Ditching the Bead: A How-To Guide for Changing your Scrub Routine
I was 19 years old when I used what I thought was my first natural face scrub. I can't remember the exact brand, but I can recall the faint smell of florals infused into the scrub from some skin-benefiting ingredient meant to transform my complexion. I had little clue as to how the scrub got its exfoliating power, but it never concerned me to look at the ingredient list closely. I would never have guessed, for example, that the scrub was so "effective" thanks to the addition of barely-there beads used to exfoliate and scrub the skin.
Then, I noticed the hype surrounding microbeads really take off.
The minuscule beads - aka microbeads - are typically made of plastic and other synthetic materials. Used in body scrubs, facial exfoliators, soaps and other personal care products, microbeads have in recent years been condemned for their harsh impact on the environment; specifically, our oceans. See, microbeads wreak such devastating havoc because of their size. They are tiny enough to pass through generic filtration systems, making their way into major water ways and into our oceans, where marine life consume them and begin a cyclical process called biomagnification. To simplify that fancy term, small aquatic species eat the microbeads and, as larger and larger mammals consume the smaller ones, the microbeads become more concentrated, eventually making their way to land through larger predators.
Humans are also affected by microbeads due to the nature of their makeup. According to ENN, microbeads often contain harmful chemicals like PCBs and can cause issues to our personal health. And, according to NPR, microbeads have even made their way into Great Lakes, fueling the negativity surrounding the tiny orbs of destruction.
The good news is that, since I've grown older and the years have passed, more awareness surrounding the negative impacts of microbeads has spread, with brands, organizations and large charities doing their part to help the public avoid using products which contain the beads. But if you're looking for an alternative to the once-cherished scrubs and soaps that utilized microbeads for exfoliating power, it can be difficult to ditch the bead. I've had my own trials and errors with finding better alternatives, which may be helpful when looking for replacement products. Here's a how-to guide to help you charter the waters of bead-free beauty.
Look for Natural Exfoliants
Sound simple? Okay, maybe not. But finding natural exfoliants isn't as difficult as it sounds. More natural brands are cropping up, utilizing exfoliants safe for both your skin and the environment. For instance, you may stumble across more brands adding oats, almond meal, coconut flakes, sugars and salts (such as pink or sea salt) to their scrubs and soaps as a replacement for manufactured beads. Not only are these natural exfoliants safer, but they are also more gentle on your skin, and have their own skin-benefiting properties. Plastic beads? Well, they won't help nourish your skin.
Rethink your Idea of "Scrub"
Typically when we think of facial and body scrubs, we likely don't think about grains. Surprisingly, however, grains are having their hay-day in the world of beauty thanks to their gentle cleansing and exfoliating properties, sans harsh ingredients. They're called cleansing grains, and the process behind them is simple: use grains (like oats), turn them into a powder and add nourishing ingredients like activated charcoal, powdered honey, coconut milk, clays, etc. to make a lightly exfoliating cleanser that scrubs away dirt, oil, bacteria and dead skin. A scrub doesn't have to look like the "typical" scrub in order to do the trick. Think outside the scrub!
Recommendations: Whole Apothecary Cleansing Grains // Wilderness Soap Co. Activated Charcoal Cleansing Grains // [M]Botanicals Gentle Enzyme Cleansing Grains // Urban Oreganics 'Bare' Cleansing Grains
Give Coffee a Chance
We already consume the liquid crack on a daily basis, so why not incorporate it into our beauty routines? I've been using coffee as part of my daily skin and body care regimen for a year now, and I've never been more impressed by a DIY-esque ingredient. Among its many benefits, coffee can help decrease puffiness in the face (especially the eyes), plumps the skin, helps boost collagen production and can exfoliate away dead skin and bacteria just as effectively as any exfoliator. It can also brighten your skin, which is awesome for anyone looking to eliminate a dull complexion.
Recommendations: Skin Food Coffee Scrub // BirchRose & Co Coffee + Mint Body Scrub // Palermo Body Cofee + Lemon Body Scrub // Fable Soap Co. Coffee + Cardamom Body Scrub // Wilderness Soap Co. Java Scrub // Naked Skincare Coffee Scrub
Literally just Use a Different Scrub Altogether
Sassy, I know. But if you want to really ditch the harmful face/body scrubs for something better, start by using something different! You'd be surprised how easy it is to find natural, more kind alternatives to nasty, bead-laden scrubs. You could try, for example, masa-based scrubs, which utilize corn flower as an exfoliant, or a salt-based scrub. Some scrubs even use rice or coconut powder as an alternative. Many include florals (such as rose, hibiscus, geranium and more) to help nourish and heal the skin. Because so many brands are developing natural products now, sourcing an alternative to scrubs which utilize harsher ingredients could not be more simple.
Here's a closeup of the cleansing grains and soak currently adorning my bathroom shelves
Wilderness Soap Co. Luxe Bath Soak & Activated Charcoal Cleansing Grains