Personal hygiene & cosmetics
We do it every day, probably without thinking. In the morning we unscrew the toothpaste and enjoy the change from furry tongue to smooth freshness. The fruity smell of our shampoo awakens our senses and makes us feel squeaky clean. Once we have finished with our daily routine, it's very likey that we wreaked a small heavoc not just on the environment but also on our own body. To see why and how to make an easy switch, scroll down to the area you are most interested in or just read from top to bottom.
The website Skin Deep compiled an excellent list on all chemicals to look out for and to avoid, which you find here:
A quick summery of the most common chemicals to avoid:
Parabens (cause hormone disruption, skin irritation, neurotoxixity, immununotoxicity & may increase breast cancer risk)
Triclosan (a pesticide, toxic to aquatic life, which use has been restricted by the EU but might still be used in some products)
Phthalates - or synthetic fragrances (found in virtually every product, cause for various concerns, e.g breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues hormone disruption
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) (foaming agent - skin and eye irritant & low toxicity to aquatic organism)
Did you know that you can recycle your old toothbrush? I guess most uf us not, that's why they usually end up in landfill or in our oceans where they become a hazard to wildlife, e.g. parts of it were found in the stomachs of dead albatrosses. You could also re-use your old toothbrush for some household chores, the Oral Health Foundation has compiled an interesting list on how your toothbrush can be of further use after brushing your teeth once it isn't an attractive option anymore. But you could also simply stop buying conventional plastic toothbrushes and instead opt for the following more environmentally friendly options:
- Buy a toothbrush with a removable head so that you can keep the handle and only need to change the head, which already saves a lot of plastic and packaging. Yaweco offers brush heads made either from nylon or natural bristle brush made from boar hair (where the boar is shorn like a sheep).
- Buy a toothbrush made from environmentally friendly bamboo. Bamboo is part of the grass family and grows very quickly and without pesticides, making it a sustainable option. You can buy bamboo toothbrushes at Holland & Barret or Waitrose or order it online, e.g. at Living Naturally
Make sure your toothpaste doesn't contain any microbeads (tiny plastic particles which can be called anything from the following: Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon (PA)) or simply switch to environmentally friendly options like Kingfisher or my absolute favourite Sarakan toothpaste (can be found in most healthfood stores like Holland and Barret).
If you are worried about your breath and hooked on mouthwash, make sure it doesn't contain alcohol as this will only dry out your mouth and make you even more prone to bad breath. Also avoid antibacterial mouthwash, why would you want to kill off the very things you need - the friendly bacteria? If you want an antibacterial mouthwash, go gentle on yourself and your purse and simply mix some warm water with about a tea spoon of normal cooking salt and gargle with it. I also use this when I have a sore throat and it works wonders.
Shower gels, soaps and shampoos
The first apparent problem with shower gels and shampoos is that they usually come in plastic bottles. Sometimes they still contain microbeads (tiny plastic particles, see above) even though the call for a ban has become ever louder. Showergel also contains plasticisers (softening agents) to make the soap into a liquid. But some of them might have an even nastier side to them and contribute to the destruction of the rainforest and therefore the killing of far too many animals, not to mention the impact on climate change. They can also contain toxins, that accumulate in your body and can lead to several serious diseases like cancer.
Unfortunately, most of the big companies, whose products are usually adorning the aisles of every supermarket and who dominate the market, don't seem to care too much about the environmental (and ultimately health problems) their products can cause. Here are a few tips on what to look out for the next time you need a new cleanser, for whichever part of your body:
- Get a bar of soap from e.g. Lush, Pure Nuff Stuff, or Caurnie
- Avoid (triclosan in) antibacterial soaps (toxic & can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria)
Enjoying the nice smooth feel of your skin after you smothered it in some moisteriser or anti-wrinkle cream? Be careful what's in it, because the very product you are using to make your skin more smooth might in the end give you more wrinkles or its ingredients might penetrate your skin and accumulate in your body and causing havoc there.
Therefore, check the label and avoid the following ingredients as listed on the Skin Deep website. Or get your skincare products from he the following ethical and organic companies: Odylique, Bentley Organics, Faith in Nature, Greenpeople, Neal's Yard, Dr. Hauschka, Honestyskincare, Logona, Pure Nuff Stuff, Lush, or other certified organic companies. Just remember that the most common and most expensive products aren't necessarily the best and that "Natural" doesn't necessarily mean it's organic or good for you.
Common deoderants can include some rather toxic elements you should avoid like *Parabens (inconclusive evidence yet but research suggsts it could cause breast cancer), *Aluminium (can promote breast cancer, especially if you have broken skin due to shaving), *Triclosan (linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, disrupts thyroid function, may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics, toxic to aquatic life), *Phthalates (can affect the reproductive system), *Fragrance (could be phthalates).
Ditch it and make your own, is the only advice I can really give you (you can find an easy recipe for your own deoderant in the section "Ideas & recipes". The problem with bought organic deoderants is, for me at least, that they don't always work, whereas my homemade deoderant has never let me down. If you
Female hygiene products:
Tampons and pads are expensive and both end up in landfill. A much more environmentaly friendly, and much cheaper alternative in the long-run is the mooncup. About 10 years ago a friend of mine gave me one as a birthday present and I have never looked back, it's not just more practical and comfortable, it's also more environmentally friendly, holds more liquid and you will never have the problem again that you have run out of sanitary products. Another option is a new local startup called WUKA, who make Period Underwear, which are designed and manufactured in the UK. Again, as with the mooncup, the initial price you have to invest is a bit higher than for conventional menstrual products but since they are both re-usable it will save you much in a life-time. If you now cringe at the thought of re-using a menstrual product check out sanitary products from Natracare which are all unbleached and made from organic cotton (& you might want to ask yourself why we are still being programmed to think of such a natural act as having our period is still thought about as something unclean).
Styling, shaving and cosmetics
If you are a fan of stiff hair, have you ever wondered what's really in that bottle of hairspray? Probably not but if you now started to wonder: It's basically plastic dissolved in a dilution and then pressured into spraying can. It often contains so many harmful chemicals, that these days hairdressers face an occupational hazard called commonly "Hairdresser's lung" and it also often contains hormone-disrupting phthalates. Unfortunately gels and mousses are not much better as they still contain many ingredients that are environmentally damaging and harmful to human health. I couldn't find any ecological sound products or solutions either so the only practical advice would probably to ask your hairdresser next time to advise on a hair style you can do without any of these products. If you really think that this is out of the question, then at least try to buy products with the fewest and least-toxic ingredients and chose pump-sprays over aerosols. If you want to find out more, check out Pat Thomas' book "Skin Deep".
Cotton buds – who needs them if you are noy allowed to play with them in your ear canal? However, if you think you do, then at least make sure that they don’t contain the plastic stick, as they might end up in our oceans and contribute to marine pollution, as shown by photographer Justin Hofman with this picture of a seahorse clutching – a plastic cotton bud. Luckily, most big retailers have made the pledge to switch to paper sticks. Find out which brands support the paper stick here and sign the petition here to call on all retailers to make the switch.
Whether you are female or male - Don't use a disposible razor! There is actually not such thing as disposible as somebody will have to deal with your waste in the end and with all plastic waste it will at some point probably end up in the oceans and back on your plate so do us all a favour and never buy them again. Instead, get an electrical razor or a recycable razor from Preserve.
I am not an expert on cosmetics as I am not a fan of it myself but here are a few articles on what to avoid and what to look out for.
This article gives tips on 3 cosmetics: Foundation, Lipstick and Mascara. Or click on the Makeup section on the Skin Deep website to check for certain cosmetics or even articles. Or check out some of the companies mentioned in the "Moisteriser" section, of which many also offer cosmetics, e.g. Dr. Hauschka and Logona.