Who knew that something as simple as washing your face could have a massive, negative impact on the health of our lakes and oceans? Pick up almost any tube of body wash, facial cleanser or toothpaste that promises a deep, scrubby clean and you could be washing with plastic.
Using exfoliating cosmetics for a glowing complexion doesn’t have to result in environmental damage. Safe, natural ingredients that are good for your body and our waterways can achieve the same results. By choosing cosmetics wisely, you can avoid filling your bathroom with nonbiodegradable plastics that could become toxic to marine wildlife.
Microplastics, like microbeads and glitter, are the tiny plastic particles found in a variety of cosmetics and exfoliating body washes and facial cleansers. Typically listed as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), just one five-ounce bottle of an exfoliating cleanser can contain more than 300,000 microbeads. Since they’re too small to be filtered by water treatment systems, microbeads end up in our lakes, oceans and the animals that live there.
The bead goes on
It’s estimated that billions of these plastic particles are flushed down the drain every single day. Fighting against plastic pollution is 5Gyres Institute, a grassroots organization based in California. In a 2013 study of the Great Lakes, 5Gyres revealed that microplastics found in Lake Erie made up a whopping 90 percent of the total plastics found.
In 2012, the Sea Turtles Forever Blue Wave Team filtered more than half a pound of plastic from one square meter of water in Crescent Beach, Oregon. Their plastic haul included 739 styrene flakes and 861 industrial pellets. Marine biologist and author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols says, “microplastics can be found in lakes, rivers and every single ocean around the world, and in the last decade [they’ve] become one of the worst forms of plastic pollution.”
Once they’ve been swept into our water systems, microbeads never biodegrade and remain at the bottom of our waterways until they’re consumed by marine life. These plastic particles also act as sponges, soaking up a million times more toxic chemicals than the water around it. Once eaten, those toxins can pass into the tissues of fish and other marine animals, eventually ending up in our food chain.
Cosmetics don’t need plastics
Cleansers using natural ingredients are readily available—you just need to know what to look for. The ground almonds in Angels On Bare Skin, polenta in Let The Good Times Roll and aduki beans in our cooling Mask Of Magnaminty all offer a natural way to remove dead skin cells while the fine sea salt in Ocean Salt not only exfoliates, but also helps to remineralize and brighten skin tone—and when you wash them down the drain, they’ll break down without harming our ecosystem. Plus, they’re all available in self-preserving formulas, which have no synthetic preservatives added to them.
For our glitters and plastics, we’ve avoided microplastics completely by switching our glitter to synthetic mica and mineral, as well as using seaweed-based pigments and natural starch-based lusters. Our ingredient suppliers have worked hard to develop these plastic-free alternatives for our products, all of which are safe for the environment.
Everything we wash down the drain will eventually end up somewhere in our ecosystem—and in the case of non-biodegradable microplastics, they’ll stay there forever. The use of microplastics by cosmetics manufacturers has been largely unregulated in most countries, but in 2016, U.S. and Canadian governments classified microplastics as toxic substances with a plan to phase them out from all personal care and cosmetic products over the next couple of years.
Want to avoid microplastics? Start by checking the labels of all your products to determine if they contain any plastic-based materials. Cosmetics with natural, safe ingredients are easy to source out and will leave your skin feeling clean, smooth and radiant.