By Elizabeth Grove
Global Director, Sustainability and Compliance
Lubrizol Life Science

As the beauty industry and consumers move toward a greener and more sustainable future, manufacturers and ingredient suppliers have an obligation to help consumers understand the ingredients that are used in their products.

Consumers are searching for cleaner products, but often they end up reacting to ingredient labels without full knowledge of the nomenclature and the ingredients. This can lead to confusion, rather than clarity.

One example is the widespread concern over microbeads in personal care products. Beginning in the 1990s, plastic microbeads were added to everything from face washes to shaving cream. Nonbiodegradable and often too small to be caught by normal wastewater treatment, plastic microbeads could accumulate in the environment, particularly in lakes and oceans, where they posed a danger to marine life. 

Once the concerns about plastic microbeads became known, the personal care industry voluntarily moved to ban microbeads, even before any laws were passed.

Consumers’ aversion to plastic microbeads was widespread and led to questions about other ingredients. Consumers began to look for answers on the product labels, websites and apps. 

Personal care product labels provide the generic names of the ingredients used, often referred to as the “INCI” name. Drawing on their concern about plastic microbeads, more recently consumers have been misled into believing that ingredients with “poly” or “polymer” in the INCI name means that the ingredient is a “microplastic.” This bad information has appeared on websites and apps that give consumers misleading information about what the INCI name really means and wrongly uses INCI names as a tool to identify microplastics.

To clear up this confusion, the committee that assigns INCI names recently issued a statement, clarifying that ingredient labels and INCI names cannot be used to identify whether a product contains microplastics. According to the statement, any claim that “poly” or “polymer” in the INCI name of an ingredient means that the ingredient is a microplastic, is “inaccurate and misleading.” 

Lubrizol Life Science’s acrylate polymers are never used in personal care products as microplastics. Instead, these polymers are used in cleansers and shampoos as a gel or a thickener. Unlike plastic microbeads, Lubrizol’s polymers do not bioaccumulate, are effectively removed in wastewater treatment and do not pose an environmental threat. 

We’re glad that consumers care about what is in their personal care products and that the INCI committee has set the record straight about what INCI names do, and do not, tell consumers about their products. 

To learn more about the difference between microplastics and acrylate polymers, click here.

About Lubrizol Personal and Home Care
We develop, manufacture and market a broad range of specialty chemicals for skin care, hair care, bath and shower, dish care, surface care and fabric care. Our innovative ingredients and additives modify physical properties, enhance functional performance and deliver aesthetic benefits to drive key consumer product claims. Furthermore, with Active Organics' botanical extracts and Lipotec's peptide-based active cosmetic ingredients, we have strategically expanded our product portfolio and continue to build upon our current capabilities, formulations expertise and global manufacturing footprint to take innovation to the next level. We partner closely with our customers to create winning brands – through our commitment to market intimacy, knowledgeable people, technical expertise and essential, market-driving solutions. Our primary focus is on the needs and demands of our customers and consumers on a global basis. We are persistently committed to “accessible innovation” that directly addresses the market trends and to providing you with powerful, proven solutions so you can Formulate With Confidence™.
About The Lubrizol Corporation
The Lubrizol Corporation, a Berkshire Hathaway company, is a market-driven global company that combines complex, specialty chemicals to optimize the quality, performance and value of customers’ products while reducing their environmental impact. It is a leader at combining market insights with chemistry and application capabilities to deliver valuable solutions to customers in the global transportation, industrial and consumer markets. Lubrizol improves lives by acting as an essential partner in our customers’ success, delivering efficiency, reliability or wellness to their end users. Technologies include lubricant additives for engine oils, driveline and other transportation-related fluids, industrial lubricants, as well as additives for gasoline and diesel fuel. In addition, Lubrizol makes ingredients and additives for home care, personal care and skin care products and specialty materials encompassing polymer and coatings technologies, along with polymer-based pharmaceutical and medical device solutions.
With headquarters in Wickliffe, Ohio, Lubrizol owns and operates manufacturing facilities in 17 countries, as well as sales and technical offices around the world. Founded in 1928, Lubrizol has approximately 8,700 employees worldwide. Revenues for 2018 were $6.8 billion. For more information, visit
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