The Plastic Project Part 4: Safe Plastic Swaps For Your Hair
If you've been following along with this series, you'll know that I spent last week cataloging the different kinds of plastic in my bathroom. I found quite a bit of not-so-healthy, not-so-recyclable plastic, and because I managed to time this project up perfectly with running out of a lot of my bathroom staples, I decided this weekend would be the perfect time to go shopping for some new, non-toxic, less-plastic goods.
Bad news: It is virtually impossible to find personal care products packaged in non-plastic containers. I mean. Cross out virtually. I checked the green section of my local Hannaford's and the personal care section of my local natural market (alas, I don't live within driving distance of Whole Foods' Whole Body, though I'll definitely suss them out next time I'm in the city). We're talking aisle after aisle of plastic, plastic, plastic.
So, I'm having to get a little creative. Googling away, I made two important discoveries:
Fake Plastic Fish, an incredible blog by eco-activist Beth Terry, who has spent the past two years living as plastic-free as possible and encouraging the rest of us to do the same. Check out her Q&A and her Plastic-Free Living Guide for so many good tips and resources.
And No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products — and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics (Da Capo Lifelong, August 2010) by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt, who also write a series on GOOD and a blog of the same name. Although their research is more about what's in your personal care products, not what they're packaged in, it's tremendously useful for this too, because the book, in particular, is chock-full of DIY ideas and product recs, and you have to figure products that are greener on the inside will also be making an effort to go greener on the outside.
So, drawing heavily on these experts' advice, here's what I've come up with, to get the plastic off my head:
Old Problem: Several half-empty #2 bottles.
New Solution: Step away from the shampoo aisles.
At first I was determined to find an eco-friendly shampoo in a glass bottle. Then I realized the fact that I have at least four bottles of shampoo knocking around my bathroom is maybe a hint that I should stop buying shampoo already. I have a habit of falling out of love with shampoo more quickly than other personal care products, because so many dry out my wavy hair, or seem to cause build-up after awhile. Plus, I often flirt with the whole No Poo phenom, where you don't shampoo at all, and after a few weeks, your hair is loving it. So now, the plan is to use up the shampoo I have, recycle those #2 bottles, and then go back to No Poo-ing it, or investigate bar shampoos and baking soda rinses.
Old Problem: I bought fancy conditioners, mostly in absurdly small #2 bottles or #5 tubs, and went through at least two a month with my long hair.
Why do they sell conditioner in such small bottles when you use more of it than practically any other bathroom product? Oh, I think I just answered that question.
New Solution: This is really just a stopgap, but I bought a (yes, plastic, #2) bottle of Avalon Organics Awapuhi Mango Moisturizing Conditioner this weekend.
It's extremely free of toxins and (for conditioner, anyway) a pretty big bottle. So I'm working on the theory that it's better to buy one big plastic bottle that will last for awhile than constantly blow through lots of little ones. I'm also going to experiment with some of the No More Dirty Looks Ladies' DIY conditioners: Organic mayonnaise, avocado, coconut milk, or jojoba, olive, coconut, and sweet almond oils. With any of these, the idea is to coat your hair for a decent amount of time (from 40 minutes for mayo up to overnight for the oils) then rinse thoroughly, maybe even with a bit of baking soda to get out the excess. If I can find a homemade conditioner that works for my hair, I figure I can make the pricey store-bought plastic bottle of conditioner last longer and cut down on my overall conditioner/plastic purchasing, which is a good thing.
3. Styling Products
Old Problem: At least nine partially used #2 and #7 bottles and tubes of anti-frizz serum, styling gel, and hairspray. All plastic, except one hairspray in a metal can with a plastic top.
New Solution: MoroccanOil, which is sold in a glass bottle. (With a plastic top. Sigh.)
This is a Capital T Tough One. I've got a lot of hair. Sometimes I want it to be wavy. Sometimes I want it to be crazy curly. Sometimes I want it to be pin-straight. I never want it to be frizzy or flat or gross. Hence a rotating cast of styling products, all containing tons of nasty chemicals and all in plastic tubes or bottles. But, beauty experts just won't shut up about the wonder that is Argan Oil, and I have to say, thus far, I've been impressed at how well it works no matter how I'm wearing my hair. At the moment, I'm using it along with the remnants of my other products (no point in wasting what I've got) but I'm hoping to phase down to just the oil, plus maybe a little hair spray or gel, if I can find one that's non-toxic and in a non-plastic container. In the meantime, this glass bottle seems like a good compromise, even if it does have a plastic top.
Also on my haircare to-do list, per the No More Dirty Looks Ladies: Try mixing pure aloe vera (in liquid form) with a half teaspoon of Argan (or another) oil. They describe it as "a haircare godsend" that's "like a ten-in-one for all your hair concerns. Shine? Check. Frizz? Check. Hold, curl, moisture? Yup." Plus, I stopped a woman with great curls on the street the other day to ask what she used (yes, I do that sometimes) and she said aloe all the way. Color me intrigued...
Stay tuned — later this week I'll be reporting on other bathroom switches, including how I've fared using baking soda as deodorant during what's shaping up to be the hottest, most humid week on record. Oh and the gardener in me is obviously very excited about this post on Homegrown Hair Solutions from Re-Nest. Here I've been planning a kitchen garden when I should have been planning one that can double as a beauty salon!