Are your exfoliators damaging the environment?


It’s hard to believe that the 0.5mm pieces of plastic can do harm to our water supply, but new research suggests other wise. After all, their minuscule size means they often escape filtration systems and when you think about how common these are in face washes and toothpastes, en mass these little blighters are causing serious long-term problems.

Dr. Sherri Mason, in collaboration with the 5 Gyres Institute, led the first-ever exploration of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes of America. The 2012 findings concluded that in some samples 450,000 bits of micro-plastic was recovered per square kilometre.

We’re guilty of thinking that only larger debris will have an effect on our ecosystem, which of course they do, but on a smaller scale microbeads are just as harmful. There’s a chance that the toxins from the plastic could make their way into the food chain, via drinking water or fish that can easily consume these buoyant flecks of plastic.

This research may be from the U.S, but it effects us all.

The uproar caused by the research has lead to bans across the world, but we’re yet to see microbeads removed from UK shelves. Personally, I’m no fan of Unilever, but even they have come forward with a plan to phase out microbeads from all of their products. As the worlds biggest producer of cosmetic products, it’s incredible to see them take such a forward stance when many would consider themselves too big to care. So if Unilever have responded, why hasn’t the rest of the UK?

It’s time to take matters into our own hands and re-evaluate our beauty regimes.

How do we avoid microbeads?

There are plenty of natural exfoliants that are great for giving your skin that beautifully buffed glow. Almond shells, salt, sugar and peach kernels are popular alternatives to microbeads and are all completely biodegradable.


My favourite exfoliators are both found at Lush. I use ‘Ocean Salt’ for my face and ‘Rub rub rub’ for the rest of my body. Both contain salt to exfoliate the skin, but I’d say Ocean Salt offers a little more intense abrasion. These scrubs also come with the added bonus of natural ingredients and are completely cruelty free.

I’m quite a fan of Soap&Glory sugar scrubs as well. Although not as naturally sourced as Lush, they are free from microbeads and leave you smelling great. I particularly love Breakfast Scrub as it leaves me smelling like caramel for the rest of the day!

“But my skin’s sensitive” – Ok reality check – If you can exfoliate yourself then your skin isn’t exactly that sensitive, is it? Imagine what putting plastic on your face is doing to your poor skin. For super soft cleaning with a little extra texture, keep an eye out for face washes that contain oats, ground nuts or even polenta. These offer the slightest hint of abrasion for a gentle cleansing sensation.

If you’re feeling thrifty, there are also some great recipes online to create your own scrubs!

So the next time you’re in the market for a new exfoliator, ditch the microbeads and opt for a more earth-friendly alternative. Besides, who wants plastic pores anyway!?

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  1. April 15, 2016 / 12:49 pm

    Its amazing that I never thought those micro beads could do so much damage to the environment. I shall definitely check out alternatives.

  2. April 16, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    Real food for thought here, I recently went to a beauty event that only advocates exfoliating with gel beads because of the damage anything gritty does to our skin – i.e literally rips it. Beauty is so much of a minefield really.

  3. francesca
    April 17, 2016 / 11:39 am

    Well I wasn’t aware of any of that!! Thanks for sharing! I do prefer natural exfoliators anyway so thats a plus! Will defy be trying that ocean salt scrub from Lush!! LOVE lush!! 😀

  4. April 17, 2016 / 1:02 pm

    This is really good to know, although worrying. I’m glad Lush is ok.

  5. April 17, 2016 / 10:17 pm

    I had no idea that microbeads were damaging to the environment but thank god most of the products I use have natural ingredients.

  6. April 17, 2016 / 11:49 pm

    I have to say I have stopped using any beautiful products or exfoliators that have micro-beads in them because of the damage it causes to our water supply and we all need to think of the future and like you said there are plenty of great brands that don’t use them – I love lush 🙂

    Laura x

  7. April 18, 2016 / 8:59 am

    I heard about the microbeads before but never thought about it before but after reading this I think I will look into My Exfoliators x

  8. April 18, 2016 / 9:02 am

    I’ve always been wary of these microbeads, my mum used to make a salt scrub when I was younger which was amazing and since I’ve grown up I’ve either made that or used Lush ones too 🙂

    • Admin
      April 18, 2016 / 9:11 am

      Me too Emma! I think it’s so scary that they put them in toothpaste now too. Apparently dentists have seen a massive rise in the amount of people with microbeads embedded under their teeth and gums, which of course just attracts bacteria. It’s just SO grim :(.

  9. April 18, 2016 / 10:55 am

    I’ve always been a little wary of microbeads but I had no idea the damage they can cause – thanks for sharing x

  10. April 21, 2016 / 12:35 pm

    I have never thought about it before, but it all makes perfect sense. My skin is super temperamental and I’m currently using a chemical peeler since that’s what my skin seems to prefer. I am sure that it’s not good for the environment either. I really wish companies and brands would take more responsibility for what they are putting in their products!

  11. April 22, 2016 / 12:03 pm

    This is so informative! I don’t use exfolitators but it’s so important to look after the environment.