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Published - 18/12/2013

A Christmas facial - a treat for your skin but a disaster for our seas

Exfoliating particles flushed down the sink are adding to the seas' ‘plastic soup’


Lots of people will treat themselves to some extra beauty therapies over the festive period, or give facial products as a pampering gift – but although these items may make our skin look and feel good, they’re giving our seas anything but a make-over.

MCS and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) are warning shoppers that many personal care products like scrubs and peels now contain plastic particles, and these can have a devastating effect on the marine environment.

A range of personal care products which can contain plastic particles

Every time we exfoliate or peel off dead cells with many of the leading scrubs and washes, and then rinse them off, the tiny bits of plastic go down the drain and that means we are flushing plastic into our seas where it contributes to a growing problem of plastic pollution.

Although a number of leading manufacturers of beauty products have already stopped or have promised to phase out the use of microbeads in peels, scrubs and washes, (including Unilever, Lush and the Body Shop), many firms are still using them.

"It's incredible how many everyday products contain microplastic beads. These find their way through our sewers and into our seas where they are easily eaten by all sorts of marine animals and could ultimately end up back in the human food chain. These bits of plastic are so small that our sewage works cannot deal with them, so when used they are essentially washed straight to river and sea.”Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Litter Policy Officer.

MCS and FFI say shoppers can play an important role in helping to put pressure on manufacturers who are dragging their feet over the issue of microbeads in their products. Consumers can check out those products already free of beads by using the Good Scrub Guide -

Tanya Cox, FFIs Marine Plastics Officer, says: “Microplastic pollution is having a profound impact on the health of our oceans and demands urgent attention. FFI is really encouraged to see leading UK retailers and producers of personal care products proactively replacing damaging microplastic exfoliants with biodegradable alternatives and urge all companies to take such positive action to minimise this source of microplastic pollution”.

MCS and FFI will be working together closely in the New Year to champion positive action on behalf of forward thinking, UK companies who actively remove microplastics from their product lines. Together, MCS and FFI will use the Good Scrub Guide and supporting smartphone App – the Beat the Micro Bead App – to illustrate the number of plastic-free face scrubs available on the UK market to help keep Britain’s consumers informed at each step of the way.

MCS and FFI encourage consumers to help populate the Good Scrub Guide and the App by by letting us know which of your favourite products do and don’t contain plastic. Those with plastics will have some of these ingredients listed:

  • Polyethylene / Polythene (PE)

  • Polypropylene (PP)

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

  • Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)

  • Nylon

When you’ve spotted these in the ingredients list, all you have to do is  fill in a simple form and we’ll do the rest!

>> Click here to fill in the form 


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