Can you protect your family and the planet? From bamboo plasters to a sugar cane toothbrush, let your medicine cabinet soothe your conscience
More and more products on the market claim to care for the Earth as well as for us.
It’s essential to find ways to lessen our impact on the world around us, say experts.
Tracy Lyons, a pharmacist at Poole Hospital in Dorset, with a special interest in planet-friendly pharmacy, explains: ‘I’ve recently been in a medical meeting where we discussed how the impact of Covid will be dwarfed by that of climate change in the next few years. It’s the largest health crisis we will ever face.’
Tracy plus Hampshire pharmacist Sultan Dajani and James Goolnik, a London dentist, gave their verdicts on the eco-friendliness and effectiveness of products. We then rated them.
Patch aloe vera plasters,
25 for £6.99, hollandandbarrett.com
Patch aloe vera plasters
Claim: Made of 100 per cent biodegradable natural bamboo fibres. The gauze contains aloe vera extract to soothe minor burns, blisters and abrasions. ‘Free of chemicals and suitable for all sensitive skin types,’ the manufacturer claims.
Expert verdict: ‘These are very good,’ says Sultan Dajani. ‘Aloe vera is soothing and acts as an anti-inflammatory, while moisturising the area to minimise damage to the skin and promote healing.’
Tracy Lyons adds: ‘If these are plastic-free and made purely of bamboo, there is no reason they shouldn’t biodegrade easily. We use these at home and have found them just as effective as normal plasters for everyday cuts and grazes.’
Beauty Kitchen Natruline Vegan, 20g for £2.99, lloydspharmacy.com
Claim: ‘Scientifically proven to hydrate and protect,’ says the maker of this natural carnauba wax and castor seed oil treatment. It contains no petroleum or parabens (chemicals thought to disrupt hormones).
Expert verdict: ‘Petroleum jelly [such as Vaseline] is a by-product of the petroleum manufacturing process [part of the fossil fuel industry],’ says Tracy Lyons.
Sultan Dajani adds: ‘Some people are allergic to Vaseline but it’s effective for protecting the skin and locking in moisture. The oils and waxes [used here] won’t provide moisture —and castor seed oil could be an allergen.’
Beauty Kitchen Natruline Vegan
Biodegradable anti-bac wipes
Cheeky Panda biodegradable handy wipes, 12 wipes for 75p, cheekypanda.com
Cheeky Panda biodegradable handy wipes
Claim: These bamboo wipes are ‘100 per cent biodegradable, naturally hypoallergenic’ and contain no chlorine or ‘chemical nasties’.
The wipes are biodegradable but the packaging isn’t currently widely recyclable in the UK.
Expert verdict: ‘There’s nothing in these to harm the skin — it looks like just water and aloe vera for a bit of moisturising,’ says Tracy Lyons.
Sultan Dajani adds: ‘The antibacterial action of aloe vera is very mild. And just because it’s a mild antibacterial doesn’t make it antiviral. But at least they’re biodegradable. These would be good for cleaning a small cut but not for disinfecting — so you won’t find them in my first-aid kit.’
Organic sanitary pads
TOTM organic cotton pads, ten pads for £3.35, tesco.com
Claim: These sanitary pads are 100 per cent organic cotton. They come wrapped in a compostable cornstarch film, packed in recyclable cardboard.
Expert verdict: ‘These appear to be as absorbent and comfortable as traditional pads, so you could easily make the swap,’ says Sultan Dajani.
Tracy Lyons adds: ‘Compostable pads are infinitely better for the environment than normal sanitary pads, which it is estimated can each contain up to four carrier bags worth of plastic.
‘Compostable pads have the potential to tackle a significant pollution problem — and they have good reviews.’
TOTM organic cotton pads,
Forest friendly muscle rub
Little Green Skincare & Soap Muscle Balm, 65g for £8, peacewiththewild.co.uk
Little Green Skincare & Soap Muscle Balm
Claim: Comfrey and yarrow reduce swelling and aid healing of sore muscles, and lavender oil has pain-relieving properties. Not tested on animals.
Expert verdict: ‘This seems quite ‘green’ — but not terribly effective,’ says Sultan Dajani.
‘Muscle rubs work in several ways. One is by using anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation.
‘The action of massage also increases blood flow to the area, removing lactic acid that can build up during exercise, causing muscle pain. But none of the ingredients in this balm have been proven to help in any other way than as a nice massage oil.’
Tracy Lyons says this product is palm oil-free — the market for palm oil is a major contributor to deforestation.
Khakibos insect-repellent gel
‘Natural’ insect repellent
Khakibos insect-repellent gel, 60ml for £7.95, peacewiththewild.co.uk
Claim: This contains aloe vera, citronella, geranium and lemon eucalyptus oils, ‘renowned for their insect-repellent properties’, says the manufacturer.
Expert verdict: ‘You cannot risk your health with something like this,’ says Sultan Dajani.
‘If you’re going to a foreign country that has malaria, you mustn’t risk it with anything weaker than 50 per cent DEET [an insect-repelling chemical]. None of these natural alternatives match up. It’s great that it’s eco-friendly but the bottom line is it is not effective.’
Ethique The Perfector
Moisturiser in a recyclable box
Ethique The Perfector, 65g for £26.99, hollandandbarrett.com
Claim: Made with kokum butter for dry and mature skin, this moisturiser is sold as three bars in a compostable box. Each pack is equivalent to three 60ml plastic bottles and 500ml of water saved. One tree is planted for every order, the maker says.
Expert verdict: Sultan Dajani says: ‘The ingredients are kind to the skin and much the same as in many moisturisers — hyaluronic acid [to attract moisture], vitamin B5 [for skin health], and kokum butter helps form a barrier to keep moisture locked in.’
‘Compostable is the best option for anything disposable,’ adds Tracy Lyons.
Claim: SPF30 broad-spectrum protection cream in recyclable packaging, Green People promises the formula is reef-safe (as it does not contain common UV-blocking chemicals oxybenzone or octinoxate, which studies have shown can cause coral bleaching).
Expert verdict: ‘I like the fact it’s SPF30 — the minimum protection I’d recommend,’ says Sultan Dajani.
‘Most creams claim to suit sensitive skin but it’s great this one doesn’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate.’
Tracy Lyons adds: ‘This product also has a great social link-up with the Marine Conservation Society.’
Tepe Good Soft Toothbrush
Tepe Good Soft Toothbrush, £2.75, ocado.com
Claim: Made from bio-based plastic — 96 per cent sugar cane — and produced using renewable energy.
Expert verdict: ‘A lot of eco-friendly toothbrushes are fine for a weekend but get soggy, smelly and not very good at removing food and plaque,’ says Dr Goolnik.
‘I like the Tepe Good as the handle is made of renewable sugar cane, so it’s good for the planet but also lasts the three months a toothbrush needs to last. The filaments are effective at removing food and plaque. The issue with many other toothbrushes is they are not made from recycled or renewable materials.’
Brushd toothpaste tablets with added fluoride
Toothpaste tablets in a jar
Brushd toothpaste tablets with added fluoride, 62 for £5, boots.com
Claim: Packaged in glass jars, the maker urges you to ‘Bite. Chew. Brush’ with these ‘no paste, no waste’ toothpaste tablets.
Expert verdict: ‘These contain similar ingredients to normal toothpaste, including fluoride, and are better for the environment,’ says Sultan Dajani.
‘Brushing is the most important element and I am concerned these would not bite down into a uniform paste.’
Dentist Dr Goolnik adds: ‘Brushd contains sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, which can lead to mouth ulcers.’
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