When we moved last year to our new apartment, I packed a full sportsbag of cosmetics from our bathroom. A damn sportsbag! Not one of those small ones, where you can barely fit your shoes in, but the one where you could put a tennis racket in it and still close the zipper. The very same one I used back in 2013 during my 3 week backpack trip in Thailand. I gave myself a big mental slap in the face and swore I would change my consumption of cosmetics.
After some self-shaming, I picked myself up and decided I needed a strategy. I seeked for information from fellow bloggers, but ended up with very slim pickings: most of the bloggers concentrate on introducing products, which understandibly is a big part of their income, but on other hand is not very sustainable if you have so much stuff, that you will never be able to use it all. With the lack of practical ideas for someone like me, who’s a rookie and entering the natural cosmetics market, I figured I put together some simple guidelines for myself. Here goes:
💡 Find out about new packing innovations, such as Sulapack, which is 100% biodegradable, and find a way to support them
💡 Buy cosmetics from places, that take your used packages back to reuse them, like Lush
💡 Try out one of those package-free shops, where you bring your own package, and fill it out
💡 Try to use completely package free products
💡 Make your own cosmetics?? As I am very far from making my own soaps and stuff, I have learnt to utilize some of the stuff in the kitchen, like used coffee beans and coconut oil for a perfect facial scrub (this one seriously works!)
💡 Buy from a local retailer: ordering online equals to more transportation and another set of packing materials
Now, as I look at my list, I realize, very little of it has something to do with the product itself – more the other sustainable aspects of the natural cosmetics. Which leads me to the question: are natural cosmetics always marketed and sold in a way, that they’re actually good for the environment?
So what are natural skin care products?
Let’s back up a little. As my knowledge on the topic is not very wide, I did some research, and found out what are actually natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics.
First mistake I made was to think nature cosmetics equal to organic cosmetics. Actually they are two different things:
- Nature cosmetics are limited with guidelines and certificates in order to have as low impact on the environment as possible. This includes not only the ingredients, but the who process from gathering the ingredients to recycling the end product. The ingredients are natural, but as well the production methods limited. Also the packing material is taken into account. I didn’t find out thought, how are all of these things measured, and who decides when is the producer allowed to use that name.
- Organic cosmetics can mean nature cosmetics, but it is not as limited. A product can be called organic, when it has only one plant-based ingredient. The syntetic ingredients as well as the production methods differ it from the natural cosmetics.
So a product with one drop of some organic plant extract, packed in a thick plastic tube can be called organic.
Do we want to be responsible consumers, or just protect our own bodies from chemicals?
Why do we choose to buy nature cosmetics? Is it because we want to treat our bodies with natural products instead of chemicals? Or maybe we want to protect the environment through buying products produced out of natural ingredients?
Whatever the reason for us to choose nature cosmetics is, only the natural ingredients do not make them automatically sustainable; there’s nothing sustainable about a product that is pure of its contents, but the process behind it full of shit. Devoting oneself to nature cosmetics without paying attention to the production, packaging, delivery and recycling processes behind the product, just because it’s better for your body, is like being a vegetarian eating avocados: harmful for the environment, yet the person is confirmed that it’s the right thing to do.
There are many eco cosmetic brands on the market, which is a wonderful thing! Finally it has become part of everyone’s life and not just a foreign topic written about in the posts of a trendsetting blog. You can find a lot of nature cosmetics even in German super markets – some of them produced in Europe, some not. You can even buy nature cosmetics made in Korea transported all the way to Europe, packed in a thick plastic package which you have no other choice than throwing away in the normal garbage, and consider it as nature friendly. Individually packed facemasks including a drop of avocado extract to make it all natural.
The not-so-easy bathroom transformation…
It’s crazy how we are programmed to get psyked, when we get to buy new things. When I decided to slowly change my cosmetics into sustainable ones, my first thought was „yayy, I get to go shopping!“. Friendly advice: fight that thought and crush it! First you patiently use your old stuff, and then replace the one that you’re running out of with a sustainable equilavent one. Throwing old ones away just in the name of Feng Shui, Kon Mari, or rebirth as a green consumer is bad. So is trying to get rid of them as fast as possible just so that you get your reward, the new exciting things, faster. That was my tactic in the beginning and I definitely over-used my shampoo that time way too much.
Another hickup I had with my hair. If your hair is fed with chemicals and silicon your whole life, it takes a while before it accepts the milder, plant-based products. My hair has been electric the last two months. I am so annoyed that I have to have my hair up all the time. Since I’m one of those people, who go to a haircut like once a year (talking about split ends), it is out of control at the moment. So maybe I learnt to do this kind of transformations in the summer time.
Other things to figure out: how to remove nailpolish without cotton pads, will I ever be able to give up on electric toothbrush and the plastic trash it generates, will some finally give us a legimate answer whether the “DIY organic toothpastes” are good for the teeth or not, will my hair survive… These and many other questions are yet to be answered on my rocky path towards a fully ecological bathroom. Stay tuned…