They can act as bulking agents in beauty products or as exfoliants in skincare. Microplastics are found from eyeshadow palettes to the lipstick counter, and all add to the environmental pollution of the beauty industry.
So, what are Microplastics?
Microplastic is the litter of the ocean and a global matter that comes in two forms. Primary microplastics are products that have been intentionally formed to be nano-sized, such as the now-banned microbeads in exfoliants or liquid forms in lipstick. Secondary microplastics are plastics that were initially larger pieces of plastic but have broken down into tiny particles through its time in the ocean. "Toxic pollutants in water then stick to the microplastics and these then mistakenly get ingested by marine animals. They then accumulate in the animal's tissues and get passed up the food chain," says Biologist, Amy Leckie, and unfortunately straight to our dinner tables. As these plastic particles enter the waterways, they could potentially cause irreversible damage to our planet. "Microplastics are a relatively new finding. A lot of the environmental effects from microplastics are unknown as research is still in its early days," follows Leckie.
Another worrying effect of microplastics is that "as the plastics degrade and become brittle, they leach out BPA which can then be absorbed by marine life," says Leckie. Waste from this invisible polluter has been the hot topic in recent years. Shockingly, we have produced more plastic in the last ten years than during the whole of the previous century. Eight million tonnes of plastic reach our oceans every year, impacting wildlife, environments and our health and well-being.
As an estimated one to two million tonnes of plastic flow into our river systems and the oceans every year, we are still finding new effects from these tiny fragments on the environment. We now know that microplastics slow the growth of corals and plastic physically caught around them can damage the corals. If it's not obvious enough, "microplastics are bad for both marine and human life" concludes Leckie.
Meanwhile, almost all plastic that has ever been produced throughout history still exists on the planet today. The ECHA estimates that microplastics added to products results in nearly 36,000 tons of plastic, which is released into the environment every year. In some cases, the plastic which is added to the product is the same weight as the plastic packaging itself! At HIGHR we think it's time to rummage through our cosmetic bags and cleanse ourselves of this toxic microplastic.
Within the beauty world, there is always a constant stream of new information. It comes as no surprise consumers are feeling a little jaded when it comes to conscious cosmetic shopping.
We are confronted with lengthy and confusing terms, and it can be challenging to discern what we should be avoiding when it comes to our beauty routines. The simplest way to escape microplastics in cosmetics is to familiarise yourself with the ingredients. Here is our list of banned substances you should try and detox from:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate
At HIGHR we have made this detox simple for you, ensuring all our products are microplastic free, so you don't have to think twice about your plastic footprint. We have replaced microplastics with plant-based formulas, and we are also donating £1 for every waitlist sign up to ocean plastic clean-ups. Every small action benefits the health of our planet significantly, and we are combatting our microplastic obsession one lipstick at a time.
This is clean beauty, but HIGHR.
- Esme Bourne