Let's first assume that you are not going to make your own skin products. If you plan to, I admire you greatly. I've looked into it and I'm not going to be able to give you any guidance on that one. When it comes to day-to-day skin care products, there are some things that I'm probably always going to buy. With that assumption in mind, you and I are faced with three solutions on the packaging issue:
- Accept that packaging is just part of the skin care industry and opt for the most easily recyclable option (recycle);
- Find products that come in plastic or other bottles and containers, but are refillable (reuse); or
- Search even harder and source products that come without packaging entirely, and bring your own reusable container with you when you buy them (reduce).
Well, the first option is what I have been doing for a long time. I look at the plastic bottle I have from The Body Shop (in particular, I have been a huge fan of the Tea Tree Skin Clearing Foaming Cleanser and have actually been kept up at night wondering if I'll ever been able to find an acceptable substitute) and wonder whether it is really recyclable, since it has little metal parts in the mechanism that makes the cleanser foam as it leaves the nozzle.
Option number two is definitely a step in the right direction, because it keeps plastics from having to be recycled. I was speaking to a manufacturer of environmentally sustainable cleaning products, and he suggested that I look into Carina Organics' products. The company is headquartered here in North Vancouver, and there is a store on Main Street in Vancouver called Scraps that sells the product and also is able to refill the bottles once you run out. I haven't visited the store yet (and also haven't spoken to anyone from Carina), so I'm not sure which of Carina's products are carried, but once I run out of face lotion, I'm going to be in the market for a more environmentally-friendly option than what I am using currently, so will definitely post once I know more about the range of products offered.
The final solution is the one I went with today. As I was walking around Vancouver, I decided to make a pit stop in Lush Cosmetics. I had been trying to find a product without packaging that had tea tree oil in it and Lush has many many types of soaps, cleansers, etc. which I know from experience need not necessarily be accompanied by packaging. A large quantity of them are available as solids (even some of the shampoos, which I still find a little weird), so the purchaser can first choose what volume of the product he or she would like, at which point the soap or bar is wrapped. They have a lot of interesting products, and they give them all funny little names, and all the information about each one (including ingredients) is available on their website. They have stores all over Canada and the US, and in many other countries. That being said, there are two huge (in my opinion) problems with Lush that you should probably be aware of before considering purchasing their products. First of all, I hate going into the stores because they are so smelly. They use all natural products but still, the smells are completely overwhelming. If you have issues with strong smells, you should probably send someone else in the store to get what you need (it's not as bad when you are using them at home, its just the volume that they have of their products in the store makes it a problem). Secondly, packaging or no packaging, you are going to pay a lot of money for whatever products you buy there.
So, true to form, I did my research a week ago, in order to determine whether Lush had a face cleanser that had tea tree oil in it. They actually had a couple, and the one I settled on was this pink one to the upper left. I literally ran into the store today and told the salesperson what I needed, and she took me over to the huge mound of pink soap. I told her the size of soap I wanted (they come in large round wheels and then bits are cut off and wrapped up). I then asked her if I could give her a piece of paper to wrap it up in. She didn't even bat an eye, just said, "Great idea", and took the sheet of paper I produced from my purse. I had been intending to recycle it later, so figured that until then, it would be put to good use. The sales person weighed the piece of soap, wrapped it in my paper, put a sticker on it showing what it was, the weight and the price, and rang my purchase in. I am going to have to actually use the cleanser before I officially decide how I feel about it, but I've used many Lush products in the past and have found them to be excellent (if not a bit expensive), so I'm hoping that my Fresh Farmacy Face Soap will be as well!