What does your body scrub have to do with the Ministry of the Environment? It has a lot to do with it. Exfoliating the skin of the face and body, if you don’t choose the right products, can be an extremely polluting activity. Many scrubs contain plastic microbeads that end up in our drainage systems and pollute our waterways and oceans.
What are microspheres?
This problem has been discussed for several years, and there is an International Campaign against microplastic ingredients in cosmetics, , supported by 92 NGOs from 38 different countries. In many beauty products, particularly scrubs and toothpaste, there are microbeads, which are tiny plastic particles. These microbeads are usually smaller than a millimeter and are also used to increase the exfoliating power of the product. The problem is that these tiny beads, with rinsing, end up in the water and, due to their very small size, escape purification systems and end up directly in our seas and rivers. They are eaten by fish and other animals and also pollute the water we drink. They are made of polyethylene or polypropylene (i.e., plastic substances), and it takes decades for them to degrade. If we consider that the estimate of plastics that end up in the sea is 12 million tons per year, the seriousness of the problem is clear.
Microspheres banned with some difficulty
Given the seriousness of the problem, the direction that many governments are taking is to ban the use of microplastics in cosmetics, thanks to the commitment of various environmental organizations, including Greenpeace. In the United States, microplastics in personal hygiene products are already banned this year. In Italy, a draft law provides for the ban from January 1, 2020. In Europe, France has passed its Biodiversity Law, which will ban products with microplastics from January 1, 2018. The UK has also approved the ban from January 2018. However, the issue is not so simple, as an article in the Daily Mail tells how various “cosmetic giants” are trying to downplay the english ban by not including certain categories of products.
So, which scrub should you choose?
But let’s return to our body scrub and try to understand if, for the sake of the environment, we should give it up.
It is important to remove dead cells and have softer and cleaner skin. But it is important that this beauty treatment is done in respect of the environment in which we live. This is possible by choosing the right products. The goal is not to make the usual list of good and bad. There are companies with a green vocation, more attentive to certain issues. Others have some products in their range without microplastics and others that contain them. Other companies have taken note of the problem and have committed to removing these components by a certain date. Finally, there are companies that ignore the issue. The heart of the matter concerns us. If we use products containing microplastics in our home bathroom, we promote this rather invasive form of pollution, and we are somehow responsible for it. So, we have no choice but to choose. But how?
The Good Scrub List
We don’t always have the tools to make informed choices. A list of products without microplastics can be found on the website of the NGO Fauna and Flora International. The International Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics also provides a little help on their website. At this address, you can find a list of products curated and sorted by country. A list of products broken down by country can be found at this address. Peek through the various green files broken down by country to find out which of the many products listed have passed the tests
I did it myself and was delighted to find that the two body scrubs I use are on the green list. They are the Rituals The Ritual of Sakura Body Scrub and The Body Shop Body Scrub, Dead Sea Salt.
No, I’m not a virtuous person. I have to confess that it’s purely a stroke of luck. However, from now on, when I purchase a product, I will try to be careful that it does not contain microplastics. I don’t want my child and my grandchildren (if I ever have any), in the not too distant future, to be submerged in plastic just because I want my skin to be a little smoother today.
The various bans put in place by different countries highlight the fact that the campaign against microbeads has borne fruit. It confirms that those who buy with their choices can make a difference. So, be careful of those products that contain Polyethylene/Polythene (PE); Polypropylene (PP); Polyethylene terephthalate (PET); Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Nylon in their INCI. In other words, microplastics.