As with cleaning one’s home the first thing is to reduce the number of different products. Do you need so many different cleansers, conditioners, moisturisers, shampoos, toners and so on?
Stick to simple products: soap and water, or even water on its own, can be very effective. Instead of shower gel and handwashes try soap. Soap-on-rope is great – saves money and lots of packaging.
Many common kitchen ingredients can be used as a basis for home-made toiletries and beauty products. Herbs can be used to scent bathwater, rosemary is traditionally used as a conditioner for dark hair, camomile for fair hair, and teeth can be cleaned with a mixture of salt and bicarbonate of soda.
Essential oils are used in aromatherapy for their therapeutic properties as well as for their fragrance but care needs to be taken as some are quite powerful and some should not be used by pregnant women. There are lots of suppliers and aromatherapists and information available.
Women’s Environment Network has produced a document, Granny’s Recipes, containing suggestions on making your own beauty products from common kitchen ingredients, and there are many books with recipes for home-made beauty products.
What you can do when shopping
Read the labels and if you are concerned about any ingredients find out more! There is lots of information on the internet – many manufacturers provide information about the ingredients on their websites or an online encyclopaedia such as Wikipedia might be a good starting point. The Women’s Environmental Network’s campaign ‘Ending the cosmetics cover up’ has lots of information about the issues, with factsheets, checklists, ideas for action, and links to reports.
Look for products that do not contain the products about which you are concerned. Many manufacturers are now claiming to produce toiletries without parabens, SLES, SLS, EDTA, DEA or TEA.
If you want cruelty-free products which have not been tested on animals the BUAV symbol confirms products meet BUAV’s Humane Cosmetics Standard.