Why surfers will probably be tossing their face wash this summer


Microbeads are nearly impossible to clean up, making them deadly to ocean life (and humans). Photo: Courtesy of 5Gyres

On that ever-growing list of things we do on the daily that end up really hurting the planet, you've probably heard about microbeads.

When they were first introduced, these tiny, smooth beads of plastic seemed too good to be true: cheap to buy and even cheaper to produce, they could be infused into face washes and buff skin for a soft glow more gently than harsh exfoliates like ground-up nut shells, sugar or sand.

Turns out these tiny plastic spheres were doing some real damage to the environment when they were washed down the drain. Besides nearly jamming up the entire water treatment system in New York state, these tiny beads are made from non-biodegradable plastic, which means they end up in local waterways, lakes and eventually the ocean.

And because they are so small, they're almost impossible to clean up, meaning they turn into accidental fish food, starving the coral reefs and poisoning other aquatic species. (And guess what? Eventually those toxins work their way up the food chain and are consumed by — you guessed it — humans.)

microbeads toothpaste

Microbeads are even found in some toothpaste formulas. Yep, your brushing your teeth with plastic. Photo: Courtesy of 5Gyres

But there's good news. Last Monday, Dec. 7, the House of Representatives passed the Microbead Free Waters Act, which effectively prohibits the sale of products that include microbeads in their formulas. That measure is now headed to the Senate (thanks, Schoolhouse Rock!), which means microbeads could be banned by this summer, including "bioplastic" beads, which don't actually biodegrade once in the ocean.

We’re pretty sure every surfer will be on board with this measure to protect our oceans. So what can you do today? Easy, opt for products that contain only natural exfoliates like sea salt or fruit acids, or DIY your own with some sugar or oatmeal. Then, sign up for the Ban the Bead petition and upload a picture of your natural face scrub, tagging #BanTheBead and your state's Senate representative.

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