Microbeads are tiny plastic bits that are used as exfoliators in skin care products. Regular exfoliation is essential to remove the top ead layer of skin cells and dirt that make a complexion look dull and muddy. Not only does exfoliation freshen and clarify the skin, it also stimulates cell growth. Nice.
Microbeads may be good for the skin, but not so much for the environment. Microbeads are not biodegradable and when rinsed off the skin, these little round plastic bits are accumulating in the lakes and oceans. Studies indicate that fish consume microbeads which can put these beads into our food supply. That’s the bad news. The good news? At the very end of last year President Obama signed the Microbead Free Water Act of 2015.2015. This bipartisan bill is designed to phase out the beads within 5 years.
Which Products have Microbeads?
I was not happy to read that quite a few of my favorite products contain microbeads. Cleansers from Aveeno, Clearasil, Clinique, Kiehl’s, Oil of Olay, Victoria’s Secret and toothpastes from Crest contain this problematic ingredient. The tiny size and smooth round surface allow for gentle and exfoliation. By contrast, some natural exfoliators including ground walnuts and apricot pits may scratch and tear the skin. But there are many more choices for great skin care. Exfoliation is more than just microbeads, much more.
Exfoliators That are Good for Your skin and The Environment
There are three main alternative exfoliation options– mechanical, chemical and natural grains:
These battery run brushes deliver effective yet gentle exfoliation. Some cleansers used with these popular devices offer a cleanser that does contain microbeads. You can get excellent results with plain soap or liquid cleanser formulated for your skin type. They can range from $29 drugstore devices to $200 models from Clarisonic. I hve found that they all deliver wonderful results.
There is a long and excellent list of chemical exfoliation ingredients. At the top of the list are the alpha hydroxy acids eg lactic acid, glycolic acid and citric acid. They are used in cleansers, moisturizers and masks and do a fantastic job in all of these formulations. Salicylic acid is another strong exfoliator that is excellent for oily and acne prone skin
Grains of sugar and salt are safe for both your skin and the environment. You will need to add them to either oil for dry skin and glycerin for oily skin for a great exfoliating cleanser or mask ( They will dissolve quickly if added to liquids). I love making cleansers and masks with rice flour. The tiny, smooth grains gently but throughly remove pore clogging debris. I even uploaded a video on Youtube demonstrating how to make an exfoliating mask using soy milk and rice flour.
Current exfoliating cleansers and masks are being reformulated, but there are so many other options, this new law will not even be a blip on your skin care routine.
One final thought: My go- to exfoliating cleansing routinue starts with reusable micro fiber mini cloths that I offer in Fashion Flash Boutique. Each $20 kit contains seven cloths and a launndy bag to wash them. Not only do they do an amazing job of clarifying the skin, they do not add a single molecule of waste to our environment. Just saying….