6 sustainable alternatives for your everyday beauty routine

From vegan shampoo to refillable mascara, I’ve tried them all…

I’m not high maintenance when it comes to my beauty regime; I find myself wearing less and less makeup as I get older (at 42, I hate traditional foundation collecting in my laughter lines), I swear by salt spray and air drying my hair in the summer, and while I do polish my toenails, I’ve never in my life had a gel manicure.

But one thing I have become obsessed with in the past year is trying to be more sustainable with the products that I do use. After signing up to Terracycle and collecting my empty bathroom bottles and containers in a basket ready to send off to be recycled, I was horrified at how quickly it piled up. So I set out to find some plastic-free alternatives to the things I can’t do without everyday (as well as cutting out completely anything that isn’t necessary at all), and to try out more natural products and palm oil-free options.

Admittedly, this is easier for someone who, like me, prefers a natural makeup look and has pretty well-behaved hair, but if we all made some small changes, together we could make a huge difference. And since I am lucky enough to have been sent a few products to try, as well as having done A LOT of research shopping over the past couple of years, I thought it would be nice to use my “influence” and tell you about the ones I really like.

Roll on, roll off…

Modern Botany

Modern Botany deodorant, €25 (modernbotany.com); Modern Botany travel deodorant, €15 (modernbotany.com) [GIFT]

My Mum’s been telling me for years to try a natural stone alternative to deodorant, but I just never got round to it. Then I was sent this from Modern Botany. It comes in a glass bottle (glass is infinitely recyclable and looks much more chic on your bathroom shelf) and is made from 100% natural ingredients in Ireland. I also wore it over the Easter heatwave and am pleased to report that it worked a treat. 

Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s far more fancy than a Dove roll on and smells much better, too. As I very rarely wear perfume because I hate the way nearly all perfume smells in me (I can only really stomach Diptyque Philosykos, since you ask), this scores double points because it smells divine; which is only a problem because I tend to use a couple more sprays than is necessary!

Metal hippy

Paradoxx shampoo

Paradox Shampoo, £18 (weareparadoxx.com); Paradoxx conditioner, £20 (weareparadoxx.com); Paradox salt spray, £20 (weareparadoxx.com) [GIFT]

Shampoo was the first area I addressed in my quest to become eco in the bathroom. I’m lucky enough to have two plastic-free shops near my house, so I started by saving my old bottles and refilling with Faith In Nature shampoo, which is lovely, made in Britain, and also palm oil-free.

But I realise that not everyone is lucky enough to live near a refill station, so I was thrilled to discover another Irish brand, Paradoxx. As well as having 91% natural ingredients, and being vegan, the bottles themselves are made from lightweight aluminium which is, like glass, infinitely recyclable. It’s worth pointing out here that although it is possible to recycle some plastics, they can only be recycled around 7 times and not usually back into the same thing that were to begin with. So while PET bottles can be made into recycled polyester, for example, so I’m trying to avoid plastic altogether where I can.

Paradoxx salt spray

Anyway, back to the products. I’ve been using the shampoo and conditioner – really nice –  but my favourite product is the salt spray. I’d previously been obsessed with the Davines salt spray which, although natural and brilliant because the bottle lasts so long, still comes packaged in plastic. This one is a little lighter in formulation, which means you can use it two days in a row without having to wash, thus saving water too. You can buy the products on Paradoxx’s own website or at Next.

I will probably then refill these when they’re empty though, as I’d rather keep the bottles going than get new ones. I might also try my local hairdressers Blue Tit’s refill service, which you can do when you buy their Oway products – the glass bottles are really stylish but perhaps not as practical if you have kids or are clumsy! Blue Tit has salons all over London.


Naked in the rain shower

Lush naked shower gel

Lush avocado naked shower gel, £8.98 (lush.com) – NB it is much bigger than this when you buy it – this one is well used!

One of the first questions I asked myself on this journey was “why do I need shower gel?” And the answer I came up with was: I don’t. It has no benefit over soap, for me at least. And if you find soap does dry your skin out, there’s always the option of moisturising with something natural, like coconut oil (side note: coconut oil is an absolute miracle product – see also makeup removal, psoriasis soother and even removal of floor tile cement from dog paws).

The trouble is, although soap doesn’t come in a plastic bottle, it’s often wrapped in cellophane. And it also often contains palm oil. So my best shower gel alternative is Lush’s naked shower gel. Until recently it was only available from time-to-time, but now it’s a constant feature on their shelves. I love the way it makes the whole bathroom smell delicious after you’ve used it, and for anyone moaning that it makes a mess in the shower, you just need to invest in a little dish to keep it in and try not to place it in the line of the shower spray. Oh, and it lasts for MONTHS! What’s not to love?

Me ol’ bamboo

Zao mascara_2

Zao refillable Aloe Vera mascara, £20.75 (zaoessenceofnature.co.uk)

This wasn’t a gift; I bought my refillable mascara online after realising that it was one product that SURELY had to be easy to make refills for, and also something I can’t live without. And in spite of a few bad reviews, I opted for this one from Zao. Mostly because I couldn’t find anything else. Sure, you won’t get a false lash effect, but that’s not what I’m after anyway. It goes on well, comes off easily, and doesn’t smudge onto my upper eyelid like some brands do.


Zao Aloe Vera mascara refill, £13.50 (zaoessenceofnature.co.uk)

You do need to be a bit careful that the unit holding the mascara doesn’t start to unscrew after a while as it can get a bit messy, but I just gave mine a quick wipe and tighten and it worked perfectly again. It’s also not waterproof, as I discovered when my aunt’s puppy drank some seawater and did a human burp and I cried all my mascara off with laughter. Other than that though, I’m impressed. Both the main mascara with the wand and the refill tube are made from biodegradable bamboo, rather than plastic.

Cotton Eye Joe

Leave No Trace cotton pads

Leave No Trace reusable cotton pads, from £8 for 8 (etsy.co.uk)

Something else I have invested in is these Leave No Trace reusable cotton pads after I saw them on Alex’s brilliant blogpost about being more sustainable around the house and with a baby on The-Frugality.com. They work exactly like cotton pads, but when you’ve used them you just pop them in the machine and give them a wash. There is also an organic cotton option; the production of organic cotton uses less water, as well as avoiding harmful pesticides.

Like Alex, I bought two sets of 12 so I could have them on rotation when some are in the wash. They come with a little drawstring bag, so I usually have one for clean pads and the other for dirty. They’re nicer and softer after one wash, but you’ll have to get used to them never looking 100% pristine. But who cares?! They are clean and no one else will see them anyway. Oh, and don’t use to remove nail polish!


Show me the honey

Promed toothpaste

Biomed toothpaste £3.95 (evolutionorganics.co.uk); also available on the shelf at Sainsbury’s so you can pick it up with your weekly shop. Save Some Green bamboo toothbrush with bamboo bristles, £2.50 (savesomegreen.co.uk)

I’ve taken my research too far when it comes to toothpaste. The palm oil-free stuff in a glass tub I bought from one of my aforementioned plastic-free shops is well-meaning but tastes absolutely disgusting and set me back ten quid. Lesson learnt.

Having tried a lot of toothpaste that isn’t Colgate (often the only toothpaste option in the supermarket) I can now reveal my favourite: Biomed. I use the one with propolis extract, which is a byproduct of honeycomb, so you’re encouraging beekeeping by buying it, and that has to be a good thing. It also tastes much nicer than traditional minty toothpaste and I’m keen to try its coconut whitening toothpaste, too. As you can see, I’ve also switched to a bamboo toothbrush – I don’t use an electric toothbrush and before you all shout at me my dentist has actually told me she doesn’t think it’s necessary.

The company that makes Biomed – Splat – is also carbon neutral and with its partners plants dozens of hectares of forest every year. But do beware, the packaging is so nice that when your cousin comes to stay, she might mistake it for a really nice hand cream!

My next mission is to find some good natural sunscreen. I’ve already started my research, but I’d love to hear any recommendations. And if you have any favourite products you think I should add to this list, please leave comments below!