Microbeads: Bad for Your Face, Bad for the Environment

I’m sure that if you took a peek inside your medicine cabinet, you would find some kind of exfoliator that contains microbeads. Microbeads are, according to NPR, “tiny bits of plastic, [or] small scrubbing components used in hundreds of personal care products like skin exfoliants and soap.” AKA, the little things that scrub off dead skin and gunk out of your pores.

Now, the problem is that these little pieces of plastic, known as polyethylene, are “an excellent transporter of phenanthrene, a byproduct of fossil fuel burning that's a dangerous ocean pollutant.”  Not only that, but they can’t really be broken down properly since sewage systems are not designed to remove microplastic, and so they remain in the water. Their miniscule size means that marine animals often mistake them for fish eggs, a natural part of their diets. So if you partake in the occassional fish taco, its possible for these microbeads to get inside our bodies. 


If this doesn’t seem troubling enough to you, there's also the fact that rubbing these little pieces of plastic against your skin can be harmful. Exfoliation is an important part of an effective skin care routine, but you need to remember that the skin on your face is fragile and can be easily damaged. It should be treated with care, like a baby's bottom. Most scrubs use microbeads because they are cheaper to produce than other exfoliators; however, they can create small tears in your skin, leaving it vulnerable to bacteria. YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO RIP TEENY HOLES IN A BABY'S BOTTOM, RIGHT?

Now that you are brought up to speed on all of the issues surrounding microbeads, let’s talk positive solutions! Luckily, there are many alternatives to microbeads. Try something like FIRST AID BEAUTY’s Facial Radiance Polish or LUSH Cosmetic’s Let The Good Times Roll exfoliator. These options are a little bit pricey, so if you are looking for a cheaper option, you can try making your own exfoliators at home. Here are some recipes that you could try!

Either way, if you live in the following states, California, New York, Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota, you might want to ease your way off of these products. All five states are considering bills that would ban the use of these harmful plastics. This is good news for marine life, water quality and our tender baby butt skin, so start your hunt for a new exfoliating cleanser today!


Read more on the legislation here. 

Photos via TIME and NPR. 

Gwen Berumen is former BUST intern and is currently in limbo. You can find her on Twitter @gwehdolyn and listen to her on the podcast she co-hosts, Sad Girls Club

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