What Is Polyethylene And Why Should You Avoid It?


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In my continuing series “What is XYZ and Why Should You Avoid It?“, this time I want to look at Polyethylene, a plastic with an annual production of approximately 80 million metric tons. Yes, it’s a kind of plastic that mostly ends up in landfills and takes several centuries to degrade, but it is also used in some skincare products as an abrasive, adhesive, binder, bulking agent, and emulsion stabilizer. According to the Skin Deep guide, Polyethylene is classified as being a moderate to high hazard depending on product usage. Definitely not something you want to be using on or around your body, right? After all, the ingredient has been linked to cancer, allergies/immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), skin irritation, neurotoxicity, and biochemical or cellular level changes. Sure sounds safe to me. And while it can be called or labeled “Polyethylene” on packaging, it may also go by the names of Ethene, Homopolymer, Polyethylene Powder, or Polyethylene Wax – so be sure to check those ingredient lists carefully before you purchase skin care products.

So what products on the market today have Polyethylene in them as an ingredient? You may be surprised. According to the Skin Deep guide, here are a few common skin care products that contain Polyethylene:

Revlon & Almay Mascaras
L’Oreal foundations
Peter Thomas Roth Acne Scrub
Yardley Shower Scrub
Avon Dual Desire Lip Gloss
Neutrogena Nourishing Eye Liner
Lab Series Skincare for Men Clean
Revlon Age-Defying Translucent Finishing Powder
Almay Time-Off Age Smoothing Pressed Powder

Those are certainly some familiar names, right? If you are using products at home that may have Polyethylene in them, you may want to consider searching for alternatives. After all, with the environmental impact of plastics, is wearing these mascaras and foundation worthy of the possibility of getting cancer? I didn’t think so – so be sure to do your homework on the products you use!

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  1. Just checked some of my makeup. I guess I have to buy new make up! I can’t believe companies would let you put this stuff on your face! I also can’t believe I’ve been putting this stuff on my face for so long. It’s not like we’re in Elizabethan England and putting lead on our faces unaware of the toxicity, they knew this was dangerous and still put them in their product? Unreal.

  2. Just great. :-/ I’ve been looking all over for plastic socks or plastic sock liners, or rubber, or something shaped like socks, so I can put globs of coconut oil in them for my feet/dry skin; & be able to walk to the john at least & sleep in them. Finally found some disposable plastic foot covers but it said they were made of Polyethylene. So I asked google what is Polyethylene? & here I am.

    Regular socks absorb the oil, & I already tried plastic grocery bags (too big). So back to square one. :-/

  3. hi, recently discovered a product well not discovered. It’s a product that really liked me OMG a lot, buuuuuuut, searching for the ingredients in it I read that had Polyethylene, searching and so and OMG so scared that goes to my lips. NYX mood lip gloss so sad for it…..

    1. @lola – I’m so sad right now. The Korres guava lip butter is my absolute favorite! I just bought 3 more at Sephora today and decided to google some of the funny looking ingredients. I typically make my own, but this butter just feels so wonderful… I’ve been trying to replicate it which is why I actually took a look at the ingredients list. What disappointment!!!

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