MY SUSTAINABLE BEAUTY ESSENTIALS
Over the past couple of years I've made an effort to reduce my dependency on unnecessary beauty products in order to limit my wastefulness. Some endeavours have yielded better results than others but overall I feel like I've finally found some products that work for me and I'd like to share them with you.
Hands up who's tried shampoo bars in a bid to reduce the number of plastic bottles you have in your shower? Yeah, I tried them too, and while I love the idea of them my barnet needs a little more TLC than the ones I've tried have been able to offer. I just can't get on with them. I'll keep trying, (when my preferred shampoo runs out), but in the meantime I've found a temporary solution that is great for travel. Enter Beauty Kubes. These are single use shampoo cubes you crumble and mix with water in the shower before washing your hair as normal. For me they aren't a sustainable everyday choice - they can range between £8.50 and an eye-watering £12 per box of 27- but they're very convenient for travel and handy if you measure out the number you need for your trip. They don't leave my hair with that trademark shampoo bar 'film' and they smell good. If they were more competitively priced I'd probably consider a permanent swap but in the meantime they're my go-to for when I'm on the road.
One of the swaps that's made the biggest difference to my bathroom storage has been ditching bottles of shower gel in favour of soaps, which I keep in a soap pouch. It's perfect for making sure every last scrap of soap is used up and has probably saved a good 30-40 bottles from landfill coming from my bathroom alone in the past two years.
My absolute number one beauty (?) essential is my Diva Cup. I am a card carrying member of the church of menstrual cups and let me tell you why. Rewind to uni days where bathroom cubicles were covered in stickers advertising Mooncups. The thought of using a menstrual cup was possibly the vilest thing I could have imagined and, with a significant level of mistrust, I put them to the back of my mind along with every other thing I resolved never to try. Fast forward to 2015 and, for one reason or other, I had a change of heart and decided to give them a go. Finding the right one was a little like Goldilocks searching for the perfect bowl of porridge but once you find the one that's juuuust right you know.
In a woman's lifetime we can go through an estimated 11,000 menstrual products - almost all of which just go into landfill. In the UK alone, the disposal of single use menstrual products like tampons, pads and applicators amounts to approximately 200,000 tonnes of waste annually. But, perhaps, the greatest prompt for me to change was the cost. The number of menstrual products a woman may need in a month amounts to £13 on average but it's the extras - painkillers, underwear, heat pads- that can bump that monthly spend up to £25 - £35. Over a lifetime, a woman can spend almost £20,000 in association with her period - and that is only for the women and girls who can afford to do so. There are millions of women and girls experiencing period poverty worldwide and as a result have to take desperate measures to managing their monthly cycles from taking time off school to using rags or being ostracised by members of their community until their deemed 'clean' again.
Menstrual cups are made of medical grade silicone and one cup can be reused for approximately a decade before being recycled. Each cup can be used for up to 12 hours and the association with TSS is low - see this recent article from The Lancet for more information. As a former sceptic-turned-evangelist I can't imagine ever going back to tampons. From a practical perspective, my work can often take me to remote places without access to a toilet - can you imagine trying to change a tampon in the middle of the desert? Neither can I. I just pop my Diva cup in that morning, head out and forget about it for the rest of the day. I can't recommend them enough. Here endeth the sermon.
Between plastic-free straws and bamboo toothbrushes, it's a hard call to see which on-trend swap has claimed the crown of the most famous over recent months. But are bamboo toothbrushes any good? I have to say I was initially sceptical but, like the menstrual cup (last mention, I promise) I am glad I made the swap. They are more expensive than plastic toothbrushes, which I think is a problem for the majority of sustainable swaps on the market - their rise in popularity makes them a must-have commodity and manufacturers are naming their price. However, they are largely compostable as long as you remove the bristles (harder than it looks) so for the moment I'm happy with them.
Last on my list of 'buys' is plastic-free dental floss like this one from Georganics. The floss is compostable (with the exception of their vegan charcoal floss) and it comes in a reusable, plastic-free glass and metal container. It works just as well as non-recyclable floss but feels a little kinder to the planet.
And if I fancy a little pamper session but don't want to head to the shops I'll head to my kitchen cupboards and whip up a quick body scrub or face mask. I'd love to know which sustainable beauty products work best for you, and which ones were a total flop! Feel free to leave a comment below.
Until next week, keep wondering.