Make your Body Care Zero-Waste

zero-waste body care

Choosing organic and natural products is great, and working to make your body care zero-waste is next level.

zero-waste body care

I love feeding my body delicious, natural things, and I feel exactly the same when it comes to my skin – I often joke that I don’t put anything on my skin that’s not edible!

Luckily over the years, it’s become easier than ever to find awesome organic and natural products for our body care rituals. Natural soaps, conditioners, toothpaste, deodorant and more and increasingly available – which is awesome. We know now how toxic traditional body care products can be (see more below), so it’s mostly positive.

Yet there is something else to consider when it comes to our natural products – the packaging! All these great options come to us in tubes, tubs, and plastic containers, and this is a problem for our planet. As the plastic-free movement gains traction around the world (and rightly so!) it is a good time to rethink ALL our purchases, not just straws.

After making my own body care products for more than 20 years, I’ve learned a few tricks about ways to make my body care routine zero-waste (or less wasteful, generally), and I’m going to share them all with you here – including two of my new favorite zero-wast body care items that inspired me to write this article.

zero-waste body care

First, Why Natural Body Care?

There is lots and lots of evidence that shows traditional body care is quite toxic: sunscreen is killing our reefs, most products contain unsafe ingredients, like ‘fragrance’ and parabens, and that many brands contain animal or petroleum ingredients. These things are not healthy for human bodies!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), founded in 1992, is an activist group that is an excellent resource to dive into: this organization measures and rates thousands of products in their database so that seekers can get a clear picture of the ingredients and products they are using. Whether you want to check on sunscreen, perfume, cleaners, or shampoo, EWG has you covered.

For more of my thoughts on this important topics, please see my articles about the Story of Cosmetics (a great video!) and my article about green cleaning and natural body care – it’s a free download you can print and keep.

Over the years I’ve moved away from store-bought deodorant, drugstore shampoo, and avoid all chemicals on my skin – and my skin has been healthy, glow-y, and awesome ever since. I use no lotion: only natural plant oils like sesame, rosehip, coconut, and cocoa on my face and body (learn more about using oil in your skincare). Without chemical deodorant, my body odor is always present, but I think it’s very sexy – as sexual animals we are supposed to have a natural scent! My body is still clean and skin remains clear – I look quite glowy and clean, right?

 

 

zero-waste body care

Why Should We Consider Zero-Waste (or Less-Waste) Body Care?

Reducing the total number of products needed and working to creating a zero-waste body care routine is not as scary as it sounds. There are lots of great low- or zero-waste opportunities for your body care routine, and there are lots of options for easy homemade products that work better than anything store bought.

I was inspired to write this article after I recently switched two long-standing holdouts in my own routine: my shampoo and toothpaste. I’ve been using the same organic shampoo for years, and I LOVE it. It works great to keep my mermaid hair clean and highlights my natural waves, it smells great, and it’s very affordable. But always, I had to buy a new plastic container. We have very limited recycling here on Oahu, Hawaii, so it was always a bummer for me.

Second thing: I have used a natural brand of toothpaste for a decade, but it’s really hard to recycle toothpaste tubes (although it seems that it’s coming soon). Below I will detail those swaps along with others I learned over the years to create an effective and awesome body care routine.

Now, please don’t panic. Zero-waste is pretty tough goal to adhere to, because, truthfully, we live in a wasteful world. Think of this list as options to consider – not a zero-sum game nor a rule book that doesn’t allow for deviation. We are all here to do the best we can.

My shampoo bar comes in a paper box, my toothpaste product is shipped from far away, my clay for cleansing face masks comes in a paper and foil package, essentials oils come in glass jars with plastic caps… ARGH! But here’s the truth – I don’t think it’s truly possible to eliminate EVERY bit of waste unless you truly abandon cleanliness.

Instead, my goal is to encourage you to think about any step you can take to reduce your plastic usage specifically and reduce packaging overall; many cities can recycle other package materials (glass, paper, aluminum) and glass, especially, is reusable. None of them break down into harmful microplastics that contaminate our air and water. Yet most importantly, I hope it encourages you to think about how you can reconnect with your own routine.

{Click here to read more about zero-waste kitchen tips!}

Zero-Waste Body Care Options You Can Try Today

Shampoo

As I mentioned above, I finally switched out my favorite liquid shampoo (and it’s required plastic bottle delivery system) for a shampoo bar. It looks like soap, has mostly the same ingredients as soap, and is used the same way. Simply wet your head, scrub the bar onto your hair, and wash as usual. I love it, and I don’t think I will ever buy bottled shampoo again. Just makes me say… why did it take so dang long to switch…?

Conditioner

I know this is not common, but I do not use conditioner on the regular. I literally have the same lovely bottle of conditioner that my bestie gifted to me like FOUR years ago. I use it only when I spend multiple days in the ocean and my hair starts to feel a little too mermaid-y. Zero-waste options for conditioner include plant oils applied directly to your hair, conditioner bars, and conditioner packed in glass or aluminum containers (bonus if the company returns them for reuse!). Some companies make shampoo + conditioner bars, too. There are lots of options to dive into here!

Toothpaste

No matter how eco-groovy your toothpaste is, those tubes cannot be reused or recycled yet, so they always end up on the trash. I’m SO happy to have found Bites toothpaste – this is the other big revelation that inspired me to write this article. These are small ‘bits’ of toothpaste powder (in mint or charcoal style): simply pop one in your mouth, bite down, and brush with a wet toothbrush. They come in glass + metal jars that are perfect for reuse around the kitchen. I dig these little Bites so much, for the first week I got them I brushed my teeth more than twice a day. For serious. My teeth have never been cleaner.

Mouthwash

First thing each morning I rinse my mouth with my homemade mouthwash, because, of course, I’m a human with morning breath. This is not a perfect zero-waste solution, as it requires purchasing a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, but it’s better than buying new bottles each month, yes?

Years ago a dentist recommended I add mouthwash to my routine for improved gum health (and don’t forget to floss, right?! Yes, I know!) so I bought a natural brand of mouthwash. I realized after I bought it that I had all the ingredients on hand to make a homemade mouthwash recipe myself: hydrogen peroxide (a natural whitener), essential oils, and water – that’s it! See my homemade mouthwash recipe here.

Homemade Deodorant

There is a similar story here to the mouthwash: I bought a natural brand I loved, realized I had all the ingredients in my kitchen, and got started testing recipes. The resulting homemade deodorant recipe is still so well-loved that I keep it at home and at the office, and gift it to friends. Using just a few kitchen ingredients, like baking soda, coconut oil, and starch, you’ll have your own homemade deodorant in no time. Get my recipe for homemade natural deodorant here. This is not a stick deodorant, it’s a paste, so store it in jars or small aluminum tins. Note that some people have a baking soda sensitivity, so discontinue use and try this recipe that uses clay instead.

Sunscreen

zero waste body careI live in a very sunny place, so even though I don’t want to use it, sunscreen is a must. As you know, most sunscreen comes to use in little tubes, tubs, or spray cans, which is wasteful, and the crap inside is toxic for reefs, anyway.

Lucky for me, I found Little Hands Hawaii on a trip to Big Island. It is, (little) hands down, the very BEST sunscreen I’ve ever used. It’s creamy, luscious, and feels like a decadent treat for my skin. Like any good zinc sunscreen it requires at least two scrubs, but worth it. Their product is packaged in metal and paper only, and uses only natural food-based ingredients. Highly recommended!

Soap

I like to be clean, and I bet you do, too. Bar soap is the easy answer here: most soap bars are wrapped in paper or sold naked in shops and markets, so this is a nearly 100% waste free solution.

I’ve forever been a fan of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps, an awesome company that I LOVE to support. I choose their rose or almond liquid soap, but I’ve not bought a new bottle in years. Instead, I buy a gallon at a time, and then I refill my hundred(ish) containers around the house. I use this soap for handwashing clothes, cleaning tub and toilet, as a shampoo sometimes, and of course, daily hand and body cleaning. The bar soap is the only true zero-waste option, but choosing the liquid soap and refilling makes me pretty happy, as I use it for a year across the whole house, so it’s very little waste overall.

Face Masks

I got interested in a deeper level of skin care a few years ago when I worked at a natural skin care company as a side gig. I loved their face mask product, and of course I started making my own to save money and packaging.

There are lots of different types of clay to use – like bentonite, grey, green, and my personal favorite, red Rhassoul clay. I buy a bag, store in a glass jar, then blend with oil and water just before using to make a smooth paste for a once or twice weekly skin ritual. It makes my skin glowy and gently exfoliated, and I just love it. My local natural food store has various types of clay in bulk, so if you’re new to clay, try out some and see what works best. Other natural additions can include dried herbs (like crushed lavender or rose petals), using rose water or other hydrosols for the liquid base, or adding a few pinches of activated charcoal for a deeper clean (although be sure to mix with oil, and know that you’ll need to really scrub with soap to remove the charcoal from your face).

Face & Body Scrub

zero waste body careLike many of the other things I’ve listed above, this recipe is of my own invention, once I realized the few key ingredients in some store brands were hiding in my kitchen! This recipe is delightfully yummy: it scrubs you clean, moisturizes your skin deeply, and makes you smell like a cookie. Many other scrubs of this sort use coffee grounds, but I worked as a barista for many years, so coffee is not a relaxing scent for me, so I avoid it. This recipes uses sugar, brown rice flour, cinnamon, and cookin oil of your choice (I use mixed coconut and olive). Stir it together and you’ll be sweetly exfoliated in no time. See my recipes for homemade body scrub here.

Homemade Lip Balm

homemade lip balm
find little tins like this online or at a store- or reuse old lip balm containers.

Hand’s up if you’re a lip balm addict like me! This is one of my longtime favorite recipes: I’ve been making this yummy cocoa lip balm for years, and it works perfectly. Using just a few ingredients (cocoa butter, beeswax, and coconut oil) you can make all your lip (and body) balm dreams come true. I save all my lip balm tubes and refill then until they break (which inevitably happens); if you’re just getting started, you can buy small glass or metal tins at your local store or online. Check out my recipe for my homemade natural lip balm.

Natural Healing Foot Spray

This is one of the MOST popular articles on my website: I created it nearly a decade ago (yes, a decade of blogging, people) for a boyfriend who always had athlete’s foot. This simple spray requires two plastic bottle purchases (witch hazel and grapefruit seed extract), but it goes a long way and works like a charm. No need to repeatedly purchase aerosol bottles or spray bottles of chemical products that don’t work! Try this natural healing spray for athlete’s foot here.

💕 Andrea


Photos from me/VibrantWellnessJournal (scrub, lip balm) and product images from companies; all other images from Unsplash (Christin Hume, Brooke Lark, ANDI WHISKEY and ika dam.


This post may contain some Amazon Affiliate links; if you purchase something from these links I make a small commission that supports my work and keeps the site running. Thanks for supporting Vibrant Wellness Journal! 

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About Andrea Bertoli 520 Articles
A vegan chef, cookbook author, educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in Honolulu, Andrea is also the Accounts Manager for Important Media. Follow her foodie adventures at AndreaBertoli.com, Vibrant Wellness Journal, and Eat Drink Better. Find more from Andrea on Facebook and Instagram

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