WTF Is Up With Microbeads, And Why Has California Banned Them?

Microbeads are kind of like dry shampoo to me: even though I keep hearing about it, I have no idea what it actually is. Although unlike dry shampoo, microbeads are getting banned across America. Clearly, it’s time to do a little research. First things first:

WTF are microbeads?

Microbeads are tiny, plastic particles found in many exfoliants and toothpastes. Like, you know how sometimes your toothpaste is shiny? Those are microbeads.


What do they do?


So, what’s the problem?

They don’t dissolve.

For several years, environmentalists have gone blue in the face trying to make us understand just how dangerous microbeads can be.  Since they’re so small, they often slip through water-treatment plants, which results in a one-way ticket to the open waters of our favorite rivers and oceans.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, how many microbeads can we realistically be talking about, and according to a to a recent report from New York’s state’s attorney general, the number is 19 tons. Annually. And that’s just in New York alone.

Not only do the microbeads pollute our water, contributing significantly to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also known as the Pacific Garbage Vortex), but they harm our wildlife as well.  While some fish can easily digest microbeads, others cannot and spend their lives slowly accumulating plastic, until death comes for them at last.

Last week, the California State Assembly passed a measure that would ban the use of plastic microbeads in personal-care products, but time will tell if the bill has the votes to get passed in the State Senate.  If so, California will join Illinois, Maine, New Jersey and Colorado in the fight against microbeads, and if not, I guess they’ll just have to hope that the third time will be the charm.

In the meantime, check out this list of 100% microbead-free beauty products and get your exfoliate on, guilt-free.


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