How microbead exfoliators pollute the ocean

Monday, May 26th 2014 Skincare


Yesterday I read the ingredients list of my Aveeno Smart Essentials Daily Detoxifying Scrub and I discovered something sinister. I realised that I had been scrubbing my face with tiny bits of plastic that were then being washed down the drain, to end up in the ocean! Recently there has been a lot in the news about the use of microbeads in scrubs, body washes, and even toothpaste. Plastic microbeads are too small to be filtered by most wastewater treatment, therefore ending up in oceans and lakes, and they are beginning to cause real trouble in the food chain. Despite having heard about the hazard of these microbeads, I naively assumed that since the scrub I use most often from Aveeno, whose tagline is ‘Active Naturals’ that it wouldn’t be an issues. OH HOW WRONG I WAS.

The ingredients list is below for Aveeno Smart Essentials Daily Detoxifying Scrub, and I have bolded Polyethylene – which is the most commonly used plastic in the world. Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, they don’t state this clearly on the packaging or website,instead waxing lyrical about how”the natural loofah and coconut pulp-enriched formula gently polishes away pore-clogging debris, revealing a brighter, smoother look, and prepares your skin for your daily moisturizer.”

Water, Glycerin, Amino Methyl Propanol, Polyethylene, Glyceryl Stearate, Lauryl Glucoside, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Fragrance, Sodium Hydroxide, Cetearyl Olivate, Oryza Sativa Bran Wax (Rice), Luffa Cylindrica (Luffah Cylindrica) Fruit, Cocos Nucifera Fruit (Coconut), Chlorphenesin, Sorbitan Olivate (Source Olive Oil), Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Capryl Hydroxamic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Artemisia Abrotanum Extract (Flower/Leaf/Stem), Hydrolyzed Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum

Aveeno smart naturals daily detoxifying scrub

This is yet another example of how companies greenwash their products. People will have bought this scrub, thinking that it was natural and therefore good for your skin. Well, I did find it to have good results for my skin BUT it’s not good for the environment at all, and besides, it cannot remove toxins which is a ridiculous claim in the first place. I am certainly going to be throwing this product out, along with any other products in my bathroom that have plastic in their formulas. The idea of actually consuming plastic through toothpaste is very concerning to me, but I was relieved to find that all the toothpastes in our bathroom are free of plastic – words I never thought that I would write.

A lot of products have microbeads in them – the picture below shows just how much plastic is in each of these very common scrubs. I took the picture from a really great article on The Huffington Post which I would urge you all to read –Tiny Plastic Beads Are Invading The Great Lakes. Here’s What Scientists Are Doing To Stop It

Image showing plastic microbeads that are contained in neutrogena deep clean scrub, clean & clear daily pore cleanser, Aveeno positively radiant skin brightening daily scrub

If you want to check your scrubs, toothpastes and body washes for microbeads, the most common think to check for is polyethylene (PE), but they also can be polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon.

The US state of California recently passed a bill to ban the sale and manufacturing of personal care products containing tiny,synthetic plastic microbeads, with other states such as New York and Illinois looking set to follow. Thankfully, a lot of multinational companies are phasing out the inclusion of microbeads in their products but it will take a while before they are fully gone.  Johnson and Johnson, parent company of Aveeno, as well as Neutrogena, Clean and Clear and others, have made a statement on their website that “Our goal is to complete the first phase of reformulations by the end of 2015, which represents about half our products sold that contain microbeads”. Unilever, parent company of brands such as Dove, Simple and St Ives, has stated that their products will be free of microbeads from 2015. Beat the Microbead has a more comprehensive list of various companies’ statements about their use of microbeads – you can find it at

I really encourage all of you that read this to check your products out and throw them away – those little bits of plastic are causing havoc, polluting oceans and lakes, and being found in disturbing quantities inside fish. Let me know in the comments section what you find in your bathroom, I’m sure the results will be quite shocking! This is a bit of an unusual post for a beauty blog but as someone who is passionate about the environment, I couldn’t NOT write about this.

Some scrubs that do not contain microbeads include:

  • Trilogy Gentle Daily Exfoliant
  • Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
  • Goodness Every Week Face Scrub
  • Burt’s Bees Radiance Facial Cleanser – jojoba beads
  • Time Bomb Cleansing Cream – magnesium oxide crystals (naturally occurring)
  • Sebamed Clear Face Gentle Scrub – plant wax scrub particles (hydrogenated jojoba oil and hydrogenated castor oil)
  • Freeman Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Mask – sugar

Lena x



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