No matter who you are, looking after your body, skin, and hair should always be a priority. It’s not just about your appearance; it ensures you feel as good as possible. But when we take care of ourselves, we should do it in a way that takes care of the environment, too. It might not seem easy, but there are some simple and effective ways you can make a difference.
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Environmentally Friendly Products
Being careful about the products you use is a great place to start. However, there are many companies greenwashing their products in order to appear more environmentally friendly than they really are. It makes it difficult when we really want to make a difference! Here are a few key ingredients to look for to sort the eco-friendly from the greenwashed.
You’ve probably heard a lot about this ingredient in food, but you can find palm oil in your hygiene and beauty products, too. The oil itself isn’t bad for the environment, but the demand for it has led to mass deforestation of rainforests in order to grow the palm plants. Reducing our use of products with this ingredient will protect the trees, the animals that live in them, and the health of our planet.
Microbeads are often found in exfoliating gels and soaps. They are made of plastic and are notoriously bad for the environment — in fact, they are now banned from hygiene and cosmetic products in the U.K., but they can still be found in many soaps and gels in the U.S.
They are particularly harmful because they’re so small; they are hard to filter out and are almost guaranteed to end up polluting the earth’s ecosystems. They don’t decay, so they stay in the world’s oceans indefinitely, poisoning marine life.
There are many ways you can exfoliate your skin without using microbeads. Many products use other exfoliants in their soaps that are just as effective. You could also use a flannel to wash your skin a few times a week instead of using soaps with exfoliants. Or, try some of these natural exfoliants, courtesy of DIYNatural. Whatever you choose, be sure to avoid the microbeads.
Lots of makeup, soaps, and hygiene products are stuffed with toxic ingredients that are bad for the environment. Buying products that use natural ingredients is a simple way to minimize the damage. Natural ingredients do much less harm if they work their way into the ecosystem, as they aren’t poisonous — and they’re often better for your skin.
If you can, choosing products with organic ingredients is another step better. Pesticides, insecticides, and other toxins can be extremely bad for the environment. They’re sprayed onto fields where the ingredients in your soaps grow, and rain washes them into the ground or streams.
Considering the ingredients that go into your products is important, but making conscious and informed decisions about the products themselves is also vital to improving your routine.
Ditch the Disposables
A simple way you can cut down on waste is to stop using disposable products and invest in ones that last much longer and don’t need to be thrown away. Razors are the prime example, for both men and women. Disposable razors come at a cheaper initial price but are made to wear out so you need to buy new ones regularly. And the old ones just end up in the landfill.
Swapping to an alternative, such as a double-edge razor, for example, is a simple and effective way to reduce your waste and be more eco-friendly. They also produce a better shave and, in the long-term, save you money.
Use What You Need (and No More)
You can also minimize waste by considering how you use a product. Try reducing the amount of shampoo or soap you use. Start with a small amount, and add more if it’s not enough. You might try investing in a loofah. They’re great at removing dead skin cells, and if you use a liquid soap, you’ll find that a loofah creates more lather with less product.
Simply reducing the amount of product you use makes a massive difference. You don’t get through as many shampoo or soap bottles, saving money and minimizing how much you have to throw away. It’s also better for your hair and skin. Using too much shampoo leaves soapy residue that makes your hair greasy, dries out your skin, and can cause an itchy scalp.
Think About the Packaging
Packaging is responsible for a staggering amount of our waste. Where you can, look for products with less packaging. For instance, many deodorant and antiperspirant companies have started making compressed sprays — the same amount of deodorant in a smaller can. Bars of soap are a better choice than shower gels as they often come in paper or cardboard, which can be recycled. And try natural shampoo bars for healthy, clean hair without the plastic bottles.
This also applies to shaving. Use a shaving soap, which you can lather up with a shaving brush, rather than foam from a can. You may find you get a better shave and softer skin, too.
Once you have your products, how you use them is key. Water is a limited resource and, as the planet’s population grows, it’s becoming scarcer. Only 1 percent of the world’s water can be used by humans, so we can’t waste it! And more than half of our daily water consumption comes from the bathroom.
Saving water doesn’t mean you can’t wash or enjoy your hygiene routine. In fact, it’s actually very simple to save water.
Try taking shorter showers. We know that enjoying the hot water can be really relaxing, but every minute you cut off your shower can make a huge difference to the environment (and your water bills!). Being in a hot shower for too long can also dry out your skin — another reason to keep them short. A very simple way to conserve water is to turn the shower off while you lather your hair. Even cutting out one minute a day could save on average 35 gallons of water a week. That’s 1,820 gallons of water a year — just by reducing your shower time by one minute a day!
It’s also a good choice to have showers more often than baths. Baths on average use much more water — particularly if you don’t have long showers.
You can also change your shower head to a low-flow. Low-flow shower heads save on average 15 gallons of water in a 10-minute shower, for a savings of 5,475 gallons a year! (And that’s without shortening your shower!)
Turn Off the Taps
Turn the tap off when you brush your teeth. There’s no excuse. This can save so much water and there’s really no need to have it on while you’re brushing. Similarly, instead of keeping the tap running while you wash your face, put in the plug and partly fill the sink.
Another top tip: Instead of shaving your facial hair in the shower, run some water into the sink. This will save a huge amount, especially if you shave every day. It will also prevent your skin from over-drying from the heat of the shower — it’s a win-win!
Have you integrated any of these tips into your routine, or do you use any others? Share them with the community in the Earthling Forum.
About the Author
Matthew Bowyers is an expert in shaving and skin care. He works for The English Shaving Company, which supplies a range of aftershaves, soaps, and razors for people throughout the U.S. and U.K.
Editor’s note: Originally published on January 18, 2018, this article was updated in February 2019.