The Packaging Industry and How We Can Consume Differently, Part 12

Last updated on February 20, 2021.

Brown glass dropper jar surrounded by pink petals
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

In my last article, I wrote about several companies offering cleaning products with refill options. Today, we will look at refill options for personal care products.

The Refill Shoppe

This company sells refillable hair, body, and home products made with non-toxic, vegan, and biodegradable ingredients.1 They have a storefront in California but offer online ordering as well. They are a Certified B Corporation, meaning they use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Their products can be purchased and refilled in pouches that you return to the company with a prepaid envelope, and they sanitize and reuse the pouches rather than just recycling them. They even offer many customizable products with the same refill options. Next time I run out of conditioner or bubble bath, I plan to try them!

Plaine Products

Plaine Products aluminum shampoo bottle

This company was founded by two sisters who want to stop plastic pollution.2 Plaine Products sells shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hand wash, and body wash in aluminum containers. The first time you purchase, you receive a reusable pump. This is great, as you’re not getting a disposable new pump with every purchase. When you order a refill, you switch the pump to the new container. Rinse the empty bottle out and ship it back to Plaine Products at their cost. They will sanitize and reuse the bottles, creating a closed-loop system with minimal waste. Their products are vegan and cruelty-free, and they are also a Certified B Corporation. I plan to try their products in the near future! There’s an additional review under Additional Resources below.

Fillaree

I wrote about Fillaree in my article about refillable cleaners, but they also carry personal use products, so I’m mentioning them again here. They sell refillable liquid hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. You can refill any of these at stores that carry their products, and the hand soap and body wash are available as mail subscriptions.3They plan to offer refills by mail on their other products soon as well. This is a growing company with an ideal business model. The customer buys the refill product, which provides 2-4 refills in the original container, and then ships the empty containers back to the company for refilling at the company’s cost. They sanitize and refill the containers and ship them again.

Fillaree hair products in aluminum bottles

by Humankind

Mouthwash tablets in glass cups

This company’s tagline is, “high-performing personal care products
that are kinder to your body and our planet.” They’ve created refills that use little or no plastic and they do not ship water, reducing emissions. They sell shampoo and conditioner bars, mouthwash tabs, deodorants in refillable containers, and cotton swabs without a plastic container. This company uses vegan ingredients, its products are cruelty-free, it is a carbon-neutral company, and most refill packaging is home compostable. I’ve tried their conditioner bar and cotton swabs, and while a bit expensive, the products so far are high quality.4

“Great personal care products don’t have to come at Earth’s expense.” -by Humankind

Bite

Bite Toothpaste Bits jar

“One billion toothpaste tubes are thrown out each year.”

Think about that for a second, one billion plastic tubes, tossed out annually! Most toothpaste tubes are not recyclable, either. The founder of Bite set out to solve this problem but was also concerned about the questionable ingredients found in common toothpaste and the fact that oral care products are tested on animals. She wanted to create a toothpaste that was healthy for our bodies, not tested on animals, and plastic-free. Bite toothpaste bits sell in refillable glass jars and have safer ingredients. The company offers a refill subscription plan, lists their ingredients on their website, and ships only in recyclable corrugated boxes and paper mailing envelopes. The refills come in 100% home compostable pouches.5 I’m very excited about this company, and I recently purchased Bite products which I’ll be reviewing in a future post. You can also read Beth Terry’s review of Bite, which I’ve linked under Additional Resources below.

The very week I wrote this, Bite released a plant-based dental floss in a refillable glass container, much like Dental Lace (see below). Refills ship in compostable pouches. Two weeks after that, Bite released a line of mouthwash tabs in reusable tins.

“Whether it’s mindlessly tossing out an empty toothpaste tube or glossing over the ingredients list, small daily actions can shape the future of our planet. By uncovering how we can be better to ourselves and to the earth, we are one step closer to a healthier and plastic-free world.”- Bite Toothpaste Bits

Dental Lace

Dental Lace glass container

Did you know that most dental floss is made of plastic, some of which contain dangerous PFCs (perfluorochemicals)? And sold in plastic containers? Well, there’s a better option that’s natural and compostable, and in refillable glass containers. Dental Lace was begun by a librarian, and we all know how awesome librarians are. The floss is made from silk and can be composted instead of put in the trash. The glass containers are decorative, refillable, and recyclable. The packaging is all home compostable.6 I have personally used this product for about 3 years now, and I love that I can floss and not create a ton of non-recyclable waste while doing so. Below is a video review from zero-waste platform Trash is For Tossers:

Solutions

“If you want to eliminate waste in your life – and in the world – the answers will always come down to one simple thing: consume differently.” -Tom Szaky

I’ve included this quote in many of my packaging series articles, as it succinctly summarizes what we need to do going forward. Consume differently. We must look for more sustainable, longer-lasting products. We must look for less packaging in our consumables and seek refillable options. If we demand better from companies and vote with our spending, we can make great changes.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the companies that offer refillable products but rather a list of resources. I have listed companies that I have either personally tried or researched.

We have one more topic to explore in this series: food packaging. So look for my next and final article in my Packaging series soon! By subscribing, you will receive it directly in your inbox! Thank you for reading!

 

This post does not contain any affiliate links nor did I get paid to promote any of the products in this post.

Additional Resources:

Article, “Shampoo Bars Eliminate the Need for Plastic Packaging,” Because Turtles Eat Plastic Bags website, October 2, 2019.

Review, “Why I Love Plastic-Free Bite Toothpaste Bits,” My Plastic Free Life website, March 21, 2019.

Article, “My Top 5 Zero Waste Shower Essentials,” Going Zero Waste website, May 19, 2017.

Footnotes:

Shampoo Bars & Conditioner Eliminate the Need for Plastic Packaging

Last updated on February 17, 2021.

Photo of man with head under shower. Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay
Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

Most shampoo and conditioner brands are sold in plastic bottles. Since we know that 91% of plastic isn’t actually recycled, many of us are trying to find ways to not purchase products in plastic.1 Recently, a colleague asked me what to do about shampoo and its plastic packaging.

Did you know you can buy shampoo as a bar?

No way, you say! Or, maybe you’re thinking ugh, what? Either way, stick with me for a bit.

Last fall, I wrote a post on the benefit of bar soap and how it can be purchased practically packaging-free. I use bar soap for showering out of personal preference. I always found that most body wash and liquid soaps washed down the drain rather than cleansed my body. Once I switched to bar soap, I felt like I got a better lather, a better cleanse, and found that I wasted less soap overall. An added bonus is that there are no travel restrictions on bar shampoo, so no need for little plastic travel bottles!

I first discovered shampoo bars on Beth Terry’s site, My Plastic-Free Life.2 I was excited to learn about shampoo bars and switched to them right away. But there have been some issues with various bars, so I’m reviewing those here.

Image of lavender bar soap, towel, and fresh lavender. Image by joe137 from Pixabay
Image by joe137 from Pixabay

“Up to 80 percent of shampoo and 95 percent of conditioner is made of water.” -authors Brigette Allen and Christine Wong3

How to use a Shampoo Bar

This part is easy! You just rub the bar between your hands like you would with regular bar soap, or directly on your hair and scalp as long as you are gentle. It’s only strange the first time. The lather of a bar is really satisfying, and I’ve actually come to prefer shampoo bars.

Plastic-Free often also means Toxin-Free

Most shampoo bars do not contain the perfumes, chemicals, and harsh detergents that are in major brands of bottled shampoo. This means you will not be exposing your body to toxic ingredients that will strip your hair, disrupt your hormones, or cause cancer. Yes, you read that right – many major brands of shampoo and conditioner contain one or more toxic ingredients. Under Additional Resources, I’ve included a link to a list of ingredients you should avoid, and also a link to review brands on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep site.

I will say that this type of shampoo does take getting used to. Most of us are accustomed to shampoos that strip our hair and scalp of their natural oils, so it will take a few shampoos for your scalp to adjust and not feel greasy. But this is normal and once you adjust, you’ll start to feel and see the benefits of shampoo that is not full of harsh ingredients.

Photo of the shampoo aisle at the grocery store.
Most grocery and department stores carry shampoo and conditioner exclusively in plastic bottles. Photo by me

“The number of shampoo bottles thrown out in the United States every year could fill 1,164 football fields.”-authors Brigette Allen and Christine Wong4

The Shampoo Bars

Here is a review of the brands I’ve tried, in order of preference:

J.R. Liggett’s shampoo bar

J.R. Liggett's shampoo bar

This is the first one I ever tried, mainly because I was able to find this locally at Earthfare (also sold at Whole Foods and Amazon). It is packaged in a recyclable paper wrapper. I’ve switched back to it several times after trying many others, and have decided this is my favorite. It lathers really well, the bar does not fall apart over time, and my hair is soft and clean.

There is a bar for every hair type: Original; Moisturizing (for dry, colored or damaged hair); Tea Tree & Hemp (fragrance-free and good for “itchy-flaky scalp”); and several others depending on personal scalp preference.

Sappo Hill

Sappo Hill shampoo bars, next to lavender sprigs

I really like Sappo Hill and it is my husband’s preferred bar soap. I discovered their bar soap when I used to shop at Earthfare, and I love that the bars were package-free except for a bar code sticker. After Earthfare closed all of its stores, I went online and discovered that they sell many more scents and that they also make shampoo bars! Their shampoo bars are mild and cleansing. They run a close second to my favorite (above) and are very well priced. I recommend this brand if you don’t like other shampoo bars.

Aquarian Bath

Shampoo bar from Aquarian Bath on Etsy.

My third favorite is one that I discovered through the website My Plastic-Free Life, called Aquarian Bath.5 This shampoo bar doesn’t break apart and lathers well. These are handmade, vegan, palm oil-free, SLS-free, fragrance-free, dye-free, and not tested on animals.

They will ship their products naked, meaning zero waste or no packaging, which is super! There are many scents and bars with ingredients for each hair type, including one for dandruff, so read each description to find the right one for you. They also sell other types of products with the same qualities.

Nourish Natural Bath Products

Shampoo bar from Nourish

Nourish is where I buy the majority of my bar soap for body washing. But in recent years, they’ve come out with shampoo and conditioner bars. I was thrilled about this because I love most of their products! However, while I like the scents and the clean feeling these bars leave in my hair, they have the flaw of crumbling about halfway through the bar’s life. This leaves several small pieces of shampoo bar, and those pieces get smaller and smaller, creating frustration. I’ve tried 3 of these and each bar had this problem. I’m hoping they can improve their binding process.

Lush Cosmetics

Image of Lush shampoo bar

I tried a shampoo bar from Lush Cosmetics and it crumbled halfway through its life as well. I did not enjoy the scent either but I highly respect Lush Cosmetics because of its naked packaging. Their products are handmade, vegan, and cruelty-free. This particular bar just didn’t work for me. However, I like and respect the company so much that I plan to try additional shampoo bars. Here’s why:

“Since 2005, we’ve sold more than 41 million shampoo bars, saving 124 million plastic bottles from ever being produced. That’s approximately 3417 tons of plastic saved, or about the weight of 30 blue whales. Imagine if everyone ditched the bottle in favor of the bar!” -Lush Cosmetics6

The Right To Shower Shampoo Bar & Bar Soap

The Right To Shower Shampoo bar packaging

I found this brand at Whole Foods, and they claim to help bring mobile showers to people living on the streets, which is pretty cool! It’s a large bar for the price and can be used on both the hair and body, which is an added benefit. These bars are vegan, sulfate-free, are made in the US, use Rainforest Alliance Certified palm oil, are cruelty-free and are packaged in 100% recycled carton paper. I love the promise of this product! But it does not keep my hair as cleansed as I’d like – I noticed some build-up on my scalp.

Photo of a woman's blonde hair. Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

What about Conditioner?

When I first started going plastic-free, I made my own conditioner and continued doing so for about 2 years. There are many recipes on Pinterest and I’ve tried a bunch. Most did not work for me – they were either too greasy (coconut oil-based) or left my hair tangly (shea butter-based). The one I settled on uses a combination of oils and aloe vera gel with guar gum as a thickening agent. Unfortunately, the ingredients are not all available plastic-free in the area where I live. Since the beginning of my journey, some companies have developed conditioner bars. Below are the ones I’ve tried.

by Humankind

White conditioner bar

This company sells all plastic-free/packaging-free products and orders are carbon neutral (meaning the company contributes to forest preservation to offset the carbon created from shipping their product). I tried their grapefruit scented conditioner bar and it is my favorite though most expensive. They are vegan and use all-natural ingredients. Unfortunately, it broke into pieces toward the end of its life. I found it very difficult to use 4 tiny pieces to conditioner my long hair, so this was disappointing. But it left my hair soft, manageable, and shiny! I plan to give it another try, and they also sell shampoo bars that I haven’t yet tried.

Nourish

Nourish conditioner bar, pink

I tried Nourish’s conditioner bars in addition to their shampoo bars. They have great scents and they conditioned my thick mane well, leaving it shiny and manageable. However, they crumbled about halfway through the life of the bar. Even so, this one is my second favorite and they are much more affordable than others. I plan to buy these again. They are vegan and made with natural ingredients. They offer a choice of packaging when you order, either compostable plastic or tissue paper wrapping.

HiBar

HiBar conditioner bar packaging and blue bar

I am still on the fence about this one. It is also a little costly and I don’t like the scent of the blue moisturize bar. But the shape is unique as you can see. The bar is made to hold in your hand while you rub the angled flat part of the bar directly onto your hair. This creates no friction or tugging and allows me to conditioner my hair much more thoroughly. The same goes for washing my son’s hair – I can conditioner it quicker without tugging, which of course makes hair washing better for him! So I do really like the shape but I may need to try a different scent. If I do, I’ll update this post. HiBar Conditioner bars are free of sulfates, phthalates, silicones, or parabens. They also sell shampoo bars. These are sold only in cardboard packaging, no plastic packaging.

Person washing hair in shower
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Let Go of Guilt

I’m not perfect. I’m still figuring it all out too. I got very frustrated once with conditioner bars breaking into small pieces that became unusable and purchased conditioner in a plastic bottle! I did at least buy Pacifica Beauty brand because their products are vegan and cruelty-free, as well as toxin-free. But I’m not giving up! 

Remember, the fact that you’re willing to try another method in order to avoid plastic means a lot. So if your attempts at switching fail, just don’t give up. You will find something that works eventually!

You can do this, and hopefully, this post helps! Thank you for reading, and please subscribe!

 

This post does not contain any affiliate links nor did I get paid to promote or receive free items for any of the product reviews in this post.

Additional Resources:

Article, 15 Harmful Ingredients In Shampoos And Conditioners That You Should Avoid, Starting Today!” Skinkraft Laboratories, April 21, 2020.

Website, EWG’s Skin Deep, accessed February 16, 2021.

Footnotes: