Microbeads have been in the news a lot over the past couple of years. They are the plastic granules in your body products, which give it that gritty texture, used as an exfoliator. Whilst products containing microbeads are banned in the US, the UK government are set to impose “the strongest ban on microbeads in the world to date” (Greenpeace), later this year. But why are microbeads, also known as microgranules, such bad news? And what can we use as alternatives?
Essentially, the problem arises from the fact that the plastic beads are small enough to slip through water filtration systems, meaning they ultimately end up being ingested by marine life. If you eat fish, these plastic beads will work their way round to your stomach too. Not so bad? As microbeads are designed to soak up all the bad stuff from your pores, they also absorb chemicals such as pesticides, which work their way up the food chain and water systems until they end up in our bodies. According to the 'Beat the Microbeads' campaign, there are over 5 trillion granules contaminating our waters, they've even been found on the polar ice caps.
The tide has turned on these plastic granules and, with the UK ban set to take effect later this year, brands such as Johnson and Johnson have vowed to replace them. However, implementing these changes could take years and leave-on cosmetics such as suncreams and make up will not be affected by the ban. The next few years could see millions more pieces of plastic washed down our sinks.
Whilst none of our Cosy Cottage products contain micro granules, we weren't too happy with the future of a cosmetic industry still so reliant on plastics. So we set about finding some of our favourite alternatives that your skin AND your planet will love!
1) Whole Oats
Oats are natural exfoliators, in the same way they soak up milk in your porridge, they soak up oil and dirt from your skin. They are also biodegradable. Blend together with a bit of water into a paste and massage into skin before rinsing off.
2) Salt or Sugar
Like oats, salt and sugar pose less of a threat to the environment as they are biodegradable. However, salt and sugar are best used on hands, body and feet as opposed to the face due to the sharpness of the crystals. Naturally, sea salt also removes toxins from the skin's pores whilst improving circulation. Our Mango Butter and Lemon Foot Balm contains tiny exfoliating sugar crystals which gently melt away as the balm is massaged into your skin. Sugars boost cell production and break down the proteins that keep dead skin cells attached to your skin. The result? Luxuriously nourished feet!
3) Alternatives in the cosmetic industry
There are plenty of great, biodegradable alternatives out there that will exfoliate your skin. Several companies now use apricot seeds, ground walnut shells, powdered pecan shells and bamboo as replacements of the plastic beads. If you’re not sure what to look out for when you are shopping, check the label for products containing polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon and steer clear.
4) Muslin cloths
While cloths do not provide excessive exfoliation of the skin, they do make cleansing a quick and easy process and are perfect for sensitive skin. Wet the cloth first before gently massaging your soap or cleanser into the skin. Try our fabulous Facial Soap to get your hands on one.