Living without plastic | Part 5: When beauty goes green

Each year, Country Life's Rosie Paterson issues herself a challenge for Lent. This year she's attempting to give up plastic and plastic packaging for the whole 40 days but slimming down her washbag might prove too much of a challenge.

Hi my name is Rosie, and I’m addicted to buying beauty products.

Asked what they would take to a desert island most people start to, mentally at least, pack a bag containing food and maybe something handy like matches or a mobile phone.

I’d take a washbag.

In news that will surprise everyone, I’m a light packer — heavy bags make me panic. I will do almost anything to avoid checking in luggage but my washbag is always overstuffed.

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Institut Esthederm’s hyaluronic acid face mask, Dr Salts+ dead sea bath salts, The Ordinary’s vitamin C + HA spheres serum, Mario Badescu’s glycolic foaming cleanser…you name it, I’ve got it, or at least tried it. My dressing table is a shrine to Creed and Aerin perfumes and I have an intimate relationship with every Space NK store within five miles of my flat.

The problem? The majority of these lovely products, which form part of my calm-inducing morning and evening routines, come packaged in some form of bloody plastic.

Sod’s Law — just as I’d got my head around the food shopping aspect of this challenge, my tried and tested Liz Earle cleanser began to show signs of running out. In a moment of frenzied desperation, I resorted to hacking the robust bottle in half and scooping out the last dregs.

I’m not ashamed to say that I can be swayed to spend by beautifully designed bottles, jars and tubes (as well as by products that really do work), but I am ashamed by the news that the global cosmetic industry produces more than 120 billion units of the stuff every year.

The majority of us have a single bathroom bin into which all empties go. This means that whilst 90% of Brits recycle kitchen waste only 50% of us do the same in the bathroom.

Sadly, this beauty balls-up goes beyond the plastic pale. Those oh-so-Instagrammable cardboard boxes — there to do nothing more than tempt; they’re not doing much to protect the much hardier plastic contents beneath — contribute to 18 million acres of deforestation. Every year.

The silver lining? The industry is making beautified steps in the right direction.

Products containing microbeads have been banned in the UK, Dior’s packaging comes from sustainable forests and is branded using natural ink and Garnier have announced a partnership with TerraCycle, a world leader in collection and reuse of non-recyclable, post-consumer waste, making it easier for all of us to recycle Garnier products not currently accepted by local waste collection services. To name just a few.

Shampoo, conditioner, soap and cleanser in solid bar form. Pretty bowl, optional.

I’ve also been taking my own gentle, baby steps in the right direction. Battling unfounded scepticism, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the new, eco-friendly products now populating my bathroom shelves: Lush’s Coalface facial soap, Aurelia’s probiotic botanical cream deodorant and The Body Shop’s dry body brush (in place of an exfoliator).

My favourite? Who Gives A Crap — loo paper made from environmentally friendly, recycled materials, with 50% profits used to fund the construction of loos for those in need.

Because 2.3 billion people — that’s roughly a third of the world’s population — don’t have access one.

In the words of Who Gives A Crap themselves: ‘toilet paper is about more than just wiping bums.’

We will, however, gloss over the Geoorganics toothpaste debacle (akin to rubbing mud into your gums; brings to mind the trauma of having your first mouth guard fitted) and an attempt to make a facemask using kitchen ingredients (note to self: honey and oats will stick to your hair, your clothes and the furniture…but not to your face).

Going zero-waste in the beauty department was never going to be easy — in fact it might just be nigh on impossible for someone like me (and a tad unfair on friends and family who would have to put up with my au naturel, no make-up look on a permanent basis). But with a little research, time and patience (not my forte) we can all make greener purchases and a small but marked difference, to our bodies and to the planet.

P.S. A shout out and thanks to whoever sent 50 brown paper bags to my flat earlier this week in unmarked packaging… very thoughtful, if not a little odd.

You can follow Rosie’s progress every weekend at – she’s also on Instagram @rosielkpaterson