THE CHEAP SHEET: BEAUTY AND HYGIENE

If you haven’t noticed already, over the last few years, making lifestyle changes to save the environment has become quite “in trend”. There has been an increase in eco-friendly stores popping up in Malaysia — The Hive being my favourite. Personally, I have always had a recycle box in my room to collect paper since I was a teenager. But in my early 20s I read up more on recycling and realised that not all paper can be recycled. Oops!

Anyway, these days I try to recycle as much as I can. Now that I also live alone, I do try to separate my waste. Ideally, Malaysia should just implement the Japanese style of waste sorting — yes, Japanese waste sorting is amazing and yes, Japan is awesome — because it’s really easy and you will find that actually you become more mindful about what you consume.

That said, I ain’t no environmentalist. And I don’t have a lot of opinions about how people should live their lives. All these decisions vary from person to person, and I think we are all adults capable of making our own life choices, yes? I personally do it because, over the years, I have created habits. Plus, some of these changes have allowed me to save money. There, you got me. Guilty as charged. I am a typical cheap Asian. And let me just say that even if you’re not Asian, you can be one on the inside too!

So if you want to save the environment — and money — you’re in the right place. I’m starting a series called Cheap Sheet (like cheat sheet) to share my personal experience about saving money. So here are some changes that you can make in your beauty and hygiene routine that will help you do both!

SHAMPOO BARS (LUSH)

To be honest, I am not a huge fan of LUSH because the strong mix of scents at the store usually gives me a headache. But, so many people swear by their products so I decided that I would give it a try. So in 2018, when I was back in London for work, I braced myself and entered the store in Oxford Street with the intent to buy something — anything. Then I stumbled upon the shampoo bar. I bought two since they had a special deal. Guess what? I loved it! So much so that it’s now my go-to shampoo.

That said, I don’t buy my shampoo bars in Malaysia because it’s extremely expensive. For context and comparison, the same “Honey I Washed My Hair” shampoo bar is £8 in the UK, ¥1180 in Japan but MYR70 in Malaysia! The math just doesn’t add up. Thus, I’ve been buying my shampoo bars from overseas LUSH stores when I travel and I buy enough to last me at least a year. 

Why do I love the LUSH shampoo bar so much?

Firstly, these shampoo bars have zero packaging so that’s one less bottle/plastic wrap to get rid off when you’re home. LUSH will offer you a paper bag but I normally bring my own shopping bags anyway, even when I’m travelling. Plus, each bar can last up to around 3 months on average. For reference, I have mid-length hair and I wash it on alternate days. There’s a variety to choose from and surprisingly my hair doesn’t tangle, compared to when I use other shampoos.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, however, I guess I won’t be able to travel any time soon. So in the meantime, I would like to try The Hive’s shampoo bar, which is way cheaper than the one from LUSH. I will stock up when I’m low and review it when the time comes!

MENSTRUAL CUP

If you get squeamish and hate any talk about blood, please skip this section.

Periods are a huge inconvenience to me. I’m sure most women can testify. Personally, I hate pads. They’re squishy and gross. And on days when you have a heavy flow, night pads are the best solution because they are capable of preventing leakage. But hell, it feels like you’re wearing a bloody diaper. So in university, I decided to try out different period products. Starting with tampons.

The first time I tried tampons, it took me an hour to get it in and I still did it wrong. But after much trial and error, I eventually succeeded (lol). Tampons are great except you have to change it every 2 to 4 hours lest you get toxic shock syndrome. Also, leaks are still a possibility and you can feel the string.

Again on my work trip to London in 2018, I decided to buy a Moon Cup from Boots. It cost me £20 and I was terrified of trying it so I waited a whole year (lol). I finally took the leap when I got fed up of having to still wear a pad just in case my tampon leaked. Did I already mention that periods are stupid? It was more terrifying than the tampon because you cannot feel anything once it’s in. But soon I learned that women have strong pelvic muscles.

The cup is great because you only have to change it maybe 2 or 3 times a day. It’s safe to wear for up to 12 hours on average because bacteria can’t breed on silicone so your insides are safe. Not gonna lie, though. You can still leak but it’s super rare and even if you do, it’s more like spotting. Which is totally an upgrade from other forms of leakage.

Maintaining a cup is also really easy. All you have to do is soak them in boiling for 10 minutes between periods. You can use a mild soap to wash them between uses but plain water works just fine. A lot of reviews online say that soap can cause irritation. So listen to your body. If you get rashes or have some side effects, maybe speak to your doctor about it. Personally, I avoid washing my cups with soap altogether. 

The Moon Cup (top) is a clear menstual cup while the Hivette (bottom) comes in yellow and black

Now I own two different period cups, The Moon Cup and the Hivette. Two because I think it’s good to alternate between changes so that the used one can “breathe”. They’re not exactly cheap (around MYR100 on average) but think about it as an investment. Each cup can last for up to 10 years at least. That’s still cheaper than buying pads and tampons every month. 

If you’re wondering if you should get one but you’re not convinced, drop me a message. Let’s talk about it because I think it will change your life! 

MULTIPACK FACIAL MASKS

Now it’s not a secret that I love Japan and skincare. In fact, I love facial masks. Lululun is one of my favourite Japanese brands. I would often buy their single sheet masks but during my trip in February last year, I noticed that they sell multipacks. Lululun is not the only brand to sell their facial masks this way. Saborino does it too.

From my observation, the Japanese tend to have a lot of plastic waste because they really love packaging. It’s part of their culture. So seeing the beauty industry make this move is really great. This is due to the fact that my biggest qualm about facial masks has always been single-use packaging. There’s a lot of wasted product in each pack as well.

These multipack facial masks come in many varieties. But essentially, there is less wastage because they package multiple masks in one box. Not to mention, multipacks are way cheaper than buying loose sheets. While it is cheaper in Japan (about ¥1000 to ¥1500 on average), you can still find these locally. Check out Hermo, Watsons and Sasa. I have linked them below for your convenience.

While I understand that some of these options are not for everybody (e.g. menstrual cups), you might one to try some of them. And like I said earlier, I have saved money by switching to some of these alternatives. If you do end up trying any of the products I mentioned, let me know what you think!

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