Thousands of health and beauty products we use everyday, like toothpaste and face wash, contain tiny pieces of plastic called microbeads. Lately they've had a lot of press because the US, Canada and the UK are pledging to ban the use of microbeads in manufactured products because of their catastrophic environmental impact.
These tiny particles don't get properly filtered through our sewerage systems, so they enter the oceans in mass, polluting the seawater and causing damage to the lives of sea creatures. They are not biodegradable so exist in our waters infinitely, getting passed up and down the food chain and threatening the health of all animals, humans included, as they are unintentionally consumed.
The use of microbeads is justified by health and beauty brands for their exfoliating qualities. Hence their inclusion in product categories such as face and body scrubs, deep cleansing toothpastes, skin cleansers, face masks and many spa products. The main benefit to them other than their ability to create smooth, blemish free skin and super clean teeth, is that they can easily be rinsed off and wash down the drain without causing blockages. However, this property is also a curse, as we are unknown washing millions of microscopic particles into our stage systems and eventually our rivers, lakes and oceans which can affect every stage of the global ecosystem and food chain.
Microbeads is simply a marketing term used by brands, but basically it means tiny pieces of toxic plastic. You can find out if a product contains microbeads by checking the ingredients label for things like polyethylene, polypropylene and polymethylmethacrylate - otherwise known as PET, PTFE and PMMA. A brilliant resource for finding out more about microbeads and checking which brands and products use them is website and app Beat The Microbead which can be found at www.beatthemicrobead.org.
On the bright side, there are many excellent alternatives to these products. Eco-friendly, cruelty-free brands are on the rise, and luckily are becoming more accessible and affordable. Some of our favourite earth positive brands include:
- Grassroots Health
- Neal’s Yard Remedies
- White Rabbit Skincare
- Happy Place Cosmetics
- Lucky Cloud
- The Body Shop
Read more: Ultimate Cruelty Free Beauty Brand List
You can also make face and body scrubs easily at home from store cupboard essentials. These recipes are perfect for sensitive skin as they contain zero harsh chemicals, only natural ingredients. Here is a simple face and body scrub recipe to get you started. Enjoy!
Coffee Sugar Scrub
Cost per batch: £3
Uses per batch: 25+
2 tbsp Brown Sugar*
Benefits: Gently exfoliates
1 tbsp Coffee grounds*
Benefits: Energises and revitalises
3 tbsp Coconut Oil*
Benefits: Cleanses and moisturises
Optional: 1 tsp Vitamin E Oil*
Benefits: Anti-ageing hero
*Aim for organic options if possible.
Mix together all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon until you get a smooth paste. It helps if the coconut oil is warmed up slightly first to make this process easier. Massage into damp skin once or twice a week and rinse off with warm water. Store in an airtight container.