Teenage Skin and Microbeads

Posted by Vivienne Forristal at

Young Skin looks good naturallySpots, Blackheads and Pimples may be a rite of passage but knowing this doesn’t help when you have them. Its so tempting to squeeze them, or to try to scrub them away with facial scrubs, peeling masks and exfoliants. Lots of these products are marketed at Teenagers and use terminology like "purifying scrub", "young pores" or "Deep Clean Blackheads" and "look awesome" as if they provide the only solution. But aside from the dubious promises of advertising, did you know that many of these products contain Microbeads? Tiny particles of plastic so small that they pass through filtration systems of water treatment plants and enter rivers, lakes and oceans. 


So whats the problem with Microbeads?

The clue is in the name – they are so small that they end up in the oceans, where they are eaten or absorbed by marine creatures, causing untold harm, and travel up the food chain to the species that created them – Us! On the way, they attract other dangerous chemicals including flame retardants and pesticides so they actually become more toxic than when they first went down our drains.

They cannot be removed from the oceans. 

Just one jar was found to contain 360,000 microbeads.

Microbeads are not illegal. But the Ethics of cosmetic companies who use them is highly questionable given the known Environmental and Animal Welfare impacts.  

Although natural biodegradable exfoliants are readily available, companies have favoured manufactured plastic as it is cheap, uniform in shape and can be dyed different colours to appear more attractive. There are widespread consumer campaigns to have them banned and some companies have bowed to this pressure and agreed to discontinue using them, although some years into the future.

What we can do?

Don't buy products containing microbeads/microplastics.

Cosmetics companies have put them in everything from Scrubs, Cleansers, Facemasks, Toothpaste, Shampoo, Shower Gel, Deodorant, Eyeliners, Lip Gloss and Shaving cream. The ingredients to avoid are

Polyethylene (PE), Polypropene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA), Nylon.

and luckily for us, there is help available in identifying them, apart from squinting at tiny labels.

Download the App “Beat the Microbead” if you have a smartphone.

Beat the Microbead LogoThis App was launched in November 2012 and checks out a growing database of products. Scan products barcodes before you buy them, or check Info for Brand names if shopping online. Beat the Microbead uses 3 codes,

Red means the product contains microbeads
Orange means that the product contains microbeads but the manufacturer has made a public commitment to phase them out (can be over several Years)
Green means that the product is free from microplastics

Check out the list of products sold in Ireland and other countries

If you don't have a Smartphone or Tablet you can check through an alphabetical list of Brands and Products using Microbeads, by country. This is worth a read just to get an idea of the scale of the problem.

Support Cosmetic companies that do the Right Thing

There are companies that commit to using only natural biodegradable and preferably organic ingredients in their Skincare products. Supporting them sends a clear message to the industry as a whole, and is more likely to effect change.

Sustainably sourced natural exfoliants that are safe and biodegradable have been used in the past and are still available as alternatives, should the manufacturers choose. They come from Salt crystals or Plant sources such as jojoba, walnut shells, pecan shells, rice, apricot seeds, shea nut, willow bark, spiney bamboo, ground almonds, olive kernels.

Holos which is a local Irish Brand uses very finely ground mineral-rich Volcanic Lava in their exfoliant.

Smallchanges Ethics

Our stance is to avoid stocking any products that contain microplastics, whether Code Orange or Red. Even if the manufacturer has promised to phase them out, the microbeads in the Code Orange product in your hand will end up in the ocean.

If you'd like to check out our range of ethical Bodycare products click here.

Inform yourself - Join a Campaign - Spread the Word

Read more about this micro menace of the seas...

The Plastic Soup Foundation
Beat the Microbead
Upcycle the Gyres
Clean Coasts Ireland Beat the Microbead


So What is safe to use on troubled Teenage Skin?

Homemade Skincare DIYThe best, most honest, skincare products are made to simply clean, protect and enhance your skin. They are made without using plastics or chemicals that are potentially harmful to our health and the environment. You can save yourself a lot of time and money by drinking water, getting enough sleep, using sunscreen, and keeping your skin clean with natural soaps or cleansers. 
Use as natural and unadulterated soap as possible and if you want one with anti-bacterial properties, use one that contains Tea Tree

Make your Own

For a Do It Yourself natural scrub you can use good old Porridge Oats – Grind one tablespoon of porridge oats in a mortar and pestle, or blender, and mix with one teaspoon each of honey and olive oil. Apply the paste to your face avoiding your eyes (no need to avoid your mouth!) and rub in circular motions – leave for 5 minutes then wash off. No expensive ingredients or packaging and no waste.


Or, if you prefer your Skincare products readymade, we carry a range of Microbead-free Bodycare products - check out Bath and Shower products. From the Holos range, made locally in Wexford, the Good Morning Face Wash and Good Morning Face Cream are most suited to young skin. Holos skin exfoliant contains Ground Volcanic lava, no need for nasty plastic.

A final thought

Lets make some Waves against MicrobeadsThe Skincare and Cosmetics industry is massive and largely controlled by huge multinational companies. Their products are presented as luxury goods and are packaged to maintain this impression. This also creates wasteful packaging and a big landfill problem. But because the Industry is so big, it is hugely impressive that this campaign against Microbeads has got their attention and is working, although slowly. Keeping the pressure up is vital.

Trivia:  Did you know that, by weight, Make-up is one of the most expensive commodities in the world?


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