If you’re trying to use less plastic around the home, reducing plastic waste from your daily bathroom routine can be difficult.
Most of us have at least one shower every day, and will use liquid shower gel to get ourselves clean.
Shower gel first became popular during the 1990s.
Made from a base of water and also containing a foaming agent, the liquid base makes it easy to add moisturising components and fragrances, which is why you’ll see a huge variety of different shower gels available in supermarkets and beauty stores.
Shower gels have been marketed as a product that’s great for our skin and that will leave us smelling fresh, so it’s no wonder that many of us now feel we can’t live without it. But if you’re trying to reduce plastic waste, shower gels can be bad news.
Because shower gels are liquids, they nearly always come in plastic packaging. Some plastic shower gel bottles can now be recycled, but it can be confusing knowing which bottles are suitable for recycling, and many empty shower gel bottles still end up in landfill every year.
There are other good reasons to ditch liquid shower gel. A Swiss study recently found the carbon footprint of liquid soap and shower gel is “25% larger than soap in bar form on a per-wash basis.
Liquid soap also needs 5 times more energy to produce and can use 20 times more packaging.” (source)
Soap Bars and Solid Shower Gels
Soap bars are a much better alternative than plastic bottles of shower gel if you’re trying to reduce your plastic waste.
But if your skin is delicate, dry, or eczema-prone, some traditional bars of soap can cause skin problems.
Traditional soaps are designed to remove dirt and oils from the skin by using surfactants, chemical agents that dissolve dirt and oil, and these surfactants can have an adverse effect on the outermost layer of the skin causing irritation.
Most soap also has a high pH level of around 10.
Skin has a natural pH of 5.5, and the higher pH levels in a bar of soap can therefore cause an imbalance causing further skin irritation.
You may want to try looking for soaps that are as natural as possible, and avoid soaps containing harsh chemicals.
Alternatively, solid shower gels are becoming more widely available.
These might look the same as a normal bar of soap, but they don’t use the same ingredients.
Handmade cosmetics company Lush explain that solid shower gels “might look the same as some of the soaps you’ve grown to love over the years but naked shower gels don’t contain any soap base, they instead share most of the same ingredients as liquid shower gel.”
Lush use sodium stearate to make their shower gels solid, and also add propylene glycol as a humectant to prevent skin drying out. You can buy Lush solid shower gels in a wide variety of fragrances from their high street stores or online at Lush.com.
There are also some other great solid shower gels available to buy online.
Online natural makeup and skin care retailer Ecco Verde sell a gentle, mild solid shower gel by Buenas Noches, available here.
This shower gel contains a high amount of natural oils, but is meant to cleanse rather than moisturise, so if you have dry skin you may need to use a body moisturiser after you shower.
The Funky Soap Shop
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Another good online retailer to try for natural soap bars is the Funky Soap Shop.
You can find a wide range of natural body soaps on this website, and you can search for products by skin type (dry, sensitive etc.).
These body soaps are very natural and don’t contain any harsh chemicals to dry out the skin, and added ingredients such as coconut milk leave skin well moisturised after you shower.
For some more plastic-free bathroom products, see our roundup of the best shampoo bars in the UK.