WCHL: #1 The Myth of The Perfect Product

WCHL stands for: Why change the habits of a lifetime? In this series of articles, the answer is always, “Because it will be better for the planet, which means better for people too.”

Do you ‘need’ special shampoo, or face cream, or perhaps there’s Only One Deodorant that Really Works? I know you know what I’m talking about. It goes beyond preference. It goes into an anxious and possibly/probably deluded hinterland of not being able to cope if you can’t get your preferred product.

I know this because I have occupied that hinterland, but I have escaped many times. Usually I break free when whatever product it is I think my life depends on is discontinued or the recipe altered, probably because no one else buys something so odd/unfashionable/obviously meant only for aged witches. Cue desperate search for a replacement – which frequently seems to be not quite as effective but which you get used to and stands in perfectly well for your favourite.

Not actually 37, but I tried many more eyeliners than pictured

So you see, I share your pain on this. I once bought 37* different liquid eyeliner pens when the formula of the brilliant one I’d been using for some years changed – going from something impressively gothic that stayed on come hell or high water, to a watery black excuse for eyeliner that barely went on in the first place. None of those eyeliners was anywhere near as good, because they simply did not stay on. How did I cope? I resorted to kohl: black eyeliner pencil. It doesn’t last like the brilliant pens did, but it’s easy enough to reapply/tidy up if required (such as when you’re a speaker at an all day event but not on till late in the day).

You might be thinking that no one actually needs to wear make-up so what’s the fuss? I’m glad if you are thinking that! That is exactly the point. We don’t truly need it, but we are creatures of habit and manufacturers of toiletries and so-called beauty products depend on this. Add the pressure on women to prioritise their appearance; making people worry that they smell bad and all the fake promises and pressures heaped on us by advertising,and you have a population of slavish consumers who habitually keep on buying the same products.

Why do we need to change the habits of a lifetime? Because if we’re to have any hope of usefully combatting climate change, we need to buy less stuff – because the manufacture of said stuff gives off bucketloads of C02 and so much of what’s made is encased in single-use plastic which can end up in the sea because recycling simply isn’t the solution we were told it is.

If you read my introductory piece on this topic, you’ll hopefully recall that I recognise that changing our habits will be gradual and part of an ongoing process. It’s true we are on a clock, but making people feel guilty doesn’t help. It’s more important that we form new, sustainable and environmentally-friendly habits – and that these become our new lifetime norm.

My eyeliner experience showed me I can cope with change, so I decided to tackle another product I rely on: lip salve (or balm). As per the above there was The One Lip Salve. It was fragrance free and, importantly, had sunscreen in it – but it came in a two-piece plastic tube – which I have no idea how to recycle – and it probably had palm oil in it.

I kept thinking, why can’t they make a metal tube? Lipsticks used to be in metal tubes.

Nirvana Natural’s ‘zero waste’ lip balm – in a cardboard tube

I remember my Nan using them. Why can’t we bring them back? (I know you can buy little tins of lip salve, but dipping an unwashed finger in something for your lips is pretty unhygienic). Perhaps metal lipstick cases will make a comeback, in the meantime I found lip salve in a cardboard tube – and it’s palm oil free!

But is it any good? Yes. It was a little more expensive than what I used before, but that said you get twice as much. I’ve been using it for a few months now and am completely satisfied with it. The only drawback is that it’s possible to push up too much if the lipsalve has warmed up in your pocket or on a hot day – and you can’t wind it back in like you can with plastic. The producers do warn about this though and it isn’t the end of the world (it just got squashed into the lid, so was rescuable not wasted).

The moral of this story is: it’s possible to change without your personal world falling apart, so start looking for more environmentally friendly toiletries today. If you’ve already found some, then feel free to share in the comments.

*Number may have been exaggerated for affect, but it was so many that I had to keep a diary as I tested them so I could be sure which was which. They were all shite.

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