Trying to be a conscious consumer can be overwhelming (trust me, I’ve been in the process for more than a decade and I still get confused). There’s plenty of websites out there with lists and rankings of companies based on environmental and social factors. For those of us who prefer the recommendation of a friend over hours of research, I’ve taken an inventory of what I’m buying these days. For this first post, I thought we might take a tour of my bathroom cabinet.
Shampoo/Conditioner: Lush shampoo and conditioner bars. No packaging! I keep mine in Lush’s reusable travel tins on a high shelf in my shower, so they don’t get soggy from puddling water (they’re a lot like soap in this way). Just lather and rub on your head and be happy.
Soap/body wash: Local, all-natural soap. Find it at the farmers market or mom-and-pop shops, or on Etsy.com if you live in a sad town where no one makes soap.
Facial cleanser: Same bar of soap. I’ve also used almond oil with success (look it up, oil-washing is a thing!). I don’t get more breakouts than I did when using harsher acne cleansers, though I do miss that nice exfoliated feeling. For this, I can turn to the dozens of DIY salt scrubs on Pinterest or one of Lush’s all-natural scrubs (sold in tubs made of recycled plastic from empty tubs their customers return to the store…have I mentioned how much I like this company?).
Toothbrush: At the moment, the free one from my dentist, but I’m totally asking for these compostable bamboo toothbrushes for Christmas! (Yeah, I know, I’m weird.)
Toothpaste: My favorite brand is Jason, sold in many natural food stores and even Grocery Outlet on occasion! Alas, it comes in a plastic tube, though this coconut-oil DIY toothpaste recipe looks promising.
Deodorant: I used Tom’s of Maine until recently, though baking soda mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil works better than anything I’ve tried. Just dust on after showering. 🙂
Make-up: Since I rarely wear make-up, I’m still using up a few products from less-than-perfect brands. Lush (again) makes some great cosmetics when it comes time to replace yours. You can also find plenty of natural cosmetics in natural foods stores.
Lotion: I never buy lotion, it just keeps appearing (see post on this phenomenon here). For especially dry winter days, I do enjoy The Body Shop’s hemp hand protector. It is one of the few lotions thick enough to handle dry, crackly knuckles.
Sunscreen: I bought Kiss My Face SPF 30 this summer because it comes in a spray bottle that could easily be re-used for cleaning around the house (it is a manual sprayer, not aerosol). I’ve been very pleased with how much less greasy it feels than other brands I’ve tried. It’s water-resistant, too!
Hair dye: Red henna sold in bulk at my hometown’s hippy herb shop. For a how-to, see my post or check out YouTube. You can also find a variety of less-messy boxed dyes at natural grocery stores.
“Sexy time” products: I recently found out about Sustain, the only brand I know of that actually cares where the latex in its condoms comes from and how much those workers are paid. They also donate 10% of profits to women’s reproductive healthcare. You can find their products online or in the natural section of grocery stores such as Fred Meyer.
Cleaning products: Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and Method are brands that make just about everything you’d ever need to clean the house, without all the gross chemicals and animal testing. You can probably find these at your nearest chain grocery store in the natural foods section.
Toilet paper: 100% recycled TP is available at some natural stores in individual rolls without plastic wrap. When we can’t find those, Trader Joes sells recycled toilet paper in “environmentally-friendly” plastic wrap.
Disclaimer time: Please know that I am not an expert on each of these companies. If you think one of the products shouldn’t be on the list, please comment and tell me why. If you have a bathroom product you love and want to share, please do! Here’s a few things I keep in mind when buying toiletries:
1. Is it tested on animals? A quick look at the back label will typically reveal a NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS line or a conspicuous lack of comment on the subject.
2. Can I understand the ingredients? A long ingredient list doesn’t necessarily mean there’s toxic waste in your shampoo, but companies who care about ingredients often make an effort to explain them on the label with little parenthetical notes such as (a plant-based preservative).
3. Can I make or buy this with less packaging? If so, pick an easy DIY recipe so you don’t end up frustrated and going back to your original product.
An easy short cut is to go to your local natural foods store/co-op and talk with an employee. These stores typically screen the products they sell so you don’t have to spent your whole day reading labels!