Eco-friendly beauty swaps

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By Katie Daly

Everyone has a resolution they intend to conquer in the new year, but how many of these do we stick to and are they realistic? Well my ears pricked up when my friend said that she intended to make a beauty related New Year’s resolution and that she was looking to start making environmentally conscious beauty swaps. As we have started to witness the serious impact our unnecessary use of single-use plastics are having on the environment, she thought it was time to evaluate where she could swap out products where the packaging could be potentially harmful to the environment.

Questions you may be asking are: whether this is financially viable on a student budget? Where do I start? How do I make Eco-friendly decisions without cutting out vital parts of my beauty regime?

I asked my friend about her thought process in the swaps and have compiled some tried and tested alternatives to provide you with the inspiration and direction you need to start cutting down single-use products, and start incorporating environmentally friendly products into your everyday life.

Why did you decide to make Eco-friendly swaps?

I saw how much rubbish I was throwing away unnecessarily and it reminded me of photos I had seen of landfills. This struck a nerve with me when I went on holiday to Greece over the summer and whilst embarking on a trip with a turtle rescue team I saw turtles injured by the plastic. Where I was previously detached from it, I, for the first time, saw first-hand what my waste was doing so I decided I needed to make a change.

How did you choose which areas of your life to make Eco-friendly?

I thought about my routine and my lifestyle. I chose to make this a year-long resolution and a journey. I decided to look at the rubbish I dispose of and looking at what I throw away the most which were cotton pads and tampons. You have to know what you’re throwing away the most to know what you need to swap. I split this up into areas such a kitchen, bathroom, and beauty, and decided to start with beauty first before researching where I could swap for alternatives.

How did you find these alternatives?

I did my research online and found a book by Madeleine Olivia’s called How to Simplify your life and Live Sustainably, which inspired me to look further into easy swaps I can make and see what a difference they will make to the environment. This was also made easier by her handy YouTube channel (amongst others) which gives you rundowns of sustainable swaps and places to source items you will need to make this resolution a reality.

How are you finding your experience with them?

Everything I have used so far, I have been pleased with. I never run out of cotton pads anymore so it is one less thing on my shopping list to remember. I have found the menstrual cup to be just as comfortable as tampons, safer, and I feel more secure in using it, especially when working out. Overall, I am incredibly pleased with how the sustainable swap journey has been going and have seen positive results.

What tips do you have for people who wish to make Eco-friendly beauty swaps?

The most important thing to remember is that this isn’t an overnight process. Don’t feel discouraged if you feel like you’re not doing enough – any small change is a great start. Start by looking at three things which you waste the most, which you think you could work on making sustainable and research substitutes. Don’t expect this to be a super cheap process initially, but if you make these investments here and there, they have a long-term effect. A lot of people are starting to think this way and are interested in making sustainable swaps. There is still a long way to go but researching online can also give you some inspiration. Try setting rules for yourself – try to refrain from impulsive buys which result in you throwing away unnecessary single-use cotton or plastic products. Finally, don’t invest in things which you don’t already use, if you don’t wear much makeup and so don’t use cotton pads, there is little point in investing in reusable ones. Try to make changes specific to your lifestyle.


Image courtesy of amazon

It isn’t necessarily a commonly known fact that cotton farming is highly pollutant aspect of British agriculture. Using reusable cotton buds is one easy way to take single-use cotton out of your beauty regime and doesn’t cost a pretty penny. This is worth looking into now as by April 2020 the UK will be banning single-use cotton buds. You can purchase buds with a pointy tip to clean up eyeliner or rounded ones for cleaning ears, so reusable buds are just as versatile as cotton buds and can be found on Amazon. The easy to clean silicone material also makes them safe and hygienic. These buds even come with a handy case.


Image courtesy of amazon

Similarly, reusable cotton pads are a great Eco-friendly alternative for removing makeup when used with micellar water or applying toner. This reusable option is the same size as regular cotton pads but are machine washable and so can be used again and again. Once washed, these are just as hygienic as cotton pads. In this packet, you also have 12 soft and 4 scrubbing pads meaning they are even more versatile than regular cotton pads, more effective at removing makeup and there is zero waste involved! These are also an economically viable alternative seeing as they come out of the washing machine as good as new.

3. SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER BARS £8 per shampoo bar /£8.50-£9 per conditioner bar/ £2.50 tin

Image courtesy of Lush

Buying shampoo and conditioner bars stops you from buying shampoo and conditioner in bottles that end up in the bin and are bad for the environment. These bars can be bought from Lush with a reusable metal tin to safely and hygienically store it in. They come in different scents, so you can find one that will suit your hair type (if you’re not sure, a member of staff would be happy to assist you). My friend reported that they left her hair feeling silky smooth and left a lovely scent that lasted. She also said that it removed all product residue such as hairspray and mousse from her hair. Using these Eco-friendly options means you’re also supporting brands like Lush who don’t test on animals. If you’re looking to support a local business, you can also pick these up from Unboxed Kent in Canterbury; or if the Lush bars are beyond your budget, shampoo and conditioner bars are also sold by an online retailer Plastic Free Shop.


Image courtesy of facetheory

To take it to the next level, you can negate the use of plastic bottles altogether and invest in reusable facial washcloths which don’t require micellar water to get your makeup off. For only £7.25 you can get 3 face cloths which are machine washable, gentle on the skin and so will remove all makeup and traces of impurities from your skin whilst being suitable for sensitive or allergy-prone skin types.


Image courtesy of amazon

Pads and tampons are a frequent and necessary purchase in most women’s lives. For this reason, we should do all we can to create sustainable alternatives for them. If you’re loyal to tampons, why not try a menstrual cup? Despite popular opinion, they are easy to use – just fold the cup part and insert simply and easily.

The cup is a great alternative to tampons as it is comfortable and hygienic due to it being made from medical grade silicone and can hold up to 3 tampons worth of blood at one time. Being oil and fragrance-free also makes it suitable to use in intimate areas and can be washed easily using boiled water once a day. Although this may look like a larger payment, it is an investment and it will stop you from spending upwards of £4 every time your period comes.

If you think this alternative may be too invasive and you tend to opt for sanitary pads but want to try an Eco-friendly alternative, you’re not excluded. Why not try reusable period underwear or washable sanitary pads. The design is discreet so dispel all fears of feeling or looking like you’re wearing a nappy. You can buy them in a range of colours so they can be worn discreetly under any clothing item and are made of a breathable fabric to prevent odour and are super absorbent and leak-free to make you feel secure, especially if you play sports. They also come in dress sizes so it is easy for you to find a pair which fit you comfortably.

It’s important to remember that making these changes won’t happen over-night but making small changes where you can make a huge difference. If something doesn’t work for you, try swapping something different.

If you try out any of these Eco-friendly beauty swaps, be sure to get in touch and tell us how you’re getting on at @inquirekent on Instagram and Facebook.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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