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  • Ingrid Nordengen

Sustainable Beauty? HELP!

Where does one begin? The concept of sustainability can be a very daunting and intimidating topic. I have wanted to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle since I was about 12 years old but I have always had some excuse as to why it wasn't the right time or just didn't seem feasible, despite only doing minimal research. I have however, since then, been exposed to this exciting and, in fact, achievable world! If you by any measure feel that making sustainable changes in your own life seem as daunting or as unfeasible as I did, but you do still want to make some changes, I can tell you that living a more sustainable lifestyle is not only attainable but can also be easy!

Before we get into it, I want to address the fact that living a more sustainable life can look quite different for different people, so don't think that committing oneself to sustainability means eating only leaves, trading in your car for a bicycle or washing with only a splash of water. It's your life and there are infinite ways in which you can incorporate sustainability as it suits you.

As you are probably aware, there is so much to cover when it comes to sustainable beauty, so I will start by sharing some of the small, manageable changes my family and I have made, as some suggestions that you may find appealing and practical. Just keep an open mind! (Also, look at how aesthetically pleasing these eco-friendly products are).

Taking the first steps towards a sustainable life is the beginning of a lifestyle change. With lifestyle changes (such as eating habits) it is best to take small steps to allow yourself to get used to the changes and in turn create new habits. Before I started making my own sustainable changes to my beauty routine, my family had already taught me about rethinking, reducing, reusing, and recycling as well as composting, saving water and electricity, using petrol sparingly, and many other eco-conscious ways of living. The knowledge I have gained has been helpful, because these are some of the factors that need to be considered when making these sustainable changes. It was only during my university years that I really started thinking about what I could do to make a difference, especially with my limited student budget. So here are some of the first few manageable sustainable beauty changes I have made in attempt to be more eco-friendly (I will be sharing more details on each of these ideas in the months to come).

One of the first things I realised, which may seem obvious to most, is to first use up/finish the products you already own before switching to alternative products. I understand the overwhelming feeling of wanting to throw your whole life away and start from scratch with only sustainable products but that in itself isn't sustainable, and it will cost you...a lot. So rather, finish whatever products you have (put in that little extra effort to squeeze out the last drops) and use your sponges and toothbrushes until you're ready to recycle and replace them before converting.


The first change I started to make was being more diligent about reading the ingredients of products before purchasing them. I try to buy products that use natural or vegan ingredients, or I look for items that are free from parabens, sulphates, phthalates, aluminium, dyes, and fragrances (try finding products that are fragrance-free or fragranced with essential oils). However, it is difficult to find products that are free from all the nasties, especially trying to find ones that fit a tight budget - so one must just go for the best available option. For example, the shampoos and conditioners I have opted for have been the Organics products (that contain natural and organic ingredients and they are great for a limited budget; however they do contain sulphates and fragrances). Another thing to remember is that it takes time for one's body to adapt to the changes, so give new products a good try (I would say at least a month, unless you are allergic) before deciding that a product isn't for you. There are of course exceptions to where one might not be able to switch out a product, such as certain facewashes or creams that may be helping you with certain skin issues such as acne, skin conditions, or allergies. Personally, I am set on a specific facewash and certain face creams and SPFs, so I try my best to make changes in other areas such as exfoliants. I make my own face and body scrubs at home (recipes to come soon).


Reducing the amount of plastic one buys is of course a significant way to reduce one's carbon footprint. Opting for products in glass, paper or cardboard packaging is always the greener choice. Again, trying to avoid plastic can be difficult and can become expensive. So, what I suggest is see what is available and affordable, then pick the best one. These are some of the things you should look out for, in order of nature's preference:

  1. Compostable

  2. Biodegradable

  3. Made from 100% recycled materials

  4. 100% recyclable

For example, some of the Organics' packaging consists of 50% recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. Other things to keep in mind:

  • take your own shopping bags (leave one in your handbag or keep a few in your car)

  • avoid individually packaged items - buy in bulk

  • keep original packaging and buy refills (such as from The Refillery)

  • buy bars (soap, shampoo, conditioner, balms, etc. as they also use less water to make)

  • make your own products and reuse old jars or bottles (saving money and the planet!)

  • buy from markets that usually have more eco-friendly options


Oral hygiene is one area where many people (myself included), are hesitant to make any sustainable changes because they fear having to compromise their million-dollar smile - and rightly so! This does, however, not have to be the case. It took me a long time to attempt a more sustainable teeth routine, but I have finally found some products that work for me. I first switched to a bamboo toothbrush. Except for the nylon bristles, bamboo toothbrushes are made more sustainably and can be tossed into your compost bin as they are compostable. The first few times using one does feel a bit strange and bulky, but I now don't even notice the difference. To me it's worth it because bamboo is also naturally bacteria-resistant! Using an electric toothbrush is also not a bad option as the base of the brush lasts for a long time - only the head must be replaced every now and then. I have even seen some options where one can store the head in a little UV light container, which sanitises the brush, making it last longer.

Other sustainable changes that one can make are to replace your floss, mouthwash, and toothpaste with natural alternatives. There are quite a few places that sell floss in little glass containers and that also sell refills. Personally, I use the one from Clicks' new MyEarth range. It is cheaper than others I have seen, it is vegan, and it's made from bamboo, charcoal, and Candelilla wax. I have not tried any natural mouthwashes from the store, but I do want to try the affordable MyEarth one. Currently I use coconut oil as my mouthwash. I once heard Gwyneth Paltrow say that she 'oil pulls' and uses organic coconut oil and swishes it around in her mouth for about 15mins (I only ever manage up to 10). I am not sure how well it really works but it seems to work for me. However, I wouldn't use it in the place of brushing and flossing. According to Faithful to Nature, some of the benefits are:

  • Cleans and whitens

  • Detoxifies

  • Reduces plaque and bacteria

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Prevents cavities

  • Lowers risk of gum disease

  • Freshens breath

Natural toothpaste is something that I must still do more research on. I once used a natural toothpaste about 10 years ago and let's just say it really put me off. However, the industry has improved their products immensely since then, so I have tried the Colgate Whitening + Natural Charcoal toothpaste (made from 93% natural minerals and with a recyclable tube) which I absolutely loved! I am just not used to spending more on toothpaste so have not repurchased it, but thinking about it now, I might buy one again once my current tube is empty...

Hair Removal

Can you guess what type of hair removal is most sustainable? It's the 'not-actually-removing-hair' method! So, for the people who don't want to remove their body hair, or for people debating whether or not to, just know that planet earth is on Team Natural! Then for those who choose to remove their hair, here are some ideas to make the process a more sustainable one. Let your razor dry. Personally, I wipe the blades of mine with a towel and then store it away from the shower to allow it to fully dry. Leaving it on a windowsill where there may be some sun is another good way to let it dry. This will help your razor last much longer. Then there is the option of getting a reusable razor handle and then you only need to replace the blade/head. When I was living in the UK, I invested in an ffs one which is great, and there are many options like it available in South Africa.

The other option of hair removal is to get waxed or have your hair laser removed. This way the hair will take longer to grow which will lead to you not having to remove hair as often. Another, in my opinion, AMAZING investment I made is an IPL hair remover handset. The one I was able to get my hands on in South Africa that seemed reliable and safe to use is the one from RoseSkinCo. It is usually on special and will cost just under R2000. I thought about it for a while and figured that it would be worth it in the long run. So, I recommend researching about them if you are interested.

I have now said more than what I anticipated, but as you can see there is so much to cover when it comes to sustainable beauty (never mind sustainability in general), but I think the most important thing to take away from this is to keep an open mind. Pay attention to what you do each day and then from there you can think of ways in which you can reduce, reuse, and recycle products. Then also remember to keep your eyes open for greener alternatives when looking for your beauty products.

I will be covering the different individual topics I have mentioned above in more detail in the months to come, so if you are interested in learning some more about the environment and living a sustainable life, subscribe to the email list below and you will get notified when a new post goes live.

Lots of love - Ingrid x


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