Product Reviews Sustainable Living

September Product ‘Empties’

September has flown by, and it’s time for another empties post! Most of my September product ’empties’ are related to health and beauty. As always, I will comment on the sustainability of the products and packaging. I hope you enjoy reading about them!

The empty packaging of my September Product 'Empties'

Health and Beauty

Glow Lab Hand Crème

Earlier this year, I was looking for an effective hand cream because my hands get very dry and cracked in cold weather. I found this one in TKMaxx and it appealed to me with its minimalist aesthetic and its claims to be natural and cruelty-free. 

An empty tube of Glow Lab Hand Creme

Glow Lab is a New Zealand cosmetics company that combines the powers of science and nature in their products. This hand cream contains natural extracts and ProSina keratin, and claims to repair and soothe skin, fight free radicals, reduce the signs of ageing and create stronger, smoother nails.

The back of the empty tube of Glow Lab Hand Creme

I have been using this hand cream every evening before I go to bed. The 100ml tube has lasted me for approximately 7 months.  The cream is white with a smooth, medium-thick consistency, and comes out easily from the tube. It absorbs easily into the skin and has a pleasant scent. The scent didn’t remind me of anything in particular – just a general creamy smell!

Did it work?

It was effective as a hand cream – the cracks in my hands soon cleared up and I have had no problems with dry skin since using this product. Supposedly, it strengthens nails as well. I can’t say I’ve noticed much of a difference, but I think my nails are fairly strong anyway!

When the cream had nearly all gone, I cut the tube open so that I could get the last remnants of cream and not waste any.

What about sustainability and ethics?

Later on after purchasing the cream, I did some research and realised that the keratin in this cream is extracted from sheep’s wool. On the Glow Lab website, they claim that their products are vegan because the keratin used in their products does not cause harm to animals. However, I disagree with them labelling their products as vegan. By definition, if they contain an animal product, they are not vegan! They extract keratin from wool during the yearly shearing of sheep, rather than from dead animals, but by purchasing wool from the farmers they are still supporting the farming and consequently the harm of animals.

The cream is labelled as cruelty-free, meaning that it is not tested on animals, but because of the reason above, I wouldn’t agree that this cream is totally cruelty-free.

The only place it is currently stocked in the UK is in selected TKMaxx stores, so it is not very easy to get hold of here. It is made in New Zealand and therefore is shipped over here. It comes in a plastic tube. These factors mean that it is not the most sustainable hand cream I could be using. The cream was effective, but I will look for a hand cream that is fully vegan and cruelty-free, and comes in more sustainable packaging.

Highland Soap Co. Hebridean Seaweed Handmade Soap

An empty box of Hebridean Seaweed Handmade Soap

I was gifted this soap by my Auntie who lives in Scotland. It is traditional handmade soap, made in Scotland. I really liked the look of this soap because all the ingredients are natural and recognisable, and it contains no animal products. It contains sustainable organic palm oil, which shows that the company cares about the environment and where it sources its ingredients from.

The back of the box of Hebridean Seaweed Soap

The scent is ‘Hebridean Seaweed’ and it does indeed contain seaweed extract. However, I couldn’t really smell the seaweed. To me it smelled mainly of peppermint, which is one of the ingredients in the soap. Bits of seaweed (or something) were visible in the soap, which made it look textured and appealing.

The soap lathered nicely (despite containing no SLS – a bonus) and felt cleansing on my hands.  It was only a small bar (35g) but it lasted for several weeks. It worked just as you would expect a soap to work, and I managed to use it up completely because it didn’t break into loads of little solid bits like some soaps do.

How sustainable is this soap?

The soap came in a cardboard box with no plastic involved. For this reason and the reasons I mentioned earlier, this is a great soap in terms of sustainability! I’m not sure where my Auntie bought it, but if I saw it in the shops I would buy it again. It is also available online on the Highland Soap Co. website.

LUSH – Snow Fairy Fun

If you haven’t heard of ‘Fun’ before, it is a LUSH product that is basically play-dough for the shower or bath! It comes in bright colours and has the consistency of dough or modelling clay, but it lathers up in water and can be used either as a solid shower gel or crumbled into a bath to create bubbles.

Snow Fairy Fun, in its packaging
Another view of Snow Fairy Fun in it's packaging

I got this bar of Fun in a Christmas gift box. Unsurprisingly, it is a Christmas product so it is not available at this time of year. But hopefully it will be back in the run up to Christmas! The Fun was striped in three colours – pink, yellow and white – and was slightly shimmery.

Making ‘fairies’

This product was designed to be modelled into a fairy, and it came with a paper wand and paper wings which were a nice touch. In the booklet that came with the gift box, there is an example picture of the fairy you can make:

The booklet that came with Snow Fairy Fun

I attempted to copy this model, but let’s just say mine didn’t quite turn out the same! It looked more like a penguin than a fairy!

My first attempt at making a fairy
My first attempt at making a fairy.

I still had lots of product left after making this fairy, so I made another. My second one looked like a duck in a bonnet!

My second attempt at making a fairy
My second attempt at a ‘fairy’.

As you can see, I am not the best at modelling, but I had a lot of ‘Fun’ doing it! It gave me a laugh, and I was a little bit sad when the time came to use my ‘fairies’ in the shower!

My two fairies
Both ‘fairies’ together.

If you ever use this product, prepare to get glittery hands while making your fairies, because the shimmer does get everywhere. Fortunately it is biodegradable glitter.

Of course, you don’t have to make fairies. You could make something else, or just use the ‘Fun’ as one big lump (which would probably make it easier to use!).

Once you’ve made the fairies, how do you use it?

To use in the shower, I found that the easiest method was to rub the entire fairy all over my body, and then go over it with a shower puff to create lather. This way, it worked just as well as any other shower gel. It has a gorgeous sweet smell, like the rest of the Snow Fairy range at LUSH.

I thought it might fall apart when it got wet, but actually, the water seemed to gel it together into one lump:

My fairies after I had used one of them in the shower
This is what Fairy no.2 aka Duck looked like after 2 uses.

The product lasted for around 2 weeks worth of showers – the fairies disintegrated quite fast with use so it didn’t last as long as LUSH’s naked shower gels do. However, you are paying for the enjoyment of modelling, as well as for the product’s practical use. I haven’t tried crumbling this product into a bath, so I can’t comment on whether that works well.

Is it ethical and sustainable?

LUSH is generally known for using natural ingredients in its products, but in this particular product there are quite a few synthetic and controversial ingredients including Sodium Laureth Sulfate (which can cause irritation) and Synthetic Musk (which can disrupt hormones according to some studies). This shows that it is always worth checking out the ingredients of any product before you buy it, even if you are buying from a company known for using natural ingredients.

This product is suitable for vegans.

The Fun came wrapped in a clear wrapper. It looks like plastic but I think it may be biodegradable cellophane – I can’t find any clear information on this.

The empty packaging of Snow Fairy Fun

I enjoyed making my fairies and using this product in the shower. I probably wouldn’t purchase any more Fun myself because it is messier and doesn’t last as long as a solid shower gel. However, if I received it in a gift again, I would use and enjoy it!

Dr. Organic Vitamin E Conditioner

An empty bottle of Dr. Organic Vitamin E Conditioner

I bought this conditioner from Holland and Barrett along with the Vitamin E Shampoo. It claims to be super hydrating for the hair. I chose it because it is vegan and cruelty free, and contains primarily natural, organic ingredients.

The conditioner is a creamy yellow colour and fairly thin in consistency. It has a pleasant smell but I’m not sure how to describe it – I suppose it is quite citrussy.

The conditioner worked well, but I wouldn’t say it made a noticeable difference to my hair. It didn’t feel as smooth to apply as some conditioners, and I needed to use a generous amount to coat my hair. Therefore the bottle didn’t last very long.

The conditioner comes in a plastic bottle. Previously, I had tried out solid conditioners but hadn’t found any that worked well for me. However, I am currently trying a new brand of solid conditioner and it is working well. Therefore I may be seeing an end to plastic conditioner bottles! For this reason, I won’t be purchasing this conditioner again in the foreseeable future.

Ted Baker Fragranced Body Spray

An empty bottle of Ted Baker Fragranced Body Spray

I received this body spray as a gift from a friend several years ago. I have been using it on-and-off ever since, and have finally used it up. My friend bought me this because she really liked the scent and had used it herself. I agree that it smells really nice! The scent is jasmine, rose, pear and apple, but I only just looked that up on the bottle – I always just thought it was a nice smell without thinking about it smelling of anything in particular.

The bottle is really pretty with a pink and purple colour scheme. The writing on the back is quite hard to read because it is white on light pink, but I didn’t really mind this. The spray worked well, apart from when the bottle was nearly empty, and it stopped spraying properly. I emptied the rest of the contents into another empty spray bottle I had, which worked much better and allowed me to use up the last dregs.

How does it score for sustainability and ethics?

The ingredients are not stated on the bottle, and I can’t find them online. Therefore, I don’t know whether this body spray contains mostly natural or synthetic ingredients, or whether it is vegan. I am aware that a lot of mainstream perfumes and body sprays contain chemicals that are not particularly good for us, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case here. For this reason, I usually sprayed this onto my clothes rather than directly onto my skin.

The scent was fairly subtle and I don’t think it lasted for a long time on my clothes. However, it was enough for everyday use.

It states on the bottle that the spray is tested on humans (not animals) so that is a good thing! 

The bottle is of course plastic, so it is not the best option for the environment. I would prefer to use perfumes and sprays that come in glass bottles or other sustainable packaging. 

It looks like this spray has been discontinued now, so I won’t be buying it again. If I received another Ted Baker spray as a gift I would be grateful, but if I decide to buy a spray myself I would go for a more sustainable brand.

Nivea Antiperspirant Protect & Care – Roll-on

An empty bottle of Nivea Antiperspirant Protect & Care - Roll-on

The reason I use Nivea antiperspirants is because they are the only antiperspirant I have found that comes in a glass container rather than plastic. However, I know this is still not the ideal choice, because Nivea is not fully cruelty-free.

I don’t use antiperspirants every day, but only when I have a particular need to be fresh smelling, for example, if I am going to be around people a lot. Otherwise, I use more natural and ethical brands. See related post: Natural Deodorant vs. Conventional Antiperspirant: Striking a Balance.

This antiperspirant did its job as well as any other. I have used several types of Nivea antiperspirant before, but I haven’t noticed much of a difference between them. This particular one is supposed to be gentle and non-irritating, and contain ingredients from Nivea Creme. It has 0% alcohol. Because of this, it was probably a good choice compared to the other types.

The scent was fairly subtle and fresh – it just smells like deodorant to be honest! I could see through the glass that this particular deodorant had a creamy white consistency, unlike other Nivea antiperspirants which are clear.

I would buy this antiperspirant again, but only until I find a better alternative – an effective antiperspirant that comes in glass or other sustainable packaging and is made by an ethical company. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!

Superdrug ProCare Sensitive Expanding Floss

An empty pack of Superdrug ProCare Sensitive Expanding Floss

I have finished another pack of this floss which I wrote about in my April Empties post. I had stocked up on a few packs, so I plan to use those up and then switch to a biodegradable floss I’ve found.

Max Factor 2000 Calorie Dramatic Volume Mascara – Black Brown

An empty tube of Max Factor 2000 Calorie Dramatic Volume Mascara - Black Brown

This has been my go-to mascara for several years (probably longer than you are supposed to keep a mascara for!). Lately, it had become very dried out and hardly any product was getting on my lashes, so I assumed it was pretty much used up. However, when I rinsed out the tube, loads of product came out! So I think it must have been dried up, but not empty. Still, because it was so old, it was probably sensible to stop using it!

When I bought this mascara, I didn’t realise it was ‘black brown’ rather than black, but I didn’t mind this. It still gave the impression of dark lashes, but provided a slightly more natural look. The mascara was easy to apply – I liked the shape of the brush. It distributed easily on my lashes without clumping, although it clumped more with use as it gradually dried out. It gave a reasonable amount of volume but I wouldn’t say it was dramatic – it was more of a natural look.

Looking up this mascara online, I have found out that it is fragrance-free, smudge-proof and suitable for sensitive eyes. I never realised these things when I bought the mascara, but they are a bonus.

Is it sustainable and ethical?

When I checked out the ingredients online, I found out that it is full of chemicals and preservatives, including parabens. I would prefer to use a more natural mascara in the future. Unfortunately, Max Factor is not a cruelty-free company because they sell their products in China where animal testing is mandatory. Because of this, I won’t be buying this mascara again. I will look for a natural, cruelty-free and more sustainable alternative.

As for packaging, it is hard to find a mascara that doesn’t come in a plastic tube. If anyone knows of one, let me know in the comments! 


Alive! Women’s Energy Soft Jell Multi-Vitamin

An empty tub of Alive! Women's Energy Soft Jell Multi-Vitamin

I have used up my last pot of these multi-vitamins which I wrote about in my May Empties post. As I mentioned in previous posts, I don’t intend to buy these again because they are not vegan. I have now found some vegan multi-vitamins which I am taking instead.

Rescue Remedy Drops

An empty box of Rescue Remedy Drops

I have used up yet another bottle of Rescue Remedy Drops, which I wrote about in my March Empties post.


Happy Cheeze – Chakalaka

An empty box of Happy Cheeze - Chakalaka

This is a vegan cheese alternative that is made from cashews. I finished this block of ‘cheese’ on the 30th September so I am adding it into here last minute!

I bought this cheese from a local vegan whole-foods shop. Previously, I had seen it for sale and been very tempted to try it, but it is normally very expensive. However, because it was near to its best before date, it was reduced. I decided to give it a try!

There were several flavours available, but I went for the Chakalaka because it sounded really interesting! I didn’t get a photo of the cheese itself, but it is a round block of creamy white cheese, coated in spicy seasoning, which is a reddish orange colour. You can see a photo on the Happy Cheeze website. [Edit 28/3/20: The brand name has now changed to Happy Cashew.] The cheese looked attractive and tasted delicious! Some vegan cheeses are better than others, but I think this is my favourite one I have tried so far.

The back of the box of Happy Cheeze - Chakalaka

Is it a sustainable cheese option?

The ingredients are organically grown in Germany. It comes in a cardboard box, but unfortunately the cheese itself is shrink wrapped in plastic inside the box. I realise that the cheese needs to be wrapped in some way, but it would be great if the company could use a more sustainable alternative. Overall though, this is quite a good cheese from a sustainability point of view, because at least the plastic packaging is minimal, and it is organic and vegan.

It says on the box to use immediately after opening. However, I kept it in the fridge and used it over the course of a week, and it was fine.

You need this cheese in your life

Whether you are a vegan or not, I recommend trying this cheese! I would definitely buy it again, and I really want to try the other flavours too. I will be checking them out to see if they are reduced next time I visit that whole-foods shop. If not, I might even buy them full price!

Have you used any of these products?

That’s it for my September product ’empties’! I would love to know whether you have tried any of the products I’ve mentioned, and also which products you have used up this month. Let me know in the comments!

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September Product 'Empties'


  1. The main thing I would like to say about this post is that I LOVED your fairies – I particularly liked that they both looked like birds, but different ones. They were very cute. (Also, I’ve used FUN in the bath before and it does create good bubbles.) I also really liked the look of the Highland seaweed soap! Plus, in general, I think the amount of information and opinion that you give about each product is fab and really useful, although it’s kind of surprising how little info some products provide about themselves 🙂

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you liked my bird ‘fairies’ even though my modelling skills could use a lot of improvement! Thanks for the tip-off that FUN creates good bubbles in the bath. If I ever get hold of any more FUN I will try using it that way!
      Yes sometimes I wish products would give more info on their packaging so that I didn’t have to research everything – but at the same time, my ideal product would have no packaging at all! 🙂

  2. Its so great how much you research the ingredients behind these products. Its so so so important to do. I also understand you about wanting minimalist aesthetic looking packaging haha thats so important as well!

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      Thank you! Haha I don’t really mind about what the packaging looks like, but that one did appeal to me for that reason!

  3. I like the TreacleMoon range that I find at Tesco is cruelty free – so far I’ve only used the Bubble Baths and shower scrubs but I have their hand cream for when my current one runs out.
    I think that Palmer’s Cocoa Butter hand cream range is cruelty free as well – I know when I was looking for a mainstream lipbalm that was affordable and cruelty free their brand was the only one I could find.

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      I’ve used the TreacleMoon shower gels before but I didn’t know they did a hand cream! Thanks for the tip, I will look out for that one. I actually have a tube of the Palmer’s Cocoa Butter hand cream that I plan to use after I’ve used up my current one – it’s good to know that that one is cruelty free too.

  4. I love how in depth you went into talking about each product, especially with the ethics! And that’s so strange that the Glow Lab hand cream was labeled vegan but had keratin in it. Could it have been synthetic/vegan keratin, maybe? Awesome post!

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      Thank you! Yes it’s so confusing about the Glow Lab hand cream. In the FAQs section of their website it clearly states that the keratin is extracted from sheep’s wool – yet it still claims to be vegan!

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