Disclaimer: This post isn't about dying my hair green. Instead, it's about all of the changes I've made to my hair care routines in order to have the least enviromental impact possible.
It’s fair to say, I’ve done my fair bit of hair removal experimenting as a teen. Plucking, shaving, epilating, threading – I’ve given most of it a go. Before the start of this year, I’d not really considered the environmental impact of this side of personal care.
I honestly think it’s taken me this long to consider alternatives because the hair care industry is HUGE. Each cosmetic shop has multiple types of razors, wax strips, bleach kits, shampoos and conditioners on sale; so much that the consumer is spoilt for choice. I’ve even recently seen a subscription pack for disposable razors where the whole blade and handle of the razor gets chucked out multiple times a month. Promotion of a long lasting or environmentally friendly alternative to these products would cause the loss of regular custom.
Here are some of the things I’ve tried whilst trying to minimalise my hair waste...
The process of creating a sugary gloop, which is smeared onto the hairy part and peeled backwards. All completely natural ingredients and this method has been around for centuries. Lots of people swear by this method. I tried it, but it wasn’t quite right for me and a little too sticky.
If you can stand the pain this is a great one! Buying the original machine second-hand is ideal, however, I opted to buy this one new. The packaging claims that the hair will get thinner… I haven’t noticed that yet, but the hair does seem to stay away for longer.
Not really an ‘environmentally friendly alternative’ but I opted to try this method as I’d saved up the money (it can cost a couple of hundred pounds) and was hoping to NEVER HAVE TO SHAVE AGAIN. But, yeah, I still do.
I shave a lot less frequently, but I still shave. My friend who did a laser course at the same time has had no change with her hair removal and this is all down to the colour and size of the hair follicle next to the skin.
Plucking, trimming, electric shaving
These all work. No waiting to see if your skin pigment is compatible, they’re all quick and easy wins that have a low environmental impact. I have found in the past that electric shaving doesn’t shave as close as I might like.
My favourite; no pain, no mess, a close shave and it's environmentally friendly. The razor I bought was rose gold (so pretty, I know) and I purchased five blades – when they get blunt, I can recycle them in a sharps box. I wet my skin and apply coconut oil then pull the razor in short strokes across the hair at a 45 degree angle. I got my shaving skills from watching numerous YouTube videos.
I then wash off the coconut oil, pat the skin dry and wet my alum rock, a natural potassium stone, which I rub over the shaved area to sooth irritation. The alum rock also doubles as a deodorant, which is such a win. The razor and alum rock are both advertised as ‘male’ products – I can confirm that these both work on any gender as I’ve tried them out on my begrudged boyfriend!
I've never cut myself with this razor. A disposable razor seemed to nip me near the ankles and knees.
I gave up chemistry way back in 2009, so really cannot claim to know what the average shampoo can do to my hair or the environment, but I really don’t feel comfortable with releasing liquids into the water system that have 24+ (yep, I went into Boots and counted the average amount of ingredients in hair care products) different compounds/chemicals. I also haven’t found anywhere within a reasonable distance of me that could refill the plastic bottles that hair products come in.
So, as I finished up the hoards of chemical filled hair products I’ve managed to collect, I’ve been experimenting with hair care products which have less of an impact on marine life.
Lush do an extensive range of solid shampoos and conditioners, which work like a bar of soap. I find I have to lather these up more than a shampoo in a bottle and work a little harder to get it through my hair, but the end results are exactly the same. They last approximately 80 washes.
The small tins which can be purchased to hold these bars in make travelling light really easy, and I’ve got these through airport customs in my hand luggage.
ACV and bicarb rinse
Putting these products on my hair seemed like the weirdest thing ever to start with, but bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar really do clean hair well. They're also products that can be purchased in recyclable packaging or in bulk shops.
I mix one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into a cup of warm water and tip it over my hair. This can be washed out after about a minute, and the apple cider vinegar (again one teaspoon diluted in a warm cup of water) is put on the hair and washed out once it has been worked in.
I thought this would STINK, but it doesn’t once the hair is fully dried. The smell can always be adjusted with the addition of essential oils.
Some people who live a zero waste life style completely denounce all hair care products due to the bottles and chemicals, and opt to use no sham’poo’ at all. I haven’t tried this, but have read a lot about it.
General hair brushing
My lovely granny gave each of her granddaughters a hair brush when we were around 3 years old. They match her hair brush and our mum's brushes too. Its' such a good quality brush that I am certain it'll last a life time. When my brush in full of hair, I run a comb through it and pop the hair straight onto the compost heap.
I am yet to find a hair dressers which uses organic and environmentally friendly products. There's definitely a gap in the market there, so I opt to have dry cuts at the hairdressers and style it at home.
Back at the start of my zero waste journey, I got my hair cut short and recycled the cut hair by donating it to the Little Princesses Trust, who make wigs for young children who have lost their hair though medical treatment. They request hair longer than 7 inches so I asked the hairdresser cut 10 inches off – I even got a certificate for my hair donation.
Saving money – buying longer lasting products and using ingredients which aren’t labelled as ‘hair products’ means I am spending loads less on this than I have in the past.
Finally cutting my hair short – being able to send my hair off to a good cause was what I needed to take the plunge and cut off my locks.
Making a small but constant difference every day – my hair care routine has changed quite a lot since I started my zero waste journey, and it will probably change again as I research and try out other products that are great for hair care (lemon juice, tea tree oil, white vinegar, olive oil). Switching products that I use daily to zero waste alternatives means I know I am making a difference in terms of reducing the waste I recycle or wash down the drain.