Perhaps you’ve used exfoliating soaps before, and felt their gentle grit scrubbing away your dead epithelial cells. But did you know that unless you are conscientiously reading the ingredients and selecting natural soaps and face scrubs, you are likely scouring your face with hundreds of tiny plastic beads that do damage to the environment, accumulate in our food supply, and fill our waterways and oceans with tiny beads of polyethylene? I did not know this until recently, so here’s what you need to know about the importance of using natural face scrubs.
Products like Dove Exfoliating soap contain tiny beads made of plastic. When we use these products to wash our bodies and faces, the soap washes down the drain, through our sewers, and is deposited in estuaries and eventually the ocean. We’ve all seen bottles and trash polluting our rivers and streams, but some studies show that up to 85% by weight of the total plastic in our estuaries is microscopic. Most of this comes from the mechanical breakdown of large plastics, akin to waves wearing down rocks into sand, yet an increasing burden is generated directly by exfoliating soaps and scrubs. It is not hard to imagine all that microscopic plastic working its way up the food chain as it is ingested by smaller organisms.
From a Slate.com article on the subject:
… a range of bottom-of-the-food-chain critters—including mussels, barnacles, lugworms, and tiny crustaceans called amphipods—will ingest the particles, which may then remain in their digestive tracts or migrate to other body tissue. New research also suggests that polyethylene is an excellent transporter of phenanthrene, a byproduct of fossil fuel burning that’s a dangerous ocean pollutant.
It is fair to say that most mass-produced, readily-available face scrubs and exfoliating soaps will contain plastic beads. Brand names like Aveeno, Neutrogena, Clean and Clear, Noxzema, Phisoderm, and Olay must be checked carefully since it is safe to assume that most contain “polyethylene” or a similar plastic compound in their ingredient list.
Fortunately there have been many naturally exfoliating substances used over the years in soaps that are not plastic. Ground up apricot kernels, walnut powder, or simple clay are among the substances used in a responsible natural face scrub. Personally I like the selection of natural face scrubs curated by Abe’s Market because research has been done before any product is featured on the site, and a clear list of ingredients and environnmental properties can be viewed for each.
So scrutinize your scrubs and exfoliants, and challenge your friends and family to do so as well. And make sure future purchases do not add to the already heavy burden of plastic in our world.