The harmful effects of microplastics are becoming increasingly known. An important topic to address, for the health of humans and that of the planet. Various studies by the Plastic Soup Foundation, show the negative impact that microplastics have on the health of the earth, and on us. For example, new research by German doctor Lukas Kenner showed that there is a link between microplastics and the development/spread of cancer cells. “Plastic particles are absorbed by cancer cells and remain in these cells even after cell division,” says Kenner.

Maria Westerbos, founder of the Plastic Soup Foundation, also emphasises this: “That is precisely why microplastic-free brands' own initiatives are so important. In this way, together, we can show consumers, industry and politicians that microplastics are not necessary. These brands prove that.”

Why are microplastics harmful?

Microplastics cause a lot of damage in our body. When inhaled, the immune system can recognise them as foreign intruders. This then causes irritated lungs or Asthma symptoms. Microplastics also work as a kind of magnet for heavy metals and harmful substances, these are called POP substances. They carry the small and sharp pieces of plastic throughout your body and can cause damage anywhere.

There are also chemicals in microplastics. Those chemicals react to the molecules in your body and release what is similar to an energy spark, known as free radicals. Too many free radicals can damage your body, because your body is no longer be able to remove them. This creates something called Oxidative Stress. A difficult word, but very simply put, the aging process is accelerated and the chance of heart disease and cancer increases.

Our hormones are also affected by microplastics. Hormones are produced by all kinds of different glands in our body. They are important because they regulate things such as growth, energy distribution, hunger and sleep impulses. Microplastics literally get in the way of this. The chemicals in microplastics can block the hormone receptors and even destroy them, preventing them from doing their job. There are also chemicals that resemble our natural hormones and these are typically destroyed by chemicals. As a result, false signals are sent to the receptors. This causes the body to become confused. In the long term, this can affect things like: sleep, skin, hair, stress responses, intestinal functions, even fertility and much more. 

And speaking of those intestinal functions: microplastics can also cause damage to our digestive system. This damage can be compared to what happens in the lungs and hormone production. Scratches are created in the intestines by the sharp corners of microplastics, which prevents the intestines from absorbing all nutrients properly. The bacteria in your intestines (called Microbiome or Intestinal Flora) are also affected by the chemicals in microplastics. As a result, they cannot do their job properly, which can cause the intestines to become hypersensitive. As well as chronic conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome start to develop.

How can I recognise microplastics?

It can be quite difficult to find whether a product contains any microplastics. They are well hidden in most products. That's why it's important to read the fine print: the ingredients. That's where the biggest problems lie. There are so many different types of microplastics that even scanning the ingredients makes it difficult. What you should pay attention to is the word 'poly'. Ingredients such as: Polyacrylamide, Polypropylene, Propylene Copolymer or Polypropylene, Styrene Copolymer, you want to avoid them anyway. Even if you see Acrylate, Nylon or Acetate, you know enough. View the full list of microplastics here.

If you want to be sure that you don't overlook anything, the list is of course quite long, then you can download Beat The Microbead App. With the app you can easily scan the products in your bathroom, at the drugstore, or anywhere you would like, to check if there are microplastics in it.

And with the brands such as Marcel’s Green Soap, Weleda, The Lekker Company, Smyle, Witlof Skincare and Naïf you are in the right place! They contain NO microplastics!

I know that microplastics are bad for nature, but are they also bad for your skin?

Microplastics are often added to care products. Sometimes because they improve the spreadability and the texture of a product, or as small grains in a scrub. It is a cheap ingredient, but as the saying is: cheap is expensive. 

Microplastics can cause a lot of damage to the skin. With their sharp edges and chemicals, they can irritate the skin, especially the sensitive skin. This can cause redness, itching and inflammation. Microplastics can also end up in the pores of the skin, clogging them and causing acne, for example. The chemicals in microplastics can be harmful to health. They can be absorbed through contact with the skin and enter the bloodstream. And they can cause quite a few problems.

How do microplastics end up in our body?

There are several ways in which microplastics enter our bodies. We breathe them in, through plastic in our clothing or through polluted air in the house or outside. There are also microplastics in the food we eat, and the drinks we drink. The last way in which microplastics enter our bodies is through our care products. Microplastics in toothpaste are swallowed, and small pieces of plastic pass through our skin into our blood through creams, deodorants or shower gels.

How can I avoid microplastics?

In addition to avoiding microplastics in cosmetics and care products, you can of course do much more. Reduce the use of plastic drinking bottles, tea bags and avoid plastic in your microwave. Also don't buy cheap (plastic) clothing from major fast fashion brands. This is often not realized, but these are full of microplastics that you then inhale.