06/10/2013 Update: Several organizations have waged a campaign to get companies to eliminate polyethylene micro-beads from their facial scrubs. Please read my updated post to take action and learn about what other kinds of products contain microplastics.
Here is the text of my original article from July of 2007, which was updated in December 2011:
Say what? The little grains in exfoliating scrubs more often than not are made of plastic these days! Plastic that is meant to be rinsed down the drain, where it enters our waterways and the bodies of aquatic creatures. I almost didn’t believe it when I read it in this article: Polymers Are Forever. So I did a Google search, and this is what I found…
MD Formulations Face & Body Scrub contains polyethylene granules.
Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Face & Body Polish contains micro-fine polyethylene beads.
SkinCeuticals Body Polish contains polyethylene beads.
Helen Pensanti Exfoliating Cleanser contains polyethylene beads from Switzerland. (Do the Swiss make better plastic?)
Isomers Manual Microderm Cleanser contains polyethylene beads.
Thinking that it was just the high-end cleansers that contain plastic, I went to drugstore.com and did a search on “polyethylene.” There were over a thousand items that contained “polyethylene” in the ingredients list! (12/07/2011: Since this post was first published, Drugstore.com has changed its Search function so you can no longer see all the products that contain a particular ingredient.) Among the facial scrubs containing plastic were pretty much anything described as having “microbeads,” such as:
Dove Gentle Exfoliating Foaming Facial Cleanser
Nivea face scrub
Aveeno daily scrub
Neutrogena Body Clear body scrub
L’Oreal Pure Zone Pore Unclogging Scrub Cleanser
Ambi Even & Clear Skincare, Exfoliating Wash
Clean & Clear Oil-Free Daily Pore Cleanser
Phisoderm Nurturing Facial Polish
Garnier Nutritioniste Nuti-Pure Microbead Cream Scrub
So how about some good news? Here are some facial scrubs on the drugtore.com web site which do not contain polyethylene. Several of these are labeled as 100% biodegradable.
Alba Botanica Clarifying Scrub
Alba Hawaiian Facial Scrub, Pineapple Enzyme
Aubrey Organics North Woods Face Scrub
Avalon Organics Exfoliating Enzyme Scrub
Burt’s Bees Citrus Facial Scrub
Burt’s Bees Peach & Willowbark, Deep Pore Scrub
derma e Microdermabrasion Scrub
Earth Science Gentle Facial Scrub, Apricot
Grandpa’s Old Fashioned Oatmeal Soap, For Face & Bath
Jason Natural Cosmetics Scrubble (various types)
Jason Red Elements Exfoliating Scrub
Juice Organics New! Apple Exfoliating Peel
Kiss My Face Organics Jump Start, Exfoliating Face Wash
Kiss My Face Organics So Refined, Jojoba & Mint Facial
Nature’s Gate Revitalizing Facial Scrub
Zia Natural Skincare Natural Microdermabrasion Scrub
So the moral to the story is: Read labels! You might be buying more plastic than just the container!