Is Your Facial Scrub Harming The Environment?


Using a facial scrub to exfoliate your skin by removing surface dry skin cells is essential for keeping it looking smooth and even-toned but research is showing that this skin care staple may be posing an environmental threat. According to an article from The New York Times, the plastic beads used in facial scrubs (such as the ingredient polyethylene) are slipping through water treatment plants and turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes. The beads are looking like fish food and may be affecting marine life. For example, lugworms (also known as sandworms) make up 32% of the biomass found along shorelines. Their purpose is to process larger particles into smaller particles to form silt. However, micro plastics (such as plastic beads) accumulate in the intestines of lugworms, which prevents them from particle processing and this alters the ecosystem. Additionally, birds and fish who feed on lugworms are now also absorbing the micro plastics. Because of the way the environment is being impacted negatively, companies are now seeking natural alternatives. Yay!

When it comes to your face, my professional recommendation for years has actually been to use a facial scrub 2-3 times a week that does not use natural grains because they have sharp edges and scratch and lacerate the skin causing the spread of bacteria and irritation. Natural scrubs use exfoliating ingredients like walnut husks and apricot kernels and while this new information shows that natural particles are better for marine life, they can be harmful to your skin’s health.

So what’s the alternative? Natural jojoba beads. These are perfectly round beads that gently roll over the skin and will not cause irritation. Because they are not made of plastic, they are a smarter choice for the environment. Look at the product ingredient label and use scrubs with hydrogenated jojoba oil, jojoba oil, jojoba esters or jojoba wax beads. These will appear near the top of the list.

Facial exfoliants using natural jojoba beads include AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel and Mint Buffing Beads.

Read: How To Use A Facial Scrub

Read: Should You Be Exfoliating Your Skin Every Day?

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

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Renée Rouleau

Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”