zero waste hair care


Since the age of 12, I washed with chemical shampoos and conditioners, blow dried my hair, then curled the entire thing.  It took me an hour or so to complete the process, and in between washing every 2 days, I’d curl it all over again every day.  Even when camping.  Even when tired.  Even when I was sick.  I’d been conditioned to believe, like so many women with frizzy or wavy or curly hair, that my hair wasn’t good enough as it was, naturally.  I remember one time when I was 19 and woke up late for work and didn’t have time to do my hair.  I was forced to leave it naturally kinky and wavy.  My male boss pulled me aside and told me that I looked unprofessional and that I needed to “do something” about my hair.  Face flushed red with shame, I could hardly focus the rest of my shift.  From talking to other women, this is pretty normal, and what I experienced is tame compared to others.  If your hair is naturally not silky smooth and straight or symmetrically and softly wavy, it’s not “professional”.  You won’t be taken seriously.  People think you need to brush your hair, or that you’re unkempt and don’t take care of yourself.  I know that hair bias is a serious and disgustingly racist problem in our society, especially for black women.


frizzy, thick, fine, wavy and wild

My mom has naturally super, super curly hair that she’s been wrangling into submission twice a week for decades- she wakes up early to get this done, to complete the transformation from her tightly coiled curls to big, loose, curling iron barrel curls.  Watching this as a girl, I’d internalized this kind of silent rejection of my true appearance too.  Let’s not even touch on the fact that I hated the dark brown shade of it, too- always wanting a lighter and blonder color.  The wave and the brown color + my freckles and bushy eyebrows made me feel out of place and less feminine, alongside blonde haired, blue eyed peers.

I avoided jumping in swimming pools and lakes and rivers and oceans for years in fear that my true waves would show, frantically covered up my hair with scarves in rain and mist, wore tight hoods at the beach prevent the fog from teasing out frizz.


2016: blow dried, straightened and then curled beyond belief hair, also fake eyelashes haha (I used to wear them EVERY single day for years)

Some months ago, I somehow started seeing clearly my attachment to this routine.  My fear of discontinuing it.  It probably sounds silly if you’re reading this, but seriously it was scary to think about abandoning this routine and this look I had stuck to for all my adult life.  It was like uncovering a bit of my barest self and laying it out for the world to see.  It felt vulnerable and sensitive.  Like scrubbing off a scab, and then going out in the sun with that fresh pink skin underneath.

It feels good to get all that time back, to not have to rely on tools and products to project a false self image of myself.  To spontaneously be free to go out in the morning without spending time heating and pulling my hair.  It has been humbling to my ego, too.  The funny thing is that when I stopped fighting with my hair, it actually got more manageable and I became at peace with what it looks like.  It simply is – wavy, dark and wild.  Honestly, we put so much emphasis on our physical appearance when it’s really the most unstable and changing thing.  I’ve learned the freedom to just accept and simply be what I am and be grateful for this vessel.


no curling iron, no makeup, no problem.  free

This really didn’t have much to do with zero waste hair care, but adopting a more minimalist routine really cut out the need for a lot of my plastic use in this area.  And, I’ve found this voluntary simplicity to be an unexpected benefit of zero waste: needing less, and feeling confident and joyous in the simplicity.

So here’s my really basic routine that I use on my dry but kind of oily, thick but fine, wavy hair.

First:  I wash my hair about once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the weather and what I’ve been up to that week.  A few years back when I read Arianna’s account about water only washing her hair, I was inspired to stretch out the length between my every other day washes.  Eventually I got to the point where I don’t have to wash as much.  If you’re interested in water only washing click HERE.

Second:  I wash with really gentle shampoo.  I buy Griffin Remedy Daily shampoo/conditioner at my local refill store, Refill Madness in old Kombucha bottles with upcycled pumps.  If you don’t have access to a bulk store, you can alternatively purchase a gallon size jug of shampoo (if you have the financial ability to purchase this much at once).  It’s what the refill stores sell out of anyways.  I tried at least 5 different shampoo bars, and various other package free alternative, like vinegar rinses, rye flour, clay, baking soda, rice water, but they all left my sensitive hair and scalp irritated, dry and flaky but also greasy.  Ugh.  The baking soda especially literally RUINED my hair- it bleached it a weird red color over time and broke off my hair.  The griffin remedy shampoo has lots of plant extracts, soothing aloe vera and calendula and it makes my scalp super happy.  Plaine Products also sells hair care in returnable/refillable metal bottles.

Third:  If I go in pools or salt water, I try to put coconut oil in the lower parts first.  It blocks the chlorine from drying out the cuticle as much.  I also do this sometimes as a mask.  I just can’t get it anywhere near my scalp otherwise it gets way too greasy.  You can use olive or other oils too.  Experiment with what’s available to you in bulk if possible.

Fourth:  I never brush my hair, it breaks my hair off and disrupts my natural wave.  When I get out of the shower, I gently squeeze with a towel and let it dry without touching it.  That way my natural wave pattern looks best.  If I brush, the wave brushes out and it’s simultaneously frizzy, straight, and wavy.  If you do like to brush, there’s lots of wooden pin hair brushes out there like this one.

Fifth:  If I put my hair up, I do so loosely or with a chopstick/clip etc or use a hair tie for a loose bun or braid.  Tight styles break my hair off and also mold my hair into that pattern- meaning, I have to wash/wet again to get out the weird kinks.  Some people probably are grossed out by this, but I sometimes pick up old hair ties off the ground and boil to sterilize, then hand wash with a few drops shampoo.  Reuse and reduce.

What natural or zero waste hair care routine have you found success with?  Have you ever experienced natural hair bias in the workplace?  I’d so love to hear.

xx Amanda

skin essentials

Skin plant

Skin and body care is one of my favorite daily rituals I bring to my day.  I’ve had such a long journey with self love, learning to appreciate my skin and work with it gently.  I have sensitive and freckly skin that I spent the majority of my life hating, after a boy I liked in 7th grade told me freckles were ugly, and I should cover them up.  It’s sad that as young women, many of us are so impressionable and deeply self conscious that we accept and internalize this contempt for our natural bodies at such a tender age.  That moment stung me and buried itself deep for many years, coloring how I felt about myself, leading me to cover up my face with thick foundation, crisping my body in tanning booths and plastering it with chemical self tanners to give the appearance of more even skin.  Which of course, only made things worse and gave me a hollow feeling inside, believing that my real, unadulterated skin wasn’t pretty or good enough as it was.

On top of that, after both of my pregnancies I got severe hormonal acne for about a year postpartum.  If I hadn’t already hated my skin before, I definitely hated it now.  I went on hormonal birth control, I used Retin-A, I scrubbed it within an inch of its life with chemical and manual exfoliants, I took internal and topical antibiotics which saturated my life with a litany of side effects.  I squeezed and picked at the stubborn red marks and doused them with products.  Stubbornly and rightfully so, my acne remained until my hormones realigned.  It took a lot less time to heal the second time around due to me starting to get in touch with my body and actively working with it instead of against it.  Maybe I’ll do another post about that, but it’s too long to tell here.  Suffice to say, I wouldn’t have dreamed of going out of the house bare faced even a few years ago.  Now I embrace it.  My freckles, my lines, my dimples on my thighs, my stretch marks on my breasts- they are mine.  They tell my story.  My body is lived in, has created life, has danced and bent, carrying me and supporting me silently, without complaint, with love and acceptance no matter what abuse I (and others) hurled at it.  No matter how much I hated it and wished it was different.

Stef mitchell

image: @stef_mitchell

I finally got around to working really deeply with myself, understanding and releasing past trauma, realizing that all is change, all is one, and that it wasn’t fair to be self consumed with contempt for this vessel when I had so much else I wanted to give, to share, to be grateful for.  It all sounds a bit woo-woo, but it seriously was a huge turning point in my healing from my autoimmune disease and healing my toxic mental relationship with myself.  This article was so helpful to me.  I’ve linked it a few times before, but it’s worth re-sharing.  (for more on self-love, click HERE)

Your skin problems are the biggest gift.  They are a perfect, clear mirror, a message from your body of what’s going on internally.  Acne, rashes, dry patches, cysts…they all tell a story that something is off.  Listen, experiment, observe your habits objectively and without judgement to see what you discover.  Diet, alcohol, coffee, stress, exercise, hormones, lack of circulation, dehydration, negative thoughts towards yourself can all affect your skin in deep ways.  For my own skin, I’ve found what’s best is to gently work with it to boost circulation through manual stimulation + very simple, gentle products and focusing on greens, quality sleep, water, and whole plant foods.  STRESS is a huge factor for me too, so meditation and morning rituals are a must for me.

Non-toxic products are a must.  Our skin absorbs everything we put on it, it’s the same as eating food.  Be respectful and mindful of what you put on it.  Here’s some of my favorites that I rely on to bring my skin + body to balance.  (for makeup/beauty click HERE)


hydrosol mists:  hydrosols are the other side of essential oils.  When plant matter is distilled, essential oils are produced (very concentrated) and also water infused with the plant essence and water soluble constituents.  They are super gentle yet nourishing and hydrating, plus anti-inflammatory, healing, circulation boosting, soothing, astringent, anti-bacterial properties depending on the plant.  My favorite is this rose geranium one, which is naturally humectant and mildly astringent- great for balancing skin.  I spray it on a few times throughout the day for moisturizing and also after I was my face to restore balance.  It’s made in Washington and in glass.  Mountain Rose Herbs has high quality hydrosols too.

hydrosol rose

quartz gua sha tools:  This is an ancient Chinese technique of scraping a tool across your skin to release stagnation, tightness, get blood and lymph moving again.  The results are amazing when practiced consistently.  For me, this has reduced monthly breakouts and sped the healing of the ones I do happen to get- check out THIS video for technique.  Also, I carry a lot of tension in my jaw from bruxism (teeth grinding- that virgo rising #controlfreak life) and TMJ and this releases so much of that!  I focus on my jaw area and under my eyes (gently).  Gua sha is also amazing for muscle soreness and pain from workouts or general stiffness, and can help with sinus congestion.  Like cupping, it brings circulation, fresh blood and life to areas that need it, enabling healing to speed.  I try to do this daily in the morning.  I bought my set at a gem fair, but I linked a similar set from Amazon which comes with three useful shapes, and there’s also a bunch on Etsy.

beauty golden elixir gua sha

dry brushing: similar to gua sha, dry brushing brings circulation and aids lymph flow in the body and is convenient and quick for doing on large areas.  It’s said to help with spider veins, cellulite, skin tone and texture, and dry skin.  I do it after a workout and/or before hopping in the shower.  This one is similar to the one I use- natural and stiff fibers.  Read more about it HERE.

dry brushing

oils:  On my face I love to use CocoKind golden elixir oil, which is super nourishing and good for all skin types, plus you can use it on hair and body too.  Rich in omegas and vitamins A + E, my skin loves this one.  I much prefer oils over lotions/creams, which I find heavy and congesting on my skin.  I use it in combo with the gua sha tool.

shea butter:  I love butters for body, I find they are so moisturizing and absorb best for me, plus they give a beautiful sheen.  I really dislike lotions, I always have- something about the sticky/tacky texture and the pilling if you rub too much.  Shea butter is a beautiful and non toxic, one ingredient option that people in west Africa have been using for centuries.  Naturally anti-inflammatory and packed with nutrients and fatty acids, shea is my all time favorite, but I also love sweet smelling cocoa butter.  I’ve been enjoying the Sun Potion one that comes in a glass jar, but Mountain Rose Herbs has a high quality one that you can buy in bulk quantities for much cheaper, although in plastic.

sunscreen:  I really love this one from Copper Moon, an amazing woman run company, and if you’re in the Sacramento area you can buy it in bulk at Refill Madness.  It doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin, it’s moisturizing without being oily, and it’s made here in California.  I’ve heard that this sunscreen from Living Libations is amazing too and has super clean and skin boosting ingredients plus non nano zinc.

lavender essential oil:  I use this nightly on the bottoms of my feet for relaxation and signaling to my body that it’s bedtime.  It’s super calming for the nervous system and helps me to wind down after the day.  I’ve been using a locally made one from Araceli Farms, but the Veriditas brand is amazing too.  Make sure you are using therapeutic grade essential oil and doing your research, as these are so strong.

lavender essential oil night skin feet

fresh aloe vera:  such a cheap, nontoxic, and effective product to have in your arsenal.  Buy yourself an aloe vera plant and pot it (or if you don’t have space, you can buy aloe leaves at most health stores).  Harvest a leaf and cut it open, rub it over your skin until it gets dry, then scrape it to release more gel, and repeat until it’s used up.  This makes skin GLOW.  Anti inflammatory, healing, nourishing and hydrating.

olive oil soap:  I strongly prefer an olive oil based bar soap for gently cleansing my body skin without stripping it.  Make sure it’s palm oil free, this one is cheap, lasts forever, and is readily available at many places.

olive oil soap

face wash:  My favorite cleanser of all time is this Acure one, it’s so gentle and effective.  It comes in plastic, though, so I keep buying new cleansers in glass but I haven’t settled on one I love.  I really dislike the one I’m using now, so I won’t mention it.  But once it’s used up I’m going to try this one.  Oil cleansing alone just doesn’t work for me in the summer, although I use it to take off my mascara.  Since I almost never wear foundation anymore, I don’t have to use much cleanser, which is amazing.

simple low waste makeup + skincare


I wore full coverage foundation every single day since I was 12 and in 7th grade.  I had tons of freckles as a kid and I hated it.  Once a boy told me that if I covered them up I’d be much prettier.  So I did, and I basically hid behind a thick layer makeup and false eyelashes for most of my adult life.  Then I started trying to reduce my waste, be mindful about purchases, and use non toxic products.  I also started accepting myself and not allowing myself to get pulled down by patriarchal, unrealistic beauty expectations that had stuck to me like a disgusting piece of gum on my shoe.  I realized I looked fine with makeup and fine without makeup.  I do like makeup and after experimenting for a few months, I didn’t enjoy quitting it all the way.  So now I wear a minimal curation of products.  Here they are:

Warning: Unfortunately, a few products mentioned have beeswax in them.  I use beeswax sometimes- I try to look at things big picture, and plastic contributes to the death and suffering of over 100 million marine mammals every year.  I consider using products that contain beeswax to be the lesser of two evils and until I find a sustainably packaged vegan alternative that actually works, I plan to continue using them.  I’ve made sure to note when a product is vegan and when it contains beeswax.  I’ve mentioned the vegan alternative I will try after I use up my beeswax containing item.  All products are cruelty free and non toxic.

SPF 30 daytime moisturizer from Copper Moon (vegan).  If you’re in the Sacramento area, you can refill this at Refill Madness.  SPF is a must, especially for my fair skin which easily becomes hyper pigmented.

Rosewater spray:  I love using this before I put on my facial oil to add a hydration boost.  Again, if you’re in the Sacramento area you can refill this at Refill Madness.  If not, this one is nice, or here’s a link to DIY.

Concealer:  I don’t wear foundation.  Over the years, I went sheerer and sheerer with the foundations I was using, and then I started just using concealer.  Bare skin is so much prettier.  I just use a bit of concealer where I need it (under eyes, around nose and mouth).  Currently using up my RMS UnCoverup (contains beeswax) which comes in a glass pot with a metal lid and offers great coverage.  I’ll be trying out Elate Cosmetics (V) concealer next.

Mascara:  Mascara is my #1 favorite beauty product and many non toxic brands unfortunately just don’t work.  I’ve been using Pacifica Dream Big mascara (V) which comes in a plastic tube and works well, but it’s almost used up.  On the box when I bought it, it said you could send it back for recycling but now I can’t find anything about that???  So, I’ll clean out the tube super well and recycle it, then send the clean wand to Wands for Wildlife which uses them to remove larvae and clean up their fur.  Next to try is the 100% Pure Maracuja Mascara (V) which comes in a metal tube that the company accepts back for recycling and even offers a punch card- bring back 10 empties and get a free product.  update march 2018:  I started using this vegan mascara from Ilia that I like and it comes in a metal tube, although the tube is still lined with plastic as is all mascara.  The packaging was recycled and recyclable paper, even down to the tape on the box.  I recycle the tube through origins and the wand through the wands for wildlife mentioned above, if you live in Sacramento, Refill Madness is a drop off site for the wands or you can send them in on your own.

Eyeliner:  This will probably horrify some of you, but I just dip a clean angled brush on my my mascara wand and use that.  The Kjaer Weiss eye pencil (V) looks nice though.

Lip color:  Currently working on 2 old RMS beauty Lip2Cheek (contains beeswax) (colors: Promise and Beloved) which stay on forever, are highly pigmented, and don’t irritate my v sensitive lips.  They come in a fully recyclable glass pot with a metal lid.  I’m on the hunt for a vegan sub- so many I’ve tried bother my lips.  Next up to try is UrbApothecary (V) tint that comes in a cardboard tube (you can even choose a sticker free option!)

Highlighter:  Currently sloooowly using up my pre zero waste Glossier highlighter.  I’ll be replacing it with Fat and the Moon Glow (V) which comes in a metal tin.  update march 2018:  I crushed up an old pearly eyeshadow that i never used and mixed it with coconut oil for a highlighter so I’ve been using that for now.

Makeup remover:  local bulk olive oil + water and reusable hemp/cotton rounds

Serum:  I love the True botanicals Vitamin C booster.  Their products are proven to work- outperform top skincare brands like LaMer in clinical trials + use completely non toxic ingredients.  They come in glass and metal bottles and are made in California.  Pricey but I don’t mind splurging here.

Nighttime moisturizer: Chia oil from Coco Kind Skincare (made in San Francisco!).  Super gentle, lightweight, won’t clog pores, anti-inflammatory, and infused with calendula flowers.  I die over this oil- plus its like 10 dollars.  I use it morning and night and my skin looooveesss it.  You can send back your empty container for them to reuse, and they will send you a 50% off coupon to use to buy a new one!  How amazing is that?!  Plus they’re a woman owned and run company.  YES PLZ.  update march 2018: I’ve been using their golden elixir instead and using it on body, skin, and hair with great results!

That’s it!  Heres some more resources if you didn’t find what you were looking for:

Brands that recycle empties

6 Cosmetic Companies with Refillable Packaging

How to recycle and dispose of old makeup

How to recycle nail polish

The best no waste beauty products

Paris To Go’s zero waste makeup routine

Zero Waste Makeup on Etsy

DIY beetroot lip/cheek tint

Fat and The Moon for face and body- comes in metal and glass.

Elate Cosmetics offers refillable plastic free makeup in bamboo palettes.