Your beauty cupboard almost certainly contains peels, scrubs and exfoliators – so how do you feel about washing plastic beads into the sea? Microbeads are harmful, probably don’t work and there are natural alternatives.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea. Scrub away dead skin cells, reveal brighter skin, and do it all just by splashing a dollop of liquid containing tiny, pretty beads.

It would be a great idea if it worked and if it did no harm to the environment. If you have read this far, you are a person who cares about both. In the short time that scrubs, peels and exfoliators containing microbeads have been around, they’ve caused a surprising amount of concern.

The microbeads found in most face and bodycare products are smaller than 1mm, so they qualify as microplastic – already found in the digestive systems of fresh and saltwater fish, marine birds and mammals. Most worryingly, it’s capable of trapping toxins, and passing them into the systems of everything living.

Accumulation of plastic, including microplastics, in the marine environment is today recognised as a serious, global environmental issue. Water treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads, which pass through filtration systems into rivers and, ultimately, seas and oceans. The ‘plastic soup’ that comes from humanity’s waste contains billions of them. Yet the fact that they exist at all is avoidable and unnecessary.

For one thing, they probably don’t work. Synthetically-produced and perfectly round, they don’t have enough abrasive effect to actually remove dead skin. Some are meant to burst in use, releasing nourishing substances, but they’re often too soft to burst without pressure much greater than you use when you wash. Cosmetics companies are said to be looking at alternatives, keen to take plastic microbeads out of their products before the backlash.

As usual, Weleda is ahead of the game. We have one ‘peel’ product – Birch Body Scrub – which uses wax granules together with cellulite-busting birch extracts. The wax granules are gentle and nourishing, working more like a shower massage than an abrasive, and intensively stimulating blood circulation in the skin. Dead skin cells will come off – because skin renews itself on a 30-day cycle and there will always be dead cells shedding. Blood circulation stimulates new skin, and that’s why you will glow when you step out of the shower.

Our wax peeling granules are gentle on the skin, made from natural materials, not water-polluting and do not constitute a danger to the environment by land or sea. They’re made from hydrogenated castor oil, a natural product, harvested from the seeds of the African castor oil plant. They prepare the skin to receive nourishing oils and the all-important extract of birch – tonifying, cleansing and stimulating.

For the rest of your beauty regime, ask yourself whether you really need to exfoliate at all. Our facial ranges are designed to do their job – and some beauty writers say nothing beats a good, hot flannel if you want to give your skin a glow.