Plastic microbeads – a poison that has polluted the environment don’t belong to any segment of beauty products. Despite the widespread awareness of its negative impact both on the environment and skin, some brands continue using it in their product formulation.
Microbeads need to be banned for good. No one needs tiny bits of plastic in cosmetics when the industry is raising a voice and adopting sustainable, clean beauty products. Microbeads are generally used in beauty products to slough off dead cells, but in turn, cause more harm than one can comprehend. Let’s dive into what are microbeads and the need to eliminate them from beauty products.
What are microbeads?
The microbeads are tiny plastic particles with a size of less than 5mm. These are used across many products like facial cleansers, scrubs, body wash, exfoliators, and toothpaste. The particles are known to remove dead skin cells, detoxify pores, and eliminate dirt from the skin's surface. However, they threaten the environment and especially pollute the marine ecosphere. The microbeads released into the environment reach water bodies that not only contaminate the ecosystem but are toxic to marine life.
Microbeads alone are responsible for producing 86 tonnes of microplastics released in the environment in the UK, the majority coming from facial scrubs. An international campaign “Beat The Microbead” reports that nearly 663 different species are negatively impacted by marine debris, out of which 11% are treated by ingestion of microplastics.
Why are brands adding microbeads to their products?
The ubiquitous presence of microbeads is unknown to many because brands use them smartly, making the products attractive. Most brands use it in skincare products like face wash, cleansers or scrubs that serve the purpose of exfoliation. It is even used in handwashes, body wash, and toothpaste for heavy-duty cleaning.
Microbeads give the cleansers and scrub a gritty appearance which helps in sloughing off dirt and grease off the top skin layer. Unfortunately, people who find microplastic-enriched products attractive have no idea how dangerous it is to the environment. Another reason most brands use microbeads is that the products are cheaper to produce. Also, since plastic is inert, it does not impact the skin negatively but threatens the environment.
How to identify if a product has microbeads in it?
If you want to keep off microbeads completely, it is critical to first understand how to identify products or brands that use microbeads. Here are some ways to identify if a brand uses microbeads:
Check the list of ingredients on the label. Here are common microbead ingredients:
- Polyethylene (PE)
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- Nylon (PA)
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
Another way to check for microbeads in the products is by checking the campaign “Beat the Microbead”. This collaborative campaign is backed by almost 90 NGOs from across 38 countries. The website has a huge database of products which are known to contain microplastics. The list helps in giving a reference to products to avoid.
Here’s why you must completely stop using cosmetics with microbeads:
Microbeads are pollutants that do no good to the environment. It scoops microplastics into water bodies threatening marine life. The microbeads from cosmetics are washed down the sink and ultimately find their way into the marine system. It’s ingested by marine organisms, making it the worst addition to beauty products.
Microbeads are non-biodegradable
One of the biggest problems with microbeads is the fact that it is non-biodegradable. The microplastics that release in the ocean or other water bodies accumulate without breaking down. It is one of the many causes contributing to plastic pollution in the ocean, freshwater lakes and other water bodies.
Too small to be filtered
Microbeads are of micro size and hence too small to be filtered. No matter how much effort is taken for filtering using wastewater treatment plants, microbeads are difficult to clean and filter. As the size is smaller than 5 mm, it easily penetrates and moves past the filter and is discharged in the water bodies like lakes, oceans, rivers etc.
Marine organisms confuse it with food
Because of the size and shape of the microbeads, most marine organisms confuse the same for food. It usually resembles phytoplankton cells or fish eggs and hence often organisms consume it. However, as it is not digestible, it accumulates in the digestive system of marine organisms like zooplankton and larval fish that consume it. This is consumed by predator fishes like shrimp, krill and other small fishes, further moving up in the food chain. Hence, the release of microbeads in the marine environment impacts the entire food chain.
With plastic posing a threat to marine life, it's time to eliminate microbeads from cosmetics and only use products designed considering the environment. Now is the time to bring a change, support brands that care for the environment, and skin, and use sustainable ingredients.