Green Tour: Bathroom (Part 1: Products)

Bathroom rendering

Over the last few years I’ve been trying to get away from a bathroom filled with products that promise to deliver this or that and make you feel perfectly pulled together (but never do). For example:

  • My husband struggled with shaving bumps and irritated skin despite all the promises made by the products he was using. One day his shaving cream bottle malfunctioned and sprayed a bunch of really perfumed, cold air all over his face. It made him gag and stunk up our bathroom for a scarily long time.
  • Then there was my deodorant issue; I kept switching brands hoping to find the magic one that worked for me. When I mentioned it to my doctor, I got a prescription that stopped me from sweating at all, which probably prevented my body from clearing out toxins as it was supposed to.

As I continued looking for a better way, I found out about the Cosmetic Safety Database, which ranks thousands of products’ hazard level. I stopped using and gave away many of the products I already had. As time went on, I found that the more I simplified my routine, the better I felt and looked.

Here’s a run down of some of the ways that we’ve cut out both unnecessary packaging waste as well as toxins from our personal care routines:

  • Hair: We now share a conditioning shampoo bar by Chagrin Valley. It is hand made by a couple in Ohio and comes wrapped in a small brown paper bag.**Note that they do wrap items in bubble wrap when shipping but when I requested that they skip it in our package to reduce waste, they did.
  • Face: We both like carrot bars for the face, especially Burt’s Bees Garden Carrot Complexion Soap (which dried quickly and lasted almost a year) or the Carrot & Honey Complexion bar by Chagrin Valley.
  • Body: We share either one of the many hand-made soaps from Naturally Good Soaps — made by a single mom in our neighborhood, who is saving the money for her son’s college tuition; she packages the soaps with only a small strip of brown paper around the center — or one of Dr. Bronner’s all-in-one organic, fair-trade soaps — which come wrapped in recycled paper printed with soy based inks and can be found in many stores that sell bath products.
  • Moisturizer: using natural soaps like the ones above doesn’t strip the moisture from your skin, so you may not need lotion anymore. The few times my hands or skin have felt dry, I’ve used olive oil or Whipped Mousse from Chagrin Valley.
  • Deodorant: Finally, a product that works! We use this deodorant stone by wetting it a bit and rubbing it under our arms. For a extra protection and a nice unisex scent, we also spray a bit of witch hazel with several drops of tea tree essential oil (antibacterial) and lavender essential oil. The deodorant stone did come in a plastic bag, but it makes a lot less waste than deodorant sticks. We’ve both been using it for about 6 months and we’ve only worn down one side slightly.
  • For him: Peter also uses a shaving soap, which he rubs with a shaving brush, cutting out an aerosol can and lasting much longer. He no longer has shaving bumps because wetting the hair with water and soap actually softens it and makes it easier for the blade to cut it. He also started using a safety razor. It works better because he only goes over each area once, reducing pulling and irritation. The safety razor doesn’t require blades with plastic casings so it makes less waste too (but it isn’t quite as scary as jumping in to learning how to use a straight edge!)
  • For her: I also use Hemp Blemish Salve. I got it after I started getting pregnancy breakouts but found that if I use my fingernail to get out about a pea sized ball it covers my entire face and works as a moisturizer as well. I’m in love with the scent from the essential oils in it. It comes in a glass jar with a plastic lid and it seems like it’s going to last forever. Lastly, I use Bare Essentuals makeup, which are mostly small tubs of loose powdered makeup. They are very concentrated so a little goes a long way, making the packaging last.

Just as important as what we are using, is what we are NOT using (and NOT missing), such as various formulas of shampoos for highlighted hair, dandruff control, and mini shampoo bottles for travel; bottles of conditioners for daily use and deep conditioning; bars and bottles of specialized body wash for sensitive skin and for men; face washes: exfoliating, moisturizing, sensitive skin, make-up removing, for men; moisturizers: daytime with sunscreen, night cream, makeup primer, scented body lotions; and various deodorants (don’t even get me started on all the kinds I tried!).

Some extra benefits

The products we use now last longer and cost less over their lifetime. The products we refuse keep the money from ever leaving our wallets. All these changes make for a less crowded bathroom (after all, it is only 5 feet by a little more than 2 feet excluding the tub). We also have a much easier time traveling, since we share most products and the witch hazel is the only liquid we have to worry about carrying on an airplane.

Before you ask

Just in case, you’re wondering, of course we still brush our teeth. We just haven’t made any changes in this area. I like Tom’s of Maine Peppermint Baking Soda the best.