Hygiene poverty, or the inability to afford everyday hygiene or personal grooming products due to low income, is an aspect of living in poverty that people often overlook. In the United Kingdom, hygiene poverty impacts one-fifth of citizens, according to a Canterbury Hub article published in 2020. To help people fight hygiene poverty, journalist Sali Hughes and beauty director Jo Jones teamed up to create the Beauty Banks nonprofit. Beauty Banks combats hygiene poverty by delivering toiletries to women’s refuge centers, homeless shelters and food banks across the U.K.
The Many Faces of Hygiene Poverty
Faced with the difficult decision of choosing between necessities, many people living in poverty prioritize needs such as food or heating their homes over hygiene products.
Hygiene poverty generally refers to an inability to afford hygiene or grooming products, but hygiene poverty takes many forms. For instance, a person living in hygiene poverty may be unable to afford:
- Washing their hair
- Cleaning their dirty clothes
- Changing their baby’s diaper
- Replacing their toothbrush
- Obtaining menstrual products
The Downside of Hygiene Poverty
People living in hygiene poverty often face judgment from others about the appearance of their body, clothes, home and more. In addition, the health impact of living in hygiene poverty can be severe. In the U.K., for example, the top reason for the hospitalization of children ages 5 to 9 is tooth decay, according to a 2018 statistic. More broadly, poor hygiene increases susceptibility to illnesses, such as influenza, and hygiene-related health conditions, such as lice infestations.
The Creation of Beauty Banks
To fight against hygiene poverty, journalist Sali Hughes and beauty director Jo Jones launched Beauty Banks on February 14, 2018. Hughes, who previously wrote about her experience as a “hidden homeless,” was inspired to start Beauty Banks after participating in a “Sleep Out” for the homeless organization Centrepoint in 2017. Meanwhile, Jones found inspiration in the number of toiletry products going to waste. Subsequently, Hughes and Jones leveraged their resources in the beauty industry to create Beauty Banks.
With the help of brands, retailers and the beauty community, Beauty Banks combats hygiene poverty by collecting and sending “unwanted toiletries for both men and women” to several locations across the U.K. These locations include food banks, homeless shelters and a women’s refuge center.
Beauty Banks seeks out essential toiletries, such as deodorant, shaving cream, shampoo, soap, baby wipes and toothbrushes. Even further, Beauty Banks combats hygiene poverty with particular attention to women. For example, after seeing more reports of period poverty giving rise to girls in the U.K. choosing to miss school because they cannot afford menstrual products, Hughes and Jones began to prioritize period products as well. “The thought of not being able to buy something you absolutely need to protect yourself during your period, it’s such a stark reality most of us don’t consider,” remarked Hughes in a 2018 BBC News article.
Beauty Banks combats hygiene poverty by providing the essentials and giving much-needed attention to those living in hygiene poverty. Fortunately, Hughes and Jones have used their experience and expertise to develop a viable solution to combating a problem that has gone unnoticed for too long.
– Sarah DiLuzio
Photo: Wikipedia Commons