How to Make Simple Sustainable Beauty Swaps

Author: Ruby Helyer


I have been living more consciously and sustainably for about three years, and my starting point was with my toiletries and beauty routine. I’d like to share some easy and simple sustainable beauty swaps to help you on your sustainable journey, too.

Why is Living a Sustainable Life Important?

Swapping regular products with zero or low waste ones is an easy way to make an impactful difference. If you’ve paid any attention to the media in the last two or three years, you should be aware of the ever-imposing impact of climate change.

Climate change is happening due to the planet running out of renewable resources, our waste clogging up natural water supply and killing animals and humans consuming more than can be sustainably sourced from what our planet can provide us.

Due to the above reasons, it is suggested that everyone make small, bite-sized changes that can create a world-wide impact on our carbon footprint.

The biggest reminder that I tell myself is that the sustainable journey doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s a journey, a learning curve. There’s no strict set of rules to being sustainable, but just remember that every small change is helping.

With that being said, here are many sustainable beauty swaps and tips to help you on your way to the sustainable lifestyle the planet is begging from us.

Beauty Swaps for Hair Care

When it comes to hair care some of us are much lower maintenance than others. For me, I tend to roll out of bed, brush my hair only if I’m leaving the house, and wash my hair maybe twice a week if I must. That being said, I do consider and use sustainable products for my hair, despite being low maintenance.

Remember the wooden paddle brushes all little girls had as kids, with their name glitter-glued onto the flat side? Well, I’m still using mine. The wooden brush has lasted the test of time. Find a similar wooden brush here. You can even glitter-glue your own name on it for nostalgia.

Wooden products work well for sustainable beauty swaps since wood is a natural material and naturally strong, too. I have wooden wide-tooth combs, too, which my boyfriend stole to use on his beard as soon as they arrived at my doorstep.

wooden hairbrush

Beech Paddle Brush - Forsters

Sustainable Hair Washing

Buying sustainable shampoo and conditioner was one of my first purchases in my beauty swap bathroom takeover. I have quite long hair and was a little bit afraid to use a solid bar instead of a bottled liquid, but I was determined to take the step to plastic freedom.

I bought shampoo and conditioner bars and although there was a small learning curve of transitioning to solid bars from liquid, I really enjoy using the shampoo bars and having long hair didn’t seem to be an issue. Please note that what works for some, might not work for others. These are the products that I use, but it might take some time to find your favourites.


Lush Shampoo Bar - Seanik


Conditioner Bar - Alternative by Suma

The great thing about using shampoo and conditioner bars is that if you’re travelling somewhere, they are easy and small to pack, and naturally get smaller and lighter as you use them, unlike bulky plastic bottles that always stay bulky and may split and open in your bag.

If using a shampoo or conditioner bar isn’t for you - and it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay - you can still keep sustainable hair washing habits in other ways:

  • Try to buy the biggest bottles you can afford, as then there is more product per bottle and you’re using less plastic overall.
  • Keep one small travel-sized bottle and refill it yourself instead of buying a new travel set each time you go away.
  • Visit a zero-waste store and take an empty shampoo bottle with you to fill up at a bulk pump and save the environment of extra plastic waste.
  • Wash your hair less. The less you wash, the less amount of product you use.
  • Make your own dry shampoo for use between washes, using corn starch (and adding cinnamon, cocoa powder or other natural ingredients to match hair colour).

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How to Keep Hair Sustainably Soft

Coconut oil has hundreds of uses. For one, it makes your food taste delightful, but secondly, it can make your hair silky smooth. I first discovered this when I watched my Sikh friend tying his hair up in a turban. He always coated the ends of his hair in coconut oil first, to ensure they didn’t dry out.

Coconut oil makes a great zero-waste beauty swap because of its many uses and that it is usually purchased in a glass jar, making it easily recyclable, reusable, or refillable for other uses. You can even fill it with more coconut oil from a bulk supermarket.

cocnut oil in a jar

Organic Coconut Oil - The Coconut Company

Hands and Body Beauty Swaps

One of the biggest diseases to our environment comes from plastic waste, so anywhere we can avoid plastic packaging is a great step in a more environmentally friendly direction.

Hold the World in Your Hands

Try converting to a bar of soap for hand washing instead of a liquid pump bottle. There are many beautiful handmade soaps with so many beneficial properties. They make thoughtful and delicate gifts to people, too.

For a true zero waste win, ensure you buy soap bars without a plastic coating such as this cinnamon and orange handmade soap by Suma, which is absolutely divine and is totally plastic-free.

alternative cinamon bar

Cinnamon and Orange soap Bar - Alternative by Suma

lotion bar

Organic Lotion Bar - Unearth Malee

Similarly to soap bars are moisturising lotion bars. You can use these on your hands as a hand cream or rub them over your body as a full body moisturiser. These are amazing since it’s hard to find moisturiser outside of plastic pots or bottles.

 For a beauty swap at-home manicure for your clean and soft hands, you can use this nail polish from Zao.  I love it because it's free from parabens and other nasties, the bottle itself uses minimal plastic for that feel-good beauty swap.
nail polish and hand

Nail Polish - Zoa and ... my hand 🙂 

Eco-Friendly Beauty Swaps for Your Body

There are many ways to care about your body, whether it is simply a nice relaxing bath or shower, a post-wash moisturise or a solid hair removal routine, there are ways to make beauty swaps and make your routine a sustainable one.

I maintain my conversion from bottled soaps to soap bars for showering, and I even use a soap bag which works to give my soap friction for lathering myself, but also to hold all those odds and ends of soap you never know what to do with.

Instead of a plastic shower puff, there are many naturally made shower scrubs to use. Loofahs grow naturally and last for a long time which is perfect for exfoliating your skin while being kind to the environment, but I love using a compostable vegan coconut scrub pad. It works wonders on my dry skin and is eco-friendly.

I have been a convert to solid deodorant bars for the past two years. I bought my first deodorant bar from Lush during the European heatwave of 2018 and have exclusively used the same brand and type ever since. Have a look the Aromaco bar here.

In the two years since buying my first deodorant bar, I have only bought three more (and one of them remains unopened). They last the longest time, and I only need to use it once a day. It’s definitely my favourite sustainable swap and will ensure I stay zero waste.

Tip: Once you have a couple of ends that are too small to use alone, you can melt them together to form a new deodorant bar and continue to use it. It seems to be working well so far for me.

Low Waste Hair Removal

While there are many ways to deal with body hair, such as, waxing, sugaring, shaving, or simply letting it grow (a sustainable choice), one option often overlooked is epilation.

Epilation is a great zero-waste hair removal technique, and one of my sustainable beauty swaps I am happiest with. If you can stand the pain of waxing and have the patience to tediously use a safety razor without cutting yourself, then epilation is a great choice.

You've probably seen this type of razor before and thought it's an old thing that no one uses anymore. It takes some practice but it's easy to use in the end and the good thing about it is that you can replace the blades without having to throw it away completely. 

rose gold razor with stand

Metal Razor with stand - BamBaw (Amazon)

Swaps for a Sustainable Period

Nobody likes to talk about periods, right? Everyone probably has memories of being at school and trying to hide a tampon or sanitary towel up your sleeve on the way to the toilets to avoid being caught by the schoolboys.

That’s why I like menstrual cups; they’re discreet and don’t have to be changed nearly as often. They can be left in for up to 12 hours, which, not only, means a sustainable option for your time of the month, but also, no more embarrassing attempts at concealing period products when they need to be changed throughout the day.

While there are many cup options like the Mooncup and OrganiCup, menstrual cups are not the only sustainable swap for your period.

To add to near-endless period decisions, there are sexy and cute period panties, reusable pads (bonus points if you make them yourself!) or even naturally occurring sea sponges that have been used as a menstrual product for years, among its many other uses. Tampons are so last decade!

Beauty Swaps for Your Smile

Finally, the winning smile you flash once you share your new-found tips to friends needs to be sustainably sought, too. Dental care beauty swaps are some of the easiest to make, and most responsible since we’re brushing our teeth at least twice a day, every day.

No-doubt the easiest sustainable swap to make is ditching that plastic toothbrush and finding a beautifully carved bamboo one to replace it with. Buy it in cardboard or zero packaging to ensure it’s eco-friendly, and you can even use it as a cleaning scrub brush once you replace it with a new one, to upcycle it and give it a new life.

bamboo toothbrush resting on its box

Bamboo Toothbrush - Hydro Phil

Once you’ve got your new toothbrush, it only makes sense to brush those pearly whites with some packaging free toothpaste tablets. Choose between fluoride or fluoride-free, and crush them down to turn into a paste before brushing like normal. You can pick these up at most bulk stores and there are more flavour options than with traditional toothpastes.

To maintain eco-friendly for flossing and mouthwash, we can buy the same old products in glass bottles or containers instead of plastic. There are many dental flosses now that come in a glass container with refillable sustainable floss - far better than the old plastic stuff.

Zero waste mouthwash can come in its traditional liquid form in a glass bottle instead of plastic or can come in tablet form that works by dissolving it in water and swilling as normal.

What Beauty Swaps Will You Make?

While sometimes the possibilities can feel endless and overwhelming when considering which beauty swaps you should make, there are many choices that make your decision stress-free. Think about simple, easy swaps that don’t require much difference in your lifestyle, before delving deeper into environmental and sustainable change.

My biggest tips to helping you on your zero-waste swap journey are:

  • Remember that any little change is better than no change at all.
  • Do not get stressed out about it, just do and try your best.
  • A sustainable lifestyle is a journey, not a destination.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of extra money on your products that will last the test of time.

We encourage small beauty swaps to aid in everyday life while being as eco-friendly as you can.

I’d love to hear what changes you have already made in your eco journey to beauty. What are your future eco-goals? Did I miss any beauty swaps that you have in your routine?

Some of the items listed in this article may be affiliate links, which means we might get a comission based on your purchase. This will not affect you in any way. We only recommend the products that we absolutely love. Read the full disclosure here

About the author

Ruby is a Brit lost in space. She enjoys travelling the world, having lived in a handful of different countries she now lives and studies in beautiful Tennessee, US. When she isn’t fighting the environmental battle against climate change, she can be found walking her dogs, creating illustrations, or experimenting in the kitchen.

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