Updated: Apr 17, 2019
One of the easiest ways to start living a life with less plastic is to switch out your toiletries! I have done the leg work of trying a number of different natural deodorants, soaps, shampoo bars, and toothpastes, so hopefully this list makes your switch easier than mine was. Copper is pretty confident that it will!
SHAMPOO. One of the first changes I made was to switch from shampoo in a huge plastic container to this plastic-free shampoo bar! I tried a number of different bars, but my favorite ended up being from Scrubbles Bubbles. It is made from natural ingredients, it smells great, and it suds up nicely, leaving your hair soft! They have an Etsy shop as well as a website you can order from. I have done both. The great thing about ordering from small businesses is that you can make requests like asking for no plastic packaging!
This tin that holds my shampoo bar is repurposed. It was originally the container for Kory's beard balm. I'm sure you have containers laying around that you could use to hold your bar, but if not, they dry nicely and can be tossed in your toiletries bag solo.
My mom, who is a very talented cosmetologist, was super impressed by these bars when I gifted her one. So, safe to say that it is cosmetologist approved!
TOOTHPASTE. My next switch was from tube toothpaste to Bite toothpaste bits. This company is very transparent about the ingredients in its products. They have a charcoal and a regular mint toothpaste bit. I have tried both, and while the charcoal took a little getting used to, I love them both. (I think the charcoal did some serious whitening action on my coffee-stained molars!) I love Bite because it allows me to eliminate plastic toothpaste tubes which cannot be recycled.
TOOTHBRUSH. (Not pictured.) My toothbrush is a Preserve toothbrush from Grove Collaborative. Once you have used and collected 6 toothbrushes, you can mail them back to Preserve through their Toothbrush Takeback program. This is the best option I've seen for keeping your toothbrushes completely out of the waste system. Bamboo toothbrushes are great, but the bristles are still made of synthetic fibers that cannot be recycled nor composted.
Side note: The Bite jar pictured here actually has a plastic film over the label. I was so frustrated by this because Bite advertises itself as the 'plastic-free' option that I messaged the brand on Instagram. I let them know that I noticed and was not happy, and that I was planning to find an alternative brand. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a detailed response from the founder, Lindsay. Here is what she said:
Apologies for the delay on this - after seeing your message (it was the second one we received like this) we contacted our label company to see how this could be possible as this shouldn't be the case. We are working with another small business for our labels and have been ordering our unlaminated paper sticker labels from them in high quantities over the past year with no issues. After talking to them, it turns out a mistake was made as they issued us a complimentary 'upgrade' by adding the laminate you are referencing on our most recent batch of labels.
We have worked things out with them and this will no longer be the case. We will be back to our original unlaminated paper labels for our next round which consists of of just paper, adhesive and ink.
Thank you again for your message and for supporting our mission! We are dedicated to getting this right and really appreciate you messaging us to point this out.
DEODORANT. This was a big challenge for me because unfortunately my sweat doesn't smell like roses and my armpits do in fact sweat - a lot. At first I just wanted to switch from a conventional big brand deodorant to a D.O. with natural ingredients. At some point, though, it was pointed out to me that deodorant sticks come encased in a ton of plastic that can't be recycled. I was going through one deodorant stick every three months or so, and I just got to a point where I couldn't stand the thought of that plastic container sitting in a landfill or the ocean for eons just because I needed it for a few months to make my armpits smell better.
Before trying this deodorant cream pictured below, I tried Meow Meow Tweet's deodorant stick because I still found the idea of touching my armpit to apply my D.O. too weird (it's weird the things we find weird, isn't it?). The deodorant stick is made of 100% compostable cardboard, so as long as you're tossing it in a compost pile when you're done, you're creating no waste. I loved the stick and it worked well for me. I tried the jar next just because I wanted to give it a go. I love the lavender scent and it keeps me smellin' fresh all day. These deodorants are pricier than brands like Secret and Dove, but to me it's worth the few extra bucks every few months for a product that is healthy and environmentally responsible.
Note: Meow Meow Tweet's deodorants are NOT antiperspirants. As they explain in the blog post linked here, sweating is normal and antiperspirants aren't necessarily healthy.
LOTION. I actually use coconut oil instead of lotion, mostly because it has one ingredient instead of a million that I can't pronounce and don't really know what they are, and because it comes in a glass jar with a metal lid. It's definitely harder to find lotion in plastic-free packaging. (Here is one option from Meow Meow Tweet.) I do not claim to be a beauty expert (far from it), so I'm not going to say that coconut oil is the best option; my goal here is just to use natural products in environmentally responsible packaging, and this jar of coconut oil achieves that for me. No plastic, and this jar can be reused infinitely.
Some ways this jar can be reused:
- To hold your shampoo bar, your hair ties, or your bobby pins.
- To keep your safety razor blades until you can recycle them.
- Take the lid off and use it to hold your toothbrushes.
- Take it to the grocery store and fill it with bulk items like granola, dry beans, rice, etc.
- If you don't want to keep it anymore, recycle the metal lid and add the jar to your glass recycling.
RAZOR. I have not gone full-fledged hippie, so I do still shave, although I am considering quitting. KIDDING. You don't have to worry about being flashed by an unexpected hairy female armpit when you are around me. That notion freaks me out a little, to be honest. (If you let your freak flag fly by growing out your armpit hair - more power to you.)
I bought this safety razor from Amazon. They have some with metal handles and some with bamboo handles. Both are good, sustainable options. Safety razors are a sustainable option because the handle will last a long time and the blades are made only of stainless steel and can be recycled either at scrap metal recycling sites or take back programs like Albatross's. Albatross will accept blades bought from them as well as blades bought from other companies. Simply collect your used blades in a jar like the glass deodorant jar mentioned above or some other container, and mail them to Albatross, perhaps once a year.
I'll shoot you straight on the razor I got - I don't love it. It gets the job done, but it's not as close a shave as I'd like. However, it keeps tons of plastic disposable razors and razor refill cartridges out of the waste system, so that makes me happy. If anyone tries a different safety razor and likes it, let me know! I would love to spread the word.
I think a higher quality option is Leaf Shave. I learned about this brand from Plastic Free Mermaid (instagram.com/plasticfreemermaid), so I know it's legit. Since I already have a razor, I'm not planning to buy myself one, but I did get one for my sister as a bridal shower gift. I am anxious to hear how she likes it! You have the option of loading one, two, or three blades into the razor, so that is cool. The upfront cost is kind of high, but let's break it down:
- Leaf Shave's "The Essentials" is $79 and comes with an all-metal razor and 20 blades (40 edges, so technically 40 new blades). 50 blade refills (100 edges) is $14.
- By comparison, Gillette Venus's plastic razor handle by itself is $10, and it costs another $10 for 4 blades monthly through their mail order plan. That's $125 for 50 blades.
- And finally, the worst deal of all for you and the planet: Gillette Venus disposable razors. A whopping $12.49 for 3 razors. That's $208.17 for 50 blades.
So while you spend more upfront for Leaf Shave, it ends up being a much better deal than your standard plastic razor or disposable razors, plus it's a hell of a lot better for the planet.
I hope this information makes your switch to more sustainable toiletries an easier transition. Maybe it seems like a small step, but the amount of plastic waste you will instantly reduce on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis is a really big deal! Using shampoo in plastic bottles, deodorant in plastic containers, and toothpaste in plastic tubes might get the job done, but they make our planet a dirtier, cluttered, more contaminated place for us all to live. You can vote for change simply by supporting companies whose actions are in line with the world we all want to live in: one that is clean and hospitable for all creatures, from humans to tiny ocean-dwelling zooplankton.
High five to you for making more sustainable choices! Send me a DM on Instagram - I always love to hear about the changes you are making in your life for a better future for all. HAPPY EARTH MONTH, EARTHLINGS!