Your Face Wash Is Fish Poison — Make Your Own Instead!

Hey guys, good news! The microbeads in your face wash are poison! Oh, wait, that’s terrible news, never mind.

You might have heard that Illinois banned microbeads from cosmetics and cleansers last week, and New York and California are right on our heels. It turns out – in an extraordinarily logical turn that really we should’ve seen coming a long time ago – that the tiny little plastic beads in your face wash are getting into the water supply, polluting arctic ice, and killing fish. There’s a different kind of microbead that’s being developed that isn’t so bad for the environment (it’s called PHA), but really, can we just take a minute and think about whether or not any kind of microbead is really necessary? (Spoiler alert: it’s not.)

At this point in my life I’m skeeved out by neon-colored hygiene products, cosmetics that smell like candy, and the idea of exposing myself to chemical products in general. I don’t use shampoo anymore, I am big on the coconut-oil-for-everything trend, and now that I have the info to try, I’m going to take a stab at making my own makeup.  But really, that’s all, like, intermediate-level beauty environmentalism. An exfoliating face wash is basic, BASIC stuff; in fact, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.

Here’s your foundational recipe for a natural exfoliating face wash:

  • A teaspoon of cane sugar
  • A few drops of water
  • A few drops of olive oil

…I mean, I don’t know what else to say. It’s just that easy. You rub it on your face, rinse it off, and you don’t kill any fish or become indirectly responsible for polluting our water supply either with the beads or with the inevitable runoff from producing them in the first place. I feel like this is a serious win-win. This is quick to make (we’re talking a matter of seconds) and you can do it in small batches so that it won’t spoil.

Like always, I feel like women in particular but to be fair, men and particularly teenaged boys as well, have been hoodwinked with these white-background, water-splashing-on-face advertisements that make it seem like the right way to take care of your body is to slather it in chemicals that are also used to clean oil off of garage floors. And granted, the concentrations of these chemicals are lower in cosmetic products than in industrial cleaners, but my thing is, why are we using them at all?

I get that people have a lot of different skin conditions and needs, and that for some people there are funky chemical products that will make their lives easier and the payoff is worth it. But for the average person, really, you can wash yourself with natural stuff you already have in the kitchen. It’s cheaper by a long shot. And so much better for you.

Everyone knows that manufacturers contribute an ungodly amount of pollution, and often without consequences. It’s easy to feel helpless when faced with stats like that, but the power here really does belong to the consumer – what we’re willing to buy or, maybe more accurately, be sold. We have to change our habits if we want the big companies to change theirs.

That’s why there’s something fantastic about the Millennial romanticism that’s led us to make whole Pinterest boards about DIY cosmetics. Advertising agencies were able to breed previous generations to believe that shiny, new, and sterile were the best status indicators. Gen Y, on the other hand, has managed to make environmentalism sexy by burying it under the guise of Do-It-Yourselfism and boho-chic. I’m all for it, personally, both because it’s better for our bodies and for the planet and it cuts into the profits of giant corporations, if only a little.

If you want some more, next-level face scrubs, check out this coffee face scrub, an antioxidant-rich blueberry scrub (OMG blueberries are everything), or an oatmeal scrub for dry skin. Just give it a try. The potential payoff – for your skin and the environment – is huge, and what have you got to lose, besides a few minutes and a few bucks?

Rebecca Vipond Brink is a writer, photographer, and traveler. You can follow her at @rebeccavbrink or on her blog, Flare and Fade.