I was chatting with two of my housemates the other day about beauty products and they were surprised to hear that I did not use specialized beauty care products like face wash or facial moisturizer. Rather, I rinse my face with warm water (or soap if I put on sunscreen) and then moisturize with pure argan oil. Our conversation reminded me that my minimal beauty routine was not always so minimal. Like most women, I’ve tried hundreds of personal care products over my teenage and adult years. When I was younger, I constantly switched which shampoo and conditioner that I used based upon what was cheapest at the grocery store. I owned multiple bags full of cosmetics, constantly searching for a lipstick that didn’t dry out my lips, mascara that wouldn’t run but would easily wash off or eye make up that wouldn’t crease. I spent way too much time and money trying new products, always looking for something that worked better or was cheaper.
As I got older and wiser (i.e. after my face broke out in a rash after using Pantene Pro-V), I started to read up more about the estrogen-mimicking chemicals in most personal care products (e.g. sodium laurel sulfate, parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrance, etc.) and their health hazards. I realized that I needed to craft a more minimalist approach to beauty centered around fewer items made from more natural ingredients for my mental and physical health. I was tired of my bathroom being messy with dozens of different products. I just wanted to find products that worked, whose ingredients I trusted and reduce the time that I put into buying and using personal care products. As part of this shift, I gave up make up, perfume and nail polish; it took me a long time to accept, but I always felt a bit awkward when I used make up and preferred the way I looked without it. This saved me the monumental task of finding non-toxic alternatives to all of the make up that I previously used and saved me a ton of money. #winning!
Here is my minimal beauty kit. It is simple, works extremely well for me and costs less than $60 to pull together:
- Shampoo – I’ve tried a bunch of different shampoo bars, but never found one that I liked so I buy a locally produced shampoo called Shikai. Yes, it comes in a plastic bottle but the transportation emissions are minimal since it is produced within a two-hour drive of where I live. Shampoo bars are theoretically a great zero waste alternative, but I have yet to find one I like. What I really should be doing is finding a store in my new neighborhood where I can refill my shampoo bottle so it goes from a single-use plastic container to a reusable plastic container.
- Conditioner – I experimented with ditching conditioner for a while and replacing it with coconut oil and later argan oil. While this worked to a certain degree, it was really tricky to get right and I often ended up with slightly oily looking hair. Then I gave up conditioner all together and ended up with lots of split ends from my hair breaking. I’m now back to using conditioner and like with the shampoo, need to find a place in my new neighborhood to refill my conditioner when it is empty.
- Soap – My husband is a big fan of Kirk’s Castile Soap, which is a coconut-oil based soap without phthalates or sodium-laurel sulfate that you can find at many grocery stores nationwide. I like to get the unscented version because artificial fragrance can be an endocrine disruptor. I also buy locally made, traditionally crafted soaps from olive oil, goats milk, etc. that are fragranced with essential oils and have no sulfates added. I use soap both for cleaning my body and for shaving.
- Deodorant – I like to use Crystal deodorant, because it looks and feels great (it is a clear mist so won’t wipe off onto your clothes) and works very well if you use it on clean skin by preventing bacteria from growing (and making you stinky). Plus, most other deodorants have chemicals (i.e. aluminum salts) in them that are associated with breast cancer. The bummer is that it does come in plastic packaging; they do offer a crystal bar that is meant to sit on a soap dish and could easily change the way they package that to be in paper or backyard compostable packaging.
- Exfoliant – the Japanese bathhouse that I go to in San Francisco gives out bowls of sea salt to use to scrub down your body to remove dead skin. I use the same approach at home, spending a few dollars buying sea salt in bulk and then can exfoliate my entire body weekly for months. If your skin is dry, you can also make a moisturizing sugar scrub using raw sugar and grapeseed oil, which is a bit more expensive than salt due to the cost of the oil but infinitely better for your pocketbook than all of the store bought scrubs and it works better than any store bought product I have tried! Plus, many store bought exfoliants contain chemicals that are bad for your health and use microbeads that are wreaking havoc on our lakes, rivers and oceans.
- Moisturizer – Trader Joe’s Organic Argan Oil cost me $6.99 and lasted me 6 months of moisturizing my face twice a day. It is lightweight, quickly absorbed and 100% natural. It comes in a glass bottle so most of it is recyclable, minus the plastic and rubber lid. I will also run my hands through my wet hair after applying it to tame fly aways. The rest of my skin is pretty healthy and usually doesn’t need moisturizer, but if ever my legs look a bit dry, I’ll smooth on argan oil or coconut oil (which smells and works great, but isn’t as quickly absorbed as argan oil).
- Hand Cream – in winter, I need to put on something a bit thicker than argan oil. Burt’s Bees has a nice hand salve that comes in a metal container that could be reused for carrying small things in the future and did a great job of keeping my hands looking good this winter. It is available in most grocery stores nationwide.
- Chapstick – yet again, Burts Bees Lip Balm is my favorite here. They offer chapstick in a recyclable metal container instead of the single-use plastic tubes.
- Sunscreen – The majority of the time, I try to avoid using sunscreen and instead, cover up when I’m outside. I use a wide-brimmed hat, cover my neck with a bandana and wear long-sleeves. Sometimes, this is not possible and on those occasions, I use Baby Bum, a non-nano zinc oxide based sunscreen. It is surprisingly light, almost chalky feeling for a mineral sunscreen compared to most others that I have tried that are thick, sticky and turn you bright white.
While I like my routine and it works well for me, I do strive to move towards a zero waste lifestyle and I hope to find a way to eliminate the single use packaging that I consume today with the shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and sunscreen. I took time today to write Shikai, Crystal and Baby Bum to ask if they sell their products in bulk anywhere nearby and to see if they have considered moving to alternative, plastic-free packaging. I’ll update this blog post if any of them get back to me with promising news!