Microbeads in Cosmetics: Good for The Skin, Bad for The Environment

If you’re like most women then you are probably quite particular about the products you use for your skin, especially your face. After all, who doesn’t want to have smooth and poreless clear skin? In their quest for perfect skin, skin care companies and cosmetics manufacturers came up with an innovation that’s designed to rub away dead skin cells that can make your face look dry and dull. This innovation is microbeads.


Microbeads are tiny balls made from plastic and mixed with facial scrubs, shower gels and other similar products. They are designed to exfoliate the skin in order to reveal the fresh and smooth skin underneath. A regular bottle of facial scrub can have as many as 300,000 microbeads. When you use a product with microbeads, the minuscule plastic balls are washed down the sink or shower drainage. Because their diameter is less than 1 mm, microbeads are too tiny to be filtered in sewage plants. The result? The plastic beads end up in rivers and oceans.

Tiny as they are, the buildup of these microbeads contributes to the plastic pollution of our oceans. What’s worse is that fish and other marine life mistake the beads for food and end up eating them. Although there is no way to remove the microbeads that have already flowed out into lakes, rivers and oceans, the next best thing is to put a stop to the manufacture and consumption of personal care products that contain these environmentally harmful ingredients.

Illinois has taken the initiative of being the first state to ban personal care products that use microbeads. According to Illinois governor Pat Quinn, Illinois aims to set an example for the rest of the nation. Illinois is adjacent to Lake Michigan, which is one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. Gov. Quinn believes that these bodies of waters are “most important natural resources” and must therefore be protected.

Several major cosmetics and personal care product manufacturers have already agreed to phase out their products containing microbeads.