Using natural health and beauty products doesn’t stop at the individual that uses them. Being aware of what you buy and what you expose your body to has external implications as well, like how much waste you produce and what the composition of that waste looks like.
One of the biggest environmental issues that has come up in the last ten years related directly to the way that we take care of our bodies and the environment is microbeads and micro plastics. There was a lot of hype about this for a few minutes, and like anything big and new that comes out, there were a lot of extreme opinions: some people swore off micro plastics, or plastics generally, or producing any kind of avoidable waste. Alternatively, some people heard about all this and immediately disregarded it as hokey science that couldn’t possibly make as big a difference as people were saying it could.
This is a pretty typical response to scientific news, so I’m not surprised, but I do want people to know that while I’m not saying you have to stop producing any waste at all, it is important to avoid these microbeads and micro plastics from getting into the environment.
What Are Microplastics?
Microplastics are little pieces of plastic that often end up in natural water systems. They are 1-5 mm in diameter or length, and while that doesn’t seem very big, these can have huge implications.
It’s actually their small size that gives them the capacity to be such a big problem. They’re hard to see, and they go in a lot of products that go down sinks and shower drains, and into our water systems.
This is still an active area of research, but so far things are not looking great. Microplastics are showing up in rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, and washing up on beaches.
These can come from things like larger plastics breaking down slowly over time, but the ones I want to focus on are the ones that are intentionally made that small: microbeads. This type of microplastic can be found in things like exfoliating soaps, gels, toothpaste, and other cleaning-type products.
Where Would I See Microplastics?
Microplastics are real small, which makes them really hard to see and sometimes basically invisible to the naked eye. So, it’s important to know where these things show up.
Tinned foods end to be packaged with BPA, which accounts for most of the microplastics that actually enter our bodies.
Fish and seafood are another area you might not expect to find microplastics, but since most of the ones that get washed down the drain end up in the oceans, this one ends up being less than surprising.
More in relation to beauty and self-care, there are a lot of microbeads that can show up in things like face wash, body wash, and facial exfoliators.
What Do I Do About Microplastics?
The biggest thing you can do to help with microplastics and microbeads is just know where they are and avoid them. If you see ingredients on self-care products that you don’t recognize, look them up and make sure they’re not anything you wouldn’t want going into the water supply.
If you find that you already own things with microbeads, fear not! It’s easy to filter these microbeads out using a coffee filter and warm water. This makes it easy to throw the beads out and safely putting the rest of the product down the drain.
There are also some wonderful alternatives to microbeads available in exfoliators as well, such as salt and sugar scrubs (I’m newly obsessed with Brooklyn Botany, if you’re looking for a good brand to try out!)