More and more cosmetics contain microbeads, tiny plastic beads. These microplastics are a hazard to our environment.

Source: iOS description / Image: Oregon State University CC BY-SA 2.0

Useful information

Download: Android 3.0 (3.42MB) / iOS 8.0 (6.4MB)

Price: free

Language: English / Danish / Dutch

Runs offline: no

Last update: Android 22/12/2016 (v. 2.2) – iOS 02/01/2017 (v. 2.4.5)

Website of the developer: Pinch / Plastic Soup Foundation


Beat the microbead is a campaign launched by the Plastic Soup Foundation, an organization of Amsterdam, and sponsored by the UNEP, that tries to reduce the presence of microplastics in ocean by providing information to the consumer on what products, especially cosmetics or of personal hygiene, contain among their ingredients microbeads made from polymers. These elements provide an abrasive or cleaning effect on the teeth or the skin, for example. Its size ranges from 1 mm (approximately the head of a pin) to 1 micron (μm), a size too small to be perceived by the human eye.

The application, of the same name and created in the framework of the campaign, basically works by reading the barcodes of the different products and detecting the presence of this type of microplastics. You have the following options:

  • Scan, screen from which you can read the bar code of the product. You have to focus your mobile device on this identifier, framing it in the square that appears in the interface. If the product is listed, the application will detect it, accessing the corresponding information. However, if it is not registered, you also have the option to include it if after reviewing the ingredients you find any of the elements listed by the Plastics Soup Foundation according with the reviewed bibliografical sources ((in this list, some compounds, such as polymethyl methacrylate, are missing. However, this element is mentioned in the list of products that contain microplastics and those that are free of this type of ingredients).
  • Search, where you can check the articles of various brands or find products by type (exfoliants, bath, facial cleansers, etc.). Each product is identified with a color code that refers to the presence or not of different types of polymers. Red indicates the presence of compounds commonly considered as microplastics; The orange color identifies articles containing microplastics, but on which there is a commitment of gradual elimination by the manufacturer; and green is synonym of a product free of the most common microbeads, although it is not ruled out that it contains others. Recently a quality seal, Look for the Zero, has also been added. This identifier confirms that the absence of plastic polymers in the products has been totally verified.
  • Info, which contains information oriented to justify the project.
  • Share, to share the app on your social networks.
  • Settings, screen from which you can configure the country in relation to which you want to consult the products and the language among the three available.

More information

Scrubs and peels put plastics in the sea

Images: screenshots 30/01/2017. ©Beat the microbead



The pollution of oceans as a result of the plastic that floats in them is a problem that causes a serious environmental impact because this plastics ends up introducing into the food chain, which meaning we can ingesting them. In fact and according to an article about plastic waste published by National Geographic in 2015, plastic «has been ingested with dire consequences by some 700 species of marine wildlife». While there are numerous ongoing projects to eliminate this type of waste, such as screens to catch the floating plastics, the problem of plastic microbeads is that, with their small size, they cannot be collected by mechanical methods, even escaping from the wastewater treatments plants.

Taking into account that 80% of the ocean plastic comes from land based sources and that ends up in the sea dragged by rivers, it is necessary that the consumers, through a responsible purchase, become the first barrier to avoid that this type of products reach the oceans, a job in which apps like Beat The Microbead can be useful. Although many products are missing in the list included in the application, this tool allows the addition of new articles once the existence of microplastics has been verified. However, this task can be a bit arduous considering the multiple denominations used in the ingredients of the products and the lacks detected in the listing offered by the Beat The Microbead initiative, although possibly this aspect is also motivated by a certain lack of transparency by the producers.

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Técnico de medio ambiente, community manager y content curator especializada en temas de medioambiente - Environmental technician, community manager and content curator specialised in environmental issues