Marine conservation groups are claiming victory after Unilever agreed to phase out minuscule plastic "microbeads" used in its facial scrubs and exfoliators because of the environmental damage they cause.
After a campaign highlighting the long-term danger of the tiny particles to the world's oceans and natural ecosystems, the Marine Conservation Society and the North Sea Foundation welcomed the move by Unilever, one of the biggest makers of cosmetics and bathing products.
Exfoliation to remove dead skin cells is believed to date back to ancient Egypt and is popular as a way of maintaining a healthy and clean skin and unblocking pores. But traditional methods using loofahs, brushes and pumice stones have gradually made way for over-the-counter products containing microbeads and microcrystals made of plastic, which can take years to degrade.
Instead, they are ending up in oceans where they can damage marine life and get into the food chain. Some products contain alternative ingredients such as crushed apricot kernel or almond shells and grains, jojoba, salt, sugar and sand.
Unilever's change of policy applies to all its personal care products worldwide including Dove and Radox. "We can confirm that we are phasing out the use of microbeads in all of our personal care products," it said.