Skin health, the environment, and micro beads

Q & A with Jessica Bayes, nutritionist and skin specialist dedicated to holistic and environmentally-friendly practice

By Celeste Chamerovzow

The damage that micro plastics in our personal care products and cosmetics are having on the environment is an emerging global issue. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) 2015 report: Plastics in Cosmetics,  ‘microbeads’ in our personal care products are non-degradable, insoluble in water, invisible to the eye and no bigger than 5 millimetres.

UNEP’s report cites that microbeads can be found in tooth pastes, shower gels, deodorants, nail polish, liquid make up, facial cleansers, sunscreens, eye shadows, blush, lotions, mascaras, shaving creams and make up foundation.

Microbeads enter our waterways and oceans when we wash off these personal care products and flush them down the drain. Due to their size, our standard wastewater treatment systems are unable to capture them. The result? They pollute our oceans, damage our marine life (who absorb or eat them) and harm our health (as we may in turn ingest the marine life).

Once micro beads enter our oceans it is impossible to remove them. This is why, the Australian government is working with the cosmetic/ personal care industry for a voluntary phase out of micro beads from wash off personal care products.  

So how do we know whether our products have micro plastics in them? The Department of Environment and Energy suggests we look out for the ingredients- Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP) Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon (PA).  Beat the Microbead also has an extensive list and has made it easier for us to avoid micro plastics by creating an app we can downloaded to scan products for the plastics in it. (See www.beatthemicrobead.org)

For decades, microbeads have been used to help beautify and treat the skin. But just how effective are they? Are they doing more harm to our skin than good? Plastic Free Phillip Island San Remo Campaigner Céleste Chamerovzow, interviewed vegan nutritionist and skin specialist, Jessica Bayes, to find out more about skin health, the use of micro beads and the natural alternatives available.

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C.C You’re a vegan nutritionist and skin specialist. What inspired you to get involved in this type of work?

J. B - Helping others has always been really important to me. Being able to help someone improve their acne for example and give them back their confidence is very rewarding. Over the years I began to notice the role diet and lifestyle had on skin health and decided to complete my Bachelors of Health Science in Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine. This opened up a whole new world of opportunity, I am able to help treat people both on the inside and on the outside. This holistic approach enables me to use the combination of modalities to get the best results possible.

C.C  Your work is all about health and wellness. Do you see a connection to the environment in what you do?

J.B - I have followed a plant-based diet for the last 8 years and have always been very environmentally focused. Every decision we make, whether it be our food choices or retail purchases have an impact on the world around us. When it comes to food, it’s not just animal welfare that’s the issue. We must also consider food miles - this distance food travels to reach your plate as well as the packaging the food comes in. This is also one of the big concerns with the beauty and skincare industry. The average Australian woman spends over $3,600 on beauty products each year. That averages out to approximately $70 per week. That’s a lot of products we’re churning through! From the glossy plastic covered boxes to the toxic ingredients washing into our oceans, the impact on the environment is unfortunately huge.

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C.C What we know about micro plastics in products is that they pollute our oceans. So micro plastics are damaging to the environment, but are they also damaging to our skin? And if so, how?

J. B- Yes, there has been a lot of talk recently about the damaging effects of microbeads, particularly in respect to the detrimental effects on marine life.  Microbeads can be found in a huge array of cosmetic products from facial scrubs and shower gel to toothpaste. But not only are these products damaging our oceans, they are also damaging our skin. Facial scrubs and exfoliators are increasingly touted as a way to brighter and fresher skin. Many people use an exfoliating face wash both day and night but the overuse of these products can actually cause more harm than good. Microbeads can cause tiny rips and abrasions in the skin, allowing bacteria and environmental pollutants to enter. This weakened lipid barrier on the skin can then present with redness and inflammation resulting in conditions such as acne and rosacea.

C.C From an environmental perspective, there is a move towards natural ingredients in our personal care products, as an alternative to micro beads with international organizations like Beat the Micro Bead leading this space. So there are personal care products on the market that do contain natural ingredients, for example apricot seeds. Are they any better for our skin and if so how?

J. B- There are many natural alternatives available and it can be difficult to navigate which ones are best suited to your particular skin. Apricot seeds used to be a popular favourite, however the sharp edges are still very abrasive on the skin.  I actually prefer to not use scrubs at all with my clients. Konjac sponges are a much better option, both for your skin and for the environment. Another option is looking to natural enzymes found in fruits to helps gently exfoliate the skin. If you still feel the need to “scrub” your face clean, to either brighten dull skin or remove a build-up of dead skin, the cause of the problem is probably internal. This is where looking at diet and environmental exposure comes in useful. Treating the skin holistically is key.

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C.C  You raise a really interesting consideration- that personal care products could be ineffective because the cause is internal. 

So you’ve suggested konjac sponges and fruit enzymes. But for those who do wish to purchase skin care/beauty products, what ingredients do you recommend to avoid and why?

J. B Unfortunately, there are a huge number of toxic ingredients still used in skin care today. It can be over whelming at times when looking through ingredient lists. So to keep it simple my top 3 ingredients to avoid would be; 1- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) which are known to cause skin irritation and trigger different allergies; 2- Phthalates which are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics in cosmetics thereby helping products stick to our skin. They are endocrine disruptors which means they can interfere with our hormones; and 3- Triclosan which is an antibacterial agent often found in acne treatments products and facewash. This one is particularly bad, not only because it alters the careful balance of good and bad bacteria on our skin but has also been linked to bacterial resistance and the destruction of our waterways due to the toxic effect is has on many algae.

C.C Really the key then is to check the ingredients of products to see if they are good for our skin and for the environment, and to use our consumer power in only buying those that are.    

C.C  One way to avoid micro beads is to apply do it yourself (DIY) skin care treatments using say coconut oil. You mentioned using fruit enzymes earlier. What DIY skin care treatments do you suggest?  

I am all about DIY facials at home. I try to set time aside every week for some self-care and a big part of this is facial night! Masks are one of my favourite things to mix up and turmeric and matcha are my go-to star ingredients. They are jam packed with nutrients, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients and always leave my skin glowing. I tend to experiment with different foods depending on what’s in season. So one week it might be mashed avocado and another it could be oatmeal.  After I’ve rinsed the mask off I’ll give my face a mini massage to help with lymphatic drainage and puffiness – which is particularly great for around the eyes, with a good quality coconut oil. Once I’m finished massaging I’ll comb the remaining oil into my hair and wrap it up in a warm towel and leave for 10 mins before washing my hair. Finish that off with a hot chia tea before bed and you’ve got yourself a perfect Sunday night!

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Plastic Free Phillip Island and San Remo would like to thank Jessica Bayes for offering her time and knowledge. Jessica holds various qualifications and has competed a Bachelor Degree in Nutritional Medicine with honours, a Diploma in Beauty Therapy and additional certificates in Massage, Aromatherapy and Skin Care.

She is an enthusiastic and passionate health professional dedicated to helping others improve their health and achieve long lasting results in a holistic and sustainable way. And for Plastic Free Phillip Island and San Remo readers, Jessica has a special offer-30% off your first appointment which is valid until 30/06/2019. Simply use the promotion code ‘PlasticFree’ when you book an appointment. For further details or to book an appointment, visit https://www.jessicabayesnutrition.com/