Meet the initiative getting beauty and sanitary products to women in need

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  • A new organisation is collecting tampons, deodorant, toothpaste, soap – things many of us take for granted – and distributing them to women in need. So how does it work and, more importantly, how can you get involved?

    Uncomfortable cramps, underlying health conditions and the tampon tax aside, most of us are lucky enough to say that our periods are pretty fuss-free; we’ll reach for menstrual protection without even batting an eyelid.

    But for some, those items are a luxury and a privilege rather than part of everyday life – and one that they don’t have access to.

    13 million people in the UK live below the poverty line and, according to gynaecologist Dr Anita Mitra, who runs female health blog Gynae Geek, roughly 10% of girls aged 14-21 can’t afford to buy sanitary towels or tampons.

    When you consider that an estimated 68,000 women live in temporary accommodation, shelters or sleep on the streets, those statistics become even more sobering. Fortunately, you can do something to help thanks to a newly-founded charitable initiative.

    Beauty Banks, founded by beauty expert and journalist Sali Hughes and Jo Jones of The Communications Store, aims to reduce ‘hygiene poverty’ by getting products to people who go without. Those in need often have to prioritise food over basic toiletries, because having both isn’t an option.

    ‘It wasn’t really one thing, but more a series of things,’ Jo said of the inspiration behind the initiative. ‘I know teachers who bring in sanitary protection for their students to avoid them skipping school, and from food banks I’ve learnt that families and individuals have to de-prioritise toiletries for food – because there’s no choice.

    ‘Coupled with Sali’s work with the homeless, where it became clear that hygiene products and access to basic beauty essentials would make a huge difference to people’s lives, this made us want to do something – anything.

    ‘Sali has done so much amazing work with homeless charities and I went visiting schools and food banks to see where the need was. The demand for basic toiletries overwhelmed us both, so we made connections with individual shelters and food banks who we will now serve with our donations.’

    Having decided on a name and been designed a logo by Lauren Alexa (AKA Instagram’s @topshelfieillustrated), they got to work. Armed with a host of contacts from 40 years of work in the beauty industry between them, the two are now ‘hustling’ to ramp up donations of unused beauty and hygiene products.

    Having set up a shoppable Amazon Wishlist, they’ve already had an amazing response:

    ‘The generosity of people is just mind-blowing and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, which is great,’ Jo added. ‘People are just brilliant, they really are.

    ‘Gathering product is only part of the solution – the other is sorting it out and packaging it up so that when it reaches our distribution partners (we have five so far, including Trussell Trust Food Banks and First Days), they don’t have to spend all their time and energy sorting it out.’

    Donations of unopened beauty products can be sent to Beauty Banks c/o Jo Jones, The Communications Store, 2 Kensington Square, London W8 5EP, or you can have an order shipped directly to the address.

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