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Microbeads and Karma

Not to sound dramatic, but conventional beauty wound me up in hospital

By Cora Hilts

The pain was real

There are a lot of times I cheat at being green. That time I bought a Smart Water in a huge plastic bottle because I was hungover and thought I really needed electrolytes, the multiple times I went to Paris and being a vegetarian was an afterthought to ordering steak frites, etc. But this last cheat must be classed as one of the worst as it landed me in a London eye hospital swearing at myself.


I’ve been a proponent of organic beauty for a while now, and take pride in steps like having abandoned deodorant (jury is still out on that one) and finding a natural colourist who uses mostly seaweed in his dyes. So I really should have known better when I made the decision to use an old face scrub I had hidden in the back of my beauty collection. But I was in desperate need of a facial that Wednesday night, so I thought to myself how bad can it be and went ahead with it.

Microbeads are so horrid that they are actually banned in all the fabulously progressive countries you would imagine (i.e. Netherlands, Sweden, etc.)

Here is why I was being bad. The big issue with the vast majority of facial scrubs is the microbeads that are found in them. Microbeads are so horrid that they are actually banned in all the fabulously progressive countries you would imagine (i.e. Netherlands, Sweden, etc.) and in June 2016, they were added to a list of toxic substances by the Canadian government.


Microbeads are essentially tiny particles of plastic that are particularly horrid because of their longevity-it takes hundreds of years for them to break down-and also because of where they end up (in our oceans, lakes and rivers). Plus they’re less than a mm wide so water filters miss them. Greenpeace refers to it as a “toxic time bomb”. Once in the marine environment microplastics can both release and absorb toxins, which can then move throughout the food chain. According to Wired, it is estimated that between 15 and 51 trillion microplastic particles have accumulated in the ocean, with Europe alone flushing up to 210,000 tonnes of microplastics into the sea each year. And now over 280 species of marine species have been found with plastic within them, including fish, oysters and other things we not only love eating, but we actually consider healthy for us. The irony is great.

Poor fish/wouldn't want to eat him.

“If someone eats six oysters, it is likely they will have eaten 50 particles of microplastics,” -Science & Environmental Technology

So back to Wednesday night, with me washing my face with this naughty microbead-laden scrub and all of a sudden the water gets the mixture in my eyes. And it hurts, so I rub. But even after I get out of the shower my eyes still are burning and I’m convinced they’re filled with bits of plastic that I can’t see because not only is plastic evil, it’s VIRTUALLY INVISIBLE.


Fast forward to the morning and I wake up with the distinctly shitty feeling of having pebbles in my eyes. An hour later I am in the waiting room of a London Eye Hospital, texting my business partner that I will be late to work because I was the worst hypocrite last night and am being punished for it. I had to have three doctors come check my eyes as microbeads are “so tricky to spot” and the karma of using a facial scrub I knew was bad for both the environment and my skin was evident.

There are more detriments to microbeads than just being toxic to the seas. Apparently using plastic to detox your skin leads to more wear and tear than we need and the possibility of bacterial infection in facial pores. Over exfoliating can cause a stripped barrier function of the pores-causing dehydration, flaking, redness and inflammation. It also can damage otherwise healthy cells.


So then what to do? Obviously we at REV carry a few lines that I use and would recommend, including Grown Alchemist and Guy Morgan Apothecary. Guy Morgan in particular does amazingly well at using all natural ingredients that he hand combines in East London. His water-activated clay mask and scrub exfoliates dead skin cells with fine marble powder, ideal for sensitive skin. If you want to go the most organic root possible in terms of purchasing, I think this could be it.

Grown Alchemist passes the test
Guy Morgan couldn't be more natural

Otherwise you can so easily make your own exfoliants at home-I am a personal victim of DIY beauty laziness but it really does not take much effort at all and then you know exactly what you are getting. The best recipe I have found is this gentle exfoliating mask from Minimalist Beauty, which requires very few ingredients and can be made to last a while.


This was a personal experience that I wanted to share as a prime example of having to practice what I am constantly preaching – sustainable living really is a bit more of a commitment. Whether it’s spending slightly more on natural beauty or making it yourself, it’s admittedly more difficult than popping into Boots Pharmacy. However, when you think of the impact this seemingly small decision makes on our waters and our marine life I at least feel motivated to do better. Plus it may just keep you out of hospital.

Use Local Honey, Support the Bees!

Greenpeace refers to microbeads as a “toxic time bomb” for our oceans. We can avoid this scenario with different choices.