Sunday, 21 August 2016
A s much as I prefer using brands that are from a little closer to home, I must admit I haven’t experienced very many independent, cruelty free brands from elsewhere in Europe. Neve Cosmetics – an Italian brand – was probably the only one until the lovely people at Avril got in touch with me. Avril is a French cosmetics brand that aims to make organic beauty products that are affordable for everyone. Their products are cruelty free and 95% of their total ingredients are natural or of a natural origin, and a minimum of 10% of those are organic. They also contain no parabens, silicones and artificial fragrances. Not all of their products are vegan, however Avril’s website is extremely helpful and has a section specifically for their vegan products to make browsing easier for vegan customers.
They even try to reduce all of their packaging down to the bare minimum, and as usual I must say, I really love the minimalist look for product packaging. (If you’ve read some of my other reviews you’ll probably be bored of me reminding you of this.) All of their items are nicely coloured with a simple but appealing design, with no extra boxes. The only downside to the packaging is that, being a French brand, everything on the packaging is in French so I did need to keep checking back to the website every now and again. Anywho, how are their products? I’ve been trying out five different organic Avril beauty items* for the past several weeks and it’s about time I shared them with you!
The first item is their Day Cream for Dry & Sensitive Skin. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’ve been struggling a lot with my skin since it’s changed from combination to dry, and I’ve been trying to find a good heavier moisturiser to wear during the day that’s nourishing but not too… much. I’ve loved my shea butter – but it’s a bit heavy for day-to-day wear without giving it time to soak in – and I love my face oils too, but until now I didn’t have a traditional moisturiser in my rotation.
This contains several gentle but lovely ingredients like apricot kernel oil (it even smells of apricots!), chamomile water and organic shea butter. It’s easy to spread and soaks into the skin like a dream, and leaves it feeling hydrated and refreshed but not drowned in product. I do find I have to sometimes give it a shake or a few squeezes before using it just because liquid occasionally accumulates at the bottom and needs mixing in again, but it’s otherwise great and only costs €7. It’s a light daytime moisturiser that rivals some of the other way more expensive products I’ve tried in the past and, yeah, that apricot smell is pretty amazing.
Their Cleansing Gel is something that I was really intrigued to try because I’ve never used a gel cleanser before – usually I’ve only seen creams, liquids, oils and so on. This is another really gentle product that contains aloe vera and calendula, so it’s perfect for sensitive skin. If you’re thinking that it will be some kind of miracle product that will transform your skin then you might be a little let down, as it isn’t a ‘blow me away and fix my blackheads’ kind of cleanser, but it is only €5 and is a great morning cleanser that removes any excess dirt and oils and leaves a nice and soft, fresh base for my other skincare products and makeup. And, like the moisturiser, it also smells amazing!
The only makeup item I chose from Avril was their foundation in the lightest shade available, Clair. I’m not used to using oil-based foundations, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. This is a light coverage foundation that helps to even out your complexion and contains jojoba oil to nourish your skin. Because it’s so light coverage and because it’s oil based, this wouldn’t be a good foundation for people who prefer either full coverage or matte complexions, and folks with oily skin might also want to be cautious if thinking of trying this out. It does feel hydrating and does even out your skin tone though, so it’s a great foundation for those of us who prefer BB or CC creams and just want a more minimalist look. This has been one of my foundations of choice during summer when I don’t want a heavy base. It looks extremely natural on the skin (on me it creates a nice, dewy glow without looking oily) and lasts well throughout the day with a good setting powder or setting spray, and it’s only €8 for a 30ml bottle. Like many other brands, the shade range isn’t the best though, and I do need to lighten this one a little bit to actually get it to properly match my skin tone.
Usually I’m not nearly as excited by body care beauty products, but these next two items are the exception. These are the Avril Body Oil and Lavender & Orange Shower Gel and they’re now two of my favourite things to use in the evening. The body oil is a lightly perfumed combination of argan oil and sunflower oil and it’s a dry, non-greasy oil that melts into the skin right away and leaves it feeling really moisturised but without feeling slick and gross. Because oils tend to be much better for avoiding ingrown hairs when shaving, I particularly enjoy using this on my legs, normally just after shaving. The result is silky smooth legs with minimal bumps and sore patches (although with my skin being as ridiculously sensitive as it is, it doesn’t avoid them entirely.) 150ml of body oil is €8, which doesn’t seem like much product but you do tend to need much less oil to cover the same surface area as you would a traditional moisturiser, so it does tend to last longer.
The shower gel is another new favourite, and it’s so simple! From the ingredients list, it doesn’t seem quite as natural as some other shower gels on the market – the majority of the scent is natural perfume rather than purely essential oils as I’ve seen in some other products – but it does contain aloe and orange oil, and you get a 500ml bottle for just €6. The fragrance of this shower gel is delicate but noticeable and lingers on the skin for a while after, and it’s perfect for an evening shower thanks to the relaxing properties of lavender. I wouldn’t have thought orange would be the best match for lavender either, but the two work beautifully together and I look forward to using this every night before bed.
I’ve been using all of these products for several weeks now and I must say, I’m pretty impressed with Avril as a brand! The skincare products I’ve tried are super affordable and just as good as many more expensive products on the market, and the foundation is a great cruelty free option for folks looking for a new lighter coverage foundation. All of the products I’ve mentioned are also 100% vegan and are only a small selection of the vegan items available on their website! If you want to support a new independent, cruelty free European brand that maintains that natural and organic cosmetics should be affordable enough for everyone, I’d definitely recommend checking Avril out.
Have you tried any Avril products?
* This review is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however the product was sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.
Wednesday, 13 July 2016
A couple of years or so ago, I was hugely sceptical of using oils on your face. I knew the ‘science’ behind it – that they would generally hydrate your face enough to prevent it from producing excess oil, not break you out – but I guess I never fully believed it. When I finally did try out an oil product on my face though, I was hooked.
I’ve jumped at the chance to try a new face oil ever since, so when Ooh! or Oils of Heaven contacted me and asked if I’d like to try their Natural Cacay Anti-Aging Face Oil*, I was super excited to give it a go.
The name ‘cacay oil’ rang a bell for me, but I didn’t really know quite what it was or what it was made out of until I researched it. As it turns out, the cacay oil used in Ooh!'s face oil is harvested from wild cacay nuts in the Colombian jungle, and apparently contains more than 50% more vitamin E and twice the amount of linoleic acid than argan oil and 3 times the amount of retinol than rosehip oil. Each of those are commonly used ingredients in anti-aging products, so cacay oil must pack on hell of a punch, right?
The product I received is 100% Caryodendron Orinocense seed (cacay nut) oil, and I’m always thrilled to see that kind of level of natural purity from a product. It’s part of why I really love pure face oils; you know exactly what you’re putting on your face. It comes in a 30ml glass bottle with a glass pipette, which I really appreciate given that I’ve used some oils in the past that just come in a standard screw top, and let’s just say sometimes the bathroom ends up pretty oily… Anywho, the packaging is very simplistic and tasteful, and I like that all of their other products have the same matching label, but in varying colours depending on the particular product.
The oil is a very similar colour to something like sunflower or vegetable oil; a nice, clear golden yellow. What sets this apart from some of the other oils I’ve tried though, is the fact that it’s actually quite loose and light. It still feels like, well, an oil, but it leans much more on the liquid side when it comes to a nice oily viscosity. It isn’t thick or sticky and it doesn’t cling. It’s an easy to use little bottle and the dropper makes it quick, simply and fuss free to get the number of drops of product that you want.
This is described on the website as an odourless oil, but I wouldn’t quite say that. Personally, I can detect a slightly nutty scent when I apply it to my face, but it’s a subtle, fleeting scent that you don’t really smell again once it’s applied. I’ve been using either one or two drops of these morning and evening in place of a moisturiser as part of my regular skincare routine, and because it’s such a loose, dry oil it’s extremely easy to work with and blend all over your skin. One is likely enough product for most people, but if I’m feeling especially dry (as I’m prone to being these days) then I’ll use two drops, particularly at night.
What sets the Ooh! Oils of Heaven Natural Cacay Oil apart from other oils I’ve used in the past is how quick it is to absorb into my skin! While some oils I use (and my shea butter) will take quite a while to sink into the skin, I can apply this in the bathroom, go sort out my deodorant and hay fever tablets and then mere minutes later when I sit down to do my makeup my skin is prepped and ready for primer or foundation, with no oily residue whatsoever. As quick drying as it is though, my skin feels super hydrated and full of life after using it.
I’ve been using this oil for a few weeks now and so far I’m very, very impressed. It’s natural, light, hydrating and a little of it goes a long way. It’s also small enough to travel with, and I like that it’s a product I can use in both the morning and the evening so it saves me bringing two different moisturisers out and about with me. I can’t comment much on the anti-aging properties of it since it’s not exactly water from the fountain of youth and I’m not going to see results after such a short time, but my skin does feel fresher and plumper after using it so I’d like to think that it’s doing me a few favours in the long run!
You can find the Ooh! Oils of Heaven Natural Cacay Face Oil on their website and on the Love Lula website, too. It sells for £39 for a 30ml bottle, which might sound steep at first but honestly, this thing is going to last me for ages. As I said, I’ve been using it daily for weeks, and it doesn’t even look as though I’ve used any because 1-2 drops of product is all you need to fully moisturise your face all day or all night. On top of that, if you’re in the market for some anti-aging products, then compared to other oils it’s arguably a bit more beneficial to your skin thanks to the higher concretion of anti-aging vitamins and fatty acids found in it. So, as much of a cheapskate as I am, in the grand scheme of things I actually would be happy to repurchase this because not only is it going to last me quite a while, but I’m getting more than just a simple moisturiser out of it. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good moisturiser and it’s where I’m going to spend the extra money on out of all of my skincare routine steps.
The texture or viscosity or whatever of the Natural Cacay Oil also means it might be a good oil for people who have maybe struggled with other face oils in the past. It’s nourishing but doesn’t overwhelm the skin or sit there on it for ages, so if you’ve had issues with things like coconut oil or even argan or almond oil before, this might be a nice alternative for you. It is on the expensive side though, so if you’ve never used an oil on your face before, definitely try out something cheaper to see how you like it before spending the money on this! Oils of Heaven also have a three other face oil products – moringa, rosehip and argan – for only £19, so this might also be an option for you, although rosehip and argan oil can often be found cheaper elsewhere. I’ve never seen moringa oil before though, so I’m pretty intrigued by that one!
The real question though, is: did I go ‘ooh!’ when first trying the Ooh! cacay oil? The answer is yes. Yes I did.
And there you go.
* This review is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however the product was sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.
Sunday, 10 July 2016
I’ve discussed briefly my reasons for going vegan in the past, and as it’s nearly been a year since I officially made the switch, I thought it was about time I wrote a post detailing why I went vegan and why I still choose to be vegan. Interestingly, my reasons for wanting to stay vegan now are different to the reasons why I initially chose to become vegan, as over time and throughout my own soul-searching and research and chatting with other vegans, my views and opinions have shifted a wee bit throughout my vegan journey.
So, if you want to find out some of the reasons why I’m vegan, keep on reading!
GIVING UP ANIMAL PRODUCTS HAS EASED MY MEDICAL ISSUESPart of what initially triggered my slow transition into vegetarianism and then veganism was my ongoing struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Back when I used to eat it, meat and red meat in particular were serious trigger foods for me and would result in severe, uncomfortable bloating that would mean that I often had to plan meals with meat around whether or not I could go and lie down afterwards. I eventually gave up red meat, and all other animal products followed later.
For me, a vegan diet has essentially cut out all of the foods that my digestive system takes issue with. My bouts of bloating and symptoms of IBS are now few and far between, and are usually only triggered by stress and hormones as opposed to food, and although eating out as a vegan comes with its own challenges, I now no longer have to worry about carefully selecting items from a menu to make sure I don’t feel sick and in agony afterwards.
Note, also, that I did say my medical issues. Veganism isn’t a cure for health issues and IBS in particular can vary drastically from person to person, so what worked for me may not work for you if you’re thinking of trying a vegan diet to help ease your own digestive problems.
VEGANISM HAS IMPROVED MY PHYSICAL HEALTH & FITNESSOn top of helping me out with my IBS, switching to a vegan diet has contributed massively to my total body health. Now, this will not be the case for everyone – it’s a widespread myth that vegans are all skinny, toned and live of raw fruits and vegetables. Some vegans are, sure, but definitely not all of us, and vegans who are fussy eaters in particular can struggle with eating both healthily and ensuring that they’re getting all of the right nutrients from their diets. Choosing to switch to a vegan diet involves research and an awareness of nutrition and your body’s needs; you can live off Oreos and plain pasta and still be vegan, but that’s not a healthy or nutritious diet.
I have a hell of a lot more energy since going vegan than I ever used to when I was vegetarian or ate meat, and believe it or not I haven’t even had so much as a cold since before I went vegan, when previously I had been a bit sick on and off pretty much constantly. Because I enjoy almost all plant-based foods, my diet is varied but very low in processed sugars, fats and so on and I’m actually getting more iron, protein and so on now than I did before simply because I’m much more careful of what I’m eating to make sure I do get everything I need from my diet. I’ve been going to the gym regularly for the past year and a half or so, and stepping this up, combined with eating vegan, has resulted in muscle gain and fat loss despite eating a lot, not giving up treats and always eating when I’m hungry. In short, I feel amazing and it has had an effect on my physical appearance, too.
ANIMAL AGRICULTURE IS DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENTI had been toying with the idea of going vegan for a while, but what finally sealed the deal was learning about all of the environmental issues that are caused by animal agriculture. I watched a number of documentaries and started reading Farmageddon, and didn’t even have to finish the book before I had made up my mind and decided that I no longer want to contribute to the environmental destruction that animal agriculture causes.
Producing meat and animal products is a hugely resource-wasting industry; food that could go directly to people, instead goes to animals to produce only a fraction of the quantity in meat, dairy and eggs. Even the fishing industry is woefully inefficient; we assume that farmed fish, for example, must be more environmentally friendly but yet more fish still have to be caught wild or bred just to feed some of the other species of fish that we farm in order to eat. That’s not one but two links of a food chain that we have to catch or mass produce before we get the fish on our plates.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) (2003) states that, on average, it takes about 6kg of plant protein to produce just 1kg of animal protein and according to UNESCO (2010) “It takes over 15,000 litres of water to produce an average kilo of beef. This compares with around 1,200 litres for a kg of maize and 1800 for a kilo of wheat.” Logically speaking, a lot of time, effort and valuable resources are wasted to produce animal products compared to a vegan or even vegetarian diet.
Of course, it’s not just the illogicality of it, it’s the pollution and disruption it causes to the environment, too. Large farms filled with animals produce vast amounts of waste, which ultimately end up contaminating the natural world and causing ill health to people in the areas and who work there. Pig slurry is apparently far more polluting than raw domestic sewage, and animal agriculture is responsible for many environmental issues such as algal blooms.
Our planet can’t sustain our populations’ increasing desire for animal products, and as a lover of nature and our planet and as a person who appreciates the incomprehensible vastness of our universe and how lucky we are to even have our planet, I don’t believe it’s worth it.
WE DON’T NEED TO EXPLOIT OR KILL ANIMALS FOR FOODThe fact that there are so many vegetarians and vegans or even just people who live largely plant-based diets is living proof that biologically speaking, we as a species don’t all need meat or animal products to survive anymore. There may be some who have to continue eating meat, dairy etc. due to their own medical or dietary issues and of course location, accessibility, finance, mental health and so on are all factors that play into whether or not someone is able to be vegetarian or vegan too. But, having said that, there is no need to continue to consume animal products at the very high rate we’re doing it – science has already proven that the amount of meat and dairy that many people eat isn’t healthy, and that the vast majority of nutrients we need to survive can be found in plant-based foods and vegan alternatives.
Given that the amount of animal products we eat at the moment is detrimental to our health rather than improving it, and the fact that the vast majority of us don’t actually need them to live a healthy, happy life, it simply doesn’t make sense that we continue to increase demand for these things and continue to contribute to animal suffering and exploitation. If I can be fit and healthy eating beans and chickpeas and drinking almond milk instead of chowing down on pork and drinking milk, then why would I want to be contributing to pollution and for a pig to die and cows to suffer when there’s a perfectly reasonable alternative out there, instead?
Which leads me nicely into my next point…
EDUCATING YOURSELF BUT CHOOSING TO IGNORE THE FACTS IS SELFISHThis is likely a divisive point and it’s one that I’ve been mulling over and trying to get to grips with for quite a while. I didn’t initially feel this way when I became vegan – it was just the right choice for me at the time – but the more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I was unhappy with the idea that simply wanting to eat x over y absolves someone of the moral and ethical dilemma behind their diet. I fully respect that it is up to others to decide what they eat, however these days I find myself with less patience for people who have been educated, who are aware of how problematic these industries are, and yet consciously choose not to even reduce their meat and dairy intake. (Note that I say reduce – I don’t expect everyone to give up everything, because a mere reduction of these foods would still hugely contribute to environmental and animal welfare.)
I used to be okay with the argument that some people just choose to eat meat anyway ‘because it tastes nice’ and believed that that was a valid argument and they were entitled to their pleasure, but now, I’m not so sure. ‘Because it feels good’ is’t a valid argument to do harm to anything else, so why do we accept it when it comes to the harm caused by consuming animal products? If someone said so much as they squish bumblebees or beetles whenever they see them because they think it’s nice and they just like doing it, we’d find that awful and unjustifiable, but it’s okay to slaughter a pig or separate mother cows from their calves and exploit their bodies until they’re no longer useful because some people think bacon and milk are nice and they just like it. We challenge those who support bullfighting as a form of entertainment, condemning the justification ‘because it’s a cultural tradition and is fun to watch’ while we eat beef burgers made from stressed, scared, unhappy animals ‘because it’s just what you eat and it tastes good’.
Ignorance is understandable, and I get that. There are plenty of people out there who genuinely have no idea what really goes on in farms, or the scale to which animal agriculture threatens the natural world and the planet we live on. Facts like those are, conveniently for the industry, hard to come by during everyday life. Even environmental organisations find it easier to preach environmental friendliness by encouraging people to give up their cars instead of giving up meat or dairy, despite the fact that the latter contributes to more greenhouse gases than the entire transport sector. But if you’re aware of the problem and you’re able to contribute even just a little to trying to end it; if you’ve seen the videos of animal cruelty, if you’ve read the facts, seen the documentaries or even just know that you feel uncomfortable with the idea an animal dying for your food, and yet still don’t want to even think about reducing your intake of animal produce ‘because it tastes nice’ then, well, as defensive as it can make people, that’s the very definition of selfish.
There are a lot of other reasons to be vegan out there, these are only a few of mine and I hope they’ve been a good read or if nothing else, given you something to think about. There are a lot of reasons to go vegetarian or vegan that I am still coming to terms with myself – for example, I still don’t consider myself ‘vegan for the animals’; I’m an environmental vegan because my first and most important goal (beyond not being cramped and bloated all the time, that is) is to reduce the harmful impact I have on our planet. My views are still constantly shifting though, and I find myself more and more leaning towards the ‘for the animals’ line of thinking, too, if only because I’ve come this far and I can’t justify to myself the decision to hurt or take a life for me to eat a meal anymore after going so long without.
Whether you’re trying to make a difference by reducing your animal product intake or you’ve given it up altogether, be kind to yourself and think carefully and critically about it. However you’re doing it and whatever the reasons, it’s a long journey and we’re all bound to make mistakes and to evolve along the way!
If you’re veggie or vegan too, what are your top reasons for making the change? And if you’re not, what are your thoughts?
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
I’ve seen some reviews say that they weren’t impressed by the packaging and that it was one of their least favourite things about this range, and I really don’t get it! Maybe it’s just the minimalist in me, but the pastel colours and very simple logos really appeal to me and were what first made me look at them when browsing the Superdrug website.
AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cream Cleanser. This is described as having a rich but gentle formula that removes residual makeup and impurities and leaves skin clearer, softer and brighter. I’m starting to run out of my usual cream cleanser, so I thought this might be a nice alternative with some added oomph to keep my pores clear.
The packaging is a very simple tube, and costs a mere £3.69 for 150ml. It recommends using a cotton pad to apply a small amount of this to the face (avoiding the eye area) and to then repeatedly wipe it away until all of the product is gone, but I prefer to massage it into my face with my fingers and then wash it away with some warm water and pat dry. I’ve been using this in place of my morning cleanser for a couple of months now and I’ve been pretty impressed with it. I just use gentler, cream cleansers in the morning to wash away any oils that accumulated overnight, rather than doing a proper morning cleansing ritual, and this does the job of cleaning my skin up and does seem to have a pore cleansing and tightening effect that other higher end BHA/AHA products promise but haven’t always delivered on for me.
Perhaps the only downside to this is that it does smell a bit cheap and chemically; it reminds me of some of the cheap, old school beauty products my mum used to use in the early nineties. That aside, I’m happy to keep using this baby.
Hydrating Booster Serum. This is a creamy serum that comes in a plastic bottle with a pump, and is £4.89 for 50ml. Among other things, this contains salicylic and hyaluronic acid and is designed to provide deep hydration, fight blemishes, excess oils and help to tighten pores and fine lines. It also promises to help mattify the skin and control oil and sebum production throughout the day, so is supposedly great for staying glowy without looking like an oil slick at the end of the day.
Paired with the other products this, again, seems to be helping my skin. It doesn’t quite do all of the miracles it boasts – apparently I’m supposed to look brighter and more radiant as soon as I slap it on, which I can’t say I do – but it has helped to keep my skin hydrated and under control throughout the day. Over the past few months I’ve been battling with my skin type changing from combination to dry, and this has helped me to strike a great balance between being moisturised but not so moisturised that I end up too oily combined with my other hydrating products. I use a face oil and/or shea butter as well as using this serum, so I haven’t noticed any mattifying effects (and wouldn’t want any as I prefer a dewy finish these days) but my face does seem to produce a little less oil while staying bright and hydrated, and my base makeup seems to move around a little less since I’ve started using this.
Resurfacing Night Serum. This is another one that claims to be both anti-blemish, youth-boosting, and anti-shine, but this serum is particularly designed to nourish, replenish and refine your skin’s texture while you sleep. As incredibly affordable as the other products, this is also £4.89 for 50ml and comes in a bottle with a handy dropper. Compared to the day serum, this has a much looser, more viscous consistency that’s almost a cross between a cream and an oil and, well, I’ll be totally honest and say it totally looks like semen.
The instructions say to use two to three drops onto the back of your hand, then to massage it into the skin in circular motions using your fingertips until full absorbed. I’ve been using this every night, followed by a moisturiser, for a few weeks as part of my new skincare regime and I’ve noticed quite a big difference. My skin looks not only hydrated, but glowing and plump when I wake up in the morning, and my blackheads and pores – although not gone by any means – have been much more manageable and under my control.
Retexturising Glycolic Peel Off Mask. This is a mask for using once or twice a week, and promises to clarify and purify the skin for a more radiant complexion. It’s a very unusual mask compared to others that I’ve tried in the past – the texture is quite sticky and you need to use quite a lot of product to create a thick enough layer to actually peel off. After leaving it on for ten to fifteen minutes until it’s no longer tacky, you’re then supposed to be able to peel it off your face but I often find I can only peel off pieces and then have to rub or wash off the rest, which is a bit of a pain.
This is probably the only one of the range that I’ve tried that I’ve not really thought ‘oh wow I need to repurchase this’. It does seem to leave my skin feeling that little bit brighter and more refreshed, but I haven’t noticed as much of a difference using this as I have with the cleanser and serums. Plus, the faff of applying it and taking it off again means that although it’s an okay mask to use, I tend to reach for one of my others instead just because they’re easier to deal with.
This is another one that’s affordable at £4.89 for 50ml, but I’m doubtful that it will last me nearly as long as the serums just because I seem to have to use quite a lot of it to layer it on thick enough to peel off again!
I really, really like most of these products. I’ve been using the cleanser for the longest, followed by the night serum, and these two in particular are the stars of the show for me, though I’ve enjoyed and been seeing a positive difference from the day serum too. After trying these out, I don’t think I’m going to bother repurchasing my high end chemical exfoliater because, well, these are about a fifth of the price and have been doing a much better job. The only one that I’m on the fence about and probably won’t be running off to buy again is the glycolic peel, but I’m going to reserve some of my judgement until I’ve at least finished the bottle and then see what I think then.
One possible negative that you may want to be aware of when purchasing these for yourself is that because all of them contain acids including lactic acid, if you don’t already then you’ll need to wear SPF the day of and after use as this can heighten your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Given that these are supposed to be anti-aging products, you don’t want to defeat the point by letting the sun damage and age your skin after using them!
Have you tried any of Superdrug’s Clearly Youthful products?
Sunday, 3 July 2016
Almost five years ago, I boarded a plane headed to Amsterdam, dashed through Schipol airport and boarded another bound for Kansai International Airport in Osaka. I sat in an aisle seat in a row of three, with an empty seat between me and a young Japanese woman – we smiled at each other and shared the empty seat to store our various bits and pieces. I think she borrowed a pen from me towards the end of the flight. When we landed, I was hit by a blast of hot, humid air and spent a long time waiting to go through customs. There were sniffer dogs and security and as usual, I felt nervous even though I had nothing to hide.
When I finally got through and began searching for my taxi I, I didn’t have a clue where to go and within seconds a kindly old man checked a map and walked with me to the right spot. The drive was a blur, and I arrived at my international dorm at around 11am. I remember seeing a group of other students on their way out – I got to know them a little better later, but they weren’t to become my close friends – and I was greeted with warm, open arms by the dorm managers, an older Japanese couple for whom we were their first batch of residents. It was nearly 40 degrees Celsius and they gave me hot green tea, and I worried that they were judging me for my tired, poor language skills. I can still recall being horribly aware of the sweat dripping off my top lip.
I don’t remember much of the dorm rules and the tour as explained to me by my floor’s I-House buddy, but I do remember not wasting any time and immediately making my way down to the supermarket for provisions. I got lost on my way back, and had to ask three separate people for directions. One was walking her terrier dog.
Pieces of my time in Kyoto are hazier now, but there are so many that I still remember with such clarity, as though it were only yesterday. I remember hanging out with a group of the girls for the first time in the early days, sitting on a not-so-comfy sofa with a pink throw on the seat cushions, looking at beauty magazines and laughing with the girl who would become my best friend, my soul mate. I remember communicating the words for ice to a dorm buddy on behalf of another soon-to-be good friend who’d been bitten by a mosquito and reacted badly to the bite.
The thought of the sights and smells around where I lived make my heart ache; even after all this time I could still retrace my route from the dorm to the university. I can still hear the evening chirps of cicadas and the roar of heavy rain on the metal bike shed roof outside my window. I can still see the cherry blossom petals being washed away by the river opposite our dorm, where I once saw a child excitedly exclaim: ‘It’s so high!’ as the abnormally swelling river thundered past after a sudden summer typhoon. I didn’t realise until months after typhoon season that ‘typhoon’ was another word for hurricane, and that we’d all been casually going about our usual business in the midst of several. Apparently there were earthquakes during my time there too, but I never noticed them.
The route to university took us through traditional-looking streets of homes and shops, where odours that I can barely sum up the words to describe often hung. Explaining a scent to someone who’s never experienced it is difficult, but I’d know those smells in an instant, and at times the steam and scent of good, pure green teas takes me back to those odours mingling with the sticky, summer air. Sometimes we would walk through a temple, one that I’ve since seen in fleeting moments on TV and yearned to return to. There was a house where an old man and his wise-looking golden retriever would often sit outside together, and would greet us every morning when we passed.
All of these things were my reality once, now they’re just natsukashii. Nostalgic, missed.
My year abroad wasn’t all a joyous one – my mental health made it as difficult a time as it was rewarding. I struggled with homesickness and depression, and after a cycling accident at the end of the year only days before I was to return home I feared what I would do if I wasn’t able to go back when I so desperately needed to. I was relieved to leave Japan behind me and breathed a sigh of relief when my plane took off. It took me a long time to reconcile with it, to let go of the bad experiences and the sadness and to embrace the hope and wonder and friendship I found there instead.
Nearly five years on, I think about going back often. I want to visit my dorm managers – who were so selfless and cared for all of us as if we were their own children. I want to visit the cute, little bakeries that I used to frequent; to hop on a train from Hanazono into Kyoto city centre; to find the beautiful, silent temple where we saw a feral cat in Kobe; to feel the crisp, early spring morning air of Miyajima at the crack of dawn. For all the struggles that I had there, for a time, it was my home. Gyoumu was the first thing to pop into my head when I thought of a supermarket, I always looked forward to my evening bath in our communal ofuro, my dorm room was what I pictured when I thought of home.
I met my best friend there – she once said that we leave a piece of ourselves in all of the places that we live.
Somewhere, lost in the streets of Kyoto, there’s a piece of me.