I learned to audit my toiletries, minimise my hair & grooming regimes and go natural with my nails. I embraced DIY for most products. For store-bought items, I favoured glass packaging and ethical brands. I took it slow, and stayed pampered.
Audit my toiletries
To audit, pull all the items out of the bathroom cupboard and split into separate piles: Keep, Give Away or Throw Out (try to reuse the container if you can). In the ‘Keep’ pile, take note of which items could be substituted by a zero waste alternative. Then, make two lists: To Make & Phase Out. Take it slow, substituting one item at a time.
We went through our bathroom cupboards and took out items that were rarely used or a double-up. There was an alarming amount of stuff. An embarrassing amount. Some items were out of date, others were nearly untouched. We salvaged what was reusable and gave it away on gumtree (yes, people actually took it and they were so happy!). For the remaining stuff, I made two lists: “To Make” & “Phase Out”. The first item I made myself was lemon sea salt spray and I still use it today. I eventually learned to make shampoo, conditioner, soap, face scrub and makeup.
‘Phase out’ was a challenging list to get through. It contained cotton tips, tampons, multi-vitamins, spray deodorant, bleach, after sun gel, plastic flossers and band-aids. I realised that these were either totally pointless items (bleach, really Zoe!?) or there was a very different solution to the problem they solved. A big part of the challenge was using up what we already had – No matter how far I go with zero waste, I still have a never-ending bag of plastic flossers. The habit is made more challenging when these products are still front of mind.
Minimise hair regime
Simplify with a moisturising hair mask, a multi-purpose shampoo, hair conditioning rinse and homemade hair spray.
My entire hair care routine comes from just a few core ingredients. Apart from the money I’m saving, my hair is healthier than before! I have naturally dry, fluffy, thick hair and I used to use a LOT of conditioner and rose hip oil to defrizz. This process made it greasy and probably wasn’t great for my skin. Now, my hair is glossy and tame without being oily. I’m overwhelmed by how minimal this is:
- Coconut oil treatment – once a fortnight
- Liquid Castile soap or Shampoo bar – every 3-5 days
- Apple cider vinegar & thyme conditioning rinse – a few drops in the shower after shampooing
- Lemon hairspray – for daily shine and hold
Grooming is optional
Zero waste helped me cull the last of the grooming products and accept my natural self. My zero waste approach to grooming is now: Pluck, Shave, Trim & the occasional Wax. And you know what? They’re all optional.
I used to be extremely self conscious about body hair. I have dark features so I got teased for having dark baby hairs on my arms, face and belly. I was told that I looked like a man. These comments got to my head and I got a little OTT with hair removal. I would wax, shave, lazer, bleach and pluck until I looked like the unrealistic expectation that others had set for me. I hate looking back at pictures of me with pencil thin eyebrows. I dread to think what lazer did under the surface of my skin. I would hate for men to experience waxing down town – if I wouldn’t wish it upon them, why did I do it?
Today, I have the benefit of being older and not giving a fuck. Zero waste helped me cull the last of the grooming products and accept my natural self. I now know that all those comments were coming from people deflecting their own insecurities. They even teased me for my big brown eyes and petite figure, ha!
I have a totally different perception of beauty now. I think full eyebrows and possum pits are hot. I think soft dark arm hair is completely normal. I think baby hairs glistening over tanned skin is sparkly and gorgeous. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if someone doesn’t have an eye for me, then that’s ok!
In the words of the great Ru Paul: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here!?” AMEN!
These items form the basis of DIY beauty, hair and skin products: Castile liquid soap, Apple cider vinegar, Bicarb/Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Xylitol, Bentonite Clay and Coconut Oil. Anything extra is added for luxury.
If you’re starting out with zero waste, this is a great shopping list to set you off on the right foot. All of this is available package-free at most bulk stores for less than $30 all up.
- Castile liquid soap: Shampoo, makeup remover, face wash, body wash, plus many household uses.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Dilute for hair conditioning rinse, skin toner, and healthy digestion for glowing skin.
- Bicarb/Baking Soda: A core ingredient for acne treatment, toothpowder, deodorant, body scrub and many cleaning solutions.
- Cornstarch: A core ingredient for powdered makeup and deodorant – I’ve had this container for years and finally getting some use out of it.
- Xylitol: Use in toothpowder and mouthwash.
- Bentonite Clay: Use in toothpowder, makeup and face masks – we bought waaay too much. You only need a couple of tablespoons.
- Coconut oil: Use as-is for a hair treatment, mix with other ingredients here to make deodorant, body scrub and toothpaste.
Go natural with my nails
Truly zero waste nails is the all natural approach: Clean, trim, balm and eat a healthy diet.
Nail polish has never suited me. My zero waste approach is clean, trim, balm and eat fish now and then. This achieves a natural ‘French manicure’. The big step taken was to get rid of all the products I’d been holding onto for years. My new system only requires a couple of items, so I gave everything else away on Gumtree.
For those that like polish, simply favour glass packaging and non-toxic, ethical brands. There’s a gap in the market for non-toxic, glass bottles of nail polish remover…new business venture perhaps?
Glass packaging & ethical brands
For anything that doesn’t fit into a DIY or package-free solution, I favour glass, metal and paper packaging by ethical brands.
I love wearing fiery red lipstick. I tried to make a beetroot lip stain, but it just wasn’t bold enough for my liking. I now use Lush ‘Ambition’ Lipstick. The next best thing to zero waste is plastic-free or reusable. Favour glass, metal or paper packaging for extra brownie points.