So finally, I have one part of my life entirely plastic-free, and that is my daily washing routine. Apart from the food and drink I am putting into my body, I think for me, this is probably one of the things I want the most to be plastic-free, since I am putting this stuff on my skin every day.
What’s more, I think having a plastic-free bathroom is one of the easiest things to achieve (even if it took me the better part of a year…). The methods I have switched to are simple, and a lot of the products are readily available from stores around Europe, or online. Though some options can be a bit on the expensive side, I think overall I spend much less now on washing products than I did before.
And, of course, the reduction in plastic-consumption is enormous! Think about all of those plastic bottles you have lined up on your bathroom shelf: shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, razor creams, aftershaves, mouthwash, toothpaste… and often there will be multiple types of each. I came to think, what’s the point? It’s the constant adverts on TV and billboards telling us we need hundreds of different products for our faces, body, feet, hair to be beautiful and attractive, when actually what all I really care about is being healthy and well… clean. So, I decided to stop using plastic in the bathroom, and looked for simple, general-use alternatives.
Before: shower gels
Now: bar soap
Being genetically Indian, I can tell you one of my greatest fears as a teenager was smelling. So I would always buy the strongest smelling shower gels, and get through bottles of them pretty quickly as well.
Now the raging hormones and continuously changing body has calmed down, I have switched to a much milder smelling bar soap that I buy from my local organic store. It comes with absolutely no packaging, and contains no odd chemicals either.
Before: moisturising creams
Now: moisturising bar, coconut oil
I have incredibly dry skin, and this has only got worse since I moved to Germany. Thus I don’t really have an option but to moisturise every day. Before I used creams that came in plastic tubes, bottles or tubs, and had different ones for my face, hands and body.
Now I have switched to two simple products. I bought the moisturising bar from monomeer, my go-to shop for plastic-free beauty and home in Germany. I love this product because it comes in wax paper, and is easy to wrap up and carry around with you. My skin feels great using it and I love the smell too!
However in the winter I feel like it is not enough, so I also moisturise with coconut oil in the morning or evening. I buy mine from the local organic store in Konstanz and it comes in glass jars (which I like to use for storage when they are empty ;-)). The oil can be quite difficult to apply when it is cold and can feel somewhat greasy before it sinks in, but the after-effect is amazing, keeping my skin super soft even when the chill is biting at your face. Both of these products I use all over my body, and I love them!
Before: aerosols and roll-on deoderants
Now: deodorant bar
To continue with my fear of smelling, I had to go through a fair few deodorants before I found any that worked for me, and even so none of them were as effective as I hoped. So applying deodorant multiple times a day means it gets used up quickly, and every time you are chucking away a big chunk of plastic.
But the one I now use is amazing! It really works, and is wrapped in compostable packaging. The deo itself is a solid bar that rubs into a cream-like paste on your underarm, so once it is rubbed in, there are no white marks or stains on your clothes. Effective and environmentally friendly!
Face- washing and exfoliating
Before: shower gel, face scrub
Now: bar soap, home-made face scrub
Before I used to have a different soap for my face than the rest of my body, because you know, your skin on your face is ‘much more delicate’ and needs specially designed and excessively overpriced face soaps to wash it. I also used face scrubs to exfoliate; both of these would come in plastic tubes or bottles.
Now I just use the same organic bar soap that I use on the rest of me, and I can safely say my face hasn’t suddenly exploded with acne or turned a strange colour. I felt weird not continuing to exfoliate, so I now make my own face scrub! The recipe is from a great book called Homemade Beauty, which has loads of recipes for different beauty products, all from natural components that I could eat!
Before: liquid shampoo
Now: bar shampoo
When I was growing up, there were six of us living together. And being one of four daughters, it meant that our bathroom was a mess when it came to shampoo. Everyone wanted a different type: one for curly hair, one for split ends, one for coloured hair, one for men, one for children… I look back on this and think, why did we waste money on so many different brands, when in reality, just one type would have been fine for all of us? So many plastic bottles, so much waste produced. I guess at the time we didn’t know any different.
Now I use bar shampoo that I buy from Lush. I love this product so much- it’s vegan, there is no packaging, it lathers with only a bit of water, and they last for ages (although I do have very short hair…). Also the different bars smell amazing, and you can by an aluminium tin to put the shampoo in, so it is easily portable.
Before: liquid conditioner
Now: coconut oil (occasionally)
I used to have hair down to my waist, so there was no question about it, conditioning was essential if I didn’t want to lose my hairbrush in a tangled mass every morning. I would use liquid conditioner, again in a plastic bottle.
Now here, plastic-free alternatives can be more difficult as there are not a lot available. In my experience, there is a great shampoo and conditioner in Lush which really kept my hair super soft and easy to unravel, and it did last quite a long time even when I had lots of hair. Now though I have a pixie cut so I don’t need such a conditioner, so I just use shampoo, and every two weeks or so I apply coconut oil to my hair and scalp overnight and wash it off the next day (I highly recommend sleeping with a towel over your pillow).This helps condition and smooth my hair stops my scalp from getting dry, preventing dandruff.
Before: toothpaste, tooth floss, mouthwash
Now: toothpaste tablets, all-natural tooth floss, wooden toothbrush
Another obsession of mine was white teeth and avoiding bad breath like the plague. This combined with having braces for my later teenage years meant that I used whitening toothpastes, dental flosses and burning mouthwashes.
Now I’m using toothpaste tablets that I bought from monomeer. I love these as come in a little paper bag tied with string, no other packaging. They contain fluoride and the peppermint flavour is much stronger than other ones I have tried, so my mouth feels as clean as if I had used normal toothpaste. However they take some getting used to when switching from a paste! I also bought dental floss which comes in a glass dispenser; the string itself is of natural silk and waxed with beeswax. What’s more, my toothbrush is made of bamboo (including the bristles) and also bought online. I like it because it comes in cardboard packaging, and after three months of use I can put it into the biomüll (green waste) where it will break down quickly and without any toxic products left behind.
Before: disposable razors
Now: metal razor
If I had known there was another option to disposable razors, I would have switched earlier. I now use a razor that is considered as a “man’s shaving razor”, where you change the metal blade, not the whole head. OK… so it has a plastic handle, but it is durable, and a hand-me-down from my father so that’s got to count for something! But I am so pleased that there are no more plastic handles and razor heads to throw away.
Before: single use pads, tampons
Now: Ruby Cup
Switching to the Ruby Cup has revolutionised my life. So much so, I’ve already written an article about it before, so if you want to learn more, I recommend checking it out!
In short though, pads and tampons are necessities for girls, but that is a lot of unrecyclable waste being produced each month. I switched to the Ruby Cup, one of the many brands of reusable menstrual cups. Though it does take time to get used to, I use mine now for every period, I am super comfortable with it, and I produce so much less waste per month because of it.
One important thing: the shift to a plastic-free bathroom took me a while, and I still have remnants of things like hand cream, toothpaste and tampons left, but I believe it is better to use them up then throw out perfectly good products. Still, these small changes have made a huge impact on my life. I have cut down on producing so much plastic waste, I am saving money, and I feel little less trapped and conned into this material-obsessive world by just living more simply.
I hope this gives you some inspiration to change up your bathroom to a more environmentally friendly, plastic-free one! And if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on how you make your house waste-free!