What Are Microbeads & Why Are They Used?
Microbeads are tiny plastic beads that are used in personal care products predominantly to impart exfoliation and cleansing properties to the skin. They are most commonly found in scrubs, masks, cleansers. They are also used as fillers in laundry products and even toothpastes.
Sounds like these tiny plastic beads are relatively benign and provide us with glowing, clean skin, right? Unfortunately not. These deleterious pieces of plastic 1 mm and smaller in size wreak havoc on waterways, animals, and humans.
Thankfully, Canada has joined other countries in enacting a ban (in effect as of July 1st) on the sale of microbeads in toiletries, body washes, toothpaste and personal care products. One tube of face cleanser can contain around 300000 microbeads, so this is step in the right direction of protecting the environment.
The Macro Impact of Microbeads
Microbeads travel down the drain and infiltrate our waterways: oceans, rivers, streams and lakes. Given their tiny size, microbeads are not filtered out by wastewater treatment plants. These plastic beads act as mini-sponges, soaking up toxic chemicals along their journey down the drain into waterways, and eventually they find their way into our drinking water.
Fish and other marine organisms feast on these plastic particles as they are unable to differentiate between microbeads and food. Larger fish eat smaller fish, and the problem compounds as it moves up the food chain. Oysters, clams and shellfish are particularly affected, and their ability to reproduce is being severely impacted by microbead infection. We wind up eating and in some cases even drinking (microbeads that enter water supply systems can pass through water treatment plants) the very plastic that has been used to exfoliate our bodies. Yes, the need for truly safe and ecofriendly personal care products is very, very real!
Tides of Change
Over the last decade, increasing amounts of research on the deleterious impact of microbeads alongside activism and education has led to some political action banning microbeads. The federal government of Canada has recently placed a ban on the manufacture and importation of personal care products containing plastic microbeads that are equal or below 5 mm in size.
Following suit with the FDA's Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 prohibiting the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads, the nationwide ban on the sale of personal care products containing microbeads will be enforced from July 1st, 2018 onward.
What you can do
Here is how you can ensure that you do not purchase or are not currently using products with plastic microbeads in them. Look out for the ingredients polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon on the product label. Instead seek ingredients with easily recognized and whole-food ingredients.
Unfortunately, if you do have products that contain microbeads, there is no perfect way to dispose of products containing them.
Remember when you throw things away they have to go somewhere. “Beat the Microbead”, an international campaign against microplastic ingredients in cosmetics, recommends either sending the product back to the manufacturer explaining that you will not purchase their products as long as they use plastics in them, or to dispose of the product in the trash ensuring that they do not end up in our waterways.
This story of microbeads demonstrates that what you or I wash our bodies with or more generally put down the drain on a daily basis can have massive ramifications on the environment, the planet’s health and our health.
Natural Exfoliation = Sexy Exfoliation
Does this mean that we have to kiss the luxurious joys of skin care exfoliation goodbye? Absolutely not. There are safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly exfoliant alternatives. In fact, nature is teeming with beautiful natural exfoliants. There is no time better than now to say hello to eco-friendly exfoliation.
These are a few of the Jusu Body Team’s favorite natural exfoliants that are amazing to incorporate into DIY skincare:
- Himalayan Pink Salt
- Organic Sugar
- Ground Berries
- Citrus Peels
- Coconut or almond meal
At JUSU Body we use natural jojoba beads in our body wash for soft, gentle exfoliation. These liquid wax beads are 100% biodegradable and an amazing pore cleanser and skin balancer. In our face exfoliants we use oats, dried organic juice pulp, fruit and vegetable extracts, pearls, bamboo, and seeds.Let’s get educated and creative. Who doesn’t want sexy, supple, exfoliated and, above all, SAFE skin?
Written by: Abbey Eurchuk
JUSU Body Communications Expert
Oyster reproduction is affected by exposure to polystyrene microplastics,
Scientific evidence supports a ban on microbeads
The Microbead-Free Waters Act
Plastic microbeads: Ban the Bead
International Campaign Against Microplastic Ingredients in Cosmetics: Supported by 95 NGOs from 40 countries and regions.