Are microplastics in cosmetics dangerous? Facts and fables

Already in 2012, Beat the microbead started a campaign against the use of microplastics in products. Because they believe they are harmful to our health and/or aquatic life. What started with a list of 67 microplastic ingredients has now expanded to a list of more than 500 microplastic ingredients that are widely used in cosmetics and personal care products. Of which, according to Beat the microbead, more than 100 pose a risk to our health or that of aquatic life.

But is this fact or fable? The latest insights in this blog.

What are Microplastics?

Microplastics are small plastic particles with a maximum size of 5 millimeters. In addition, there are nano plastics, which are even smaller, a maximum of 0.0001 millimetres. Plastic breaks down in the environment into increasingly smaller particles. Over time, plastic becomes microplastic. And microplastics ultimately nano plastics. Since the particles are not biodegradable, they remain in the environment.

Manufacturers of cosmetic products, among other things, also consciously add micro or nano plastics to their products.

Microplastics the latest news

Sometimes you don't hear about microplastics for a while, then suddenly there is a lot of attention for it. Recently, microplastics made the news because:

  • Scientists have shown for the first time that microplastic particles are present in human blood (March 2022). Presence in the placenta and faeces has already been demonstrated in the past.
  • Research by the Plastic Soup Foundation into microplastics in cosmetics (April 2022): of the 7707 products examined, 6682 products contain microplastics. This means that 9 out of 10 products examined contain microplastics! All products from the ten most popular cosmetic brands in Europe.

Why are microplastics in cosmetics?

  • Microplastics are a cheap filler for cosmetic products and ensure that the product is 'nicely spreadable'.
  • In mascaras, they can make it stay on the lashes
  • In sunscreens they can provide water resistance
  • Microplastics are used in scrub products and, for example, toothpaste because of the (soft) scrub effect they have.
  • According to the Dutch Cosmetics Association (NCV), there is attention for (micro) plastics in cosmetics, but this cannot simply be removed from all products. Considering the features they have. The quality of products would deteriorate.
  • The fact is that there are cosmetic brands that can do without microplastics. These are often formulated from scratch without the use of microplastics. However, it is more expensive to make products without these plastics. One of the reasons that brands that use microplastics cannot easily switch to a healthier alternative.

Are microplastics harmful to our health?

  • A direct effect on our health has not yet been demonstrated.
  • It is known that plastics contain other harmful substances that are released when the plastic breaks down. This is how they end up in the environment, including in our drinking water. And in ditches, recreational waters, rivers, sea, etc.
  • Laboratory studies have shown that microplastics in our body can have a negative effect on our immune system and lead to low-threshold chronic inflammation in our body. Which in turn can lead to serious illnesses. Because the plastics are foreign substances to our body, our immune system tries to remove them, but fails, the immune cells die and new 'troops' are brought in. The immune system weakens and chronic inflammation can develop. This can eventually lead to all kinds of diseases. Including cancer.
  • Another laboratory study shows that certain microplastics inhibit the growth of the lungs.
  • From these studies in combination with the fact that microplastics have been found in our bodies, the assumption is that they will be harmful to our health.
  • A number of new studies by renowned scientists/universities in this field are underway.

carbomers; with or without microplastics

In the app that the Plastic Soup Foundation has developed to recognize cosmetic products with microplastics, carbomers (poly acrylic acid) are also referred to as microplastics. However, these can also be made from vegetable materials and are degradable in water. So they don't 'hang' in your body. Cosmetics products containing carbomers are therefore (partly) incorrectly regarded as unsafe. Please note: these products may also contain other ingredients, which are microplastics!

Is the environment damaged by (micro)plastics?

  • Plastic, including microplastics, creates a 'plastic soup' in water. The plastic breaks down into increasingly smaller particles, but remains in the environment. The very small particles are inhaled by aquatic life.
  • Animals eat plastic or get entangled in it. Every year, one million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, sea turtles and countless fish die from plastic waste.
  • The production of plastics releases harmful substances that end up in the environment.
  • Larger pieces of plastic are dangerous to the environment because animals can suffocate or become entangled in them.


Despite the fact that it has not yet been demonstrated in the human body to what extent microplastics are harmful to our health, the assumption from various laboratory studies by renowned scientists is that they are. Besides the fact that they can leach harmful substances into the plastics, they seem to have a negative effect on the development of lungs in embryos and weaken our immune system. Resulting in illness.

This seems comparable to the change of opinion about, for example, synthetic preservatives. It used to be thought that a small amount in a product was not harmful to our health. We now know that all those little bits that we ingest daily through food and cosmetics do not leave our body, but 'accumulate' in our body. And depending on the ingredient can cause damage to our skin, inner organs, hormone system or even be carcinogenic. And weaken our immune system, because the body uses the immune system to neutralize / eliminate these foreign substances.

The fact that the 'plastic soup' in the sea, rivers and other waters is harmful to the environment and aquatic life has been shown through various studies.

So preferably avoid products with microplastics. The Beat the microbead app can help with this. Only it also gives a negative advice on products with carbomers. These are not microplastics and not harmful.

You will not find any microplastics or other plastics in the cosmetics products at INDISHA.

The only exception is the nail polishes from Acquarella and Suncoat; these contain water soluble Acrylate Polymers (which is a plastic - not a micro plastic) to form a film layer of the polish on your nails. Klee Naturals uses polyurethane (a substance between rubber and plastic) for its polishes, which is biodegradable.

More info?

The videos from scientists at the Plastic Health Summits are super interesting to watch. Click here to go to the Summit 2021 page. And click on a speaker to view his/her story.

Sources: Plastic Soup Foundation, Beat the Microbeads, NOS:, NOS: first-demonstrated-in-human-blood, Plastic Health Summit 2021, NCV