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New York is poised to become the first state to ban microbead scrubs, with California likely to follow suit.
Why? Well if you were to wash with, say, Olay Body Wash Plus Spa Exfoliating Ribbons, the invigorating scrub is coming from particles of plastic that rinse down the drain and eventually show up in lakes and oceans.
In addition to polluting the water, microbeads can accumulate other toxic chemicals such as PCBs, be eaten by fish and wind up in the food supply, according to the Attorney General's office.
The environmental hazard caused by microbeads was noted in Lake Erie, when a science professor and her class found plastic beads that are not biodegradable clogging the water.
There are over 200 estimated cosmetic and personal care products with microbeads. Manufacturers would have until December 2015 to phase the microbeads out.
In 2012, Unilever — whose brands include Dove, Pond’s and Caress — pledged to eliminate plastic beads from its products by 2015. Colgate and Johnson&Johnson have also promised to remove them.
Now that we know the dirt on scrubs, we can all do our bit by boycotting products with microbeads, such as Garnier Nutritioniste Nuti Pure Microbead Cream Scrub. Garnier has helpfully named its product “Microbead”, but how would anyone guess that they are in Bliss Lemon+Sage Body Scrub? If you aren’t sure if your scrub contains the offenders, check the ingredients list for “polyethylene”. It is the most dominant ingredient after water in Bliss Lemon + Sage Body Scrub.
For safe alternatives, look for scrubs containing salt, sugar, walnut pieces, jojoba spheres or other natural substances. I like Kat Burki Raw Sugar Body Scrub ($48 in the shop) and the best form of facial exfoliation is from the gentle but efficient action of a facial cleansing brush such as Ultra Clear Facial Cleansing System.