Beauty, Science, Now + Beyond

Your face wash is wrecking wildlife and destroying the world

There's something awful hiding in everything from your body scrubs to smoothing face washes and even brightening toothpaste.

Remember that deliciously scented body wash you bought the other day with those awesome little pink exfoliating beads sprinkled throughout it?

Turns out millions of those plastic beads are being washed down the drain every day, polluting the environment and endangering the health of fish and humans.

The U.S. is trying to ban the production of microbeads through the Microbead-Free Waters Act. If approved, it will be effective starting July 1st, 2017.

California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wisconsin are a few states who have already taken action in this devastating problem by delaying the production of these beads. Products containing any type of microbeads will be officially banned in the year 2020.

The process of completely banning microbeads as a whole is slow but is already taking effect. The House of Representatives has already approved the Microbead-Free Waters Act, and are now waiting for approval from the Senate.

Microbeads are minuscule pieces of plastic found in common personal care items from body wash to toothpaste. But what happens after you scrub your cheeks with these beads? They wash down the drain, into the water pipes, and into large bodies of water.

Countless studies have shown just how harmful these microbeads really are to our environment.

Not only is the water being further polluted, but small animals and even fish are mistaking these microbeads for food, causing an even bigger problem to us as humans. If fish are eating the plastic, we are most likely ingesting the plastic as well, for those who eat fish at least.

Is there even a benefit to including microbeads to our personal care products? Not beyond marketing. In fact, many companies have committed to stop using them, and a number of companies never used them in the first place. They don’t serve a purpose and are eventually just washed down the drain.

If we ingest even a tiny amount of them, we’re polluting our bodies with plastic.

So what can you do to help?

Stop buying any type of products with microbeads. (Here’s a list of products to avoid.) Whether it’s from Neutrogena or Olay, don’t be fooled by the luring words of “exfoliant” on the tube of face wash sitting on the shelf. Tiny bits of plastic don’t act as any sort of exfoliant or skin cleaner. Instead, try products with natural exfoliants, like ground walnut shells, mango seeds, and cocoa beans, or fruit enzymes that will chemically exfoliate your skin.

Especially stay away from toothpaste with microbeads.

The absolute last thing you want is to swallow these beads, trust us.

  • Fatima Ali

    Fatima Ali is at the University of San Francisco, studying Politics and Computer Science. She's passionate about journalism and social justice, and believes that everyone's voice deserves to be heard. When she's not writing a new article for her school newspaper, she's most likely watching Empire, online shopping, or obsessing over makeup.