Eluxe TV

Microbeads, Megaproblem! Why Microbeads are Bad For You & The Planet

By Arwa Lodhi

How much are whiter teeth and smoother skin worth to you? Are they worth your health? How about fresh water? Would you destroy a coral reef in exchange for brighter skin?

If you use beauty products like body scrubs, skin brighteners and whitening toothpastes that  contain microbeads, you may be paying a very high price for beauty. In fact, it’s a price we will ALL end up paying, as these  tiny bits of plastic — less than five millimetres in diameter, and usually from one-third to one millimetre–are turning up everywhere, especially in oceans, lakes and along shorelines. Of course, they aren’t biodegradable, and they’re so small, they don’t get filtered out by water purification systems, so you end up drinking them in your tap water, and eating them in fish.

Don’t think the situation could be all that bad, given these are just wee pieces of plastic? You may be surprised to find tha tesearch by the 5 Gyres Institute found an average of 43,000 beads per square kilometre in the Great Lakes, with concentrations averaging 466,000 near cities. Tests on fish from Lake Erie found an average of 20 pieces of plastic in medium-sized fish and eight in small fish. Canadian scientist David Suzuki reports that microplastics have been found in the oceans and even under Arctic sea ice, and Australian scientists at James Cook University found corals starving after eating the tiny beads, as their digestive systems became blocked.

microbeads_digital_comp_v1r3_PREVIEW

 

As the video above explains perfectly, these beads are deadly beyond the fact that they are made from toxic plastic. Their material actually allows them to absorb toxic chemicals, making them poisonous to any creature that mistakes them for food or that eats another that has ingested the plastic — all the way up the food chain, which affects those at the top–us.

The stupidest thing is that exfoliators could use loads of natural, harmless natural ingredients, like baking soda, oatmeal, ground seeds, sea salt and even coffee grounds instead of plastic. But with so very little regulation of cosmetics, these toxins have gone by generally unnoticed. And cosmetic companies are so short sited and greedy, they didn’t even think of the long-term implications of using the beads.

But microbeads are among the newer developments in the brief history of our plastic lifestyle. The 5 Gyres Institute launched a campaign asking companies to remove them from products. So far, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble have agreed to do so. Several U.S.states and European countries are planning to ban the beads, and Environment Canada is studying the problem.

What Can We Do?

As consumers, we can avoid products containing microbeads (look forPolyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) on the label!) and put pressure on companies and governments to end their use (5 Gyres has an online petition–why not sign it?). And, because more than a third of all plastic is disposable packaging, such as bags and bottles, we can and must limit our overall use, and reuse or recycle any that we do use.

Awareness is everything; knowing what to avoid is half the battle. Estee Lauder, one of the most heavily chemical beauty companies, packs their Clinique and Elizabeth Arden exfoliators with them, and even some brands like that use ‘greenwashing’ techniques that trick you into thinking they’re good for your health (even when they’re not) are using microbeads, including Kiehl’s, L’Occitane en Provence, Caudalie and Elemis.

Other scrubs and exfoliators to avoid are those by Victoria’s Secret, Neutrogena, Dior, Guerlain, Aveeno, Garnier, Laura Mercier, Nivea, Clarins, Shiseido, Superdrug, Clearasil, Clean & Clear, Bliss, Tesco and Disney even puts them in children’s bubble bath products, and Colgate actually puts them in toothpaste: that’s right, you could be swallowing these little beads directly if you brush with their Max White New Look.

This is far from a complete list; please check here for more brands.

Look on the Bright Side

But let’s not be negative! Scrubs are super-easy to make at home: just grab a packet of sugar (or sea salt, or baking soda) put it in your palm and make a paste with a bit of almond (or olive) oil. Massage into your face, and voila! Can’t be bothered? No worries, there are plenty of awesome scrubs out there that do NOT use microbeads; in fact, they use 100% natural and/or organic ingredients. Here are just three of many excellent brands we know of:

1. Rudolph Acai Body Scrub

What we love most about this scrub is that the Acai particles are all natural, teeny tiny bits that really do a wonderful job of not only exfoliating the skin, but also giving it an anti-oxidising boost.

Bodyscrub kopi -350x550

2. Alexander Sprekenhus Facial Scrub

This scrub is packaged minimally enough for a man to use it without feeling ‘girly’ but also gentle enough for the most delicate skin. Which means, if you buy this excellent, all natural scrub, your boyfriend is very likely to nick it.

Alexander sprekenhus Package

3. Faith Aromatherapy Chocolate Peppermint Body Scrub

If scent is important to you, you’ll love anything from this organic scrub range, which includes scents like Gardenia, Citrus Ginger, and our fave, the Peppermint Body Scrub. Organic essential oils ensure good hydration, whilst sugar particles are used to exfoliate. Sweet!

bodyscrubs-300x300

To take further action, why not do at least one of these:

  1. Refuse to buy personal care products containing polyethylene or polypropylene microbeads.

  2. Support the Campaign against microbeads by donating directly to 5 Gyres Institute via PayPal or credit card. Thanks for your support!

  3. Share the 5 Gyres Petition to ban the sale of products containing polluting plastic microbeads.

  4. Post our microbeads infographic  (at right) on social media and share with friends! You can also download the poster (11×17) to print and display it in a public place, your office, at school, etc.

  5. Instagram products containing microbeads in stores, tag @5gyres and use the hashtag #banthebead

  6. Send any partially used products containing microbeads to 5 Gyres HQ. Products will will be utilized in The 5 Gyres / Chris Jordan Arts Outreach Piece. 5 Gyres HQ:  3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404

Sure, plastic may have made life more convenient in many ways, but many of us remember a time when we got along fine without it–especially in beauty products! It’s time to take action, for your own sake, and that of the next generation.



You Might Also Like

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Top 10 Natural Toothpastes - Eluxe Magazine
    Jun 9, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    […] Most Eluxe readers will now be aware of the dangerous chemicals lurking in conventional toothpastes: from fluoride and triclosan to sodium laureth sulphate and artificial sweeteners, heavy chemicals in toothpastes can cause everything from thyroid problems and arthritis to liver disease and cancer. A recent study of Colgate Total toothpastes just revealed that there are indeed cancer-causing agents in that brand, and it has been proven that brands with microbeads can actually cause gum disease. […]

  • Reply
    别把塑料-从脸上搽进肚子里 | Sandy学习驿站
    Sep 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    […] (photo source:  http://eluxemagazine.com/video/microbeads-megaproblem-why-microbeads-are-bad-for-you-the-planet/) […]

  • Reply
    #BanTheBead | KINDERMA
    Sep 30, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    […] bacteria-filled microbeads without knowing it. Microbeads are biohazards that can absorb up to 1,000,000 times more toxic chemicals than the water it floats in. This is the same water that […]

  • Reply
    Can Recycled Plastic Clothing Do More Harm Than Good? - Eluxe Magazine
    Dec 22, 2015 at 9:47 am

    […] back on our plate. We mentioned this issue in the past, but as related to the toxic effects that microbeads in beauty products were having on the ocean. Now it turns out that fashion is having the same […]

  • Reply
    Skin Benefits of Cleansing Grains – The Global Beauty
    Nov 15, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    […] Image (source) […]

  • Leave a Reply