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Health & Beauty

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Does Your Sunscreen Contain Microplastic? It Probably Does.

Does your sunscreen contain microplastic? There’s a high chance it does. Here’s what to look out for, and the brands to trust, as well as actions you can take to help make all sunscreen microplastic free.

Of all the things that contain microplastic, surely a lotion that you rub on your skin should be microplastic-free? You would think so. Sadly, it turns out that the majority of sunscreen products available in the UK contain microplastic. This microplastic is, in turn, washed into our waterways when we bathe or shower, or cool off in summer in the sea, causing untold damage to marine life, and the wider environment.

Don’t worry if this is new information for you. I’ve written before on the subject of eco-friendly sunscreen and on ethical sunscreen products but did not know until recently that sunscreen contained microplastic. Every day is certainly a school day!

What Is Microplastic?

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, less than 5 mm long. Microplastics are found in the soil, in the sea, in our drinking water, inside fish and other animals we eat, and even in humans. When microplastics are in the food we eat and that water we drink, this means we are ingesting plastic. The long-term effects of this are currently unknown.

Microplastic comes from a variety of sources. It can derive from larger plastic debris that has degraded into smaller and smaller pieces. It can also come from other sources, such as the products we use that contain microplastics, such as sunscreen, which eventually find their way into our waterways.

Why Do You Find Microplastics in Sunscreen Products?

Although you can’t see the microplastic in your sunscreen, in most cases it’s there. Microplastics are added to sunscreen formulas by manufacturers for a variety of reasons – let’s call them the three P’s. Some reasons are more insidious. Other reasons are for more practical concerns:

  • Practicality. Microplastics bind together the product ingredients so that the cream doesn’t split or separate in the tube.
  • Protection. The use of microplastics helps to add waterproof properties to your sunscreen, giving you added sun protection in the water, or when you are doing sweat-inducing activities in the sun.
  • Profit. Microplastics are often much cheap alternatives to use, compared to more expensive ingredients that would do the job without the use of plastic.

However, microplastics aren’t necessary ingredients in sunscreens. Some ethical manufacturers have found ways to formulate their sunscreen without the use of plastic, leaving us to wonder why other manufacturers haven’t followed suit.

Aren’t Microplastics In Cosmetics Banned?

Yes and no. In June 2018, microbeads in rinse-off products were banned in Scotland and England. The key words here are “rinse-off products”. Rinse-off products are those that are designed to be immediately washed off after using them. Think products such as toothpaste, shower gels, face scrubs, and soap that you apply, and then immediately rinse off down the drain.

These microbeads were a type of microplastic that manufacturers added to cleansing products to boost their exfoliation properties.  Although small, microbeads are larger than the microplastics found in sunscreen and cosmetics.

The ban on microbeads was a great first step, but it’s not enough. This is because for products that are designed to be applied and left on the skin, such as sunscreen, then the UK ban surrounding microplastics simply doesn’t cover them. This is despite the fact quite often we apply sunscreen and then go in the sea, or then shower off after a hot day in the sun. The microplastic in sunscreen gets washed off in the sea, or washed off down the drain, harming our environment.

It’s not just a UK issue. In October 2015, Cosmetics Europe, the European trade association for the cosmetics and personal care industry, whose members include cosmetics and personal care manufacturers, asked its members to stop using microbeads. Like the UK Government, they advised that this action should be limited to rinse-off products only.

It’s clear the that the regulations around microplastics don’t go far enough.

does your sunscreen contain microplastic?

The Ingredients to Look For When Buying Sunscreen

Microplastics aren’t simply listed on the ingredients list of your sunscreen as “microplastic”. Instead, you have to be a full-on chemist to know what you are looking for. According to Beat The Microbead, a microplastic campaign from The Plastic Soup Foundation, here are nine common names that microplastics can be listed as on a bottle of sunscreen:

  • Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer
  • Acrylates/C12-22 Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer
  • Carbomer
  • Dimethicone
  • Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer
  • Triacontanyl PVP
  • VP/Eicosene Copolymer
  • VP/Hexadecene Copolymer

Don’t exactly roll off the tongue, do they? Looking at this list makes me feel that we shouldn’t expected to be super consumers, and meticulously scan each sunscreen label looking for all the names that plastic might be listed as. If sunscreen brands were required to list on their packaging in plain English that their products contained microplastics, then you can bet that these brands would quickly phase out the use of microplastics.

Sunscreen Brands That Don’t Contain Microplastics

Rather than listing the sunscreen brands that do contain microplastic, I’m simply going to list the sunscreen brands that don’t contain microplastics. This is because, according to Ban The Bead, up to 75% of sunscreen brands do contain microplastic. These include popular sunscreen brands such as Nivea, Cien (Lidl’s own brand), Garnier, and Hawaiian Tropic.

Instead, here are the more sustainable sunscreen brands free of microplastics. This contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission – at no extra cost to readers – on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.

Beauty Kitchen Daily Primer

Beauty Kitchen Invisible Mineral Shield

Beauty Kitchen’s SPF 30 Invisible Mineral Shield (£14.99 for 50 ml) offers both UVA and UVB protection. It is designed as a facial primer, to be worn under your moisturiser or makeup. As such, as a full-body product, it’s not the most suitable, nor most economical. However, if you are looking for a daily sunscreen for your face, this is a good choice.

The Beauty Kitchen range is made in the UK and all their packaging is made from sustainable materials. What’s more, you can return almost all empty Beauty Kitchen products back to them to be reused.


Green People Microplastic Free Sunscreen

green people microplastic free sunscreen

Green People’s entire sunscreen range* (from £7.50) is microplastic-free and offers a wide variety of sun protection. Select from kids formulations to scent-free formulations for those with sensitive skins, to sunscreen specifically for your face. Whilst not all Green People sunscreens are vegan-friendly, they do sell a specific vegan sunscreen.

Green People’s certified organic formulations are cruelty-free and made without Parabens, alcohol, Lanolin, phthalates, artificial perfumes, petrochemicals, and colourants. What’s more, they also work in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society and have so far raised over £90,000 to support the Society’s work.


Lovea Sunscreen

Lovea SPF30 sunscreen* (from £15.99) is an Ecocert certified organic sunscreen that provides high UVA & UVB protection. The formula is water-resistant, non-greasy, and applies without leaving a white trace.

Lovea’s vegan-friendly products are made in France, and all their formulas are paraben-free & sulfate-free. They do not use genetically modified ingredients, silicone, colourants, nano-particles, or any synthetic scents.


Naif Sunscreen Without Microplastic

Naif Sunscreen* (£19.95 for 100 ml) overs SPF 30 UVA and UVB protection for all ages, including newborns. It offers natural, mineral UV filters based on zinc oxide. Meanwhile, the cream is easy to apply and doesn’t leave a white layer on the skin thanks to the natural oils in the product.

Naif is B Corp Certified. This is an independent verification that Naïf is committed to a better world when it comes to social impact, responsibility, transparency, and sustainability. What’s more, all of their products are natural, sustainable and vegan, and do not contain mineral oils, chemical preservatives or harsh chemicals.


Shade Sunscreen

shade

Shade All Natural SPF 25 Sunscreen* (£9.75 for 100 ml) is a good choice if you are looking for a microplastic-free sunscreen that doesn’t come in plastic packaging.

Made with only four ingredients, this made in the UK sunscreen is free from alcohol, petrochemicals, triclosan, and many other commonly found chemicals. It’s also palm oil free, and hasn’t been tested on animals. It does contain beeswax though, so if you are vegan then this perhaps isn’t the sunscreen for you.


Weleda Edelweiss Sunscreen

Weleda Edelweiss microplastic free sunscreen

Finally, Weleda’s Edelweiss SPF 30 Sunscreen* (£22.95 for 150 ml) offers UVA and UVB sun protection. This light, lasting and waterproof vegan sun lotion is blended with organic sunflower oil and non-nano mineral UV filters. Non-nano means that the sunscreen particles are larger than 100nm and therefore won’t penetrate your skin. Put simply, this means that the sunscreen acts as a physical barrier. Here it sits on top of your skin and scattering, reflecting or absorbing harmful UVA and UVB rays, rather than absorbing chemicals into your bloodstream.

What Else Can I Do About Microplastic In Sunscreen?

If you can afford it, then switching to a microplastic-free sunscreen, such as one of the ones listed above, is a good first step.

If you can’t afford to switch to a microplastic-free sunscreen, then keep using whatever sunscreen is within your budget. Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. Using sunscreen as well as seeking shade and covering up in the sun are the most effective measures you can take to reduce the risk. These alternative sunscreens are more expensive than more accessible sunscreen brands such as Cien, and are out of reach to many people. Therefore, don’t feel guilty if you can’t make the switch – it’s not the only action you can take.

Put Pressure on The Government

More important than buying microplastic-free products, we need public pressure on the Government to amend the microbead ban to include non rinse-off products, such as sunscreen. This will make plastic-free sunscreen accessible to everyone who uses sunscreen, not just those who can afford the pricier alternatives.

Emailing your local MP through the Write To Them website is a good step.

A sample text might look like

Dear [insert name of your MP here], I am writing to you as a constituent of [insert your constituency here] because I am concerned about microplastics. The Government banned microbeads in rinse-off products in 2018 to help protect sea creatures, but I’m concerned that the ban does not go far enough. Microplastics are still used in products such as sunscreen, with as many as 75% of sunscreen brands containing microplastics. Given that after applying sunscreen, many of us swim in our seas, or we wash it off in the shower or bath, then this is concerning that these microplastics are polluting our waterways.

On behalf of everyone in [insert your constituency here], will you champion policies in parliament that ensure that the microbead ban goes further, and removes all microplastics from cosmetics and skincare products, such as sunscreen?

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours sincerely,

[your name]

On behalf of [insert local organisation(s) if relevant]

Postcode

Sign The Microplastic Petition

I have also created a petition on the UK Government & Parliament website, asking the Government to expand the ban on microbeads on rinse-off products to cover other products that contain microplastic, such as sunscreen. You can sign the petition here. At 10,000 signatures, petitions on the site get a response from the Government. And at 100,000 signatures a petition on the site will be considered for a debate in Parliament, so please sign the petition and spread the word far and wide to help reach these targets.

Put Pressure On Sunscreen Brands

We also need to put pressure on sunscreen brands to remove microplastic from their products. Public pressure led to teabag manufacturers removing plastic from their teabags. We can do the same with sunscreen. Tweeting brands, emailing brands, and commenting on brand’s Facebook posts are good ways to put pressure on brands.

A sample tweet or Facebook comment might look like:

@[insert brand name] Is there microplastic in your sunscreen? If so, do you have any plans to remove microplastics from your products?

You can then link to this post, or to a post from a charity supporting microplastic bans.

This approach would also work in an email.

Support Microplastic Charities

Organisations such as Ban The Bead tirelessly fight against the microplastics found in cosmetics and personal care products, by educating consumers and by engaging with cosmetic brands and governing institutions. Donating to them allows them to continue this vital work.

The Marine Conservation Society also carries out vital work around microplastics. The Marine Conservation Society is currently lobbying to get the ban on microbeads extended to encompass the microplastics in sunscreen and other products, such as cleaning products. You can donate to them here to allow them to continue this important work.

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

The Best Eco-Friendly Toothpaste in 2021

Do you need to brush up on the best plastic-free and eco-friendly toothpaste in 2021 in the UK? You’re in luck! I’ve got you covered with my pick of the ten best brands.

This post contains affiliate links denoted by *

Looking for a more sustainable and eco-friendly toothpaste? Perhaps one that’s plastic-free, and packaged in a glass jar? Perhaps some eco-friendly toothpaste tablets? Or maybe you’d prefer toothpaste that comes in a recyclable metal tube? Or maybe even toothpaste that comes in a refillable tube? The good news is that the eco-friendly toothpaste market has expanded massively in the last year or so, and there’s now an option for almost every variable.

What’s Wrong With Conventional Tubes?

Toothpaste tubes and other types of squeezable tubes are difficult to recycle because they combine different materials. Toothpaste tubes in particular often contain a thin layer of aluminium, sandwiched between various types of plastic. It’s too tricky and too costly for recycling centres to separate and process them, so they get sent to landfill.

Terracycle does collect conventional toothpaste tubes for recycling, however, you need to have a collection point near you. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be accessible to you.

Ten of The Best Eco-Friendly Toothpaste Brands

The good news I’ve been doing some digging and found the best green toothpaste brands in the UK right now, that should be fully recyclable in most parts of the UK. I’ve also specifically looked for the brands that offer fluoride and fluoride-free eco-friendly toothpaste options, to cater to a range of dental needs. I’ve even found palm oil free brands and eco-friendly brands that cater to sensitive teeth. Brush up on my favourite brands!

Ben and Anna

ben and anna eco-friendly toothpaste

Ben and Anna* make a range of different flavoured eco-friendly toothpaste, catering for a range of differing dental needs. From toothpaste with fluoride to toothpaste without fluoride to whitening toothpaste, to toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. What’s more, each is packaged in a recyclable glass jar and cardboard box.

Their effective cruelty-free formulas are made from natural ingredients, such as sea-buckthorn, chamomile, activated charcoal, cinnamon, and calcium for strong, shiny teeth and healthy gums. And even better, all of their toothpaste is free from phthalates, parabens, microplastics, SLS, and formaldehyde.

They also make a natural mouthwash (that’s not made from coconut oil) that is also packaged in a glass bottle.

Prices start from £8.95.

Boca

boca plastic-free toothpaste

BOCA has produced day and night tubes of toothpaste crafted from organic and vegan ingredients. You can even choose from fluoride or fluoride-free options, depending on your preferences. What’s more, the toothpaste features the world’s first refill and reuse tube system, which is currently on trial in the UK only.

How it works is that every 8 weeks BOCA sends you replacement compostable tube refill cartridges. All you have to do is pop the empty tube in the dishwasher or clean it with hot water, then refill your tubes and reseal them with the BOCA system, before composting your empty refill cartridges.

If you don’t get on with toothpaste in a glass jar or toothpaste tablets then this could be one to try. Sometimes eco-friendly swaps are easier to make if they’re similar to what you’ve been used to.

Prices start from £9.99.

Brushd

brushd plastic free dental care

Brushd* makes a great range of plastic-free dental hygiene products, including toothpaste tablets, that come in fluoride or fluoride-free varieties. They also have a range of mouthwash tablets and plastic-free dental floss. When your toothpaste or mouthwash jar is empty, there’s no need to put it in the glass recycling. Instead buy a refill that comes in a cardboard container.

Brushd also makes bamboo interdental brushes*. To be honest, I’m on the fence about bamboo interdental brushes. They’re made of mixed materials, so will have to be sent to landfill, where biodegradable materials do not breakdown. Bamboo isn’t native to Europe so it has to be shipped from abroad. This possibly gives it a heavier carbon footprint than a plastic interdental brush. It’s a more expensive “eco” swap that may not make a discernible difference to the environment. It’s certainly something to think about, and if you want to read more you can read about why plastic-free isn’t always better for the environment.

Toothpaste tablets start from £4.99.

DENTtabs

DENTtabs toothpaste tablets

DENTtabs* teeth cleaning tablets with fluoride are a great eco-friendly alternative to toothpaste. These tablets are 100% plastic-free, with no preservatives. They come in a fully home compostable bag made from cornstarch, and carry the official home composting certification. When the bag arrives in the post, simply rip it open and pop the toothpaste tablets in one of your own reused jars.

One bag is equivalent to 2 tubes of toothpaste, and kid’s versions are available too.

Priced at £5.55.

Georganics

Georganics*  specialise in natural, sustainable, and ethical dental care, creating plastic-free products that promote good oral health. Made by hand in the UK, each formula includes locally sourced, organic natural ingredients that are kind to you, your teeth, and the planet.

From refillable jars of toothpaste tablets to tooth soap and toothpowder, their teeth cleaning range is extensive. Meanwhile, their mouthwash tablets and plastic-free dental floss also promote good oral hygiene.

Their vegan-friendly products are free from fluoride, parabens, SLS, SLES, mineral oil, microbeads, phthalates, triclosan, palm oil and synthetic fragrances.

Prices start from £6.90 for toothpaste.

Happier

happier plastic free toothpaste in tubes

Happier* is another plastic-free toothpaste that comes in a tube if dental tablets are not your thing. The Happier eco-friendly toothpaste comes in an old-school aluminium tube, which can be recycled in with your metal recycling. To help you squeeze out every last drop, you can buy a reusable “Squeeze Key”. This can be used on all aluminium tubes, such as my favourite Weleda Skin Food, or even your tomato puree!

This fluoride toothpaste is free from SLS, triclosan, parabens, petrochemicals, colours, artificial flavours, or artificial sweeteners. What’s more, it’s cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. Happier Toothpaste has also been specially formulated for sensitive teeth.

Priced from £12, with discounts available for repeat subscriptions.

Parla

Parla zero-waste toothpaste tablets

Parla’s eco-friendly toothpaste tablets* was founded by three award-winning cosmetic dentists from London. As dentists, they believe toothpaste should first and foremost protect people’s smiles but not harm people, animals, or the planet in the process.

Their tablets are available in two different-sized glass jars – either as 62 tablets or 248 tablets. And when you need a refill, you can buy a 248 tablet refill that comes in a cardboard box. Not sure what size would suit you? 62 Tabs is a 1 month supply for 1 person brushing twice daily. Meanwhile, 248 Tabs is a 4 month supply for 1 person brushing twice daily.

Prices start at £6.95.

Truthpaste

truthpaste palm oil free toothpaste

Truthpaste* is a palm oil free toothpaste, that’s also free from fluoride, SLS/SLES, triclosan, glycerin, and palm oil. Nor does it doesn’t contain any foaming agents, bleaching agents, colourants, or artificial ingredients. Even better, Truthpaste is 100% vegan and cruelty free too.

This eco-friendly toothpaste comes in a glass jar with a metal lid, making it fully recyclable when you’re done.

Priced at £8.95

Truthtabs

Not to be confused with Truthpaste, Truthtabs* are a different company!

Simply pop one UK-made Truthtab into your mouth, bite and brush. Truthtabs foam and clean just like toothpaste. Meanwhile, the fresh Wild Mint flavour leaves your teeth sparkling and your breath fresh.

These come in a cardboard box, which can be decanted into your own glass jar, for lower carbon shipping.

Prices start at £4.50

Weleda

Finally, Weleda* offers this plant-based formulation in a metal tube. This toothpaste is especially good for those with delicate gums.

It’s vegan-friendly and not tested on animals. What’s more, it’s free from sugar, artificial sweeteners, surfactants, synthetic preservatives, flavours, colourants, and raw materials derived from mineral oils. It’s only available in a fluoride-free option.

Priced at £4.95.

Didn’t You Forget About Lush?

So, yes, Lush does make toothpaste tablets. Ane no, I’m not recommending them. Personally, I am not a fan of Lush. I dislike their intensely pushy sales tactics. The last time I was in their store, they used some pretty abhorrent and problematic sales tactics on my kids who were just 3 and 7 at the time. As such, I’ve not bought any of their products since.

Whilst that’s my own personal grudge against Lush, there are bigger reasons that make Lush problematic. In December it was reported that Lush donated a four-figure sum to an anti-trans group. They have since apologised, but I personally feel uneasy supporting this company.

What If I Can’t Afford These Eco-Friendly Toothpaste Brands?

All of these eco-friendly toothpaste brands do come at a much higher price point than your average £1 tube of toothpaste. If they’re out of reach, then you can try to buy toothpaste that comes in a pump, rather than a tube, if this is accessible to you. Recycle Now says that pump action toothpaste tubes are easier to recycle and can be placed in your recycling bin if your local authority also collects plastic pots, tubs, and trays.

How Can We As Consumers Bring About Change?

Something that is important for us all to do, whether we can afford to buy these eco alternatives or not, is to write to toothpaste manufacturers to consider switching to recyclable packaging.

In terms of accessibilty, I don’t know if toothpaste tubes or pumps are more accessible to people with mobility problems (see the plastic straw ban conversation if you are new to these issues). I would therefore be loath to suggest that all manufacturers switch to toothpaste pumps without fully understanding any potential impacts.

Colgate has, however, introduced a fully recyclable toothpaste tube. This shows the technology and materials are there, and more manufacturers should be encouraged to adopt this packaging. Frustratingly, Colgate hasn’t introduced this recyclable tube across their whole range. I smell greenwashing – having one recyclable product amongst a sea of non-recyclable products does not make for an eco-friendly toothpaste brand. So Colgate should also be encouraged to roll this packaging out across their whole range. In the absence of strong Governmental actions on plastic packaging, they will only do this with consumer pressure from us.

Enjoyed this post? Do also check out my posts on the best fluoride-free toothpaste and how to reduce plastic in the bathroom.