DIY Sugar Scrub: How to Stop Killing Fish and Keep Being Pretty

The connection between aquatic life (and death) and your daily beauty routine may not be immediately apparent. Nor should it be, because most people don’t assume that their toiletries are lethal. Most people assume that if a product has earned itself a spot on a supermarket shelf, it’s because someone somewhere at some time examined that product and was able to confidently say, “Things will not die when women slather this all over themselves. Go forth and be sold!”

But closer to the truth is that the examinations conclude with a more indifferent “Yeah, things will die when women slather this all over themselves. But it will be an arbitrarily determined ‘acceptable’ number of things and so it’s totally cool. Go, make money. Money is more important than dead things.”

I might be being overly cynical here, but you get my point.

The latest on a loooooooong list of beauty products causing havoc for our underwater brethren? Body and face washes that contain microbeads.

As you probably already know, microbeads are the tiny lumps and bumps added to hundreds of facial and body scrubs to exfoliate and soften skin. What you may not know is that microbeads are plastic. Polyethylene, to be exact. Beyond the “ick” factor of learning that you’re washing your face with plastic* is the “ick” factor of learning that all those microbeads are landing in our waterways. You rinse them off, they go down the drain where they’re too tiny to be caught by water treatment plants, and end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Once there, the microplastics can be eaten by fish, turtles, and birds, depriving them of nutrients and blocking their digestive systems.

Dude. Your beauty just got ugly.

There are some select brands of that use natural ingredients (like crushed fruit pits) for exfoliants. But even those usually contain a host of other crap you don’t really want to be rubbing on your skin or flushing to the fishes. There are better choices.

I’m a fan of a simple loofah myself. But maybe you want something that feels a little more like a day at the spa. Enter sugar scrub: cheap, easy to make, and no dead fish required.

DIY Sugar Scrub Recipe


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil

Directions: Mix together, adding more or less oil to reach the desired consistency. Store in glass lidded container. Use.

Really. It’s that easy. The sugar exfoliates while the coconut oil moisturizes and cleanses (coconut oil has both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties). If you want to get extra fancy, try these recipes to make yourself smell like peppermint candy or honeyed citrus or an orange creamsicle. Or just search Pinterest for a bazilliondy other recipes.

*Disturbing Note: It’s not just body and facial washes that contain microplastics. They can also be found in shampoos, soaps, eyeliners, lip gloss, deodorant, sunblock sticks, and toothpaste. This is the part where you gasp and say, “There’s plastic in my TOOTHPASTE? But doesn’t that mean I’m likely swallowing some of that plastic?” Why, yes. Yes it does. Polyethylene and polypropylene are the most likely plastics to show up on the ingredients lists, so be on the lookout. Less common ones to also watch for: polyethylene teraphthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, and nylon. Gross.

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