We've all heard that cosmetic products containing microbeads are bad for the environment. But did you know that as many as 94,500 tiny plastic beads are in every wash?

Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth, found that a single wash may contain as many as 94,500 microbeads. An entire tube could hold upwards of 2.8 million of them, and once used, they are all destined to make their way into the world's rivers and oceans.

The beads are designed to wash down the drain and take dirt and oils with them. But the problem is that once in the drain, they make their way into waterways and may poison marine animals that mistake them for food.

The beads ranged in size from 0.01mm up to 1mm. "Their size means they can pass through sewage treatment screens and be discharged into rivers and oceans," Thompson told The Sunday Times.

They may also be combined into a sewage sludge, which is sometimes spread onto farmland.

For more info about the problems with microbeads, check out this Story of Stuff explainer:

Recently, a U.K. law banning the manufacturing of cosmetic products containing microbeads went into effect. In July 2018, the government will enforce a ban on sales of such products.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads beginning in 2017.

So, put down those planet-polluting microbeads and look for a product that contains a natural exfoliant like sugar or salt instead.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was originally published in July 2016.

How many microbeads is a clean face worth?
Each wash with a microbead product can release as many as 94,500 microbeads into our waterways.