August 29, 2022 5 min read


You may be wondering what plastic microbes are. Some people use these products for facial scrubbing. This article discusses plastic microbes in CBD, including; types, the risks, and tips on avoiding them.


Plastic microbeads are any intentionally added, solid plastic, water-insoluble particles (5 mm or less in size) used to cleanse or exfoliate in rinse-off personal skincare topical products. Cosmetic manufacturers use plastic microbeads in wash-off cleansers because of their ability to effectively exfoliate the skin by removing dry, dead skin cells and unclogging the pores. It is also not surprising that customers appreciate these products' capability to produce clean, healthy, and smoother-looking skin. Despite their admirable cosmetic abilities, products with plastic microbeads have raised concerns in some quarters over their environmental viability and their role in littering the marine ecosystem. The guide below explores the use of plastic microbeads in CBD facial scrubs, their cosmetic merits, how to avoid these products, and the affirmative action the industry has taken.

Products That Contain Plastic Microplastics

The past decade has seen cosmetic companies increase their use of plastic microbeads in their mainstream products. These products are usually advertised using words such as exfoliators or scrubs, with the two most common culprits on the ingredient lists being polyethylene and polypropylene. These are two common types of plastic.

Plastic bottles and bags turn into microplastics via degradation-the breakdown of plastic into smaller and minute pieces. Microbeads are tiny (often below 5 mm) and small enough to slip through treatment filters and watersheds. Once in the watersheds, microbeads attract toxins in water at the molecular level.

Linnebjerg et al. (2021) revealed an increased contamination level from microbeads, enhancing public resistance to their use. Some states like Illinois have banned the use of products containing microbeads, and many more are considering following suit.

Why Are These Potentially Hazardous Microplastics Intentionally Added to Cosmetics and Personal Care Products?

The two main plastics added to these cosmetic products include polyethylene and polypropylene. People explore why each of the two is intentionally used.


Polyethylene is preferred for its ability to;

  • Unite and bind together the ingredients of personal care and cosmetic products.
  • Form a thin coating on the nails, hair, and skin.
  • Dilute other solids by enhancing the thickness of the oily part of cosmetics.
  • Clean or deodorize the teeth and mouth.


Polypropylene is utilized because of its ability to;

  • Resist breakage, and enhance transparency and elasticity. For this reason, it is mainly used in nail polishes, body washes, anti-aging agents, hair dyes, mascaras, and sunscreens.
  • Infuse waterproof properties to makeup products.
  • Stick nail products together like an industrial adhesive.
  • Protect the body and hair from humidity.

Concerns Made Over Microbeads

Over the past few decades, concerns over the quantities of plastic litter in the marine ecosystem have been growing. Zhang et al.(2018) noted that plastic and microplastics harm the marine environment since they can easily be consumed by sea life. Also, plastic microbeads are the main culprit of marine menace.

It is important to note that plastic microbeads from personal care cosmetic products aren't the biggest contributor to marine microplastic litter. Dauvergne (2018) showed that the cosmetic sector did potential environmental damage; only about 1.5% of the marine plastic litter comes from cosmetic products, including exfoliants. However, over the past few years, cosmetic litter in microbeads has reduced because of community lobbying and voluntary commitments by the industry.

Affirmative Action, the Cosmetic Industry, Has Taken on Microbeads

After years of outcry against microplastics from the public and community lobbyists, many companies that used plastic microbeads in their cosmetic and personal care products are looking to replace them. Others utilize alternatives such as silica, beeswax, jojoba waxes, corn-derived starches, tapioca, seaweed, and other natural compounds. Kentin (2018) revealed that members of cosmetic Europe would discontinue synthetic plastic microbeads in exfoliants and cleansers by 2020. The agency pointed to the environmental harm of non-biodegradable plastics to the marine ecosystem. Some individual members have taken up this measure since then.

Bilal et al.(2021) indicated a substantial 80% reduction in the use of microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products. The study above also noted a 97% reduction in utilization of microbeads in exfoliating and cleansing wash-off cosmetics and personal care products, with some companies phasing out their use by 100%.

Tips On How to Avoid Products with Microbeads

  • Always check the ingredient labels for the key culprits of microbeads; polyethylene and polypropylene.
  • An app has been developed to allow consumers to scan a product's bar code using a smartphone camera to check for the presence of microbeads for U.S citizens.
  • The website 'Beatthemicrobead' lists some popular mainstream cosmetic products containing microbeads. A person can visit this site for a complete guide to this list.

A person doesn't have to worry about the prevalence of products with microbeads. Plenty of cleansers and skin exfoliants come without these microplastics. According to Parasad et al.(2015), most cosmetics contain filterable and biodegradable ingredients such as vitamin C paste, jojoba oil, and volcanic minerals that possess 0% harm marine life and the entire ecosystem. People should learn to avoid disposing of cosmetic wastes in the ocean for a better and complete ecosystem. Let every individual be responsible for their actions as marine life is as important as human life.

The Bottom Line

Plastic microbeads are tiny forms of microplastics that easily filter into the watersheds to absorb toxins that are often hazardous to the aquatic ecosystem. These particles create cosmetic and personal care products such as facial cleansers, scrubs, and body exfoliants. The proponents assert that plastic microbeads are great at scouring the skin to unclog pores and remove dead skin cells. While that cosmetics may be remotely possible, their environmental footprint has hit the marine ecosystem harder than expected. Luckily, thanks to community lobbying and voluntary industry efforts in the past decade, their use has been reduced considerably and phased out in other jurisdictions. People should keep the environment clean by throwing cosmetic waste at their disposal, not in the air or complete ocean ecosystem. The life cycle and survival of aquatic animals are vital.


Bilal, M., Gul, I., Basharat, A., & Qamar, S. A. (2021). Polysaccharides-Based Bio-Nanostructures And Their Potential Food Applications. International Journal Of Biological Macromolecules, 176, 540-557.

Dauvergne, P. (2018). The Power Of Environmental Norms: Marine Plastic Pollution And The  Politics Of Microbeads. Environmental Politics, 27(4), 579-597. Zhang, Y., Li, K., Li, K., Wang, L., Zhong, B., & Fu, Y. (2018). Image super-resolution using very deep residual channel attention networks. In Proceedings of the European conference on computer vision (ECCV) (pp. 286-301).

Prasad, M. P. D., Sridevi, V., Lakshmi, P. K., & Swathi, A. (2015). Treatment Of Pharmaceutical Industrial Effluent By Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC). International Journal For Innovative Research In Science And Technology, 2(1), 241-247


Kentin, E. (2018). Banning Microplastics In Cosmetic Products In Europe: Legal Challenges. In Proceedings Of The International Conference On Microplastic Pollution In The Mediterranean Sea (Pp. 245-250). Springer, Cham

Prasad, R. K., Chatterjee, S., Mazumder, P. B., Gupta, S. K., Sharma, S., Varela, M. G., ... & Gupta, D. K. (2019). Bioethanol Production From Waste Lignocelluloses: A Review On Microbial Degradation Potential. Chemosphere, 231, 588-606.

Zhang, Y., Li, K., Li, K., Wang, L., Zhong, B., & Fu, Y. (2018). Image super-resolution using very deep residual channel attention networks. In Proceedings of the European conference on computer vision (ECCV) (pp. 286-301).