Trying to find the best sustainable skincare and toiletry products can be hard. From trying to find things that are plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free, without microplastics, organic, or even refillable, it can feel a little overwhelming, especially trying to decide where to start. Taking it one step at a time and only getting new products when old ones are used up is the best way to begin.
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Many toiletry products are packaged in plastic or mixed materials that cannot be recycled, so trying to get alternatives that are either loose or packaged in glass or other recyclable materials is a good way to start deciding what you want to get.
Another factor to look into is whether or not the products you use/are looking into, are cruelty free or vegan. Of course you don’t have to make sure that things are vegan if you don’t follow that lifestyle, but it’s often that it can be more sustainable to have products that don’t have ingredients that are derived from animals.
It’s also a good idea to check if the products contain palm oil too, as it contributes a lot to deforestation, but sometimes that might be sustainable palm oil so it’s always good to check.
I’ve collated a master list of all things I’ve found (and use) that are as plastic-free and sustainable as I can find. (I am in the UK so this list reflects that, although I’ve added a few links to US products.)
Face creams and moisturisers
- Moisturiser – Although I haven’t tried out many so far, the best one I’ve come across so far is from UpCircle. It comes in glass and metal, and you can either recycle the jar, or you can send it back to them to get refilled! I find their moisturiser really great as it makes my skin really soft, while not being too heavy on my face. It’s made with discarded argon shells, which are rich in vitamin E too.
Scence also make a plastic free moisturiser, which is also completely vegan, palm oil free, and cruelty free. Their moisturisers comes in three different scents – Cedar, Rose, and Pure (which is essential oil free), and all of their products are packaged in paper tubes, which is great for cutting down on waste.
- Eye cream – Another product that always comes in small plastic tubes that are often not recyclable is eye cream. Because you only really get it in small tubes and use little amounts, you don’t often buy in bulk. UpCircle do a great version made with maple and repurposed coffee grounds, which you can get in a glass jar with metal lid, and you can send back to them for refills once you’re out.
- Facial oils – The Ordinary also do some great facial oils. I use the Organic Rosehip oil that they have, which is great at giving my face an extra hydrating boost before bed. Biossance also does some facial oils such as their Squalane and Vitamin C Rose oil which is completely vegan and their squalane is derived from sugarcane too. Facial oils also last a long time (mine has lasted me about 3/4 months now) as you only need to apply a little bit each day.
UpCircle also do a facial serum, which is made of coffee oil and rosehip oil, and they also do their refill scheme with this too, so you just clean out your bottle when you’re done, send it back to them, and they’ll refill and send it back to you!
- Night cream – Although it’s not necessary to use a night cream, a lot of people do so it’s good to know what some good alternatives are!
UpCircle do a Night Cream, which has Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide, as well as rosehip oil and blueberry extract which helps with protecting from blue light. This one is also unscented which is great if you don’t like overpowering scents, especially while you sleep! I especially love this moisturiser because it’s super light but makes my skin feel super soft afterwards.
Biossance also do a Night Serum, which contains Lactic Acid and Squalane. Their squalane is vegan since it’s derived from sugarcane – it’s really important to check with squalane products because sometimes it can be derived from shark liver.
- Suncare – Of course one thing that we have to be really careful about, is our skin when in the sun. A lot of the time package free products or moisturisers don’t have SPF in them to protect us from the sun, and a lot of big brand suncreams aren’t reef safe or vegan.
Scence now make a SPF30 sunscreen balm, which is not only vegan but also reef safe and water resistant too. They also make a SPF30 lip balm, and an after sun moisturiser too, all of which are packaged in paper tubes.
Shade also do a plastic free sunscreen, which is SPF25 and reef safe, but isn’t vegan as it includes beeswax. These come in little metal tins, of either 100ml or 15ml.
UpCircle now also make an SPF25 sunscreen, which is reef safe and vegan, as well as being packaged in a glass jar. This comes in either 60ml or a smaller travel-sized 30ml.
- Face cleansers – This cleansing face balm from UpCircle is one of my favourite products, as it really makes your skin feel soft and moisturised, while also cleaning it! It’s made with discarded apricot stones which makes it smell amazing, but also give the balm a little “roughness” for exfoliating.
If you’d prefer just a plain old bar of soap, UpCircle also does three different soap bars – Cinnamon and Ginger Chai, Chocolate Charcoal, and Fennel and Cardamom. These come completely plastic-free and palm-oil free, and lather up super easy. The fennel and cardamom is my favourite as it smells like liquorice, while the cinnamon and ginger has the perfect autumn/winter feel, and the chocolate charcoal is subtle but also sweet.
Ethique also do a few solid cleanser bars, which most are made with coconut cream, kaolin clay, and orange oil. You can get different bars based on whether your skin is more dry or more oily than most. You can also get all of these (and their other solid bars) in mini travel sizes, which are great for trying out new products before committing to them!
- Toner – Another great product from UpCircle is their Toner with Hyaluronic Acid. The same goes for this product as it comes in a glass bottle, and a plastic spray nozzle which you can save when buying a refill so that you don’t have to throw it away. Made with chamomile and mandarin, which means it’s not only great for your skin, but smells absolutely divine too.
- Acids – Some really good facial acids that come almost plastic-free I found is from The Ordinary. If you order from Deciem, they ship completely plastic-free, which is amazing as there is no bubble wrap or plastic wrap around the individual boxes. Although they aren’t currently refillable, I’m hoping that this will become an option in the nearby future! I’ve used the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, and the Lactic Acid 5% + HA, which have been really helpful for helping my skin heal.
- Face and body scrubs – Finding a good scrub can be a great bathroom essential or gift for someone else. There are lots of different ones to choose from, whether that’s a package free alternative, or one that is in a recyclable jar.
UpCircle do a range of different body and face scrubs, each with different properties for different types of skin. They’re all made with repurposed coffee grounds to exfoliate, and some are made with either peppermint, lemons, or chamomile. These are all packaged in glass jars which can be sent back to be refilled too.
Ethique also do a range of scrubs, which are in bar form so completely plastic free. They do a ginger face scrub Gingersnap, as well as a Lime and Ginger body scrub bar, and a Tea Tree and Spearmint soap bar. All three contain finely ground pumice (a volcanic rock) which is what makes it a great exfoliant.
- Razors – Buying a reusable safety razor is a great way to not only save money in the long run, but also resources and the amount of single-use plastics you use. My safety razor has lasted me around 5 years or so by now, and some of the really good quality ones are said to last a whole lifetime! You can get some really cheap (though they usually still come packaged in plastic), or you can get some better quality and more durable ones, such as the Leaf razor, or the standard safety razor from Wild and Stone.
- Shaving oil and soap – Although this isn’t completely plastic-free, Bulldog makes beard oil (they used to make specifically shaving oil but I believe it’s been discontinued) which comes in glass and a paper box – although the lid and dripper attachment is plastic. I found this oil works great and lasts forever, and it’s completely cruelty-free and vegan.
You can also get things such as shaving soap, which is great if you need to limit your liquid allowance while traveling, or if you’d prefer a lather over an oil. Ethique make a 2-In-1 shampoo and shaving bar which is a great way to save on space and money.
- Toothpaste – Now this is something that can come in a couple of different ways. Most toothpastes come in plastic or mixed material tubes that cannot be recycled.
One of the options is toothpaste tabs, which are hard little tablets which you chew up and they become toothpaste. Brands such as EcoLiving, Georganics, and Brushd. These are a great option if you travel a lot as they don’t count as a liquid.
Or if you’d still prefer paste, you can get some from brands like Davids or Waken which come in completely recyclable metal tubes, which you just have to clean out once they’re finished.
- Mouthwash – Depending on if you use mouthwash or not in your household, finding a more sustainable or plastic free option is a great place to start.
It’s been becoming more popular to have mouthwash tablets, which (in most cases) you pop into around 20ml of water and let dissolve, which then becomes your mouthwash. You can get these from Georganics (although I’m not sure if they still sell refills) or from Brushd, which do four different flavours – Peppermint, Fresh mint, Lemon, and Orange. If you’re in the US, By Humankind also do their own mouthwash tabs, that comes in a silicone case and glass cup, which is great for travelling.
If you’d still prefer a premade liquid mouthwash, Waken do five different flavours – Peppermint, Spearmint, Strawberry and Mint, Lemon and Mint, and a Whitening mouthwash that’s Peppermint flavour. The bottles for the main four flavours are made of sugarcane plastic and recycled plastic (which can still be recycled), and the Whitening mouthwash bottle is made from recycled plastic.
If you don’t have a cap or cup for your mouthwash, you could either save one from your old bottle, use a cup, or you could get a reusable one specifically for your bathroom. Waken sell a reusable stainless-steel cup which even comes etched with a 20ml serving line.
- Shampoo and Conditioner – There are lots of different ways you can try out a more sustainable alternative for shampoo and conditioner. Of course one of the more common options now is to get a solid bar – you can find all sorts of different ones that suit your hair type. It’s also becoming more popular to get liquid shampoo and conditioner in refillable bottles too, which is great if you prefer liquids over bars.
If you’re looking for a solid bar, there are many brands to choose from. Some of my favourites include Lush’s Seanik shampoo bar, and Ethique’s St Clements shampoo bar and Wonderbar conditioner. Some other’s are Foamie (which comes with a 100% cotton string so you can hang them dry), Zero Waste Path (they have a lot of 2-in-1 bars), and Faith in Nature.
For liquid alternatives, you can find a lot of brand that do refills. Faith in Nature can be found in many refill stores or they also sell large 2.5L, 5L, and 20L refill bottles to use at home (and you could always buy these with a group and split the price). Lush also do bottles too which can be recycled, and Ethqiue make shampoo and conditioner concentrates, which means you get a solid block that you mix with boiling water and it becomes a liquid!
Lush also do their own dry shampoo, which is great not only for in-between shower days, but is also great for taking travelling too.
If you’re in the US, I’ve also heard lots of good things about By Humankind, which sell solid bars and liquid shampoo and conditioner, which come in aluminium bottles which you can recycle and save the pump for your next bottle. (They currently only ship within the US, so I haven’t been able to try them out personally myself).
This is everything I have so far! I hope this was helpful and made you consider some new swaps when you need new toiletries in the future. Let me know if you have any other suggestions to add!
Looking for more sustainable ideas? Check out my other posts!
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