Over the past couple of months, I have been exploring how to reduce my single-use plastic waste. My initial interest in reducing my plastic consumption stemmed from making an effort to purchase toiletries and cosmetics that were cruelty-free. Whilst there are, increasingly, some really great cruelty-free choices out there, I began to realise that ‘kind to animals’ didn’t always mean ‘kind to the planet’. For me, that didn’t add up.
There began my search for plastic free toiletries (which for the most part tend to be cruelty-free too). Don’t get me wrong, trying to reduce your plastic waste isn’t always a walk in the park. Plastic-packaged products often provide serious convenience, which is pretty addictive; you may have to let go of some of that convenience when sourcing alternatives to plastic.
The other thing to be aware of when trying to swap out plastic is the sustainability of the material that you’re replacing it with. Natural materials that can biodegrade won’t pollute the environment like single-use plastics will, but they can cause their own harm to the environment if they are intensively grown or farmed (and ultimately aren’t sustainable). The trick is to not only reduce single-use plastic, but to reduce as many single-use items, plastic or otherwise, as possible.
Having said that, the point of this post is not to shame anyone for having plastic in their lives. Instead, it’s about helping people to make informed choices about the viable alternatives that are available. Due to factors such as finances or ability, it may not be possible for some people to rid their lives of plastic. My thinking is that, if those of us that are able to reduce our plastic waste do our best to, hopefully, it could take some of the pressure off of the environment and leave the single-use plastics for those that truly need them.
I’ve been on a bit of a journey trying to find plastic free and low waste products and I have tried out quite a few different products. Because of this, I have recently set up my own online plastic free shop (sagefolk.co.uk) so that I can sell the products that I really love.
I have shared my honest opinions on all the toiletries included in this post, irrespective of where you can buy them from. However, some of the links included are affiliate links (* please scroll to the end of the post to read my disclosure about affiliate links in this post) and, some of the links are to my own shop (if you make a purchase there, obviously I will make a financial gain) but some of the links included are to other websites where you can find products that I think work – full disclosure, I’ll probably try and sell them on my own website at some point ;D
So, with all that being said, let’s get into the plastic free toiletries I’ve been using to reduce my plastic waste.
I’m not here to tell you which plastic free swaps are the easiest to make, as I believe that’s entirely personal based on your own budgets and needs. However, I do think a bar of natural soap is probably going to be one of the more accessible swaps that can be made, purely because they are likely to be more readily available than a lot of other plastic free products. I also think they can be very versatile; if you find one you really like, they could potentially replace hand soap, shower gel, face wash and even shampoo and conditioner.
The important thing to remember with bars of soap is that, because they don’t have the protection of a plastic bottle, you can’t really leave them in the shower or sitting in a soggy soap dish as they will simply dissolve (at a much quicker rate than you want them to). To get the most out of your bar, allow them to air dry after use and store them somewhere dry between uses too. Personally, I chop mine into quarters when I first buy them as this makes the size of them more manageable when I use them in the shower but it also helps get the most out of the bar too.
I really like the Friendly Soap bars because, for me, they are the most affordable natural soaps I’ve come across and they are packaged in a little cardboard box that is made from recycled materials (but are still recyclable too). I like them so much as a company, that I’ve started selling them on my own plastic free online shop that I’ve set up; sagefolk.co.uk
Plastic Free Deodorant
There are a few plastic free toiletries that I have had to try a lot of different varieties of before finding something that worked for, deodorant is one of those products. I initially tried one of the Earth Conscious deodorants which I thought was great. But unfortunately, after quite a while of using it, I had a really bad skin reaction to their formula. After a lot of research into natural deodorants, I discovered this was most likely because the product contained bicarbonate of soda (which is a natural ingredient that helps keep your underarms dry).
It was really difficult to find a plastic free deodorant that didn’t contain bicarb so I switched back to the regular stuff for a while. Then I came across Peace with the Wild, which is a truly great plastic free online shop. They have a really good range of plastic free products (not just toiletries) which is always expanding.
I found the Happy Holistics deodorants which are bicarb free, plastic free and vegan too. I’ve been using the ‘soothing’ scent which I love and have found completely kind to my skin.
These are a really great alternative to plastic toothbrushes and there’s quite a lot of variety out there (just buying these for myself, I’ve not found them drastically different in price point to plastic toothbrushes. They look, feel and perform like a plastic toothbrush and, as far as I’m aware, bamboo is a sustainable material. Something to check when purchasing a bamboo toothbrush is that some will still have plastic bristles. However, these ones from TOMARCO don’t and are 100% biodegradable.
What’s the use of a plastic free toothbrush if your toothpaste is in a plastic tube hey? I know Georganics do a plastic free toothpaste that comes in a glass jar but personally I wasn’t keen on the texture or the taste of it. It’s also really expensive in comparison to a tube of the regular stuff.
Instead, I’ve been using Denttabs plastic free toothpaste tablets from Peace with the Wild. You just chew the tablet until it foams up into a consistency that is pretty much the same as regular toothpaste, wet your toothbrush and brush as normal. The tablets come with and without fluoride if that’s a concern for you.
Solid Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
I think solid shampoo and conditioner bars are probably going to be one of the easiest plastic free swaps you can make.
I first switched to solid bars whilst on a camping holiday and let me tell you, having two bars that I could wash my entire hair and body with was a heck of a lot easier to deal with whilst living that field life – you also don’t have to worry about liquid limits when travelling by plane.
Pro tip: to get the most out of solid bars, remove them from the shower/ bath area when not using them and let them air dry. You can also cut them up into smaller pieces and just use one at a time to avoid the whole thing dissolving quicker than it should.
Although I am 100% sold on solid shampoo and conditioner, my search for the perfect alternative to plastic bottled products was not easy. To date, I have tested out at least 5-6 types and brands before finding something that was truly a viable option for me. I won’t go into too much detail here because I will dedicate an entire post to finding the best solid shampoo bars, but the main issues I came across were:
- some solid shampoo bars contain SLS. Some people don’t like it because it can be a skin irritant, for me, it’s just not great for my naturally frizzy waves.
- natural shampoo bars don’t work for every hair type or water type – I live in an area of the UK with very hard water and just found this worked against all the goodness of the shampoo bars I was trying out.
- natural shampoo bars (on the whole) do not contain any form of detergent (likely because detergent is often harsh and not naturally derived). Because of my hair type, I do use product in my hair, I’ve found that I need something with a mild detergent in it to remove the product from my hair.
The Best Solid Shampoo Bar
The best shampoo bar I’ve found that leaves my hair feeling clean, fresh and not full of product residue is, in fact, more of a cube, or rather Beauty Kubes. They contain a mild detergent that, in its chemical form, looks like SLS- but it’s not. They do have a higher price point than buying the regular, bottled stuff but you can order two sample cubes (for £1.50) and see if they work for you before having to commit to the full priced packet.
Funky Soap London
Full disclosure: I did not get on with this as a shampoo bar. The bar came with really great instructions and did warn of an adjustment period after switching from the (often) chemical-heavy plastic bottled stuff. But I just could not get it to work for my hair – I think the fact that I live in an extremely hard water area of the UK was affecting the results I was getting.
However, I’ve included it because there are plenty of reviews which suggested other people have got on with it (as well as some who haven’t). I’ve also included it because it’s one of the lower-priced options and I ended up using it as a face and body wash – which I found it fine for.
Lush Solid Shampoo
I have to admit, I really loved the solid shampoo bar I bought from lush when I first decided to switch to something plastic-free. However, I was a bit disappointed to discover it contained SLS as this was also something I was trying to cut out ( I just can’t live with the frizz).
What I will say is that, if you are solely looking to cut out plastic and don’t mind SLS, or if you are new to trying out solid shampoo, this might still be a suitable option for you.
The Lush shampoo bars are around the same price as Beauty Kubes so might not work for every budget.
Soul and Soap
Soul and Soap offer a very similar solid shampoo to lush but are cheaper for a bar, although you do have to pay shipping so it would only work out cheaper if you were buying more than one item.
When I initially purchased their lemongrass solid shampoo I’m sure the bar contained SLS and I did find it left my hair frizzy. However, I notice that their solid shampoo is now listed as SLS-free so it looks like they may have changed their formula. Their products look and smell great so I would be willing to re-purchase and give it another go.
Solid Conditioner Bar
Whilst I didn’t get on with Funky Soap’s solid shampoo bar, I am really happy with the solid conditioner. It is more expensive than your average bottle of conditioner but it lasts so long (honestly, I cut mine into chunks and it lasted me 6 months!). I rub it onto the ends of my hair after shampooing and let it soak in for a while before rinsing it out.
Reusable Cotton Rounds
Cotton pads are a good example of a biodegradable single-use item (which usually come in plastic packaging too) that can still have a detrimental impact on the environment. Cotton is apparently a crop which takes a lot of land, water, chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers to grow, all of which can take its toll on the environment.
Switching to reusable cotton rounds will reduce the consumption of single-use cotton, as well as cotton in general. If you’re able to source organic cotton rounds, then there won’t be the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides either.
I love these particular rounds so much that I’ve bought a second set, just so that I don’t have to wash them all as often. They come in a little drawstring bag which makes washing them so much easier because they can scrunch up and get easily lost in the wash otherwise.
Trying to find plastic-free products that work can be a bit of an adventure but it’s certainly one worth taking. Hopefully, you’ll find some alternatives to plastic that are suitable swaps for you. I certainly won’t be stopping at toiletries when it comes to reducing my plastic waste. Reducing food packaging and switching out our household cleaning products are also next on the agenda.
How have you found living without plastic (or rather, less plastic)? I’m interested to hear about your favourite plastic-free products (and even the ones that were complete fails).
To keep up to date with my efforts to reduce my plastic consumption, check out the posts in my Plastic Free and Zero Waste category.
* Please note, some of the links in this post contain affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and make a purchase then I will make a small commission from the purchase (at no extra cost to you). All of the products featured in this article have been purchased by me, with my own money and I have not received any sponsorship to create this post – the views are entirely my own.