Every Christmas my mom bakes poppy seed cakes, a family tradition passed down from my father’s Polish roots. Poppy seeds are oilseeds that come from the poppy plant and are packed with nutrients. They’re also gnarly little buggers when they get caught in your teeth. These tiny black seeds, however, might be the answer to a problem much larger than not having floss or a toothpick on hand.
A few years ago a friend was visiting from out of town and brought a product I’d never used before. It was called Clean & Clear Morning Burst Facial Cleanser by Johnson & Johnson. I loved it. The last thing I’m doing in the morning is bursting, and this product lived up to it’s name. It had these tiny beads that exfoliated my skin and smelled amazing. They had a new customer.
So you can imagine my surprise a few years later when I learned what those beads actually were and how they’re damaging our environment. I went from bursting to deflated.
In short, microbeads are tiny particles of plastic that are used in numerous beauty products. They flow down the drain after we wash our face and since they’re so small, wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to filter them. They’re also not biodegradable and once they enter the ocean they’re impossible to remove. Fish and other marine life ingest them and they’re essentially passed along the food chain and could likely end up back with us on our dinner plates. If this toxic cycle keeps repeating who knows how it will impact our health and the health of the planet in years to come.
I was a Johnson & Johnson baby and grew up using their products, always believing that such a large reputable company would be ethical and responsible. I trusted them. I no longer use their products or any others that contain microbeads. You’d be surprised how many do (a pdf list here) and can find more information at Beat the Microbead and 5Gyres.
This brings me back to my mom’s poppy seed cakes. Despite my disappointment with companies like Johnson & Johnson for bursting my bubble by using microbeads, I was relieved to find that others have come up with alternatives.
One such brand is Jillian Wright Skincare. She offers an exfoliating scrub that uses poppy seeds instead of microbeads, which achieves the same desired effect without using plastics. Not only is her product biodegradable, so is her packaging. Each box contains wildflower seeds that can be planted after use. Now that’s the kind of stuff I’d rather be putting back into the environment. Flowers, a better morning burst!