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To microbead or not to microbead....

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A few weeks ago, I was doing a bit of market research with a friend.

We went into a popular beauty-product shop in Amsterdam and were immediately and politely introduced to the shop's current latest offer - a heavily discounted body scrub.

I pondered for a little while, wondering why the product would be sold at such a high discount:

  • was it, perhaps, the end of a discontinuing range?
  • was it, perhaps, reaching its best before date shortly?

Hmmmm.... it took me a couple of minutes before I had a lightbulb moment.  And I asked the friendly assistant:

"Does the product contain microbeads?"

To my disappointment, the answer was "Yes".



"What's so special about microbeads?" I hear you ask. 

Well microbeads have become quite a hot topic over the last year or so.


Firstly, let me explain to you what they are. 

Microbeads are little particles/beads of plastic which have become a common ingredient in exfoliating products.  They add no health benefits into the product.  At best their advantage (if you can call it an advantage) is that they don't dissolve if a lot of water leaks into the product.  They are cheap to use and 'do the job'.  Personally, i would prefer to pay more for a product which is made from, for example, natural salt packed full of nutrients and minerals.



So why have microbeads become so controversial? 

Well the clue to that question is in the above paragraph.... let me highlight it to you: they don't dissolve if a lot of water leakes into your product.

What this means is that when the microbeads are washed down the plug hole, they continue their life and never dissolve.  And that has lead them to pollute many great lakes and oceans.  What's more fish have been found to eat microbeads and we, in turn, eat those fish so these seemingly innocent little beads are suspected to be getting into the human food chain.  Nasty or what!

Microbeads have become such a problem that there are movements calling for their ban.  But such changes in the law don't happen overnight.  It takes time before a ban can be enforced.



So what's happening in the meantime?

Well.  Many companies who have been using microbeads have said that they will start the process of removing them from their products.  Unfortunately this news is not quite as positive as it may first sound. 

You see many of these companies made this verbal commitment in 2013.

However, due to long supply chains and contracts, many of these companies cannot stop using microbeads until 2015. 



Should we really have to wait that long? 

How much more damage will they cause in the interim?



I have quite strightforward and hard standpoint on this issue:

1.  microbeads should never have been introduced into beauty products in the first place.  For facial products where the exfoliant should be gentle, there's a huge range of fruit seeds and nut granules that could be used and for the body.... well..... there's good old-fashioned salt - packed to the brim with nutrients and minerals which are excellent for the skin.

2.  companies wanting to really stand up for the environment and respect their customers' wishes should stop using microbeads immediately (yes - I believe they should pay any contractual penalties necessary) AND they should responsibly discard of any products currently on sale in their shops so no more microbeads can enter the food chain or damage the fragile environment.  Sure - this will cost a huge amount of money but, personally, I believe that a desire to do what is right should not even consider the impact of cost.  It certainly makes me a lot less trusting of these companies - what else are they up to in an attempt to cut costs and increase their profit margins?


How do you feel about this topic?  Feel free to share your comments below.


Ooooh.... and by the way.... incase you should be wondering:

I am proud to say that Simply Skin never has and never will use microbeads


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