The United Kingdom is the Latest Country to Ban Microbeads

Microbeads, the small polyethylene particles often used to add texture and exfoliation power to cosmetics, are the subject of another ban, this time in the United Kingdom. The legislation is set to come into place next year.

The intent to ban microbeads was announced by Michael Gove in his first speech as Environment Secretary.

Bans Exist in Europe, North America

The Netherlands, the United States, Ireland and Canada are all countries who have already banned the use of the popular cosmetic ingredient. Microbeads, although a popular ingredient in many cosmetic and beauty supplies, have come under criticism in recent years. Many water plants are unable to completely absorb the miniature plastic, which means most of it is released into marine habitats. Fish and other types of wildlife then mistake the minuscule plastic pieces for food. Scientists have stated that it is also possible for humans to consume the microbeads through the ingestion of seafood.

Microbeads first emerged in the world of cosmetics in 1972, when they were intended as a mode of exfoliation. They were touted for being an extra effective way of washing away dirt and grime. Their use was adopted by most major cosmetic companies.

Thankfully, it appears that most countries are moving in the direction of a complete ban of the dangerous ingredient. For those who are living in areas where microbeads have not yet been banned, there is an app that allows you to track which products contain microbeads and those which do not.


Rachel Cribby is a writer and editor based in Montreal.

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