Beauty and the Bathroom: Five simple ways to be kinder to the planet and your pocket.

Have you ever worried about the toxins that you absorb from cosmetics through your skin? Most likely this has crossed your mind at some point. Maybe you’ve even changed to organic shampoo or chemical free foundation.  

What about wider environmental consequences of the beauty industry? The broader effects that those pretty pots of lotions and potions have on people and planet receive little publicity. You may be aware that fashion is the world’s most polluting industry after oil, but did you know that Europe alone generates two million tonnes of chemical substances per year in relation to the production and commercialisation of cosmetics?

This is a shocking statistic but hardly surprising considering that the average adult woman uses around twelve different cosmetics per day (for teenagers, the figure rises to seventeen). Yet there are simple steps that we as consumers can take to lessen our individual impact. Here are five easy ways to make your beauty routine and your bathroom that little bit kinder to the planet – and make savings in your pocket too.

1. Don’t switch on the shower until you’re ready to get into it

How many of us are guilty of running the water minutes before we intend to get in? Only with the most decrepit central heating or on the very coldest morning do we actually need to do that; usually it’s just a total waste. Instead start pressing the button or turning the dial only when you’re ready to step under.  

This basic change is up there with not leaving the tap running while brushing our teeth, as was drummed into us all at school (or was that just where I went?).

Planet: many Africans only get twenty litres of water per day. In contrast, Germans use 121 litres per person per day, with a third of that going on bodily hygiene. Those additional seconds add up.

Pocket: less hot water to warm, less heating used, less on your utility bills.

2. Swap shower gel for soap

Shower gel: stop using it. As simple as that. I feel like this is my personal mission in the world, converting people back to the good old bar of soap.

Planet: one less plastic bottle in your bathroom. Imagine how much plastic that is over the course of your lifetime!

Pocket: even the fanciest soap often costs less than a bottle of shower gel, and it lasts longer as well.

3. Only flush the three Ps

Not to put too finer point on it, toilets were designed for three products and they all begin with p: poo, pee, paper. Nothing else is meant to go down there, but we often get tempted to flush wipes, cotton wool, ear buds and other beauty paraphernalia away. Get a small bin or take your litter with you to dispose of in the kitchen.  

Planet: in 2016, 4,000 wet wipes were found washed up on British beaches, up 400 per cent from the year before.

Pocket: you’ll be less prone to sewer blockages, saving you another p: a plumber.

4. Set yourself a ‘Use It Up’ challenge

Framing anything as a challenge makes it more appealing (I’m not alone in that, surely?!). Gather up all your toiletries and make-up so that you’re clear about what you actually possess. Enough shampoos to kit out a salon? Toothpaste that you don’t even recognize? Hotel samples from your honeymoon…the first time round?

Try, if possible, to keep all your supplies together and gradually use them up before buying new. I’ve done this a few times over the years and promise it brings a strange sense of satisfaction.

Planet: by not buying excess products, you’re slowing your rate of consumption and reducing unnecessary waste.

Pocket: using what you have not only costs less than buying new, it means you’re actually recouping money that you’ve already spent.

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5. Experiment with what you really need

Observe what you use as you go through your morning and nightly routines. With every product that comes into your reach, stop and think about why you use it. What is it for? Does it make a difference for you? Are you using it out of habit?  

Experiment with ditching some of the items for a week or two. Do you notice or do you forget about it?  How about getting your partner or a friend to remove a couple of products without telling you which? A fortnight later, would you be able to tell?

Planet: using fewer products reduces your carbon footprint.

Pocket: using fewer products reduces your expenditure. 


About the author...
Rae Ritchie
worked for a decade as an academic historian researching women's magazines, fashion and beauty before becoming a freelance writer in late 2016.  She now contributes work about mental health as well as style for a range of publications including the Londnr Magazine, Welldoing.org and The Ethicalist. Rae is particularly interested in eco, ethical and sustainable fashion and beauty.  

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