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Beauty Products in Three Parts, Pt. 1: Exfoliants & Scrubs

As mentioned in my ~bio~ the idea for this blog came from seeing alarming looking/sounding ingredients in the body exfoliant I was using in the shower. Being conscious of ALL the products you use can be, frankly, exhausting, and now I am VERY aware of it and VERY tired.

It's not easy to change all your habits, I get that. The point of what I'm about to dive into/what this whole blog will be about isn't to shame you into changing your life, it's to perhaps make you (and me) aware and hopefully inspire some little changes here and there. I'm learning about all of this too. So let's get right into it, shall we?

What's the big idea?

My general concern coming into this is that the beads in my exfoliant are harming the ocean/fish and I'm a fish murderer. Let's unpack that. In 2015, Obama signed a law called the Microbead-Free Waters Act which banned microbeads in personal care products. These little plastic beads were found in anything from body washes to toothpastes, and the UN Environment Program reported that in a typical body wash, the amount of plastic microbeads equaled the amount of plastic used to create the container it came in. This law was signed because scientists discovered how harmful these microbeads were to the environment, finding them in bodies of water and in the stomachs of (dead) fish.

Image credit: 5gyres

But that was almost 3 years ago and yet I am still seeing words like "polymer" pop up in a lot of my personal beauty products. And what is that even, really? The word polymer, of course, encompasses many things in our everyday lives. Natural polymers can refer to amber, wool, silk and natural rubber. But some more common occurrence of polymers are synthetic polymers.

Here's just a portion of a list of synthetic polymers in order of worldwide demand and their most common uses:

Polyethylene - Bottles and plastic bags

Polypropylene - Luggage

Polystyrene - Plastic cutlery

Phenol formaldehyde resin - Electrical devices

Neoprene - Sub for latex and corks

Nylon - Fabrics

Teflon - Non-stick pans

Just from seeing that, I am not totally convinced that polymers in beauty products are necessarily a good thing. Acrylates copolymers, an ingredient that appeared in my exfoliant, an ingredient I ASSUMED was bad bad evil plastic, and the ingredient that made me originally believe I was a fish murderer, has been deemed completely safe for cosmetic use by several journals. I'll spare you of all the boring stuff but it's basically what makes your soap viscous. The only notably bad thing about it is that it's a nasal irritant, so like don't put your soap all up in there. It is NOT what makes up the exfoliating beads, but is generally FINE.

Acrylates copolymers is a general term referring to the stabilizer or binder put in beauty products and is usually made up of acrylic acid or methacrylic acid. The process to make acrylic acid is the "yikes" part. Scientists found that the process in which to create acrylic acid was generating ammonium derivatives. Now, however, biochemists are investigating a way to create the acid using fermented sugar in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Go science!

Road map courtesy of cen.acs.org

So while I was sent down this completely mind-numbing google rabbit hole of all the ingredients of my old body wash, what I found out did genuinely throw me for a loop. A lot of the ingredients upon further inspection are, first of all, in TONS of everyday products, and second of all, are really not that great to be near your eyes, mouth and other orifices. But the real shocker is that there is nothing explicitly eco-non-friendly about these ingredients. The exfoliating beads? Jojoba oil wax. And if you know me, you know I stan jojoba oil. I literally carry a jojoba oil stick with me wherever I go to keep my cuticles hydrated. I guess what it really comes down to is how comfortable you are using cosmetics with chemicals in them. Personally, I'm currently fine with it, but if you show me some scare tactic article about it, I will totally buy into that.

What now?

On my way to change my website bio so I'm not in the wrong I realized there's an important lesson here, which goes something like "don't jump to scary conclusions and create a whole blog around it." But frankly, I'm glad I was proven completely wrong, because that's REALLY WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE! Learning, adapting, being wrong, extensive googling, respecting mama earth and being aware of everything we do to her.

So below find a list of my personal recommendations for exfoliants/scrubs, jojoba beads or not, that are completely a-ok for the planet, if that wasn't already clear, and make your skin squeaky clean.

**I have combination skin so these are my preferred products that keep me from being too oily without drying out my skin**

Click the images for more info.

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