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Scrub the Right Way

By Toni Negas
Posted On Jun 14, 2016
Scrub the Right Way

Who doesn’t love a great exfoliator? Scrubs soften skin and do wonders for cell turnover. However one common ingredient is turning into a serious environmental issue.

By Toni Negas

Micro beads have been a popular ingredient in exfoliators for years. These polyethylene microspheres have several upsides for beauty brands. They provide lubrication during application, exfoliate the skin’s surface, and offer a range of colors for increased marketing appeal. However, the time has come to take a closer look at your shower shelf.

Researchers have come to find that microbeads have become a serious environmental problem. Microbeads are designed to be small enough to wash down the drain, however, sewage treatment facilities are not catching the microspheres which are instead flowing into major bodies of water. The 5 Gyres Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches plastic pollution in the ocean, conducted a study published in 2013 by Marcus Eriksen and his colleagues.

The study states that significant microplastics—in quantities of up to 466,000 pieces per square kilometer— were detected in the Great Lakes. Such alarming research prompted Illinois to be the first state to ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics.

The Personal Care Products Council (the leading national trade association for the cosmetics and personal care industry) supports the Illinois bill, which will prohibit the sale of personal care products with microbeads by the year 2019. Major companies— including L’Oréal, Johnson & Johnson, and Colgate—have already agreed to replace plastic with natural alternatives.

To help the cause on a personal level, review your product labels for the inclusion of microbeads. Check your medicine cabinet thoroughly as microspheres are commonlyused as fillers and texture enhancers in powders, lipsticks, mascara, foundations, concealers, skin lotions, and a variety of other products.

The website Beatthemicrobead.org can help, with its comprehensive list of products that use microbeads. The color-coded app Beat the Microbead takes things a step further, allowing you to scan barcodes of personal care products and receive an alert if a product contains harmful plastics.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to give up exfoliating and its fresh-faced benefits. There are healthy alternatives aplenty, made with natural exfoliating agents. We’ve found some great natural options that boast fun, fruity, and effective ingredients to banish dead skin and bring new life to your complexion.

Buff Her House of Exfoliation Milk & Honey Exfoliating Food Powder

Milk and HoneyIndulge in the soothing, all-natural combo of Buff Her Milk & Honey Exfoliating Food Powder. This powdered exfoliator contains rice as its base ingredient—used for centuries as an exfoliator. Other natural ingredients are milk—known to brighten and cleanse—and honey, with its antibacterial properties. Honey also contains mild alpha hydroxy acids and is 80 percent sugar, which is great for balancing oily skin and stimulating collagen production ($35, buffher.com).

Naturopathica Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel

Enzyme PeelLife is a bowl of cherries— or at least your bath ritual is when Naturopathica’s Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel hits your shelf. This exfoliating mask helps brighten and smoothe skin, prevents discoloration, and refines mature skin. It features sweet cherry puree—rich in vitamins and phytochemicals—and includes vitamin C and beta carotene, which function as antioxidant and antiinflammatory agents ($56, naturopathica.com).