On average, each of us uses about 10 different beauty and personal care products a day – which could mean that daily we’re allowing around 125 different ingredients to be absorbed from our skin straight into our bloodstreams.
What’s more, the residue from those products – and the packaging they came in – has a major impact on the environment as well. So overhauling your beauty routine to make it more sustainable could not only help to reveal your own natural health and vitality, but also benefit the planet.
Just as we try to choose wholesome food over junk food, we can learn to read labels to make more-informed beauty choices. ‘Junk’ beauty products are loaded with petroleum by-products, chemicals, preservatives, and synthetic colours and fragrances. Try to choose products with a shorter list of ingredients and fewer chemicals, and particularly avoid those containing sulfates, triclosan, phthalates, or parabens (identified by prefixes like ethyl, methyl, butyl, propyl or isobutyl). Look out for silicone too, traditionally added to many beauty products to provide smoothness on skin, shine in hair, and silkiness in make-up, and identified by ingredients ending in ‘ithicone’ and ‘icate’. Increasingly, responsible manufacturers are replacing silicone with alternatives like proteins and naturally-derived emollients. If you’d like to check a specific beauty product for safety and eco-credentials, safecosmetics.org has an extensive database on their ‘Skin Deep’ page.
Be aware of packaging.
It goes (almost!) without saying that the eco-friendly approach is to avoid products swathed in vast amounts of plastic. Look for minimal packaging and, where possible, choose recycled or recyclable containers like paper boxes or glass bottles. And then don’t forget to follow through by actually recycling them! If you have the option of buying something in a refillable container, so much the better. You might also consider buying economy-size containers of products such as shampoo, conditioner and handwash to decant the contents into smaller refillable bottles. You’ll save money as well as reduce waste!
Shower gel can serve as bubble bath and conditioner works wonderfully as shaving cream. You can use the same mild cleanser on your face and body. Multi-task your products wherever possible! Use fewer products, but choose the best you can afford, and use no more than you really need – a pea-sized drop of toothpaste, just a dab of hand cream. Finish what you’ve bought before replacing it.
There are many gorgeous natural products containing botanical fruit oils like lemon, avocado, jojoba, tea-tree and aloe, all rich in nutrients like fatty acids and vitamin E. Organic coconut oil makes a great eye make-up remover and moisturiser, hydrating and balancing the natural oil levels in the skin. Shea butter too is intensely moisturising, and a salve of cocoa bean oil is fantastic for staving off stretch marks and wrinkles. Yoghurt and honey makes a deliciously silky facemask, and a quarter cup of olive oil mixed with half a cup of brown sugar will give you a highly effective (if somewhat sticky!) body scrub. For the real purists among us, good old bicarb can be used as toothpaste, and diluted apple cider vinegar works well to tone your skin (you can add essential oils if you’re worried about the smell!).
Well, okay, let’s not get too carried away. No-one’s suggesting you should instantly abandon all your favourite brands and the products you love, but even a few small mindful changes can make a real difference to our health and to the environment. Certainly, we can be beautiful without risking our future.