THE MICROBEAD CONTROVERSY: our take

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MyShowcase is all about sharing – success, knowledge, skills, so I'm taking the opportunity to share on a topical subject that some of our eagle-eyed Stylists have asked about: microbeads. What's the issue? Read on to make an educated decision on whether you want microbeads in your bathroom.

 

 

They're up there with all the most used beauty buzzwords – antioxidants, liposomes, AHAs and the rest – but microbeads garner a lot more controversy. Until recently, most of us hadn't even heard of them, let alone how commonplace they had become in our face and body exfoliators. So what are they? Microbeads (that's the polyetheylene in ingredients lists) are tiny plastic spheres, sometimes turquoise, sometimes pink – or other colours actually – usually no bigger than 5 millimetres in diameter, and are added to beauty products to give them an abrasive action. They're the particles that give the polish, or the beads that give the buff!

They're cheap and they work (although arguably as well as rougher edged natural alternatives like salt and ground walnut shells). Problem is, they're also an environmental hazard because unlike other natural buffing particles they don't dissolve as you use the product, or biodegrade in the system. When you rinse a product with microbeads off your skin and the tiny pellets are disposed of in waste water they can’t be filtered, so they pollute rivers and lakes, hanging around forever like plastic bags.

In 2012 the North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation launched an app that allowed Dutch consumers to check whether personal care products contain microbeads. The following year, the United Nations Environment Programme and UK-based NGO Fauna and Flora International joined a partnership to further develop the app for international use. And since then several big beauty companies, including The Body Shop (yes, you read that right), Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal and Procter & Gamble, have stopped using microbeads and momentum over their phasing out has gained.

So if you want to phase them out of your beauty routine, what are the alternatives? Well, there are plenty of biodegradable options out there that will exfoliate your skin as well if not better, including rice, sea salt, apricot seeds, walnut shells, powdered pecan shells and bamboo. None of the brands MyShowcase carry contain microbeads – my curation has been thorough so that our Stylists can reassure concerned clients with confidence, and these are the alternatives five of our products offer: