The EU microplastics restriction: what the nail industry needs to know
Coming into force from October 15, 2023, are changes to the European Union (EU) chemical legislation, REACH, aiming to contain the uncontrolled release of around half a million tonnes of microplastics into the environment.
The Commission's proposal follows the European Chemicals Agency’s findings that microplastics poses an inadequately controlled risk to the environment.
The beauty industry should take note as the European Commission has adopted measures to restrict the sale of microplastics intentionally added to products, including cosmetics.
Cosmetic products in the spotlight include glitter used for nail services, as well as cosmetics containing microplastics used to exfoliate (microbeads). However, a separate UK ban on microbeads already came into force in 2018.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics describe all synthetic polymer particles below 5mm that are organic, insoluble and resist degradation. They have been found present in the bodies of humans and animals.
What the regulation means for the nail industry
From October 15, the ban will apply immediately on the sale of cosmetics containing microbeads. Although not explicitly mentioned in the proposal, the sale of loose glitters within skincare, body modifications/enhancements, bath bombs, personal care, hair, make-up and tattoos will also fall under immediate restriction as glitter is made of the common plastics PET or PVC and coated with aluminium or other synthetic materials to make it shine.
The ban will apply after four to 12 years for other cosmetics, states the legislation, depending on the complexity of the product, the need for reformulation and the availability of suitable alternatives.
The document states that exemptions will be considered if the risk from microplastic release is minimised because the synthetic polymer microparticles are contained by technical means – such within nail polish or paint.
For certain "leave-on" cosmetic products like make-up, lip and nail products, due to their low contribution to the overall emissions of microplastics, as well as the potentially large impact on the cosmetics industry of a ban of synthetic polymer microparticles in those products, REACH’s Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) considered two additional measures as appropriate alternatives to the ban on the placing on the market of those products after a six-year transitional period, as proposed by the Annex XV dossier: either appropriate instructions for use and disposal or a transitional period longer than six years.
The reformulation costs expected for these products in response to the proposed restriction are higher than for other "leave-on" cosmetic products.
Taking also into account the comparatively lower contribution of make-up products, lip products and nail products to the overall emissions, the Commission says it considers that a transitional period of 12 years for the ban on such products is justified in order to ensure adequate time to develop suitable alternatives and limit the costs for industry.
However, in order to encourage the substitution of synthetic polymer microparticles in cosmetics before the end of the transitional period, any make-up, lip and nail product placed on the market still containing synthetic polymer microparticles should bear a statement informing consumers of this fact, starting from a date yet to be decided.
The potential impact of the microplastics ban on the environment
It’s estimated that over 20 years, the proposed restriction would prevent the release of about half a million tonnes of microplastics in the environment, at an estimated total cost up to €19 billion (£16.4bn).
How to minimise your plastic impact in salon
Look for products containing biodegradable glitters
Encase glitters and enhancements thoroughly
Shake off and remove any glitter from clothing after the work day before washing
Sweep or vacuum any microplastics throughout the day and properly dispose of them rather than washing down the sink
Mix glitters with top coat, hard gel or acrylic to minimise uncontrolled emissions into the environment.
Have you found ways to limit your microplastic emissions in salon? Let us know in the comments...