Skip the drugstore with simple staples for face, body and hair

zero waste DIY body scrub

Cleanliness doesn’t depend on an overstuffed bathroom cabinet. I know that now.

I used to love the drugstore aisles and all the shiny, colourful packages. I’d restock colour specific shampoo before I was even close to running out. Since transitioning to a low waste lifestyle, I still wear deodorant, shampoo my hair, and shave my legs. But differently. I skip the hormone disrupting chemicals, and micro-plastics. Some of the products I used pre-zero waste aren’t important enough to me to find an alternative for. I can say with utter certainty that nail polish added no value to my life.

What I use on my face, body and hair

I ‘need’ fewer products overall, and those that remain have fewer ingredients. Often one or two, from the pantry. Let’s bust that myth that reducing waste is time consuming and difficult. Here’s what I use on a daily or weekly basis:

Deodorant: I make this recipe.

zero waste deodorant

Face cleanser: jojoba or rosehip oils or castile soap (a mild olive oil based soap, in bar or liquid form).

Face scrub: a sprinkle of bi carb + water works wonders. You can read more about other plastic microbead-free exfoliation options in this post.

Makeup remover: jojoba or coconut oil.

Face moisturizer: any of jojoba oil, rosehip oil, piece of aloe vera or I make this lifesaving rosewater serum in the winter.

zero waste skin care rosewater

Acne spot treatment: dab of tea tree oil or green clay + water to form a paste. Leave on 15 min.

Hand soap: unpackaged bar soap or liquid castile soap in a pump dispenser, diluted with water.

Body soap: unpackaged bar soap.

Shave soap: unpackaged bar soap. Not a fancy shave soap either.

Body moisturizer: fresh aloe vera, shea butter or sesame oil with a few drops of lavender essential oil.

Body scrub: white sugar + coconut oil to form a paste (pictured topmost), or a hemp mitt or loofah.

Lip and cuticle balm: I make this recipe.

zero waste lip balm

Shampoo: refilled liquid shampoo or a shampoo bar.

Conditioner: diluted apple cider vinegar rinse – a spray bottle is useful. More about my hair care routine in this post.

Dry shampoo: arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) with a dash of cocoa powder.

Where to find unpackaged DIY ingredients in Sydney

I aim to source all my ingredients unpackaged. In Sydney, most bulk food stores will have the ingredients you need, and selection is getting better all the time. Another option is to buy a larger amount to split between friends. And even if you aren’t able to buy your ingredients in refill, you’re still reducing your chemical burden, becoming more ingredient literate and hopefully spending less time in the drugstore.

The lazy way to make reusable makeup remover cloths

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

We humans tend to criticize laziness as a character flaw.

I however, believe selective laziness can be useful. Case in point – if you’re moving to reusables for makeup removal, there’s no need to buy anything new or use a sewing machine. The lazy way is to cut one very old tee shirt into squares and store in an old jar in the bathroom, unhemmed. I’d love to learn how to sew, but that’s apartment space and a skill set I don’t have.

To remove makeup, I usually rub a few drops of coconut or jojoba oil (check the bulk page for tips on where to source in Sydney) into my face and eye area with clean fingers. Then I wipe clean with one of the squares wetted with warm tap water. Used wipes go into a small container that doubles as a pre-soak vessel. I soak the dirty wipes in hot soapy water to lift some of the grime before I add them to a towel wash.

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

Why not just use normal facecloths?

I sometimes do, but they’re larger than I need for the minimal makeup I wear – mostly just mascara, liner and concealer. I don’t love reusing the same towel over the course of several evenings since terrycloth is too thick to dry from sopping wet and all I can think of is bacterial growth.The smaller squares of cut tee shirt fabric have the perfect amount of surface area to clean my face, and using them instead of facecloths has a side benefit of reducing towel laundry.

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

What about those cute fluffy makeup remover rounds you can buy?

Buying new fluffy white cotton pads to repeatedly wipe dark substances off your face makes as much sense as a bike mechanic wearing a white tee-shirt. Why make life difficult? My pile of not-white-anymore cloths works best for me.

From makeup wipe, to cleaning cloth, to the compost

When they eventually become too grimy even for my face, I use them for even grubbier tasks, like dusting ledges or houseplant foliage or polishing shoes. If it’s cotton fabric and I’m not using them with any chemicals I wouldn’t want in my soil (I use vinegar, castile soap and bi carb), I can eventually compost the rags. I wouldn’t do this with blends or synthetics though.

Textile recycling isn’t an actual thing (yet)

While there are some potential benefits to what retailers like H&M and Uniqlo are doing to offer clothing collection boxes into their stores, the reality of all the research and development so far is that we’re far from a place where textiles can be recycled. It’s more accurate to categorize this process as clothing ‘down-cycling. It’s the same as most other collection donation services – a portion of what is useful and clean is sold in-country, more is sent abroad to be sold or burned, and what can’t be sold might be turned into industrial rags. We can do better by buying less to begin with, using our clothing longer and downcycling at home. My tee shirt can be demoted from being worn outside the home to sleepwear, and only then to rag.

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

It’s good to be lazy sometimes

What we buy is inexorably connected to what we throw away, so I’m fascinated by the many ways that we can enrich our lives without buying a thing, or by simply reframing waste as treasure. Less stuff to buy means less chasing our tails to earn money to try to afford what we don’t need anyway. More time to laze about with friends, in the kitchen, and in the garden. Ironically, frugality – not buying new things – is what can help us live more full lives.

My favourite winter face moisturizer: rosewater + glycerin serum

zero waste skin care rosewater

This low waste, two-ingredient recipe helped me overcome stubbornly dry winter skin. 

Winter is less than a week away and you’d barely know it here in Sydney. This autumn’s been mild enough that the frangipanis – Sydney’s fragrant summer jewels – are still blooming around the city. The plants may be confused, but my skin knows the truth. Outside of summertime humidity I struggle to retain moisture and sometimes sport visibly dry skin, especially on my chin and forehead. Jojoba and rosehip oils are my skincare mainstays throughout the year, but they can’t restore skin that’s really turned a corner. 

I like simple, multi-tasking solutions that save brain and counter space. By combining two ingredients I already had in the house – rosewater and glycerin – I brought the glow back to my skin.

A deceptively simple recipe to repair dry skin: rosewater and glycerin

Sorting through my DIY supplies, I came across a slim bottle of glycerin I’d refilled at The Soap Dispensary for some purpose I can’t recall. Glycerin acts as a humectant to pull moisture from the air into the skin, which I vaguely knew from reading my mom’s copy of Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me (remember this anyone?!). In fact, my habit of using bi-carb as exfoliant is straight from the same book. 

Rosewater is made from rose petals steeped in water. It looks and behaves like normal water and smells like roses. You could probably make it easily enough if you had a rose garden. I don’t, so luckily we had some the pantry from an attempt to re-create Black Star pastry’s famous watermelon cake. 

Rosewater and glycerin combine to make a super hydrating moisturizer. Rosewater cuts the glycerin and provides the moisture for the glycerin to draw into the skin. With only two ingredients, this is a deceptively simple recipe. I promise it’s incredibly powerful. In fact, there are some every expensive serums on the market that use these same two ingredients and sell for over $100. Reverse engineering is fun and frugal, friends.

zero waste skin care rosewater

How to make rosewater glycerin skin hydrating serum:

This recipe is make and shake. For an extra strong remedy I use:

  • 1 part glycerin
  • 4 parts rosewater

For day-to-day use, I aim for a lower proportion of glycerin:

  • 1 part glycerin
  • 10 – 20 parts rosewater

Combine the ingredients into a glass dropper bottle, close the lid and shake. I use a scant 2-3 drops per application, patting over my skin morning and night as needed, or rotating with my usual jojoba / rosehip blend.

zero waste skin care rosewater

How I deal with ultra dry skin

When my skin gets dry enough that flakes appear, I’ll lightly exfoliate with a dusting of wetted bi-carb on my fingertips. After rinsing, I’ll follow with the rosewater glycerin serum.  

Inexpensive, zero waste skincare makes my skin glow.

Since I’ve started using this recipe, I’ve been asked by several people for my ‘secret’ to great skin. For a 30-something, it’s as glee-inducing as being ID’d at the bottle shop. Surely though, I owe a portion of this newfound radiance to the joy of sidestepping unnecessary plastic packaging and avoiding overspending by making this surprisingly moisturizing remedy myself. 

How I store bread without plastic

how to store bread without plastic

Here’s what I do to make my bread last the week.

Keeping bread fresh has as much to do with the loaf’s quality as how we store it. If you opt for sawdust supermarket bread, I can’t help, except to suggest remedial bread choosing school. I’m convinced that bread made from sourdough starter (with a cracking crust and a moist interior) not only tastes bests, but lasts longest.

I’ll carry my beautiful sourdough bread home in a reusable cloth bag, then wrap the lot in a large beeswax wrap. The one I use is a large square shape about 50cm x 50cm made with a beeswax only formula, no resin. It doesn’t need to be a sticky style of wrap. I wrap it like a burrito around the loaf.

Bread lasts on the kitchen bench for around a week this way, sliced as needed. The beeswax wraps let the bread breath a little, but not too much. This method maintains freshness without causing the bread to sweat or go mouldy.

how to store bread without plastic

I don’t store bread in the fridge – who has the space? – but I have gotten into the practice of slicing half a fresh loaf and storing in the freezer right away. For this I also use a beeswax wrap, or lately a large resealable plastic bag I acquired at a crop swap event. I’d rather use the plastic bag as long as possible instead of Redcycling it immediately. Any old plastic bag can be reused to store bread. Perhaps the title of the post should have been ‘how I store bread without new plastic’.

Bread is one of the most commonly wasted food items in Australia and around the world, but it needn’t be. If I ever end up with stale bread, I make bread pudding or chuck the crusts into the food processor to make crumbs.

What about you? How do you store your bread?