We have all seen them, and most of us have used them, but do we know exactly what they are? Allow me to introduce to you, the Mighty Microbead…
Microbeads are small plastic particles (<2 millimetres) and they come in an array of bright and consumer-catching-colours. Most people have no idea that these pretty little beads are balls of plastic. If you see any Poly-ingredients in your chosen product, then you’re cleansing with plastic and obliviously contributing to plastic pollution in the environment.
Microbeads are found in a plethora of home and beauty products, such as: facial cleansers and exfoliators, shower gels, toothpastes and laundry detergents.
They are sometimes included in “age-defying” makeup (yes, you’re plastering over your wrinkles with plastic!), lip gloss and nail polish. So why won’t these companies just replace the plastic in their products with natural substitutes?
Well, simply put, companies want to keep the plastic in their products because it’s cheap and easy to source. Companies claim that these micro particles are effective in exfoliating your skin, yet gentle enough to use every day. Yes, of course they are “gentle enough to use every day” because they are smooth and round and offer virtually zero exfoliation.
Plastic microbeads are smoother than natural alternatives (like apricot shells, jojoba beans, and pumice), and because you can use them every day, it means that you will buy more of their product, more often. Great marketing!
The big problem with microbeads is their small size. They are so small that they pass virtually undetected through our drains and through wastewater treatment filters, getting washed out into our waterways. It has been revealed that a single shower can result in 100 000 microbeads being washed down the drain. All water is connected, which unfortunately results in microbeads finding their way into oceans and inland waterways around the globe.
Microbeads floating in the ocean are easily mistaken for fish eggs and they are gobbled-up by an estimated 280 marine species, from fish and seabirds to crabs. Fish species that humans harvest for food eat micro-plastic particles at an alarming rate and the toxins absorbed in those plastics transfer to the fish tissue. Plastic microbeads act like sponges, absorbing long-lasting toxic chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants, motor oil and other industrial chemicals. It is hard to fathom, but they reckon that a single microbead can be up to a million times more toxic than the water around it.
The US, Canada, Australia, and several countries in Europe are in various stages of banning products that contain plastic microbeads. But, until total bans are in place, you can make a difference with your purchasing-power – choose products without plastic microbeads.