It’s time to talk about your face wash. Yes, yours. I’m specifically talking about that one that exfoliates: the “scrubby one.” Go get it – I mean it! I’ll wait for you to get back.
Got it? Okay. Now look at the listed exfoliant, or “scrubbing” ingredient. Some of you won’t be able to find one (just weird chemical compounds) but others will have it proudly listed on the front of the tube: microbeads!
You may be wondering what exactly microbeads are. Here’s a picture (care of ehow.com):
See, now they look familiar: every once in a while you’ll find one in the crease of your nose after washing your face, and roll it around between your fingers before losing it in the carpet. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Let’s look a little closer, though, not only at microbeads themselves, but also at their effect on the planet.
Oh look, fish eggs! Nope, those are the same microbeads, but magnified (care of green.yahoo.com). They’re made out of polyethylene plastic, and as most green freaks know, plastic doesn’t biodegrade. When you use your favorite exfoliating face wash, all of those microbeads go down the drain, and because they’re so small, sewage plants can’t filter them out. They get into our watersheds, flow through the system, and end up in our oceans, where they’re a hazard to marine life swimming above and resting on the ocean floor.
It’s kind of ironic, considering how many face wash commercials show swimming mermaids and sun drenched beaches, don’t you think?
For all of the details on microbeads – the studies in Britain and Australia, the ways the effect sea life, and a quote from Olay’s parent company, which deflects the issue – see this comprehensive Slate.com article. If you’re already prepared to toss your current exfoliating face wash and try something new, don’t worry! You don’t need to spend a lot of money to exfoliate your skin. In fact, only need to hit the grocery store…or hell, just get online.
In my opinion, the wash cloth is a simple, effective, and overlooked option for exfoliating every part of one’s skin. The cloths above are called “face scrubbies” and are handmade of 100% cotton by Etsy seller CocoaBeans…and a set of three costs five bucks. Five bucks for three perfectly-sized wash cloths, each of which will last up to five years with daily use. That means you can make whichever face wash you’re using – the soft, silky one, the acne product, what have you – an “exfoliating face wash.” (I got one as a birthday gift, and can definitely give the “Jen recommendation.”)
First thing’s first: if you use a loofah, you must wash it once a week. This will keep it from building up bacteria (because no one wants to add bacteria when they wash their face). Just toss it in the dishwasher and you’ll be good to go. You can buy them all over the place online (and in the grocery store) for less than ten bucks a pop, but try to keep your purchases limited to sites that support green living and independent designers. (Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, grow your own!)
They’re out there: scrubbing face washes that don’t use microbeads. In fact, I’ve got a list, care of the Green Picks blog:
- Avalon Organics Exfoliating Enzyme Scrub (ground walnut & flax)
- Burt’s Bees line of scrubs (ground peach stones, almond, & oats)
- Freeman Feeling Beautiful Salt Body Scrub (salt)
- Freeman Feeling Beautiful Sugar Body Scrub (sugar)
- Nature’s Gate Revitalizing Facial Scrub (ground willow bark, walnut, & corn meal)
- Queen Helene Natural Facial Scrub (ground walnut)
- Skin Milk Facial Scrub, Exfoliate (oat flour & almond meal)
- St. Ives Apricot Scrub (ground apricot kernels)
The one that I’ve seen get the most personal praise is the St. Ives Apricot Scrub. People swear by its ability to calm acne-prone skin, soften blotches and redness, and generally do awesome things for one’s face. While looking for a new face wash yesterday (my current one sucks – a lot) I saw that my local Safeway had the entire run of St. Ives Apricot Scrubs on sale for five dollars each (they’re usually eight or nine), so I picked up the “gentle” version. (Any dermatologist will tell you to start gentle – don’t tear apart your skin – and work up from there. You don’t want to break capillaries or overdry just because you’re worried about a zit. If you’re adamant, however, St. Ives also has a whole arsenal of facial scrubs to try.)
In the end, it really is that easy. You don’t have to spend a ton of money or drive to hell and back to exfoliate your face. (And ladies, don’t even start me on “making your own” exfoliating products. I don’t have enough time or patience for that.) Just pick up a more conscious bottle of face wash, grab a wash cloth or a luffa, and you’re all set. Or pick up one of the many naturally exfoliating products listed above.
Because seriously, sea creatures are creepy enough as it is, and that’s without the weird plastic things growing out of them.