Part 2: Ingredient names on labels do not accurately identify microplastics in personal care products

Posted by LLS Beauty Technical Team on 01/06/2020

As the beauty industry and consumers move toward a greener and more sustainable future, manufacturers and ingredient suppliers have an obligation to help consumers understand the ingredients that are used in their products.

Consumers are searching for cleaner products, but often they end up reacting to ingredient labels without full knowledge of the nomenclature and the ingredients. This can lead to confusion, rather than clarity.

One example is the widespread concern over microbeads in personal care products. Beginning in the 1990s, plastic microbeads were added to everything from face washes to shaving cream. Nonbiodegradable and often too small to be caught by normal wastewater treatment, plastic microbeads could accumulate in the environment, particularly in lakes and oceans, where they posed a danger to marine life.

Once the concerns about plastic microbeads became known, the personal care industry voluntarily moved to ban microbeads, even before any laws were passed.

Consumers’ aversion to plastic microbeads was widespread and led to questions about other ingredients. Consumers began to look for answers on the product labels, websites and apps.

Personal care product labels provide the generic names of the ingredients used, often referred to as the “INCI” name. Drawing on their concern about plastic microbeads, more recently consumers have been misled into believing that ingredients with “poly” or “polymer” in the INCI name means that the ingredient is a “microplastic.” This bad information has appeared on websites and apps that give consumers misleading information about what the INCI name really means and wrongly uses INCI names as a tool to identify microplastics.

To clear up this confusion, the committee that assigns INCI names recently issued a statement, clarifying that ingredient labels and INCI names cannot be used to identify whether a product contains microplastics. According to the statement, any claim that “poly” or “polymer” in the INCI name of an ingredient means that the ingredient is a microplastic, is “inaccurate and misleading.”

Lubrizol Life Science’s acrylate polymers are never used in personal care products as microplastics. Instead, these polymers are used in cleansers and shampoos as a gel or a thickener. Unlike plastic microbeads, Lubrizol’s polymers do not bioaccumulate, are effectively removed in wastewater treatment and do not pose an environmental threat.

We’re glad that consumers care about what is in their personal care products and that the INCI committee has set the record straight about what INCI names do, and do not, tell consumers about their products.

To learn more about the difference between microplastics and acrylate polymers, click here.

LLS Beauty Technical Team

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