Last time I was here, I wrote a post presenting some of the reasons why I started caring about my personal care routine and why I think it is a great idea to reassess the amount of products we use. These habits have an impact in our health and the planet.
As I always say, the first step is awareness, we cannot really change anything we don’t know is happening. So today, I am inviting you to join me on a little exercise to gain awareness on how this information applies to you. It won’t ask you to change anything (unless you want to) and I promise it won’t take you long. I did it as a wrote this post and the results surprised me a bit. I hope you join me.
Let’s count them!
Yes, today we’ll count our personal care products. It might sound silly and too simple to change anything, but trust me on this one. You might think you already have a rough idea of how many products you own, but our mind tends to trick us.
I wish I had done this back in the days when I started these changes. This simple step can give us:
- Perspective on where we are. A starting point
- Opportunities to assess what products we are using and why.
- Ideas to simplify your routines.
- Empowerment to change.
Ideally, you want to count them all, but if for any reason you don’t feel like it, count the ones you use on daily/weekly basis. This is where our higher exposure is, the products we use on regular basis. Also, let’s think about the amount we use and where we are applying the product. For instance, it is not the same to apply an tiny bit of face cream every night, compared to a body moisturiser. Or it is not the same to apply an eye-brow pencil compared to a lipstick (or a mouth wash) which we’ll probably end up ingesting even small amounts.
Do you remember the pareto principle?
80% of the results or consequences come from 20% of the causes.
It can be used like this: 80% of the toxins we are putting into our bodies comes from 20% of the products we use. This is a general rule I like to use and it works quite well. So, what products are in your 20%?
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
Here we go
I am going to do the exercise right here, to provide you with a general template to follow and encourage you to take the chance and do it with me.
The idea is not to count every product, but the type of product. For instance, if you own 5 lipsticks, you count 1 which is what you wear any given day, unless of course you mix a couple of them, in that case count 2.
I would suggest not to include anything that’s used for medical purposes (e.g. eczema creams), they also contain many man-made chemicals, but they are more complicated to avoid/assess.
I am going to do this by category and within each, I’ll provide examples of products that hopefully will remind you of items you might have forgotten to include.
I’ll classify mine by frequency (e.g. daily, occasionally) so that I can count what’s in my 20%. I highly encourage you to do the same.
- I have been in this journey for several years, I had already done so many changes and even when it is not perfect, I am ok where I am right now with my cosmetics. If I had done this exercise years ago, the amount of products would have been massive. So, please try to avoid the comparisons, as everything it’s just a process.
- I have been working to simplify my personal care routine, in some areas I have left only what I consider important. Other areas not so much. What works for me, won’t work for everyone and that’s ok. Find what works for you.
- Almost all my products are natural and some I make myself. I am highlighting which ones are home-made (HM) so you know it is possible to do it, if you wish to try it in the future.
Before we start counting, take a guess: How many personal care/cosmetic products do you think you use? Write the number down and keep it in mind.
Hair care products
Daily: flaxseed gel (HM) (+1)
Weekly: shampoo bar, conditioning bar, styling cream. (+3)
Other product ideas: hair spray, mousse, styling gel, styling cream, leave-in conditioner, protein treatment, oil hair treatments, hair dye, dry shampoo, hair restoration products.
Skin care products
Daily: Natural oil (jojoba/almond) (+1)
As needed: Olive oil face soap bar, sunscreen (+2)
Other product ideas: cleanser, anti-aging products, day/night/moisturising creams, eye cream, face serum, face mask, facial washes, toners, exfoliation products, depilatory products for facial hair, make up removal.
Daily: Hand soaps, bar soap (HM) and moisturiser (HM) (+3)
Other product ideas: hand moisturising, body moisturising, body washes, bubble baths, scrubs, masks, exfoliation products, shaving creams/gels, tanners.
Oral care products
Daily: tooth paste powder, dental floss (+2)
Other product ideas: toothpaste, mouthwash and whitening products.
Daily: eye-brow pencil, light foundation, lip stick/lip balm(HM) (+3).
Occasionally: mascara, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner pencil, concealer (+5)
Other product ideas: eyeliner liquid, highlighter, bronzer, pressed powder, loose powder, lip gloss, lip liners, tinted moisturisers, setting products, primer, contour, eyebrow gel (yep, that’s a thing!)
Occasionally in summer: nail polish, nail polish remover (+2)
Other product list: cuticle care products, nail polish top coat.
Occasional: natural perfume (based on oils) (+1)
Other product ideas: perfumes, colognes and body splashes.
Daily: Deodorant (HM) (+1)
Other product ideas: anti-perspirants
Phew… we made it. Time to reveal the final count…. [drumroll please]
Now that you (and I) know how many types of products you are using, I suggest you reflect on the following:
- How do you feel about the results?
- Was your guess number accurate?
- Are you surprised?
In our daily/weekly list is our 20%, those are the products we should pay more attention. For those ones:
- Are you using/applying a considerable or small amount of those products?
- Can you reduce the frequency/amount of product you use?
- Which of those products do you really need? Which ones could you let go?
- If they are conventional products, can you replace them for a more natural brand or alternative?
For some of you these might seem a bit overwhelming, but the good news is: we have full control over the products we buy and use on daily basis.
As I mentioned above, every journey is different and it’s a personal decision what to do with this information. If you read my previous post about this topic, you probably noticed there are good reasons to consider a change, even a small one. If you’d like to start that journey, keep reading ;).
Share because you care
I’d like to create another post later to share the results from a group of readers (anonymously), so that I can continue raising awareness about this topic. If you end up doing this exercise and you’d like to participate, please send me an email. I only need your results and a photo that shows the bulk of the personal care products you currently use. If you want me to use your name, please let me know.
If you’d like to pass this message to your friends and family, consider sharing your results in your social media accounts and use the hashtags #howmanycosmetics. It is a great opportunity to start the conversation, specially among women. This information applies to everyone, but women are at a higher risk because we tend to use more personal care products than men #womencaringforwomen!
By sharing it, you might find that your friends are also interested in learning about this subject, so you can start the journey together. It is always easier when you have people to talk about these topics and share tips.
Start the journey
Simplify your routine
There are so many products out there. One of the things that I quickly realised when I started this journey was that I had many products I didn’t need. I remember I had a 3 steps cleaning pack for my face! I questioned the need of using 3 products and decided to let them go and use only one.
Another thing I noticed was that I had some products, particularly make-up that I was “supposed” to be using, because someone recommended it to me, it was trendy etc and I wanted to give it a go. Perhaps I tried them, but they never stuck in my routine. So, I decided to stop buying stuff I didn’t really need.
Last tip I give you is to find multi-use products, do we really need different products to moisturise the hands and the body? In some instances maybe we do, but in other cases perhaps we don’t. It is all about questioning our routines and habits (and also the marketing we are exposed on daily basis telling us what we need).
Find clean brands/products or DYI
For the types of products you really want to keep using, find brands that work with natural ingredients which are safer for your and the planet.
A word of caution: when you start looking for better products to buy, labels can be quite confusing. You’ll start finding words like natural, pure, organic, botanical ingredients, unfortunately these often mean nothing, there are not many regulations around these labels, so if a company uses 99% synthetic chemical and 1% of natural ingredients, they can call it “natural”.
Also check the logos carefully, sometimes they seem like certifications, but in reality companies create them to make them look better, but they mean nothing. Unless of course, they have a certified organic logo you can recognise e.g. ACO Certified Organic, USDA organic.
Best thing to do is to read the ingredients, if you start seeing stuff you can’t even pronounce, maybe it is not what you are looking for. Also consider the following:
- Usually the list of ingredients are organised in descending order calculated by mass or volume (at least here in Australia), so you want the natural ingredients at the beginning of the list and any synthetic stuff (if you can’t avoid them) right at the bottom.
- Stay away from fragrances/perfumes.
- Search for ingredients in the EWG cosmetic database. It is free and it will give you a score, the data they have been able to compile and any health concerns with the ingredient. I have been using this website for years and it has been incredible useful.
- Find an health shop or online store specialised in these types of products, it would be easier to find what you are looking for. As most people, I used to buy most of my personal care products in the supermarket in times when there were not really many alternatives available, these days I think you can even find some safer options there, still always read the ingredients.
- If you are up for it, try making your own products. Some are very easy to do and you know exactly what goes in them. There are thousands of recipes online, give it a go.
Remember the planet
Remember this journey is not only about our health, but the planet’s health too. Consider the following:
- Buy some of your personal care products in bulk. These days is easy to find shampoo, conditioner, soap and others in bulk – you can bring your own container.
- Pay attention to the packaging. This one is tricky, I still own some make-up from clean/natural brands that still come in plastic. However, things are changing, in the past few years I have started to see products in glass, bamboo, tins and even more exciting: re-fills. I was thrilled when I saw a couple of brands offering refills (even for eye-shadows): you buy the main container only once and keep buying the product as a refill.
- If you can’t avoid plastic, think about recycling. For instance, plastic triggers and tubes are harder to recycle, they can only be processed via special recycling programs, so you can try to avoid those and use containers that can be easily recycled via normal kerbside recycling programs. For those products you can’t avoid, try Terracycle. I struggle to find light sunscreens which are not in packaged in tubes, so I use Terracycle program to recycle it afterwards.
- Can you try alternatives without packaging? like shampoo/conditioning bars, soap bars etc.
- If you decide to stop using your current personal care products straight away, ensure you dispose them properly. Here in Victoria, you can attend to a Detox your home event. Ask Mr. Google what’s available in your area.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Be patient, Rome wasn’t built in a day! This is a process.
An easy way to do this transition is to buy/try a better alternative each time you are about to finish the product your are currently using, this way it generates less waste and it is less overwhelming than trying to replace them all at the same time (with my cleaning products I didn’t do this and in the end I know it wasn’t the best choice)
At the beginning of this post I said that my results surprised me a bit, and they did because in my mind I was using way less products. I wasn’t expecting my total to be 24 (or two dozens of personal care products) because I have been doing this transition for several years. This is always a WIP, I’ll keep changing my routine, perhaps simplifying some areas even more or perhaps not, time will tell, for now I am ok with the progress.
“We cannot expect to support our own wellbeing without also choosing to support the wellbeing of the place we live” – Carrie Ciula
That’s it for today. I hope you have found the exercise useful. Let me know in the comments below and please consider sharing your results, either using the hashtag or sending me an email 😉