By: Laura Hobbs
Show of hands: how many of you have ever looked at your cosmetics’ ingredient list, scrunched your nose, and asked, “What in the world is that?” If you’re like me—and the tens of millions of other American women who put time, effort (and money!) into a healthy lifestyle—then it’s worth knowing that your efforts are also healthy for the environment. From recycling programs to essential oils and lowering the carbon footprint of your suds, here are six tips for considering the planet while taking care of yourself.
1) Switch Out Your Suds
Within the past 20 years, liquid body wash has become a staple in showers across the country. But this convenience isn’t without consequence: requiring five times more energy for raw material production and nearly 20 times more energy for packaging, liquid soaps are directly correlated to a higher carbon footprint than bar soaps.
When you’re sudsing up in the shower, stick to bar soap. It has a considerably lower impact on the environment—and you’ll also use less. A recent environmental study found that when washing our hands, we use almost seven times more liquid soap than bar soap. Imagine how much more you’re using in the shower!
2) Pass on the Perfume
Remember the days of Exclamation, Giorgio, and the (aptly named) Poison? While they may have smelled great, the ingredients were real stinkers. Artificial this and phthalates that, popular fragrances often contain a laundry list of questionable or downright toxic ingredients that can be hazardous to your health. According to WebMD, makers of these popular sprays often don’t disclose all the ingredients found in their products. “The fragrance mixture itself can be comprised of dozens, even hundreds, of individual chemicals, and those don’t have to be listed on the label,” the report states. This loophole is often navigated by playing the “trade secret” card to avoid divulging the scent’s synthetic formula. Hashtag stinky.
Instead of commercial perfumes, opt for essential oils, instead. Used for centuries, essential oils are often extracted from plants through distillation or cold-pressing, two processes that keep the integrity of the plant’s essence while giving you a heavenly—and healthy—scent to enjoy.
3) Use Double-Duty Products
Stains are in—and I’m not talking about that one on your shirt. Using a versatile color that’s great for cheeks, lips, and even eyes, stains and all-in-one sticks mean less cost for you and less waste for the landfill. Another great double-duty workhorse: moisturizers that contain chemical-free, zinc oxide-based sunscreens.
4) Skip the Shampoo
I get it, hair gets greasy. But hear me out: shampooing every day uses more water than you think (typically around two gallons per minute!) and can be damaging to your hair, especially in dry climates. Reach for dry shampoo (known to many as the world’s greatest invention) every other day. It not only soaks up the excess oil around your hair follicles, but it adds texture and body for extra oomph. And on the days when you do suds your scalp, avoid shampoos with sulfates, which strip your hair (and the surrounding skin) of natural oils.
5) Recycle Your Containers
Each year, literal tons of empty cosmetic containers are tossed into landfills, and several popular cosmetic companies are starting to fight the tossing trend. Through incentive-based recycling programs, cosmetic companies will take your empty containers and reward you for your righteous behavior. At MAC Cosmetics, for every six empty containers you bring in, you’ll receive one lipstick or lip gloss for free. Origins accepts any cosmetic container—regardless of the brand—and gives you a free sample in return. And NYC’s Kiehl’s launched their Recycle and Be Rewarded! program, which scores you a free lip balm for every three empty containers, or a free travel-size product for every five. And for every ten empties, you’ll take home a full-size product for free. How’s that for incentive?
6) Dabble in DIY
Love the idea of making your own beauty products? Then join the burgeoning online communities dedicated to making natural skincare products right in your own kitchen. Dig inside your pantry, roll up your sleeves, and see exactly what goes into making those products you use each day. A quick google search or Pinterest scroll leads you to recipes for any kind of health and beauty product you can imagine, from cranberry lip stains to mica eyeshadows to baking soda deodorants. An extra tip: Save your bottles and jars from store-bought products to fill with goodies you make at home.