This is the fifth installment of my zero waste series, where I discuss ways to live more sustainably by pursuing a lower impact lifestyle including: consuming less, reducing waste, and being conscious about the products I buy, and the ingredients they contain. Today I’m taking all about zero waste toiletries!
For other posts in the series see:
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
One of the first changes I made was cutting out toiletries in plastic bottles. It’s amazing how much money you save by not buying shower gels! I treat myself to soaps in minimal packaging instead; they last longer, smell better, don’t irritate my skin, and are low waste.
One excellent place to get soap is on Etsy. If you change your search settings to only shop in your country, you can ensure your carbon footprint is kept to a minimum with regards to shipping. The other thing I do is specify in my shipping instructions for the vendor to ship in plastic free or recycled packaging. If you’re not fussed about getting a whole bar of soap, try searching for soap ends for frugal suds!
One UK soap maker actually emailed me to say my order took a bit longer than usual to process because they wanted to change over their packaging system in response to my request. They now wrap their soaps in paper packaging — how great is that?! Other fantastic soap options are local markets, Lush, or soaps wrapped in paper.
Facial Cleansing Tools:
Magic Cloth (affiliate link)— Although this cloth came in plastic and is made of polyester, it works equally well to a disposable makeup removing wipe (if not better) and comes out clean on a 30°C wash. It removes eye makeup much better than a normal face cloth so it’s definitely worth getting if you wear a full face of makeup daily. I’ve said it before, but please please don’t use disposable wipes!
Facial Massager — Certainly not an essential, but a facial massager like the Hailicare Facial Cleansing Brush (affiliate link)(read review here) exfoliates your skin with just water or a bit of soap so you can save a lot of money and packaging waste by avoiding chemical and abrasive scrubs.
Cloth cotton rounds — Along the same lines as the magic cloth, fabric cotton rounds are used to take off makeup and cleanse your face. You use them the same as the disposable kind and I wash them in a delicates bag on a 30°C wash.
I will say these are tricky to clean because they get stained and crumple up in the wash. I tried washing them with stain remover, pre-soaking them in soda crystals and Vanish, but nothing worked (plus I don’t want to put stain remover near my sensitive skin!). Now I pre-soak them in the sink with hot water and a tiny bit of bleach and then wash as normal. It sanitizes them and reduces the stains, and my skin hasn’t reacted. You can’t use these with acetone to paint your nails so I keep a few disposable cotton rounds for that purpose, but you can also just use toilet paper.
Makeup spatula (affiliate link)— If you wear foundation, you’ll understand when I say how irritating it is trying to get the dregs of foundation out of a pump bottle. This long-handled tiny spatula is great for salvaging the remains of foundation, lotion, face creams etc. I’ve gotten at least 10 extra uses out of a bottle by using this tool!
DIY toothpaste — I thought I’d have a go at making my own toothpaste a while back and I don’t think I’ll go back to conventional toothpaste. My toothpaste is simply coconut oil and baking soda with some drops of peppermint oil added!
Natural Teeth Whitener — I also have a jar of coconut husk charcoal for tooth whitening. It’s absolutely hilarious to use because I look like I have a mouth full of chewing tobacco, but it makes my teeth smooth and shiny.
Toothbrush —I still use an electric toothbrush because I think they do a better job at cleaning than a manual one. Of course, if you do use a manual toothbrush, consider switching to a bamboo one!
Tongue Scraper (affiliate link)— I only recently purchased my tongue scraper, but I’m a convert. I don’t believe in the principles of Ayurvedic medicine (which it’s marketed for) but it keeps my tongue clean, so that’s cool.
Soap Saver — Once my plastic loofah wore out I didn’t get another one. Instead, I bought a hemp soap saver (pouch), which is a little textured sachet to hold your soap in. I hang it off of the shower head so that the soap can dry out between uses and last longer. You can use all your bits of soap up instead of having them fall down the drain. It lathers just a well as a conventional loofah. You can also make a soap saver by sewing a washcloth or even knitting/crocheting using hemp or cotton wool.
Dry Brush — I have a wooden dry brush that is great for stimulating circulation and removing dead skin for a smoother shave. I don’t always remember to dry brush, but, when I do, my skin thanks me! Lucy also has one but she uses it wet.
Moon cup, cotton pads and liners — I’ve spoken about this before; a menstrual cup is a must for a minimal waste period. Cotton pads and liners are also wonderful, though admittedly they are a bit bulkier than conventional liners (but less irritation). You can get lots of cute options on Etsy! Again, I shop in the UK and ask for minimal packaging. As you can see from the photo, most vendors are happy to oblige. 🤗
Shampoo bars — I used a Lush shampoo bar ages ago and I really liked it. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t keep using them. Lucy and I went to the local Lush store and picked up shampoo bars at the start of December 2018 and I reckon it will last 3 months, which makes it pretty affordable at £7.
I have Jumping Juniper and Lucy has Jason and the Argan Oil. The Lush shampoo bars have sodium lauryl sulphate in them which is the same detergent found in most shampoos and liquid cleansers. My hair likes SLS so even though it’s not the most natural product, my hair is clean and happy.
I first tried a soap nut solid shampoo bar (pictured above) and I’ve never had grosser hair. It was greasy, waxy, and I felt disgusting. After two tries (including using an apple cider vinegar rinse) I felt so embarrassed going to work with horrible hair that I caved and used Lucy’s shampoo. Soap nut shampoo works for some people but it must depend of your hair pH. Fear not, the soap nut shampoo makes a great face cleanser and I use it to shave so it isn’t being wasted.
Conditioner— I’m still using up a bottle of conditioner, but once it is gone I’ll switch to a conditioner bar. Equally good is a bit of coconut oil or sweet almond oil rubbed into the tips of your hair when wet.
Dry Shampoo — Towards the end of 2018 I vowed to avoid buying any more products in aerosol containers. This meant I needed to find an alternative dry shampoo. DIY versions work just fine for me! I use one wet-dry version that is witch hazel, water and cornstarch. You can also use cornstarch mixed with cocoa powder. If I’m in a pinch, I just use baby powder.
I hope you enjoyed this post on zero waste toiletries and that it inspires you to make sustainable swaps in 2019! I’ll do posts on low waste beauty and skincare options soon.