As of July last year, products containing microbeads were banned across the UK. They’re added to many toiletries and personal care products, but finally, the UK Government has said enough is enough. This means that the manufacturing and selling of such products is strictly prohibited for every retailer. Instead, companies who rely on microbeads to make their products have been forced to find alternative materials.

It’s yet to be seen just how this will affect the cosmetics industry, and indeed, the quality of products for the consumers. But here’s a look into what the microbead ban means for beauty products:


Why is There a Ban on Microbeads?

Microbeads have long been a huge problem for our oceans. Plastic pollution is rife, not helped by so-called ‘microplastics’ finding their way into the sea. It’s predicted that there are five trillion pieces of plastic floating around in the world’s oceans, with debris reaching even the most remote corners of the earth. Unfortunately, microbeads are a small yet extremely significant part of this. As a result, environmentalists have now successfully campaigned for the removal of microbeads in beauty products.


Say Goodbye to Microbead Exfoliators

Exfoliators are the biggest culprit when it comes to microbeads. However, there’s no denying the transition is proving difficult and expensive for the cosmetic industry. It was claimed that brands would need to reformulate a staggering 90% of their products.


Changing Your Skincare Routine

The ban of microplastics means that consumers may need to start making the switch to other face wash products and use an eco-friendly reusable sponge exfoliator instead. Not only this, but products containing face glitter are also the next in the running to face a nationwide ban. Glitter is just as harmful as microplastics when it comes to the world’s seas. It can permanently leave its mark in our oceans – unless it’s biodegradable glitter, that is.


What Other Products Contain Microbeads?

As previously mentioned, microbeads are predominantly found in exfoliating face scrubs. However, they’re also present in shower gels, chewing gum, body scrubs and even toothpaste. In fact, a single shower can send 100,000 microbeads down the drain and into the sea. This can then be eaten and absorbed by marine life – which is part of the problem we’re starting to see with the dying Great Barrier Reef.

When it comes to toothpaste, it’s not just bad news for the environment. Dentists have stressed that pieces of microplastic can become lodged in our gums, leading to gum health problems such as gum disease, as they harbour bacteria and are very difficult to remove. Alarmingly, this also means that we’ve been digesting microplastics every time we brush our teeth, which is potentially toxic.


What Do I Look For on the Ingredients List?

If you are concerned about products that contain microbeads, then always check the ingredients list. Look for: polyethene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). Other ingredients to watch out for include nylon/polylactic acid (PA), polyethene terephthalate (PET) and polymathy methacrylate (PMMA). Before you apply any products to your face or body, ensure that they don’t contain any of the above ingredients.


Future Plastic Bans

As of yet, microplastics aren’t banned in many other countries. The US set the bar high by banning them early on. However, many, like the UK, have taken a step in the right direction with banning microbeads. It’s already been reported that Canada and the European Union are set to follow suit. It’s a reminder to think twice before applying festival glitter makeup to our faces, scrub to our bodies and toothpaste to our teeth when in other countries!