I’ve always been a bit of an eco-warrior. In elementary school I was the kid picking up beer cans full of slugs and rinsing them out in my driveway so I could bring them back for the deposit. In high school I became a vegetarian. As a high school teacher, I was known by my students as the “Green Queen” and by a few begrudging colleagues, the “Recycling Bitch.” I started learning about the ingredients in body care products and their potentially harmful effects on the environment and on our bodies. I sought safer alternatives. By the time I had my first child and was committed to cloth diapering, I was also seeking to replace every disposable item in our home with reusable alternatives. In fact, this quest to find gentler and less wasteful products for our home was one impetus for starting my blog in the first place!
I thought I’d share with you the body care products that are part of my regular beauty routine. The first thing I did when I started to evaluate the products in my bathroom was simplify. This was motivated by both my desire to go green and by my laziness. The fewer products you have in your bathroom, the less time you spend applying them, after all. I actually remember precisely the last time I wore make up: Sister-in-Law’s wedding, September 2011. Not wearing makeup eliminates a huge range of cupboard-clogging products and saves a surprising amount of money! Also, it’s a bit less gross when I’m too lazy to wash my face before bed.
I just realized I’ve been using the same bar of “Clearly Beautiful” Garden by the Sea facial soap for one year. Yes, this $8.50 bar of facial soap has lasted a year. To be fair, I would be lying if I claimed that I wash my face EVERY night before bed, but I promise I do wash my face every morning! Using a facial cleanser in bar-form is a great way to reduce garbage: no pumps or tubes to toss, so no waste! You can use the soap down to the very last little nub. (I purchased a new bar during their Boxing Day sale as I was very close to the last nub of my first bar.) I love washing my combination skin with this bar. I also love that it packs easily for travel. At home I like to keep one cleanser at the sink and one in the shower, so I simply cut my bar in half, and I’m all set!
It’s been at least ten years now that my daytime (and nighttime) moisturizer has been Green Beaver’s Green Tea Facial Moisturizer. I’ve cheated on Mr. Beaver a couple of times, but I’ve always come back. It’s not too heavy, leaves a matte finish and is unscented. Even in Calgary’s super-dry climate, I’m still fully satisfied with this moisturizer. I just wish they also made a version with some SPF!
There isn’t any brand of exfoliant that stands out to me as my favourite. I often make my own with sugar or coffee grounds. I can, however, tell you what I do not buy when it comes to exfoliants: microbeads. Declared toxic by Environment Canada, these tiny little plastic beads are harmful to the environment and totally unnecessary in our care products. Nature is full of amazing substances that slough off dead skin! Look for products containing things you can eat, like oatmeal, salt or sugar!
But Lindsay, you said you don’t wear make up! True. But I sometimes apply toner or cleanse a wound, remove children’s face paint or temporary tattoos … and I do that exclusively with my Öko Reusable makeup pads.
I used Green Beaver’s regular Frosty Mint Toothpaste for about a decade. Last year I started noticing tooth pain when eating cold stuff or sweet stuff. (Translation: ice cream.) Thanks to Green Beaver’s sensitive formula, I can continue to enjoy ice cream and also have fresh breath! Toothpaste tubes make lots of garbage since they cannot be recycled. I’m not really sure if there’s a better way to dispense store-bought toothpaste, but I hope if there’s a way, Green Beaver will find it!
Replaceable brush heads. Ya. You buy the handle, then you just replace the brush head every three to four months! So. Smart. My first Radius handle was made from recycled wood. It lasted seven years. That’s right, I used the same handle for seven years. I guess I must brush pretty vigorously, because eventually the top of the handle where you insert the brush head cracked. The brush heads also fit on Radius’s collapsible travel brushes, and the bristles are made of 100% vegetable-based nylon rather than plastic.
What am I doing with charcoal powder in my mouth?! Well, weird as it may sound, brushing your teeth with activated charcoal is a way to naturally whiten your pearly whites! I don’t do it daily; at most I do it once a week. But you know that super smooth, squeaky clean feeling you get when you run your tongue over your teeth after a cleaning at the dentist? That’s how your teeth feel after you brush with a tiny bit of activated charcoal powder!
Our dentist gives us floss at every visit, and I am too sheepish most of the time to decline. Therefore, we have a stockpile of floss. Traditional floss uses lots of plastic, so there are other options that I prefer. I like to avoid the plastic container, and there are floss options that are biodegradable. Radius makes these little floss sachets that you can keep in your purse, and I’m curious about this Woobamboo Biodegradable Silk Floss.
When I first started greening my haircare routine, I made my own shampoo using coconut milk and Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap. I was pretty happy with this method, but I would always run out and have to crack open a tin of coconut milk at inopportune moments. I turned to solid shampoo primarily because of the convenience and zero-waste appeal. I’ve tried quite a few different solid shampoos, and my favourite so far is by Quebec’s Savonnerie Natu’Rêve. It’s called Le Coloré and I adore it. The lather is satisfying, the scent is gentle and divine. My hair feels clean and soft after washing. Also, this is the longest-lasting shampoo bar I’ve ever tried! I still have plenty left, and I started using it in early November. Others I’ve used seem to just dissolve in the shower, but this one does not! In terms of convenience, solid shampoo is awesome for travelling, and as I recently discovered, perfect for the pool! When showering with a toddler in your arms, you can rub the bar on your head and then shampoo with one hand. No need to fumble with unscrewing lids or popping caps! I wash my hair infrequently, about twice a week. My hair and scalp have adjusted to this schedule, but when I first started cutting back on shampoos I definitely had a grease problem. Compared to the other solid shampoos I’ve used, my hair gets greasy less quickly using Le Coloré.
I actually do not regularly condition my hair. Since switching to homemade shampoo, then shampoo bars and cutting back on the number of washings per week, I’ve found I don’t miss it at all. For a while, I sprayed my hair with a 50/50 mix of water and apple cider vinegar (ACV) to soften and detangle, but now I only use this mixture occasionally as a dandruff treatment. Yup. I get rid of dandruff without Head & Shoulders! (Or that nasty tar shampoo I used in high school!) When I notice I’m getting flaky, I mix up some water and ACV in a spray bottle (I eyeball it, but it’s probably about a 40/60 mix of water and ACV). I add some essential oils like tea tree, peppermint and rosemary, then completely drench my scalp in the mixture. I use a comb to really work the mixture into my scalp. I let it sit for about twenty minutes, then shampoo. Dandruff’s gone!
I realize that since I started using Le Coloré as my solid shampoo, I haven’t had to use my dry shampoo to combat oily hair in between washings unless I am really going too long between shampoos. When I need it, I keep a little jar of half arrowroot powder and half cocoa powder (since my hair is dark) under my sink. I use a blush brush to apply it to the top of my hair (since obviously I do not own any blush), then I dust it off into the tub.
Wooden Hair Brush
In my efforts to reduce plastic, I use a wooden brush! I find it snags my hair less and also creates less static.
I’ve always loved body wash and a bath puff in the shower. I love the gentle exfoliation of the puff and the creamy texture of body wash. But bottles of body wash create lots of unnecessary plastic, and my bath puffs were always unravelling into unusable clumps. Bar soap gets a bad rap as overly drying, but if you choose a beautiful, handcrafted body soap from an amazing local soap maker, you won’t be disappointed. I use my bar soap all over with a pair of exfoliating gloves, which last a lot longer than bath puffs and are even better at sloughing off the dead skin. (You can skip the body washes containing microbeads this way, too!) I really like soaps by The Soap Works, and at just $2.29 a bar, they’re very affordable. You should be able to find the perfect bar soap made by a local artisan if you check out your community’s farmers’ market! I have enjoyed soaps from Savonnerie Natu’Rêve, MoonLily Wellness and Garden by the Sea.
As I discussed with regards to facial exfoliants, I tend to just make my own. Some coconut oil and some sugar mixed right in my hands does the trick unless I have time to make a nice DIY recipe ahead of time. (Which I rarely do.)
Since having kids, I’m definitely less concerned with body hair. I used to devote hours to meticulously removing unwanted hair from all body surfaces. Now, I get my eyebrows shaped professionally, and in between visits try to stop my brows from encroaching on my eyelids. I deal with my moustache, underarm hair and lower leg hair with microwave wax and washable cotton strips that I’ve been using since my teens. Preparing to wear a bathing suit means some extra time with my spatula. Ya, I do my own bikini waxes. My favourite brand of wax is EpilVite, but I can only find it in Montreal. I also use Parissa, Wax-a-Way and Moom.
This is the only “available at your nearest drugstore” item on my list, and there’s a reason: I use so much of it. While I do enjoy moisturizing with plain old coconut oil or almond oil after a shower, that just isn’t practical all the time. I need massive quantities of intensive moisturizer in pump format, and ideally I’d have a pump on every floor of the house. Aveeno’s moisturizer has been my favourite for about five years now in terms of affordability, availability and efficacy.
Produits de MaYa combined the French words for coconut oil and shea butter—huile de coco and beurre de karité—to name their body butter, “CoKa.” In case you’re slow on the uptake, those are the primary ingredients. Every time I use my CoKa, I think about how the name sounds like “coca,” which is Spanish for cocaine, and I think about how addicted I am. (I know, my thought processes are weird.) I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m compelled to slather a bit more CoKa on my hands before I fall back asleep. I also use it on Little Miss Cub’s chapped cheeks and to moisturize her diaper area. I slather it on my lips and on the driest parts of my body: elbows, knees, heels. CoKa comes in a metal tin that is easy to reuse!
Just as I habituated my scalp to fewer shampoos per week, I also weaned my body off of antiperspirant. Seriously, it’s a thing! And the craziest thing has happened: I sweat less and I stink less now that I don’t use an antiperspirant. And let me assure you that I have been a SWEATY person since puberty. I used to have to change my shirt multiple times a day. Now, I can actually wear the same shirt two days in a row if I have managed to not spill or be spilled on. Les CocoNuts deodorant is baking soda, arrowroot powder and coconut oil (surprise!) and instead of tossing your applicator every time you run out, you purchase refill packs! If you live in a warm climate or it’s summer, you’ll need to keep your Les CocoNuts deodorant in the fridge, which is the only downside. (It can also be viewed as an upside as it is so very refreshing to put on chilled deodorant on a hot day!)
Don’t be mad, but I still haven’t gotten my period back since having Little Miss Cub eighteen months ago. It’s kind of rad. That said, I’ve been a daily panty liner user since puberty, so I still need some feminine hygiene. Alas, I get to avoid the feminine hygiene aisle thanks to my Öko Créations pads. I love them. I love them so much! I use their panty liners daily, and when it’s time to go with the flow, their heavy flow pads are the bomb. (I also used them postpartum.) I should note that I also have a menstrual cup, but in the very brief period that I was menstruating between my son and my daughter, I didn’t get much practice with it so I will have to get back on that horse in the near future.
You can definitely buy some very fancy “family cloth” if you are, like me, very happy to wipe your most sensitive bits with super soft cloth. Personally, my stash of reusable toilet paper is just a box full of large rectangles cut out of old flannel pajamas. I hang a wet bag off the toilet paper-holder for the used cloths and wash them with the cloth diapers.
What’s in your “green” bathroom?