A List of Products that Contain Plastic Microbeads

By Alex Hamilton

You don’t litter, you have a reusable water bottle and you put your groceries in cloth bags. But what’s in your shower?

In the past decade, cosmetic companies have increased their output of products with plastic microbeads. Most of these are advertised with the words “scrub” or “exfoliating.” On the ingredients list, “polyethylene” and “polypropylene” are red flags: Both are just types of plastic.


Plastic microbeads in toothpaste. (Creative Commons)

Plastic bags and bottles turn into microplastics through a process of degradation, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Microbeads, on the other hand, are already tiny—under 10mm in diameter—by the time they enter watersheds. The beads are small enough that they slip right through water treatment facility filters and into watersheds. Once they make it through, they attract the toxins present in low concentrations in a body of water.
Growing familiarity with microbeads, their effects and their ubiquity (90% of ocean surface water samples collected for ASC’s Microplastics project were contaminated) has led to increased public resistance to their use. New data shows that the Great Lakes have up to 1.7 million microplastic particles per square mile of surface water, and governments surrounding the lakes have been the most active. 

Illinois has banned the sale of products with microbeads; Ohio and New York are considering doing the same, as is Toronto. New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. introduced a bill to implement a ban nationwide by 2018, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has proposed similar legislation. Major cosmetics companies have taken note: Unilever is phasing out plastic microbeads by 2015, and L’Oreal will do the same by 2017.

For now, though, plastic microbeads are easy to buy and use. Luckily, they’re also easy to avoid. 


Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand. (Photo by Erin Johnson)

Tips on avoiding products with microbeads:

–Check ingredients labels for polyethylene and polypropylene.

An app has been released which allows you to simply scan a bar code with your smartphone camera to determine if a product has microbeads.

–Check out the list below of popular U.S. products with microbeads. The complete list is available here.

–Don’t worry! There are plenty of exfoliants without microbeads, most of which use biodegradable and filterable products like jojoba, vitamin C paste and volcanic minerals. You can find a list of some of the best from Allure magazine here.


Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub

Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Resurfacing Scrub with Vitamin C

Aveeno Active Naturals Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser

Bath & Body Works Pure Paradise 2-in-1 Body Scrub and Wash

Clean & Clear Advantage 3-in 1 Exfoliating Cleanser

Clean & Clear Morning Burst Facial Scrub – Oil Free

Clean & Clear Blackhead Eraser Scrub – Oil Free

Clean & Clear Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub – Oil Free

Clean & Clear Daily Pore Cleanser – Oil Free

Clearasil Reckit Benckiser Daily Clear – Refreshing Superfruit Scrub

Clinque Estée Lauder Companies 7 Day Scrub Cream Rinse-Off Formula

Clinque Estée Lauder Companies Exfoliating Scrub

CVS Pharmacy Oil-free acne scrub 

Dermalogica Clear Start – Blackhead Clearing Pore Control Scrub 

Hempz Sandalwood & Apple Herbal Body Scrub

Kiehl’s Facial Fuel-Energizing Scrub – Skin Buffer for Men

Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective – Skin Brightening Exfoliator

Olay Treatment 

Olay Moisturizer

Olay Prof. Exfoliating Renewal Cleanser 

Rite Aid Renewal DIY Regenerating Cleanser 

Rite Aid Renewal Regenerating Micro Refining Cream 

Rite Aid Renewal Acne Body Scrub Clear 

Rite Aid Renewal Acne Wash Daily Scrub Oil-Free 

Rite Aid Renewal Bright Skin Daily Face Scrub 

Rite Aid Renewal Exfoliating Cleanser 

Up & Up (Target Brand) Exfoliating Body Wash – Pomegranate Seeds

Up & Up (Target Brand) Blackhead Facial Scrub with Salicylic Acid

Up & Up (Target Brand) Acne Wash Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub

Up & Up (Target Brand) Renewing Cleanser

Victoria’s Secret 2-in-1 Wash and Scrub

Walgreens Blackhead Clearing Scrub


Crest Pro Health

Crest Pro Health for Me

Crest Sensitivity

Crest Complete Multi Benefit

Crest 3D White

Crest 3D White Luxe