Poverty often defines an individual’s life, controlling their access to shelter, food and water. While more basic needs are the first we think of, the ability to obtain shampoo, sanitary towels and toothpaste can be what makes life worth living.
Never underestimate the power of feeling clean. Uncleanliness can lead to isolating oneself from the rest of society, due to the continuing stigma attached to homelessness and poverty. Many who are unable to complete simple hygiene routines, such as washing their hair or brushing their teeth, fear going to work or school thanks to ongoing judgement. A recent study by In Kind Direct has estimated that around 37% of the British population go without, or reduce their consumption of, hygiene essentials due to financial difficulties. By blocking access to hygiene, poverty dis-empowers individuals and takes away their sense of dignity. This is especially true for men or women who menstruate, as the shortage of hygienic sanitary items can result in infection, rashes and staining of their clothes.
That’s where Beauty Banks come in. Set up by Jo Jones and Sali Hughes, Beauty Banks is a U.K.-based project with an aim of providing hygiene and beauty items to both homeless women and those on the poverty line. It was Sali’s own brush with homelessness that inspired the move and she now promotes hygiene as a right. Writing in The Pool, Hyghes’ argues that “clean hair, skin and teeth are a right, not a privilege. Personal hygiene – while not a matter of life and death – is crucial for our dignity, self-respect, personal pride and mental health.”
The Beauty Banks will not be physical places, instead you simply post your donations to their address, where they then distribute your contributions to homeless shelters and food banks. If you want to donate then follow these steps:
- Collect any spare beauty and hygiene items (excluding nail polish, nail polish remover or perfume), or maybe even take a shopping trip to buy stuff in bulk if you feel up to it.
- Verify that your collection is entirely unopened. They cannot accept anything unsealed for sanitary reasons.
- Post your donation collection to: Beauty Banks, c/o Jo Jones, The Communications Store, 2 Kensington Square, London, W8 5EP.
Items that are most in demand include deodorant, shampoo, body wash, wipes, shaving foam or gel, razors, tampons or sanitary towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes and soap. You can also contribute by purchasing items from their Amazon Wishlist.
Photo: Benedic Belen