Microbeads and Shea Butter: A Love Story in Two Parts

Part 1

It’s fascinating how one day can change your life. I first learned about the dangers of microbeads (those multi-colored mini scrubbers in your face wash) from a NY Times article. Like most people I had no idea that those seemingly innocuous bright pink, orange and blue beads that make our faces tingle with joy are actually contributing to widespread environmental pollution.

But before I get into what you can do to ensure that another plastic microbead doesn’t find its way from your face into the belly of a fish, I want to return to the day that changed my life.

After reading the Times article I immediately contacted my dear friend and expert in all things sustainable and awesome, Nora Pittenger. Through her work with Fair Trade USA, Nora has developed an extensive knowledge of ethical, eco-friendly brands. When I told her about my face wash conundrum she connected me with SW Basics, a small Brooklyn based skin care company. Enter my partner in Beauty Lies Truth, Jessica Assaf. Jess met me at a local coffee shop bearing a bag of SW Basics goodies, including their microbead-free exfoliant. Half way through our lattes it became evident that we had much more bonding us than just facial scrub. And so the love story begins!

As you’ve already read Jess has dedicated a good portion of her life to beauty activism. I was so compelled by her dedication to exposing the bullshit lurking within our most trusted beauty products that I decided to join forces with her.

As a woman in music I am constantly being asked about my relationship to beauty, yet the majority of the content generated by trendy sites is extremely frivolous and never takes a serious look at the consequences of a society obsessed with dangerous beauty products. We want to change that with Beauty Lies Truth. We want to be able to indulge in products that make us look and feel great but we don’t want to compromise our health or the health of our planet in the process.

So now that you understand who we are and what we want to accomplish let’s get back to the beads!

How can a tiny microbead cause so much damage you ask? Well it turns out those colorful beads are actually finely ground granules of plastics such as petroleum-based polyethylene and polypropylene. These microplastics make their way down our drains and into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. In the New York area alone, scientists have found tens of millions of these beads in the Great Lakes, with the highest concentration along the shores of Lake Erie. Floating on the water’s surface microplastics act like miniature sponges, attracting and absorbing toxins like PCBs, pesticides and chemicals such as flame retardants. After being consumed by fish and other marine species, these contaminated particles make their way into the food chain. Toxins then migrate from the plastic beads and leach into the bodies of other larger prey animals such as birds. With each bottle of facial cleanser containing hundreds of thousands of microplastics, by continuing to use these products we are contributing to the insidious degradation of the health of a wide variety of species and their habitats.

Fortunately, companies such Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal, and The Body Shop have committed to phasing out microbeads and are focused on developing environmentally friendly alternatives. Illinois just banned the pesky beads with widespread beauty industry cooperation.

Although serious action is being taken, it could take years for these bans to become a reality. In the meantime it’s good to know that the world of skin care is already full of wonderful and affordable microplastic-free exfoliating products. Below is a list of three of my favorite exfoliating cleansers as well as an awesome DIY recipe courtesy of our girl CleanEatingKate.


Ahhhh the joy of exfloliating!!

Alaffia Everyday Coconut Face Scrub (For All Skin Types)

Dominantly made from Coconut Oil, Cane Sugar, Sea Salt and Sunflower Seed the Alaffia scrub is light and refreshing on your skin. It has a mild cooling effect and the sea salt causes a pleasant tingling sensation. It smells faintly of coconut and washes off easily without leaving an oily residue. It isn’t overly drying and leaves your skin feeling fresh and smooth. In addition to being plastic free, Alaffia is made with Fair Trade coconut and invests its company profits in community empowerment programs throughout West Africa.

Juice Beauty Exfoliating Cleanser

This cleanser is perfect for those of you looking for an extremely gentle exfoliant. Tiny dissolving jojoba beads provide a subtle scrubbing effect as your face is nourished by a luxurious blend of pineapple enzymes, calming aloe vera juices, nutrient rich algae and shea butter. This product is made dominantly with certified organic ingredients and has a faint fruity fragrance. It leaves your skin feeling moisturized and is especially great for days when your face feels dry. At $22.00 it’s a bit pricier than the other products but worth the splurge.

Acure Brightening Facial Cleanser

This refreshing exfoliant is a bit abrasive and really only meant for use two or three times a week. Organic Sea Kelp and French Green Clay are the dominant ingredients in this dark green cleanser and as promised you can really feel it removing impurities from your pores. Organic Lemon Peel adds a fresh, stimulating scent and the Organic ChorellaGrowth Factor and Argan Stem Cells posses anti-aging properties. This brand is extremely ethical and like Alaffia uses certified Fair Trade Ingredients as well as green packaging.

CLEAN EATING KATE’s Moisturizing Coconut Coffee Scrub


1/2 cup ground coffee

1/2 cup coconut palm sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


To make the scrub mix all of the ingredients together until well-combined. If your coconut oil is solid, gently heat it until it melts, but wait for it to go back to room temperature before adding the other ingredients. This is to ensure that your exfoliants don’t dissolve in the oil. Once mixed, store your scrub in an air-tight container.

What are the benefits?

-Coconut oil moisturizes.

-Coconut palm sugar exfoliates.

-Cinnamon acts as a natural antibacterial and also brings blood to the surface of the skin smoothing out fine lines.

-Coffee is rich in antioxidants and acts as an awesome anti-inflammatory ingredient. It draws out excess moisture from your skin, making it look smoother and firmer while also exfoliating away dead skin cells and exposing fresh soft skin.

Want some more options? Need help navigating which products are microbead free? Check out:

by Alexis Krauss

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