Exfoliating body and face washes can be one of those products that really trick the environmentally conscious customer (remember that small print I mentioned in a previous post?). ..
A lot of exfoliating washes contain minute plastic beads, which though tiny are an environmental nightmare. These plastic beads, which cannot be broken down, end up getting flushed back out to the oceans and can have destructive impacts.
At generally less than 1mm across, these microbeads can easily slip through most water treatment facilities into the water supply. Animals mistake the microbeads for food and end up with a stomach full of plastic, causing blockages, starvation and often death – and if we eat the animal we’re getting all that rubbish too. What’s more, the microbeads can attract harmful, free-floating chemicals such as the pesticide DDT. This tragic situation not only affects the ocean. Fresh water lakes are now being infiltrated by the plastic beads too.
What about other plastic product containers? Ever heard of the Great Pacific garbage patch? As a result of the cyclical currents in the oceans, masses of plastic waste end up in specific patches of the world. All the lost fishing nets, plastic bottles left on beaches, plastic bags and so on, end up trapped in what is often (incorrectly) termed a “plastic island”. For thousands of miles, you can sail through ocean filled with floating remnants of the world’s discarded plastic… we humans don’t make life easy for anything, do we? If the environmental hazards aren’t enough to get you thinking, how about the financial? The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that plastic waste costs financial damage of $13BILLION to marine ecosystems. Every.Single.Year.
Well, to say that all these problems will be solved this year or next is blissful naiveté…but simple changes made by everyone can make a definite difference. One simple change – don’t use products with plastic exfoliating beads! And read the small print. Just because a product isn’t tested on animals, does not mean it’s not causing harm somewhere else down the line.
The best bet is to use washes that have alternative exfoliating particles, such as bits of nuts, sea salts or sugar scrubs (these can even be handmade…save money and help nature – future post on this). If upon testing a product, you can see the beads aren’t dissolving, or clearly aren’t a natural grain, then there’s a high chance they are plastic. Check the ingredients list – if you see polyethylene, that’s it. (Example here)
Find out more here: http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/en/
* Many companies are now pledging to remove plastics from their products, and lists are available online, but frankly due to the fact that a lot of them still test on animals, I will not support or publish them here. I recommend viewing it on a case-by-case basis. Just because they use “natural” exfoliates, does not mean that they are animal-cruelty free.