Microbeads are perfectly spherical microscopic particles of plastic that were first produced by Professor John Ugelstad. The new development was primarily used for cancer treatment, HIV research and in production of electronics such as LCD screens. As valuable as microbeads were to science, their use in cosmetics and skincare products has impacted the natural environment on a much larger scale than we had imagined. (Kal, 2018). From your facewash to your toothpaste, and your shampoo to your hand sanitizer, if you use any sort of personal hygiene product, you have undoubtedly played a role in causing microplastic pollution.
By invention, microbeads were designed to get into hard to reach places, which is the sole reason why trillions of these particles end up in our rivers, seas, and oceans every passing minute. But wait a second, if you can’t even see these particles with the naked eye, why are they a problem? Although these teeny-tiny pieces of plastic are probably harmless individually, collectively they form a large surface area in the environment. This allows other toxins, pesticides, etc. to accumulate in marine water as they “latch onto” the plastic particles or get absorbed. Unfortunately, these (now) toxic microbeads become snacks for microscopic plankton -which then become food for bigger fish causing the plastic to accumulate every step up the food chain, until it reaches your dinner plate (Murphy, Ewins, Carbonnier & Quinn, 2016).
Up until a few years ago, it was quite common to for the cosmetic industry to proudly advertise the presence of microbeads in their products. What was once a major selling point for refreshing, cleansing cosmetics has now become a byword for environmental disaster (Kal, 2018). It is predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the world’s oceans than fish. So, the question is, what can we do now to reduce the amount of microplastics reaching our oceans?
Ban on Microbeads
Several countries have taken initiative to ban microbeads; Netherlands was the first country to do so in 2014. In Canada, the Minister of Environment proposed Regulations, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to address microbeads in skincare and cosmetic products that make their way into the wastewater stream and contaminate the natural water sources. The Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations, 2017, came into force from January 1, 2018 and banned the manufacture and importation of toiletries containing microbeads (<5 mm in size). From July 1, 2018, the sale of toiletries containing microbeads was banned within Canada. These Regulations did not apply to products classified as natural health products or non-prescription drugs. July 1, 2019 will mark the ban on sale of toiletries containing microbeads that are natural health products or non-prescription drugs. (Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999).
Although the Canadian Government has taken lead by passing and enforcing these regulations, public education and cooperation is needed to control pollution. As users of skincare products, you should be aware of what is being sold to you. Since the changes are very recent, it is likely that you may have purchased cleansers or hand sanitizers containing microbeads after the Regulations for their ban came into force. You must be aware that it is absolutely illegal to sell (and purchase) these products in Canada and can lead to heavy fines or penalties. If your Esthetician or beauty technician uses a product containing microbeads, remind her about the Regulations! Caring for your skin is an absolute need but the products you use should not harm the environment that supports you. La VieSage Skincare products are entirely free of microbeads and do not contain unnecessary materials for scents, colour, or texture. If you are looking to replace your cleanser, try Ease Cleanse -a botanical and 100% natural cleanser that is great for sensitive and dry skin! It is astonishing to see what a small change to your daily routine can do to reduce your pollution footprint.
Product: La VieSage Ease Cleanse
Vitamin C is the most abundant naturally occurring antioxidant in nature. It is also the most plentiful antioxidant in human skin and functions to protect the skin from reactive oxygen species (ROS) . When skin is exposed to UV radiation, pollution, smoking, and other such factors, ROS such as superoxide ions, peroxides, and singlet oxygen molecules are generated. ROS molecules start a cascade of reactions that cause damage to cellular DNA, cell membranes, and cellular proteins -including collagen! Vitamin C protects cells from oxidative stress by undergoing oxidation (losing an electron) and neutralizing free radicals. Oxidation of vitamin C causes it to convert into a non-reactive form, which can no longer function as an antioxidant. Therefore, the more the exposure to ROS, the less the availability of vitamin C in the skin, or more the need for vitamin C replenishment.
Most plants and animals are able to synthesize vitamin C in vivo, using glucose. Humans, however, lack the enzyme L-glucono-gamma lactone oxidase which is essential for vitamin C generation. Hence, they rely entirely on external sources such as citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, papayas, and broccoli [3,4].
UVA & UVB Radiation (Sun exposure)
Ultraviolet-A (320-400 nm) penetrates 30-40 times deeper into the dermis, as compared to ultraviolet-B (290-320 nm) radiation, which mostly affects epidermis (top layer of skin). UVA, however, mutates and destroys collagen, elastin, proteoglycans, and other dermal cellular proteins. Therefore, UVA causes skin ageing and possibly melanoma formation (dark spots, pigmentation, discoloration). While UVB causes sunburn, ROS, epidermal mutations, and skin cancer .
Sunscreens, when applied properly, can prevent UV-induced damage by blocking up to 55% of the free radicals produced by UV exposure. To optimize UV protection, it is important to use sunscreens combined with topical antioxidants -such as vitamin C. Although vitamin C does not absorb UV light, it exerts a UV-protective effect with neutralization of free radicals.
Laboratory studies have shown that application of 10% vitamin C reduces UVB damage by 52% and sunburn cell formation by 40-60% .
Vitamin C is available in several active forms, but the most biologically active and well studied form is L-ascorbic acid. L-ascorbic acid is a hydrophilic and charged molecule with poor penetration into skin. The molecule on its own is very unstable and requires to be paired with other molecules for optimized function. Vitamin C works best in conjunction with vitamin E or vitamin B in topical formulations . Vitamin E is a lipophilic antioxidant, making its combination with vitamin C ideal for protection of both hydrophilic and lipophilic compartments of the cell . Other superior combinations of L-ascorbic include ethyl ascorbic acid, which has immense stability and is quick to penetrate in skin. It is also proven to be fast acting and produces long-term inhibitory effect on cell damage.
Topical supplementation of vitamin C is largely safe for regular and long-term use. It can also be safely used in conjunction with other common topical anti-ageing products containing zinc, tretinoin, alfa hydroxy acids (glycolic acid), etc. Too strong of vitamin C concentrations can cause skin irritation, stinging, dryness, or yellow discolouration -all of which can be easily treated with hydrating products and moisturizers [1,2,4]. It is not recommended to use vitamin C around the eyes, unless specifically prescribed by a doctor.
Facts to know
Application of vitamin C to treated surface after microdermabrasion and CO2 resurfacing increases trans-epidermal penetration by up to 20 times [2,7]. Smoking has been known to cause decreased vitamin C levels in skin, similar to UV-damaged skin. Another useful application for topical vitamin C is for treating striae (pregnancy stretch marks). Studies have shown that routine application of vitamin C with 20% glycolic acid, over a period of 3 months, significantly improves the appearance of striae .
In summary, vitamin C is a naturally occurring antioxidant with multiple desirable effects. It has an excellent safety profile and has shown tremendous results in healing photoageing, hyperpigmentation, tissue inflammation, and cell damage. There is ongoing research into improving its delivery into the dermis for increasing collagen production and diminishing free radicals. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that should be a part of your daily skincare regime.
Product: La VieSage Vita C+ serum