«Microbeads», «exfoliating beads», «microgranules»: What sounds like an especially effective and sensory cleansing experience for the skin is a horror for the environment. Unfortunately, most consumers of cosmetics aren't aware that the «beads» are made of plastic and flow down their drains and into the ocean as toxic waste. Read on to find out why you shouldn't cleanse your face with plastic.
OPEN YOUR EYES! COSMETIC POLLUTION.
Like all consumer goods, cosmetics are polluting the environment. Cardboard and plastic packaging, cotton pads and ingredients such as oils, waxes and other substances from daily skincare wind up in the trash and waste water. As we don't want to get rid of skincare products entirely, unfortunately the waste cannot be avoided. Nevertheless, we can be more conscious of which cosmetics we put into our shopping baskets. Can I buy a cream that doesn't come in a cardboard box? Do I need three different cleansing products? Do I use up the whole container or do I unnecessarily throw away a lot of products, simply because I have bought new ones in the meantime? In this article, we take a close look at what initially appears to be an insignificant by-product of skincare products: microscopic plastic particles that act as abrasives and scrubbing agents for cleansers.
CLEANSING WITH PLASTIC.
«Microplastics» are tiny plastic granules that are intended to enhance the cleansing effect of hygiene products such as exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste. Manufacturers like granules because they are inexpensive and cannot damage the skin. As much as 10% of an exfoliating scrub or gel toothpaste consists of microscopic plastic globules. The beads can be found on the list of ingredients under polyethylene*. The microbeads are intended for mechanical cleansing – although this can be achieved just as well with biodegradable materials such as the ones found in natural cosmetics containing ground kernels.
EASY ON THE EYE.
It makes sense that the plastic granules are nice and soft and therefore can't scratch the skin. But is this enough for adequate exfoliation? No. The exfoliation is only superficial as the particles are too soft and suspended in gel, making them unable to truly polish the skin. At best, the skin gets a gentle massage, but the granules hardly have a real effect. However, the visual effect in the tube induces consumers to buy it. Let's be honest: who can resist a light-blue gel with silver beads? It makes you want to touch it, smell it, spread it on your face! There wouldn't be any issues with the attractive exfoliating scrubs if it weren't for the plastic getting into the environment through waste water. Thanks to environmental cycles, researchers are increasingly finding them swimming in tap water, milk and honey – and this has devastating consequences.
Did you know? Plastic microbeads are currently the fastest growing marine pollutants. Researchers have found that on average nearly 100,000 plastic beads are flushed down the drain with every facial cleanse. One tube of exfoliating scrub contains up to three million plastic beads that will all have the same fate: The little troublemakers cannot be completely filtered out in water treatment plants and therefore wind up in rivers and lakes and are accumulating in oceans. Even the plastic waste that is filtered out ends up as sewage sludge for fertilising fields and makes its way into the atmosphere as microscopic dust. Therefore it is not surprising that under a microscope, plastic can even be found in honey.
FILTHY FISH FOOD.
In the ocean, small fish, mussels and plankton mistake these plastic particles for food. Microplastics readily absorb other harmful substances from the water and these tiny, toxic bombs then make their way into animals, thus entering the food chain, at the top of which are humans. While it may sound grotesque, we might as well eat the exfoliating scrub right out of the tube.
Well-known cosmetics manufacturers are reacting to the latest findings. They have announced that toothpaste and other products will no longer contain microbeads in future. Hopefully they will keep their promises. Until then, we recommend using alternatives as the beads do more harm than good.
FILSUISSE INSIDER TIP:
With FilSuisse you can exfoliate your face efficiently and gently, without plastic beads and other unnecessary additives that harm your face and the environment. Plus, you avoid the need for other products such as cleansing milks, tonics and creams, thus reducing waste. But even our wipes end up in the rubbish – which is why you can wash the wipes in the hot cycle of your washing machine and reuse them as a cloth to clean your eyeglasses.
Have fun exfoliating with FilSuisse!
* Other names: Polyethylene (PE) / polypropylene (PP) / PET polyethylene terephthalate / PES polyester (polyester-1; polyester-11) / PA polyamide (nylon-12; nylon-6; nylon-66) / PUR polyurethane (polyurethane-2; polyurethane-14; polyurethane-35) / EVA ethylene vinyl acetate copolymers / PI polyimide (polyimide-1) / ANM copolymers of ethyl acrylates or other acrylates; crosspolymers of acrylates