Updated: Feb 10
When I looked at my bathroom last Summer it was filled with plastic. Shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, the works. Now, everything I look at I criticise: Is that the best option? Is there something with less impact I should have instead? After a while, it felt like I was criticising myself for not being perfect.
The hardest part about sustainability is you can't just rush out to buy all the "perfect" stuff straight away, because you have to use up what you have. This caused me to feel guilty because I was using beauty products I didn't believe in or want to use anymore. However, slowly over time I've been replacing my beauty staples one by one. Some swaps were easier than others, but here's my guide for sustainable beauty swaps for beginners.
I'll take you through toothbrushes to shampoo, buckle up, there's lots of eco-fails along the way!
1. THE BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSH
Easiest swap in the WORLD. I've used regular and electric toothbrushes in the past but I prefer analogue - I would forget to charge my electric one so often I'm surprised my teeth didn't rot. You can find bamboo toothbrushes at most pharmacies and supermarkets so they're a great easy swap. Even big brands like Colgate manufacture them (it's up to you if you want to support a big name though).
But lets have some honesty, are they as good as plastic toothbrushes? For the environment - totally! However, I'm forgetful and every now and then I'll leave my window shut during a shower. I live in an old building, which means the ventilation isn't the greatest. So, yes, I have had mouldy toothbrushes - just the bottom don't worry. Since the handy man has been round to sort the vents I've avoided the issue, but the effect of hot, steamy air is something to bear in mind. That's the trouble with lifestyle changes - you have to adapt you lifestyle around a toothbrush. Now I'm careful to check the window is open (most of the time).
In terms of tooth brushing power they're great and my dentist hasn't seen any issue. Unfortunately, they only last a few months which means frequent repurchasing. Although, there are bamboo options for electric tooth brush heads too if that interests you - check out The Humble Co., which is where I get mine.
2. THE RE-USABLE RAZOR
My razor is from Estrid and don't judge me but I've been using the same blade for a year. It's still perfect and sharp! I was sent it by the company and it is one of my most treasured possessions. It works miles better than a disposable razor, and I'm in love.
Where's the guilt? The replaceable heads are plastic. I'm sorry. Don't boo me! There are loads of safety razor options out there with not a scrap of plastic, but I won't part with my Estrid because I'd have to throw out the steel handle. It's beautiful design and when I do shave I'm always impressed. Maybe if I lose it I'll try another, but for now I'll take the guilt.
3. PAPER COTTON BUDS
You're not meant to stick them in your ears, but then why does it feel so good? I think I bought a box of a million from Wilko for 80p and they work exactly the same. However, as with the toothbrushes, I have learned my lesson vis-a-vis hot steamy air and mould, and now keep them in my bedroom instead of the bathroom. RIP to a whole box of cotton buds, one big eco-fail for the books there.
You can find paper cotton buds at any shop on the high-street or supermarket, so there is no difficulty there. There are reusable silicone options out there, which once I finish my current box I'm going to look into. However, right now I'm not quite ready to stick something into my ear more than once.
4. SOAP, SHAMPOO & CONDITIONER BARS
This swap was easy for me, as I was raised in a Dove soap house. For others, the switch from shower gels might be harder. Soap is easy, rub it in your hands, rub it on your body. You can find solid bars in any shop, courtesy of our grandmothers keeping them in business, for which I am eternally grateful,
Shampoo bars? That's another story... The first shampoo and conditioner bars I tried were from Nut & Noggin and I cannot recommend them enough. The process of using them takes a little getting used too. You have to rub the bars in your hands and build a lather before plonking your hands onto your scalp. The first time is going to be awful. Where's the lather? The bubbles? It's not working! The rule is: you wash twice. The first wash busts the dirt, the second will then lather up beautifully like a classic shampoo. I believe due to regular liquid shampoos having a higher water content they lather up easier. It's all bark and no bite. Solid bars? Well they're all bite. My hair is exactly the same as it was pre-switch to solid bars. I'll be honest I've not noticed any effect caused by the lack of chemicals etc. Although, I have naturally straight, undamaged, mid-thickness hair, so I'm at an advantage. I actually only condition my hair once every few months, mainly because I love the scent of my Nut & Noggin bar.
5. TOOTHPASTE TABLETS
I've only tried the tablets from Lush. They work great, but I won't lie the taste is a big adjustment. My boyfriend hates them with his entire being. I'm used to them now, and it's great that Lush take back their plastic bottles. I would rather find a completely plastic free option in Lancaster, alas I am yet to. I might venture to try a paste in a jar but only time will tell. It's an easy swap but very expensive, and has to be frequently repurchased. If I could buy them in bulk I would, and I might should I find the option.
6. RE-USABLE MAKEUP WIPES
Love Love Love! I bought a four pack of Danielle's Creations makeup erasers last Summer in a New Look and will never look back. Disposable wipes always irritated my skin, and I tried cleansing balms but they weren't my cup of tea. These bad boys however? Amazing. I keep one in my shower, one in my room and one at my boyfriend's. You just run them under the tap and hey-presto they work like magic. Plus, you can use one a bunch of times before they need sticking in the wash, especially if you're like me and tend to only wear the odd bit of makeup here and there.
7. RE-USABLE COTTON ROUNDS
I'm sorry. I can't. Not yet at least. I've has skin issues for as long as I can remember, including an unending bout with acne that began as a twelve year old. The idea of rubbing anything on my face more than once I just can't stand, even if it has been through the wash it will never seem clean to me. For now, I'm sticking with disposable cotton rounds. Eco-fail indeed. For other people, I'm sure they're great, but I do laundry twice a month and use cotton rounds twice daily, so it would be a huge upfront investment for me - maybe once payday hits I'll consider them.
I'm hoping in the future to work my way into refillable/sustainable skincare, but my previous skin issues have made me scared, I won't lie. I've only in the past year got a skincare routine together that just nearly works. My skin is super reactive and I won't lie, my skin has a big effect on my mental health so I'm weary of the effect changes might bring. I do really want to get into more sustainable options, but right now my skincare is as unsustainable as it gets. That's something I do feel guilty about, even though I know I shouldn't. Stay tuned to see if I get my foot out of the door - I do have a Typology nettle cleansing bar to try so maybe that day will come soon!
9. MENSTRUAL CUP
So maybe this doesn't fall under the beauty bracket exactly, but hey, women are beautiful and so are our bodies and what they get up to. I was a devout tampon user since I began my period. A friend of mine was a devout pad user, and hated tampons. However, we both get on really well with menstrual cups. My favourite thing about them is that you can go about your entire day without having to empty it, whereas with other products it's every few hours. Long shift at work? Back-to-back uni lectures? No problem. It's perfect. I might do a more comprehensive post about menstrual cups in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled!