Award Winning Natural Soap
& Soap Making Courses

The Macro Problem With Micro Beads

Ban the Bead

When I started making my own natural soap it really got me thinking about the impact of our daily cleansing routines on our environment.

What happens to our soap, shampoo and toothpaste when it magically swirls away down the plug hole?

If you are connected to a main water system your waste water will go to a water treatment plant which removes organic pollutants. The water is then returned back into the environment. But not everything can be or will be filtered out during the water treatment process and this is when pollutants end up in our soil, rivers, lakes and oceans.

Awareness of the environmental impact of our skincare products has grown in recent years following numerous scientific studies on our delicate ecosystems. In particular, microbeads have featured prominently in the media.

What exactly are microbeads anyway? Microbeads are the tiny plastic beads found in exfoliating scrubs, toothpaste and many more products.   

The problem with microbeads is that they are too small to be removed at water treatment plants and subsequently end up out there in our environment.

This is a really serious concern because according to Greenpeace UK “100,000 microbeads are washed down the sink with a single application of some products.” That’s 100,000 tiny plastic beads for just one application of an exfoliating face scrub. That is a staggering number and although they are tiny it doesn’t take a long time for them to build up.

Once they have entered the environment microbeads don’t degrade and scientists have found that they are being eaten by fish, birds and other wildlife. There is even recent evidence to suggest that if you eat fish there is a strong possibility that microbeads could make up part of your dinner plate.   

Scientists have concluded that the best way to prevent this problem is by removing micro beads from products.

Canada and America are banning micro beads and a number of companies are pledging to phase them out in their products. More recently the UK government announced it will ban plastic microbeads from cosmetic products. However these bans will take a few years to come into force.

What can you do in the meantime?

Avoid using products that contain microbeads. Look out for polyethylene and polypropylene on ingredients labels.

Use products that contain natural exfoliants. My favourites are poppy seeds and finely ground oatmeal. Other natural exfoliants include apricot, pumice, salt, sugar and ground coffee to name a few.

Make your own salt or sugar scrub. For a simple and effective natural scrub mix sugar with almond oil.