We all have multifaceted personal routines: what we eat, our exercise, how we approach work. The quest for leading a more sustainable life is a process and a journey and in 2020, we are seeing an increase in action across various sectors, and a stronger embrace of sustainability. A go-to starting point for individual people is an area that we have complete control over and encounter multiple times per day, everyday of the week: our personal hygiene routine. While so many people are stuck at home, it’s a great time to reevaluate, and we want to help you with these 8 ways to green your personal hygiene routine.
As individuals that form the basis of communities, we are accountable for the impact our actions and decisions have on the planet and all of its inhabitants. Anything from brushing our teeth to combing our hair presents the opportunity to think about our environmental footprint. In this article, we’ll take a look at a number of great, simple switches you can make in order to clean up your personal hygiene routine and to ensure the ritual actions of washing, applying, and scrubbing, create as little harm on the planet as possible.
Minimising products and consumption
An important first step in the process of cleaning up any aspect of your life while injecting more sustainable and ethical decisions is the big dilemma of consumption. Our homes can be full of single-use items that gather dust with a short life cycle, when their necessity in our lives are minimal. In the case of personal hygiene, do we really use and need all the things in our bathrooms? Often bathroom cabinets and vanity tables are full to the brim with disposables, expired tubes, and maybe that product a friend recommended one time that you’ve barely touched. Finding what works for you is important, and this part of the puzzle is crucial. Relying on less external items will create more space internally. In previous articles we have spoken about minimalism, particularly Marie Kondo’s approach to cleaning up. This definitely applies to our hygiene routines as well.
Setting yourself some questions can help in the minimising and decluttering process, such as: is the product sustainable with minimal chemicals? What kind of packaging is it in? Is there a similar product with less packaging? If packaged, is the packaging recyclable? Is there a DIY alternative I can try?
Reusable face and makeup remover cloths
Face and makeup wipes and items like cotton balls contribute significantly to our environmental footprint for a number of reasons. These items are disposable, used for mere seconds, and are not biodegradable or compostable. They go straight to landfill, which is bad enough, but if they mistakenly end up in the plumbing (we see you, flushers!), they can be terribly harmful to the environment. Thankfully, there is a simple alternative! Washcloths are great for washing your face and body, lightly exfoliating and removing make up, and can be used over and over again (and how about the money you will save in the long run!). You can get a few uses each time from one cloth if rinsed properly too, so they won’t even create much more work for you in the laundry. Just pop them in the machine once a week and you are good to go! Think about using the money you would normally spend on a month’s worth of wipes on a sustainable washer, like this organic cotton one from Bhumi:
Here is an opportunity to nourish the hairs on your head and the planet all at once! We could list the benefits of shampoo bars all day, but we’ll try to resist. These minimal, diverse additions to your bathroom are an increasingly popular personal care item, particularly due to the benefit for your hair, affordability, and the massively reduced impact on the environment. They are made of a combination of natural oils and often with no chemical intervention, meaning they are fantastic for your hair. You will find them in minimal packaging—something as simple as a cardboard box—or even completely naked! The bars themselves last a really long time, and are easy to travel with. Being an almost entirely natural product, they are great for people experiencing skin irritations, dry, or oily hair.
It is important to ensure there is no palm oil in the brand you choose and look out for any soaps with SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), a chemical in many products that actually dries out your skin. It is rare that the bars will have them, but be mindful in any case.
Eco-friendly oral care
Until recently, toothbrushes have been a complicated hygiene item to clean up and make sustainable. Such a necessary item makes it difficult to avoid the plastic! Staggeringly, most of us will replace around 300 toothbrushes during our lifetime. Thankfully in the last few years, we have seen a spike in brands offering bamboo toothbrushes, and not just at ecostores. Supermarket aisles now feature numerous bamboo options, making it easier for consumers to start and finish every day with a more sustainable dental hygiene option. Bamboo is a more appealing material than plastic as it breaks down much quicker and is less intensive on the planet in its production. We are also seeing a recent addition of more eco-friendly floss, which is also worth checking out!
Terracycle also offers a great Oral Care Recycling Programme. The programme offers a closed loop solution, meaning you can recycle toothpastes, tooth floss, and all plastic toothbrushes, which are then repurposed to make new products from used materials.
Safety razors or rechargeable hair removers
Have you looked at the hair removal aisle in the supermarket recently? You will see endless packets of disposable, plastic, single use razors intended for a very short life cycle indeed. Luckily, this is not our only option, and hair removal can be as simple as investing in one item for a longer period of time. Three great alternatives are safety razors, electric razors, and epilators. Safety razors look exactly like disposable razors and work even better with a little practice, are made of metal (without the plastic trimmings), and last forever—particularly when looked after properly! Epilators and electric razors are also fantastic for their rechargeability and longevity, and can be used on the whole body. Why not hunt down a packaging-free block of shaving soap, while you’re at it?
Ensure your electric option is rechargeable and not battery powered to further reduce waste, and make sure you read up on your local requirements for disposing of razor blades if you take the safety razor route.
Now for a creative challenge while cleaning up your personal care routine. Deodorant, like a toothbrush, is a staple for most, and can accumulate a lot of waste throughout our lifetime. DIY deodorants are simple to make, cheap, and a fun task that you can tailor to your specific preferences. The natural ingredients in homemade or more natural deodorants are also better for your health, considering your skin absorbs what ever touches it!
My go-to ingredients and method for a homemade deodorant are:
2 parts coconut oil
1 part bi carb soda
1 part corn flour
1 part shea butter
Optional: A few drops of the essential oil of preference (patchouli and rose geranium are a nice combination and have antifungal properties)
1. If coconut oil is solid, melt it down over a bowl or saucepan of boiling water
2. Once the coconut oil is melted, stir in the other ingredients gradually, removing clumps as they form
3. Add the amount of essential oil to your discretion (a few drops should do) and stir
4. Once you are happy with the texture (keeping in mind it will solidify in cooler climates), carefully pour into small containers. Et voilà!
** also great for sharing with friends and family
It is widely known that the chemicals in conventional beauty products can be harmful, not only for the skin we apply it to, but to the water we wash it off with. The volume of chemicals washed into our waterways after just momentary uses are contributing to increased pollution, and over time add up to be a huge contribution to our environmental footprint. A quick solution to cleaning up this aspect of your routine is switching to a natural exfoliator alternative (something as simple as sand or coffee grounds—hello upcycling opportunity!) or using exfoliator gloves that are reusable, durable, and washable.
Plastic cotton bud alternatives
The last decade saw an uprising of people and companies saying no to single-use plastic, which we love to see. This came from the (finally) widely publicised knowledge that nature and eco-systems are being severely impacted by plastic waste. This realisation has shone a light on human behaviours that are in desperate need of changing. Numerous countries have banned items like plastic straws, disposable plastic cups, and plastic stemmed cotton buds. This small hygiene item is often in the top 10 most common items found during beach clean ups, polluting beaches across the world. A first look into how to improve this part of our routine is to question how much we really need to use cotton buds at home. Medical clinicians support that cotton buds are now way overused and not necessary on a daily basis. Viewing them as a luxury item for infrequent use can be a starting point to minimising the amount you use. For the moments you do need one, a sustainable option is bamboo cotton buds. These are now widely available, often compostable and 100% biodegradable.
If you haven’t heard of it, LastSwab is a recently launched, crowdfunded reusable cotton bud that is well worth checking out!
We hope these tips have helped you identify some areas where you can let your sustainable side expand in your personal hygiene routine! Remember that making these long lasting changes can be a process and a journey, but even one action at a time you are making a positive impact to minimise your impact on the planet. If we all collectively commit to these small shifts, we will see big results and a change in behaviour for the better!
Author bio: Madeleine is an experienced content writer who specialises in all things personal sustainability, environmental awareness, and minimal consumption. She loves using her writing and research to clearly communicate these key solutions to environmental issues, and endeavours to help people do more in their everyday lives to minimise their footprint on the planet. To do this, Madeleine also manages the online platform Our Simple Gestures, and in her spare time loves being outdoors and enjoying life! Find her at LinkedIn, Instagram and at the website.
Images via Unsplash, Bhumi and LastSwab. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search more than 2,000 brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.