There was this ad on TV when I was a teenager, I think it was for Clean & Clear-brand face wash. A pair of besties were standing in front of the bathroom mirror, washing their faces with a new product featuring “smooth, round, microscrubbers.” Yes, I remember the exact line. Hey- the ad probably played during every Dawson’s Creek commercial break, and I was really impressionable! Did I buy the product? Yes, yes I need. After all, I wanted those microscrubbers to slough away my dead skin and reveal my most radiant skin!
Flash forward 20 years, there’s no denying my beauty routine has been majorly revamped and I pay close attention to the ingredients in everything that I apply to my skin. In the past couple of years I’ve seen more and more news stories about pollution caused by “microbeads,” and having been so picky about my own beauty products I hadn’t realized that those “smooth, round, microscrubbers” had become so ubiquitous in the beauty industry. It also never occurred to me that those microscrubbers were actually eensy weensy beads of plastic!
Every time I (and everyone else) brushed with those scrubby toothpastes, washed my face with the fancy cleanser with bright orange dots in it or lathered my body with the body wash that was practically sparkling… all those little scrubbers were going down the drain never to be dissolved, never to biodegrade… simply to overwhelm our ecosystems:
“At some locations [of the St. Lawrence River], the researchers measured over 1,000 microbeads per litre of sediment.” (CBC.ca)
“[the] team found 1,500 to 1.7 million plastic particles per square mile (2.5 square kilometers) in the [Great] lakes, with the highest concentration in Lake Erie.” (Scientific American)
“These particles have the potential to block digestion in fish species and starve them of nutrients.” (Sailors for the Sea)
And the kicker is… we don’t NEED them!
I’m all for technologies and inventions that fulfill a need, make our lives better, make us healthier, even make tasks easier. But just like K-Cups and disposable squishy snack packs, we did fine before microbeads, and we can continue to do just fine without them.
The same exfoliating effect can be achieved with the simplest ingredients: sugar, salt, rice/nut/seed particles, oatmeal, baking soda, coffee grounds or even a cloth or glove made of fibers that exfoliate like sisal or hemp.
Check out The Crunchy Moose’s Best Natural Exfoliants to learn more.
It has even been reported that the microbeads in toothpastes may even be harmful to our mouths!
How do I know if my products contain microbeads?
Avoid them completely by making your own scrubs with ingredients in your kitchen, or simply shop for exfoliants that contain ingredients you might find in your kitchen! Watch out for ingredients with the “poly” suffix, according to WaterKeeper.ca:
“Poly” hints at its synthetic polymer properties. Polyethylene and polypropylene are the most common forms of plastic found in soaps and cleansers. You may also find polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, and nylon listed as ingredients.
If you’re eager to have a greener beauty routine, banning microbeads from your body care products is an easy first step. The next one, of course, is for them to be banned from the cosmetic industry entirely!