Think about the products in your bathroom — how many items are in single use plastic packaging? What happens to that packaging? Personal care brand by Humankind is on a mission to reduce plastic waste with its reusable and refillable natural products.

We reviewed by Humankind’s mouthwash and deodorant to see 1) if they work and 2) if they are eco-friendly.

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How does by Humankind Work?

Ordering from by Humankind is fun and different from most online retail platforms. It’s like choose your own adventure meets e-commerce.

First, you pick a product; then a container color; then a flavor or scent and a refill frequency. Finally, they suggest add-ons, in which case the adventure starts over for a new product!

I chose:

With free shipping my grand total was $22 for what could be the last mouthwash and deodorant containers I ever pay for.

The refills are the same price — $12 for a new deodorant cartridge and $10 for 60 mouthwash tablets — with up to a 20% discount for ordering multiple refills at a time.

Their other products include body wash, cotton swabs, conditioner, hand soup and shampoo.

Do Mouthwash Tablets Work?

The mouthwash is delightful.

Seriously, how great is ginger flavored mouthwash? Plus, you get to mix it up and watch it fizz like a mad scientists… and it only took me three tries to get the formula right! (Pro Tip: There is a 20 ml line on the reusable container that takes all the guesswork out of measuring 20 ml of warm water. Science!)

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20 ml of Ginger Moutwash, ready to go! Photo by the author.

However, my moment of mouthwash-zen nearly came crashing down after my wife asked “is that actually cleaning your teeth?”

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have an answer. I just dove right in without asking, and so did these other reviewers.

On the product page, by Humandkind says the mouthwash provides a “quality clean” and “balances your mouth’s pH,” but what does that even mean? What constitutes a quality clean and what pH is should my mouth be at?

To answer these questions, I called in the big guns: my uncle the dentist. Uncle Dentist (not his real name) told me to look for the following:

  • Fluoride. With nearly four decades of practice under his belt, Uncle Dentist is firmly on Team Fluoride.
  • A neutral or alkaline pH level (7 or greater) allows saliva to naturally re-enamel teeth.
  • Simple, minimal ingredients. Extensive ingredients and bold claims should be a red flag, not a source of comfort.

If you’re digging by Humankind, check out these Bath & Body products in the Emeraldology Shop!

Does Uncle Dentist Approve by Humankind Mouthwash?

  • Well, it doesn’t have fluoride and that’s a bummer. However, you can get fluoride elsewhere, like in toothpaste, tap water or the dentist.
  • As for pH, by Humankind mouthwash has a pH of 7 — which is great! That backs up the “balances your mouth’s pH” claim.
  • As for ingredients, this mouthwash has six. All of them readable at an 8th grade level and most are naturally derived.

But what does it do?

The active ingredient in this mouthwash, as in many oral healthcare products, is baking soda. A by Humankind spokesperson shared this article from The Journal of the American Dental Association which summarizes the benefits of baking soda across many studies.

In short, baking soda has low abrasivity, so it’s safe for enamel. It also has whitening properties, strong links to “significant bactericidal activity against oral pathogens,” and it decreases the acidity of plaque fluids, making them less likely to cause decay.

So is it the most powerful mouthwash on the market? Not at all, but it does have verifiable cleaning power. by Humankind delivers on its promises for a quality clean and a neutral pH, without using harsh, synthetic chemicals to do so.

Combined with regular brushing and flossing, this mouthwash is Uncle Dentist approved.

Related: Can True Earth’s Platinum eco-laundry strips handle muddy dog towels?

by Humankind Deodorant Review

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A deodorant refill cartridge.

I don’t have an Uncle or Aunt Dermatologist, but I do have a wife that’s not afraid to tell me when I stink.

And I’ll be honest, there were a few instances in the first couple of weeks that this deodorant didn’t hold up.

However, according to by Humankind, that’s normal. In fact, on the product page, it says “If switching from an antiperspirant, give your body a couple weeks to cleanse out toxins and adjust to our aluminum-free formula.”

Unlike antiperspirant — which is required by the FDA to contain aluminum or parabens to be labelled as such — this deodorant is made only from naturally derived ingredients.

In fact, by Humankind claims it’s so natural you could eat it. Unfortunately I already rubbed it on my armpits, so I won’t be putting that claim to the test.

After using it for a few weeks its performance significantly improved. I am noticeably less smelly after running with the dog or working in the garden. Now that my body is on board, I’m a big fan of this product’s natural ingredients and fresh eucalyptus scent.

I also take comfort in the fact that my deodorant scent is an actual thing instead of a marketing ploy like Old Spice’s “After Hours,” “Krakengard” and “Bearglove.”

I mean, what the hell is a Bearglove and what goes into a product to make it smell like that? Do I even want to smell like a “Krakengard?”

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Why go plastic free?

You probably hear something about it every day. The Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of 259,781 baby Stegosauruses put together or two million times the size of the ninth biggest building in Dover, Delware. These are made up numbers, but you get the point. The plastic crisis has grown beyond practical means of measurement and it’s only expected to get worse.

by Humankind claims 28,000 tons of single-use plastic enter our oceans everyday. In fact, it says so right on their compostable packaging. They also point out online that only 9% of worldwide plastic actually gets recycled.

I’ll go a step further and say recycling is the biggest greenwashing campaign of our time. It obviously isn’t working, and it’s giving the fossil fuel industry and plastic producers societal license to continue pumping out single use plastics without taking any responsibility for their mess. (By the way, did you know it literally rains plastic now?)

So what’s the solution? Avoiding plastic packaging altogether.

Bottom Line

There’s a lot to like about by Humankind, most notably its efforts to combat plastic pollution while offsetting its carbon emissions. There is no doubt that this company and its products are Earth-friendly, and I take comfort in that.

However, by Humankind faces the same familiar hurdles as other Earth-friendly companies: performance and cost. Let’s be honest, unless it comes with a Chipotle burrito, a $12 stick of deodorant better work pretty damn well to attract customers that aren’t concerned with natural ingredients and zero waste. The same goes for a sixteen-cents-per-swish mouthwash, although I’d argue this one performs quite well.

What makes by Humankind — and natural, waste-free companies in general — worth supporting is its commitment to the well-being of its customers and planet. Sure, the mouthwash doesn’t claim to kill 99.99% of bacteria, but there’s nothing harmful or misleading about it. And the deodorant takes some adjusting, but it doesn’t contain ingredients with ties to cancer.

These products might cost a little more, but those few extra dollars spread pretty thin in the time between refills, and they go to a carbon neutral company that is legitimately concerned about the health of the planet. Can you say the same about Procter and Gamble or the other personal product conglomerates pumping out single use plastics?

Feature photo: A by Humankind mouthwash kit. All photos copyright Emeraldology 2020.