Microbeads are little pieces of plastic found in many of your bathroom staples thanks to their abrasive properties. Find them in body scrubs and even some toothpastes and hairsprays. They are small enough to pass through water filters and end up into the sea causing irreversible damage – this is why they’ve been banned in cosmetic and cleaning products from 2018.
What are microbeads made of?
The answer’s easy but rather difficult to pronounce – polyethylene, polystyrene, polypropylene and other petroleum-based plastics. (That’s the same stuff used to make carrier bags, toys, carpets and plastic bottles!)
Are microbeads harmless?
Microscopic beads of plastic may seem harmless because they’re barely visible. However, they can have a huge impact on the environment as they don’t dissolve like other ingredients.
Microbeads pass through water filter systems into the world’s oceans where they meet the millions of tonnes of plastic waste already polluting the water.
Here, they’re impossible to remove and are eaten by fish and other sea life like whales or turtles.
How can I avoid buying products with microbeads in them?
If you’re concerned about the effects of these plastics, you’ll be happy to hear that the UK government has announced the ban of microbeads in cosmetics from 2018. But in the meantime, keep an eye on the ingredients lists on your favourite products.
You won’t usually see the words “microbeads” on many containers, so look out for ingredients like polyethylene, polypropylene or tongue twisters such as polymethylmethacrylate.
Or, check for the following terms:
Luckily, there are alternatives to microbeads that still achieve silky, smooth skin. Sea salt, sugar, coffee or coconut and bamboo fibres do a wonderful job of scrubbing away dead skin cells and they break down and dissolve without affecting the world around us. Bonus!
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Are there any other harmful chemicals I should avoid?
Along with microbeads, cosmetic ingredients like parabens and SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) are also raising concern amongst beauty product consumers. But even though debate has been building around them, it’s up to you to decide which products deserve a place in your bathroom cabinet. Find out more by clicking the links below.
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