Wednesday 27 May 2020

A Guide to Eco-Friendly Toiletries

Toiletries are perhaps some of the most difficult things to change when trying to make your consumption much more sustainable. I know I still haven’t found sustainable options I'm happy with for a lot of items. The biggies for me are toothpaste, plastic-free makeup and deodorant, particularly products which are at a more affordable price. But I'm gradually trying out all the alternatives I find, and I have faith I’ll find something which will suit me in time. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links (*) and refer-a-friend links to get £10 off your first order (**)
It is important to remember that being able to shop ethically and sustainably remains a privilege, even if it is something which should be the bare minimum. Lots of products which are better for the environment (because they are more sustainably and ethically sourced, have no plastic, and are often sold by smaller independent businesses) are often more expensive, which can make them inaccessible to many people. And some products are simply just rare, or don’t work for people on an individual level, for whatever reason. I am by no means perfect in this, although I try where I can I still have plastic in my makeup bag and use normal toothpaste, but I do the best where I can. 

Something that anyone can do, no matter their budget, is to ensure that the products you’re buying aren’t tested on animals. Yes, it does require a bit of research, but there are so many cheap cruelty-free toiletries out there. The Superdrug own brand shampoos, body wash, and makeup are amazing, and all vegan and cruelty free, and I used to buy them a lot before I made the switch to items which used less plastic. Makeup brands such as Revolution are also great. With very minimal effort you can find a whole load of brands who are cruelty-free. In any case, the general rule tends to be that the further away from the shop door you go, the more likely the product will be cruelty free. 

Similarly, if there isn't much difference in price, or you're able to buy a product that's a little bit more expensive but don't have access to any which are completely plastic-free, opt for the one with least plastic or has glass packaging. It's not perfect, but it helps, and anything which reduces any kind of impact on the environment is a step forward. 

It's also useful to note that many of the brands I mention below offer discounts when you sign up to their newsletter, have free or reduced price samples, and often have various other discounts available, so it's worth taking advantage if as many of those as you are able. 

I hope this post is useful, and please suggest more places who sell eco-friendly toiletries in the comments or tweet me, I really do want to know more about where to find ethical and sustainable products, I’m still a work in progress after all. 

Your Local Zero Waste Store

Do some research on shops selling sustainable toiletries near you, it’s likely there’ll be something, especially if you’re close to a city. Whilst this option isn’t available for everyone and can provide varying results (prices, stock options, etc.), it can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and helping out your local community.  Ask friends, search on Ecosia, and see what comes up, you could find a previously hidden gem! And if you don’t find somewhere straight away, make sure you keep an eye out as somewhere could open after your initial search. 

Small/Independent Businesses

I hadn’t heard of Gruum until very recently, but they popped up in an email from Student Beans where they had shampoo bars free for anyone with a code. Of course, I jumped at the chance to try a new shampoo bar! I did have to pay the postage fee, but even then it was cheaper than a lot of other shampoo bars out there (they’re £5 when at full price + postage). I haven’t tried it yet (I have two shampoo bars I was given at Christmas I need to use up first), but it smells nice, and seems like a good texture from what I’ve seen, even if it is slightly smaller than other shampoo bars I’ve used. They also sell sun cream, face scrubs, razors and other skin care. With an ethos to being environmentally friendly, they use minimal, often plastic-free and recycled packaging, and are based in the UK. 

Plastic Freedom have so much, and they’re constantly adding to their stock. They’re UK based, and, as the name would suggest, sell products which are entirely free from plastic. Their products range from makeup, body wash, shaving cream, mouthwash and even plastic free lube and condoms! Plastic Freedom were the first place I bought a sustainable deodorant from and I absolutely loved it, but it is a lot more expensive than high street deodorants, so I try to switch it up between the two to be a bit more sustainable in a slightly more affordable way. I’d love to try more of their products, but again, that’s not possible to do straight away.

Faith in Nature’s soap bars are my go to, and the ones I buy most frequently. They have lots of different scents, feel really nice on the skin and last for ages. They also come in plastic free, recyclable packaging, and are cheaper than lots of other brands, at around £2.30 (which I know is still more expensive than some shower gel options, but trust me these last a hell of a lot longer). Other products include shampoo bars, liquid body wash, moisturisers, deoderants and other refillables. 

They do have their own website, but have a delivery charge of £5 for any order under £55, so you may not want to buy from there. Lucky for us, however, they do also sell in some shops, including Oxfam charity shops, Waitrose, Holland & Barrett and Boots (although I'd recommend not buying much else from Boots as all of their own brand products are tested on animals, and they don't have a great track when it comes to their attitudes towards the morning-after pill). 

I’ve used some of Wild Sage & Co.’s soap bars before, and have given them as gifts, and I’ve loved them. They’re really moisturizing and smell great. Plus, they use plastic-free packaging and have some products with the profits are designated to certain charities (such as their Soap for Calais). They’re a family run business, based in Herefordshire, and have a focus on being low waste and maintaining a low impact on the environment. 

Their products include soap bars, face masks, lip balms, scrubs, cotton makeup pads and more!

I’ve never actually bought anything from INIKA Organic before, however I think I am going to treat myself once a few pieces in my current makeup bag need replacing. I saw them on Madeleine Olivia’s Instagram and thought they seemed pretty cool. They are an Australian brand, but have a warehouse in the UK so any order I make won’t be coming from very far away (although I’m not sure where their UK products are produced, that’s something I need to look into further). All their products are vegan, cruelty-free and organic, and are ethically sourced. They sell a range of skincare and makeup (some of which have won various awards). They do have things in plastic packaging, but in terms of makeup that does seem something that's quite difficult to find plastic-free.

Charity Shops

Several charity shops will also sell new products, including sustainable ranges of toiletries, coffee cups, and more. As I’ve already mentioned, Oxfam are particularly hot on this (although I’m aware many people may not feel comfortable buying from them), and it’s likely others do too. Have a look in charity shops near you, or on their websites, to see what they have available. 


These brands are ones you will have undoubtedly have heard of before, but I still think they’re worth mentioning as a reminder of what’s out there all over the UK. I am being UK specific here, because, frankly, I have no clue when it comes to other countries’ sustainable shopping options.

We all know Lush, and how many products they have. For me, they were my entry into shampoo bars, and I love treating myself to one of their face masks every now and again. They are pricey but can be great to see what kind of products are coming in, and are create in popularizing low waste products. I can’t wait until some of their Christmas body conditioners are back in stock, I became obsessed last year. I have enough old tubs now to get a free face mask (they reuse old packaging if you bring it back to them), so you could bet that I’ll be heading straight there once it’s safe to claim it! Since the pandemic, they’ve also started doing online orders.

The Body Shop have been favourites in my family for years, with their staple body butters and perfumes being smells I remember having around a lot as a kid. I swear by their Camomile Cleansing Butter. It cleans makeup off so easily, is kind on my skin and is also quite moisturizing. Plus, it’s in tin packaging, with no plastic. I tend to bulk buy this as it’s regularly on 3 for 2, and always keep an eye out for any other discounts or sales (and they’ve now started a 20% student discount too!). 

They have also recently started a packaging recycling scheme, where you can bring any toiletry packaging (plastic bottles, etc.) in store, place in one of their collection bins and they’ll use them for their future products. These bottles don’t have to be from The Body Shop either, they take bottles from any brand to repurpose. 

To be honest, I do use Holland & Barrett mostly for indulgent snacks when I’m feeling fancy, but bougie vegan food is not all they sell. As I mentioned earlier, they stock brands like Faith in Nature, and others including Ethique and Upcircle**. They also sell eco-friendly menstrual products, including cups, biodegradable tampons and period underwear. They have various oils, skin products, and all sorts. Again, will probably be on the pricey side but have a look and see what you can find.

Make your Own!

There are loads of recipes online for vegan, natural and low waste toiletries, from face masks to toothpaste, you can give all sorts a go. Some are definitely easier than others and some definitely work better than others, and you may simply not like as products. But it’s worth giving a go! There are some natural ingredients which make easy product replacements in themselves, for instance, I’ve heard that coconut oil makes a good natural deodorant, although I’ve never used it myself, but is definitely one to try.

If there’s something specific you’re looking for, have a search online, if you just want to see what’s possible there are lots of cool people sharing their homemade toiletry creations online, including Sustainably Vegan and Sedona Christina

I made this face mask from half an avocado and a splodge of vegan yoghurt

Please let me know in the comments about some brands you love who are doing great things in terms of sustainability and ethics, I would love to hear more about them!

If you liked this post you might like: Ethical Christmas Gift Guide


  1. That face mask is a look! Shampoo bars I think look appealing, but I read somewhere that they aren't very good for curly hair as they can mess with the natural curl pattern. I really hope a sustainable shops opens near me soon. Great post!x

    Ashleigh |

    1. Haha thank you, I call it my Shrek look! It may be worth looking to see if there are any shampoo bars specifically for curly hair? I know Lush do different ones for different types of hair so there may be something out there.

      Jemima x