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  • Writer's pictureMargarida Lindo

New Updates on Cosmetics with Microplastics in Europe

Microplastics are usually defined as small solid particles, usually microscopic, made of a synthetic polymer and when released into the environment they are very persistent to (bio)degradation, remaining in the environment for a long period of time. Microplastics are used in various personal care and cosmetic products for a range of purposes, including exfoliation, texture enhancement, and as binding agents.

The use of microplastics in cosmetics has been a topic of concern and scrutiny due to its potential environmental and health impacts.

Concerns and Issues:

  • Environmental Impact: One of the primary concerns with the use of microplastics in cosmetics is their environmental impact. These tiny plastic particles are often not effectively filtered out in wastewater treatment plants and can end up in water bodies, where they pose a risk to aquatic life. Microplastics can also accumulate in the environment, potentially entering the food chain.

  • Concerns: While the primary focus of concern has been on the environmental impact, there have also been questions about the potential health effects of microplastics when they are absorbed through the skin or ingested inadvertently.

To address this concern, on September 27, 2023, Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 was issued. It amends Annex XVII of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, which deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), specifically concerning synthetic polymer microparticles.

This new legislation prohibits synthetic polymer microparticles, which are defined as polymers that are solid and which fulfil both of the following conditions:

(a) are contained in particles and constitute at least 1 % by weight of those particles; or build a continuous surface coating on particles;

(b) at least 1 % by weight of the particles referred to in point (a) fulfil either of the following conditions:

(i) all dimensions of the particles are equal to or less than 5 mm;

(ii) the length of the particles is equal to or less than 15 mm and their length to diameter ratio is greater than 3.

This prohibition applies to synthetic polymer microparticles that are present to confer a sought-after characteristic, in mixtures in a concentration equal to or greater than 0,01 % by weight.

Concerning the marketing ban, there are proposed transitional periods designed to allow interested parties ample time to adhere to the restriction and transition to viable alternatives. These transitional periods are also essential for Member States to prepare for enforcing the restriction. Ultimately, these periods help minimize societal costs while avoiding unnecessary delays in emission reduction. In the case of cosmetics, the length of the transitional period, ranging from 4 to 12 years, will vary depending on the product type.

Specific Transitional Periods for Cosmetics:

  • From 17 October 2027: For "rinse-off products" unless such products contain synthetic polymer microparticles for use as an abrasive (e.g., to exfoliate, polish, or clean, known as "microbeads") or unless they are covered by other specific points.

  • From 17 October 2029: For "leave-on products" unless covered by other specific points.

  • From 17 October 2035: For lip products, nail products, and make-up products unless they are covered by other specific points or contain microbeads.

  • From 17 October 2031 until 16 October 2035 suppliers of lip, nails and make-up products, containing synthetic polymer microparticles shall provide the following statement: “This product contains microplastics.” However, products placed on the market before 17 October 2031 are not required to bear that statement until 17 December 2031.

If you desire further information on this topic, please contact us!

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