Swedish rules on plastic microbeads in cosmetic products

Since 1 July 2018 a ban has come into force in Sweden on plastic microbeads, so called microplastics, in cosmetic products. 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

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

Upcoming restriction of microplastics in chemical products in the EU

Work is underway to develop an EU-wide restriction on microplastics. Examples of products that may be subject to the ban include cosmetic products (both rinse-off and stay-on), detergents, paints and infill materials for artificial turf pitches. In accordance with the proposal, the rules will be included in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation.

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

Last published 22 February 2022