20 easy zero waste beauty swaps: the ultimate guide to a zero waste bathroom

Bathroom and beauty products can be a huge source of waste, both single use plastic and disposables: think about all those plastic shampoo bottles, cotton buds, make up removing pads, lotion containers, toothbrushes, tampons and pads, toothpaste tubes that are thrown away every single day. It might seem like nothing but the quantity of waste that we produce simply when getting a shower or getting ready in the morning has a massive impact on a large scale and on the long term. Recycling can help but it’s far from being the solution to the plastic waste problem, so it’s important to cut down waste to the source. Luckily it is very easy to turn our daily habits into more sustainable ones through simple swaps.

A few days ago I’ve finished reading the book “How to give up plastic” by Will McCallum, which has been a very pleasant and interesting read that I recommend to anyone, wether you are a moving your first steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle or wether you are already a familiar to actions and habits that will help you cut down your waste and plastic waste. For me reading this book has been a great reminder of how simple daily actions and choices can be impactful and how important it is to always try our best. This book gives you facts about plastic pollution without preaching and gives you practical tips to get your plastic free journey started or to continue improving your habits.

Inspired by this book, I’ve decided to put together a list of easy and simple swaps for a zero/low waste and plastic free bathroom according to my personal experiences and knowledge that I gathered through these past few years of less waste. However I always invite people to be mindful: the last thing you want to do is to run to a store and buy a bunch of plastic free supplies. I know that you can get excited and passionate and would like to change everything immediately or over night. But please to try finish up what you have first and to use what you have in the first place. Remember that every big change is made of small steps towards the right direction.

Solid shampoo vs. bottled shampoo
This is so easy and yet so effective! Now even drugstores started to sell their own versions of solid shampoo bars, so they can be found easily everywhere. Otherwise, Lush can be a good alternative (they have stores everywhere and if not you can easily order products online). I have been using their Jumping Juniper shampoo (the purple one) for quite some time now and it’s really really good. Plus solid products last much longer than bottled products and are easier to travel with.

ACV rinse vs. bottled conditioner
I am a fan of apple cider vinegar used as conditioner: it is cheap and easy to find in glass bottles, makes your hair shiny and healthy. But I do get that because of its acidity and smell not everyone is willing to commit to it. Again Lush comes to the rescue with solid conditioners. Or you can skip the conditioner and try some homemade repairing hair masks.

Soap bar vs. bottled body wash & bottled face wash
Like for solid shampoos, there are so many options on the market when it comes to soap bars! They have been sold in drugstores in cardboard boxes forever and they can be easily used as a multipurpose product (face wash, body wash and hand soap).

DIY deodorant vs. store bought deodorant
I’ve been making my own deodorant for 3,5 years now and I’ve never looked back. It is such a simple and quick recipe and it is hand down the best deodorant I’ve ever used.

Bamboo toothbrush vs. plastic toothbrush
Up to 1 billion (yes, million but with a b) plastic toothbrushes are thrown away each year just in the US alone. Insane!! So why not switching to a bamboo toothbrush? The bristles may still be synthetic (so plastic) but the rest of the toothbrush is fully compostable. When you have to change your toothbrush, all you need to do is break the head off and throw it in the general waste and put the rest in the compost/organic waste bin. Easy, right? 🙂

Toothpaste tabs vs. toothpaste
These might be trickier to find if you don’t have a bulk shop where you live, but you can look up online. Basically you chew the tablet to create a little paste and then you brush your teeth like you normally would. Clever, right? And they are so neat to travel with! Alternatively you can try to make your own toothpaste out of some simple ingredients.

Reusable cotton rounds vs. disposable cotton rounds or make up removing wipes
You can either make you own or buy them in a pack (and these days they’re actually quite easy to find), but you definitely can cleanse your face very easily without necessarily having to rely on disposables.

Coconut oil vs. make up remover
Coconut oil can be used for different purposes and removing make up is one of them. Just a small amount can remove easily all the makeup from your face (even waterproof mascara). If coconut oil is too thick for you, simple olive oil or any vegetable oil will do.

Menstrual cup vs. tampons
Over the course of a lifetime, women use more than 10.000 tampons on average! Tampons are expensive, they can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome, they contain toxic chemicals and of course are terrible for the environment. Switching to a menstrual cup was intimidating and challenging, but once I got the hang of it, I haven’t looked back. Menstrual cups come in all sizes and price ranges nowadays, so there’s definitely one for you out there. If menstrual cups doesn’t work for you, you can give reusable pads, period underwear or reusable tampons (yes, they are a thing!) a try.

DIY moisturizer
Going plastic free in your bathroom doesn’t mean that you have to neglect your skincare. In the attempt of streamlining my skincare routine, I think I damaged my skin barrier so much that I was super dry and full of irritation, breakouts and weird bumps at the same time. I have been using products from The Ordinary and a little DIY cream as my skincare of choice and so far so very good. You can look for products that are more eco friendly and that usually are more beneficial for your skin, and luckily more and more companies are trying to make a difference by switching to more sustainable packaging and formulas. Lush for example sells some skincare products in returnable containers. If you’re feeling a bit more “adventurous” you can try to make your own moisturizer (I am using a mix of rose hip oil and aloe vera gel atm) or make your own lotion/butter : probably a butter-y moisturizer would be too thick for many out there (you can find a non-greasy recipe here) but maybe in winter would work out fine to protect skin from cold weather. I have found that using aloe vera works good for me, at least for now (I still have to find it in glass, but a big tube goes a long way), and I’ll eventually enrich the formula if needed during winter.

DIY dry shampoo vs. spray canned dry shampoo
I know that not everyone uses or likes to use dry shampoo and personally I use it every now and then. But honestly this DIY recipe is so simple and quick that it’s worth trying! Plus, and more importantly, you know EXACTLY which ingredients you’re putting on your scalp without harming your health or the environment.

Compostable floss vs. normal floss
I have to confess that I am a little behind the floss game because I don’t floss often 🙈 and I still have floss bought before my plastic free / low waste journey 🙈 oops! In the attempt of motivating myself to finish it up, I talk about the sustainable version of it: usually silk or cotton, but much better than the commercial plastic-y version because you can dispose of it in the compost bin.

Safety razor / epilator vs. disposable plastic razors
A safety razor might seem like a huge expense but trust me, it does pay off in the long run. It lasts forever, you just need to change the blades when needed (they are fully recyclable) and if you buy them online you can save tons of money. Millions of disposable razors are thrown away each year and are used only for a couple of weeks on average! A safety razor blade has a much lower environmental impact and can give you the closest, cleanest shave ever. Downsides: if you travel by plane you are not allowed to bring the blade with you as it gets confiscated at security check. Another item that for me has been life changing has been my trusty epilator: my mom bought it for me in 2006 (!!!) and still works beautifully (although it is probably not great to use on sensitive areas).

DIY Mouthwash
Again, another easy recipe that is wallet-friendly and takes no time to make. You can customize it and add a bit of vodka in it if you like your mouthwash to have that alcoholic, disinfectant taste or leave it plain natural, but the effect stays the same and there’s so much less plastic trash involved.

DIY face/body scrub
Thinking that years ago putting micro plastic beads in face/body scrubs (and sadly in other products too) was a thing, makes me cringe really bad. Nowadays plastic beads have been ditched by most companies and aren’t contained any longer in the majority of products (you might want to check the label or ask the company though), but it is so easy to make your own at home with just one or two ingredients that I personally see no point in buying one.

DIY face mask
Again, like for the body scrub, you can easily make masks at home using ingredients from your kitchen or fridge instead of buying those facial sheet masks or single use packets in drugstores. Avocado, honey, coffee, yogurt, oats, lemon juice… you name it! Just make a quick search online, mix the ingredients into a bowl and you‘re done!

Disposable q-tips vs. compostable q-tips (or your pinky finger!!) Probably you all have seen the picture of that little sea horse carrying a q-tip with its tail… heartbreaking. Well, if you want to prevent this from happening more and more, you can easily switch to compostable q-tips that are made of organic cotton and contain no plastic at all. Or you can completely ditch them! If you need to clean your ears or fix any makeup smudge, just use your pinky finger.

Wooden brush / comb vs. plastic brush /comb
Wooden brushes are much better for the health of your hair (they tend to break your hair much less, distribute the oils evenly and are much gentler on the scalp), are usually made of sustainable materials and tend to last much much longer than the plastic options. They might be a little more expensive than the cheap plastic option but they do pay off in the long run. Please remember that hair have to be thrown away in the waste bin and not in the toilet!!

Plastic free makeup
Even though I have streamlined a lot my make up routine over the past few years (and went completely make up free for 6-7 months), this is still a difficult one for me. Recently I went back to make up (just two, three products but they all involve plastic in their packaging) and I can’t share much on this topic yet, so I‘ll link a post by Katherine of Going Zero Waste on this topic for any reference.

Plastic free toilet paper + bidet
Well, we all need to… evacuate, so toilet paper is something we all need to buy. Instead of opting for the plastic packaged toilet paper that drugstores and supermarkets sell, you can buy bigger quantities online that come in a fully recyclable cardboard box. You can check out companies like Who Gives A Crap and Smooth Panda (I personally opt for the second one because the company is based in Germany and it involves less travel for the delivery at my address). Both companies sell plastic free tissues boxes too.
You can also consider a portable bidet or a bidet attachment in your bathroom to help you keep your secret parts fresh and clean (and use less toilet paper).

I hope this guide will help you making your everyday personal care habits more sustainable. Please do keep in mind that it’s not about becoming perfect at this, but trying your best and do what you can 😊 As always, let me know if you have any questions or things you‘d like me to cover more in depth.

I‘ll talk to you soon! Take care


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