We hardly think about what goes down the drain when we wash our face or hair. However, the recent ban on microbeads is changing the way we think or ignore the consequences of product use. Chances are you have already heard of the environmental effects of plastic microbeads, but if you haven’t, we are here to explain it all. By 2020, European companies will have to eliminate plastic microbeads in personal care, cleansing, and exfoliating products.
So what are microbeads?
As the name suggests, they are tiny spherical pieces of plastic, usually less than 5mm in size. These are found in rinse-off products, such as face scrubs, toothpaste, and shower gels. Cosmetic microbeads give products their grainy texture for exfoliation. Did you know that a single tube of cleanser can contain approximately 300,000 microbeads?
Why should we say ‘No’ to them?
There is a growing concern over their damaging effect on our oceans and its wildlife. When washed down the drain, these often slip through filtration systems and waste-water treatment plants and end up in rivers and oceans. These do not degrade over time and transport toxic chemicals into marine life, causing them harm. The size of microbeads also means that they are hard to remove from oceans. Their size and shape resemble fish eggs or phytoplankton cells, which are food for zooplankton and larval fish. Scientists have observed zooplankton routinely consume microbeads during feeding. These plankton are then consumed by shrimp and small fish, causing the plastics to move up the food chain and negatively impact more marine life and us.
While there’s a call for plastic microbeads to be replaced by bio-degradable plastic beads, this should not be the case, as there’s little evidence that bio-plastics degrade quickly enough to prevent damage to marine ecosystems.
Microbeads are not at all necessary when there are so many natural alternatives. Coconut and jojoba shell, rosehip seeds, vanilla seeds, orchid seeds, coffee, salt, rice powder, bamboo, and ground oatmeal all make natural exfoliators. Pineapple and papaya enzymes offer natural resurfacing and exfoliating benefits too. Beads made from jojoba oil are fully biodegradable. By saying ‘no’ to plastic microbeads, we are saving our oceans and marine life from irreversible damage.
We do not use products containing microbeads at our salons and educate salon owners about microbeads.