Last week, we discussed ‘reef safe sunscreen’ and why it should be your next step in protecting your skin & body, as well as the environment. Today we’ll learn why it’s important to ditch the microbeads found in chemical exfoliation products. Microbeads are added to commercial facial exfoliation masks, body scrubs, shower gels and many other products, all of which end up in our waterways, forming a “plastic soup” in the world’s oceans.
Why should you avoid commercial exfoliants?
Almost all exfoliation products commercially available today contain ‘microbeads’. Microbeads are tiny plastic spheres, barely visible to the naked eye, but lethal to the ocean and marine life. These microbeads do not dissolve in water, and due to their size are not removed/filtered even by water treatment plants. As a result, they wash away directly into larger bodies of water, and pose a danger to all the creatures of the sea as well as the environment. Slowly and steadily, these innocuous seeming bits of plastic infiltrate the human food chain and end up on our dinner tables.
Thankfully, microbeads are completely unnecessary as a skin care ingredient, and there are dozens of microbead-free, natural and biodegradable alternatives.
Also, commercial skin exfoliation products nearly always contain alcohol, which can dry out the skin in just one application. Compare this with our PuraVeda Organics natural exfoliation masks containing moisturizing ingredients such as natural oils, honey and Aloe Vera which gives a boost of hydration to dull, dry skin. If your exfoliator is harsh or contains irritating ingredients, your skin may be subject to micro-abrasions, inflammation and dryness. Probably not what you were looking for!
Why is exfoliation important?
Exfoliation is the fourth most important step in modern day skin care after cleansing, toning and moisturizing. Our skin sheds old and dead cells every day. While some of these cells slough off naturally, some attaches to living skin cells through a glue-like protein. This ‘dead skin-protein’ layer accumulates over time, and can become difficult to remove if you don’t scrub/exfoliate regularly (imagine what happens when you don’t moisturize your elbows or heels for months at a time!)
Facial skin is far more reactive/delicate and without exfoliation, it can not only look dull, but also can become blocked with sebum (natural oils) and environmental grime causing acne blemishes, blackheads, whiteheads and other skin issues. Exfoliation also makes the skin more permeable, allowing better penetration of moisturizing or anti-aging and sensitive skin treatments.
Exfoliation done 2X-3X times a week with Papaya & Honey Exfoliation Mask and Scrub (or SBR version for Sensitive, Blemished and Rosacea skin) gently removes dead skin cells, unblocks pores, stimulates circulation and restores natural glow.
What are the best natural exfoliants for the skin and the environment?
Here are some of the best microbead-free natural exfoliants we use in our products that are eco-friendly and suitable for all skin types:
Citrus such as lemons contain the active ingredient citric acid (a form of Alpha Hydroxy Acid or AHA) which works as an excellent natural exfoliator. This acid helps remove dead skin cells and blackheads from the skin surface and revives your skin. AHA also makes your skin look both firmer (more resilient) and yet softer to the touch, removes fine lines and wrinkles and smoothes texture – without irritating your skin with harsh gritty exfoliants.
While the lactic acid in milk works as an exfoliant, the natural fats moisturize your skin and makes it softer. Milk (especially low-fat milk or goat milk) also contains AHA. Since it’s neither a fruit acid, enzyme or a physical exfoliator, it is one of the most gentle exfoliators you can use.
Papaya is loaded with the enzyme Papain which helps in break down the dead skin cells. Papaya also contains nutrients like Vitamin A, antioxidants, potassium, natural BHA (from ripe papaya), flavonoids, and other healing enzymes that boost collagen production, reduce dark spots and pigmentation, control excess sebum production (oily skin) and removes impurities from pores.
Raw honey is antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic and antiviral, and combats infection and acne. It is also a superior humectant attracting moisture from the environment during exfoliation, leaving your skin properly hydrated.
5. Sea Salt
The coarse granules of sea salt helps to get rid of impurities on our skin. Sea salt consists of trace minerals that promotes moisture retention, rejuvenates tired skin, removes impurities and stimulates fresh cell growth. However, since it’s a strong exfoliator, people with sensitive skin should use it with caution.
Healing Neem leaf extract is not only an amazing exfoliator, but naturally soothes inflamed, acne and SBR (Sensitive/Blemished/Rosacea) prone skin. Neem helps regulate oil production and when used as an exfoliator, effectively removes blackheads and whiteheads.
Almond is a nutrient rich ingredient that exfoliates the skin and provides an anti-aging Vitamin-E boost. An excellent moisturizer, Almond can be used to treat inflammation, rashes and chapped skin. Almond oil removes harmful free radicals, brightening the skin naturally.
Micronized (finely ground) walnut shells are used in our PVO Exfoliation masks, as they are an excellent physical exfoliator, acting as soft abrasive that doesn’t damage delicate skin. More importantly, walnut shells are 100% biodegradable and replace plastic microbead spheres with no environmental impact.