The Problem With Pumps

As mentioned in my prior post, our current mainstream use of liquid beauty products is causing excess fuel, shipping costs, and prices to be passed on to us as consumers by the simple fact that we buy too many products with water as a main ingredient. But one aspect that is rarely discussed is how problematic pumps are in the final packaging. According to several recent articles, such as those from Refinery29, the pump used in so many of our beauty products, such as body lotion, body wash, hand soap, etc, is for the most part un-recyclable. This is due to the fact that pumps are made from mixed materials – the metal and plastic parts that are used to manufacture a finished pump cannot be recycled as a complete unit. As illustrated in the Refinery29 article, this is at the heart of greenwashing, and creates confusion for consumers to fully understand how to buy truly eco-friendly products. As shampoo and conditioner are one of the most common culprits of pumps and liquid formulas on the market, this is one of the areas that could be addressed fastest. So, how do we correct this? For starters, think about how the products you buy are designed. Let’s explore some options:

For shampoo alone, there has been a flood of options over the last several years that feature solid bars – similar to a bar of soap, these solid shampoos are available from the range of boutique, luxury-style brands to mass drugstore staples. One option that I have come to like over the last several months is the Love Beauty and Planet brand (owned by Unilever), which offers two choices of shampoo bars that are readily available at Target and Amazon. One of which, featured below, is fantastic for building volume and adding light moisture, via a creamy, highly-lathering bar that is free of parabens and silicon. I have thick, straight hair that goes 4 inches past my shoulders, and usually uses up shampoo much faster than conditioner. These bars are long-lasting, plus all of the Love Beauty and Planet shampoo bars are formulated with ethically-sourced coconut oil. This leaves hair lightly hydrated yet still bouncy / voluminous. The fragrance is light, and has not irritated my sensitive scalp. Tip for use – use a soap dish or a small reusable container to keep the bar out of the water stream in the shower, and run the back of your fingernail across the surface to scrape some product into your palm for easy lathering.

To offset my use of liquid shampoo, I’ll use this solid bar on alternate days of the Prose formulas that are customized to my hair type. Speaking of which, Prose is quickly becoming my favorite go-to hair brand, due to the easy user experience to formulate a great set of hair care products per your needs. They are my favorite not only for their better approach to packaging (more on that in a minute), but also for creating custom formulas that actually will allow you to reduce waste by not over-buying or tossing out products that don’t satisfy your specific needs. Take the simple quiz and get a customized recommendation in minutes that translates into an assortment of products (shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo, etc) to meet your needs, all being shipped in an all-in-one box that reduces individual packaging. My haircare needs are focused on UV protection (since I color my hair), volume, damage-fighting, while adding shine and hydration. I also requested a light fragrance amount (of the clean “Pearl” scent), due to my more sensitive scalp. This subscription-based service creates your custom formulas after ordering, and ships direct with the option of re-using pumps from your first order. Speaking of pumps, I love their dry shampoo formula, but wish that it came in a simple shaker-bottle design, instead of the non-reusable pump bottle (Hint: take note Prose!). The use of dry shampoo does help contribute to the sustainability issue – by going further between hair washings with water, dry shampoo can help remove oil, preserve hair color, and makes for faster showers. I can say that my product shopping for haircare has actually gone down, since I’m really loving the results I’ve received with this set, and my hair is manageable to the point that I do not need a lot of extra styling products. Even though the Prose brand is a bit more expensive, it is actually netting out to be less cost and waste for me to go with this custom brand than try and keep searching for solutions, and buying products that I ultimately just don’t like.

My custom Prose hair care products

The other option to consider is buying bulk hair care products, such as when ULTA has their jumbos sale. For decades, salons have used “professional” sizes of haircare on their backbars, which include liter and gallon sizes of shampoo and conditioner. Having been Aveda-trained, and worked in an Aveda salon, I could never understand why we wouldn’t offer bulk sizes as a retail option for customers, especially since Aveda is an earth-conscious brand. I get that on paper it’s better for smaller units to appear like more sales are happening (units per transaction), but in reality, it’s just far more wasteful in packaging to sell smaller packaging such as 8 oz bottles to customers. Plus, there are customers who would buy the large sizes, especially if you’d do anything for your ride-or-die formula, or the entire family uses the same product. Aveda has been owned by the Estee Lauder company now for well over twenty years, which has stated sustainability goals from a corporate governance standpoint. But I feel that Aveda still has brand clout to go even deeper on a more earth-friendly stance and make some noise about the efforts to pull the industry along.

One last option is to push your favorite brands to offer refill pouches and keep the bottles for long-term use. Per my Prose example above, I’d much rather they’d send my next subscription shipment as refill pouches instead of the bottles with metal caps, but that is one example of me answering their surveys honestly and also sending my thoughts directly to their customer service contact points. If you speak with your wallet or voice your opinion, most brands will take feedback into account. This post does not cover the other liquid-based products in our bathrooms, such as lotions, face wash, or foundations, but we’ll get there. Avoiding products with pumps overall is also an obvious choice, but with the flood of confusing messaging and products to choose from, it can be difficult to weed out what may work best for you. The most important thing is to start taking the critical-thinking approach of what formulas you love, what are you willing to try (such as solid or refillable products), and how you are consuming products overall. By making small adjustments and thinking about your overall routine (such as going a few days between washing your hair), what kinds of impact can you help make? Until next time, stay safe out there and take care!