Microplastic Alternatives for the Cosmetic Industry


Published: 13 October 2021

Microplastics can be added to products intentionally for a function (primary microplastics), be generated during manufacture and processing of products (virtual microplastics), or originate during the use and degradation of a larger plastic product (e.g.tire wear).

Sustainable alternatives to microplastics in the cosmetic industry are required

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines microplastics as tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter [1]. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) reports that microplastics occur extensively in almost all marine and freshwater environments, wastewater and sewage sludge and so can be considered as globally pervasive pollutants [2].

Microplastic Alternatives Cosmetic Industry

Microplastics in cosmetic products: past, Present and future

One use of primary microplastics is in cosmetic and personal care products (PCCPs). Since 1990, facial and body scrubs, exfoliants, sunscreen lotions, make up, industrial hand cleaners and toothpastes have intentionally been formulated to include microplastics to improve their abrasive or other qualities [3]. These microplastics typically measure 0.5mm or less and are mostly intended to be washed off which causes them to end up in the oceans. Marine life swallows these microplastics as they mistake them for food. The organisms in the ocean remain starved because microplastics remain in their digestive tracts and in some cases damage their stomach lining. It retains in the tissue of marine life like fish which is ultimately consumed by humans.

In the last decade, scientific evidence regarding negative consequences of using microplastics has created awareness among the public and has resulted in legislations restricting their use in PCCPs. In January of 2019, the European Chemicals Agency submitted a proposal to restrict all intentional addition of microplastics to mixtures used by consumers or professionals throughout the EU. Such legislations along with demand from consumers has caused PCCP manufacturers to phase out microplastics in many European countries and the US. This has caused a rise in demand for safe alternatives including plant-based alternatives (made from fruit stones and nutshells), silica, and synthetic biodegradable cellulose microbeads. It is crucial for PCCP manufacturers to consider health and environmental impacts of replacing materials. This includes sourcing, manufacturing, and transport throughout the lifecycle of the end products as well as after consumer use.

Microplastic Cosmetic Industry

What role can BioPowder.com play in replacing microplastics?

BioPowder.com offers a wide range of natural fruit stone and nutshell powders for a variety of applications including PCCP application. Our environmental impact is minimum as we work based on the following guiding principles:

  • Processing of agricultural by-products which reduces agricultural waste
  • Non-competition with the food chain
  • Regional/local sourcing as well as ethical conduct throughout our supply chain.

Our processing is purely mechanical and does not require any chemicals or additives. It is relatively energy efficient and does not produce any waste.

We have a successful history working with PCCPs manufacturers. We pride ourselves in supporting manufacturers phasing out synthetic microplastics and identifying natural ingredients that best serve as replacements for them. Our fully natural products are great alternatives for both wash-off and leave-on products.

In wash-off products, our natural exfoliating grains can be used for formulating exfoliating scrubs for body, face, hand and foot, nail, lip and nose, and scalp. Our products can be used as micro-abrasion particles with whitening effects in toothpaste. They can be used as base materials in formulations for shower creams, balms, gels, and soaps, offering a great haptic experience with a soft and relaxing sensation.

In leave-on products, our powders are suitable for eyeshadows, face powders, foundations, and lipsticks. Depending on the grain size, they can replace synthetic material and act as texturing agents, sensory modifiers, stabilizers, binders, or fillers. They can be used as carriers for pigments and also as natural colourants. Some of these natural powders are rich in antioxidants and others have moisturizing effects, making our products suitable for skin anti-aging and firming products.

Whether you are phasing out microplastics in your products or creating natural cosmetic and personal care formulations, we can support you to select the natural ingredients that integrate best with your formulation. Our knowledgeable team is ready to provide exceptional formulation consultation to you and offer a selection of high quality natural products.


1, https://www.unep.org/resources/report/microplastics

2, https://rethinkplasticalliance.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/the_road_to_an_effective_EU_restriction_of_intentionally-added_microplastics.pdf

3, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00651-w.epdf?sharing_token=mW_vOMfToXVA9MpSvuVkF9RgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0OOl7o6k5T3H2fqhKMXK4zbENQJROH25X_UIqdAoprHdFfEH69aXEvvCdJQKzTumcQbmBlGCUPbwwwHejhFLRzFt-aeZhv96p3-RmSbo6rOQfwXAdIyUX6nawQx8YoobaA%3D

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