I Replaced All My Beauty Products for 4 Bars of Soap. Here’s What Went Down…


‘Marie Kondo your beauty regime’

Simplicity is a word rarely associated with the beauty routines of today. More than ever we are recommended must-have lotions and potions and all manner of elaborate tools to aid their application. We rarely pause to think about how wasteful such habits have become- on our wallets and the environment. So, the prospect of streamlining this pantomime like beauty regime is a fairly attractive one on all fronts.

Although the clean beauty industry is booming with a shift towards cruelty-free, vegan and natural products, in reality very few of these brands have an entirely ‘clean’ conscience because of the huge amount of water waste and plastic used to package them. New Zealand-based Ethique, the world’s first zero-waste beauty brand, is an exception. Recently launched in the UK, Ethique is the female-founded ethical beauty company hitting the headlines with its eco-friendly solid beauty bars.

A biochemist by profession, founder Brianne West began experimenting in her Kiwi kitchen to see how she could remove water from our bathroom essentials, and combine the active ingredients in their simplest form. “I realised up to 75 percent of shampoo and even 90 percent of conditioner can be water,” Brianne says, “which is madness, when there is water in your bathroom!” With a product offering of everything from shampoo bars and conditioners to solid moisturisers, cleansers and serums (even men’s, household, pet and baby products), it is possible to rid your home of all those ugly plastic bottles. In March the EU even voted to ban single-use plastic items from 2021 in a bid to clean up our oceans, so a move towards plastic-free beauty products could soon become a legal requirement. And with the current rate of progress on Brexit these laws could definitely still apply here.

All of Ethique’s products are fully sustainable (plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil-free with compostable packaging) and so far, they have prevented over 3.3 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of. The brand also offset their total carbon footprint (i.e. the impact of delivering orders from New Zealand) through supporting sustainable forestry in Australia which acts as a carbon sink.

Here’s my review of Ethique’s Saving Face Serum, Heali Kiwi Shampoo, The Guardian Conditioner, and Sweet Orange & Vanilla Bodywash Bar…

Ethique serum bar

Saving Face Serum- with Cupuacu, Shea, Rosehip & Pomegranate oils

What is it? Applied directly after cleansing, serum is one beauty product that lives up to the hype with its promise of delivering active ingredients directly into the skin. To paraphrase the skincare guru Caroline Hirons, serum is the sandwich filler to your white sliced bloomer- it’s the nutritious stuff your skin is hungry for. As traditional serums will typically be water-based formulas (with the skincare ingredients pumped into a cream or liquid solution), it requires a huge amount of single-use plastic to create the bottles, pumps and containers. Ethique’s solution of a solid serum bar is an obvious winner in this respect- these serum bars prevent 3 plastic bottles from being manufactured and save 0.4 litres of water.

Ethique claims: the high concentrations of antioxidants, phytosterols, polyphenols and fatty acids in their Saving Face Serum bar will promote firm, hydrated skin.

The verdict: ‘Swipe the bar directly across your face and then press the serum into the skin’. Sounds simple? In reality, the ‘swipe’ is more of an all-out tussle. Imagine rubbing a wax candle against your damp face. Well, you wouldn’t be far off. I’m immediately sceptical that the serum has even left any trace on my skin, but I dutifully rinse it off as per the instructions. To my surprise the skin is left feeling soft and hydrated with none of that dreaded sticky residue. Absolute goals. If you have sensitive skin and are hesitant about trying the more heavy duty serums on the market, Ethique’s organic, all natural formula could be the perfect match for you. 7/10

Ethique shampoo bar

Heali Kiwi Shampoo- for Dandruff or Scalp Problems

What is it? Shampoo bars are the zeitgeist of haircare right now- not only do they last up to three times as long as your average plastic-bottled shampoo, the gentle organic ingredients create a soothing balm like effect on the hair. Instead of stripping the hair of all its God-given properties and leaving it to resemble a pumice stone, you’re left with naturally glossy locks. Swish swish.

Ethique claims: Shampoo bars aren’t particularly unusual, but the majority of them are soap, which has a very high pH and leaves residue. We have created something much closer to a typical salon quality shampoo - but solid, of course. The Heali Kiwi is specifically formulated for those who suffer from scalp problems. The bar is packed full of kiwifruit oil, coconut oil, neem oil, oatmeal and karanja oil which is perfect for itchy or temperamental scalps. (Or fruit salads!)

The verdict: At first the shampoo bar wasn’t the easiest to apply, but then again it’s not easy for a turtle to poop out a shard of plastic. I’ll take one for the team. Just like the serum bar, there was a lot of friction going on when applying the shampoo bar to wet hair and I found myself getting a vigorous head-massage in the process. I didn’t expect much of a lather, but after a few swipes it created a pleasing cloud of bubbles. Post-wash, the hair feels clean and sleek, and most importantly, the scalp is seriously soothed and nourished. Mightily impressed. 8/10

Ethique conditioner bar

The Guardian- for dry, damaged or frizzy hair

What is it? Your typical dollop of hair conditioner will aim to tame frizz and hydrate dry hair. However, a conditioning bar goes one step further by placing the highly-concentrated ingredients in direct contact with your hair- allowing it to drink up all that goodness.

Ethique claims: Containing cocoa butter, coconut oil, vitamin B5 and zesty lime oil, The Guardian will make hair appear smooth and luscious. It can also be used as a shaving bar or in-shower moisturiser.

The verdict: If you’re unwilling to swap up your usual shampoo for a shampoo bar, I definitely recommend this conditioner by Ethique. It’s incredibly easy to use, swiping the solid bar down the lengths of your tresses takes mere seconds. What’s more The Guardian is multipurpose meaning you can use it as an all over body moisturiser as well. The only slight disappointment was the lack of ‘zesty lime oil’ scent- although the bar itself smells gorgeous, this doesn’t translate to your hair post-wash and your barnet is left pretty much unscented. Ethique also offer a selection of hair masks which look interesting. 9/10

Ethique bodywash bar

Sweet Orange & Vanilla Bodywash Bar

What is it? Ethique’s bodywash bar is far from your regular block of soap. Not only does it last longer, it doesn’t have a drying effect on your skin due to the addition of olive oil which creates a creamy, nourishing lather.

Ethique claims: This is a gourmet bodywash- it’s palm free and scented with essential oils, never synthetic fragrance. Vanilla is sweet and delicious, with hit of sweet orange oil to lighten it up, but never overpower it.

The verdict: This bodywash bar doesn’t feel like the soft, pliable soap bars of old, it’s incredibly dense and hard- a result of the milling process which squeezes out any extra moisture to ensure it will last longer. Just like the haircare products, the soap suds here didn’t have the intense smell I was expecting from the zingy orange packaging, and I attribute this to the fact that the scents are non-synthetic. Aside from the disappointing subtlety of fragrance, I think this bodywash bar is a game-changer for the beauty industry and illustrates how the zero waste beauty movement is ripe for the mainstream. 7/10

All the products featured here are currently available at (UK stockists soon be announced) with prices starting from £13