Before I embarked on my Zero Waste journey, my cosmetics arsenal would have included on average 20 beauty products and I’m not counting the likes of samples, hotel souvenirs and free-with-purchase miniatures that were mostly collecting dust in my bathroom anyway. My beauty routine involved lotions, tonics, creams, gels, pastes, mousses, sprays and more lotions. All to make me feel cleaner, softer and, as advertised, possibly even younger!
The catch is that all conventional beauty products have a few basic flaws. Firstly, from the plastic-free and zero-waste point of view, they all come in plastic bottles (with the exception of some more luxury creams that come in glass)…but mostly, cheap plastic is the go-to packaging. Secondly, the conventional cosmetic products contain some rather questionable ingredients that may negatively affect our health, like petroleum-based ethoxylated surfactants, optical brighteners and so on. There are numerous articles pro and contra synthetic ingredients in personal care cosmetics but I like the simple method of determining if I should get a product or not – if I can’t pronounce the ingredients on the back of the bottle, it’s probably not worth it!
This video from The Story of Stuff may be a bit outdated as there has been progress in raising awareness about the issue but still, European laws are (thankfully) still much more strict and protect consumers.
There is a great project called Skin Deep of the US Environmental Working Group (EWG) (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep) that contains a database of the vast majority of chemicals and their safety ratings. So, if you are unsure about an ingredient in your shampoo/conditioner/moisturiser, you can easily find about its properties.
Myself, in the pursuit of a simpler solution, eager to find alternatives and equipped with Bea Johnson’s book, I gradually made a switch to fewer products which are versatile and also nicely natural.
The main part of my plan was to reduce the number of products used daily. Using the first ‘R’ – refuse – I simply stopped using face cleansing lotion, toner or serums. Pure water and a bit of bar soap do the cleaning job perfectly (surprise!). I swapped my well-known-brand moisturiser for a local Irish product that uses only natural ingredients and, most importantly, does a great job and smells even better. I am not only feeding my skin the best food but also supporting a small local business (Bia Beauty) which is a nice bonus. The moisturiser is packed in a glass jar and I’m planning to contact them to see if I could send them my empty containers to be refilled and sent back packaging-free… Even if not, the containers are recyclable or would make a great candleholders 🙂 I experimented a bit with my own moisturiser concoction but it was still a bit too rough for my face so I’ll leave it to professionals!
Toothpaste is something I still have to persuade myself to make at home. I tried a few versions with clay and baking soda but haven’t been impressed yet. In the meantime, I picked a natural brand with no petroleum-based ingredients in it and it’s doing pretty well. Yes, it is packaged in plastic but at least it’s recyclable… I saw a video recently about the ingredients in toothpastes – it’s interesting to watch! Especially when you know that a mixture of baking soda and coconut oil can (allegedly :)) do the same thing…
I swapped the alcohol-laden conventional mouthwash for a much simpler homemade version. This might need to be made more often as the essential oils used in it change the taste slightly with time but, since it takes all 2 minutes to mix together, I really don’t mind. Find the recipe here.
The change I was most happy with was swapping a traditional liquid shampoo for a solid shampoo bar. I tried one that was soap-based along with some Dr. Organic conditioner (instead of the apple cider vinegar rinse which I still find a bit messy in the bathroom) and it was ok but I wasn’t blown away. My hair was a bit dull and without any volume. I then found shampoo bars that were not soap-based (they contain other plant-based surfactants than soap) and didn’t need any acidic rinse. They were made by a small Slovakian company called Ponio which makes small batches of homemade soap bars, shampoo bars, solid deodorants and ‘massage cubes’. All their products are packed in minimal paper/cardboard packaging and they have great customer service. I ordered some products when I was visiting my parents in Slovakia to minimise unnecessary transport costs! The shampoo bars (I got Sugar Peony and Orient Chai ones) smell amazing and last me a good while which is always a plus.
From the same folks at Ponio, I also got the Shea Mild Soap which is an unscented soap that lasts ages and effortlessly replaced my shower gel, face cleanser and shaving foam all at once. Streamlining where and when you can. Love it.
Another item on my cosmetics shelf is a deodorant. I tried a few natural brands like Alverde or Green People which don’t contain any aluminium salts and parabens (some researchers linked these to cancer, some not but sure why risk it !) or alcohol and some of these deodorants are packed in glass. Once I use them up though, I’d like to try making my own with coconut oil, soda and essential oils. (Goals!)
Next week, I will continue with some more tips and tricks for a streamlined beauty regime!