Look on the back of your plastic bottle of body wash and the first ingredient you’ll likely see is water—but for a new body wash by personal-care brand Plus, you add the water yourself to a dehydrated square that, once wet, turns into foam. Instead of being packaged in a plastic bottle, that body wash comes in a sachet made of wood pulp that you can drop on the floor of your shower when you’re done. It will completely dissolve down the drain.
“The idea of 100% dissolvable packaging—that you hop in the shower with something and it disappears by the time you’re done getting clean—was something that we felt has the potential to get people really excited about making a better choice in the shower,” says Plus cofounder and CEO Cathryn Woodruff. Woodruff, who previously worked for chickpea pasta company Banza, started Plus with Julie Schott and Brian Bordainick, who together founded skincare company Starface.
Plus aims to solve two main problems with conventional body washes: the environmental costs of shipping water, and single-use plastic packaging. Plus is aimed at consumers who don’t want to use bars of soap for a variety of reasons. Soap bars are also heavier to ship than the Plus sheets, Schott notes, which are “virtually weightless, so it’s like mailing a letter.”
Before creating Starface, Schott was a beauty editor at Elle where she says she saw the “astronomical amount of waste” generated by the beauty and personal-care industry, and where she also first learned of the trend toward waterless products. Waterless products have expanded beyond beauty to brands like Forgo, which created a just-add-water powdered hand soap, and Blueland, which turned cleaning products into tablets you can mix with water at home.
Some products, especially in acne care, like with Starface, can’t be waterless, Schott says, but body wash can. According to Plus, its body wash uses 38% less water than traditional bottled washes, and without that weight or the plastic packaging, results in 80% fewer carbon emissions from shipping. Plus will also offset 110% of its emissions by partnering with Pachama for reforestation projects.
Because the Plus packaging dissolves in water (the text on the sachets is printed with water-based, FDA-approved dissolvable ink, and the wood pulp in the packaging is from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forests), it does require a bit of a learning curve. The company recommends consumers bring the full packet into the shower, opening it away from the stream of water, and start their shower with the body wash, so that wet hands or the water’s spray don’t compromise the product.
An order of Plus body wash contains 16 single-use sheets for $16.50—a higher price than other body washes, but one Plus says could come down. “As with any new innovation, especially in the sustainability space, there’s going to be a higher price tag on that, especially coming out of the gate,” Woodruff says. “But as we grow and scale, we’re very hyper-focused on how we can continue to make this more accessible over time.” Those sheets come in a bio-based zippered pouch that is backyard or industrially compostable, as is the mailer it’s shipped in.
Schott and Woodruff hope other brands start making more waterless products, and rethink their packaging, too. “What you receive when Plus arrives in the mail is shockingly minimal in contrast to what you receive from other personal-care brands,” Schott says. “Oftentimes you open the box, you’ve got packaging, you’ve got tissue, you might have a sheet of stickers, a notecard. It’s fun, but it’s waste.”