Skin, Lip and Body Care

Is There Plastic in Your Your Facial Scrub?

+ Pamela Friedman

Scrubs can be a great way to exfoliate your skin and they’re often really helpful products to add to your daily routine. I wanted to caution you about one thing, however: You need to read your labels, because some of these products contain polyethylene, a plastic substance that rinses down the drain and harms our environment.

You won’t find it in some of the organic products, which use sea salts or other natural abrasives to produce exfoliating results. Plastic is cheaper, however, so a lot of manufacturers are using it to create the tiny “microbeads” that give some of the major brands their exfoliating power. We’re talking products like Aveeno’s Skin Brightening Daily Scrub, Dove’s Gentle Exfoliating Foaming Facial Cleanser, and other scrubs by Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Olay, Noxzema, and Phisoderm.

You can find it by searching for “polyethylene” on the ingredient list. No matter what it says on the front of the label-some products like to say they’re natural when they’re not-if you see this ingredient listed on an exfoliating product, most likely the exfoliating beads are made of plastic.

You’ve probably already heard that plastic is damaging our environment. It’s non-degradable, so it lasts and lasts long after we throw it away, floating in our oceans and polluting our lakes and rivers. The production of plastics involves dangerous and potentially harmful chemicals like benzene and vinyl chloride, both of which have been linked to cancer. It’s near impossible to destroy safely, as when it’s burned it releases more poisonous chemicals into the air, and recycling it has been associated with skin and respiratory problems because of hydrocarbons released during the process. That’s why many people are trying to cut back on their use of plastics, by doing things like choosing to take reusable shopping bags to the grocery store.

Now we have these “microplastics” coming into the picture-tiny plastics that are washing down our drains, bypassing our sewage plants and floating out into our waterways where wildlife can ingest them. Why contribute to the problem? We can easily choose scrubs that don’t contain the ingredient. You can try any of the sea-salt products, or choose from organic brands at your health food stores (always read labels) like Kiss My Face Jojoba & Mint Facial Scrub, or Burt’s Bees natural exfoliants, among others. Only by reducing consumer demand can we start to get a handle on the overwhelming amount of plastics covering our globe. Take a moment to make a wiser choice, and not only will you be doing the environment a favor-your skin will thank you, too!

Do you have a favorite natural facial scrub? Please let us know!

Photo courtesy CerealKiller80 via