Fighting hygiene poverty: how do ‘beauty banks’ help?

The majority of us don’t stop to think about the price of our daily essentials when it comes to stocking up on soaps, shampoo, and sanitary products. But for those living on the poverty line, it’s a different story. Fashion North investigates the impact that ever-growing ‘beauty banks’ are having on those living in need.

A large number of people across the UK are living on or below the poverty line and are often relying on the vast network of food banks for survival.

It is easy to understand that when you’re living off food donations from day-to-day, toiletries and personal hygiene, unfortunately, become a backseat luxury.

Women and young girls across the country are missing out on school and work opportunities to due poor personal hygiene and the lack of suitable sanitary products. It’s not right that they should be forced to go without.

The end of year stats reported that between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018, Trussel Trust’s network of food banks distributed 1,332,952 three days emergency food which was supplied to those living in austerity. This is a 13 per cent increase since the year before.

But whilst the need for emergency food supplies is well talked about, the same can’t be said for hygiene poverty.

The first beauty bank was set up in February 2018 by PR Jo Jones and journalist Sali Hughes in a bid to stop this silence and help people who are struggling. Providing people with essential hygiene and beauty products, encouraging people – both inside and outside the beauty community – collect toiletries to donate. These will be then distributed to those in need.


The demand for these services is there. Since the set-up of the first beauty bank, they have spread up and down the country. Both branches of the initial set-up and separate banks all with the same agenda.

According to a survey conducted by the charity In Kind Direct, in 2017 82 per cent of charities, who offered services similar to those delivered by beauty banks, reported a rise in demand for hygiene products and 79 per cent said that donated products helped alleviate poverty.

But what do these set-ups mean for those who rely on food and beauty banks to live?

Fashion North contacted some of the organisations who use beauty banks to support those in need, whether they be on the streets or living in homes with little to no budget, to find out how they benefitted the people they cater for.

Wise Steps are a wellbeing and social inclusion group from Meadowell, Newcastle, who offer support to people who are ‘economically inactive’ or unemployed, due to a wide variety of difficulties such as housing issues, debt, and mental health struggles.

They offer food and hygiene products as prizes for free activities to help prevent the social exclusion of people who are struggling.

Fashion North spoke to Tony Webster, a Wise Steps coach at the organisation to find out how they have benefited from donations given by beauty banks.

He said: “We have organised a couple of bingo and quiz mornings and thanks to donations we have been able to provide wonderful prizes for our participants.

“The cosmetics and toiletries the beauty banks have given us were massively appreciated by all. We could never have bought them ourselves and our participants wouldn’t otherwise, under any circumstances, have been able to afford them.”

Many of these charities, who offer support and guidance to those who are living in poverty, run practically entirely off donations. Making the idea of a beauty bank invaluable to them and their services.

Social support groups, like Wise Steps, aren’t the only ones who rely on donations. North East Homeless (NEH) also use donations from both food and beauty banks and local businesses in order to keep their services running.

NEH is a homeless support charity who offer aid to those living on the street. They take to the streets of Newcastle and Sunderland three nights a week to hand out supplies and guidance to people sleeping rough.

Supplies often include, hot and cold food and drink, shelter and fresh clothes. But, up until recently, there was a distinct lack of personal hygiene products.

Enter beauty banks. NEH use frequent donations from local beauty banks to distribute to those living on the streets and those newly homed.

Liz Jenkins, a founding member of NEH, also spoke to Fashion North about the positive impact they have had on those who receive the donations on a regular basis.

She said: “The beauty packs that NEH receive are amazing. The people who receive them feel special.

“Having various beauty products onto less fortunate ladies has enabled them to feel special again, to feel pretty again, to feel normal. This gives an individual their self-confidence back. A step to help them face the next day.”

It is without a doubt that the introduction of beauty banks is helping to elevate the hygiene poverty crisis. Giving people their own sense of personal hygiene and humanity back.

To keep these services afloat, beauty banks up and down the country are calling out for your donations that they will then distribute to those in desperate need.

This can be anything from sanitary products and soaps to hair brushes, wipes, roll on deodorants and make up.

How can you help?

If you’d like to make a donation to a Beauty Bank, whether it be the original set up or a local variation, it is important to ensure that products should be unopened and comply with the set health and safety rules of the Bank you’re giving them to.

If you’re wanting your donations to go to the original Beauty Bank, you can send them to this address.

Beauty Banks, c/o Jo Jones, The Communications Store, 2 Kensington Square, London, W8 5EP.

Or, you can buy the products on their website and make your donation that way.

However if you’d like to donate to an independent Bank, like the one we have set up here at Fashion North, contact them directly.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Looking for Something?