Monday, June 16, 2008

Is your exfoliant harming ocean animals?

There is some beautiful ocean imagery in this commercial, but there's something missing. When you wash your face with this product, you may be harming ocean animals.

Tiny plastic beads used in many exfoliating products are the same size as sand and plankton, and they can harm ocean animals. When plastic beads are eaten, which is common when animals encounter them, the exfoliating beads can clog the gut or carry toxic chemicals that stick to the plastic and poison ocean animals.

An article in Slate reports on problems with the plastic beads, and the answer from a company that makes Olay's exfoliant that contains plastic beads.

Exfoliating products don't need to be made out of plastic. Some products use natural materials like the finely ground peach stones in Burt's Bees Deep Pore Scrub or the apricot kernels in St. Ives Apricot Scrub. Changing to natural products seems like a good idea since the problem of microplastics in the ocean is increasing. One study found microplastics in the ocean have tripled in the last 30-40 years.

So what'll it be: clogged pores, clogged oceans, or a switch to natural skin cleansers?


Anonymous said...

Are exfoliant-related plastics really an important part of the increase in microplastic pollution in the oceans or are they overwhelmed by other inputs, including physical degradation of other plastics in the environment?

Mark Powell said...

Exfoliants are an example of disregard of impacts, and an ironic use of ocean imagery to sell a product that is likely to harm the oceans. Are they important? Yes, they're important as a symbol, but I don't know if they're important beyond that.