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25 Jul

What are Microbeads and why are they facing a worldwide ban?

Microbeads

Here’s something that we’re all guilty of doing: a lot of times people simply pick up beauty products because the packaging looks good or the product smells nice. We barely ever read what’s written in fine-print. Even if we do read it, we don’t know what it all means. For instance, Clean & Clear has a range of facial cleansers that have bright and colourful bottles, some of us may even have one or two of these bottles at home. What we haven’t stopped to consider is that these cleansers contain Microbeads, and currently there’s a worldwide debate raging over how to ban these Microbeads from your skincare regime.

To be fair, Clean & Clear has recently issued a statement:

“We take our responsibility to protect the environment seriously. That’s why we’ve made a global commitment to remove plastic microbeads from all our cosmetic and personal care products by the end of 2017.”  

And C&C isn’t the only brand that uses Microbeads. These little beads are found in almost every other beauty product, such as face-washes, toothpastes, exfoliating scrubs and shower gels to name a few. Some makeup products also use Microbeads.

So what are Microbeads? They are beads of solid plastic particles, made using polyethylene but can sometimes be of other petrochemical plastics as well, such as polypropylene and polystyrene. They are added to beauty products for their exfoliating properties and also for their visual appeal; they simply make products look nicer.

But why are they bad or you? Well, plastic is generally bad for the environment and is not suitable for human consumption, and since these Microbeads are insoluble, they end up in the ocean and are being consumed in huge amounts by fish and other living creatures under the sea. Humans in turn consume fish and these tiny beads end up in our digestive systems causing a huge range of illnesses in humans and animals alike. In simple words, the substance can turn toxic after a while and anything toxic is of course dangerous.

Currently, Microbeads have been banned in the United States of America and are in the process of being banned in the UK as well. Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed that UK would be introducing a manufacturing and sales ban on Microbeads in 2018. Speaking at the World Wildlife Fund UK, Mr Gove said: “Eight million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat. We will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year.”

Many people in Pakistan are still unaware of the effects of Microbeads; in fact, many people don’t even know that Microbeads are basically little balls of plastic! Watch out for these beads in your products and stop using them ASAP.

NOTE: There is a difference between Microbeads and organic, biodegradable exfoliants so be sure you know the difference.

Manal Khan

The author is Deputy Editor at Something Haute who has studied film and journalism from SZABIST. Will be found at the gym if not in the office.