Microbeads are the small granules that make up the exfoliant component of many popular skincare and personal care products. Known as polyethylene microbeads these plastic particles have recently been found in huge quantities within Australian, and global waterways.

In recent years cosmetic companies have shied away from more expensive abrasives such as sand, grains, seed and nuts. Polyethylene microbeads are a more cost effective and easily sourced ingredient. But without our knowledge these plastic particles have been going straight from our household drains into the ocean. Unfortunately these plastics are not biodegradable nor is it possible to remove them from the ocean.

This discovery has caused a huge concern amongst environmental groups and scientists – some even comparing the ocean to ‘plastic soup’. There is a huge call to action for these products to be removed from our shelves. Professor Emma Johnson found that out of 100 particles in Sydney Harbour, 60 were micro plastics. Not only is this alarming for the health of our aquatic friends. But potentially we could be re-digesting traces of micro plastics absorbed into the marine life we eat.


Whilst some cosmetic companies are taking positive action to remove microbeads from their products there is no worldwide legislation. Some European countries such as the Netherlands have adopted a ban, which prohibit cosmetic companies from using microbeads within their products. In Australia Greg Hunt, the Environment minister has announced a voluntary ban of products containing microbeads by 2018. But this ban is ‘voluntary’ meaning companies are not legally bound to honor the proposal.

Although microbeads are still being used in a huge amount of cosmetic products. There are still ways that we can do our part to honor the ‘Beat the Microbead’ movement. Make sure you are choosing products that don’t contain the ingredient – polyethylene. Beat the Microbead organisation have also created an awesome app that is free to download. This app allows us to scan product barcodes and check whether it contains micro plastics.

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