The U.K. has banned microbeads from beauty products, protections the oceans and environment

As of Jan. 9, 2018, the U.K. will no longer allow manufacturers to use plastic microbeads in personal care products and cosmetics. To follow is a full ban on the sale of microbead-containing products, which will be implemented in July of this year. According to the, this is part of a nationwide effort to prevent microbeads from polluting the ocean and causing harm to the wildlife.

Microbeads are minute plastic spheres that are oftentimes added to facial scrubs, shower gels, and even toothpastes. Being made of plastic, microbeads aren’t biodegradable and can be contaminated with toxic chemicals. Their tiny size makes it so they can pass through filters with ease and enter water sources. This deadly combination is why microbeads are so hazardous to marine life, and the reason why various countries have pledged to stop the use of microbeads. (Related: Microbead soap to be banned worldwide in effort to save marine life.)

The U.K. first committed to this in 2016, a year after the U.S. swore to phase out the soaps and other products that have microbeads. Across the globe, it’s believed that cosmetic products can account for almost 4.1 percent of microplastic pollution. This comes as little surprise to experts, as in the U.K. alone, around 680 tons of microbeads are added to cosmetic products annually.

Speaking of the ban, environment minister Thérèse Coffey remarked: “The world’s seas and oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life. Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available, and I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.

“Now we have reached this important milestone, we will explore how we can build on our world-leading ban and tackle other forms of plastic waste.”

Despite the positive buzz surrounding this move, others have their reservations. Wakefield representative Mary Creagh has praised the ban yet has also acknowledged that more could be done to cut down on microplastic pollution. “Our seas are choked with massive quantities of polluting microplastics, which absorb chemicals, are eaten by wildlife and enter the food chain. Microbeads in cosmetics are an avoidable part of the problem, which is why we called for a ban,” Creagh explained.

She added: “Since we called for a ban, my committee has also recommended a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, a latte levy for plastic-lined coffee cups and reforms to make producers responsible for their packaging. We look forward to hearing the Government’s response.”

A more natural alternative

Those who are worried that they’ll soon lose their favorite exfoliants need not fret, not when there are various recipes homemade facial scrubs out there on the Internet. Many of these recipes call for oatmeal, a beloved breakfast staple that can easily double as a facial scrub thanks to its soothing and nourishing qualities. If you’d like to make a simple yet effective oatmeal facial scrub, here’s what you need to do:

  • Mix one tablespoon of oatmeal with about three tablespoons of slightly warmed milk.
  • Wait five to 10 minutes, or until the oats have softened.
  • Massage the mixture onto your clean face in circular motions for about one to two minutes. Be sure to avoid your eyes.
  • Afterwards, rinse with warm water, then with cold water to help close your pores.

For a more luxurious facial scrub, you can add honey (a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its natural moisture) or brown sugar (which does a great job of exfoliating and hydrating) to your concoction. As per, you can even throw in coffee, rice powder, and cornmeal to enhance the efficacy of your facial scrub. Sea salt is another option, but it may be too harsh for your face, so better save it for a body scrub instead.

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