Since sustainable and eco-friendly beauty products have officially reached the mainstream, I wanted to dive into which ones go beyond greenwashing—specifically, which have the “cleanest” ingredients and packaging?
Between hidden fragrances, plastic-free products swathed in plastic packaging and offers that are just "too cheap to be true," it can be overwhelming to sift through the slush to find products that are genuinely good for body and planet.
Before cleaning up your beauty routine, note that these swaps are absolutely a life-long process. It took years of testing to find products that both suited by body and worked the way I wanted them to. A full decade passed before I was able to fully switch all of my beauty products over—so don't sweat it if your your eco-swaps aren't immediate and perfect.
Oral care eco-swaps
I’ve been a die-hard fan of Nelson Naturals oral care from the beginning thanks to the company's zero-waste initiatives and available refilleries. Even if you’re not located close to a refill station, toothpastes and tablets are packaged in glass jars which you can reuse at home or properly recycle. Aside from its Earth-friendly missions, Nelson Naturals flavours are tasty and contain no suspect ingredients. Since I am prone to cavities, I also use a fluoride product two-to-three times a week called Denttabs.
- Swap plastic toothbrushes for compostable bamboo toothbrushes
- Swap sythetic nylon floss in plastic packaging for silk floss coated with beeswax or invest in a water pik
Eco-swaps for hair
Did you know that shampoo and conditioner can contain up to 80 per cent water volume? Buying these products in bar format reduces shipping costs while eliminating the need for bulky plastic packaging.
Finding an Earth-friendly shampoo I liked was a hard one for me to nail down. I have very thick, curly, dry hair and settling on the perfect shampoo bar required some trial-and-error; some were too oily and others contained mystery fragrances. Since I’m not one to use a refillable shampoo bottle, to really minimize waste, the best bar I’ve used so far is made by Unwrapped Life. The bars are packaged and shipped in sustainable materials, they lather the way I like and feature light but delicious scents.
As for conditioner, Unwrapped Life bars are also fantastic, but I’m partial to an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse. ACV brings hair health back into balance, is a disinfectant and helps with dandruff by exfoliating the scalp. I get mine infused with horsetail and other happy oils from a local woman located in Windsor-Essex, but there may be someone near you who sells a similar blend—or you can experiment with mixing a blend yourself.
- Use wooden brushes or combs rather than plastic
- DIY your own hair gel or oil-based serums
Eco-swaps for face
Aside from going makeup-free or making your own makeup, Elate Cosmetics is about the lowest waste cosmetics brand that I’ve found. The brand sells refillable eyeshadow containers, which allows you to easily pop in a new colour when finished and refills arrive enclosed in plantable seed paper packaging. The rest of the bamboo-based packaging (mascara, lipstick tubes, loose powder containers) is compostable, recyclable or reusable. The only thing that is lined with plastic is the mascara tube, which is hands-down the trickiest eco-swap across the board.
To explore other natural cosmetic brands, consult this handy and extensive eco-comparison of brands by Sustainable Jungle.
Since most natural face washes use cleansing oils, the most successful and efficient way to gently remove your makeup is with warm water and a cloth. If you've been using cotton rounds or balls, consider an easy eco-swap like Tru Earth Bamboo Makeup Remover Rounds. You still get the convenience of a traditional round but they feel softer on your skin, are more absorbant and outlive their disposable counterparts.
Eco-swaps for body
Good Soul Shop
When we talk about reducing plastic waste and personal hygiene, we don’t often think about our menstrual products. Not only are pads and tampons wasteful as single-use products, but they contain plastic and bleach which are harmful to a menstruating body. These chemicals have the potential to disrupt hormones and in some cases, can contribute to infertility. Plus, over a lifetime of use, they are expensive. Swapping disposable pads or tampons for Thinx underwear or a DivaCup (or both) require an upfront investment but taken care of properly, will last you a long time. I’ve owned mine for six years and make sure to boil them with lemon and vinegar water after each cycle.
Did you know that traditional deodorants and antiperspirants clog your pores and actually make you smell more? The smell comes from your body’s bacteria reacting with the chemicals. Natural deodorant will allow you to sweat (which helps the body regulate temperature and prevent blockages) while actually cleansing your underarms. The reason a natural deodorant may not have worked for you in the past (but worked for your friend) is because of your body chemistry. The key to finding a natural deodorant is picking one that works for you personally. I love the Routine Cream brand because it boasts different formulae and scents to match your needs. Plus, it sells mini kits so you can try them all, which betters the odds of matching with your scented soulmate.
- Instead of using disposible razors, invest in a safety razor
- Swap traditional plastic and cotton swabs for a reusable swab constructed of silicone
PS: Ever consider a more natural laundry detergent?
Tru Earth Eco-Strip laundry detergent is free of parabens, phosphate, added dyes, chlorine bleach and 1,4-dioxane. They are biodegradable in accordance with OECD 310D, hypoallergenic and vegan.