In recent years, scientists and environmental groups have been raising concerns over one such item that has been making its way into cosmetics, cleansing products and even toothpaste: microbeads. Although these little tiny scrubbing beads work amazingly well to slough off dead skin cells and dirt from your skin, they unfortunately are also detrimental to life in waterways and oceans. All too often, these small beads are made of tiny plastic granules that do not decompose and are too fine to be caught by our sewage filtration systems. Sadly, these microbeads instead end up washing through our sewage into the open water, where they are eaten by animals. Needless to say, ingesting these plastics isn't natural for animals and eventually that plastic makes it up the food chain to us.
Thankfully, there are organizations and brands out there fighting for a change. Lush Cosmetics has partnered with Ottawa Riverkeepers, a society dedicated to the health and protection of the Ottawa River and its tributaries, on an online campaign designed to educate consumers on the harmful effects of microbeads and encourage them to take action. Anyone can help take part in the #BanTheBead campaign in the following ways:
- Follow the conversation and spread the word via the #BanTheBead hashtag on Twitter and Instagram
- Sign the Ottawa Riverkeeper's petition to the federal government to ban microbeads in cosmetic products.
- Purchase biodegradable alternatives to microbeads
How to spot microbeads
It can be pretty difficult to know whether your product contains harmful microbeads or not, but there are some tricks and ingredients to watch out for. Obviously, anything with the word "microbeads" is suspect, but also watch out for products that use the words "pearls" or "scrubbing beads" and watch out for the following ingredients:
- polyethylene (PE)
- polypropylene (PP)
- polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
- polystyrene (PS)
While these ingredients can have other purposes that are harmless, when paired with a product that claims exfoliating properties, the likelihood of these ingredients being used to form plastic beads is very high, so better safe than sorry and avoid them!
Want more info? Check out Beat the Microbead for info and an app that helps you identify products with microbeads.
So what can I use?
While microbeads are affordable and effective, there are just as many natural alternatives that work just as well. Lush in particular has some great alternatives that are worth checking out and they were kind enough to send me a few to try!
Movis Facial Soap ($9.95) is a unique bread-based face soap that's uses breadcrumbs as its exfoliator and contains vitamin E, coconut oil, organic cocoa butter, and sunflower oil to soften and moisturize skin.
Sugar Scrub ($6.25) harnesses the natural cleansing powers of sugar, fennel and ginger to revitalize and renew your skin. This hard circular body scrub can be used kinda like a dissolving pumice stone to scrub away those pesky rough patches.
|Lush's Let the Good Times Roll|
Let the Good Times Roll (starting at $12.95) is a face and body scrub that I've reviewed before and love for its sweet cookie dough scent and its comforting mix of maize, corn meal and popcorn granules.
|Lush's Life's a Beach|
Life's a Beach ($6.95) is supposedly a gentle scrub, but considering it looks like someone took a fistful of sand, washed it, dumped in some fragrance and put it in a jar, I have to say I'm a bit skeptical, yet wait to try it out! Plus 100% of proceeds from sales of this scrub is donated back to the Ottawa Riverkeepers, as well as other organizations working to ban microbeads.
I hope this helps you to reconsider what products you use and do your part to help save our oceans and rivers! If you have any tips on natural exfoliants to try or recommendation for your favourite eco-friendly exfoliating scrub, please let me know in the comments!