This common beauty product ingredient is deadly

Most of us try and do good when it comes to the environment. We’ve become a society fixated on products labeled free-range, cruelty-free, organic, non-GMO; and rightfully so. People are making great changes to ensure the planet we live on now will be liveable for future generations to come.

The biggest debate amongst the eco-concious right now has to do with one of our most vital resources: Water.

Currently there is a new debate point springing up among consumers and in the halls of governments in North America. It all has to do with a common beauty ingredient in exfoliating products: Microbeads.


These exfoliating beads, usually made of tiny plastic bits, are used in millions of skin care products to exfoliate, refresh and brighten. The positive consumer response from these micro beads has led to almost every skincare brand to include them into one product or another. The beads aren’t just in body scrubs and face wash but also found in some toothpastes (which is also wreaking havoc on many people’s gum and tooth enamel).

The problem with the little beads is that they usually don’t break down naturally and, even worse, are slipping past the systems in place to keep our drinking water safe. Household waste water gets vigorously treated before it ends up in our natural reservoirs but these micro beads are so tiny that they are going undetected and creating a huge, and deadly, mess for our fresh water resources and the fish and organisms that rely on them.

Microbeads are normally less than 1 millimetre across, and slip through most water treatment facilities into the water supply. In New York state alone, 19 tonnes of microbeads may be released into wastewater every year, according to a report from the office of the state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman.

The Great Lakes are apparently already riddled with microbeads, according to a study published last year. By dragging a fine mesh along the lakes’ surface the study found microplastics in converning amounts, of which 81 per cent were cosmetic mircobeads. Preliminary results show even higher levels for Lakes Michigan, Erie and Ontario.


Some states south of our border have already passed laws to ensure skin care brands are phasing out the little beads from their product lines. Recently the issue was brought up through a private members bill through the Ontario Government.

Staying ahead of the curve and showing a commitment for the environment, companies like Unilever (makers of Dove, Ponds and Vaseline) and The Body Shop have confirmed they are phasing out these microbeads as soon as possible and before government regulated deadlines.


For further research and how to get involved, click here.

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