It's time to #BanTheBead! Let's get microplastics out of beauty products!

We’re campaigning to #BanTheBead

8 June, 2016

At Neal’s Yard Remedies, we have never used microbeads in our facial polishes and scrubs – but many conventional brands still do.

Microbeads are microscopic particles of plastic (also called microplastics) used widely in toiletries and beauty products such as toothpaste, shaving cream, shower gel and exfoliating scrubs. Each product can contain thousands of microbeads.

You won’t see them listed on the ingredients label as ‘microbeads’; but if your product contains plastic ingredients like polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or even nylon it may also contain microbeads.

Microbeads can’t be filtered out in wastewater treatment plants and they are not biodegradable. Once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove. They poison marine animals, pollute the oceans with gender-bending chemicals and, when used in products like toothpaste, may even cause gum disease – the very problem they are intended to solve.

Around 680 tonnes of microbeads enter UK oceans every year, the weight of 90 of London’s classic red Routemaster buses, and the quantity of microbeads currently in our oceans worldwide has been estimated at over 15 trillion – 5 times the number of trees in the world!

Taking action

We’ve been leading the way in demonstrating that fantastic scrubs don’t need microbeads – Neal’s Yard Remedies was the first UK brand to be certified with the ‘Look for the Zero’ mark, showing that we don’t use plastics such as microbeads as an ingredient in any of our products.

We’ve also been very vocal about the urgent need to remove microplastics from beauty products and today, on World Oceans Day, we’ve joined forces with Pai Skincare, Greenpeople and Botanical Brands to write an open letter to the British Prime Minister David Cameron to encourage him to bring in legislation that would ban the use of microplastics in beauty products. You can download a pdf of our letter here.

We were also part of a joint petition to ban microbeads that received over 350,000 signatures.

In order to target government policy directly, we submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into microbeads and were referenced numerous times in its recommendations report.

Following years of hard work by Neal’s Yard Remedies, other likeminded organisations, and thanks to your widespread public support, the UK government launched a a consultation to ban microbeads, proposing the ban on sale would start in June 2018.

We submitted evidence to this consultation along with our campaign partners Fauna & Flora International, and look forward to a robust ban being implemented in the near future.

We aren’t done yet.

Given that hundreds of tonnes of microbeads that get into UK oceans every year, this ban should be brought into force more quickly, and we will also be maintaining pressure to ensure that it is as robust and comprehensive as possible.

Next we want to see other countries in the EU and around the world take similar measures!

Help us spread the word that we need to #BanTheBead; and if you want to learn more about microplastics see the articles on our site:


This page is updated periodically to reflect our evolving campaign and government and NGO actions.