Monday, 13 February 2017

Review / Alchemy Oils Amla Hair Remedy

Alchemy Oils Amla Hair Remedy
For nearly the entirety of my teenage years I never made any major hair mistakes. I was one of those lucky kids who avoided totally ruining their hair or doing anything silly with products they didn’t quite understand how to use. The most out there I ever got was in my first year of university, when I dyed my hair a not-so-adventurous shade of black cherry red, until I finally decided to try and hop on board the pastel hair train a couple of years ago.

I had my black hair dye stripped out at a salon, was irritated with how average a job they did for an extortionate amount of money, and attempted to bleach the rest myself. I actually didn’t do too bad a job, but my problem is just bloody patience! After the fourth round of dying my roots and attempting to further lighten some of the stubborn patches, I just gave up and realised I was too lazy for super light hair. You’d feel the same if your hair was three times as thick as most other white gals and was three boxes and a full day’s commitment to bleach or dye.

My hair has almost recovered, with only an inch or so of chemically damaged hair left now, but I’ve been on a quest for products to strengthen and nourish my hair ever since. I came so close to having straw for hair, and I don’t want it to ever go back to that again. So far the only products I’ve sworn by are Paul Mitchell’s Super Strong range, and I’ve been keeping an eye out for treatments, oils and sprays that would help strengthen my hair and promote hair growth to use alongside it.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited when Alchemy Oils got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to try one of their products – what perfect timing! They’re a natural hair oil company, producing 100% vegan and cruelty free products that are free of parabens, harsh chemicals and other nasties. Their Amla Hair Remedy naturally caught my eye as it’s described as a ‘potent blend of 5 super oils to promote growth and strengthen hair’. Alchemy Oils can be used as hair and scalp treatments (just leave them on for 30+ minutes) or you can use only a little bit to run through your damp hair and style as normal for lustrous locks. The Amla Hair Remedy is heavier than their other hair product, the Grapefruit Hair Remedy, and is better suited to coarser and thicker hair as a styling product, so I figured it would probably be well-suited to mine.

To start, the packaging is rather lovely. They come in a pretty 100ml corked glass bottle (which lends itself well to the name as it looks like it would look right at home on a potion master or alchemist’s shelf) and is sturdy and hasn’t leaked even when I’ve accidently had it laying on its side for a couple of days. Being glass, the bottle is a little on the heavier side so isn’t necessarily ideal for travelling, but Alchemy Oils do also sell little travel-sized versions of their products too. The only major downside of the bottle is that the design does make it a little bit difficult to pour, and it’s easy to tilt it just a tad too much and end up with way more product than you wanted.

The smell of this oil is half the joy of using it – as well as argan, coconut, avocado, sesame and amla oil it also contains a bit of lemon essential oil which makes it delightfully refreshing to use. In terms of texture, it is a thicker, heavier oil so (as they suggest) it may not be better for thin or grease-prone hair, but for mine it’s been perfect. As a styling product, I use just a tiny amount or just dip my finger into the bottle, rub it all over my palms and fingers, and then work it into the length of my hair. On my hair, it doesn’t feel too oily and it adds a beautiful sheen (and scent!) while calming my frizz and helping to tame my hair in general.

I’ve been using the Amla Hair Remedy for a few weeks now in the ways that they suggest: I use this on my hair dry; use marginally more of the oil on my damp hair before my usual routine; and once a week or so I massage it into my roots and scalp, work it into the length and leave it as a mask for a couple of hours before I wash it out again. I have to say, I’ve seen a noticeable difference in how manageable my hair is. Particularly when my hair is shorter, if I go too long without having it trimmed and thinned out again, I run the risk of turning into a puffball and my volume and curls become impossible to keep tidy. Since using this, my hair has calmed right the hell down (even though I’m in dire need of a trim) and my curls and usual poofiness have softened, making it look sleeker, shiner and more like I’ve actually styled it.

In terms of how quickly it’s grown, it’s sort of difficult for me to judge because my hair has always tended to grow relatively quickly when it’s short compared to when it’s longer, but judging by how often I’ve been having to trim my undercut it’s been growing at least one to one and a half centimetres every three weeks or so. That could just be my hair’s natural rate of growth kickstarted by the Amla Remedy rather than purely the product but, well, even then that’s pretty impressive!

At £27 for 100mls it certainly isn’t cheap, but I’ve been using it for quite a while now at least twice a week to style and once a week or so as a treatment, and I’ve only gone through about a quarter of the bottle. Usually I am a little sceptical of more expensive products, but when it comes to haircare I don’t skimp. My big bottles of Paul Mitchell were £35+ each and my heat protectant spray was about £20 – when it comes to my hair, I’m just willing to invest and I will definitely be buying another bottle of this once mine runs out.

I’ve honestly been really surprised and thrilled with the condition that my hair has been in and the speed at which it’s been growing. I’ve finally found a hair product that not only makes a difference to my hair health and texture, but does so with purely natural ingredients to boot! If you’re interested in giving it a go yourself, you can buy the Amla Hair Remedy from Alchemy Oils’ website.  You can even use the code: thezombiesaid for an extra 10% off your order!

What are your favourite natural products to use on your hair?

Monday, 6 February 2017

Review / Barefoot SOS Dry + Sensitive Range

Barefoot SOS Dry + Sensitive
Not long after I wrote about my experiences with their Repair + Renew cleanser, I was asked if I’d be interested in trying out some of the products from their Dry + Sensitive line too. Given that especially during the winter months, my already sensitive skin is quite susceptible to dryness I thought I’d be a great test subject for seeing how some of their products perform!

My skin has been sensitive for as long as I can really remember, although it’s not nearly as bad as some folks’ skin – for example I don’t react to fragrances or have any allergies that I’m aware of. That said, I have always suffered from mild eczema, my face is prone to dry patches and I have to look after the skin that I shave very carefully or I end up plagued with all manner of rashes, razor burns and ingrown hairs.

Barefoot SOS’s Dry + Sensitive range is specifically formulated for anyone who suffers dry, uncomfortable, irritated or sensitive skin, especially those prone to eczema and psoriasis. Their products are supposed to have cooling and soothing benefits while being comfortable, moisturising and delivering protection from the environment and free radicals.

Their Daily Rich Body Lotion* is a nourishing moisturiser that can be used all over the body to provide hydration for dry, sensitive skin. It’s fast absorbing and pleasantly scented without having an over-bearing, unnatural fragrance to it. I’ve been using this every day for a while now on my upper arms as they’re where I tend to get patches of flaky skin, and while this product alone did not make them vanish it helped to reduce them and their itchiness significantly. Half of the moth on my arm tattoo was covered in dry patches but there’s now only a couple of half centimetre-sized spots that insist on sticking around.

This is an easy, thicker lotion to apply with good benefits and I’ve been enjoying using it – the only thing that I’m perhaps not a fan of is that it’s £11 for a 100ml tube, and while the price itself doesn’t necessarily put me off, I would much rather see a bigger size for an all-over body lotion. If I were to use this on my legs (which would probably benefit from it as the skin is so sensitive) I feel like I’d blow through the whole tube in less than a couple of weeks!

The next product I’ve been using is the Soothing Face & Body Wash*, which has been a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t sure what to expect as generally washes that can be used on body and face, or body and hair, tend not to be the best for your skin, to say the least. Essentially, this is a cream cleanser that can be used to wash either your body or as a facial cleanser and I’ve been using it as both.

During my shower at the end of the day, I’ve been using this cleanse my body all over and then using a little bit product with a muslin cloth to gently cleanse and exfoliate my face, too. It has a silky texture and is SLS free so doesn’t foam – to be expected for a facial cleanser, but it’s an odd sensation for a body wash as most associate a foamy cleanser with a good clean. Having said that though, my skin seems to enjoy it and it feels as though my body retains much more moisture post-shower when I use this vs my traditional body washes.

Just because it’s gentle doesn’t mean it doesn’t clean you properly either; I frequently use this after extremely sweaty and intense gym sessions, and this removes sweat and odour just as effectively as any other body wash but with the added benefits of conditioning and soothing your skin at the same time. This is even gentle enough to be used to bathe babies and kids with sensitive skin.

The face and body wash is £16 for 200ml of product, which seems more money than usual for the same amount of body wash but at the same time, is a bargain for a cream cleanser as I very rarely see any face cleansers or washes this generously-sized.  So, I guess it depends on how you intend to use it whether or not it’s worth the cash.

The last product I’ve been testing out is their award-winning Face & Body Rescue Cream*, which comes in three different sizes: 25ml for £5.95, 50ml for £10.50 and 100ml for £18. This is a much more intensive moisturiser than the Daily Body Lotion. although the texture is very similar, and can also be applied to problem skin on the face.

This is advertised as helping to control patches of eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis; provide extra moisture for dry elbows and knees, hydrate sun- and wind-damaged skin and help to soothe allergic flare-ups. It’s a thicker formula than the daily lotion, and has a soft, chamomile-y fragrance.

I’ve used this quite a few times on my entire face overnight as well as more frequently on specific patches of dry skin, and it pretty much does what it says on the tin! Again, like the Daily Body Lotion, it doesn’t magically zap away your eczema, but it’s nonetheless extremely helpful at keeping dryness under control. Those last remaining patches of eczema I mentioned were further reduced when I started using this on it, and they now feel much less tight and irritated even if they didn’t totally disappear.

This has also been a pleasure to use on my face every now and again, because it’s so hydrating but gentle enough that it doesn’t over-moisturise or bother my sensitive skin. This is a new favourite I’ve added to my little collection of dry skin saviours, and is perfect for whipping out on those days when your face is tight and getting a lil’ flaky; it pretty much fixes the problem for me overnight. I will definitely be taking this to save my skin from the nasty, dry, aeroplane air when I’m on my long haul flight next week!

Barefoot SOS Dry + Sensitive Cruelty Free & Vegan

I’m pleased to have found some sensitive skin products that not only seem to help my eczema patches without the need for a prescription, but they’re also cruelty free and vegan to boot which is seems to be a rarity for things that actually help with long term skin issues. My issues with eczema are only mild though, so if you suffer very badly from eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis then the severity of your condition vs mine might mean your experiences with these products are different. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as a range that will solve all of your problems and make your ailments disappear (they didn’t cure mine and I’m also not a medic; always consult your GP and use their recommendations for serious conditions), but it may be worth a try and, if nothing else, they might be great gentle products that compliment any prescription treatments you use for your sensitive skin.

For me and my own dry and sensitive skin at least, I’ve definitely noticed a positive difference and will continue to use the face and body wash in particular as I’ve never had the pleasure of using an SLS-free, sensitive body wash before. The fact that it can double up as a face wash also makes it a perfect space-saver for travelling, and I fully intend to bring it with my on holiday! In addition to these three products, you can also buy Dry + Sensitive hand cream and Dry Scalp Treatment Shampoo and Conditioner, the latter of which I’ve decided I’d love to try out next since I also suffer from a dry and flaky scalp.

Have you tried any of Barefoot SOS’s products? What are your cruelty free recommendations for sensitive skin?

* 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, 29 January 2017

My Current Morning Skincare Routine

I didn’t get super into skincare until probably two or three years ago; until then I was just using whatever was cheap and didn’t break me out, with no real understanding of the importance of good products and the benefits that certain ingredients might have for my skin. I’ve always been relatively lucky in that respect I suppose, as I’ve never had any major skin-related issues (until my more recent battles with dryness and the army of blackheads taking over my face) and therefore no need to invest more time into researching how to care for it.

Nowadays though, I try to look after my face as well as I look after the rest of my body, and the changes I’ve experienced in my skin type have definitely been partly responsible for giving me a kick up the arse to start doing so. The rest is just down to investing in the future of my face, I suppose! Given that I blog a lot about individual products and have never actually shared any of my skincare routines before, I thought I may as well start writing skincare posts every now and again and keep you up to date with what products I’m using and why I like them.

My morning skincare routine is much quicker and more basic than my evening routines (which can sometimes include multiple scrubs, masks and treatments depending on how I’m feeling) since I wake up every morning for work at 5:50 and need to be out of the house by about 6:30. Time is of the essence for me in the mornings, so I currently only have 5 easy-to-apply products that I use on the daily at the moment...

I wrote a full review of this product that you can check out here, so I won’t go into too much detail, but this is a beautifully light, refreshing cream cleanser that contains restorative and anti-aging ingredients. I don’t go for full on face washes in the morning because a.) lathering up, scrubbing down, washing off and drying my face takes up too many of my valuable morning seconds and b.) the facial oils and dead skin cells that build up overnight are easily handled using gentler, cream or gel cleansers.

I use just over a pea-sized amount of this, massage it gently all over my face and then quickly rinse it off and pat dry, then move on to the next step feeling cleansed without feeling stripped of moisture.

I’ve been using PHB Ethical Beauty’s products for about three or four years now and this toner has been one of my staples ever since I first bought it. This is designed for sensitive skin, is alcohol and oil free and helps to calm redness and irritation and improve skin tone. As with all of PHB’s products, it’s vegan, halal, cruelty free, organic and made in the UK.

I’ve swapped toners a few times, but I always end up coming back to this one as it’s my ol’ reliable and I can always count on it to do what I want it to do and to also sooth my skin. I use a spritz of this on a cotton pad to apply it, or spray it directly over my face, and it can also be used as a refreshing mist throughout the day over makeup.

I had never been that bothered by eye creams until last year when I realised that I’m finally starting to develop tiny, fine lines under my eyes and figured it’s about time I started targeting that area of my face. Until recently, I had always just tried budget options but when I was given the opportunity to try some REN products without breaking my own bank account I thought hey, why not?

As it turns out, I really love this eye cream. Like every other anti-aging product it boasts dramatic benefits such as instant, visible tightening of the eye area and no, also like every other anti-aging product it doesn’t work miracles. It does however leave my eyes feeling a little bit firmer and very hydrated without feeling oily or interfering with my eye makeup, and I have high hopes for it after long term use. The instructions say to use one pump but honestly, I use barely half of a pump and that’s plenty for my eyes so it goes much further than expected.

Note: REN was acquired by Unilever late last year so although I’m not aware of any changes to their current production practices yet you may want to bear that in mind if you are against companies owned by non-cruelty free brands/corporations.

I’ve been riding the face oil train ever since I tried my first one and I’m certainly not getting off any time soon! I had never heard of FOM London until I’d had the pleasure of trying a couple of their products in my LoveLula beauty boxes (I talked about one of their extremely nourishing but non-vegan products here) and I’ve been regularly using this one morning and evening over the past several weeks.

Loaded with vitamins and minerals, their Antioxidant Repair Oil Complex helps to mend and soothe tired skin and is deeply hydrating. They say that this oil is weightless and fast-absorbing, but I actually find I need to wait a moment for it to sink into my skin before applying anything else to it – I just put this on before I brush my teeth and use that time to let it get to work.

I pretty much never go without this before leaving for work nowadays because it’s intensely moisturising without making my skin end up a bit too oily later in the day (which I found their Hydra Plump Serum did) and helps keep my skin hydrated when bombarded by the heating in my car and the office.  I just have a tester size though, and the full sized once is hella expensive at £43 for 30ml!

Last but not least, my current daily moisturiser of choice is the antioxidant moisturising cream from Kimberly Sayer. I wanted to try this particularly because of the SPF30, as I’ve found it difficult to find good daily face creams that are cruelty free, relatively natural and have SPF without clogging up my pores. If I’m going out and about outdoors, I try to use my Solait SPF50 face cream which works fine, but it can start to feel a bit much if worn all day, every day for weeks at a time as it’s one of those products designed more for the sun protection than to keep your skin looking nice.

The ingredients-list for this product contains lots of skin-soothing ingredients derived from oats, lavender and chamomile and it’s a great everyday moisturiser that feels hydrating and includes SPF without feeling heavy or pore-clogging. If you’re not a fan of heavily scented face products though, I would maybe steer clear of this as it does have a very heavy lavender fragrance (although this does wear off shortly after application).

I hope you found this post helpful and got some new brand and product ideas – let me know what your favourite daily skincare products are!

† Not vegan, contains beeswax.
* 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, 22 January 2017

Review / Lippy Girl Vegocentric Lipstick in Schmoopy

Lippy Girl Vegocentric Vegan Lipstick in Schmoopy
I’ve been vegan for over a year now, but veganizing my makeup products has still been a work in progress. Cutting out certain animal products is a breeze but one of my biggest struggles has been lipsticks as so many of them seem to contain carmine and beeswax, so when I was offered the opportunity to try one of Lippy Girl’s Vegocentric Vegan Lipsticks I was excited to test out a deliberately (rather than accidentally) vegan lipstick.

The Vegocentric lipsticks come in a variety of different shades that are mostly on the natural side, with a couple of bolder pinks, reds and even a couple of purples too. Having been on the lookout for some good natural-coloured lip products to counterbalance my heavily dark and bold collection, I chose to try Schmoopy*, a matte, dusky pink that’s also one of their most popular shades. The name is apparently a reference to something I’m not familiar with, but it amuses me nonetheless (I’m a huge sucker for silly-sounding product names).

The packaging is simple but effective – black with the pink Lippy Girl logo – and it feels weighty and well-made. The lid is fully secure and doesn’t slip off throughout the day if I keep it in a bag or pocket, and the tube is also 100% recyclable aluminium, which is a big bonus!

Lippy Girl Vegocentric Vegan Lipstick in Schmoopy

Schmoopy is on the cooler-toned but still relatively neutral side of things, and is very much a ‘my lips but better’ colour for me. On my lips, it’s near perfectly natural-looking, but is opaque and matte enough to pull together my makeup and make me look a little bit more polished with minimal effort. The consistency is pretty much the same as any other matte lipstick, but because it’s made of shea butter and seed oils it has a slightly softer and more moisturising texture as opposed to feeling drying on the lips, and yet doesn’t have the slicker, balm-y feel that some moisturising lipsticks have. It feels exactly how it should – like a lipstick! It’s also applies opaque enough that you only need a couple of swipes and – bam – you’re good to go.

I rarely wear actual lipsticks these days, because they don’t guarantee the same longevity as matte liquid lipsticks and of course, the Vegocentric lipsticks won’t be able to compete with say, Colourpop Ultra Mattes, in that respect. But, having said that, I do enjoy wearing natural shades of traditional lipsticks as they’re so easy to apply (vs. liquid lipsticks with applicators that can go drastically wrong with shaky hands) and if they’re a natural colour that wears away well, then they’re still minimal effort and suit me just fine for certain occasions. Schmoopy is one of those lipsticks – it lasts for a good 2-3 hours but when it fades, it does so in a natural, flattering way and can be touched up with just another quick, no-fuss application. This is a lipstick I’ve taken to keeping in my handbag with me for those days when I want to wear a lipstick and have that put-together feeling, but can’t really be bothered with the commitment involved in wearing any of my liquid lipsticks.

Lippy Girl Vegocentric Vegan Lipstick in Schmoopy Swatch

The only real downside to this product is one that they warn you about on the website – because the Vegocentric lipsticks are made with a shea butter base, they’re much softer than a lot of other brands, and are therefore more prone to breakage. In spite of following their recommendations of only twisting the tube up a tiny bit, one morning when I popped the cap off the entire stick of product flew straight out of the tube! It was easily fixed and I’ve continued to use it since but it’s definitely something you’ll want to be aware of when using this lipstick.

If you’re in the market for a good natural, vegan lipstick in a lovely, subtle shade that still adds a touch of finesse to your looks, Schmoopy would be a great addition to your makeup bag and is only £12.50 from Botanical Brands.  If you don’t fancy nudes or pinks though, the Vegocentric lipsticks also come in a few different red, peach, coral and purple options (Abraca-bam in particular looks wonderfully witchy and right up my street too!) and they also have some in pearlized finishes if matte lipsticks aren’t your jam.

What vegan lipsticks would you recommend?

* 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.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Vegan What I Eat in a Day #3

I haven’t done a ‘what I eat in a day’ post for quite a while, so I thought to stick to the Veganuary theme of the month I’d share all of the vegan meals I eat in a day! This particular day was the 2nd January (yes, I sit on this shit for quite a while before posting…) so was a nice, quiet bank holiday spent at the gym and then milling around at home doing blog work.

Forgive the iffy photo quality this time around; I’m not sure if the issue is with my camera, my skill or my eyes but I’ve been struggling to get any fully focused snaps recently.  No joke, I end up taking about 40 of the same photo trying to make sure I have at least one usable one and will end up with all but one or two totally blurry, and even the okay ones are just okay, barely passable and not nearly as crisp as I’d like - it’s starting to drive me a little bit up the wall.  Plus, I’m plagued by winter lighting like every other blogger around this time of year too.

Rant/disclaimer over, on to the food...

If I go to the gym in the morning, I usually don’t eat anything until after I get back as eating too early (and eating and then having to exercise straight away) tend to make me feel ill. So, after a good workout I was in need of something filling and tasty and opted for protein pancakes. I followed my usual pancake recipe but added a couple of scoops of my Pulsin soya protein powder and a little extra almond milk to the mixture, which made ultra-filling but still fluffy pancakes.

The sludge on top is actually an incredible puree of fried bananas and peanut butter and tasted amazing, so don’t be fooled by how odd it looks! I just fried chopped up bananas with some vegan butter until they went completely soft, then mixed with an oil-based peanut butter (rather than the pure, 100% peanut stuff) and some almond milk until it reached as loose a consistency as I could be bothered to get, then plonked it on top of my pancake stack with a splash of maple syrup and sprinkle of cinnamon.

Honestly, I was quite shocked by how much those pancakes filled me up (plus I ate most of Chris’s too since he had snacked beforehand and was too full to eat them) so I only wanted something relatively light for lunch. I had prepped a Mexican-inspired bean and quinoa salad for my work lunches, and had a little bit of that with some chopped baby spinach. The quinoa and kidney beans are pretty high in protein, so are another great post-gym meal option.

We had quite a late dinner and having just had a grocery delivery, decided to take advantage of the nice fresh mushrooms we’d ordered and make some mushroom burgers. These aren’t to everyone’s tastes since many people are horrified by the idea of just having a mushroom between two slices of bread, but I love the taste of them! Big mushrooms also have a surprisingly meaty texture when cooked for long enough, can be as little as 25p per shroom and go well with a variety of different flavours. But, you know, if that’s not your jam you can always make or buy your own vegan burger patties too.

I bake big flat or Portobello mushrooms until they release as much moisture as possible, flipping part way through, and I love having these with an onion and harissa ‘chutney’. It’s super easy to make; all you have to do is finely slice an onion, and fry it slowly on a low to moderate heat with a teaspoon of harissa paste until it’s completely soft and caramelised. Then assemble with whatever else you want in your burger (we just had tomato and spinach, but you could have some melty vegan cheese too) and some sides. To go with ours, we just did homemade garlic and rosemary fries.

Although it’s January, we still have plenty of Christmas treats to get through so dessert for today was one of our leftover mince pies. These are store-bought ones from Waitrose – their Waitrose Essentials mince pies are accidentally vegan! I like to heat mine up until warm, and then pour a generous amount of Alpro soya or Oatly cream over them and enjoy.

What meals have you been loving this Veganuary?