Earlier this month, I asked myself: If I got rid of harsh cleaning products and switched to scrubbing my counters with vinegar and baking soda, why do I still clean my face, body, and hair with ingredients I can’t pronounce? I couldn’t come up with any good answer, so I started reinventing the contents my bathroom cabinets.
I’m no beauty-product junkie — most days I wear mascara and Chapstick; my hair air-dries and it’s never been dyed (save one misguided attempt at Angela-Chase red in middle school). Still, I do have a stable of products that I use every day, and if I’m going green, addressing these corporeal infringements should be a priority.
After all, according to Treehugger.com, my go-to guide for environmentally friendly life-revision, the products currently in my medicine chest and shower could contain stuff like parabens, phthalates, and petroleum (trust me, they’re bad; check out www.treehugger.com or www.safecosmetics.org for more info). Cosmetics manufacturers aren’t held to as stringent FDA regulations as food or drugs are — despite the fact that they also get super-close to our cells and tissues.
But nothing’s ever easy, is it? Getting rid of all my non-natural products now would involve a fair amount of waste — obviously a big sin in my creeping quest for carbon-neutrality. So the question was, do I keep using the “bad” products until they’re empty — avoiding trash excess but contributing to personal toxicity — or do I waste (and spend) more in order to get green more quickly?
I’ve dealt with this quandary already — when I tossed my still-working incandescent light bulbs in exchange for energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (at $9 a pop!), for example. There’s lots of “spending to save” in this endeavor. Ultimately, I think it’s better to start afresh when the motivation strikes me, rather than to wait and risk losing steam.
Plus, I’m a girl who really likes to shop for new stuff (quashing my consumerism is a struggle I’ll have to take on much farther down the road). So I told myself I’d deal with the waste later, and headed for the natural health-body section at Wild Oats.
I bought a bar of Dr. Bronner’s All-In-One soap to replace the hotel soaps I’ve been stealing and using in my home shower for years. I warily replaced my oil-battling facial scrubs with Kiss My Face Olive Oil and Green Tea soap. Out went the aluminum-filled deodorants; in came the Kiss My Face Active Enzyme deodorant stick (which really works, by the way). I bought natural shaving cream (smells like peaches, delicious), and investigated earth-friendly mascara online. The last things to go were my shampoo and conditioner, which I swapped with Avalon Organics’ strong-smelling lemon clarifying versions. All of these products rate well on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, a large, searchable guide to about 25,000 cosmetic products, their ingredients, and their toxicity.
Mind you, this was not cheap. All told, I spent more than $50 revamping my beauty regimen. And unlike CFLs, which ultimately save money on electric bills, my shampoo expenses won’t come out in the wash.
As for the waste, I kept a few soaps for travel purposes and gave the rest to the Preble Street Resource Center, which collects toiletries for its clients. The face wash I’m saving, at least for now, until I’m convinced that olive oil won’t do wrong by my skin. I dumped the deodorant and recycled the empty containers. And if anyone wants some big almost-full bottles of TRESemme shampoo and conditioner, shoot me an e-mail. I’ll give them to you for free and consider it a perfect example of reuse.