Do You Use Beauty Products With Microbeads? Read This
If you’re anything like us — that is, constantly reading about beauty and fashion online — you’re bound to have come across the brouhaha surrounding microbeads at some point in the past year. Now, things have taken a more serious turn with American President Barrack Obama approving a bill banning the production of personal care products and cosmetics that have microbeads last week. If you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, and why we in India should be concerned about it and follow suit, allow us to give you the lowdown.
What are microbeads?
Microbeads are really tiny solid plastic spheres less than 5 mm in size, often used in exfoliating or cleansing products like toothpastes, soaps, body washes, and facial cleansers. Their size might fool you into thinking that they can’t really do much harm, but the larger impact on the environment will force you to do a rethink. If you’re not sure whether the face wash you’re buying contains microbeads, look for ingredients like polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) in the ingredient list at the back. They are even used in some age-defying make-up and skin care products, so be sure to check all your products before you buy going forward.
How do they pollute the environment?
Most waste water is processed in large waste water treatment plants before being discharged into the ocean. But microbeads are so tiny that they pass out of waste water treatment filters and are discharged directly into rivers, bays, gulfs, inland waterways, and oceans. Basically, as you wash your face and think your skin is squeaky clean, these tiny plastic beads are actually going down your drain and into water treatment centres where they miss being caught and land up straight into the ocean. Once they’re in the water, they act like sponges and absorb considerable toxins all around them, becoming a million times more dangerous than they were before.
How do they harm the environment?
Aquatic wildlife like fishes and turtles cannot distinguish these microbeads from food and often feed on the plastic beads. These plastic bits often get lodged in their stomachs or intestines, causing the animal to stop eating altogether and die of starvation or suffer other health problems. Oh, and this same fish then makes its way to your dinner table as well. We’re sick to our stomachs thinking about all the toxins those microbeads have collected in the waterways and what they’re doing to our insides as we consume our food.
Are there any substitutes?
Of course there are. Natural exfoliants like apricot shells, jojoba beans, and pumice do a far better job of exfoliating. However, microbeads are cheaper and easier to source and are smoother, which makes them ideal for everyday use; simply put you will be buying more of this stuff.
Really, people: We don’t need any more convincing that these darned things need to go right now. By 2017, all products containing microbeads will be phased out in the US, so you’ve got to start living without them anyhow. Why not start now?
Watch this 2-minute short film to learn more about microbeads, if you’re still not convinced: