New EU restrictions on microplastics in cosmetic products

October 24, 2023. The European Union is taking many measures in the context of the green transition, such as phasing out intentionally added microplastics in several products, including cosmetics. Microplastics are of concern because they do not biodegrade, permanently polluting ecosystems and food chains.

In this regard, on September 25, 2023, the European Commission adopted Regulation (EU) 2023/2055, amending REACH as regards synthetic polymer microparticles.

To which microplastics does the ban apply?

Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 establishes the ban of synthetic polymer microparticles on their own or in mixtures in a concentration 0,01% by weight. Synthetic polymer microparticles are solid polymers that meet two conditions:

  1. Are contained in particles and constitute at least 1% by weight of those particles; or build a continuous surface coating on particles;
  2. At least 1% of these particles have dimensions ≤ 5 mm or have length ≤ 15 mm and their length to diameter ratio is greater than 3.

The ban does not apply to the following polymers:

  • Resulting from a natural polymerization process;
  • Degradable;
  • With a solubility greater than 2g/L;
  • Not containing carbon atoms;
  • Contained by technical means so that releases to the environment are prevented when used following the instructions for use during the intended end use;
  • Permanently incorporated into a solid matrix;
  • Whose physical properties are permanently modified during intended end use so that the polymer no longer falls within the scope of the above classification.

There is no exhaustive list of cosmetic ingredients involved. Each substance must be assessed case by case to verify whether it is classified as a synthetic polymer microparticle.

Timelines for compliance

Intentionally added microplastics must be phased out from cosmetic products according to the timelines in the table below:

Category of cosmetic products Deadline
Exfoliating microbeads, plastic loose glitter October 17, 2023 *
Rinse-off products October 17, 2027
Waxes, polishes October 17, 2028
-> Synthetic polymer microplastics for encapsulation of fragrances -> Leave-on products October 17, 2029
Lip products or make-up products October 17, 2035

*. Non-compliant products already on the EU market before October 17, 2023, can be sold until stocks run out. This rule does not apply to the other categories as there are transitional periods.

The Regulation also establishes some communication and labelling requirements. For example, the obligation for suppliers to provide instructions for use and disposal to prevent the release of synthetic polymer microplastics into the environment. Furthermore, products containing such polymers will have to bear the statement “This product contains microplastics”.

The European Commission is working on a Q&A on the implementation of the new Regulation to be published by the end of 2023. Subscribe for free to COSlaw to remain updated with the latest news from the industry.





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