IMAges microbeads 2

I’ve never been a big fan of the scrubbing type exfoliating products for refining the skin.  Too often the scrubbing ingredient is too rough and can cause tiny tears and irritation to the skin.  There are some products that use less harsh  ingredients, but most women are overachievers when it comes to skin care so they scrub too long, too aggressively and too often.  So when cosmetic companies started putting micro-beads in their cleansers,  I was thrilled.   The beads are very smooth, so there’s less chance to overdo it and irritate or damage the skin.  And as an added bonus, they feel so good on your face , you tend to cleanse a little longer, which helps ensure thorough  removal of make-up and grime.

So imagine my disappointment when I stumbled upon an article about the dangers of micro-beads in cosmetic products.  Turns out, most of the beads are made of plastic and they’re so tiny they pass through the filters of most waste water treatment facilities and end up in rivers lakes and streams.  Why does that matter? Because they pose a huge environmental problem.

  •  Plastic is not biodegradable so it doesn’t break down but stays in the water where…
  • The chemicals in the plastic can leach into the water or…
  • They can absorb heavy metals, oil and PCB”s (a toxic chemical banned in 1979 but still present in many waterways).
  • Because they’re plastic, they don’t break down and are ingested by fish and other marine life which are part of the human food chain.  That means we could be eating plastic and other toxic chemicals when we eat a tuna sandwich.

What’s being done:
Several environmental groups are working to encourage governments and cosmetic companies to ban micro-beads and few companies are voluntarily removing them from their products.  Unilever claims they  will be plastic free by  2015 and Proctor and Gamble by 2017.  Johnson and Johnson  has already starting phasing out micro-beads.

What can you do?

  • Check ingredient labels and avoid products containing Polyethylene or Polystyrene.
  • Brands that are organic or plant based should be safe, but don’t be fooled by terms like “contains organic ingredients” .  To be sure, always check the ingredients.
  • Aveda (the brand I work with and  use) is a good choice.  It’s a plant based line, and uses jojoba beads and bamboo extract instead of plastic beads.



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