Essential Personal Care Items for Eco-Minded Travelers

I have to admit it…I’m a roots gal.  Whole, organic, and natural describe my diet and aesthetic.  As a vegan, environmentalist, and traveler- what I put in my luggage has to suit my health, my pocket, and our planet.  Eco-friendly personal care products will enable you to buy less, carry less, and waste less- a winning trio for fellow nomads.  If you’re also an earth-conscious traveler, here are a few allies worth adding to your backpack.  They may not offset the carbon emissions from your air travel but they may lower your environmental impact once you touch ground.

Castile Soap
This potent, veggie-based, bio-degradable soap is popular amongst backpackers.  It can be used to wash your hair, your body, your clothes, and your dishes!  Available as a bar or liquid, both are effective and can be used sparingly.
Some find it harsh on their hair or skin, so dilute as necessary.

Bath Brush
Instead of washing and rewashing washcloths, a bath brush will exfoliate your skin, stimulate your lymph system, and scrub you till you shine.  Investing in a durable, natural bristle bath brush is worth the cost and it will help you feel “pampered” even if a spa visit is not in the travel budget.

Pumice Stone
FYI for new travelers: there may be towns or regions where pedicures are unheard of.
Especially in rural regions where manual labor, long walking commutes, and poor shoes are common, you may have to take your foot care into your own hands.  To keep rough foot bottoms at bay, rubbing your soles with a pumice stone at the end of the shower will help to keep them smooth and callous-free.  If you need some extra TLC, a generous rubbing of shea butter before bed and wearing cotton socks are recommended.

Recyclable Razors
With the exception of a French or feminist minority, most women shave.  I’ve seen disposable razors for sale in nearly every country I’ve visited but I haven’t always found replaceable razor cartridges.  By investing in a durable recycled razor handle, you can pack disposable razor cartridges for use, which produces less waste than throwing out an entire razor with the handle included.  If that option is not green enough for you, you can invest in a razor sharpener to extend the life of each razor head, try a DIY razor sharpening method, or go “old school” with a straight razor and a leather strap.

Reusable Toothbrush
Similar to the abovementioned razors, there are recycled toothbrush handles that have replaceable toothbrush heads.  Instead of changing an entire toothbrush, the head is replaced every three months or so. Also similar to the razors, the replaceable toothbrush heads are not found everywhere, so it’s one of those products you’d have to stock up on before your travels.

Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has become my new multi-use product of choice.  It makes for a great leave-in hair conditioner, face and body moisturizer, and–with a little baking soda–an effective, homemade toothpaste.  Using coconut oil will put you in compliance with the naturalista’s code of honor:  “If you won’t put it in your body, don’t put it on your body”. Your skin, being the largest organ of your body, absorbs everything that enters the pore straight through to the bloodstream, so choose your moisturizer wisely!  Solid when cold and liquid at room temperature, virgin coconut oil should be stored securely.  Make sure your container is properly sealed and placed in a secure Ziploc bag in the event of leaks.

Shea Butter
Pure, raw shea butter is the best moisturizer I’ve found for dry skin.  Even if your skin is not generally dry, relocating to a location with particularly hard water or harsh weather conditions can be a dermal assault. Shea butter is my product of choice for skin softening, repair, and protection.  A little goes along way, so it will earn its share of luggage weight.

Thai Crystal Deodorant
Finding your deodorant of choice on the road is not always easy.  Instead of discovering a new foreign brand that suits your liking, you can get to the root of the problem by preventing body odor.  Made from crystallized natural mineral salts, these “rock” deodorants don’t allow odor-causing bacteria to flourish.  The deodorant will last as long as its intact, which could be years (if you’re not clumsy like me!).  If you need odor protection back-up, a dab of tea tree oil after application should keep you “funk-free” until you reach your next shower.  Please note:  This deodorant is not an anti-perspirant, so you will sweat as freely as usual (which is normal, healthy, and okay!).

Menstrual Cups and Reusable Pads
Yes, I said the “M” word. Regarding your monthly friend, your Aunt Flo, or whatever your moniker of choice, we have to address our menses. While most women are eager to flush away, throw away or wish away our womanly experience, we have to consider the disposable pads and tampons that are piling up in landfills, alongside other sources of avoidable waste.  Even if we don’t want to think about what happens once we throw away our sanitary products, our planet is absorbing the cost of our disposable culture.  And if you think that suppressing your cycle is the answer, the widespread use of birth control pills and other hormone-influencing medications has been altering the reproductive habits of aquatic life for the last few decades.  The majority of any medication that we ingest is excreted through our urine, so all those synthetic hormones end up in our waterways.
As an alternative, products like the Keeper or the Diva Cup are reusable menstrual cups that produce no unnecessary waste.  Made from rubber or silicone, you empty and rinse them during your cycle and when it’s over, they are washed, dried, and stored until next time around.  The same product can be used for up to ten years, so no need to make mad dashes to pharmacies- you can be prepared at all times. Reusable pads are made from cloth, so it will take more effort to soak, wash, and dry them after use, but still worth the effort considering the long-term costs of monthly sanitary products.  Sorry if that was too much information but I had to put it out there!
What are some of your favorite eco-friendly, travel essentials?
This post was originally published at Women of Color Living Abroad.
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