1001 Water- and waste-wise ways: another lipstick blog

Squeezing out every last drop: Kate Sidley’s bathroom shelf.

Squeezing out every last drop: Kate Sidley’s bathroom shelf.

This might be my most frivolous blog yet, but the topic of waste reduction is so huge, bleak and complex, I thought I’d tackle something bright and fluffy for a change. Plus my water-wise lipstick blog was surprisingly popular.

So let’s talk about waste and beauty routines. Now I have a complicated relationship with such matters. Since I stopped showering/bathing/washing my hair as a matter of daily routine, I have been staggered by the improvement in my overall skin, hair and scalp health. I positively glow.

But few things make me as unpopular as urging similar lifestyle changes on my friends: washing hair only every seven to ten days, showering/bathing once a week, and using the bucket/damp flannel method the rest of the time. It’s the one thing that makes people dig in their toes. “You make me feel defensive,” grumbles a friend. “But I’m appealing to your vanity!”, I cry, pointing to my blooming phiz.

Then I spotted that the internet was in a tizz about newly elected New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s skincare routine. A SIX-STEP facial routine? With “double cleansing”? What bizarre ritual had capitalism invented for (mostly) women now? “Self-care!” everyone trumpeted.

This gives me the harumphs, until I realise that it’s all very well for me. I live in one of the most beautiful natural environments in the world, in which I can choose between several beaches, mountain trails, lake boardwalks or nature reserves for my daily destressing walk. Very few middle-class urban dwellers have these options (much less the poor or rural populations), so if patting your face for twenty mins every morning or night is a viable form of self-nurturing, I’m all for it. 

Nevertheless: the truth is that the beauty industry, which has wrapped its tentacles around all genders in the last few decades, is a snake-oil business that flogs mostly utterly needless products for astoundingly presumptuous prices. “Skincare has always been about putting money on your face,” says the Guardian’s Morwenna Ferrier.

My problem right now with this industry is the excessive amount of waste it generates. Think of all those tiny pots, lipstick cases, plastic shampoo containers, earbuds, facial wipes, the fussy “pretty” packaging, and more more more.

So let’s tackle this. First, I urge you to emulate my clever and beautiful writer/journalist friend, Kate Sidley (the photo at the top is hers): go through your bathroom cupboard and make-up box and use up absolutely everything in it before buying anything new. Cut open those weeny little obscenely priced tubes and scrape out the contents. Same with the samples you get in magazines. If elegant local actress Grethe Fox does this, so can you. (She refuses to take any credit: “It’s how we were brought up.”)

Buy biodegradable cottonwool earbuds, bamboo toothbrushes, washable make-up brushes and sponges. I may go a tad too far: reluctant to throw away my remaining regular cotton buds (I bought a jumbo pack years ago and am down to my last three), I strip off the ends to burn, and chuck the remaining plastic sticks into my eco-bricks.

 For decades now, whenever I reach the end of a lipstick (I hold no truck with Forever Young Yeah Right skin goo, but I dearly love make-up), I scrape out the bit left behind into a special pot, add a drop of almond oil, mix, and apply with a lip brush. Because this gets added to regularly, the colour is always changing, and it always suits me. A friend used to create fabulous art with lipstick, so for a while I collected everyone’s lipstick stubs and posted them off to her.

Red Bull, by Sarah Britten, lipstick artist.

Red Bull, by Sarah Britten, lipstick artist.

Another option is to make your own creams to put on your face: one of my favourite green gifts was a lovely pot of moisturizer made from scratch by a friend. Quite a few people are trying this, to reduce waste, save costs, protect animals, and avoid slathering chemicals on their skin. You Tube will drown you in videos showing you how (I picked this one at random because it didn’t start with an ad). Interestingly, friends who’re doing this say the most expensive ingredients are the pure scented oils. There has to be a way around this (eyes the lavender and herbs in the garden). You can make your own cosmetics, too: simply Google. This was the first link I found (another rabbit warren to explore! Check out the links to the Paris To Go Zero Waste blog, but set aside several hours — some fascinating stuff there.)

Hotels and guesthouses are already addressing the problem of the sea of little plastic shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles. (I once collected every single one I got on a poetry tour halfway round the world, and practically needed a second suitcase.) Trouble is, when they replace them with big bottles to be re-used by multiple guests, they have to bolt them to the shower walls to stop folk swanning off with them. Still, that’s the way to go, and in the meantime, donate those miniature bottles and soaps to organisations like Rape Crisis, who put them in comfort packages to give to children who’ve suffered unspeakable violation.

After three weeks of modest motels in Western Canada, I had already amassed these…

After three weeks of modest motels in Western Canada, I had already amassed these…

I leave you with this final thought: Julia Roberts was recently asked for her single most NB beauty tip. Hold onto your hats, here it comes, from one of the most iconic and bankable faces in the world: LOOK AFTER YOUR TEETH. There you have it. What’s more, she doesn’t use toothpaste. She brushes with bicarb. Be like Julia.





Helen Moffett