What Are Microbeads?
A morning ritual for many of us is to hop into the shower and wash our body down in the hope of smoother, cleaner skin; brush our teeth with toothpaste which promises a brighter, whiter smile; and then smooth endless lotions and potions on our face, in the hope that we’ll be left with fresh, glowing skin.
Yet, while we do these things in the hope of revealing a more beautiful self, at what cost do they come? Both to ourselves and to the environment?
The answer is more than you may think…
Just this week, MPs warned cosmetic companies that they could soon be banned from adding tiny pieces of plastic (known as microbeads) to products because of the damage they do to marine life, with Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom stating that work on the ban will start later this year. This came as the result of a huge report by the Environmental Audit Committee, who have become concerned about the problem of microbeads.
If you’re thinking, “how much of a difference does my daily shower really make?” then stop and consider this: a single shower using just one product containing microbeads can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean. These then get swallowed up by shellfish and plankton and ultimately end up on our plates (a plate of six oysters, for example, could contain up to 50 particles of plastic!) and in our water bottles.
Pretty horrifying, isn’t it? With this in mind, we want to talk to you about the beauty industry and the everyday products you use without even realising how harmful they are.
What’s the Story?
Our friends will know that we’re passionate about using only the most natural ingredients in our diets and the same is true for our skin too. Here at Lucy Bee, we’re all about natural beauty and spoiling our body with gentle, nourishing ingredients – ingredients which are as kind to us as they are to the environment.
Microbeads, as you can probably guess, are teeny tiny plastic particles. Worryingly, given the huge impact they can have on our planet, microbeads are everywhere – even in places you wouldn’t expect to find them! Cosmetic companies add them to various lotions and potions, such as exfoliators, shower gels and toothpaste, to provide abrasion, leaving us with smoother skin or shiny, clean teeth.
The problem is, after we wash off our shower gel, or spit out our toothpaste, these microbeads then make their way to the sea. So, until they’re banned or scrapped completely, we need to educate both ourselves and others.
You see, many consumers remain unaware when they’re using products containing microbeads – and many of us don’t even know the implications when we do! This comes in spite of the fact that natural replacements for microbeads can be found easily and cheaply, including ground almonds, sea salt and oatmeal.
What’s the Damage?
Worryingly, microplastic pollution could be even more harmful to the environment than larger plastic waste because our beautiful marine life is even more likely to eat it.
In fact, around 280 marine species have been found to eat or ingest microplastics, although experts have warned that more research needs to be done to discover the exact effects they could have on the environment. The problem is, while they may seem small, microbeads don’t biodegrade. Due to their size, it’s also impossible for them to be filtered out at the sewerage and they could well carry toxins.
Scarily, it’s estimated that between 15 and 51 trillion microplastic particles have gathered in the oceans – and between 80,000 and 219,000 tonnes of these flood the sea from Europe each year.
While the damage of these microbeads isn’t yet fully known (experts are still unsure how they affect us humans), a huge study on North America’s Great Lakes1 found that these tiny little pieces of plastic were everywhere, including in the stomachs of large fish and even fish-eating birds. And, of course, when we eat this very same seafood, thinking that it’s good for us and our body, we’re ingesting the tiny pieces of plastic too…
What Are MPs Doing?
Many cosmetics companies have pledged to cut back on microbeads by 2020 (in fact, some have even done so), but MPs are calling for a blanket, national ban by the end of 2017.
In a report by the House of Commons environmental audit committee, MPs warned that a ban would have “several advantages for consumers and the industry over the current, voluntary, approach.
“It would be universal, ensuring consumer confidence and preventing responsible companies being undercut.
“It would ensure consistent definitions were used by all industry participants. It would also send a message that government was serious about addressing . . . microplastic pollution.”
Happily, lots of cosmetics companies and supermarkets are one step ahead and are already paving the way for a mass microbead ban. Just last month, Waitrose became the first supermarket to refuse to sell any cosmetic product containing microbeads and we’re hoping many others will follow suit!
However, most companies (and us consumers, too!) are still playing catch-up, which means we could be adding to the problem, without even realising. If you want to avoid microbeads, then read on…
How to Avoid Microbeads
- Read the Ingredients
Just like you do with food, always check the label! It’s easier than you think – if you don’t recognise the ingredient, then don’t add it to your basket! Another way to avoid microbeads is to scan the label and avoid any products with polyethylene or polypropylene in the ingredients list. Better yet, embrace organic and natural skincare and nourish yourself from the outside, in.
- Become a Natural Beauty
Using natural and gentle ingredients on our skin doesn’t just benefit us (and our vanity!) – it also helps the environment, too. Worryingly, far too many products will be tested on animals and, after use, their plastic packaging will get washed up on our beautiful beaches.
With this is mind, we’re encouraging you to sit up and take note of exactly what goes into that plumping night cream and its packaging. Of course, many organic lotions and potions come with eye-watering price tags but looking pretty the natural way doesn’t have to be so pricey!
Fans of natural beauty will know just how far your jar of Lucy Bee can stretch. In fact, our jars of coconut oil take pride of place on our bathroom shelves, doubling up as a mouthwash to a body-loving moisturiser and even a gentle make-up remover!
You can also use your jars of Lucy Bee for beauty treatments, including conditioning your hair, moisturising your skin, make your own food facial and as an exfoliating body scrub. As you use them, you can be sure that they’re completely, 100% natural and free from microbeads!
Want to learn more, or discover some beautifying recipes? You can check out our latest book, Natural Beauty With Coconut Oil, for more ideas from Lucy on natural, DIY beauty tips. It could save you a fortune, too!
As always, we love to arm our friends with as much knowledge as possible. We’ve got an interesting read to help you learn more about plastic and the dangers they have on our marine life. You might be shocked…
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
The views and opinions expressed in videos and articles on the Lucy Bee website/s or social networking sites are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of Lucy Bee Limited.