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I adopted a zero-waste (almost) beauty routine without knowing it- puberty struck, zits erupted, and I didn't have the cash to pay for products Jessica Biel endorsed on television. I started conditioning my hair with homemade apple cider vinegar and scrubbing my face with baking soda; I wasn't allowed to wear makeup, so I rubbed beets (from the garden) on my cheeks and lips. We don't have a medicine cabinet in Paris, which is one motivation for avoiding unsightly plastic. With everything out in the open, I'm more conscious of the products we choose.
RMS Beauty products, available at Oh My Cream, are plastic-free in metal and glass, except the aluminum mascara tube with plastic wand. I won't buy them again- they break me out. For now, I'm sticking to plain cornstarch as foundation / facial powder, DIY beet blush and lip color, and bulk kohl (buy it at Marché Raspail to avoid lead). Kjar Weis offers organic, refillable makeup in metal, Ellis Faas sells refills, and Fat and the Moon uses glass and metal packaging for their vegan products. Click here for my diy activated charcoal and mascara recipe. I make my own perfume, but if you'd rather not DIY, Le Labo refills their products.
Here's our homemade mouthwash recipe: Boil 500 mL water and cool to room temperature. Add 30 drops peppermint essential oil and 15 drops clove essential oil. Shake well. Store in pharmaceutical grade amber glass (mine's an old Aesop bottle). Swish using small glass beakers.
Straight baking soda replaces carcinogenic, acetaldehyde-based flavored toothpastes- some say it's overly abrasive, but my dentist recommends it. My grandma brushed with baking soda daily for decades, and she has strong enamel and gums. I use a bamboo toothbrush and siwak (miswak) instead of floss.
Shaving and haircare
My hairbrush is beeswax-finished wood with a natural rubber base. For hands, hair, body, and face, I buy unpackaged soap at the market or Comptoir de Savonniers- usually Aleppo or savon de Marseille. Perfect for safety razor shaving, handmade soaps lather on their own, no need for a badger brush. Plastic razors last years if you dry the blade between uses, but with a safety razor I shave half as much and experience less irritation and nicks.
I use lemon or lime juice to tame flyaways, cornstarch as dry shampoo, and bulk olive oil for makeup remover, moisturizer, and lip balm. Plain baking soda isn't irritating when patted- not rubbed- onto a clean, dry underarm. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that removes impurities from hair, and vinegar is a chelating agent. For best results, mix one part baking soda with three parts water and leave in a few minutes before rinsing, no more than once a week. Condition with white vinegar (it smells less than apple cider vinegar) to treat mineral residue and damage from hard Paris water. For cities with softer water, my mom swears by a shampoo bar to keep her long, thick hair shiny and clean.
Zero Waste Feminine Hygiene
I bought the Mooncup, packaged in cloth and cardboard, at Naturalia. It shortens my periods and reduces cramps. The very first cycle I biked 35 km, swam 50 laps, and slept leak-free- I was afraid to make the switch, but I've used it two years now without a problem. Just empty the cup before and after work and during lunch. It's cleaner than a tampon or pad, with no unpleasant odors. Click here for detailed menstrual cup options, including material, dimensions, and capacity. Click here for folding techniques (don't be intimidated, I fold mine in half and it's comfortable / leak-proof). Not everybody is a fan of silicone. There are rubber menstrual cups; others prefer vegetable sponges, sea sponges, or reusable cloth options.
- Paper bag from baking soda: recycling or compost (depending on how much carbon is in the compost), once every three months.
- Paper box from Mooncup: Kept for storage
- White vinegar bottle: Recycling- one plastic bottle every two months
- RMS Beauty packaging: Fully recyclable
- Box from razor and razor blades (paper wrapper): Kept the box for storage, composted the paper. When my first razor blade is finished, I'll take it to CVAE Invalides, which accepts them for re-use
- Toothbrush packaging: Compostable cardboard and cellophane
- Soap and water replace toilet paper, unless I'm in a bathroom outside the home. Toilet paper comes in plastic packaging only here (not currently recycled). I buy it for my husband and guests. One six pack lasts approximately 2-3 months.
- Lemon or lime peels: Composted, grated for scrubs or candied if removed before use.
I used to make soap from fat drippings. No matter how many times I purified it, the soap always smelled like a Bob Evans. Also, I like Zero Waste Home's recipes for homemade makeup, but using cocoa powder as blush/bronzer gave me a caffeine rush.