January 26, 2018

Microbeads – UK Ban


The damaging impact of plastics on the environment – particularly the marine world – has gained widespread public, media and government attention throughout 2017. Microbeads are small (less than 5mm in any dimension) water-insoluble plastic particles and have been a major headline creator in the cosmetics industry throughout 2017. Cosmetics have been singled out for regulation designed at reducing the environmental impact of microbeads which have been shown to damage marine life and environments.

Following on from the ban of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics in the USA from December 2015 the UK Government has produced its own legislation. On the 19th December 2017 the UK Government published ‘The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (England) Regulations 2017 – No. 1312’. This new legislation bans the sale of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads from June 2018.

Given the global trend against microbeads we have seen many brands and manufacturers replacing microbeads in their formulations. It is important to remember that regional differences in the definition of microbead or microplastic means that compliance with one regulation may not guarantee compliance with another. Therefore our recommendation is to completely formulate out small water-insoluble plastic particles from rinse-off cosmetics as soon as possible. Please be aware that reformulation of this type would be significant enough to warrant updates to product information including CPSRs & PIFs.

Given the public opinion and media attention behind this topic it is possible that future trends may develop relating to reducing / re-using plastic packaging and the use of glitter in products.

For further reading on this topic you can find our original microbeads insight here and you can access the UK Legislation here.

If you require further guidance on this topic, reformulation or document updates please contact us.