Eco-shopper Guide: The Bathroom Edition

Image credit: @drawnbymary

Ah, toiletries. Our welcomed deliverance from the Dark Ages of pungent pits and diseased loins. There’s nothing quite like the way they leave you feeling like extra sauce on your favourite sarmie: so damn good.

But what if I told you that your trusted squeaky cleans are most likely hiding a dirty secret? The truth is that many of us are blissfully unaware of the impact our toiletry purchases have on the planet. Cue a non-exhaustive guide that will help you transform your toiletries into a largely eco-friendly and totally cruelty-free collection of wonders you’ll like even more than what you were using before.

Beyond yourself is how you have to think if you want to be truly eco-conscious.

PLEASE NOTE: Not all of my suggestions are totally zero waste, but all of them are cruelty-free. I have tried my best to only include items that leave as little waste in their wake as possible but there are some packaged in plastic, so please don’t crucify me. While the aim is to avoid single-use plastics, some people can’t afford to go completely zero waste at every avenue, i.e. shampoo bars and charcoal toothpaste may not work for some.

Image credit: @styngvi

With that in mind, I’ve tried to keep this guide as accessible and inclusive as possible, and offer people cruelty-free alternatives they’ll actually want to use. I will continuously be adding to this guide, so please do give me your feedback and any suggestions of other cruelty-free/zero-waste products I can add in! PS, there will be a separate guide for skincare.

Now then. Let’s start with the basics, shall we?

CHECK YOUR INGREDIENTS LIST

Your skin is your largest organ and while it isn’t the sponge that the holistic industry often claims it to be, even cosmetic chemists can’t be entirely sure which chemicals are entering your bloodstream when they shouldn’t be. Why? Because every person’s protective barrier and every chemical is different.

Topical drugs came into existence because it was discovered that we could absorb certain chemicals into the bloodstream through our skin. The fact is, if you’re using something packed with toxicities (even in trace quantities) there is risk of damaging your protective barrier, and even your organs.

You need to make sure that a cruelty-free claim is endorsed by a cruelty-free organisation.

And beyond yourself (which is how you have to think if you want to be truly eco-conscious) the production, transportation, and recycling of beauty products requires an incomprehensible amount of finite resources.

The global beauty industry has a gargantuan carbon footprint and creates 120 billion units of packaging every year. Plus, every time you use eco-harmful products, they wash off of you into rivers, oceans, and sewage systems that end up polluting waterways, bleaching corals, and harming Nemo and friends.

To make matters worse, those of us who are trying to choose products that are less shit for the environment are often fooled into buying more crap by unregulated advertising terminology.

Dafuq do you mean “unregulated advertising terminology”?

The terms “organic”, “eco-friendly”, and “vegan” are thrown around more freely than one dollars in a strip club. Sadly, because there are no laws regulating product labelling, these terms are being terribly misused to get consumers to buy products that aren’t nearly half of what they claim to be. This is known as greenwashing.

Image credit: @welove2boogie

So, what’s to be done if we can’t trust labels? Just a little research, which I have (partially) done for you. Here is a breakdown of terminology and some labels to look out for the next time you’re shopping for products that really aren’t shit:

CRUELTY-FREE

This means that a product claims that it isn’t tested on animals, or made from ingredients that are tested on animals. You should make sure that this claim is endorsed by a cruelty-free organisation that regulates these claims (or at least tries to). Here are four of the most common logos to look out for:

Image credit: bwcsa.co.za

Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) South Africa offers a free BWC Humane Guide which is a list of brands that have proven their humane status according to a strict set of criteria as set out by BWC. They’re the only organisation in South Africa to conduct a thorough audit to ensure that the claims of companies are truly endorsed.

While you have to pay to use the logos of other organisations, BWC offers theirs for free to encourage everyone to get endorsed. You can see their list of audited companies, here.

Image credit: crueltyfreekitty.com

Currently, Leaping Bunny is the only internationally-recognised organisation that does independent audits and spot checks to verify cruelty-free claims. You can view their list of verified companies here, but make sure to skip products that have unethical parent companies.

An unethical parent company means that even though a company might be “cruelty-free”, the larger company that owns it and profits from it is not. Think Dove owned by Unilever. Also, it should be noted that if a product claims it is cruelty-free but is exported to and available for purchase in China, it is not cruelty-free because all products that are imported into China require animal testing by law. Think Mac.

While cruelty-free research may require a little thumb energy, the defenceless animals suffering in labs are totally worth it.

PETA Cruelty-Free requires companies to sign a cruelty-free pledge so their inclusion is based on honesty only. You can view their list, here. Side note: PETA is deeply problematic and a hindrance more than anything to the sound vegan movement (yes, there is an unsound vegan movement too). So, don’t consume any of their media, or seek advice from them. Learn why they fucking suck, here.

Choose Cruelty Free is an Australian company that requires companies to apply for accreditation and, upon acceptance, sign a legally-binding contract. While companies do have to regularly reapply for accreditation, they don’t carry out physical audits. Again, inclusion is based on honest documentation that we hope isn’t forged. You can view their list, here.

VEGAN

This means that products do not contain animal products/byproducts/derivatives and that none of the ingredients are tested on animals directly by manufacturers or by third parties. Labels to look out for that endorse these standards include the following:

Image credit: crueltyfreekitty.com

Sadly, all of the above organisations do not carry out physical audits and rely solely on honest and accurate documentation. If you’re feeling unsure about a product bearing one of these labels, just Google the name of the product to see if there are any stories exposing the product as non-vegan.

While it may take a little thumb energy, I’m sure we can agree that the defenceless animals suffering in labs are totally worth it. #YayForNotBeingShitAndLazy

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

If you’re one of those people that like to buy two new kinds of shampoo while you still have half a bottle at home, you need to ask yourself: “Do I really need this?” If the answer is no, do your bank account and the environment a favour and don’t buy it.

If the answer is yes, then get creative and find alternative uses for the ones you already own. Goodbye old shampoo, hello new shaving gel! Trust me, any old shampoo works just fine as a slick landing strip for your razor. When you’re done giving new purpose to your previously-abandoned products or donating them to those in need, make sure to recycle their packaging or cut them up and put them into your eco-brick.

Image credit: the_baptman

Ideally, you want to scale down on the amount of crap you buy. YES, I said crap because I meant it. The bare necessities, my friends, that’s all you really need. Although the multi-billion dollar capitalist industry doesn’t want you to know that. Just find ethical brands you love and stick to the staples. If you want to be adventurous, swap out one of your regular choices for something new.

We need to start thinking like our planet is not an endless resource… because it literally isn’t. If you can’t digest that and part with your heavy consumptive ways just yet, keep trying to. We’re in the midst of a single-use plastic and climate crisis that requires action NOW. I know there is an eco-conscious consumer in you, they’ve just been swallowed up by manipulative advertising campaigns. YOU CAN DO THIS!

JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER

Ideally, try and opt for products without packaging, or packaging that is home-compostable, i.e. cardboard and paper. Alternatively, opt for packaging that is more eco-friendly than virgin plastic, i.e. recycled plastic, hemp plastic, etc. At the very least, make sure the packaging is simple and not comprised of a variety of materials – like the packaging Pringles come in. The more elements there are to a package, the harder it is to recycle because each element needs to be separated and sorted at the depot.

Ugh, it’s so hard tho, everything is wrapped in plastic.

One way to purchase plastic responsibly is by buying from companies that recycle their own packaging. Places like Lush have a return depot at their stores for their used packaging. All you have to do is take your empty bottles and tubs back with you when you go and do a restock! Easy-peasy.

I like to use bars of soap instead of plastic bottles of shower gel, or buy refill packets of gel for the plastic bottles of hand-sanitiser/shower gel I already have. When the refill packets are empty, I rinse them and put them in my eco-brick.

Of course, the ultimate option is zero-waste shopping, a reality that becoming more and more accessible. By opting to shop zero-waste, you don’t have to worry about looking for things with the “right” packaging. All you have to do is take along your jars/containers and stock up at the store. No packaging, no problem. Check out Shop Zero and Nude Foods in Cape Town, and this listicle that details other zero-waste stores across South Africa.

Image credit: @vxrna

THE BOTTOM LINE: DO WHAT YOU CAN, AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN

Being eco-conscious is not about being perfect. I promise an angry eco-warrior isn’t going to jump out of the shadows and beat you to death with criticism if you have to purchase a plastic-enrobed product, because you missed the organic market at the weekend. Every little action helps.

The earth is better off with seven billion people doing eco-consciousness imperfectly, than one million people doing it perfectly. Start by asking yourself the following questions whenever you need to purchase a product:

  1. Is this product manufactured responsibly? Are any of the ingredients and/or by-products harmful to the natural world?
  2. Is this product, or any of the ingredients, tested on animals? Is it owned by an unethical parent company?
  3. Is this product’s packaging sustainable? Is it compostable, or easily and widely recycled?

Now that you can make informed decisions for yourself, here are some of my favourite eco-friendly/cruelty-free products:

Shower like you give a shit

WHO? Lush is my one-stop shop for ridiculously good smelling soapies that make my skin (and the sea) happy as can be. They have lots of packageless items, including soap, shampoo, bubble bath, and moisturising bars. Plus, you can return their plastic packaging when you’re done.

COST? Most of their soaps go for between R49 and R55 per 100 grams which might seem pricey, but they do last me well into two months if I keep them out of water when I’m not using them. You can find a Lush outlet near you, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: My bathroom smells like a Lush store, need I say more? 

WHAT? Savon Soap is a local company that produces gift-worthy soaps in the Karoo that are free from sodium laurel sulphates, parabens, artificial fragrance, and salts. They contain only the purest base oils, natural colourants. and fragrant essential oils. Plus, they have aesthetically-pleasing cardboard packaging that makes them a delight to look at and dispose of.

COST? Their soaps cost between R39 and R45 per bar and, while I haven’t used mine yet, the reviews on their website say they prove longevous enough to suit even a large family.

SPECIAL MENTION: Their soaps lather even in the hardest of waters, leaving your skin soft, moisturised, and smelling like a literal snack.

Celebrate with bubbles

WHAT? Lush’s bath bombs are the business if you’re in the market for a bathtub experience that is nothing short of sensorially spectacular. Think a performative ball of sudsy happiness that brings dreary bathtub water to life with nose-tantalising aromas and an arresting display of fizzing colour. If you haven’t seen one of them in action on someone’s IG story yet, you’re following the wrong people.

COST? Between R50 and R80 per bomb. I’d say it’s a fair price for those once-in-a-while, it’s-been-a-long-life-and-I’m-worth-it occasions. They also make great gifts. Get yours from a Lush store near you.

SPECIAL MENTION: These beauties are not only a delight to the eyes and and nose, but they’re packed with cruelty-free natural ingredients and essential oils that leave your skin feeling silken, fresh, and fucking fabulous. They come in a variety of whimsical shapes, sizes, smells, and colours, offering something for every mood. Did I mention that they’re available without packaging?

WHAT? Rub-a-dub-dub, leave your anxiety in the tub! There’s nothing quite like the embrace of a gazillion gently-popping bubbles to soothe the soul and ease the behind. Cue Lush’s bubble bars – bars that transform bathtubs into bubble-filled oases.

COST? These babies come in at between R50 and R60 a pop. You can get them from a Lush store near you.

SPECIAL MENTION: They’re pretty, packageless, made from natural and sustainable ingredients, and are as kind to the Earth as they are to your skin. Guiltless tub-time, where you at?

We don’t want no scrubs

What we do want are scrubbers that aren’t made of plastic and other harmful-to-the-environment fibres because when we wash ourselves with such scrubs, little pieces break off and enter the ocean as micro-plastics. Micro-plastics are the devil. We hate them.

Image credit: easyeco.co.za

WHAT? This hand-crocheted hemp scrubbie is made from 100% hemp cord and is as versatile as David Bowie. It not only works great in the shower and tub, but can also be used in the kitchen! When you’re done, just rinse it with water and hang it in a pool of dappled sunshine to dry.

COST? R45 from Easy Eco, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: It’s about 9cm in size and because it’s made from 100% hemp cord, you can rest assured you aren’t supporting a crop that is water or pesticide intensive. It’ll also prove longevous when cared for properly.

Image credit: shopzero.co.za

WHAT? Did you know that non-vegan loofahs were once literally living sea creatures? How strange to rub a dead body up against your own in the tub. Never fear when Shop Zero is near, they have vegan loofahs that come from a vining plant instead. All you have to do is wet your loofah with warm water to soften it, add an eco-friendly washing product of your choice, and exfoliate to your heart’s content!

COST? R40 from Shop Zero. They also have a mini one for R20.

SPECIAL MENTION: It’s so sustainable that when it’s worn, you can just wash it and chuck it into a DIY compost pile. No micro-plastics, no worries! And, you can even use it in the kitchen to scrub mugs, glasses, and baby bottles. Now that’s the kind of scrub that can get some love from me!

WHAT? For those still a little apprehensive about the roughness of the two previous scrubs, the Just Pure Organic Vegetable Sponge from Faithful to Nature will suit you better. This skin-cleansing organic cellulose sponge is not only soft and gentle, but also made entirely from plant pulp.

COST? R40 for a set of two. Perfect for you and your cohabitant. Get yours, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: Chuck it in the composter when it’s worn and don’t worry about little pieces going down the drain if they happen to. Sea creatures can eat this vegetable sponge, no problemo!

Care for your hair

WHAT? HASK offers a wide range of cruelty-free products that are either vegetarian or vegan. The Monoi Coconut Oil Shampoo and Conditioner makes my wavy (caucasian) hair feel silky-smooth and nourished. I’ll be genuinely surprised if I don’t get a compliment on wash day.

My melanin beauties tell me HASK Hot Oil Hair Treatment works really well for hydration, if they aren’t making homemade masks comprised of natural ingredients like coconut oil and avocado (yum). You can see a list of HASK’s other vegan products via Ethical Elephant, here.

COST? I pay around R150 per bottle of shampoo or conditioner and, no lies, I’ve had the same bottle of shampoo for over SIX MONTHS. Plus, when I’ve run out of soap, I found that it doubles up great as body wash and shaving gel.

SPECIAL MENTION: My hair is LONG and I wash it every three to four days. The amount I use for effective coverage is SO minimal that the price proves really reasonable.

Image credit: nubiannature.co.za

WHAT? Nubian Nature is a manufacturer of eco-conscious toxin-free hair, skin, and body-care products based in Johannesburg. Their Carrot Hydrating Custard and Hair Essence Oil Combo comprises a light, water-based hydrating cream that nourishes and replenishes thirsty hair from root to tip. What you’re left with is a naturally-hydrated crown that is sure to make people thirsty at the sight of it.

COST? This combo comes in at a decently-priced R195. And because you’ll use it as a fortnightly treatment, you can expect it to last reasonably long. You can make your purchase via their online shop, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: Not only is Nubian Nature a black female-owned business, but all key ingredients are ethically sourced from female-run fair trade and community trade initiatives across the African continent. #Goals

Image credit: drorganic.co.za

WHAT? Dr. Organic is my current favourite hair-care brand. Their range of multi-award winning organically-enhanced health and beauty products are of excellent quality. They make my hair feel and smell amazing, and last really long. They have a range of options that cater for every hair type and each is packed with bio-active ingredients that really work.

COST? I’m currently using the Rose Otto Shampoo and Conditioner which set me back around R150 each. As mentioned, they last super long because you only need to use a little and my hair is probably longer than yours so you can trust me when I say: they last. Get yours from Clicks, Dischem, and select Spars.

SPECIAL MENTION: You guessed it: no animal testing, no GMOs, no mineral oils, no harsh ingredients, no chemicals, no bad preservatives, and they only use organic/sustainable ingredients. NOTE: some of their products contain honey, royal jelly, propolis, and bees wax but the rest are vegan. YAY!

Hair removal hack

Firstly, fuck the patriarchy and societal pressures on women to be as slick and hairless as a fucking dolphin. Body hair is NATURAL. We all have it, and I genuinely encourage you not to fall into the trap I did as an impressionable youth. Try not to waste your precious time obsessing over dehairing yourself from the neck down.

I was bullied at school for my hairy arms and my mom found me shaving them mercilessly at the ripe age of just 12 (BRUH the fucking regrowth, you have no idea). From there I shaved my legs on the daily so my guy friends wouldn’t laugh at me for having “grip-tape” legs – my hair is VERY thick so my leg stubble is something like that of a man’s beard.

From there I waxed my poor vagina into a state of ingrown agony and had to go for laser hair removal just so I could wear a bikini without people wondering if I had concentrated chickenpox. ANYWAY. Fuck people. Body hair is wonderful and normal and if someone has a problem with it, you should tell them to get fucked.

Image credit: @hazel.mead

BUT, what if you’re like me and you’ve internalised a dislike for your own body hair and still want to remove it for your own comfort? Well, the sad truth is that most hair removers, and even razors, are not cruelty-free or eco-friendly. I’ve had my Gillette Venus razor for YEARS and I’m not going to chuck it simply because I already have it (Gillette isn’t cruelty-free), but I won’t buy another one, hair remover, or wax strips ever again. #EcoUnfriendlyAF

I like to use my boyfriend’s beard shaver to trim any unruly hairs because I don’t owe anyone bald, but I do like to hairscape for my own pleasure. If we break up, I’ll probably buy my own. BUT, you’ll be relieved to know there is an epic, vegan, cheap, and eco-friendly DIY wax that you can do with things you probably have in your kitchen cupboard right now. *drum roll please*

WHAT? DIY Sugar Wax. That’s right. DIY, bitches. It’s easy, it’s relatively quick once you have some mixture stored and this video is a literal pleasure to watch, filled with tips and tricks to get this method waxed on your first try!

COST? As much as a little sugar and the juice of a lemon. YES PLEASE!

SPECIAL MENTION: While you don’t need reusable wax strips, they do help to get the wax off when it starts getting too soft and sticky. And you don’t need to buy them from a fancy organic market, you can simply cut up a piece of cotton (or cotton-like cloth) and use that. When you’re done, all you do is pop the strip into a sink with warm water and the wax mixture dissolves entirely – reusable AF eco-friendly hair removal of my dreams. I can’t wait to try it.

Image credit: faithfultonature.co.za

WHAT? If ripping hair off your own body is a hard pass for you, then try the Baili Double Edge Razor instead. It hails itself as a totally plastic-free and eco-friendly way to shave your face and legs.

COST? R199 from Faithful to Nature. Reviewers say it’s a lot more cost effective than conventional razors in the long run. Sounds good to me. Get yours, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: A twist-to-open top offers an easy way to swap out dull blades for sharp ones, while comb grooves on the head guide your hair to ensure the perfect shave every time. It is a different experience to conventional razors, so it may take some practice to get the results you want without nicking yourself.

Dry sex for who?

You thought I was going to forget lube? Never fear when my vagina is near, she always has something to say. I used to be a die-hard Durex lube fan (probably because I didn’t know anything else existed and didn’t want to be seen lingering in that section of the aisle for very long). This was until I found out how sexual lubricants are tested on animals…

The lubricant is injected into the vaginas or bellies of guinea pigs, mice, or rats and then they’re killed for autopsical examination. If you don’t find that truly harrowing, I’m sure it’s at least something you don’t want to think about every time you’re slathering your nether regions with lube.

Don’t worry though, I won’t leave you high and dry. I’ve found some cruelty-free, vegan-friendly wetness for us all to enjoy.

Image credit: organicchoice.co.za

WHAT? Nature Fresh is my favourite lubricant and relatively cheap compared to other brands. They care deeply about the natural world and providing their customers with specially-formulated products that are cruelty-free, gentle, effective, and accessible.

COST? I got mine for R59,95 from Dischem but you can get yours from any of the following stockists found across South Africa, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: I use the fragrance-free lube and, as someone that is highly-sensitive to latex, fragrance, and anything that isn’t perfectly PH-balanced, it works great for me. No itchiness, no stickiness, no hurting animals for my own pleasure. YAY!

Image credit: oske.co.za

WHAT? Oske is made by women for women from natural ingredients that intend to make sexual exploration a slick experience you won’t be disappointed by.

COST? While R169 isn’t cheap, at least the packaging is as beautiful as you are. You can make your purchase online from Faithful to Nature or directly from Oske’s online store, here. Did someone say free shipping?

SPECIAL MENTION: Oske products are edible (goodbye dry head) and free from sugars, gluten, alcohol, fragrances, parabens, petroleum, silicon, and glycerine.

Don’t sweat the cruel stuff

Let’s start by differentiating between antiperspirant and deodorant. Deodorant is merely a scent that perfumes your pits, while antiperspirants contain aluminium salts that temporarily plug your pores, keeping sweat from escaping at all. Now while aluminium is a neurotoxin, you’d have to ingest loads of it to be effected, according to scientists that have pumped it steadily into the blood of rats for years.

There’s been a lot of speculation and conflicting papers over the years about the potential effects of aluminium on humans. Some research discovered that rabbits injected with aluminium phosphate experienced brain deterioration, while another found high levels of aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Yet another found no clear evidence linking Alzheimer’s and antiperspirants, while a different paper documents a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer diagnosis. Sigh.

Image credit: @lizamanaburns

Whether or not it can cause Alzheimers or breast cancer, the fact remains that aluminium in anti-perspirants is not cruelty-free and I don’t think inhibiting your body from completing its natural bodily function is a good thing.

One thing that has been confirmed by research is that antiperspirants change the concentration of bacteria that grows in your pits, which isn’t necessarily a good thing because these important bacterias may protect us from pathogens. This change in bacteria also means a change in body odour.

When you first stop using anti-perspirants, you might find you smell to be worse than you ever remembered. The good news is that your natural bacteria levels will regulate again. Making the switch from anti-perspirant to deodorant (and eating better) was the best decision I could have made for my pits. I can honestly say that I smell the least smelly I ever have, now that my pit bacteria isn’t being interrupted by anti-perspirant. Yay for deo!

Image credit: dischem.co.za

WHAT? Nature’s Nourishment Crystal Body Deodorant Stick is my daily go-to. It’s made of natural mineral salts that prevent body odour by creating an invisible protective barrier against odour-causing bacteria.

COST? R59,99 and, no lies, I’ve had the same one for almost a year! Obviously because my pits are quite small and they are hairless, it lasts extra long but even my much larger and hairier other half is happy with the longevity of this epic salt crystal. It’s also available in spray form! You can get yours at Dischem.

SPECIAL MENTION: This salt bae is fragrance-free, non-sticky, non-staining, and doesn’t leave the white residue you’d expect from rubbing a hunk of salt on your pits. I know the fragrance-free bit might scare you because you think you’re still going to smell, but in reality the layer of salt keeps you from sweating enough to stay comfortable through even the hottest of days. Plus, there’s always perfume if you’re wanting to smell obviously nice.

WHAT? For those who can’t imagine using an unscented deodorant, Pine Forest Earth Sap will do the trick. Think smelling like a freshly rained-on pine forest; sweet, delicate, and fokken fresh. If you’re not a pine forest fan, they also have Tea Tree & Lemon and Grapefruit & Geranium variants.

COST? R59,00. Reviewers say it lasts long and smells powerful enough to notice. Win-win. Get it from Faithful to Nature or at select Spars (I’ve seen it at the Sea Point one).

SPECIAL MENTION: This natural roll-on deodorant is as kind to your skin as it is to the planet. It’s made with pure, biodegradable ingredients and is 100% non-toxic. It’s simple plant-based ingredients and essential oils will keep your pits perfume-y without blocking your pores or irritating your skin.

Eau de sustainable

Perfume. Ah, nothing nicer than smelling like a bouquet of freshly-bloomed cherry blossoms with subtle hints of sugared ginger and undertones of soothing sandal wood. But do you actually know what you’re putting onto (and into) your body?

Did you know the average name-brand perfume contains 14 chemicals not listed on the label? According to this report published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, these chemicals are associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and most haven’t even been assessed for safety in personal care products.

Products tested include Hannah Montana Secret Celebrity Cologne Spray, J. Lo’s J. Lo, Halle Berry’s Halle, Coco Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle Chanel, Calvin Klein Eternity, Clinique Happy Perfume Spray, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, Old Spice After Hours Body Spray, and host of others you definitely know of, if not own.

The report also says “in the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues.” Yikes.

The government would never let something like this happen!

Actually, they would. The report goes on to say:

A review of government records shows that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not assessed the vast majority of these secret fragrance chemicals for safety when used in spray-on personal care products such as fragrances. Nor have most been evaluated by the safety review panel of the International Fragrance Association or any other publicly accountable institution.

It’s some rather unsettling fuckery indeed. Fuckery that doesn’t come as a surprise to me since I’ve never been able to wear perfume without getting a splitting headache, feeling nauseas, or having trouble breathing. According to the report, other allergic effects caused by fragrance products include “mucosal irritation, reduced pulmonary function, infant diarrhoea and vomiting, asthma, sense organ irritation, and contact dermatitis”. Yikes X2.

So, what’s to be done? Throw our perfume collections in the bin? No, that’s wasteful and bad for the environment since they are commonly classified as hazardous waste. You can see them finished (if you dare) or dispose of them responsibly. Then switch to something that meets the following requirements:

1. The product is made using methods that don’t damage the environment, now or later.
2. The product replaces, reuses or recycles the ingredients, packaging and waste from their entire manufacturing process.
3. The product reduces carbon footprint through the use of local suppliers.
4. The company that creates the product works with suppliers that also abide to a socially-conscious, sustainable, and fair-trade ethos.

Image credit: lerichenaturals.co.za

WHAT? Le Riche formulates hand-poured perfumes using whole essential oils, natural fragrance materials, and eco-friendly ingredients. Their methods are akin to the late 18th century style of perfume making, have a skin-friendly approach, and a myrrh-resin fixative base.

COST? The one above, VERT, is R985 for 30ml. It’s not cheap but which perfume is? At least this is good for you and not full of strange chemicals that haven’t been tested for safety. Plus, you can even attend their perfume-making workshop to make your own bespoke perfume based on the scents you like the most! How cool? Check out their website for more.

SPECIAL MENTION: They place special focus on using fragrant plants that are indigenous to southern Africa. Local is lekker!

Image credit: Sana Jardin

WHAT? For my high-end, nothing-but-the-best-for-me eco-warriors, Sana Jardin will tickle all your fancies. Say hello to the socially conscious luxury fragrance house with a Beyond Sustainability Movement. What’s that you wonder? A zero-waste movement that not only prioritises sustainability from conception to execution, but also empowers low-income women in Morocco through independent commerce. FUCKMEUUUUP.

These talented women pick the orange blossoms used in Sana Jardin’s signature scents and then use the by-products, such as orange flower water and wax, to create candles that they sell at local markets. Do you know what I like more than sustainable zero-waste perfume? Sustainable zero-waste perfume that empowers low-income women.

COST? Cop yours for a staggering (for me) yet well-worth it (for the environment and Moroccan women) £180 from Sana Jardin’s online store, or from Harrods if you’re in the UK.

SPECIAL MENTION: All of their products are free from phthalates, artificial colourants, parabens, and formaldehydes, and majority of the bottles and boxes are made from recycled materials. Could you get anymore perfect a perfume? I think not.

Dirty minds > dirty mouths

Fluoride in toothpaste has experienced worse speculation than aluminium in antiperspirant. Worse only because when used topically fluoride has actually been scientifically proven to improve overall oral health. Simply put: it’s bad reputation in toothpaste is unjust. Hold up before you gather your pitch forks though! I’m not saying that fluoride isn’t harmful when ingested, i.e. by drinking fluoridated tap water.

After reading the following studies, I am in agreement that the fluoridation of drinking water has potentially adverse health effects – which is why I don’t drink it #Privileged. Anyway, the final verdict on fluoride-containing toothpaste is that it’s far better for your teeth than fluoride-free toothpaste. Just spit, don’t swallow. But to find one that is cruelty-free… required me to spend A LOT of time on the internet today. See below.

Just a quick note on the recycling of toothpaste tubes: you need to cut them open horizontally and clean them thoroughly before putting them in the recycling bin. You should also check that your recyclers accept them, because some do not. Honestly, toothpaste tubes are shit and you should try and avoid them if you can (see further down).

Currently, WastePlan (the company contracted to collect residential recycling within the City of Cape Town’s free door-to-door collection service) does NOT accept toothpaste tubes. You’ll have to eco-brick them, or opt for toothpaste that comes in glass jars. 

Image credit: clicks.co.za

WHAT? White Glo is an Australian brand that says they are against animal testing, do not pay third parties to test on animals, and that their products are suitable for vegans. And, if it wasn’t obvious already, their products are fluoride containing.

COST? Between R26 and R39 for toothpaste alone and slightly more for a combo pack that includes a toothbrush – one of them even includes an eco-friendly toothbrush made of bamboo. Score! You can purchase yours at Clicks or Dischem.

SPECIAL MENTION: They aren’t certified by any cruelty-free organisation because they “weren’t comfortable sharing their production process” *eyebrow raise*, but you can find “not tested on animals” on their boxes.

And although they do retail in China, there is a loophole in Chinese law that says products manufactured in China do not need to be tested on animals, only those that are imported.

White Glo says their Chinese products are manufactured in China, so do not undergo any third-party animal testing. It’s a bit disconcerting, but I think I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they aren’t lying to their customer’s faces.

I can’t find anything online about their manufacturing processes and whether they’re environmentally responsible and sustainable, but I have emailed them so I will revert when they reply.

WHAT? If you’re not convinced enough to trust a multi-national mega-company like White Glo, are still convinced that your third eye will get calcified by the fluoride in your toothpaste, or want something with more eco-friendly packaging, then trying a local-is-lekker product like Back 2 Nature Activated Charcoal Toothpaste. It promises to provide all-round, fluoride-free “natural magic for your mouth”.

COST? It’s R79,90 from Faithful to Nature and comes with raving reviews, although those who have sensitive teeth will most likely not be able to use it daily because of the gritty bicarbonate of soda.

SPECIAL MENTION: It contains coconut oil to banish bacteria, baking soda to brush away stains, bentonite to remineralise, and activated charcoal to whiten your teeth naturally. Sounds good to me.

Image credit: faithfultonature.co.za

WHAT? Now that you have a toothpaste that isn’t cruel AF, you need a toothbrush that is eco-cool AF – since, you know, every plastic toothbrush we’ve ever used is still on this planet. Introducing Faithful to Nature’s 100% sustainable Adult Toothbrush. It boasts a curvaceous hour-glass figure clad in biodegradable bamboo and clear, recyclable bristles made from castor bean oil.

COST? R40. I’ve had a similar one and it lasted a good few months. Probably would have lasted longer if I wasn’t such an aggressive brusher #HardBristlesForWho. Get yours from Faithful to Nature – I’ve mentioned them so many times I think they should start paying me. #JokeButIWontSayNo

SPECIAL MENTION: There are also a few other options like this at Spar in Sea Point.

Side note: I’ve spent R8000 on dental bills in my adult life because I never flossed growing up (and I only ever got taken to the dentist when I was in screaming agony – my dad’s fault). My point is: you need to floss. BUT, the problem I’ve come into is that I can’t find an eco-friendly floss that is also vegan – not one available in SA anyway. Here’s what I’m using now, an alternative that isn’t vegan but is compostable, and what I actually want to use:

Image credit: amazingy.com

WHAT? Eco-Dent is a vegan floss with eco-friendly packaging, but it’s made of nylon (which does biodegrade but only after some ridiculous amount of time like 80 years) which isn’t good enough in my opinion. I’ve been using it for the last few months and now that I know it isn’t beneficially biodegradable, I’m going to start putting it in my eco-bricks.

COST? It’s R127 for 91.44m from Faithful to Nature and similarly priced at Spar in Sea Point. It’s lasted me a few months so far and there is still A LOT left (two people use it daily).

SPECIAL MENTION: While it is epic that the packaging is cardboard, I think special attention needs to be focused on how you dispose of the actual floss. Ideally, I want something that is vegan AND eco-friendly so I won’t buy it again. It is better than conventional floss, so if it’s your only option like it was mine then that’s okay too. #DoWhatYouCan

Image credit: senzabamboo.com

WHAT? SenzaBamboo‘s Plastic-Free Silk Dental Floss is not vegan because the floss is made from silk (made by captive worms), but is resultantly compostable.

COST? R89 for 30m and, you guessed it, it’s available from Faithful to Nature.

SPECIAL MENTION: It’s one of the only 100% plastic-free, tea tree oil, silk flosses on the South African market.

WHAT? This baby right here is the sweet spot that tickles my eco-friendly AND vegan g-spot. Say hello to World of Bamboo‘s aesthetically-awesome and environmentally heroic bamboo floss that comes in a nifty glass jar and crafted wooden box. What more could you ask for?

COST? £4.99 which is about R90. Do I think it’s worth it? Fuck yes. I cannot wait to get my hands on some. You can order it online, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: I might have said this already but in case you weren’t frothing as hard as I am: IT’S VEGAN AND 100% ECO-FRIENDLY.

Earthly ear buddies

WHAT? Every plastic ear bud you’ve ever used is still on this planet, probably being clung to by seahorses that think it’s seaweed. But there’s no need for (more) environmental heartbreak and wax-y ear canals when you can just buy Silvercare’s Organic Cotton Buds, which are totally biodegradable. Minus the packaging, which you can repurpose/chop up and put in your eco-brick.

COST? R39 for 200 buddies, available from Faithful to Nature.

SPECIAL MENTION: Made using FSC certified paper and 100% organic cotton, these super-soft beauties are free from pesticides, herbicides, chemical-fertiliser residue, and dioxins – a toxic pollutant made by harsh chlorine bleaches.

Image credit: makro.co.za

WHAT? Cherubs eco-cotton buds claim to be the first “ECOtton” range of earbuds and rounds in South Africa that are flushable and biodegradable. I’ve used them before. They do the trick and they’re real cheap. Enough said.

COST? You can get a pack of 200 from Makro for R14,95, and a pack of 100 from Dischem for R12,95. I’m pretty sure Clicks has some eco-friendly ones like this too.

SPECIAL MENTION: They’re cheap, cheap, cheap. Just make sure to eco-brick/repurpose the plastic packaging.

Eco-friendly asswipes

That’s right. I said it. Asswipes. Make sure yours aren’t bad for the planet. I bet you’re surprised to know that most premium toilet paper rolls (aka virgin toilet paper rolls) are made from trees that take up to 30 years to grow. In fact, the softer the asswipe, the older tree. #DeforASStation

Processing these trees into toilet paper not only depletes the Earth’s already dwindling forests, but it also requires a helluva lot water and energy. The solution? Güdsheet, the sustainable South African toilet paper that gives back.

WHAT? Güdsheet is made from 60% sugarcane fibre and 40% FSC-approved wood pulp to ensure sustainable afforestation. Each roll is individually hand-wrapped in eco-friendly, hygienic paper and then packed into recycled boxes to replace plastic packaging.

COST? A box of 48 1-ply rolls comes in at R312 (R6,50 per roll) and a box of 40 2-ply rolls goes for R384 (R8 per roll). The latter is only R1,40 more per roll than Baby Soft purchased from Woolworths.

Plus, for every box of 1-ply bought, two rolls are donated to those without, and for every box of 2-ply bought, a portion goes toward building toilets for underprivileged schools. Compared to what you’re using now, it’s a small price difference to pay to make a grand difference to not only the planet, but South Africans without access to safe sanitation.

You can get free delivery if you order three or more boxes (combine your order with friends and family) from Güdsheet, here. Or, you can purchase singles from Faithful to Nature at a relatively higher price.

SPECIAL MENTION: There’s no need to worry about your finger poking through accidentally; the hybrid blend of sustainable fibres gives each sheet a welcomingly-soft feel with the kind of “no-nonsense strength” you’d expect from a premium TP brand.

Perfect your paws

I’m sorry to keep sustainability-shaming your beauty regime like this but… regular nail polish is full of harsh chemicals that are shit for the environment (and your health). Consider your acetone/nail-polish-covered cotton rounds a poisonous offence to the soil of landfills when you bin them, and a travesty to the home of marine life when you flush them.

Traditional acrylics are also made from “usually safe” (yet still toxic) chemicals that have been reported to the FDA numerous times for causing negative reactions like redness, swelling, sore nail beds, and nail deformity. I can attest to this because I almost lost an entire big toe nail from traditional gel and ruined my hand nails with a singular acrylic application (not due to the appliers negligence).

Image credit: @themoonbacon

Obviously, some people are sensitive/allergic so exhibit a more adverse reaction, but the fact remains that nails are an extension of our skin and harsh chemicals can be absorbed by everyone. However, I understand that having your nails done is a ritual that some aren’t willing to forgo. Luckily for you, there are some more eco- and health-friendly alternatives.

Cue a variety of “safe” polishes available in categories ranging from “three-free” to “ten-free” (referring to the number of chemicals they are free from). The top three chemicals you should make sure your paw polish is free from are formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. Polishes that claim to be “three-free” will suit you just fine.

If you’re keen for even less toxicity, you can opt for a “ten-free” polish which is free from any harmful additives plus animal byproducts, which make the products vegan! Yay. And, for those who refuse to paint their own paws, you can get eco-friendly and vegan gel application at Earth Body and Skin in Claremont.

Image credit: babipur.co.uk

WHAT? Benecos‘ range of nail polishes are vegan, made from 90% natural ingredients, and free from formaldehyde, phthalates, and parabens.

COST? R70 a pop from Faithful to Nature.

SPECIAL MENTION? The reviews are banging and there are a variety of alluring shades available, including Crystal, Peach Sorbet, Cherry Red, Wild Orchid, and Hot Summer.

Image credit: makeupalley.com

WHAT? It’s no secret that little ones love to paint their nails, albeit hideously imperfectly. Cue Piggy Paint, a brand started by a mom who was worried about the chemicals in her children’s nail polish. These beauties are “seven-free” potions crafted from natural ingredients – meaning they are not only made without the three main nasties, but also without formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP, and xylene.

COST? R120 from Faithful to Nature.

SPECIAL MENTION: Piggy Paints are not only water-based and vegan, they’re also made by a female entrepreneur. Yay for happy pigs, painted kids, and female entrepreneurs.

Image credit: iciparis.ca

WHAT? Sparitual is a women-founded brand inspired by clean beauty, spa culture, and the art of self-care. Their products are sustainable and vegan, and their nail lacquer remover features a blend of essential oils and sugar-derived solvents that gently remove nail colour while moisturising and conditioning your nails.

COST? R99 from Faithful to Nature.

SPECIAL MENTION: The reviews are like a pumping nightclub at 2AM: raving! People LOVE the orange-y fragrance that isn’t chemical-smelling in the slightest.

Image credit: shopzero.co.za

WHAT? Disposable cotton makeup remover wipes are wasteful, while reusable cotton rounds are generally pesticide and water intensive. Can’t win, right? Wrong. Hemp rounds have got you covered. They’re eco-friendly AF because hemp is drought tolerant, grows shap-shap, and requires no pesticides or fertilisers during the growing process.

COST? R40 from Shop Zero, pretty cheap considering they last bloody long when cared for properly.

SPECIAL MENTION: While they’re meant to be used on your face, you can certainly use them on your nails. Just give them a nice wash before the varnish drys into their beautiful crevices.

Image credit: @tabithaeveeco

WHAT? While these aren’t available in South African stores, they are my preferred choice if you are so privileged to be able to shop internationally online. Tabitha Eve‘s reusable bamboo pads are the BUSINESS because they are a one-time investment that soak up polish even more effectively than a cotton round would.

COST? £4.50 (excluding shipping) for 5 pads that will last yonks when looked after properly. Get yours, here.

SPECIAL MENTION: Perfectionists will take solace in knowing that because they’re black, stains aren’t as obvious. Like the hemp rounds above, all you have to do is wash them when you’re done to keep the magical material from hardening. Easy-peasy, eco-squeezy!

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