Hygiene poverty: how to set up a beauty bank in your salon

Hygiene poverty is a big issue in the UK and as a beauty salon owner I felt empowered to do something to help those in desperate situations in my home city Dundee in Scotland. People shouldn’t have to make a choice between feeding their family and buying themselves necessary hygiene and sanitary products.

The beauty industry can often be seen as empty and shallow but what we do brings confidence. Being clean is crucial for people’s dignity, self-confidence and mental health, so on November 8, 2018, my salon joined the Beauty Banks community to help make a difference, and have been ever since – even appearing on STV News to help raise awareness of the issue. 

I urge you to do the same. Here’s how to successfully set up a beauty bank in your salon. 

What are beauty banks and how can I get involved?

A lack of basic hygiene products and toiletries is currently a huge concern for charities that provide support to people in crisis, and being clean is a basic human right. Beauty Banks is a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to galvanise the beauty community to provide daily hygiene essentials, toiletries and personal care items to people living in serious poverty.

Beauty Banks have starter kits to get you going and will match you with charities in your area, meaning what's donated local, stays local. Your salon will be listed as a Public Beauty Spot – known as a donation point in a public space – where clients are invited to bring in items. You just need to make sure you have boxes on display in your reception area with the Beauty Banks signage on, as well as posters in the windo. 

What are the requirements for setting up a beauty bank?

Even though Beauty Banks will help you connect with charities, it’s worth contacting local services who you think would benefit from donations too. Each of the places I approached – Trussell Trust Foodbank, Action for Children, schools, refuges and homeless centres – were grateful for the help and advised me on the specific items that they needed, so I could make a particularly call out to the community if I needed too. 

However, the main items requested by charities are:

However, I also accept make-up and other personal care items, too. There’s no set schedule on when you need to drop the items off either – I drop the items to the charities or they collect them from the salon (sometimes once a week) – it’s a collaborative relationship.

What are the challenges of setting up a beauty bank?

Being involved in the local community in this way is highly rewarding but it does come with some small challenges. On occasion, I’ve received items from well-meaning people that are opened or used, but because of health and safety we can only accept items in an unused condition. 

When I receive a used item, I try to recycle it in an eco-friendly way so that at least it’s disposed of sustainably. Although this does take up more of my time, I feel that the work I do has a more positive impact on the environment by diverting even more goods that might otherwise go to waste as landfill.

How can I get clients to donate?

To encourage our clients to get involved I sent an email to our database announcing our launch and inviting them to come along to the salon to find out more and drop in items. I also post regularly about the banks on our social media channels and website.

All of a sudden people were turning up at the salon with donations – some clearing out their cupboards of unused products or others picking up an extra bar of soap on their weekly shop and dropping it in when coming in for their appointment. 

I’ve worked in the beauty industry since 1992 and I’ve loved every moment, but this has definitely been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. 

Jennifer Comiskey (pictured above) is owner of The Sunflower Room in Dundee, Scotland, which has had a Beauty Bank set-up in salon since 2018. 

Park Royal Hotel in Warrington has also launched a Beauty Bank initiative to help tackle hygiene poverty in the UK