Why Microbeads Should be Banned From Cosmetics (And Everything Else, In Fact)

The UK government is finally on board with banning microbeads from cosmetics. But what are microbeads? And why do they seriously suck?

Microbeads are tiny little beads of plastic that are usually smaller than 5mm. They are often made of polyethylene but can also be made of other petrochemical plastics, like polypropylene and polystyrene. They can be found in everyday cosmetic products such as facial cleansers, exfoliates, shower gels and toothpaste. So, yes, you may have been unknowingly bathing and smothering yourself in lovely polluting plastic particles when you got in the shower this morning. Feeling clean yet?

As microbeads are so small, they can easily go down the plughole and into water filtration systems. Think that doesn’t sound too bad? Well, after a single use of a product containing microbeads, over 100,000 pieces of gross plastic are washed down the sink, eventually ending up in the sea where they sadly pollute the food chains of lots of marine life, which can ultimately cause sickness and death. And its not just the fish who may be ingesting balls of plastic. If you use a toothpaste containing microbeads, then you may not just be eating toast for breakfast. A fan of seafood? You may be chowing down on microbead and toxin-polluted sushi. Yum.

Sadly, it is not just marine life who are affected. Up to 90% of birds are also consuming this deadly plastic. The worst thing about microbeads is how completely unnecessary they are. You can get completely natural, cruelty-free cosmetics easily, and there are so many natural exfoliants to choose from that are much better and more effective!

How to check your products for microbeads

The quickest, easiest way to make sure your product of choice doesn’t contain microbeads is to opt for all-natural products and cruelty free options. But if you are still unsure about what’s in something, check the label for the ingredients polyethylene or polypropylene. You should always research any products that you’re putting onto your skin to make sure they don’t contain any nasties. Thankfully, there are so many sites out there that are here to help us! Click here to check which products contain microbeads and which ones are safe to use.

What are the natural alternatives to microbeads?

There are heaps. But the main natural exfoliants you need to know about include…

  • Rice
  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Oats
  • Citrus
  • Baking soda

So, which products are definitely OK to scrub away with?

You may be pleasantly surprised by how many exfoliants (and other products) are microbead-free as, over the last few years, beauty brands have become increasingly aware that, well, microbeads are Not a Good Thing. You can check out this handy list for hordes of environmentally friendly product suggestions. I personally only ever use naturally active products on my skin since noticing how much more gentle, effective and kind to the environment they are. And who wants to slather plastic on their face anyway?! There are so many products to choose from, but here are my absolute favourites that are completely microbead-free and kind to animals!


A photo posted by Elizabeth Shannon Reilly (@elizabethshannonn) on

Liz Earle Gentle Face Exfoliator

This gorgeous, naturally active product uses jojoba beads to buff away flaky skin, leaving it feeling soft and clean. On the slightly more pricey side of skincare, it is definitely a product to indulge in. But, you seriously get your money’s worth, and the extra pounds are justified by the incredibly high quality ingredients and reliability of the products. Liz Earle products are pretty damn fantastic anyway if you are looking for a skincare overhaul. The gentle exfoliator is one of my go-to products when I need a good scrub. Plus, no plastic = win!


Lush Rub, Rub, Rub Shower Scrub

Lush is quite possibly the holy grail place to go for natural, cruelty-free, microbead-free cosmetics. This shower scrub is simply wonderful. Using blossom-scented sea salt, it really blasts away all dead skin cells and flakiness. What I love most about this product is how a little goes a long way. Also, it is a seriously heavy-duty scrub, but somehow is still super gentle on the skin! Give it a go yourself.


St Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

I know, I know, you’re probably not surprised that this scrub has made it in to my top three.  This award-winning, classic scrub from St Ives only uses natural exfoliants like apricot, corn kernel meal and walnut, so you can be assured that you’re not putting any plastic crap on your face. This product is award-winning for a very good reason. It’s super affordable, works perfectly and is hypoallergenic, which makes it accessible for so many people. I always have a tube of this handy.

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