I am not a chemist so though I have heard that sodium laureth sulfate and parabens are bad for me I have no idea what they actually are or all those other unpronounceable ingredients found in many beauty products. However, this week I became aware of plastic microbeads and their use in many cleansers, exfoliaters and toothpastes. Yes you read correctly there may be plastic in your facial scrub and you may be literally washing it down the drain.
I have a love hate relationship with plastic as it is just so useful and lasts forever but that is the problem: it lasts forever. The smart people have found somewhat of a solution to this so I get to have my plastic and recycle it. But I do not want it in my cleansers let alone my toothpaste. The manufacturers did not see a problem in adding plastic to a product people inadvertently swallow? According to said manufacturers the plastic microbeads are inert and pose no health risk to the user. So why are they there in the first place? It was included in one product for aesthetic purposes only. That sounds about right: add plastic to toothpaste so it gives the appearance that it may do a better job at cleaning. However for many other products especially scrubs these plastic microbeads have replaced more natural ingredients as exfoliating agents. But are you ok with putting microscopic pieces of plastic on your face and then let it literally run down the drain?
Well I am not as the water that runs down the drain eventually ends up in the river systems, lakes and oceans. These plastic mircrobeads are too small to be caught by any filtration system in place and run with the drain water out to sea. Along the way they may pick up some toxins such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The beads are often ingested by plankton and move up the food chain as bigger predators prey on the smaller plastic containing prey. The plastic which is not ingested in the water column may sink into the sediment and be incorporated in reefs. So it is not bad enough that we have floating islands of plastic polluting our oceans we are literally turning the oceans and lakes into plastic soup, poisoning the organisms and eventually ourselves.
I would love to have beautifully radiant skin just as much as the next girl but not at the direct cost of our environment. From now on I will be checking bottles, no matter how much I need to squint to read the list, for especially polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) but also Nylon and Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA).