Mother-of-two Lizzy Hall launched the initiative last month to tackle ‘hygiene poverty’ among schoolchildren and has seen the idea take off rapidly.
The concept is similar to foodbanks, and Mrs Hall set up Beauty Bank Kent ‘because being clean isn’t a privilege, because girls shouldn’t miss school when they have their period and they can’t afford sanitary wear, because looking good makes us feel better’.
She told the Times: “I asked foodbanks like Nourish [in Tunbridge Wells and south Tonbridge] if they took in toiletries. They did, but only in dribs and drabs – and they get handed out very quickly.
“So I sent a WhatsApp plea to my friends and it went viral. Now I am creating new drop-off points every day.”
Jump-In trampoline park on Morley Roard, Andrew House Dental Practice on London Road and Angelfix hardware store on Quarry Hill Road became the first collection points in Tonbridge last weekend.
There are already locations at Café 1809 in Hildenborough and Edenbridge Leisure Centre, as well as six in Sevenoaks. Now Mrs Hall wants more drop-offs and volunteers to help with collections.
The charity In Kind Direct published statistics this summer which showed that one in three teachers nationwide are providing pupils with basic hygiene products such as toothpaste and soap.
Eight out of 10 primary school teachers said they had seen a rise in the number of children coming to school unwashed or not looking presentable in the last five years. Almost one in five [18 per cent] say they have to intervene every week.
“With little money to cover the cost of everyday essentials, some families are forced to choose between buying food or personal hygiene items,” said Mrs Hall.
“For many low-income families, especially those relying on food banks, hygiene is a luxury they can’t afford,” she added.
“Beauty Bank provides families living in need with toiletries that most of us take for granted, by encouraging the local community to donate.
The idea came to the Sevenoaks mum after watching Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake. “It really made an impact, seeing the woman go to the foodbank and then shoplift lots of tampons.
“We are not in the dark ages or a developing country. In what we perceive to be an affluent area, there is definitely a need, and though it’s not life and death – food is obviously more important – people are caught in a poverty trap. Nappies and tampons are expensive.
“Can you imagine being a girl that has to miss school because she’s got her period? Or a teenager with no access to shower gel and deodorant?”
In Kind Direct has found that Britons spend an average of £44.30 a month on maintaining or improving their personal appearance, with 18 to 24 year olds spending most at £63 on average.
A key area of need concerns periods, and a survey by the charity Plan International UK found that one in 10 girls or women aged 14 to 21 in Britain cannot afford sanitary towels or tampons.
Fourteen per cent have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a friend and 19 per cent have changed to a less suitable product because of cost.
Lucy Russell, Plan International’s Campaign Manager, said: “We welcome proposals and new ideas to help tackle the fact that for too many girls, dealing with their period each month is proving a tough challenge.
“Distributing products at school, including reusables, could play a role in ensuring that no girl struggles to afford sanitary wear.”
Beauty Bank Kent want products that are brand new, unused, in good condition and in date.
“To make this sustainable, we need people to think about using the points on their shop cards or taking advantage of three-for-two deals,” explains Mrs Hall.
“That’s the mentality I want to create. It doesn’t have to be a big expense, just drop an extra item into your shopping trolley.”
If you would like to create a drop-off point or donate toiletries, call 07816 659 055 or email email@example.com. There is an Amazon wishlist on the website beautybank-kent.com
PICTURE: CLEAN BREAK: Lizzy Hall packs toiletries before delivering them to the drop-off points