Swedish rules on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products

Sweden has a ban on the sale of certain cosmetic products containing small plastic particles, known as microplastics. The purpose of this regulation is to restrict the release of plastic microplastics into our lakes and seas.

Ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products

In order to reduce the spread of microplastics in the environment, there is a Swedish ban on the sale of cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads which have a cleansing, peeling or polishing effect. This ban includes products such as those intended to be rinsed off or spit out after use on skin, hair, mucous membranes or teeth. Such products may be soap with a peeling effect or toothpaste with a polishing effect.

The ban applies to plastic microbeads in solid phase that are less than 5 millimetres in any dimension and that are insoluble in water. There is no lower limit for the size of the microbeads, which means that plastic microbeads in nano phase are also covered.

Plastic microbeads that only consist of naturally occurring polymers such as cellulose are not covered by the ban.

Prohibition in Certain Cases in Connection with the Handling, Import and Export of Chemical Products Ordinance (1998:944), 4–4b §§, (In Swedish only) External link.

You will find further information on the background to the ban in the Swedish Chemicals Agency report 2/16:
“Proposal for a national ban on microbeads in cosmetic products” (Report in Swedish, summary in English)

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are very small plastic particles that degrade very slowly in the environment. When microplastics end up in lakes and seas, there is a risk of negative effects on, for example, mussels, crustaceans and fish. For example, when aquatic animals ingest microplastics, it can lead to reduced food intake, inflammation and reproductive effects. Microplastics may also contain hazardous substances that can be absorbed by aquatic organisms.

Dispensation from the ban

The Swedish Chemicals Agency may grant a dispensation from the ban in individual cases. The application fee is 15 000 SEK. We can grant a dispensation for cosmetic products that have been manufactured using naturally occurring polymers as a raw material that quickly degrade into monomers in an aquatic environment and pose no risk of harm to aquatic organisms. You must submit with your application for a dispensation written documentation and proof that the requirements stipulated in 4b§ of the Ordinance have been met.

New restriction of microplastics in chemical products in the EU

The European Commission has decided to restrict microparticles of synthetic polymers, known as microplastics. The products covered by the restriction include cosmetic products (both rinse-off and non-rinse-off), detergents, paints and fillers for artificial turf pitches. The aim of the restriction is to reduce the release of microplastics into the environment. The rules have been included in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation. The Swedish ban will need to be reviewed in light of the new EU restriction.

Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 amending Annex XVII as regards synthetic polymer microparticles. External link.

Read more about microplastics on Echa's website. External link.

Additional rules on cosmetic products

Most of the rules that apply to cosmetic products, such as those regarding labelling, are set out in the legislation on cosmetic products.

Further information is available at the Swedish Medical Products Agency, which is the agency responsible for cosmetics legislation. External link.

Read more about rules for cosmetic products, (in Swedish only).

Last published 11 October 2023