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Microbeads: How They Affect the Environment and How to Exfoliate Without Them

Skincare Product with Microbeads

When you’re breezing through your nightly skin care routine, you’re focusing on how to get your skin looking and feeling great (or, if you’re like me, you’re already half-asleep and you’re just going through the motions without thinking at all). As it turns out, though, that ordinary routine could be doing more damage to the environment than you realize.

Sure, you recycle your plastic bottles when your products run out and you use a reusable cloth for your makeup removal instead of disposable wipes. What you don’t realize is how much pollution you’re rinsing down the down in the form of microbeads.

What Are Microbeads?

Microbeads are tiny beads made of plastic. Sounds simple enough, right? But they’re common in skin care products as a way to exfoliate your skin.

The tiny beads are rough enough to buff away dead skin cells but smooth enough not to damage your healthy skin in the process. From a skin care perspective, that makes them perfect for exfoliation.

How Microbeads Affect the Environment

As much as you may love the glow that microbeads give your skin, they’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. When you rinse those microbeads off your face, you wash them down the drain.

Microbeads are so tiny that when your drain water goes through a water treatment plant, they slip right through the filters. As a result, they find themselves in the ocean or other bodies of water.

This is a serious problem for marine life. Animals in the ocean can mistake microbeads for certain fish eggs because they’re around the same size. Unlike those eggs, though, the microbeads don’t break down in the fish’s digestive systems.

As a result, microbeads can cause blockages in the fish’s digestive systems and become fatal. On top of this, the plastics in microbeads tend to attract and absorb toxic chemicals around them. This can make the fish sick as well.

When microbeads kill marine animals, it has a domino effect. The ocean is a delicate ecosystem with every species playing its role in maintaining the balance our planet needs.

How Microbeads Affect Your Health

Not only does the planet’s health affect our personal health, but there’s another way microbeads could be hurting you without you realizing it. Imagine what happens when fish eat microbeads. The microbeads stay inside the fish, which gets eaten by another fish and so on up the food chain.

Who’s at the top of the food chain? We are. Researchers have found microbeads galore in the seafood people eat.

It isn’t just seafood, though. Microbeads are also common in salt because when we harvest salt from the ocean, the microbeads come along for the ride.

Clearly, our digestive systems are much larger than a fish’s digestive system, so the microbeads don’t cause blockages for us. Remember how those microbeads absorb toxic chemicals, though? While studies are sparse, there is evidence that this toxicity could build up over time and may be putting us at risk for any number of serious diseases.

Microbead-Free Exfoliation Options

Now that I’ve thoroughly terrified you (sorry about that), it’s time for the good news: you can still get a spectacular exfoliation without a single microbead. First, let’s talk about the two types of exfoliation: physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation.

Physical exfoliation uses a rough texture to physically buff away your dead skin cells. That’s the way microbeads work, but there are plenty of other particles and products that do this too. Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, uses mild acids to remove the dead skin cells instead. Regardless of which you prefer, there are microbead-free options galore.

Physical Exfoliants Without Microbeads

If you love feeling the rough texture of a physical exfoliant as it works wonders on your skin, you don’t have to compromise in order to be kind to the environment. Try these powerful choices.

Bioelements Measured Micrograins

Bioelements is a well-respected brand, so it’s no surprise that they have a winner in the exfoliation department (many winners, actually, but let’s take it one at a time). Their Measured Micrograins exfoliator uses natural jojoba beads to scrub your skin clean.

Babor Sugar Oil Peeling

Every so often, you need a little dose of sugar to make you smile. It turns out that your taste buds aren’t the only ones who love sugar…your skin does, too.

The Babor Sugar Oil Peeling product uses sugar crystals as biodegradable exfoliants. While sugar can be a harsh exfoliant, Babor solves the problem by balancing it with healthy oils that keep your skin from getting too dry.

Chemical Exfoliants

If you prefer a chemical exfoliant instead, you also have plenty of ways to stock your shelf with effective options. Start with these trusted products.

CosMedix Defy Triple Hydroxy Acid

The name says it all in this product. In their Defy Triple Hydroxy Acid, CosMedix combines the power of three great hydroxy acids to rid your skin of unwanted debris.

Avene Akerat Smoothing Exfoliating Cream

If you prefer the soothing texture of a cream, you can get the same exfoliating benefits without sacrificing your comfort. Avene’s Akerat Smoothing Exfoliating Cream blends the power of urea, salicylic acid, and lactic acid to give you beautiful results.

A Combination of Physical and Chemical Exfoliants

If you’re not messing around and you want some serious exfoliating power, did you know you can combine physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation together? Don’t DIY this, though, because it takes a precisely scientific method to do this in a safe way.

DCL figured it out with their Multi-Action Penta Peel. The formula contains five different exfoliating acids, but you administer it with specialized pads. The texture of the pads acts as a physical exfoliant.

Smoother Skin and a Happier Planet

A major struggle with caring for the environment is that we’re constantly finding new ways we’re damaging the planet without realizing it. Now that you know all about microbeads, though, you can press on and get great exfoliating products without making your conscience uncomfortable.

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