I aim to buy as little as possible in life, partly for environmental reasons, partly for economic reasons and partly (mostly if I’m honest) because the less you own the easier housework is. For me minimalism is all about saving time and hassle and this philosophy extends to my skin and hair care routine, which I’ve successfully whittled down to 8 items in total. Most are homemade from edible ingredients, but all are toxic and fuss free and organic where I can afford.
When I was younger and had more money than sense I spent a fortune on all manner of lotions and potions, even going so far as to spend over €50 on a small pot of moisturiser. Now a few drops of almond oil and I’m good to go and I can honestly say that my skin has never looked better. I think a lot of us fall for the ‘must have’ scam from skincare companies because we don’t want to end up looking haggard in old age, but it’s all bunkum. Only three things really have the power to affect quality of your skin and hair long-term; what you eat and drink, how much you sleep and the sun. Eat and drink well, sleep a reasonable amount and protect yourself from the sun and you’ll look 16 when you’re 60. Okay that might be a slight exaggeration.
My minimalist non-toxic zero waste skin and hair care routine includes;
A bar of soap. I used to be a devil for bottles of shower gel but going zero waste has turned me onto bars of soap instead. I have trialled a few types of soap and I’m currently working through a few samples but there are two that I will be re-buying primarily because of how long they last and their price. The first one is a pure olive oil soap by Oliva, which you can buy in Holland and Barrett. I buy it because it; only contains 3 non-toxic ingredients, is fully biodegradable (so doesn’t harm marine life) comes in a cardboard box and is very affordable. This brand of soap is available from other outlets, as are other brands of oil based soap including some from The Real Olive Company in Cork. The second type of soap I like is on made by Sodasan using organic ingredients. It also biodegradable, non-toxic, comes in a cardboard box and is very affordable. I pick up my Sodasan organic curd soap in Klee Paper in Dublin 7 when I’m in that area.
Refillable Liquid shampoo. I tried shampoo bars, with no success, so I’ve reverted back to liquid shampoo, but this time for Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera shampoo, which is free of free from cruelty, animal ingredients, GMO ingredients, synthetic colouring, synthetic fragrances, SLES, SLS, parabens, artificial preservatives, BPA plastic, Methylisothiazolinone (MI). The Scottish based company that makes it aims to use Fair Trade or ‘ethically traded’ ingredients wherever possible and it is certified as top grade by SEDEX, an organisation which has an aim to stamp out exploitation. Some of their products contain organic ingredients which have been certified separately. It’s also a brand that I can get refills of locally in The Hopsack, Rathmines, Dublin 2.
Homemade Vinegar Hair Rinse. I use this instead of conditioner and my hair is so much better since I made the switch. I simply mix two tablespoons of the vinegar with a pint of water and pour that over my hair, which has already been cleaned with shampoo. I happen to use organic cider vinegar but any vinegar will work. You just have to work out how much of the vinegar you use suits your hair. Too much and your hair will look greasy, too little and it’ll be fuzzy. I bought my last bottle of organic cider vinegar in Holland and Barrett but Aspall is a brand that’s widely available in most supermarkets and health food shops. I spotted a dispensers for package-free Irish cider vinegar in Smallchanges in Druncondra so I’ll be trying that out in the future.
Almond Oil. I find almond oil great as a face moisturiser after a shower but if I need something that is less greasy for under make-up I use Day Solution moisturiser by Green People, which is 88% organic. I tried using coconut oil but it ended up clogging my pores and I’ve since found out that this is because coconut oil has a comedogenic (pore-blocking) rating of 4, whereas almond oil has a lower one of 2, as does olive oil. Here is a very handy guide to the comodogenic ratings of popular skincare ingredients, including oils and here’s a more detailed guide to the various oil. I’ve read that oil may not suit if you’ve oily skin so I’d suggest trialling sunflower or olive oil on your skin before you invest in a bottle of more expensive oil. The oil I use was bought in Bomar in Wicklow and is not organic but they do have organic almond oil too.
The Day Solution moisturiser from Green People does come in a version with a 15spf if you’d prefer and both are free from cruelty, SLS, parabens, lanolin, perfumes, propylene glycol, artificial synthetic fragrances, colourants, petrochemicals, PABA-sunscreen, Urea, PEG’s, DEA and TEA. The company that makes these products donates 10% of their net profit to ‘green’ health and environmental charities and states that their packaging is recyclable, or fully biodegradable or only release carbon dioxide and water when burned. Their website list all of the ingredients in each product, and any certifications that apply including ones from the Organic Soil Association, the Organic Food Federation, the Vegan Society, the Good Shopping Guide and EcoCert.
Homemade Body Moisturiser. You can use an oil as body moisturiser and I do when I run out of my homemade moisturiser, but I find the oil harder to apply so prefer to use the moisturiser when I have it. The recipe I use involves only 3 ingredients and takes less than 15 minutes to make.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make your own skincare products you could attend a workshop with Bia Beauty or Wapo and you can source ingredients from Bomar in Ireland or Aromantics in the UK.
Homemade Sugar Scrub. If I feel that my skin is getting rough and in need of exfoliation I simply mix sugar (caster sugar if you have it, if not granulated will do) with either oil or lathered soap, rub it on the rough skin, wash off and pat dry. Works a treat, is cheap as chips and uses ingredients you probably already have in the home. It’s also very good for feet, elbows and hands. If you find the sugar too abrasive for your face you could use ground oat flakes instead.
Homemade Face Masks. I used to be into masks in a big way when I was younger and fell into the trap of getting professional facial treatments before my wedding many moons ago. What an absolute waste of money! Having a facial can be a lovely relaxing experience and it may temporarily tighten or brighten the skin, but I have seen no evidence that they improve skin long-term so they’re just not worth the expense and hassle for me.
That said sometimes the feeling of pampering yourself can be beneficial and homemade masks can be a great way to indulge in this without exposing yourself to toxins or great expense. I’m fond of recipes that are quick, inexpensive and use edible ingredients and here are my top two;
Banana Face Mask
- Mash on ripe banana with 1 tablespoon of honey and / or yoghurt
- Smooth over the face and leave on for up to 15 minutes
- Wash off with warm water
Rice Water Mask
- Cook some rice, without salt. You only need 2-3 spoons of rice but I think it’s very wasteful to only cook that amount so I’d suggest making this mask the next time you cook rice for dinner.
- Drain the rice but reserve the cooking liquid
- Wash and drain 2-3 tablespoons of rice and put in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of milk and 1 tablespoon of honey. Mix together
- Apply the mixture to the face and leave for up to 30 mins
- Wash the mask off the face with the reserved cooking liquid.
- Enjoy you’re younger looking self.
You may have noticed that I haven’t included a cleanser or toner in my list, that’s because I don’t use them. I don’t wear make-up every day but when I do I just clean it off with a wet face-cloth at the end of the day and then moisturise. Other than that my face gets washed with water every other day in the shower. I’ve never seen the point of toner, don’t use it now and haven’t missed it. You could use a rose-water as a toner if you feel you need one.
My knowledge of skincare is limited to what works for my sensitive, prone-to-dryness skin. If you’d like to read a more in-depth view of natural zero waste skincare I came across this excellent article written by Sara Sumic of Health Skin Glows on the blog Zero Waste Nest.
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