Microbeads, which are often tiny plastic particles which are 5mm wide or less, have been used in a variety of products such as hand cleansers, face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste, shaving foam, bubble bath, sunscreen and shampoo.
They can be found in a number of different kinds of products from all sorts of industries, not just personal care, and many cosmetics manufacturers are phasing them out of their products following growing concern.
“As a leading cosmetic house, Clarins greatly values its image as being a leader in social responsibility and will continue to work tirelessly to offer the best products in terms of safety and efficacy for our customers, together with the sustainability for our planet and our environment,” the company says.
The French luxury cosmetics firm explains that while plastic micro-beads are ‘completely inert, very effective and extremely well tolerated by the skin,’ in view of the known impact that they have on the environment, the company ceased manufacturing products containing this ingredient in December 2014, as part of a global commitment.
“We can confirm that Clarins research has found an alternative to substitute micro-beads with more respectful components. The new component is Cellulose, which is 100% natural, as well as being equally efficient, perfectly tolerated and maintaining our stringent quality and safety requirements,” it adds.
Beat the bead
Many studies have been carried out to detail the effect that products containing plastic microbeads can have on the environment, and while they are just one part of the larger concern about plastic debris that end up in oceans and other aquatic habitat, they are one of the most controllable.
With growing awareness of this problem, a number of companies have committed to stop using microbeads in their ‘rinse off’ personal care products, and in the US, several states have already regulated or banned the products.
In December 2012, Unilever announced that all of its products worldwide would be plastic free by 2015, and other multinationals started following suit.
The Dutch Cosmetics Association informed the Dutch government that Beiersdorf, Colgate-Palmolive and L'Oréal were stopping the use of microbeads; while Procter & Gamble replied to a letter from 5Gyres, Marine Conservation Society and Fauna & Flora International, saying that their products would only be free from microbeads by 2017 at the earliest.
Johnson & Johnson said it has already started phasing out microbeads and was no longer developing products containing microbeads.
A full list of statements from all companies that have committed to ‘Beat the Microbead’, can be seen here.