Eco Friendly? Exfoliating Beads vs. Natural Exfoliants {Choose Wisely}

When it comes to skin care, exfoliating is one of the top ways to cleanse yourself of dead cells and bacteria. But many face and body scrubs we use contain harmful plastic in the form of microbeads. These are also found in toothpaste, soap, and anti-aging makeup products. So, how do we get rid of those pore-clogging cells and dirt without hurting the planet? It’s simple! We find products that use alternatives to microbeads. These come in many forms. They scrub your skin clean of those unwanted cells, dirt, oil, and anything else clinging to it. Many of these exfoliants even have added benefits for the healthiest skin imaginable. If you’re looking for a great new alternative to microbeads, keep reading!


Microbeads are tiny little spheres made of plastic. They are found in body washes, scrubs, cosmetics, and toiletries. They were first introduced in 1972, and since then were used in over 100 different products. But despite their benefits for our skin and bodies, they are terrible for the planet.

Facial SkinThe Harm of Using Microbeads

As you rinse your skin and body clean of those cleansers, the tiny microbeads are washed down the drain. They make their way through treatment plants and slip through their filters. Eventually, they end up in the ocean, where they are now a threat to the wildlife beneath the water’s surface.

A study done in the Great Lakes in 2013 found huge concentrations of microplastics. They discovered that the majority of these plastics were actually microbeads. In fact, there was an average of about 43,000 microbeads in 1 square kilometer. This means that all 5 lakes alone could contain millions of these harmful plastic balls. Once in the water, these beads pose a threat to every manner of marine life there is. Fish may eat them, thinking they are eggs. Since the microbeads could potentially carry toxins, the fish then absorb them. These chemicals then work their way up the food chain, possibly right onto your plate. Watch this Youtube video for more.

Microbead Bans

Because microbeads are so harmful to the environment, many countries have banned them. It started with the European Union Commission. They stated that products containing microbeads could not be labeled “environmentally friendly”. The United States was the first to issue a full ban in 2015. As of July 1, 2017, it is illegal to sell products with microbeads in the entire country. Canada has also issued a ban, coming into effect on the same day, but one year later. This ban is only for shower gels, facial scrubs, and toothpaste. But by July 1, 2019, all other products must be microbead-free as well. Australia instituted a voluntary ban which will go into effect in 2018. With any luck, the rest of the world will follow suit.

Alternatives to Microbeads

The environmental pressure on microbeads has forced healthier substitutes onto the cosmetic industry. Rather than harmful plastic, many use natural alternatives to microbeads. These do the same job as the microbeads in their products used to do but are biodegradable. These natural exfoliants all have their own benefits as well.


Sugar is one of the most popular choices when it comes to exfoliating your face and body. It is included in a wide variety of scrubs because of its coarsely shaped granules. You can use any kind of sugar, including white, cane, brown, and even raw sugar. No matter which you choose, you’ll be able to scrape away all the dead skin, opening up those pores. Tree Hut has made an amazing Moroccan Rose Shea Sugar Scrub. It smells great and leaves your body feeling silky smooth.


The great thing about using salt to exfoliate is that it comes in a variety of grains. You can choose an extra fine sea salt for a light cleanse. If you prefer a deep scrub that will take everything off, use a coarser grain, like kosher salt. Epsom salt is another good choice, as is pink Himalayan. The latter is used in the Majestic Pure Himalayan Scrub. They chose this one because of the high nutrients, including copper, iron, and calcium. Salts can also help improve your hydration and reduce any cramping muscles.

Coffee Grounds

Aside from perking you up in the morning, coffee grounds have some great beauty benefits. They contain caffeine, which stimulates circulation. This helps reduce cellulite and firm up your skin. It can also exfoliate your skin from head to toe. Coffee can also reduce puffy eyes and wrinkles, and even enhances darker hair tones. And it’s mild on your skin. First Botany Cosmeceuticals has taken advantage of these benefits. Their Arabica Coffee Scrub is a great facial and body scrub to keep you looking your best.


Whole oats will help you slough off dead skin without any irritation, even on the most sensitive skin. They work great even when finely ground, but you can leave them as coarse as you’d like. Oatmeal also absorbs excess oil, so is great for anyone with this issue. St. Ives is one of my favorites when it comes to oatmeal scrubs. Try out their Nourished & Smooth Oatmeal Scrub & Mask for a gentle, dual-purpose product.

Jojoba Beads

Though the small jojoba beads look similar to tiny plastic microbeads, they are much safer to use. These natural exfoliants are derived from the jojoba plant. Not only are they biodegradable, they are also renewable for a long-term solution. Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Pore Scrub uses jojoba beads in its gentle facial scrub. It is perfect for all skin types, even acne-prone skin.

WalnutNut Shells

Even ground smooth, almond and walnut shells stay hard, making them great exfoliants. They remove every trace of oil and dead skin for clear pores and acne-free skin. C. Booth Walnut Shell Body Scrub & Cleanser rub away those dry spots for healthy, glowing skin.

Exfoliation Final Thoughts

Exfoliating your skin is a great way to get rid of unwanted dead skin, oil, dirt, and bacteria. But we need to be conscious of what our beauty products are doing to the world around us. Microbeads won’t be available for purchase in any form much longer. With natural alternatives available, there would be no reason to use them anyway. So, check out other the exfoliants out there and choose your favorite. Then take your time and enjoy their health benefits. And make sure to share this article with those who want healthier skin and a cleaner planet. If you are looking for more hair care articles check out our hair care buyer’s guides.