7 Alternatives To Microbead Exfoliants

We find the natural alternatives to rejuvenate your skin


If you rummage through your beauty cabinet tonight, you'll undoubtedly find several products stored away that contain microbeads – those little plastic beads that work as cleansers to scrub off the body's dead skin cells. 

But, according to Beat the Microbeads, an international campaign to ban plastic beads in beauty products, microbeads are damaging water supplies, marine life and the ecological equilibrium of the planet. 


According to the campaign, micro plastics can be found on almost every beach worldwide (even on polar icecaps) and there are 5 trillion floating pieces of plastic contaminating our waters. 

What's worse is the fact microbeads function in the same way as a sponge, and absorb chemicals such as pesticides and flame retardants which are ingested by marine animals and so the harmful substances can work their way up the food chain.


Last month, the UK's environment minister George Eustice announced the UK fully supports a legal ban on polluting plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toiletries and an EU bans could be passed as early as 2017.

While major cosmetic companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Procter & Gamble have promised to start using natural alternatives to microbeads, the shift could take several years. 

In the meantime, we've rounded up the alternatives to microbeads that will keep our skin and planet healthy. 

1. Whole oats

Oats are one of the most gentle natural exfoliants, perfect for those with sensitive skin. In the same way oats soak up milk in porridge, they soak up excess oil on the skin and work perfectly when grinded in a blender and added to water to make a paste. 


2. Jojoba beads

Commonly mistaken for plastic microbes, jojoba beads come from jojoba oil – a liquid wax derived from the jojoba shrub. Jojoba beads are biodegradable and come in a variety of colors and shapes. They're a popular alternative to microbes given their similar smooth coating which gently cleans the skin, instead of scratching it and leaving it open to bacteria. 

3. Salt

Given its sharper edges, salt scrubs are an abrasive alternative to microbead-filled beauty products and are best smoothed onto rough skin on the body and feet, rather than the face. Sea salt is a natural purifier that removes toxins that block the skin's pores, improves circulation and tightens the skins.

If you're making a natural salt scrub, ensure to add some essential oils and olive oil to soften the paste.

4. Dairy

Yoghurt, sour cream and milk all contain glycol, lactic and magic acid that gently remove dead skin sells. Pour a small amount into the palm of your hand and try adding one of your favorite natural exfoliants like poppy seeds or grinder almost shells for added scrub.


Alternatively, add a whipped egg for dry skin or a spoonful of aloe vera to milk for sensitive skin. 

Well, if it was good enough for Cleopatra... 

5. Coffee

Ground coffee is a natural exfoliator renowned for treating cellulite as an exfoliant and works perfect on stretch marks and feet while stimulating blood flow.


6. Lemons

The natural Alpha Hydroxy acids in lemons and other citrus fruits are natural exfoliators but can cause nasty irritation when used on their own. Try blending a few drops of lemon juice with a plain unsweetened yoghurt and apply it as a mask. 

7. Sugar

As a natural source of glycolic acid, sugar boosts cell production and breaks down protein that keep dead cells attached to your skin. To ensure it doesn't break the skin when scrubbing, mix fine sugar with a natural massage oil like olive, jojoba or grapeseed or honey to make a paste. Gently massage into your face and rise with water.  

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