A look at self-care products and options for low-toxin, biodegradable, zero-waste alternatives for a zero waste lifestyle. This is the third blog in a series of discussions on how to create less trash while providing for our genuine needs.

Self-care must go beyond aesthetics to also include rejuvenating practices that support whole-body health:

Exposure to toxins can adversely affect epigenetic expression. More insidiously, symptoms of disease can be latent in humans, showing up several generations after initial contact with the toxin. In addition to eliminating environmental pollution and waste, we must take great care to eliminate exposure to the toxins that we find in some cosmetics and soaps. Thus, in this blog, I highlight methods and products that I trust and use daily. Products must meet the following criteria: free of plastic, biodegradable or recyclable, and non-toxic.  

Free from Plastic:

Plastic is an endocrine disruptor.

Arthur Haines, a prominent teacher on ancestral lifeways and eco-conscientiousness, writes in his book A New Path,


“Bisphenol A (BPA)…is a compound [producers add] to create various plastic products…BPA disrupts hormone signaling (a property called endocrine disruption)—this should not be a surprise given that BPA was tested as a candidate for synthetic estrogen in the 1930s. Hormones are responsible for directing growth and development, metabolism, immune system and reproductive system function, behavior, and circadian rhythms in humans (among many other physiological processes)—disrupting these natural biochemical messengers is harmful to human health…BPA acts like a synthetic estrogen, so it [correlates] with sexual dysfunction in men and reproductive system disorders in both men and women. Further, exposure to BPA is also…a risk factor for obesity, cancer, neurological issues, asthma, thyroid health, and cardiovascular disease…Keep in mind that hormones work within our bodies in very tiny doses; therefore, it requires very little of a hormone (or a hormone-like substance) to cause potentially serious issues.” (1)


Biodegradable or recyclable:

We must consider cradle-to-cradle design, wherein we can reuse, repurpose, recycle, or refuse packaging. 

There are two landfills on Hawai’i Island, and experts expect the South Hilo facility to reach maximum capacity in spring/summer of 2019. Once we are forced to close and bury the South Hilo facility, we must haul trash from East Hawai’i 71 miles over Saddle Road for dumping at the West Hawai’i landfill (2). The environmental repercussions, including but not limited to landfill inundation and the exorbitant utilization of fossil fuel, are therefore quite dire. Thus, we are all responsible for making radical changes  to remedy the issue of excessive waste.



The skin is the body’s largest organ. Therefore, what cannot go in the body shall not go on the body.

People have varying opinions on whether ingredients like parabens, sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate, phthalates, glycerine, and fluoride are safe for humans.

It is thus essential for one to devote time and energy to conducting independent research on the matter. Research of this nature is indeed a complex endeavor, and is therefore a potential topic for a future blog. The following are ingredients that Nadine Artemis, a prominent holistic self-care leader, cites as being dubious and downright dangerous:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant commonly found in many products including shampoo, soaps, laundry detergents, toothpastes, and body wash. Scientific research indicates that SLS is an irritant to the skin and accumulative exposure is toxic to the organs. Furthermore, SLS is an endocrine disruptor and causes birth defects, developmental issues, and cancer (1).
  • Phthalates are used to make plastic more flexible and can leach from plastic containers into liquid, food, and human skin upon contact, especially if the plastic container is hot. Phthalates are disruptive to endocrine function. Be extension, they are linked with fertility issues, autism, learning disorders, behavioral & social disorders, cancer, and asthma (1).
  • Parabens are a preservative that bioaccumulate in bodily tissue and mimic human hormones. Indeed, Nadine Artemis, creator of Living Libations and author of Renegade Beauty says, “99% of all cancerous breast tissue has parabens in it” (2).

A zero-waste self care kit:


Photo: Clockwise from top: 1) dry brush, 2) luffa, 3) soap, 4) comb & brush, 5) refillable shampoo & conditioner bottles, 6) vinegar conditioning rinse, 7) Living Libations Best Skin Ever & Everybody Loves the Sunshine, 8)  Avasol surfer’s barrier stick, 9) Shaving kit, 10) Body oil, 11) Biodegradable floss, tooth powder, bamboo toothbrush, mouth-rinse, and 12) coffee scrub.

Dry Brush (1)

A dry brush promotes circulation, lymphatic health, detoxification, and cellular regeneration. A dry brush made of wood and natural fiber helps to clean the body of dirt and dead skin cells, thus reducing the need for soap and deodorant.

Luffa Sponge (2)

Luffa vine is easy to grow and harvest for a biodegradable sponge. Plastic loofah, on the other hand, leave micro-plastic particles on the skin, in the pores of the skin, and in the water supply. It is therefore a healthier and more sustainable option to replace your plastic sponge with a natural alternative.

Soap (3)

The main ingredient in liquid soap is water, and it usually comes in a plastic container. Bar soaps, in contrast, are often available in compostable paper packaging. Bar soap is primarily made of saponified oil, so it lasts longer and is less expensive than liquid soap. Support local bar soap makers who include sustainable nut & seed oil and natural botanicals in their product. Better yet, make your own!

Comb and Brush (4)

A bamboo comb and brush help to distribute your hair’s natural oils. They are made of natural and sustainable materials and are compostable.  

Shampoo & Conditioner (5)

Currently, these are the most challenging for me to source zero-waste and all-natural. I refill glass containers with Shikai shampoo & conditioner from the bulk section of the local organic market. Shikai products contain plant derived ingredients such as aloe, acacia and coconut. The ingredient cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, responsible for the viscous and foaming properties of shampoo, is a synthetic derivative of coconut. Like other soaps, the main ingredient in liquid shampoo is water. Alternatively, I would like to try shampoo bars and methods for making homemade shampoos and conditioners. Some zero-waste bloggers suggest using baking soda as shampoo. However, I found baking soda to be extremely drying and bleaching of hair and irritating to the scalp.

Vinegar (6)

Conditioning rinse: Homemade starfruit vinegar diluted 1:20 with filtered water as a substitute for conditioner cream. Apply diluted vinegar to wet hair, massage, and then rinse. The smell of vinegar will evaporate as hair dries.

Living Libations (7)

Living Libations makes a phenomenal facial oil called Best Skin Ever for oil-cleansing and moisturizing. I trust their Everybody Loves The Sunshine facial oil for before & after suncare.

Sun Protection (8)

Avasol Surfer’s Barrier stick is a zinc oxide and botanical based suncare stick. The stick goes a long way–over 18 months of sun protection for two ocean lovers from one stick. Avasol comes in a cardboard container. You can therefore compost the container when you are finished with it. Note that the following sunscreen ingredients are toxic to marine animals, fish and coral: oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, and nanoparticles.

Shaving Kit (9)

A safety razor is an investment that will last decades. Initial investment will vary. A vintage razor may be acquired for free or low cost. Alternatively, new safety razors of generic or premium quality are available to fit budget or fancy. Replacement blades have two sides and are available in bulk. The Astra Feather Double Edge blades are about $12 for a pack of 50: a fresh shave costs $0. I recommend a razor with a long handle for leg-shaving. You can re-sharpen the blades. Furthermore, metal is one of the most easily recycled materials. Shaving brushes can be made from wood and natural fiber. Use with a bar of lathering shave soap.

Body Oil (10)

A blend of Organic nut oil and essential oil is a wonderful way to support moisture retention in the skin. I enjoy a body oil blend of extra virgin olive oil and almond oil with a few drops of essential oils of frankincense, for cellular regeneration, and DoTerra’s Whisper Blend for Women.

Dental Care: Mouth-Rinse, Floss, Toothbrush, and Tooth Powder (11)

  • Mouth-rinse is a simple solution for replacing toxic alcohol-based mouthwash. To make your own mouth-rinse, dissolve 1 tablespoon of organic mineral salt in 4 cups hot water. Let cool and then add 1-2 drops of food-grade essential oil of choice, like peppermint.
  • Biodegradable floss comes in a compostable package, made of all natural ingredients, and 100-yards is more cost-effective than smaller sizes.
  • Compostable bamboo toothbrush made of natural and sustainable materials.
  • I make a tooth-powder that contains five simple ingredients : food-grade bentonite clay, activated coconut charcoal, powdered organic mineral salt, powdered cinnamon, and drops of DoTerra’s OnGuard essential oil. Be free to substitute any ingredients that support your dental health – such as an essential oil of your choosing or neem powder.

For more guidance on holistic dental care, please see Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Nadine Artemis (6).

Exfoliant (12)

Another reason Why Coffee is So Good For You! Collect brewed coffee grounds in a jar and store in the refrigerator. Exfoliate your skin during a sunny afternoon, outside under a tree. Soft skin for people, less waste in the landfill and fertilizer for the tree.  

Deodorant (Not Pictured)

Breast tissue and armpits are gateways to the lymphatic system. Thus, they are very sensitive to metals. Consider replacing toxic deodorants, especially those containing aluminum, with a safer alternative. Essential oil of sandalwood, for example, is gentle enough to use undiluted on the skin.  In addition, sandalwood has a phyto-androgen, or plant hormone, that is similar to the pheromone that both men and women emit naturally. A drop of sandalwood under each armpit can therefore help to balance bacteria and combine with your unique scent to balance any odors. Additionally, Living Libations has a line of deodorant made of 100 percent essential oil blends called Poetic Pits.

Join us on the zero waste journey:

Zero Waste Shopping for a Zero Waste Lifestyle covers why zero-waste living is important, how to create a reusable shopping kit, and how to shop in bulk. Alternatively, Zero Waste Kitchen For A Zero-Waste Lifestyle provides methods to help individuals shift to a whole-foods methodology of cooking to support personal and planetary health.



(1) Haines, Arthur ( 2017). A New Path: To transcend the great forgetting through incorporating ancestral practices into contemporary living. Bass Harbor, ME: V.F. Thomas Co.

(2) Verbano, Stefano, (2019, March-April) Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Ke Ola Magazine, 58-62

(3) Your Skin, An Owner’s Manual – Nadine Artemis #106

(4) Redefining Beauty • Your Natural Deodorant Solution • Our Skin Is Designed For Sunshine

(5) http://avasol.com/products.htm

(6) Artemis, Nadine (2013). Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.


Subscribe To Our Newsletter


News, videos, updates, and way more helpful and valuable information about farming, agriculture, cooking and community living!

You have Successfully Subscribed!