AD: PR Sample—the Poapoa soap in this post was gifted to me by the brand.
Last October I wrote about what I’ve been doing to create a more sustainable shower routine. Today I thought I’d do a follow-up, and take a closer look at some of the products I’ve been buying (and repurchasing—there are a few repeats).
Everything is from cruelty-free brands (except the knitted soap pouch below, which was a handmade gift). I try to buy vegan products wherever possible. Note that vegan and cruelty-free aren’t the same. Vegan means there are no animal derived ingredients; cruelty-free means no animal testing was conducted at any stage of production. Unfortunately, there are no regulations around how these labels are used, but a good rule of thumb is that genuinely ethical brands will be upfront about their policies.
One of the best and the worst things about having strict criteria for what you will and won’t buy is finding products that fit. Sometimes I love hunting down what I need—there are plenty of recommendations out there—and sometimes I miss being able to nip into the supermarket and grab a replacement without thinking about it. But that’s a small price to pay, and I know I’m lucky to be able to make these choices.
Here’s my low waste product stash for the shower.
Swapping bottle shower gel for bar soap has been the easiest low-waste switch by far. It’s not like when I was little and the only soap available was harsh and drying—nowadays, there are plenty of gentle soaps on the market, and lots of them are vegan and cruelty-free to boot.
I try to have one on the go with most products, which I replace when it’s nearly run out, but I usually keep a few soaps in stock so I can switch between them. Nathalie Bond’s Unwind Soap Bar is my favourite for when I want to calm down in the evening, thanks to the lavender scent and nourishing shea butter lather. I also enjoy using Herbivore’s cleansing bars, and I’m excited to try Honest’s Rosehip & Eucalyptus Soap as well.
In the morning, I’m more likely to reach for Poapoa’s Neem & Orange Shea Soap, as the citrus scent is bright enough to be a wake-up call, but not too overpowering when you’re still a bit foggy first thing. The soap contains Vitamin E and Vitamin C, and comes in biodegradable packaging made of recycled paper. Poapoa partner directly with their producers so everyone along the supply chain benefits from the profits, not just those at the top, which you can read more about here. They also recently went plastic-free.
If you use bar soap, then you need a soap pouch in your life. I realise it sounds counterproductive to recommend an extra product when you’re trying to lead a low-waste lifestyle, but hear me out: put your soap in a soap pouch and it lasts longer, which means you need to buy soap less frequently, which means fewer products are consumed and you get better value for money.
Here’s how it works. You jump in the shower and turn it on as normal, then wash your body using the soap while it’s in the pouch. The pouch releases the lather and also acts as a gentle exfoliant. You’re basically getting two services but only have to make the effort of one. I was asked on Instagram how you take care of a soap pouch—I rinse mine out between uses and leave it to air dry, and haven’t had any problems so far.
Sometimes a soap pouch alone isn’t enough, and that’s when I reach for a body scrub. I love a good scrub, but I’m fussy. Too gentle and it’s not worth the effort; too harsh and my skin looks red and scratched for days. (Yes, I have had that happen to me before. This is why we don’t use St Ives anymore, kids.)
First, let’s talk Kind Beeuty. This Turmeric + Lemon Scrub has a sweet lemon scent that reminds me of Pancake Day. Unrefined cane sugar is the main exfoliant, while a mix of oils soothe the skin. These oils are left behind on the skin, which is great for moisturising, but just be aware the turmeric can leave yellow stains on your towels. They encourage their customers to send back clean, empty (plastic-free) jars so they can be used over and over, which is known as a closed-loop recycling system and prevents waste from going to landfill.
As for Nathalie Bond, they make a few body scrubs; I’ve just used up Bloom, which is scented with rose geranium and patchouli. The exfoliant in this one is Himalayan salt, which I find to be a little more coarse than sugar and therefore better for drier areas like elbows, knees and feet. The Bloom body scrub also contains coconut oil and shea butter, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Like the Kind Beeuty Scrub, this one has glass and metal packaging, making it completely plastic-free.
These Beauty Kubes are genius. You crumble them up and mix them with water to create a paste, which then lathers up like standard shampoo. I’ve found that half a cube is more than enough for my fine hair, which has finally crawled past my shoulders while we’ve been in lockdown. I bought the version for oily hair, which is free from sulphates and does a great job of clarifying my roots without making them parched or frizzy. There are also cubes for normal/dry hair if that suits you better.
I bought my box of Beauty Kubes months ago and I’m not even halfway through, so they’re excellent value for money. They’re also plastic-free, arriving packaged in a box made of card.
This Hairy Jayne solid conditioner is a relatively new purchase, as I was previously using up an enormous plastic bottle of conditioner. The box looked tiny when it arrived, but I soon discovered that the product inside is very concentrated. You only need to pinch a tiny bit of conditioner in between your thumb and forefinger, then rub it between wet palms until it forms a paste and apply it to the mid-lengths and ends. I leave it to work its magic for a few minutes while I wash, then rinse it out using hot (but not scalding) water.
Hairy Jayne suggest that anyone with fine and/or straight hair practises reverse washing. Remember when that was all the rage a few years back? You apply your conditioner first, then shampoo. In the past I found that this made my ends really dry, but that’s not the case here. The conditioner is really nourishing—which is saying something considering I haven’t been able to get my hair cut since January—and my hair feels soft afterwards, not greasy or weighed down. Hairy Jayne achieve this by using wheat protein, mango butter and plant oils.
There are three scents available—I went for Musk. (The other two are Floral and Citrus.) You can choose a box, tin or just order the conditioner package-free if you already have somewhere to store it. I’ll be getting a tin next time, now I know this product works for me.
I love my safety razor. I bought one from Content Beauty last spring and it’s saved me so much money—I haven’t even had to buy replacement blades yet.
I wrote a how-to guide on safety razors last year, but here’s a quick refresh:
- A safety razor consists of a handle, one double-edged razor blade, and a head (which encloses the blade, leaving only the edge visible).
- Once you’ve bought the handle and head, all you need to do is replace the razor blades at regular intervals.
- The razor blades are sharper than the blades you’d find on disposable razors, but more gentle on the skin.
- The usual shaving advice applies: exfoliate first to get rid of dead skin cells, then apply some conditioner or use a solid shaving bar.
- Hold your safety razor gently at a 30-degree angle and glide it slowly across your skin, with the grain of the hair. Short strokes are better, especially when you’re getting used to shaving in a slightly different way. Let the weight of the razor do half the work for you.
- Rinse the blade every so often to get rid of any excess product or hair.
- Disassemble your razor and leave each part to dry out. This prevents rust.
Apply a gentle post-shaving balm or oil after you get out of the bath or shower. My ultimate favourite is Fur Oil (see below).
I’ll hold my hands up: Fur Oil is probably the most ridiculous, boujie purchase I’ve ever made. At £46 a bottle, it’s not cheap, but you only need a tiny bit (my last bottle survived for over a year), the bottle is made of glass, not plastic, and it works, so I consider it a payday investment.
Some of you might recognise it from Emma Watson’s Top Shelf interview on Into The Gloss from 2017. It sparked quite a discussion at the time because Fur Oil’s main use is for softening pubic hair and reducing ingrowns, and we live in a society where women in adverts shave their already-hairless legs, and companies sell products designed for cleaning the vagina, even though it cleans itself.
Fur Oil can in fact be used on hair all over the body. (I also use it on my armpits to make shaving easier.) It contains a blend of grape seed, jojoba, tea tree and clary sage seed oils—there are no dyes, no artificial fragrance, and no silicones, so you don’t get that eerily smooth feeling. It’s gentle on sensitive areas and does an excellent job of softening both the hair and the skin.
Now I’ve laid everything out like this, I realise that it seems like a lot. But the joy of only having one of each product (with the exception of soap) is that you don’t need to think about what you’re going to use each day. And I’ve found that if you love everything, you’re not constantly on the lookout for new stuff to buy—a big change from my late teens and early twenties.
What are your favourite low waste buys? Let me know in the comments.
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Beth, 26, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travelling, and gin. Always thinking about my next meal.
I write about ethical & eco-friendly living, minimalism, and mental health, as I muddle through one step at a time. Enjoy!