My zero-waste toiletry routine (including glass bottled products from DECIEM, a brand that has a TerraCycle recycling program, and many plastic-free options) sitting on a light green cloth. ©KettiWilhelm2021

Plastic-Free Toiletries: The Best Zero-Waste Products [That TSA Won’t Steal]

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Look no further for plastic-free toiletries that feel like a treat to use – not an obligation to be more eco-friendly. These are the best of the best reusable, refillable, plastic-free and zero-waste toiletries – after years’ of product testing for my other sustainable product reviews.

What began as an attempt to get through airport security with my toiletry kit intact has evolved (after a three-year process of searching and testing) into a plastic-free toiletry upgrade for my entire home medicine cabinet.

So while this is what I call my “travel” toiletry list (it’ll definitely stop leaks in your luggage and problems with TSA), these plastic-free toiletry brands are what I use at home, too.

[Related: This guide is also one small part of my strategy on how to pack light – be sure to check out that post before your next trip, too!]

“Zero-waste” feels impossible – and it probably is. But after almost three years of testing and reviewing sustainable toiletries and other products, I’m amazed by how much unnecessary plastic I’ve been able to cut out of my daily toiletry routine. (Almost all of it.)

There’s no reason to stress ourselves out striving for perfection when we can make a difference starting with just doing better.

Why do I keep writing about going plastic-free? 

Mostly: Because plastic recycling doesn’t work

Plastic wasn’t designed to be recycled. And you know those little triangular recycling symbols with the numbers? They were actually invented by oil company marketers, not by recyclers. Essentially, they’re just greenwashing to make us believe there’s an environmentally responsible (and economically feasible) way to recycle plastics, when in reality there isn’t. 

Recycling plastic is a band-aid solution at best. The only real solution is to stop depending on recycling by buying less plastic.

That’s why I’ve been relentlessly, maybe even obsessively, testing plastic-free alternatives for everyday toiletries.

(Yes, I actually use everything on this list.)

All the toiletries here are refillable, and/or designed to use minimal and more easily-recyclable packaging (paper, cardboard, aluminum or glass).

These brands meet other sustainability criteria, as well:

Many on this list are carbon-neutral, certified B Corps, members of 1% For The Planet, or all three! (That’s the starting point for me to try them. To get on the list, their products have to also work really well.)

Without further ado, here’s my list of the best sustainable, plastic-free toiletries, which also happen to be travel-friendly. (And I can offer unique discount codes for a lot of these brands! They’re noted throughout the article, or you can jump down to my list of discounts at the end.)

My zero-waste toiletry routine (including plastic-free deodorant, hand sanitizer, floss, and much more) sitting on a wooden table with a natural scene (trees and plants) in the background outside. ©KettiWilhelm2021
An early version of my less-plastic travel toiletry routine – it’s gotten even greener since then!

1. Plastic-Free Hand Sanitizer 

Let’s start with an easy one that everyone needs these days: A good, eco-friendly hand sanitizer that doesn’t stink, and doesn’t leave your hands sticky. Plus, my favorite from by Humankind is refillable.

by Humankind is a New York-baed start-up that’s completely carbon-neutral, and makes lots of high-quality, refillable and plastic-free toiletries. I’ve tried almost everything they make, and I think this hand sanitizer is one of their best products.

The small, aluminum bottles come in three-packs with optional plastic pumps – meaning if you already have pumps at home from your last order, you can reuse them.

When you have enough travel-size bottles, just order the larger (8-ounce) refill bottles, which are also packaged in aluminum.

byHumankind's plastic-free hand sanitizer in it's refillable bottle, with the larger refill size next to it, sitting on a dark wooden table in the reviewer's home in front of a bowl of fruit. ©KettiWilhelm2022
My refillable pump bottle of hand sanitizer (you can see a few dents – after all, it’s been in my purse for 2 years at this point, but it’s still going strong) and the jumbo refill size. (Still life style, with a bowl of fruit on my kitchen table – I was feeling the dramatic lighting.)

Hand Sanitizer Scents & Formula

I love this formula because I think it feels smooth and silky, not sticky or chemical-y. 

And it contains hyaluronic acid for hydration. So it doesn’t dry out your skin like other hand sanitizers. (It’s also an ingredient in some of my zero-waste skincare favorites, below.)

I really like both the Grapefruit and Eucalyptus scents. They’re pleasant and not too strong.

But if you’re using hand sanitizer constantly throughout the day, the unscented option is ideal. It truly doesn’t smell like anything. No alcohol fumes; no industrial cleanser after-smell. Just clean.

2. The Best Shampoo & Conditioner Bars 

After testing a lot of shampoo bar brands, I’ve settled on a favorite brand that I recommend to everyone – The Earthling Co., and a really good alternative – HiBAR.

I’ve used HiBAR off-and-on, for years. I think it’s a great option if you’re looking for shampoo and conditioner bars with formulas specific to your hair type. (They make five different formulas: Maintain, Volumize, Moisturize, Curl, and Soothe – a formula for sensitive scalps.)

But The Earthling Co. is the only brand I’ve found whose bars might be even better than HiBAR.

I say that because I have several friends who hated other shampoo bar brands (including HiBAR) but loved The Earthling Co. That’s just hard to argue with.

Earthling makes just one formula of moisturizing shampoo and conditioner bars that lather better than any other shampoo bar I’ve tried. (And come in lots of great scent, including fun seasonal scents, or unscented.)

(Personally, I alternate between the Earthling Co. shampoo bar and HiBAR’s Maintain shampoo.)

And Earthling’s conditioner is by far the best conditioner bar I’ve found.

And The Earthling Co. is a carbon-neutral company, a 1% For The Planet member, and ships entirely without plastic.

(Related: For details, read my full review comparing Earthling Co. and HiBAR zero-waste hair care.)

Green and pink shampoo and conditioner bars outdoors on a soap dish, with a green, natural background. Solid toiletries are an easy part of a sustainable travel routine.
Earthling shampoo & conditioner bars. (More about why they’re my favorite brand here, and other brands I’ve tested here.)

Save 15% on any order from The Earthling Co. with any link in this post. (No code required – the discount will apply automatically after you enter your email at checkout.)

Save 10% on HiBAR when you shop at Earth Hero with the discount code tiltedmap10 . (It works for any other products you order, too!)

Note: Sustainable shopping options & why I recommend EarthHero

There are lots of zero-waste shops online, but Colorado-based EarthHero has the best sustainability credentials of any I’ve found: They’re a B-Corp, they’re certified carbon-neutral, and a member of 1% For The Planet. (All excellent certifications that I always look for in sustainable companies.)

(And EarthHero has the best prices on HiBAR, even before the discount code!)

You can also order directly from HiBAR or from Amazon. And as long as you use HiBAR’s official Amazon store, it’ll still be shipped by HiBAR – meaning the packaging is still 100% plastic-free.

Concentrated, Plastic-Free Shampoo (That’s Not in a Bar)

Yes, I’m a hard-core evangelist of the shampoo bars above, because they work wonderfully and they don’t require any plastic packaging – just a paperboard board for each bar.

But I get that bars aren’t for everyone. That’s why I tested another very nearly plastic-free option that turned out to be really lovely, and still totally travel-friendly.

Behold: The waterless shampoo, conditioner, and body wash from Everist. These are powerful, concentrated formulas that come in aluminum packing.

Each tube is 100mL, which means they’re perfectly fine to pack in your carry-on. And the beauty of being concentrated formulas is that, despite the small size, they still last at least a month (a claim I tested in my review).

The aluminum tubes are recyclable – and we’re a lot better at recycling aluminum than we are with plastic. The lids are plastic, which isn’t ideal, but, as I explained in my full review of Everist, at least the company accepts them for mail-in recycling. (They’re saving them up and planning to melt them down to make into hair accessories.)

You can save 10% on any Everist order with the code TILTEDMAP10even if it’s not your first order! So be sure to bookmark this, or save the code to reorder if you like the products.

If bars don’t do it for you, these concentrated products are just as travel-friendly (and much closer to plastic-free than normal shampoo).

[Related: Read more about Everist in my post about eco-friendly small companies – there’s also a map that you can add your own points to!]

3. All-in-One Hair + Body + Face Bar 

When I travel (or when I’m in a hurry at home), I use the Ultimate Body Bar, from California-based 100 Senses, as the company intended – for everything.

For me, it works wonderfully to replace not only shampoo, but also body wash and even face wash! I have sensitive skin that breaks out if I use the wrong face wash, but this doesn’t give me any problems. It also lathers easily and richly, and works great for shaving my legs.

They bill it as a conditioner-replacement, too – and I do often use it without conditioner. It works well enough, but if your hair really needs moisture, the Ultimate Body Bar alone might not be quite enough. (In that case, I’d recommend pairing it with an Earthling Co. conditioner bar.)  

Ultimate Body Bar Scents

I’ve been through several bars of the Citrus Neroli scent (which is fruity and bold and reminds me of this luxe perfume, which I absolutely love), and several bars of Wild Lavender, which smells luxurious and light. It’s not sweet, and not too herbal either – I’d call it a modern scent. They also offer Green Tea – the most subtle and, in my opinion, gender-neutral scent. I love them all! (And there’s an unscented bar, too.)

You can use this referral link for $15 off a non-subscription order of $50 or more from 100 Senses!

Sustainability Comparison (All the Best Bars)

100 Senses, HiBAR, and Earthling Co. are all cruelty-free (not tested on animals) and ship in minimal, plastic-free packaging.

HiBAR and Earthling are 100% plastic-free (even down to the paper packaging tape they use), and so is the Ultimate Body Bar (although other products by 100 Senses come in plastic bottles).

100 Senses’ and Earthling Co.’s bars are vegan, as are most of HiBAR’s (except for their Maintain bar, which contains a trace of honey).

Tie breaker: Of the three brands, The Earthling Co. is the only one that’s a member of 1% For The Planet, and is certified carbon-neutral.

4. Plastic-Free Hair Ties (Natural Rubber)

Most hair ties are made of synthetic, petroleum-based rubber – so every time you lose one, it’s essentially like throwing a piece of plastic out the window.

But these hair ties from Terra Ties are made of organic cotton and natural rubber, which makes them biodegradable.

And they’ve become my favorites, not only because they’re eco-friendly, but also because they don’t cut off the blood flow when I keep them on my wrist!! They’re just a tiiiny bit larger than normal hair ties, and also a little thicker and softer.

So after years of putting my new hair ties around my fattest lotion bottles to stretch them out (am I the only one who does that?), Terra Ties have been a welcome discovery.

A plastic-free hair tie from Terra Ties on the left, next to a slightly smaller and thinner conventional (plastic) hair tie. Both are black on a white granite counter top. ©KettiWilhelm2021
A Terra Tie on the left, and a slightly smaller, drugstore brand hair tie on the right. (Both are nearly brand-new and not yet stretched out!)

As with most products I’ve comparison-shopped, Earth Hero has the best price on Terra Ties, and you can use the discount code TILTEDMAP10 to save another 10%!

5. Plastic-Free Face Wash (Three Ways)

This was the hardest category for me to get started with, because… it’s my face.

I’ve had such trouble with persistent acne (moderate… but still annoying) and dry skin that I was reluctant to mess with my skin care routine. (Even though it wasn’t really working – I just didn’t want to make things worse.)

But again, after a lot of testing, I’ve found several options that work even better than anything I used to use in plastic packaging.

(Related: For more detail, read my full review of six plastic-free face wash brands.)

1. Refillable Powdered Face Wash

The “Lucid Enzyme Cleansing Powder” from the zero-waste skincare brand Dew Mighty has become not only my favorite way to take a plastic-free face wash on the road, but my absolute favorite face wash of any kind.

The process takes some getting used to – you pour a small amount powder out of the metal tube into your hand, then add a few drops of water to make a clay-based face wash paste.

But the results are amazing. I’ve never found a face wash that gives me an actual glow like this does, and it doesn’t strip or dry out my skin at all.

(Bonus: This cleanser doubles as a face mask. Just make a thicker paste and leave it on for up to 20 minutes. Since it’s full of niacinamide, spirulina and antioxidants, it’s a great zero-waste acne treatment booster.)

I follow the Lucid Cleanser up with Dew Mighty’s solid serum bar (another amazing little discovery – more about it below). And my skin looks and feels great with just two products. It’s truly the most travel-friendly skincare I’ve ever found, and ideal for packing light.

Plastic-free face wash powder and solid serum from Dew Mighty sitting on a wooden table. ©KettiWilhelm2022

(Related: Read more about Dew Mighty here in my review of several plastic-free face wash brands.)

If you want to try Dew Mighty (which is one of my favorite brands on this list of favorite brands), you can save 10% with the code TILTEDMAP.

I know the powder face wash concept can be a little awkward (I prefer to use it at the sink, so I don’t risk getting water in the tube in the shower). So here are a few other great plastic-free options that I alternate between:

2. Refillable, Zero-waste Oil Cleansers

Activist Skincare is my new, overall favorite option for all kinds of plastic-free skincare. Like Dew Mighty, Activist is a small, woman-owned brand out of California that does absolutely everything right when it comes to sustainability.

Activist makes three formulas of oil-based face washes in very unique, totally refillable packaging. And their refills use less plastic than just the lid for “zero-waste” products that come in glass bottles!

I really like the Sea to Skin Cleansing Gel and the Botanical Cleansing Oil, which is the easiest to rinse off and the best for acne-prone skin.

To try the entire Activist Skincare line-up, you can save 50% on their refillable trial/travel kit with the discount code TILTEDMAP50 .

Activist Skincare's Botanical Cleansing Oil, a bright yellow liquid in a refillable glass pump bottle, and Sea to Skin Cleansing Gel, a bright blue oil-based gel in a refillable glass jar. ©KettiWilhelm2022

(Related: Here’s my full review of Activist – that’s why I didn’t go into too much detail here!)

3. Eco-friendly Face Wash Bars

Even though they’re the easiest, most sustainable option, I was reluctant to try face wash bars. I assumed they would either be heavy, home-made formulas that would leave a residue and clog up my pores, or would dry out my skin, like regular bars of soap.

But I’ve since tried about a dozen different face wash bars from several brands, and luckily, I’ve found some that have proven me wrong. My favorite is from Earth Harbor, and there are more options in my sustainable face wash review.

Earth Harbor Face Wash Bars

Earth Harbor’s Coconut Charcoal Purifying Facial Soap really changed my attitude toward the “need” for a liquid face wash.

I find it more gentle than most of the other bars I’ve tried, but just as cleansing.

Be warned though – despite the name, this face wash bar doesn’t smell like coconut. It has more of a light herbal scent. (It must be called coconut because it’s formulated with coconut oil, like many facial soap bars are.)

(Earth Harbor also makes a balancing facial bar, which is designed to be even more gentle. It would be a good choice for normal or dry skin – especially if you’re not worried about acne or oil-control.)

For travel, there are two reasons this bar is ideal:

First, it’s so long-lasting (I’ve been using mine for months, and see many more months left in it). And second, it stays hard in the shower (instead of going mushy, like many bars).

That all makes it really easy to pack one away in my travel toiletry kit, and just forget about it.

Travel Tips for Bar Products:

I just wrap all my bars in wash clothes, and tuck them securely into my toiletry kit.

(“All my bars,” means shampoo and conditioner, body wash, face wash and shaving cream – two or three bars per cloth, depending on the size.)

I also travel with at least one light-weight soap dish that drains well. (This is my favorite design because it drains from both sides, which keeps the bars in better shape, and lets them dry so they don’t make a mess in my toiletry bag. Yes, it’s plastic, but that’s okay – because it’s NOT single-use plastic. I’ve had mine for years.)

Use the code MERMAID15 for 15% off your first order from Earth Harbor!

6. Zero-waste Serums

Plastic-free Acne Treatment Serum

The niacinamide and zinc serum from The Ordinary was the first thing that actually stopped my acne for the first time since I was a teenager. The serum was a revelation for my skin, but it wasn’t plastic-free or refillable.

But now I’ve found something that’s a game changer in so many ways: Calming Force Clear Skin Serum from Activist Skincare.

Calming Force is a more complete serum – with niacinamide and zinc, plus panthenol, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, MSM, and licorice root. These active ingredients all work together to soothe skin, reduce redness, and calm acne.

And, best of all, everything from Activist is refillable!

That’s right: Glass bottles for your first order, then refills in little pouches!

While their refills come in plastic packets, each one uses less plastic than what’s in just the lid of a glass jar or bottle. I can’t overstate how unique this is in the skincare industry. It’s the best option I’ve found for plastic-free skincare packaging. (You can even skip the initial glass bottle and refill one you already have at home.)

You can use the code TILTEDMAP50 for 50% off of Activist Skincare’s refillable 2-week trial kit (which lets you try their entire product line, before committing to full-sized products, and also makes a great travel set).

Highlights of my zero-waste skincare routine from Activist Skincare: two refillable serums, and two refillable cleansing oils, all on a clean white marble counter top with a white tile background. ©KettiWilhelm2022
My collection from Activist Skincare, including my favorite, the Calming Force serum.

Activist also donates 5% of revenue to environmental activism. Their shipping is entirely plastic-free and carbon-neutral, and everything they make is 100% vegan.

[Related: Read more in my review of The Ordinary vs. Activist Skincare, which dives into how to spot genuinely eco-friendly skincare companies.]

Plastic-free Vitamin C Serum

Dew Mighty (the same small company that makes my favorite powdered face wash, above) is the only brand I’ve tested so far that matches Activist Skincare‘s high standards for both sustainability and excellent skincare products.

Their solid serum bar, called “Bloom,” is one of the most effective, efficient, and sustainable skincare products I’ve ever found.

It really changes the texture and luminance of my skin in a way I haven’t seen from any other product.

UPDATE: I’ve found one other solid serum that meets the standard Dew Mighty set for me: SBTRCT, a new company from the UK. Check out my full review here.

The serum bar is full of powerful plant extracts, including vegan squalane, a very stable form of Vitamin C, jojoba oil (but it’s not oily or heavy at all), and licorice. And it’s the only serum I’ve found that actually doubles as a moisturizer, which I’ve been able to skip since I started using Bloom.

I’ve even had problems with Vitamin C serums making me break out in the past (as I wrote about right here), and this one has had the exact opposite effect after months of daily use.

And being a solid serum means there’s no water wasting space in a jar – and no need for a jar or bottle of any kind. Bloom comes in a cute little reusable metal box – which is, of course, recyclable, but is designed to be refilled with a new serum bar when you run out.

solid serum bar & refillable, plastic-free packaging.
One of my favorite plastic-free toiletries so far: The Bloom Solid Serum Bar from Dew Mighty.

Remember, if you want to try Dew Mighty (one of my favorite brands on this list of favorite brands!), you can save 10% with the code TILTEDMAP.

7. Plastic-Free Face Moisturizer

My go-to here is Mermaid Milk Nutrient Glow Moisturizer from Earth Harbor, a small, independent skincare brand based in Georgia.

The light green Mermaid Milk moisturizer in a glass jar from Earth Harbor, a sustainable skincare brand that plans to launch plastic-free refills in 2022.

Mermaid Milk feels light – it’s not a heavy cream – but contains lots of skin-healthy nutrients like spirulina and matcha, along with hyaluronic acid and antioxidants.

The scent is a little strong, but since it’s a bright, clean, natural scent, I actually enjoy it.

And Earth Harbor is a member of 1% For The Planet, and ships without any plastic packaging or padding. Plus, they tell me they’re planning to start offering refills for their glass packaging in 2022. (I’ll be sure to update this here when that happens!)

Plastic-free Refills (August 2022 UPDATE):

Earth Harbor’s refills are here! You can now order larger sizes of some products, and all products are now available without plastic pumps or lids. (So you can keep your pump and transfer it to a new bottle, instead of throwing it away – just like with my refillable hand sanitizer, and the sunscreen below. The Earth Harbor pumps fit both the large and small bottle sizes.)

Unfortunately, they’re still using glass bottles for their refills, so it’s not as ideal as what Activist Skincare and Dew Mighty use, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction!

Earth Harbor is also available from Earth Hero where you can use the code TILTEDMAP10 to save 10%. (I wish they would work on less confusing names!) Or, order straight from Earth Harbor and save 15% with the code MERMAID15.

8. Daily Mineral Sunscreen for the Face

Why mineral? Mineral sunscreen formulas are considered “reef-safe” generally meaning they don’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which damage coral reefs. There are other concerns about chemical sunscreens for our own health, too.

So, even if I’m not swimming in the ocean, all water sources are connected, so I’m switching all my sunscreens to mineral formulas containing zinc oxide, instead of chemical sunscreens.

It took a lot of testing, but I’ve finally found a mineral sunscreen with minimal plastic packaging that I can use daily on my face without breaking out (or looking like a ghost).

Eclipse Sheer Mineral Sunscreen, another favorite from Earth Harbor, is my new daily facial sunscreen.

The formula is unscented, and feels almost like a rich cream that goes on very smoothly, without leaving a white cast! For me, Eclipse is moisturizing enough to replace a daytime moisturizer, and makes a nice, smooth base for makeup, with no greasiness.

It comes in a pretty, frosted pink glass bottle with a pump – and again, you can now keep your pump and order a refill bottle with just a metal lid! (Details on that above.) The refills are also available in a larger size – a still-travel-friendly 2 ounces.

However, the only problem is that the tube on the pump isn’t long enough to reach the bottom of the larger bottle. (So I just refilled the smaller one, which made sense to keep the more travel-friendly size, anyway.) It was sort of a slow process since this sunscreen is more of a cream than a liquid, but doable.

Earth Harbor's new refillable glass bottles for skincare, with reusable pumps – a larger refill bottle next to a small bottle, showing that the pump tube is not long enough to use on the larger bottle. ©KettiWilhelm2022

My original Eclipse sunscreen (the small bottle) and the new larger size.

9. Reusable Cotton Rounds & Tissues 

Replacing disposable cotton rounds, swabs and tissues with reusable alternatives is an easy sustainable toiletry swap, and LastObject is definitely the place to start. This Danish start-up is the inventor of the (much-copied) original reusable Q-tip, along with several other innovative products. (More about the Q-tip in #10.)

The LastObject products I personally find most useful (especially for travel) are the reusable cotton pads, and the washable tissue packs.

(And at home, I really like their LastTissue Box. It’s a refillable Kleenex-style dispenser with washable, organic cotton tissues.)

I use the cotton pads with my Activist toner when I travel with it, and store the dirty ones in a laundry bag in my suitcase. (Of course, you could use them for removing make-up.)

The reusable cotton pads are practically indistinguishable from disposable cotton pads. But they’re much more durable, even though they’re very soft when wet. They’re made from a mix of organic cotton and wood pulp, and designed to be washed up to 250 times. I’ve had mine for years and they’re still going strong – I haven’t noticed any wear.

Use the discount code tiltedmap10off for 10% off any order from LastObject!

All of LastObject's reusable, zero-waste inventions seen together: two LastSwabs and their cases, LastRound reusable cotton pads, and LastTissue reusable handkerchiefs. ©KettiWilhelm2020
My original collection from LastObject.

(Related: Check out my full review of all LastObject products, which also describes how to tell the originals from the cheap knock-offs.

10. Plastic-free Bamboo Q-tips

For Q-tips, I don’t really use my LastSwab anymore (but my husband still loves it for cleaning his ears in the shower).

I used to use the LastSwab Beauty, but after a while, I sort of got sick of it. I found that the silicon tip just wasn’t as effective, or as comfortable on my skin as absorbent cotton for cleaning up make-up smudges.

So now I use these bamboo and cotton swabs from by Humankind.

Bamboo is extremely fast-growing, and requires fewer resources than other crops. The packaging for these swabs is just recyclable paper, so there’s no plastic in either the stem of the swab, or the packaging.

Plastic-free, bamboo cotton swabs in cardboard packaging from by Humankind.
My plastic-free swabs. (Photo from by Humankind.)

Look, if the reusable LastSwabs work for you, that’s great. I tried, but eventually I had to admit that this was one single-use item I’d be keeping around for now. (But it is a plastic-free single use item! And I manage to make one swab last for several days’ of mascara touch-ups.)

11. Plastic-Free Dental Care

Just like deodorant tubes, toothpaste tubes can’t be recycled, except through this TerraCycle program. But most people don’t know about that (myself included, until last week) and it’s not exactly convenient to mail your recyclables around the country. So most of them go to landfills. 

And those indestructible little floss containers are too small to be sorted by recycling machines, so they can’t be recycled either. (And why build such a solid package anyway, if it’ll only be used for a couple of months??) Plus, normal floss is itself made of plastic!

Luckily I’ve found completely plastic-free options that I actually prefer to the drugstore brands:

Refillable Floss

After trying several brands, by Humankind makes my favorite refillable, plastic-free floss.

Their floss is smoother than other brands – including others that are waxed. It’s just a matter of preference, but for me by Humankind was the strong favorite.

When you order your floss refills (in peppermint or cardamom – my favorite), they come in simple, compostable and/or recyclable paper packaging.

I also love by Humankind’s sleek and functional refillable floss case (in the picture below).

A Plastic-free Floss that’s Vegan:

by Humankind’s floss does contain silk, so it’s not vegan. So far, Bite’s unflavored floss is my favorite vegan option.

Two plastic-free dental floss options – byHumankind in a green, silicone and glass reusable container, and Bite, in a refillable glass jar – on a wooden table next to a quarter and a Euro for size comparison. ©KettiWilhelm2020
I don’t remember why I thought this international comparison photo would be useful – they’re floss; we all know what size they are.

Toothpaste Tablets (even for sensitive teeth!)

When I say I have sensitive teeth, this is what I mean: I can’t bite into ice cream without tears coming to my eyes. And I’ve had two oral surgeries attempting to fix it. So let’s just say my mouth is a good litmus test for whether something will cause sensitivity.

And most plastic-free toothpaste options don’t contain fluoride, which helps with sensitivity. But I decided to try the original Bite Toothpaste Bits when they added nHap – a fluoride alternative and sensitivity fighter – to their formula

And it works! Bite has become one of my favorite plastic-free toiletry finds. The “bits” foam up just enough, and the flavor is minty, but not overpowering.

Because of the texture and taste, I actually prefer Bite tablets to toothpaste in a tube.

2022 UPDATE: Bite now also offers toothpaste tablets with fluoride. They’re pretty different from Bite’s original formula, so I’ve a section of them to my full review of Bite and other plastic-free toothpastes.

But by now, I’ve been using their nHap tablets for about two years, and can honestly say that my sensitivity has improved a lot in that time. It’s anecdotal, but hey, it’s worked really well for me.

Use the code tiltedmap10 for 10% off at Bite! (Subscribing also saves you another 33%, and the subscriptions are easy to change or cancel, if needed.)

What makes Bite sustainable? 

The entire company is 100% plastic-free. Your first order of toothpaste or mouthwash comes in a refillable glass jar and (deeply discounted) subscription refills arrive in compostable paper packaging

Plus, no animal testing, no artificial flavors, sulfates, parabens or other fillers. 

Sustainable dental care products small enough for travel (sitting on a US passport): Bite toothpaste bits, Bite mouthwash tablets, and byHumankind floss. ©KettiWilhelm2021
One-month supply of toothpaste, about 20 mouthwash uses, and several months’ worth of floss. Can’t pack much lighter than that!

Alternatives for Toothpaste & Toothpaste Tablets:

I was so impressed with Bite that I got curious and started trying lots more brands. Bite has remained my overall favorite, but here’s my full review of Bite and other options.

My top alternatives in that review:

You can save 10% at Nelson Naturals, too, with the code TILTEDMAP10.

Plastic-free Mouthwash Tablets

Bite also makes fresh-tasting mint mouthwash tablets that I think are the best on the market.

You just pop one tablet in your mouth, chew it up (don’t swallow), and take a sip of water to swish. 

I was skeptical before trying them, but they work really well, and are perfect for packing light. (They come in a refillable glass jar to use at home, with a matchbook-sized tin for travel. It’s much more convenient than liquid, since you can carry the tablets around in your bag or even in your pocket with the tiny travel tin.)

And they have all the same good-for-your-teeth ingredients as Bite’s toothpaste. Just like for their toothpaste, refills come in compostable paper packets.

And don’t forget the discount code tiltedmap10 for 10% off at Bite.

Alternatives for Plastic-free Mouthwash:

If you want something very gentle with no stinging, by Humankind’s mouthwash is a good alternative. It comes in a travel-friendly container that stores tablets in the lid and serves as a glass to dissolve them in.

And there are interesting flavorslemon-mint, peppermint, ginger and cinnamon. I tried peppermint and found the flavor much lighter than Bite’s (a good kid-friendly option).

[More details about zero-waste mouthwash options in this review.]

Bamboo Toothbrushes

Instead of a disposable plastic toothbrush, you can add a 100% plant-based, bamboo toothbrush to your Bite order.

Bamboo grows quickly without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or much water. It’s also a powerful carbon sink, absorbing more CO2 from the air than almost any other plant.

So it’s considered a sustainable material – mostly when used in place of plastics or hardwoods (but not necessarily as a fabric, which requires a lot of chemical processing to create).

12. Plastic-Free Lip Balm

Lots of brands make plastic-free lip balms that come in a cardboard tubes – and I’ve tried what feels like all of them.

My favorite so far is the plain, unscented Bare Lip Balm from River Organics, a small, North-Carolina-based beauty company. It’s a husband and wife team behind the brand, and everything they make is organic, vegan and plastic-free (including the minimal and recycled paper shipping materials, as you can see in the photo below).

River Organics plastic-free beauty products in their recycled paper shipping envelope. ©KettiWilhelm2022
Plastic-free shipping materials….
The reviewer's collection of toiletries from River Organics, all packaged in cardboard tubes, on a wooden desk in front of a house plant. ©KettiWilhelm2022
… and plastic-free tubes!

From the very first swipe, their super moisturizing lip balm was creamier and smoother than just about any other lip balm I’ve used.

River Organics also makes tinted lip balms, lip stains and other make-up with an important difference from other brands: They use lab-made mica, instead of natural mica.

Normally that might sound like a bad thing, but mica mining is infamous for exploiting child labor, and mica is everywhere. We think of it as what gives shimmer to eyeshadow and lip color, but it’s in everything from toothpaste to mascara. (And it can be called “mica,” “potassium aluminum silicate,” or “CI 77019” on ingredient lists.)

Anther thing I love: They sell “imperfect” products at a discount (items with minor packaging defects). Much better than throwing them away!

You can save 15% on any River Organics products with the discount code TILTEDMAP15 .

Earth Hero and Package Free Shop both also carry River Organics, along with other lip balms (most of which are also plastic-free and packaged in cardboard tubes). Of course, from Earth Hero, you can use the code tiltedmap10 for 10% off.

Another Alternative:

The Earthling Co. used to make a peppermint lip balm that was almost identical to Burt’s Bees’ classic balm, but with fewer ingredients (nothing but organic beeswax, organic coconut oil and peppermint essential oil).

But it’s currently out of stock, as they’re updating the formula to make it vegan. I’ll let you know here when I try the new formula!

Save 15% at The Earthling Co. with this link.

13. Body Moisturizer in Aluminum Packaging

For a hand and body moisturizer, I use the Castanha Hand Cream, which comes in an aluminum tube, from Natura Brasil. (Aluminum is always better than plastic for recyclability.)

I love how rich, thick and moisturizing this cream is. And the Castanha scent (Brazil nut, in Portuguese) is really warm and delicious, but not overpowering. (It’s a very gender-neutral scent, too.)

They make several other scents and varieties, including lighter ones, that also come in aluminum. (And a couple of massage oils in aluminum packaging, too.)

Three eco-friendly body moisturizers from the brand Natural Brasil, in brightly colored aluminum tubes.
My favorite, the Castanha, is the orange tube. (And this gift set is going on my sustainable guide list next year.)

Only Mostly-Plastic-Free (But it’s progress)

Because of the cap, these creams aren’t 100% plastic-free. And many of Natura’s other products are packaged in plastic, so I skip those. I also wish Natura’s website would let you search for only products in aluminum packaging.

But mostly aluminum with just a bit of plastic is still a step in the right direction, and Natura Brasil still does a lot right as a sustainable company. They’re a B Corp, 100% vegan, and use Fair Trade ingredients responsibly sourced from the Amazon, for example.


14. Plastic-Free Deodorant 

Deodorant packaging often isn’t recyclable in curbside recycling programs, and the fact that it’s always such heavy, solid plastic drives me crazy.

Luckily, there are two ways to do deodorant without single-use plastics: A sturdy, refillable aluminum tube, or a compostable cardboard one.

1. The Best Refillable Deodorant

The best refillable deodorant I’ve found is from Bite. (Yes, the toothpaste tablet company above.)

At $16 for each refill tube, it’s not cheap. But formula lasts a really long time, smells great, and leaves less white residue than any other brand I’ve tried. (Pretty much zero residue. It’s really about as close to perfect as possible.)

How does it work? Your first order comes with an aluminum deodorant tube. (Which is refillable, and easy to eventually recycle if you change your mind.) Then refills come in cardboard tubes (which are home compostable or recyclable with your normal cardboard).

It’s the most sustainable deodorant refill system I’ve found, and it’s the only one that’s truly plastic-free.

Use the discount code tiltedmap10 for 10% off Bite’s deodorant, toothpaste and anything else.

My second choice is the refillable deodorant from by Humankind. [See my review of Bite, PAPR and by Humankind deodorants for details.]

2. For long-term travel: Deodorant in cardboard packaging

Overall, Bite makes my favorite plastic-free deodorant. But for long-term travel, I think PAPR deodorant is a great alternative.

When you run out of deodorant on the road, you don’t have to keep carrying around your refillable container. (Although since Bite’s container is just aluminum, it’s easy to recycle in most of the world.)

Just like Bite, this brand is also vegan, cruelty-free, carbon-neutral and aluminum-free.

PAPR deodorant also leaves very little white residue (although it’s not quite as good in this respect as Bite). And like Bite, it comes in natural, fresh scents that I actually like (not just tolerate, like most drugstore deodorants).

15. Reusable, Eco-friendly Period Products 

Admittedly, both of the products sound a little weird and dubious at first, but I give you my word that, at least for me, they work wonders.

Between period underwear and menstrual cups, I no longer buy anything disposable for my period.

Menstrual Cup or Disks

Honestly, it took a few periods of practice before I figured out how to position a menstrual cup comfortably. But it was worth it. Menstrual cups are reusable for years, with nothing to throw away or repurchase. And you only have to remove your cup every 12 hours for cleaning. Plus, I’m convinced that my cramps are less intense using a cup than they were with tampons.

The Lena Cup works for me. I’ve had it for five years, and don’t see a need to replace it anytime soon. But if I were shopping for a menstrual cup now, the first brand I’d look at would be Saalt. They’re a B-Corp, a plastic-neutral company, and manufacture their menstrual cups and disks in the US.

Every brand has a different size, shape and firmness.

This quiz is helpful to figure out which brand will fit you best. And Saalt has a quiz to help you figure out whether a cup or disk will be best for you.

Earth Hero also sells Saalt and a few other brands of menstrual cups, and you save 10% with the discount code tiltedmap10

If you want to try Lena Cup, you can use the discount code LENALOVE for $5 off. It works whether you order directly from Lena Cup, or on Amazon

Even Easier: Period Underwear

I was proud of myself for adapting to a menstrual cup instead of tampons, but honestly, period underwear are a much easier change and have become my go-to period product. 

Now that I use them, I would never go back to pads/tampons/pantyliners.

Thinx is the most famous brand, but by no means the only or most sustainable option. (Among other issues, they don’t ship plastic-free, while other brands do.)

After lots of comparison testing, I think the best brand, which also checks all the sustainability boxes, is Saalt

Saalt is a certified B Corp. They donate 2% of their revenue to projects to end period poverty around the world. And they’re certified plastic-neutral. (That means they remove more plastic pollution from the environment than the amount of plastic they use.) 

And their manufacturing ethics are top-notch: Their factory in Sri Lanka employs a 90% female workforce – all earning a living wage. They provide workplace education to seamstresses and school supplies to their children, and even have a platinum LEED certification.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you order from Saalt: Their packaging is entirely, 100% plastic-free – from the outer mailer (made of recycled cardboard and sealed with paper tape, so it’s 100% recyclable), to the inner packaging for each pair of underwear.

(Most brands, including Thinx, use plastic bags for both, but Saalt uses recycled and easily recyclable paperboard.) 

A pair of lacy, pink Saalt brand period underwear, an alternative to Thinx pictured with their plastic-free packaging. ©KettiWilhelm2022
Saalt’s Leak Proof Lace Hipster, and completely plastic-free packaging.

My favorite styles from Saalt:

  • The Leak Proof Lace Hipster – a great pantyliner replacement, with extremely soft, comfortable, and beautiful lace. Made from recycled plastic bottles. 
  • And the Leak Proof Comfort Bikini from their new Modal line. It’s pretty much the softest, coziest underwear fabric I’ve ever tried. Made from sustainable beech wood.  

Other brands to try:

You can save 10% on any Knix order with the code TILTEDMAP_10OFF .

Travel Laundry Tips for Period Underwear: Just like at home, when I’m traveling, I rinse my period underwear out in the sink, let them dry overnight if possible, and pack them all in a laundry bag that I can throw in the wash when I get to a machine. (Those bags aren’t as good as these, which are designed to filter microplastics. But they’re easier to pack for travel.)

(And I always wash delicates in laundry bags, as it keeps them in better shape for longer. On the road, they’re great for keeping dirty laundry separate in your suitcase!) 

16. Plastic-Free Shaving (Without Safety Razor Cuts)

Testing safety razors on my legs was the scariest and bloodiest plastic-free toiletry swap I’ve made. I’m sure they work for some people, but despite what you may have read in reviews saying safety razors are “easy to use,” I swear they’re not for the faint of heart.

But there is a far easier option that I love, and that’s still plastic-free: The original, pivoting-head razor from Leaf Shave Co. After all my testing, it’s the only one I would buy again for shaving legs.

The unique design combines the convenience and lack of cuts of a cartridge-style razor, plus the sustainability of easily recyclable, 100% steel blades.

(For how to recycle razor blades, read this section of my Leaf razor review.)

Close-up of the Leaf Shave pivoting-head safety razor, with the head open to show the words "I am not plastic" written on the blade. ©KettiWilhelm2021
This razor from Leaf is the only plastic-free shaving option I actually recommend spending money on.

Different razors for different places

Leaf’s pivoting razor is designed for large areas, like legs, while their Twig Razor is better for face shaving. They also make a moisturizing, plastic-free shaving cream bar that I really like. And of course, it’s totally unisex, just like their razors.

Either razor will undoubtably save you money in the long-run. (Plastic razor cartridges cost several dollars each, while replacement blades for these cost just a few cents.)

Razor Travel Tip:

While technically you can’t pack safety razor blades in your carry-on, I have gotten away with going through airport security numerous times already with my Leaf and blades. (No questions asked.) But if you don’t want to take the risk, keep your stash of cartridge razors exclusively for travel.

Gift Idea: Since these razors are kind of a splurge, I think they would make a really thoughtful gift for anyone who’s trying to cut the plastic waste out of their lives. (They’re permanent features on my Sustainable Gift Guide, which I update regularly.)

You can save 10% on any order from Leaf with the discount code KETTI10 !

17. Travel-Friendly Laundry 

Finally, these aren’t exactly travel toiletries, but it’s relevant. If you’re planning to stay in Airbnbs (or similar but more interesting vacation rentals) or otherwise do your own laundry while traveling, laundry strips from the Canadian start-up TruEarth are a must. (They’re what I use at home, as well as on the road.)

TruEarth is the most eco-friendly laundry detergent I’ve found so far. They ship you enough super-concentrated detergent for 32 loads in a package only slightly thicker than a normal envelope!

At home, I also use this bag, which is designed to filter microplastics that break off when washing synthetic materials, ending up in waterways. (But it’s a little too bulky when you’re traveling light.)

For details on both, check out my post about all the plastic-free laundry and cleaning products I tested!

Use the discount code TEMap10 for 10% off any TruEarth order!

Discount Codes!

These discount codes are sprinkled throughout this list, but to keep things simple, they’re all right here, too:

Questions? Ideas for other sustainable brands to check out? Drop them in the comments below, get in touch on Instagram, or email me!

Pin this review to Pinterest: the best zero-waste, plastic-free toiletries for gifting and for travel (plus discount codes). ©KettiWilhelm2020
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  1. Hi Ketti!
    I just read all of your plastic-free posts and really appreciate the depth of your reviews! I just started trying to go plastic free for toiletries and cleaning, and I wish I had found this before I spent hours comparing brands. I was happy to see I ended up with some of your choices (HiBAR shampoo and conditioner bars; byHumankind deodorant, floss, hand sanitizer, and mouthwash kit) because they’re all in transit, but I feel less nervous now. I got Blueland cleaning products a little while ago and will now be very careful with the bottles! I also fell for some knock off lastswab, lesson learned. I’m excited about some of the other great tips you gave.
    I had found a couple of other companies that I was wondering if you had not mentioned because of standards or if they might be too new. I got hand and dish soap glass dispensers with aluminum packaged refills from Grove Collaborative, which seem great so far although a little strong in scent. Also a trial pack of cleaning swatches from ec30 haven’t shipped yet, but I’m very curious to try them. Any experience or thoughts?
    We’re also comparing bamboo toilet paper from reel and seedling. I would love a review of paper products and alternatives!

    1. Hi Sheree,

      Thank you so much for getting in touch and for mentioning those other companies! And I’m so glad you enjoyed my reviews – sometimes I do worry that I’m going a little too in-depth and boring people, so it’s great to hear you appreciate them. 🙂

      I’ve looked at Grove Collective before, and just never really gotten on board with them because, while they do have some plastic-free options like the ones you ordered, they carry so many brands that are natural or non-toxic, but still packaged in single-use plastic. (Like my old favorite, Mrs. Meyers. Good job sorting through and finding the plastic-free stuff!)

      But since you brought them up, I looked through their site more closely and I noticed first that they are a B-Corp, which is a great certification. I talk about lots of other B-Corps on the blog, including Intrepid Travel, Bookshop, and Earth Hero, which are all on my Resources page. And they also say they’re planning to be plastic-free by 2025. So it’s not now, but at least it’s a plan. (And Earth Hero is a similar sustainable products marketplace, like Grove, that I think does pretty much everything right – but they don’t have such a plan, as far as I’m aware! So maybe I was being too hard on Grove.)

      I hadn’t heard of EC30! So I was just looking into them this morning. I like the concept, and I might do a review of their Trial Pack, since the products are so similar to so many others I’ve reviewed… But, what I don’t love is that they’re just a branch of Proctor & Gamble. (It doesn’t say so explicitly, but it hints at it on their About page, so I Googled their mailing address, and it’s P&G HQ.)

      I’m all for big corporations becoming more sustainable, but this just feels a little inauthentic to me. I’d love to see P&G switch to plastic-free packaging for all of their famous drug store brands, which millions of people already buy, as opposed to trying to get a piece of a new market that’s been created, tested and made possible by small start-ups, which have been plastic-free and focused on sustainability since from the beginning.

      That being said, I would love to hear what you think of the EC30 products when they arrive! Seriously, feel free to drop me an email if you want. 🙂

      And you’re right, I do need to look into bamboo TP! Maybe that’ll be a future review – thanks for the suggestion!


    1. You’re welcome, Kristin!

      I haven’t reviewed Ethique yet, just because I wanted to focus on more local brands. (I’m currently in the US, along with most of my readers, and Ethique is from New Zealand.) But I am thinking I should try them soon – since they’re so well-known, and because I do think they’re a good company with lots of strong sustainability certifications. If I do, I’ll probably just add them to this post, which has the other shampoo bars I’ve tested.

      Thanks for your question and keep in touch! 🙂


  2. Thanks for the reply!
    I wanted something closer to home (WA state), too, but didn’t find a deodorant bar like theirs. My daughter loves their shampoo and conditioner bars, and I’m a fan of the deodorant bar. I’ll be curious to hear what you think, if you decide to review NZ products.
    They also have great customer service, in my opinion.
    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, and did click on your links for my order.

  3. Hi again!
    The Bite site says I need to add an email address with the discount code tiltedmap10.

    Do you know if your code still works, or can you send me an email address to add in that box?
    Thanks! Kristin

    1. Hey Kristin! No problem, it just says that until you type in your own email address… I know, it’s confusing. I have no idea why they put that message there. Let me know if you got it to work!

      As for the deodorant – have you tried byHumankind’s refillable one? That’s the one I recommend above and I really love it. (Although now I’m getting curious about Ethique.)

      Anyway, I’m glad you’re enjoying these posts and thank you for using my links! I very much appreciate it!


  4. Hello and Happy Thanksgiving!
    Thanks again for your reply. Duh– I’ll try my OWN email. Sorry to bother you.
    And I will try byhumandkind’s DO!

    thanks, Kristin

  5. If you haven’t checked out Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve, out of Ohio, you’re missing out. They’ve been producing environmentally-friendly soaps, shampoo and conditioner bars, deodorants, body lotion bars, and many other personal care products for years. They have one of the widest varieties of shampoo bars I’ve seen, as well as soaps. They use organic ingredients whenever they can, and many of their products are vegan.

    I don’t work for them; I’m just a happy customer who wants to help spread the word.

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Thanks for mentioning this! You’re the second reader who’s told me about Chagrin Valley, so I think I’m going to have to try them and add them to my shampoo bar review. Any products in particular you recommend? I’m especially looking to try some good conditioner bars.

      Keep in touch! 🙂

      1. I don’t have any recent experience with their conditioning bar line.

        I love their citrus sugar scrub for my face, their hemp mango mint lotion bar for my hands, and their neem shampoo bar for effective dandruff management that allows my curls to appear healthy. Their baby castile soap line is gentle enough for my skin when it acts up.

  6. Thanks for this amazing blog about plastic-free toiletries also how travel-friendly they are and create Less-Waste. We can totally relate to your blogs. As, even we deal in similar services. We at Friendly Turtle are a UK zero waste shop with all of your everyday essentials for sustainable living. Simple, eco swaps anyone can start making today to reduce your impact on our precious environment. Visit us to know more!

  7. Such a great article…I have a list of “next purchases” while I finish my current supply.

    Do you have any experience with lotion bars? A lot of the ones I’ve seen are not vegan (which would be my preference) except for Kate McLeod (I keep staring at the price haha).

    These reviews are so helpful. Thank you for testing for the rest of us!!

    1. Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you find the reviews helpful, that makes my day. 🙂

      I totally agree on Kate McLeod… I’ve been wanting to try them myself and write about them, but as you said, the price tag is alarming, and I feel like they’re almost too expensive to even review because they’re so out of reach for so many people.

      I honestly haven’t really found other lotion bars that have worked for me. I tried Ethique and really didn’t like the consistency (but I actually don’t like most Ethique products… unpopular opinion, I guess, and I do like one of their face wash bars, but everything else I’ve tried I just feel like other brands have done better.)

      I also tried Bite’s lotion bar, and while it does work, and feel moisturizing, it’s just kind of a hassle to drag this thing (that feels like a tube of deodorant) ALL over your body, and it’s really hard, so it’s not useful for hand or elbows. And it’s fairly pricey for how quickly I’m going through the tube. So it’s better, but I’m not totally sold yet. Maybe they’ll improve it. (I do LOVE their deodorant, though).

      So what I use for body lotion now is the cream in an aluminum tube from Natura Brasil. (Need to add them to this article!) It’s not totally plastic-free (because of the cap) but they’re a good company (B Corp, vegan, fair trade, etc.). I really love the product, and aluminum is always better than plastic for recyclability.

      Hope that helps! Keep the questions and comments coming – it’s always so useful to see what readers are using, liking, and having trouble finding! 🙂