My heart sunk last week after reading the article Don’t Lather, Don’t Rinse, Don’t Repeat, which describes a study of the Great Lakes that revealed something quite disturbing. The microbeads, or microplastics, found in beauty products are ending up in the world’s lakes, rivers and oceans. What damage are they doing exactly? On Earth reports,
While microbeads may be less visible than plastic bags, they are no less environmentally problematic. For one thing, they “look just like fish eggs, and thus like food” to a variety of aquatic organisms . . . All marine micro-plastics are troublesome, given their tendency to absorb and concentrate persistent organic pollutants that can potentially accumulate in the fatty tissues of anything that eats them. Moreover, when plankton, lugworms, mussels, or fish fill up on toxic junk food, they may well lose their appetite for healthier fare. Dutch scientists who fed mussels tiny nano-particles of polystyrene found that the shellfish subsequently ate less and grew less.
Since they are small enough to pass through pipes without issue, they are also small enough to get through wastewater treatment systems. And Americans buy cosmetics containing more than 573,000 pounds of microbeads each year. This has become such an important issue that New York is now seeking to ban products containing microbeads.
Chances are you probably own products containing the plastic microbeads. If you’re concerned about the environment, you’ll want to invest some time figuring out if the products you use hurt our valuable water sources. In this post, I’ll teach you how to do that as well as provide natural alternatives to these harmful products.
9 Steps for Unearthing Beauty Products with Plastic Microbeads
To figure out if your products contain plastic microbeads, you’ll have to perform an amateur science experiment. OK, I’m not sure it’s actually scientific, but it worked for me.
Step 1: Gather suspected products. This means cleansers, masks and exfoliators. If you’re unsure if something contains microbeads, squeeze a small amount of product between your fingers and rub them together. If it feels gritty or sandy, it most likely has microbeads.
Step 2: Grab the number cups or containers that corresponds to how many products you’re testing. Make sure you choose a container you can easily fit your hand into. Line each product in front of its corresponding cup.
Step 3: Fill the container with lukewarm water similar to the temperature you use to wash your face.
Step 4: Squeeze about half a teaspoon of product into the water. I recommend using more than you would on your face so you can get a larger sample.
Step 5: Swirl the product in the water to break the product up.
Step 6: Let the container sit overnight. Make sure to leave the corresponding product in front of the container so you remember what’s in there.
Step 7: The next morning, slowly empty your container halfway.
Step 8: Put your hand inside of the container and feel for any product that settled at the bottom.
Step 9: If you feel that same gritty texture you felt in Step 1, you have plastic microbeads on your hands. Literally. It didn’t dissolve over 8 hours and probably never will.
I did this test for all my products with microbeads. Sadly, there was plastic in every single one. I’m still questioning what to do next. I’m definitely not going to use them, but I feel just as bad by sending them to the landfill. What an eco-friendly dilemma! My plan is to throw them under my sink, pretend they don’t exist and then toss them out next time I move. I figure in the end, they’re probably less harmful in the landfill than they are in our lakes and streams.
Do not fret! There are tons of natural exfoliators out there that you can make yourself. From baking soda to lemons to salt, I promise you there are options. I pinned about 17 natural exfoliators and recipes to my Beauty Board on Pinterest to help you get started!
Thank you to readers who contributed more information in the comments section.
I know some brands are aware of the problem and are planning on phasing them out. I found this link: http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/en/industry.
I have been telling my clients for years to stay away from microbeads. Very harmful to the skin.People tend to rub so had without realizing it that they cause micro tears in the skin. Unseen to their eyes. These micro tears thin the skin making it age faster. It can also cause hyperpigmentation since the body is trying to repair those tears quickly.
–Susie of Esthetic Goddess