Plastic is an inherent part of our everyday lives in ways that we sometimes aren’t even aware of. Learning about how plastic is used, when it can be helpful and when it’s harmful is crucial to live sustainably. Most Americans can recognize plastic in bags and containers, but how many actually know of microplastics, specifically microbeads?
Microbeads are small particles (around 2 mm) that can be found in soaps, body scrubs, toothpaste, makeup and lotion. They are used as a texturized agent that aids in exfoliation.
Consequences of tiny plastic
The small size of microbeads prevents them from being filtered in water treatment systems. This causes the beads to accumulate in lakes, ponds, streams and other bodies of water. Due to the porous nature of plastics, microbeads absorb toxins such as flame retardants and BPA that are found nearby. The inherently small size of the particles allows them to easily be ingested by fish that are harvested for human consumption. As a result, toxic chemicals can potentially be passed on to consumers when affected fish are eaten.
The ecological effects that microbeads have on biological systems are not all known. In 2014, researchers from 5 Gyres found that 43,000 microplastic particles pollute 1 square kilometer of the Great Lakes. However, more research is needed to assess the full range of consequences that the beads bring about. What we do know is that organisms ingesting plastic, whether they are microbeads or in other forms, may suffer from hormonal defects, stunted growth and death.
Many states have drafted bills that would essentially ban the use of microbeads in beauty products. Beat The Microbead and 5 Gyres both support the removal of microbeads in cosmetics and other products.
You can still exfoliate, cleanse and follow your beauty rituals without the plastic guilt! Find out if your product has microbeads by reading the ingredient list. Polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) are some of the components of microbeads. If you are still yearning to exfoliate, you can make your own natural face scrubs. Common products such as brown sugar, oatmeal and sea salt can be used to replace harmful microplastics. You can choose from the following list of DIY cleansers or make your own combination of these basic ingredients to whip up a personalized scrub.
- Mix 1 cup of brown sugar with 3 brown bananas
- Apply to face in circular motions
Coconut and sugar scrub
- Combine equal parts of unrefined coconut oil with brown sugar
- Apply scrub where desired
Honey and sugar scrub
- Mix 1 tbsp. of raw honey with ½ tablespoon of brown sugar
- Gently apply all over face
- Rinse with cool water