I’m actually ashamed to think about the number of times I’ve blithely written: “Avoid natural ingredients in face and body scrubs and go for plastic microbeads instead – they polish, instead of scratching.”
Microbeads are horrible for the environment – they’re not biodegradable, so once rinsed away, they stay in the water system to be eaten by creatures and thus enter the food chain. There are moves to ban them, but at the moment, microbead-containing products are still on shelves. There are some biodegradable plastic microbead products being developed, but according to non-profit group Ottawa Riverkeeper, the beads may not actually break down in freshwater or marine environments.
Of course, at this time of year, most of us are going to get our legs out so we need a good scrub. It’s also better to exfoliate before applying self-tanner to avoid weird orange patches. One microbead alternative is to make your own body scrub – you can use half a cup of olive oil and a tablespoon of coarse sea salt. You can bung in a few drops of an essential oil if you like.
Frankly, I can’t be arsed with all that. The scrubs featured here are all microbead-free, but gentle on skin, with biodegradable ingredients. Most use sugar because it’s also a natural humectant (it prevents moisture loss). Use them in the shower on clean, damp skin, then rinse away. In terms of how well they work, there’s not much between them – the differences are mostly in scent and texture. Special credit to Lush, which inspired this story with its #BanTheBead campaign in conjunction with Ottawa Riverkeeper. Click here to find out more and sign an online petition to ban microbeads in Canada.
Lush Life’s a Beach body scrub
A fine powder that contains sea salt and sand and has a vanilla caramel scent. It leaves skin smooth, soft and scented. Because Lush believes in placing its money where its mouth is, one hundred percent of the purchase price goes to Ottawa Riverkeeper and other organizations that are working on banning the bead.
Burt’s Bees Cranberry and Pomegranate Sugar Scrub
This 100 percent natural scrub has cranberry seeds and sugar granules to exfoliate, plus antioxidant oils and shea butter to moisturize and condition skin. It has a sweet cranberry scent which some find overpowering, so give it a sniff before buying.
Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish
Cult brand Fresh really started the trend for using sugar in beauty products. This also contains oils: evening primrose, sweet almond, apricot kernel, and jojoba. The best feature? It has the brand’s fabulous citrus fragrance, which makes skin smell clean and, erm, fresh.
Cake It’s a Slice Smoothing Brown Sugar Body Scrub
Brown sugar, once again, and nourishing oils too, but this time with the aroma of orange and vanilla, so it smells like freshly baked goodies. Bonus: this is from Toronto brand Cake, so if you buy this, you’re giving our amazing Canadian beauty brands some love too.
L’Occitane Almond Delicious Soap
If you’d prefer not to apply powders or gels, this soap is a great option. It has crushed almond shells to scrub, and a delicate almond-blossom scent. Since it’s a soap, it does double-duty, cleansing the skin as it exfoliates.
Sephora Bamboo Charcoal Exfoliating Body Sponge
A step up from your average loofah or sponge, this is impregnated with buzz ingredient charcoal, which is said to draw out oil and impurities. That makes it ideal for people with bacne or generally oily body skin. Some people who suffer from keratosis pilaris (red bumps on the upper arms) also swear by it. It won’t last forever though – like any sponge, it begins to fall apart after a few months of using it twice a week.