Microbeads have been known to impart more than just a scrubbed-clean feeling to skin; the plastic particles, added to everything from cleansers to toothpastes, also pollute the planet’s waterways and make their way up the food chain. But a new law will soon end the infamous ingredient’s reign in the personal care world for good.
Last week President Obama signed The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, a federal law that will ban the beads starting in 2017, Slate reports. In a year of hotly debated topics, it’s one of the few where seemingly everyone was in agreement: Not only did the bill receive bipartisan support in Congress, but some cosmetic companies have actually welcomed the nationwide standard (probably because many had already started to phase out the ingredient over the past few years—a few states, California being the largest, had already passed their own bans).
Microbeads are made of polyethelene, which is essentially the same plastic used to make grocery bags. Their perfectly smooth and spherical shape made them a beauty industry favorite, which touted them as a safe, effective exfoliating alternative to other natural ingredients like walnut shells (which are sharper and have potential to cause tiny tears and irritate skin). But once the plastic beads wash down your drain, they never biodegrade—meaning, they travel through sewage systems intact and end up settling into rivers, oceans, and, eventually, the food chain.
Some dentists have claimed to find the beads lodged in patients’ gums, and many derms doubt that they really do much other than make you feel like you’re getting cleaner thanks to the scrubbing sensation. So it’s tough to find any justification for all that pollution—and for that, we say good riddance. We’re onto better, more effective cleansers already. —Amy Marturana
A great, microbead-free exfoliator is already in your home—this DIY scrub features ingredients you’ve definitely got stocked in your kitchen.
(Photo: 5 Gyres via Slate)