Handwashing Paste and EU Cosmetics Regulations.

September 2020

Handwashing paste is usually used by mechanics, typographers, bodybuilders, plumbers, and mechanical and steel industry workers to remove dirt from their hands.
Reading in Wikipedia [1], we learn that << The abrasive component that characterises hand-washing paste is essential for removing dirt in the smallest recesses of the epidermis and is generally composed of low-density polyurethane foam powder.
The use of polyurethane powder has as its main prerogative the fact that, as it is a product obtained from a foam and is, therefore, very light, it does not clog the drains and above all, it does not cause irritation and redness to the skin. It is equally true that many historic companies still use marble dust as an abrasive, which guarantees greater abrasiveness and detergency. The percentage of abrasiveness is so minimal that it does not create any problems in drains. >>.

We can add that, in the recent past, many companies producing handwashing paste also used plastic microspheres as an abrasive. In this way, a considerable quantity of microplastics was unknowingly introduced into the sewer system and therefore into the sea.

According to Regulation (EC) no. 1223/2009 [2], handwashing paste is now considered a cosmetic product as it comes into contact with the epidermis. Let's go back just a few paragraphs in this European Regulation to underline its importance:

Considerations, 15) The European cosmetics sector is one of the industrial activities affected by counterfeiting, which may increase risks to human health. Member States should pay particular attention to the implementation of horizontal Community legislation and measures regarding counterfeit products in the field of cosmetic products.
Considerations, 26) The general principle of the responsibility of the manufac­turer or importer for the safety of the product should be supported by restrictions of some substances in Annexes II and III.
Article 2, a) “cosmetic product” means any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the external parts of the human body ... Article 2, k) “nanomaterial” means any intentionally manufactured or insoluble or biopersistent material having one or more external dimensions, or internal structure, measuring 1 to 100nmmeans an insoluble or biopersistant and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nm;
Article 2, s) “frame formulation” means a formulation which lists the category or function of ingredients and their maximum concentration in the cosmetic product or gives relevant quantitative and qualitative information whenever a cosmetic product is not covered or only partially covered by such a formulation.

We understand from the European legislation the risks to public health due to counterfeits, lack of information, non-compliant labelling, dubious mixtures, use of nanoparticles or prohibited substances, dosages higher than necessary. We should all read
at least once to understand the importance of this European legislation, now also implemented by the Italian legal system. We note the number of potentially harmful substances, over 1300, which are now included in the blacklist and are no longer usable. Over 50 are allowed only within dosage limits. And this applies to all cosmetic products as defined in Article 2 of the EU legislation.

Returning to the vhandwashing paste, we can say that a lot of progress has been made. Most of the products of this type on the market finally bring back the phrase “PLASTIC FREE” or similar to underline the eco-compatibility of the product.

But then how is the abrasive effect obtained in an eco/bio- product such as handwashing paste?
Some manufacturers continue to use 1) marble dust or other sandy materials. However, this creates possible damage to sewage networks when use occurs, especially in large volumes in industries. Other manufacturers are turning to the use of 2) wood flours as an abrasive component. In fact, La.So.Le.Est has been supplying the major manufacturers of ecological handwashing paste for years.

<< But we are going further >, says the commercial director of La.So.Le.Est, Dino Del Mistro. << In fact, we want to fully enter the cosmetics market because we believe that our wood flours are very suitable for this sector. Research in this field is only just beginning. Just think of the whitening problem. Certainly, we cannot think of a female-targeted cream that's coloured brown. White in cosmetics remains an obligation. And we are sure to reach it soon, respecting all the new regulations on cosmetic products. >> .

[1] Wikipedia, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasta_lavamani
[2] Regulation (EC) no. 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009, on cosmetic products, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2009/1223