Whether living on the streets, in shelters, B&Bs, their own homes, what little social housing there is left or hidden from the statisticians on friends’ sofas and floors, people all over Britain (13 million of them living below the poverty line) are finding it challenging, if not impossible, to stay clean – because the truth is almost anyone would prioritise eating over washing. More than half of families reliant on food banks say they can’t afford to buy toiletries. British girls from low-income families are missing days of school during their periods because they can’t afford sanitary protection. In some schools, teachers are bringing in sanitary supplies from home to ensure that female pupils won’t have to suffer the indignity of attending school unprotected. Workers on low incomes, many of them homeless, are visiting shelters for a hot shower and laundry facilities, to allow them to work with dignity and keep their jobs. Cuts to working benefits and other austerity measures, rising inflation and cuts in free school-meal provision mean that the problem is unlikely to improve imminently. This isn’t something from a film; it isn’t happening somewhere far away. This is happening here, in Britain, right now.
It isn’t right, fair or good enough. 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. To feel clean is to feel better; to look good often makes us feel more able to face the day and the world. We know that toiletries and cosmetics have the ability to impact a human being’s self-esteem, pride, confidence and employment opportunity.
sanitary products, disposable razors, shampoo, shaving foam, shower gel, combs, hair bands, face wipes, hand gel, sunscreen, baby lotion, soap, face wash, spot cream, deodorant, moisturiser, Band-Aids, conditioner, lacquer, lotion.
Beyond the absolute essentials, like tampons and soap, we believe items like moisturiser, spot cream and a sharp razor can help support those in crisis who are looking for work, returning to education, suffering from poverty-associated mental-health difficulties or who are simply in need of the same sense of cleanliness and dignity taken for granted by the rest of us. The big beauty brands and their agencies are our first port of call – and we’ll take whatever we can beg, borrow or steal from them. But your help will be invaluable, too.
So, how can you get involved? Well, all those dinky hotel toiletries you hurriedly sweep up before check-out now have a purpose. You can chuck an extra box of tampons or towels in your Superdrug basket, or click for two tubes of toothpaste instead of one before checking out your online shopping cart. You can ask yourself if you’re ever really likely to use the hand soaps your aunt bought you for Christmas, or whether six shampoo bottles is an entirely wise use of bathroom space. As long as it’s unopened and going spare, we want it, because someone desperately needs i Beauty bank in Burgess Hill