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Microplastics in nail polish, YES or NO?

Nina Skarabela

We are often asked whether our lacquers contain microplastics. The topic is important and I am happy about everyone who is concerned about the ingredients of the products they consume. I have summarised all the relevant information for you, which I quote from a very informative article on microplastics by the Federal Environment Agency (you can read the whole article in full here):

Nail polishes sometimes contain polymers, including those from OZN. Polymers can fall under the umbrella term microplastics, but they are water-soluble and therefore not microplastics in the true sense. Indeed, the technical definition from the EU Ecolabel criteria is:

Microplastic: particles less than 5 mm in size of an insoluble macromolecular plastic obtained by any of the following processes:

(a) a polymerisation process, such as polyaddition or polycondensation or a similar process using monomers or other starting materials;

(b) chemical modification of natural or synthetic macromolecules;

(c) microbial fermentation;

This definition refers to solid, water-insoluble particles and was published in the Official Journal of the EU at the end of June 16.

However, in nail varnish, water-soluble synthetic polymers are mostly used for various technical purposes, e.g. acrylic acid copolymers as film formers. These water-soluble polymers are not present as solid particles in the products. Soluble substances such as acrylic acid copolymers are therefore not microplastics in the sense of the above definitions.

In contrast to solid water-insoluble microplastic particles, an assessment of possible hazards can be carried out individually for each polymer in accordance with the requirements of chemicals legislation for water-soluble synthetic polymers, since the tests with fish, daphnia and algae provided for in REACh and the CLP Regulation can be carried out to determine ecotoxicity, which makes it possible to assess their behaviour in the environment. Furthermore, physical damage to the gastrointestinal tract and displacement of food are not to be feared here, as no solids are present.

For each water-soluble synthetic polymer, therefore, a separate risk assessment is possible based on the ecotox data, the degradation data and the exposure on the part of the manufacturer of the polymer.

CONCLUSION: All very complicated: YES. Microplastics in nail polish: No. But it is and remains a mixture of different substances that can be more or less bad for humans and nature. Even if we try as hard as we can to produce our varnishes as low in pollutants as possible.