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Microbeads: The Controversy and What to Use Instead

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Notre Dame chapter.

Now, I’m no makeup guru. Anyone that knows me knows my favorite look is unbrushed hair and hasty patches of BB cream. However, being someone who’s struggled with bad skin her whole life, I understand the importance of taking care of it. Notably, exfoliating. Whether you have oily, pimple-prone skin or dry flaky sin, you need to exfoliate. This keeps your skin clear, smooth, healthy, and creates the perfect canvas for all your makeup endeavors.

Most modern exfoliating products, such as daily facial scrubs and body washes, include microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads used in a variety of applications, but none so ubiquitous as skincare. Lately, researchers have found an overabundance of these beads in the Great Lakes and oceans. Since they aren’t biodegradable, these beads fester in the lakes for years and disrupt wildlife. I heard about this on the news and thought, “Oh, no one’s going to do anything about it. This can’t affect me. I can keep my microbeads.”

Illinois, which borders Lake Michigan, was the first state to outlaw microbeads in all consumer products. Even if you don’t live in Illinois, many states are likely to follow the trend.

Guess which state I live in?

With my face wash supply dwindling, I knew it was time to consider some alternatives. Here are the methods I’ve researched (and sampled) that you can try too!

  • Wash: If you don’t already, wash your face at least twice a day, especially if you wear makeup. It’s uncomfortable and bad for your pores to sleep with residual makeup on your face, and a morning scrub can help get your day off to a fresh start. Regular soap and water may be all you need. (Some of us aren’t that lucky)

  • Natural Exfoliants: There are some products you can buy at the pharmacy or grocery store that don’t contain microbeads. While many natural alternatives are rather expensive (especially for a college budget), there are low-cost options. I recommend St. Ives Apricot Scrub. It’s about $4 per bottle, and contains cornmeal as a natural exfoliant, as well as fresh and fragrant apricot. I’ve tried this out, and it works perfectly.

  • REALLY Natural Exfoliants: My mother loves herbal remedies. For instance, I know first-hand that the best leave-in conditioner money can buy is coconut oil. As far as exfoliating, one can use honey, sugar, yogurt, and a host of other Huddle-mart ingredients to clear your skin. If it freaks your roommate out to see breakfast food all over your face, offer her a facial of her own.

  • A Loofah: Tried and true, this is probably the cheapest and simplest option for everyday exfoliating. These little plastic sponges can be harsh on your skin, so be sure to moisturize regularly. Also, make sure to let yours air-dry–a moldy loofah is not an attractive sight.

Hopefully you enjoyed these exfoliation tips. Remember, they’ll help your skin and the environment.  

Also, I recommend mixing the sugar in coconut oil. Seriously, the oil’s a godsend.


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