What the Heck are Plastic Microbeads?

I just read an article from Mother Jones about Cosmetics

Now for a guy, I pretty much stick with soap.  Okay, I do use shampoo occasionally but not much because frankly I don’t have much to wash.  So I was surprised to see that many
Cosmetic products use plastic microbeads as a way to exfoliate skin.  I think I’ve used apricot pits in some product that my wife had once and realized it was like washing your face with sand.  Not too bad a feeling but at the same time not really very pleasant.

Plastic Microbeads are invading your Cosmetics!

Plastic Microbeads are invading your Cosmetics!

So, why are Plastic Microbeads bad you might ask.

Well, I guess the problem is that they go down the drain, they mix into whatever type of septic tank, leach line, sewer treatment plant etc. and are summarily washed into the closest body of water.  Usually a stream or a lake or the ocean.  What happens to these beads at this point is the question.  Are they mixed with plants, ingested by bugs who are then eaten by some sort of crustacean or fish species?  Yeah, of course they are!

It appears these small (1 to <1 mm) round balls also look like fish eggs and many creatures eat them on purpose.  Isn’t it bad enough that we have larger pieces of plastic floating around in our waterways slowly breaking down into smaller particles than to be purposefully adding small pieces?

In 2012, a study completed in the Great Lakes showed that there were over 450,000 bits per square kilometer.  That seems like few when you think of a square kilometer, however the disturbing thing was that this was twice what had ever been measured before!  The question was “What were they?”.  Under further investigation, they proved to be microbeads.  The use of microbeads in cosmetics, toothpaste and other commercial products has increased tremendously.  They say that there are 356,000 beads in one 4.2 oz tube of facial scrub!

In the British Channel, 36.5 % of the fish have plastic within their gastrointestinal tracts!

Read the full Mother Jones article for the full article;


And the Chicago Tribune;


So what are big Corporations doing about the Use of Microbeads?

The issue of microbeads has been brought up throughout the world.  They are not sustainable and they are damaging to our environment.  One company in particular, Unilever from the UK has pledged to remove microbeads from their products by the year 2015!


Unilever has a large presence in the U.S.  Their products come under many brands, some that you may be familiar with and some not. Dove, Popsicle, Klondike Bars, Suave, Caress, Ben and Jerrys Ice Cream to name a few.  Unilever decided that they wanted to keep a healthy profile with a sustainable focus for their future.

Do You Know if Plastics are Used in Your Cosmetics?

Do You Know if Plastics are Used in Your Cosmetics?

They should be applauded for their foresight.  In the meantime, don’t buy any of their facial cosmetic products until after 2015.  That’s when they say the plastic will be removed!



Reflect Back on a Previous Post on Plastics – It’s Amazing how Slowly We Learn from our Misteaks!


Keep Our Oceans Healthy!

Keep Our Oceans Healthy!

Remember to read the label!

“Be a Part of The Solution, Not the Problem!”


About rsingram

Environmental Specialist, Disaster Reservist, Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, Para-Archeologist
This entry was posted in Education, Environment, No Pollution, Plastics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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