Toothpaste is not really the first day-to-day product that you switch out when embracing clean beauty, because it is a personal hygiene product. But once you have been introduced to the benefits of clean facial skincare and bodycare formulations, you are bound to wonder about it. Especially when you find out that toothpaste tubes are among the most polluting packaging items! Fortunately, changing your habits has never been easier, with clean solid, organic, refillable and / or natural toothpastes available. Let us help you choose one!
Toothpaste tubes – not at all clean
Toothpaste is like any other hygiene / beauty product. To find out if it is clean or not, you have to look at its formulation, its ingredients and the way in which it is produced, not forgetting the packaging. The latter – along with plastic toothbrushes – is nothing short of an environmental catastrophe. Because toothpaste tubes, which are made of aluminium-lined plastic, cannot be recycled because these two films made of different materials cannot be separated. That’s a pity, also for the lid, which will probably end up getting incinerated or in landfill. So the first thing to do is to stop using standard tubes in favour of the 100% recyclable plastic tubes that the major brands are now developing. Some (such as Elgydium) offer recyclable refill-type bags instead of tubes. But there is still the problem of plastic. So better still, switch to zero waste with clean formulations AND solid or refillable formats.
Clean toothpaste – study the ingredients list
The formulation is all the more important since it is in direct contact with the mucous membrane of the mouth, on average twice a day. It can be natural or organic, to avoid the use of ingredients that are controversial in terms of their effect on both human health and the planet. Examples include hydroxyethylcellulose, PEG-12, PEG-32 and PEG-6 (which are polymers that are not very biodegradable), poloxamer 407 (a type of plastic) and polyvinylpyrrolidone or PVP. This is widely used in many make-up and haircare products due to its texture-enhancing properties. There is also that sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulphate that we hear so much about. This potentially irritant surfactant has no other purpose than creating lather. It is also yielded via a process that is harmful to the environment. Lastly, that nasty titanium dioxide, which is considered controversial and even risky, is to be shunned.
So to be clean, toothpaste formulations must favour natural biodegradable ingredients: plant-based oils, essential oils, aloe vera juice, xanthan gum, charcoal, clay or kaolin. By opting for a formulation that’s certified organic you can be sure of getting a clean formulation. However, it will be without fluoride and may have a taste that’s… Out of the ordinary.
Toothpaste that’s clean and organic, but comes in tubes
There are now excellent organic toothpastes (from Cattier, Coslys, Lavera, Weleda and Avril), with refreshingly different flavours ranging from cinnamon to lemon, orange and even mandarin and calendula under the Cosmonaturel brand. In particular, we put a good word in for the clean brand Lebon and its delicious flavours (pineapple, orange blossom and rose, liquorice). The brand offers aluminium tubes, and has a partnership with Terracycle for the recovery of those made of plastic. Because the problem with organic or natural toothpastes is that even if formulation is clean, there is always the plastic tube… Certainly they are recyclable most of the time. But these days, can we consider a product clean if the formulation is clean but the packaging is made of plastic? Especially if there are zero waste alternatives? Even so, you still have to remember to put the empty tube in the recycling bin rather than the bathroom rubbish bin. Nonetheless, it’s still better than standard toothpaste. Some organic toothpaste tubes are made of aluminium, from the Aesop, Love Beauty and Planet brands, and also Le Tube. Made from recyclable aluminium, the idea behind it is that you keep the cap and simply order more tubes. This solves the plastic problem, but not that of the ecological footprint of aluminium manufacturing… Unless the aluminium comes from recycled aluminium (100% PCR).
You use solid toothpastes by rubbing your wet toothbrush over the puck that looks like a bar of soap. Most of them (Pachamamaï, for example) come in little travel-friendly screw-top aluminium tins. So there is no plastic involved, but aluminium, whose production is not environmentally neutral. Other solid toothpastes are just pucks or sticks sold in cardboard packaging, without a holder (from Jolie Bouche and Bélice – now that is really zero waste). Just repurpose a little aluminium tin to keep or carry it around in. There is also the powder variety (from Comme Avant) and the chewable variety from Paos and also Lush, the famous English brand and solid cosmetics pioneer. That from Lamazuna, on the other hand, comes in sachets, and that from Respire in aluminium tins with refills that come in paper sachets. Some solid toothpastes that used to come on wooden sticks, like lollipops, have since been discontinued on account of their less than convenient and unhygienic nature.
Toothpastes in refillable pump bottles
These new-generation toothpastes are natural (Refyld) or organic (Biocoop, Coslys and the pretty ones from What Matters). These are made in France, and brought this format into the mainstream. They are reinventing how we dispense toothpaste by offering it in a glass pump bottle format, like that of liquid hand soap. How on Earth did no-one think of it before? So handy (one hand holds the toothbrush, the other presses the pump handle down, there’s no cap to fall on the floor…). It’s also ecologically sound, since it is refillable. Sure, the refills are plastic pouches, but are made with less material. That saves so much waste compared to the standard tube. This format, which is on the rise, is inspiring an ever-increasing number of copycats. Lastly, Solid for You combines the solid format – since it must first be diluted to make a paste – with the refillable one, since it allows you to refill your bottle. These toothpaste innovations that come in refillable pump bottles are clean, smart, sustainable and fun – good for us and good for the planet.
So clean toothpaste is a real issue. And if everyone were to boycott standard plastic tubes, the planet would be relieved of tons of waste. This eco-revolution in tooth brushing (with a bamboo brush of course) is driving innovation and effort on the part of all brands. That way, everyone can find a solution that suits them depending on their convictions, whether zero plastic, zero waste or organic, to stop buying toothpaste on autopilot.
So thank you to all these clean toothpastes for this new routine. It combines respect for the planet and for oral hygiene, sometimes with the chance to try new flavours!