Review / PHB Ethical Beauty Liquid Eyeliner in Black

Saturday, 24 June 2017

PHB Ethical Beauty 100% Pure Liquid Eyeliner - Black
PHB Ethical Beauty 100% Pure Liquid Eyeliner - Black

I’ve been a fan of PHB Ethical Beauty for a very long time now. I think I first started using their skincare products in 2013 or 2014, and those and their mascara in particular have been staples of my skincare and beauty regimes ever since. When I saw that they had come out with a liquid liner a while back, I knew that I was going to have to try it at some point!

The PHB Ethical Beauty 100% Pure Liquid Eyeliner* comes in two shades, black and brown, and of course I went for black because that’s just who I am. As well as claiming to be long lasting and water-resistant, the PHB liquid eyeliner also advertises major benefits for people like myself with sensitive eyes – they say it’s great for eyes that water easily, and is also PH balanced and made from botanical oils and minerals that are kind to skin. Over the past several years, my eyes have grown increasingly sensitive and I’ve found that they can get quite irritated when I use heavier eye makeup, so a natural alternative to liquid eyeliner that won’t leave my eyes a bloodshot mess was certainly appealing to me.

PHB Ethical Beauty 100% Pure Liquid Eyeliner - Black

The eyeliner comes in a little tube with a thin, brush tip applicator. When I first took it out of the box, I could see at a glance that it isn’t quite like other liquid eyeliners – it isn’t as jet black, and there’s just something about the consistency in the packaging that seems different.  It also somehow almost seemed glittery in the tube and on the brush, even though it isn’t at all!  The brush itself is decent, but I personally feel it would have benefited more from a sponge-based brush or felt tip applicator like many other liquid liner pots like this tend to have. Although the brush does still manage to achieve thin, sharp lines, if you’re not careful it also has a tendency to leave little bristle lines that you can see in the swatch below.

The formula is a great consistency – not too liquid-y, not too thick, but it doesn’t give you a swipe of perfect, opaque colour and if you want a darker, more intense liner you do need to go over it a couple of times to achieve a bolder look. One thing to also be aware of with this product versus other liquid eyeliners is that, as I suspected, it isn’t a true opaque black. It looks a little bit like a dark, charcoal grey on the lids which I don’t dislike, but obviously won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

PHB Ethical Beauty 100% Pure Liquid Eyeliner Swatch

When wearing this, I can definitely feel its sensitive eye benefits. My eyes didn’t go bloodshot, they didn’t get irritated and they didn’t water after applying this or throughout a day of wear. Often it’s a challenge for me to just get my winged eyeliner done without my eyes freaking out and looking awful afterwards, but that wasn’t an issue at all with PHB Ethical Beauty’s liquid liner. At least for me, this is clearly an excellent option for those days when I want to wear more dramatic eyeliner but my eyes might not be feeling up for being plastered in irritating products.

Throughout the day, I don’t really notice a lot of wear or fading when wearing this and it also doesn’t flake as some liquid liners I’ve tried in the past do (even more of a plus for my sensitive eyes). I can also rub it a lil’ bit and it doesn’t smudge or transfer. However, I will warn you that although it says it’s water resistant, it’s not nearly as waterproof as other liquid eyeliners on the market. It will withstand minor eye-watering, but if my eyes start streaming it starts to smudge in my outer corners and I don’t think it would stand a chance if I started crying or decided to wear it to a sweaty gym session. On the plus side, it’s quick and gentle to remove without ending up with panda eyes or black streaks across your face while you’re taking your makeup off.

Okay, it may sound from the above like this eyeliner doesn’t have tons going for it, but I actually really, really like it (and as you can see from my Instagram, it looks as bomb as any other eyeliner). Compared to other liners there are certainly some criticisms, but it’s also worth noting that none of the other liquid eyeliners I’ve ever used are natural – I’ve only ever used things like NYX, theBalm, Stila and (back in the day when I was still using animal tested stuff) L’Oreal. As a natural product that contains zero harsh chemicals and is designed to be gentle, this eyeliner actually holds up really well. For people like me who suffer from dry, irritable eyes it’s kind of a godsend. The eye makeup I want to do is no longer quite as dependent on how my eyes are feeling – if I want to wing it out and my eyes are feeling sensitive, now that I have PHB Ethical Beauty’s eyeliner I can!

If you live for a bold, sharp, blacker-than-the-abyss wing that will last all day even if you go swimming then, no, this product probably won’t be your jam. But if you’re like me, enjoy a good wing but don’t expect it to face every single trial life will through at you, and have problems with dry eyes or find that traditional liquid liners tend to irritate them or you’ve ever had a reaction to them, then this is probably a perfect alternative for you. This is also a great product for all you green, natural beauty lovers out there, because it’s cruelty free, vegan and contains none of the usual nasties that can end up in liquid eyeliners.

The PHB Ethical Beauty 100% Pure Liquid Eyeliner is available from LoveLula for £12.95, and on PHB Ethical Beauty’s website.

Do you have any liquid liner recommendations for sensitive eyes?

* 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.

New B. Makeup First Impressions

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to B. Makeup’s relaunch event in London. B. is a brand owned by and exclusive to Superdrug, and I had wondered why it seemed to disappear off the shelves for a little while – as it turns out, it’s because they were undergoing a complete rebranding and had some exciting new product releases lined up!

The event was great fun (any event with vegan donuts gets my thumbs up) and I even got to meet some wonderful vegan bloggers for the first time, which was really the icing on the cake. While we were there, we got a sneak peek at what they were going to be releasing and a goodie bag featuring some of their new range to try out too.

After checking out their displays at the event, I was very pleased by what they have to offer now they’ve rebranded. Although I love many of B.’s skincare items, I was never thoroughly impressed with their makeup. One good thing going for them at least was that everything was cruelty free and vegan, and that’s something that they’ve really uplifted and embraced with their relaunch. I like to think they’ve seen how well-received the brand was for being cruelty free and vegan-friendly, and are responding to demand - they even added a small snippet at the back of the promotional booklet we received, explaining the rise of veganism in the UK, demand for items free from animal products and how they continue to avoid any ingredients containing them that don’t fit with the vegan promise.

The first thing we noticed about the makeup is that it has a new look and I’m loving the direction they went with it. There wasn’t really anything that stood out about the old B. packaging (if anything it looked a bit cheap before), but their new packaging is all about sleek, matte blacks and simple, white logos that make everything look chic, luxurious and much more expensive than it actually is. The quality of their brushes has also gone up dramatically – I had a feel of a few of their new ones and they’re by far the softest, nicest high street brushes I’ve ever felt.

Since the event, I’ve been testing out the makeup bits and bobs that I received and wanted to share my first impressions*

Sculpt & Highlight Contour Pen in Dark (£8.99)

Okay, so obviously this is not the shade for me and my white bread complexion, but this is nonetheless an impressive little product. This is a soft, creamy pen with a dark end for contouring and a light end for highlighting, and it glides on and blends like a dream. It comes in four shades – light, medium, dark and universal (whatever that means?!) and although I’m not getting the best use out of it with it being too dark for me, I have still had a little play around with it and was impressed by the results. The formula gives a beautiful natural, dewy radiance that doesn’t look too stark when blended out and at £8.99 is a perfect product to try if you’re new to contouring and prefer cream products.

Velvet Matte Lipstick in Boom Shakalaka (£6.99)

I don’t really use traditional lipsticks much these days, but I can I get a holla for B. for coming out with a range of matte red and berry shades that are all vegan!? I swear, a good vegan red lipstick is hard to come by. This particular lipstick is a lovely true red shade with a matte finish that still retains a bit of sheen, and although it isn’t as long-lasting as I’d prefer it also doesn’t bleed or smudge around too much either. Despite it being a matte lipstick, the formula isn’t drying at all and it’s a perfect cruelty free, vegan alternative to other high street lipsticks. I much prefer to use nude coloured bullet lipsticks to bold shades, and having used this I’m really excited to give their two natural colours a go!

Defining Duo Liner (£6.99)

Another product that I was thrilled to see B. was releasing was this liquid liner pen. Again, decent felt tip liquid eyeliners that are cruelty free and vegan are very hard to come by, and this one has not one but two tips – one slightly thicker, and one thinner for sharper, finer lines. So far so good with this product; I’m always wary of pen eyeliners because I find the tip can start to dry up relatively quickly but I haven’t been using this long enough to know whether or not that will be a problem with this one. As far as colour goes, this is a true, opaque black, glides on like a dream and even produces some great, sharp flicks. My only minor complaint with the colour would be that it does sometimes look a bit glossy, as is the case with several liquid liner pens I’ve used in the past. While it isn’t waterproof (seriously, do not expect it to stay on if you’re really sweaty or cry) it is smudge proof to an extent – rubbing it only causes a bit of greyish transfer and wear but doesn’t smear it all over your face.

Velvet Matte Liquid Lipstick in Ravenous (£6.99)

Matte liquid lipsticks are pretty much my life, and I’m so excited that B. have released a range of colourful vegan ones. The one I received, Ravenous, is a lovely berry shade that applies smoothly and dries to a matte finish relatively quickly. It isn’t sticky and it isn’t as drying as other liquid lipsticks I’ve used, but you do still feel its presence on your lips. It isn’t as long wearing as my Colourpop liquid lipsticks (I can eat even greasy foods carefully in those, but this wouldn’t stand a chance against that), but still lasts a while and when it does wear out, it’s easy to touch up without having to remove the lot and start again. For £6.99 I’m pretty impressed with these – there’s currently 8 shades to choose from (including a great looking 90s brown called 1995) but I really hope these take off and they expand their shade range.

Lip & Cheek Tint in Frivolous (£6.99)

I feel like I don’t really see too many multi-purpose products on the high street, so it was nice to see that B. have created a range of cream lip/cheek products. This soft, lightweight tint is easy to apply and to blend and when used on the cheeks creates a lovely, natural flush once blended out. Although this isn’t a shade I’d have chosen myself, I still like it, it still suits me and the formula is great. This is a perfect product to take out in your handbag for a blush touch-up or to add a quick bit of no fuss colour to your lips on the go. As a lover of dewy finishes, I also love a good cream blush so these are perfect for me.

In addition to the above, I also received a few skincare items but I won’t go into any detail about those as, save for a few new products (including a great Beard Oil for men) their skincare line remains largely the same and has always been great quality for the price. Included in my goodie bag but not pictured, I also received one of their new eyeshadow blending brushes and it’s quickly become one of my favourite brushes, though not for its intended purpose! I’ve been wanting a new highlighter brush for ages but never really had a proper one before; I used to use my Real Techniques eyeshadow brush, my fingers and I had a brief foray into using a fan brush for a while and really didn’t get on with it. B.’s eyeshadow blending brush however, is the perfect soft, fluffy brush that’s still dense enough to give me a blended but bold highlight and I’m pretty much in love with it.

I’m super impressed by B.’s relaunch so far and looking forward to trying out more of their new range. Most importantly, they have fully embraced their vegan appeal and are actively providing an affordable vegan, cruelty free, high street option and have been the first high street brand to really commit to doing this.

The new collection is available on and in some stores – I’ve heard from other bloggers that not every shop is stocking the new range yet, but fingers crossed and keep your eyes peeled.

* All of the products featured in this post were given to me free of charge, however this post is not sponsored and all views are my own.

The Good, the Bad & the Morality Language Assigned to Food

Friday, 26 May 2017

“I’m going to be naughty and have a donut, YOLO.”

“I’m being bad today, I’ll have a biscuit.”

“Oh, you’re being good having a salad for lunch!”

You may have seen other bloggers and even myself in a previous post mention the problem with ‘morality’ language surrounding food and dieting, and the above are only a few examples of what we mean.  They’re seemingly harmless, inoffensive comments that people make around us on the daily, but this kind of talk about food does far more damage than a lot folks might realise.

Most of us don’t even think twice about saying we’re ‘being bad’ by treating ourselves to a food we enjoy, but the reality is that this one of the many symptoms of a society that values thinness and weightloss goals, and shames those who aren’t thin or at the very least aspiring to ‘health’ or a smaller, more toned body.

When we hear this kind of stuff, it’s almost always light-hearted and never really serious, of course, but this type of language is code that (when you add it together with everything else in our world that elevates thin bodies, dieting and pursuit of so-called wellness or fitness) eats its way into our subconscious, to the point where we can no longer even talk about eating certain foods in some settings without having to either justify it, or to admit to ourselves and those around us that we’re somehow less principled for eating them.

I know what some of you might be thinking – but some foods are bad for you, that’s just a fact! And you’d be absolutely right! Some foods are bad for our bodies (although usually just when consumed in large quantities), or are generally unhealthy, but how often do you hear the people around the office say it’s the digestive biscuit they’re snacking on that’s bad? Or the donut that’s a little bit naughty? Or the low fat yoghurt that’s good and well-behaved? You don’t… because they’re almost always referring to the people eating them, and deciding that they’re behaving either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on the item of food they’re consuming. If it’s a healthy food, congratulations – you’re good! If it’s an unhealthy food, you’re living dangerously at best, naughty if you fancy a cringe or you’re down right bad at worst.

The problem with this way of talking about food is that you’re assigning moral language to yourself and to other people based on what they’re eating. The same can be said for ‘cheat days’ in the fitness world – if you have a day where you treat yourself and eat something you enjoy that might be a little less healthy, you’re likening yourself to a cheater, i.e. immoral, bad, untrustworthy. In a certain well-known diet group (you know the one), foods you’re supposed to avoid are even called ‘syns’, as in, you know, some of the most immoral acts you can apparently do according to some religions…

As innocuous as this language can seem when you’re chuckling about it with friends or family or co-workers, it’s closely interwoven with a culture that doesn’t just fear but loathes fat, and upholds the dangerous ideas and stereotypes that ‘we are what we eat’ and that what we choose to put into our bodies somehow dictates whether or not we’re deserving of respect.

Implying that someone is ‘being bad’ for eating a cupcake might seem like nothing, but it’s actually one of thousands of tiny little ripples that feed the tidal wave associating fat bodies with being gluttonous, sinful and shameful. When pieced together these comments create a clear and harmful picture of thin bodies (i.e. those who are good and consume good, healthy foods) as an ideal we are all constantly expected to aspire to, while fat bodies (i.e. those who are bad and consume bad, unhealthy foods) are seen as unsightly and indicative of laziness and a lack of self-respect.  If you’re fat then you’re likely to be automatically branded ‘bad’ at first glance, but if you’re seen as trying your hardest to be ‘good’ and to have set weight-loss goals and be eating ‘good’ foods, then you can be redeemed.  Those who make a point of trying to be thin are elevated somewhat above those who don’t actively advertise to the world that they’re attempting to fit into the very small, lean mould we expect them to.

Regardless of whether or not a particular food or a person is healthy, we need to stop assigning praise to some foods and guilt to others – we should never be made to feel guilty for eating or inferior because we wanted to eat something we actually enjoy instead of something we’re supposed to feel like we ‘should’. That guilt is what can develop into calorie tracking, working out so that you feel deserving of food, low self-esteem, body comparison or in some cases, even eating disorders.  How often have you felt like you ‘need’ to hit the gym because you had a couple of these naughty foods and need to work off the extra calories to feel better about your decision to eat them?  I’ve lost count of how many times this has crossed my mind over the years, and it’s a product of this form of diet talk!

Eating healthy or unhealthy, being thin or fat, or fit or unfit doesn’t define your character. At the end of the day, whatever you choose to eat, your food is just fuel. If you choose to fuel your body with healthy things like salads and quinoa and roasted veggies then that’s cool, but contrary to what this coded language we use to talk about food implies, it doesn’t make you better than someone who chooses to fuel their body with chips, beans and pizza. Further to that, sometimes these so-called ‘bad’ foods are exactly what we need at the time – I don’t know about you, but the occasional donut or burger can be great self-care and make me feel happy!

Eating unhealthy foods doesn’t make you any less deserving of respect and you most certainly don’t have to earn the right to indulge. Next time you think about calling yourself bad or your friend good because of what you’re eating, stop yourself. Remember that saying things like that can feed your own and others’ insecurities, and that food is just energy and not a test of character.

 You’re not cheating for ordering what you want when you’re out to eat with friends; you’re just treating yourself. You’re not bad for eating a cookie because you fancied a cookie with your cup of tea. You’re not naughty for eating a bag of Asda jam donuts all to yourself; you’re just living your best life and eating what you love. You deserve to eat nice things, and you should never have to justify it to other people or to yourself.

You do you boo, treat yo’ self.

Review / Walden Natural Perfumes: A Different Drummer

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Not long after I started to get more interested in perfumes, I received the latest press release for one of the latest additions to LoveLula, and was delighted to see that it was a new high end, cruelty free and vegan line of fragrances. The new brand, Walden Natural Perfumes, takes its name from the works of transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. The book itself is a reflection of simple living in natural surroundings, and walks the line between an autobiography, and a social critique of consumerist attitudes and attachment to the material, hustle and bustle world in which we live.

The brand shares much the ethos detailed in Walden – one that I can very much relate to as a nature lover who is increasingly feeling alienated and frustrated by the materialist ways of today’s world – and each fragrance is said to be made from only the finest natural absolutes, resins and essential oils. The perfumes are named after and inspired by quotes from the book, and were created with the themes of nature, spiritual awakening and solitude in mind.

Given the heavy links to nature and the natural world, I was very keen to see how they smelled since I’m someone who tends not to enjoy traditional perfumes; I find they smell too harsh, alcohol-based and manufactured (and just stinky and unpleasant). I did a little reading about each fragrance, and eventually selected A Different Drummer* to try, as it sounded right up my street.

This particular fragrance drew me in almost immediately, as it’s described as opening with a spicy blast of pepper, followed by cedarwood, amber, and finishing with sandalwood. I tend to prefer spiced, woody, earthy smells so it seemed like my perfect scent on paper. When I first tested it out, I must say – I wasn’t sure if it was for me! The smell caught me off guard, and was indeed quite strong and peppery, with an almost musky kick. Once it started to settle however, I noticed the other notes to it, and the fiery blast dulled down to a warm, spicy scent complimented by the clean, woody smell of cedarwood and the sandalwood notes. After a while of mixing with my body chemistry, it takes on a faintly sweeter dimension but maintained the warm, musky tone to it.

From what I know about traditional perfumes, this doesn’t last quite as long as some (but none can be expected to last the entire day). I can still smell it very faintly on my skin at the end of the day, but I’ve found spritzing a little bit on my sleeves or collar as well as my skin helps to layer the scent and keep it going for a little while longer.

Despite my initial reservations when I first smelled it, I’m extremely enamoured with it now and have been really enjoying wearing it. It lends itself well to the quote after which it’s named: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” It’s a truly unique scent, unlike anything that I’ve ever really smelled in a perfume before, and the way that it changes after a while of hanging in the air or of settling on my body throughout the day is so multi-dimensional. It evokes warmth, confidence and self-assuredness; a reminder to grow, follow your own rhythm and resist the conformity that our world so fiercely tries to box us into.

I look forward to applying A Different Drummer each morning, and am happy to say I will definitely be looking to Walden Natural Perfumes for my future fragrances. The packaging for each perfume is beautifully simple and elegant; a 50ml glass bottle, with a removable wooden lid that reveals the nozzle. The prices vary very slightly between fragrances, but A Different Drummer is £50 per bottle, which I would argue is reasonable and expected for a cruelty free alternative to high end fragrances.

To me, Walden’s fragrances successfully set themselves apart from the over-produced, sickly scented high street, high end perfumes that I’ve learned to hate over the years; these really do march to the beat of their own drums, and it’s a beat I can get behind.

* 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.

The Fatphobic Problem in Plant-Based Living

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard all about the Lush controversy. I won’t get too bogged down in the nitty gritty of the issue, but in an nutshell, they shared some rather insensitive ‘medical facts’ relating to obesity, lifestyle and early death on their Instagram feed. Ultimately, as Lush is a brand who has claimed heart-felt ethics, inclusivity and has used body positivity as a marketing tool in the past, it didn’t go down well that they were sharing content that – medical fact or not – alienated and shamed swathes of their own customers.

In the wake of those posts, a lot of problematic issues in various communities came bubbling to the surface. Slews of bloggers rushed to their defence, in one way or another, creating a divide in the body positive community between those whose body positivity extends only as far as healthy (read: acceptable looking) bodies, and those who believe that all bodies deserve respect and love irrespective of health.

Obviously, there is a lot to be said about that, but I’m not the one to say it today. Instead, I want to address a couple of different groups that intersect here – the vegan, plant-based and general ‘wellness’ communities. Given the circles I surround myself with in the blogosphere, it’s not surprising that a few of my fellow plant-based Internetizens had a few things to say about this, and honestly, what many did share didn’t surprise me at all.

Veganism and plant-based living have long been equated with fatphobia; a certain amount of it I would argue is created by those outside, looking in. A lot of omnivores have a certain image of those who abstain from animal products as being super skinny, athletic and existing with 1% body fat on nothing but veggies and copious amounts of fruit, and many of those same omnivores might dip their toes into plant-based diets purely for the supposed health benefits. Vegans who don’t fit this skinny, fit mould or who are just straight up fat occasionally find non-vegans questioning whether or not they’re really vegan, because ‘aren’t vegans all really slim and skinny and healthy-looking?’

That said, the nature of some of the arguments behind why we should go vegan leads plenty of those who promote plant-based and vegan living down a hella fatphobic road. The health benefits of a varied, plant-based diet are many – eating large amounts of certain animal products is correlated to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, high cholesterol and, on the whole, dying earlier than those who don’t eat these things. Not to mention the fact that meat and animal products are also generally less nutritious than they were fifty years ago (thanks to industrial farming and animals reared in unnatural environments and on less nutritious meals themselves) and are also often hormone-, drug- and/or disease-ridden.

Given all of that, it’s only natural to want to spread the word about how eating fewer animal products and more plants can help to improve your health. I’ve felt plenty of major health benefits from going vegan myself; I’m more energetic, I look healthier and more radiant, my hair and nails are stronger, my IBS symptoms have improved and my hormones are less all-over-the-place than they were pre-veganism. How we go about doing that though, is where the problem lies.

Vegans and plant-based folks are often accused of fatphobia and bodyshaming because, well, they often are fatphobic and bodyshame. For some, fat bodies become a tool used to guilt and scare people into giving up animal products.  For example, I’ve seen a number of illustrations shared among the plant-based social media communities in the past, depicting fat silhouettes filled with illustrations of burgers, chips, chicken wings, donuts etc. contrasted with skinny silhouettes filled with vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Pro-plant-based cartoons and illustrations depict images like fat people lounging on sofas, stuffing meat-based fast food into their mouths with ‘ironic’ speech bubbles such as ‘I won’t go vegan, that’s not a healthy lifestyle’. The identities of fat people and the fact that they are living, breathing humans deserving of respect are stripped away, and instead they become a cautionary tale or a side-by-side comparison essentially to say ‘this is what a vegan body looks like, but this is what a body that eats meat and cheese looks like – yuck!’

Warnings about the so-called obesity epidemic are rife in plant-based communities, because plant-based diets are viewed (understandably) as a solution to that ‘problem’. And this isn’t just vegans, of course, it’s the ‘wellness’, ethical and sustainable living communities too. Basically, any group of people for whom what we eat is a large part of our lifestyle and our view of the world around us. The issue here though, is the fact that folks who use this as ammunition in their fight to promote these lifestyles are often dehumanising other people. They’re reducing fat bodies to a societal problem to be solved, a symptom that can be cured if only you would only put down your bacon sandwich and pick up a green smoothie instead, and that is not okay.

For a start, at least in the vegan world, not every vegan or plant-based individual is healthy. You can be vegan and exist on little more than potatoes, Oreos and pizzas smothered in Tesco free-from mozzarella – that’s not healthy. Secondly, not every fat person is unhealthy. Regardless of whatever statistics you want to try to throw at me, ill health and being fat might be correlated in some circumstances but are not intrinsically linked; a fat person can eat well, get plenty of exercise and still be fat. Fat people can even suffer from eating disorders and, yep, you guessed it! still be fat. You simply cannot know just by looking at the size of someone’s body what their lifestyle and diet are like. Finally, and this is the kicker that has come out of all of this, even if someone is unhealthy it doesn’t mean that they are undeserving of respect and being treated like a human being.

It’s absolutely okay to use statistics and facts to back up the very real health benefits of giving up animal products, but what’s not okay is to use living, breathing people and entire body types as expendable props and horror stories to justify our arguments. You just need to learn the damn difference.

Sharing with a friend that those who eat a wholefoods, plant-based diet have a much lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who eat your average, animal product inclusive diet is totally cool. What’s not cool, for example, is the sharing of ‘shocking’ images of fat bodies and talking about how diet-based lifestyle choices are going to kill you and how going vegan would ease the strain of obesity on the NHS. Nor is talking about how obesity and being overweight is killing us all, and that ‘lifestyle choices’ (i.e. being fat) are a major cause of death, so 'lol go vegan!'. Nor is using the simple idea of looking fat as a cautionary tale for giving up animal products, and promoting thin bodies as a holy grail you can finally find if you go vegan or plant-based. In the first example, you’re sharing an objective statistic about the benefits of a plant-based diet. In the others, while they may be ‘facts’, you’re demonising and dehumanising an already marginalised group of people, equating body size with total body health, and reducing fat bodies to curable, medical conditions that are at best just lazy and at worst burdensome.

Those might sound like odd or extreme examples, but they’re all examples that I’ve seen. There are certain vocal members of plant-based communities who feel the need to comment on Instagram images of fat people, and share why they should go vegan for the sake of their health and appearances. There are plant-based YouTubers who tell their viewers that if you’re plant-based and fat, then you’re being lazy, not working hard enough and you’re doing it wrong. There are plant-based people who fight for the rights of animals to not be used as objects for human consumption, yet at the same time will reduce fat people to faceless fat bodies, unsightly creatures and problems viewed from a medical lens – essentially, turning them into objects, using the same tactics commonly used in the media used to scare the public and serve certain agendas.  Hypocrisy much?

If we can extend our compassion to animals and the environment, we should be able to extend our compassion to other groups of humans who are so often marginalised and mistreated by society. Veganism and plant-based diets have plenty of benefits without having to resort to turning fat bodies into objects to use to promote our lifestyles. If ‘but you can be skinny instead of looking like THAT’ or ‘but don’t you know obesity is costly and deadly and you’re less likely to be obese if you’re vegan/plant-based’ are the only arguments you can think of to adequately fight your corner then, honestly, you’ve got some problems with your ethics there, sort yourself out. Fat people are people; not statistics, not propaganda. Fat bodies are deserving of respect regardless of whether or not they are healthy, and fat people deserve more than to be treated like medical symptoms, deterrents or fucking wake-up calls.

If you take away nothing else from this, then at least remember that as a movement that can benefit so, so many, it simply doesn’t make sense to alienate and exclude groups of people in the way that this approach to plant-based activism does. This type of behaviour and this use of other people as ammo for your cause does little to sway many towards plant-based living and gives veganism and plant-based communities a terrible, exclusive and uncompassionate reputation.

Basically, don’t be that guy.

My First Cervical Screening

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Cervical screening, smear test, pap smear, whatever you want to call it, if you have a cervix they’re important to have done. If you don’t already know, cervical screenings are a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix, enabling you to get them removed and often prevent cervical cancer. In the UK, they’re offered to all women aged 25 and beyond who are registered with a GP, and between ages 25 and 49 you need to have them done once every three years.

Cervical screenings themselves don’t actually detect cancer, but they do detect the abnormal cells that could later develop into cancer, enabling them to be swiftly removed with no harm done. According to the NHS, since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cases of cervical cancer per year has decreased by about 7% - clearly it’s something worth doing!

And yet, they have a pretty bad rap – it’s only been in the past couple of years or so, when people in my social circles have started to become more open and passionate about promoting regular screenings, that I’ve actually started to hear anything ‘positive’. Prior to that, it was all horror stories and tales of discomfort and awkwardness and embarrassment over having another person shove a plastic duckbill up your junk.

I must admit, although I preach booking in for screenings and looking after your vagina, cervix and everything else in that vicinity, I’m a bit of a hypocrite because I was first invited for a screening about a year ago. I didn’t avoid going out of fear or embarrassment, rather I was convinced that working full time and based on previous experience, I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment that I could actually go to at my GP, so I just kept putting it off. Much to my surprise, when I finally bit the bullet and rang up last week, they gave me a 7:30pm appointment just over a week later! So, I went for my screening.

The nurse was very open and honest, and made me feel perfectly at ease. She verified that I was on the implant (I am), asked when my last period was (it’s been irregular lately, I’ve had two in the space of a month and a half) and asked if I was aware of any possibility of pregnancy (I hope not). After that, she explained the process. Essentially, all the nurse does is lube up a speculum (a plastic device that slides in and can be opened slightly to widen the vagina and enable them to insert the brush), sticks it in, opens it, inserts the brush used to collect the samples, and once the cervix is found a quick sample is taken and you’re done. She didn’t mince words and warned up front that it doesn’t feel pleasant, but that I was under no obligation to power through it if I was really uncomfortable. She maintained that it was important that, especially as it was my first experience, I wasn’t horrified into not coming back again for my future screenings and needed to leave the surgery feeling comfortable and confident in coming back again.

I was already wearing an easy-access dress, so all I had to do was kick off my shoes, take off my underwear and hop onto the bed. Don’t do what I did and whip your legs open there and then – apparently the proper position is feet together but knees apart and relaxed, and I have no boundaries… But, once I was comfortable, she talked me through each step.

First she applied lubricant to the speculum, which isn’t really all that intimidating looking if you’re already sexually active and use penetrative toys, but maybe that’s just me. She let me know exactly when she was inserting it, and really the only major discomfort was when she opened it. That was probably the worst part of the whole experience, and even then it was only grimace-inducing discomfort and not something that I was desperate to recoil from.

Next, she inserted the brush. Contrary to what people suggest, you aren’t literally scraped with some horrible metal scraping device – it’s just a little soft, rubbery brush and it’s rubbed gently along the wall of the cervix. This was the part she warned me could take a bit longer and potentially be quite uncomfortable, because it all depends on how easy it is to find your cervix. It was an odd sensation, but I wouldn’t say it was awful. We chatted about it briefly afterwards and both agreed that it just felt off and not-quite-right as opposed to outright unpleasant. In any case, if there are no other positive things to be said about me, I at least have an easy-to-find cervix and the entire physical procedure of my cervical screening was over in probably under two minutes altogether, if that!

After that, I just popped my pants and shoes back on and went on my merry way. The results will take about two to four weeks and are sent to my house directly; if there are any abnormalities, they will invite me to another appointment at a hospital to investigate further within ten days of receiving the letter. Because it’s a preventative measure that might save a life, they’re pretty hot on getting people in as quickly as possible. If I do have to attend an appointment like that and confirm abnormal cells, they laser them there and then, and then I’d have to go back for another look later, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

When I got back home, I did notice some bleeding, but this is apparently not uncommon and I expect it may be in part due to my irregular periods the past couple of cycles and the fact that I could be due for mine literally today.

All in all, the experience really wasn’t as intimidating or awkward as we can be made to believe, or as we make ourselves believe from overthinking. Provided that your nurse or doctor is warm and professional, you shouldn’t have a problem and the procedure itself is extremely quick in spite of the discomfort.

In England during 2014-2015, 6.4% of the 3,073,833 of those screened showed some kind of abnormality*. Not all of those may have been or develop into something dangerous, and 6.4% may not seem like a lot, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I could be in that percentage, or my friends could, or my family could. In 2014 in the UK, around 9 people were diagnosed with cervical cancer every day, and cervical screenings – however awkward they may feel – are there to prevent that from happening.

If you’ve been putting off booking your cervical screening, I encourage you to bite the bullet and do it. It’s really nothing to be afraid of, and it’s an important procedure to look after your physical health and protect you from serious illnesses later on down the line. You can book yourself in for a screening by contacting your GP, and you can find out more information about cervical screenings in the UK on the NHS website.

* Statistics from Cervical Screening Programme for England, Statistics 2014-15

Why I Don't Like Diets

Monday, 17 April 2017

Like every other year, January was filled with diet-talk a-plenty and the past couple of months have been filled with people getting ‘bikini body ready’ and doing ‘summer shreds’, but one thing that I never really expected to see was, well, criticism of people criticising diets. Maybe I just wrapped myself up too well in my body positive bubble, but I had thought for some time that most people were in agreement that diets weren’t a good thing and that we should be challenging the system that promotes them.

Quick disclaimer though, when I say ‘diet’ here, I’m obviously (I hope) not referring to people who simply talk about what they eat – I talk about my diet in terms of the food I eat all the damn time on my blog because I’m vegan and that’s part of what I blog about. Other people may talk about their diets a lot out of necessity or to spread awareness because they’re gluten intolerant, because they’re recovering from an eating disorder, because they’ve got a bowel disorder, whatever. What I do mean here when I use the word ‘diet’ is dieting, overthinking, obsessing, restricting, eating in unusual, unhealthy etc. ways strictly for weight loss.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against health and fitness, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that dieting and healthy living are one in the same – they’re not. There’s nothing healthy about this kind of diet culture at all; it’s an industry designed to foster insecurity, to tell us that we always need to be a little bit slimmer and have to spend our money to achieve it. After the holiday festivities of December, in January we’re bombarded by ads for weight loss products and programmes, sold a future of being happy and beautiful if only we can drop a few pounds.  Then there’s a brief lull, before the pressure starts all over again to be fit and skinny for summer, so that we can look ‘good’ in a bikini.

If you want to start eating better and getting fitter and living a healthier life then that’s cool and I’ll always support people in their goals to live well! I did much the same thing a couple of years ago now, and I haven’t looked back. Making healthier lifestyle changes is a hugely positive step to take and can have a dramatic impact on your mental and physical health, and a changing body can also be a side effect of that. The difference between that and dieting though, is that one is a simple, healthy lifestyle change. A resolve to eat a lil’ healthier, get a bit more exercise, to treat your body better. The other, however, is an industry that encourages calorie restriction, guilt, excessive exercise, self-hate, shame, disordered eating and anxiety over numbers on a scale that, in reality, are little to no indication of your health or, yes, even your size.  They don’t care about your health or happiness, they just want your money.

A lot of folks try to argue that there are benefits to these types of ‘dieting’ but, come on, when you so much as look up the dictionary definition it’s all about pure and simple restriction with the purpose of weight loss. Look up synonyms and you see things like eat sparingly, eat selectively, abstain, fast. There’s nothing wrong with altering what you eat and how you live for the sake of your physical health, but ‘diets’ and the restriction that they promote simply aren’t healthy. What most fail to realise through no fault of their own, is that restriction not only often ultimately leads to failure when trying to lose weight, but also poisons our relationships with food in a long-lasting, dangerous way.

I can understand why people who have resolved to go on a diet might be frustrated by all of the criticism flying around; those of us who are against dieting can be quite vocal about it and it’s easy to see why some might take it personally. It’s a criticism of a choice you’ve made for yourself, so it’s bound to rub you the wrong way. That said, at most a dieting person is annoyed and feels awkward and a bit singled out. Diet talk and promotion of dieting on the other hand is incredibly toxic for those around you, and upholds the damaging status quo that we should all be aspiring to weight loss, that success comes with weight loss, that happiness is attributed to weight and that the food we eat is an indicator of our morality (i.e. ‘being good’ vs ‘being bad’ depending on food choices).

 Diet talk and bikini body seasons are dangerous times for people who already struggle with food and body image, and we’re all already inescapably subjected to weight loss ads and encouragement to diet simply from the media that we have no choice but to consume – we don’t need it from all sides in the office, online community and social circles we surround ourselves with too.

When people say ‘I don’t care about your diet’ or criticise diet culture, it isn’t necessarily intended as an attack on those who wish to lose weight. It’s an attack on the industry that teaches us that our worth is measured by the size of our waistlines, and that being skinny should be a goal we all aspire to regardless of the costs. It’s an attack on the industry that is responsible for and continues to promote eating disorders and other mental health issues associated with body image. Hell, on the day that I first sat down to write this months ago, a so-called ‘body positive’ model and ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) had been criticised for using her platform to promote her restrictive weight loss and exercise plan for crying out loud.  (She has since apologised and taken it down, I believe, but come on!)

If you want to get fit, to eat better, then do it!  It’s an intensely complicated subject, but a desire to change your body or to get fit doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t love yourself as you are.  There isn’t necessarily any shame in wanting to change your body (although the dream would certainly be to live in a society where everyone is comfortable and happy in their own skins as they are). But, if you’ve decided to try and lose weight, you also need to be critical of why that is and to remember that if your end goal is to simply look thinner, it can’t really be just for yourself.

A desire to be slimmer does not and simply cannot exist in a vacuum – it’s the product of a society that pushes thinness and beauty on us from such a young age that children as young as three are now known to be affected by body image issues. A wish to exclusively lose weight (not to get fit, to get healthy, to eat better, to get stronger, to get better at running, to take up a sport etc. – just to lose weight, to get smaller, to be thinner) can never just be our own because our aspirations to be smaller are intrinsically linked to the messages our society feeds us associating thinness with being ‘better’.  These messages can be as obvious as fatphobic advertising or as insidious and subtle as the sea of super slim bodies that dominate our screens.  They tell us, in no uncertain terms, that to be thin is to be happier, more beautiful, more successful, more intelligent, more worthy of being loved, more able to love ourselves.

I don’t like and will never support diets because messages like those should be challenged, not inadvertently promoted.

If you’ve chosen to make weight loss a goal, please take care of yourself. Don’t listen to the diet talk and don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into thinking that you are only worthy of taking up space if you manage to shed a few kilos. Don’t over-exercise or listen to the people that tout it as a great method of weight loss, and don’t believe the lies that people and brands tell you about restrictive diets being a key to slimming success. Eat healthy, don’t let yourself go hungry, be active, be patient (physical changes take months or even years of work, not the mere weeks diets would have you believe) and, most importantly, remember that whatever your goals, your beauty, confidence and whether or not you deserve to go ahead and live your best life now are not defined by your size.

Review / Maggie Anne Nail Polish in Jasper & Acetone-Free Polish Remover

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Since I first started finding my way when it comes to beauty and cosmetics, I’ve always loved nail polish. Although I have plenty of stints going about my life with bare nails when I’m not feeling bothered enough to paint them, most of the time I just feel weird without varnish on. Being a busy and impatient person, a good quality polish that dries relatively quickly and lasts well enough for at least a week of wear is very, very important to me. If a particular polish chips after a day or if it takes an hour to dry, that’s it, I’m out, and that brand will never be bought from again.

It can sometimes be tough to find vegan and cruelty free nail polishes. My most used range are the Speedy quick dry nail paints by Barry M, which are not only fast drying and relatively long lasting, but have the perfect applicator brush. That’s another point where I get fussy – I don’t fuck about with teeny weeny narrow brushes or brushes with sharp, square edges (I used to hate Barry M’s old brushes and never used them because of this). I want a single stroke to apply the polish and apply it well, is that too much to ask? Back in the day, Essie used to be my go-to brand, but given that they’re not cruelty free I’ve had to look elsewhere for quality nail polishes outside of Barry M that also have the quick dry + durable + perfect brush holy trinity.

I first spotted Maggie Anne while browsing LoveLula’s vegan nail polish section, and saw a couple of reviews around that were pretty positive, so decided to give them a go. Maggie Anne is a brand of ultra glossy, high shine, gel-effect nail polishes that are all cruelty free, vegan and free of the commonly used chemicals found in most other ranges. Because they’re toxin and harmful chemical-free, they’re also advertised as safe for use by pregnant women, patients undergoing treatments for cancer and allergy-sufferers.

The packaging is chic and basic but durable. The polish arrived in a little black box listing the ingredients (not shown) and the bottle is nice and clear with rounded edges, and a glossy black lid. The square lid shown in the photos actually pops off, revealing the ‘real’ cylindrical, twisty lid/applicator thingy.

But how do they perform? Jasper* was the shade I picked to try out first and I was instantly drawn to it – it’s described as a natural beige, and looked like a perfect, cool-toned nude. In terms of application, this baby goes on like a breeze. Maggie Anne’s brushes aren’t quite a 10/10 for me as they do have slightly right-angled edges, but those edges aren’t too sharp and most importantly, they’re wide enough to coat my entire nail in one sweep.

In terms of formula, Jasper is wonderfully opaque. When I first tested it out, I only applied one coat over a clear base, and it was enough to fully coat the nail and wasn’t sheer at all. It also fulfilled its promises of being wonderfully glossy, and the colour is amazing. It’s a nude shade, but it has a cool, almost lilac undertone to it that makes it teeter slightly towards greige on my skin tone and looks absolutely beautiful. It’s a perfect understated, every-day natural nail shade, but it still has a little extra ‘something’ that make it special. That said, I’d say it’s probably more suited to those with neutral and cool undertones and would likely wash out those with warmer undertones.

They aren’t as quick to dry as the Barry M Speedy nail paints, but they are still quick drying. After one coat, I was able to start going about my business again within ten minutes or so without worrying about it getting damaged. With two coats, I was able to do hands-on, risky tasks like washing the dishes within about an hour without chipping or denting the polish. The last more natural, free-of-nasty-chemicals cruelty free nail polish brand I tried was Priti NYC, and although I loved the shades, the formula never seemed to properly dry and I was forever getting awful indentations and marks all over my painted nails. I’m pleased to report that this is not the case with Maggie Anne!

The lasting power of this polish is pretty impressive! Maggie Anne boast 5-7 days of wear with two coats of colour and a clear gel top coat but, as I said, when I first tested Jasper I only applied one coat and didn’t even bother to apply a top coat. I would’ve expected it to not last too long, but it managed 5 days of wear before it started to look a little rough around the edges and chip on some nails. When I applied two coats and a top coat, it’s lasted 7 days and is still going strong – would you believe the above image is day number seven?!

Based on Jasper, Maggie Anne gets a huge thumbs up for their nail polishes from me, and I already have a little collection of other shades I’m itching to try out next. As well as these though, they also do a small range of acetone-free nail polish removers, so given that I’d run out of my old The Body Shop one, I thought I’d give on a go. There are three different scents, and I decided to go with the tempting sounding Blueberry & Pomegranate* option. I’m always slightly sceptical of acetone-free polish removers, because although I prefer the idea of using them, from past experience I’ve had to use much more elbow grease to get my nails clean with them vs. standard formulas… until I tried this one.

I was honestly shocked by how quickly and easily the Maggie Anne polish remover wiped away my nail varnish – my last acetone-free one involved multiple cotton pads and lots of rubbing, but Maggie Anne’s takes just one pad for each hand and a couple of wipes! It’s also infused with argan oil and vitamin E, so helps to nourish your nails rather than just stripping the life out of them.

The only thing that I didn’t quite like about it was that I expected it to smell much fruitier than it actually does. Don’t make the mistake of taking a whiff of it like I did; it doesn’t smell like a nice fragrant bowl of blueberry and pomegranate so much as a normal nail polish with a very faint hint of blueberry. But, you know, scent isn’t really at the top of my demands for a good nail polish remover anyway.

Maggie Anne’s nail polishes (including Jasper) are 11ml of product and available from LoveLula for £10.50 which is a pretty high end price compared to Barry M, so may not be suitable for you if you’re on a tight budget. But, if money isn’t as much of an issue for you, it is still cheaper than other high end brands like Zoya and meets all of my expectations for the price. They have a variety of appealing shades including beautiful, deep burgundies and purples and a few glittery options too. If you’re looking for a new vegan, cruelty free nail polish brand that lasts as long as it says it does, then give Maggie Anne a try!

I would also recommend the nail polish remover, which is £8.95. Again, it’s more expensive than picking up a cheap one at your local Superdrug, but given that I love using nail polish but hate spending time on the upkeep, the fact you don’t need to use much and that it removes my old colour so quickly and efficiently and has the bonus of vitamin E makes it well worth it to me.

What’s your go-to vegan and cruelty free nail polish?

* 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.

My Self-Love Journey

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Had you asked me ten years ago if I would ever be able to love myself and my body, I would have probably said: ‘that’s impossible’. And yet, here I am; a twenty five year old human adult who not only actually likes but loves herself and the way she looks. Although I didn’t include it in my hopes and goals for the year that I posted last month, I resolved this year to try to be more body positive and to foster more self-love within myself and the little blogging community that I’ve surrounded myself with. I figure if I can use the platform, voice and audience that I’ve somehow ended up with to help even one person’s life seem that little bit brighter, then that’s a pretty damn good use of them.

I can vaguely remember the first time I was ever self-conscious about my body back when I must have been no older than five or six – I thought my stomach was too big to wear a swimsuit I was in at the time. The sad reality is that little girls having that kind of anxiety about how they look is becoming more and more common, and sadder still is how hard you have to work to unlearn the bullshit that makes us think this way from such a young age.

When I was a teenager, like many other girls, I preeetty much hated myself. I very quickly went from an active kid, to a post-growth spurt skinny preteen, to a chubby teenager. I was never actually fat – at my largest, I was only ever a UK 12-14 – but I longed to lose weight and not feel like I had to hide myself in baggy hoodies and (during my brief foray into dresses in Sixth Form) loose-fitting summer dresses. I luckily never teetered any further into disordered eating than a couple of restrictive days and silly diets here and there, but my self-worth was still extremely low, and certain activities and articles of clothing and even confidence in general were very much, in my mind, reserved only for those with skinny bodies.

Back in the day, I also used to fat-shame and slut-shame the hell out of other women. The link between how little I valued my own body and my hatred of other women’s was by no means a coincidence – I didn’t realise it then, but I resented them. I resented slim women with the courage to wear tight-fitting clothes because I thought I couldn’t, I resented fat women for daring to take up space because I thought I couldn’t, I resented anyone who wore anything that I didn’t like the look of, just because I didn’t have the guts to do the same without worrying about what others would be thinking. It was internalised misogyny intertwined with pure and simple jealousy.

When I went to university, I suddenly dropped a couple of dress sizes thanks to the abysmal food served in our halls and a more active lifestyle (and by ‘active’ I mean ‘danced quite a bit in clubs’), but my relationship with my body didn’t suddenly mend itself just because I weighed less. Don’t be fooled by the advertisements, the testimonies, the media; loving yourself does not automatically accompany weight loss. Losing that weight was a completely unintentional fluke, but actually taking steps to learn to love my body and to not constantly compare myself to those around me took many more years of work.

Much of my body positivity came after discovering feminism, and was the natural result of unpacking my internalised misogyny and learning to dissect society’s expectations of women. During my four years of university, I educated myself, learned to stop judging other women for their appearances, to recognise that value does not lie in a woman’s size, and to find the beauty and the strength in those around me instead of always nitpicking at the bad. When I used to mentally attack other women for how they looked, I naturally assumed that everyone else was doing the same to me and that it was just normal, but once I pulled myself out of that habit I started to realise that: 1. I have no reason to be so scared because I’m most likely the only person giving a second thought to how I look and 2. If other people do give a shit, I’m not obligated to care what they think.

Of course, at that point I was only dipping my toes into self love. I started to get a little bit more confident, to wear more of what I wanted, to be less afraid of showing my body, but in some ways I was (and still am) suffocated by the same fears I had when I was younger. Showing my belly rolls or pooch would frighten me, and I loathed the fact that my thunder thighs touched. I always imagined a smaller version of myself that fitted the mould of ‘perfect body’ that I was well aware was a load of bullshit, but I wanted it anyway. I saw perfection in other bodies – it was no effort at all to see lovely tiger stripes in other women’s stretch marks, the beauty and power in fat women’s thighs, the softness and strength of exposed belly chub – but like many, I held myself to other standards. Other women are already perfect, but I’m not.

Since then it’s taken years of self-discipline, silencing the voices in my head and faking it until I make it to get to the point I’m at now. Throughout the past couple of years, my once turbulent relationship with health and fitness also finally blossomed and (although I won’t go into too much detail as I’m saving my fitness journey for another time) I was able to fully re-evaluate my goals when working out and do it purely for my mental and physical health and desire to be strong, not to be smaller. I no longer worry and monitor my weight (though I do check up on my muscle mass these days) and while I do still have plenty of insecurities, I’m not afraid to let my body simply exist and take up space in the state that it’s in anymore.

In a video I watched recently, one of my new favourite body positive influencers Kelly U of @_kellyu said something along the lines of: we don’t assign enough value to our own bodies to feel like they deserve to take up space. This really resonated with me and was so, so applicable to how I used to think about my own body. We don’t think we deserve nice things, whether it’s as big as love or happiness or as small as to simply be in a gym or wear a cute pair of shorts, until we take up less space and weigh less than we already do. We don’t value ourselves enough as we are to feel like we can simply enjoy existing and reach our full potential in our current state – there’s always some kind of desire to shrink and change ourselves so that then we can, at last, be who we want to be then and only then.

But we can be who we want to be now, and we deserve to take up space now. Happiness doesn’t come with a smaller dress size and I know now that I’m entitled to exist and to be happy without having to change my appearance. Loving my body is a constant struggle and an ongoing journey though; I still have regular off days. I’ll be feeling myself and think I’m sexy as hell one day, and then for no reason be back to square one and all I’ll be feeling is like I want to wrap myself in a blanket and never be seen in public again. The main difference when I feel like that now versus when I was younger though, is that I can recognise that those thoughts are problematic now and actively challenge my inner demons and self-perception, instead of simply absorbing them as I did before.

We don’t flick the self-love switch and become body confident badasses overnight; it’s a war we constantly wage within ourselves and against the messages society hammers us with on a day-to-day basis. My body confidence may be a work-in-progress, but the fact that I know that my body isn’t one is half the battle.

5 Simple Ways for Non-Vegans to Help Vegan Causes

Sunday, 26 March 2017

There are a lot of ways in which going vegan helps the environment, animals, and even your own personal health, but for a vast variety of reasons – some absolutely valid, others perhaps less so – there are plenty of people who might want to do something for these causes, but can’t or won’t commit to a vegan lifestyle.

Whether or not we should be ‘pandering’ to non-vegans and encouraging so-called ‘complacency’ is a pretty controversial topic to many in the vegan community, but I always have and always will be an inclusive vegan who values the support and activism of non-vegans too. Although going vegan would certainly make the biggest impact and would be what everyone would do in a perfect world, we don’t actually live in that perfect world and at the end of the day, we’re all trying to achieve the same things. I’m of the opinion that each action, however small, can still make a big difference. Nadia of Not So Quiet Grrl recently wrote a fabulous post on this and the challenges of being a ‘liberal’ vegan that perfectly reflects my views and is well worth a read.

In spite of how often I discuss veganism, share vegan items and shout from the rooftops about being vegan on my blog and social media, I have never wanted nor intended to exclude or intimidate any of my followers who aren’t vegan. The Zombie Said is a safe space for anyone wanting to lead a more compassionate and ethical lifestyle, whether they exclude animal products in their entirety or not, and I hope I come across as an open and approachable source of information for my readers!

In the spirit of this, I thought that it was about time I wrote a post I’d been mulling over for a while – ways that non-vegans can help vegan causes. If you aren’t vegan but you care about our planet and the animals we share it with and want to contribute to some of the causes vegans advocate for, then these tips are for you!
The amount of food we waste as a nation in the UK is astronomical, and each piece of food that we waste isn’t just a piece of food – it’s energy, resources and life, too. Particularly when we accidentally don’t use up the animal products we’ve bought, it isn’t just an item of food that we’ve let spoil, but litres and litres of water, hours of human labour, acres of land and many animal lives that have been used or exploited just so those leftovers or that tub of yogurt you forgot you had could end up tossed out. Most people don’t tend to make the connection that a forgotten chicken breast that had to be disposed of is actually an animal that was killed just to go in the bin, and a life completely wasted for no reason.

Throwing out less food is a basic but brilliant way to help reduce your impact on the environment and on animals’ lives, without having to make any drastic lifestyle changes. Simply being a bit more careful about how much food you buy each time you shop does a lot to ensure that all of the valuable things that go into the products we buy don’t end up being for nothing.  Remember that humans gave their hard work and animals gave their lives for your food, and have enough respect for these things to not waste them.

It goes without saying that the only way to guarantee no animals were mistreated in producing your meal is to just not consume animal products, but if you aren’t ready to cut those out and still want to try to make a difference, then buying from higher welfare and more sustainable sources will not only help some animals and protect the environments that they live in, but will also help to demonstrate a demand for companies to produce more of the same. If you eat fish, for example, go for line-caught, sustainable options and avoid anything trawler caught, as these dredge up the entire ocean floor and are completely indiscriminate in what they destroy. Or, try to avoid palm oil, as this is notorious for deforestation, habitat destruction and exploitation and abuse of indigenous people.

It can be tricky to navigate the world of more sustainable and ethical animal products – one of the reasons that many of us go vegan is due to the deceitful veil that animal agriculture businesses shroud their practices in. They use nice imagery, buzz words and logos like ‘happy hens’, the Red Tractor and bogus cruelty free logos designed to trick us into buying their products because we perceive them as the more ethical choice when, really, they’re utterly meaningless. If you don’t know how to decode any of this I highly recommend reading Farmageddon and checking out Compassion in World Farming. They have a great, simple guide you can download to see which labels mean the most for animal welfare standards and where the best places to shop for animal products are with welfare in mind.

If your diet can’t change but you still care about animal welfare, one of the easiest and most positive changes you can make is to start using beauty and household products that aren’t tested on animals. I’m sure any of my readers will know by now that I’m a huge advocate of cruelty free cosmetics! While food can be perceived as a much more personal choice and changing our diets can be a difficult lifestyle switch for many, cosmetic products are less of a necessity and there is quite literally zero need for an animal to suffer for our vanity given the alternative testing methods available these days.

Testing makeup on animals isn’t as cutesy-sounding as sticking a bit of blush on a bunny rabbit; it’s a brutal process of repeated injections and exposure to chemical substances until the animal dies or is in pain and immediately euthanised as a result. Buying makeup products that carry the Leaping Bunny logo or that have otherwise proven themselves to be cruelty free helps prevent countless animals from needlessly suffering. Logical Harmony and Ethical Elephant are two of my favourite resources for cruelty free beauty brand lists if you’re looking for a place to start, and of course my blog has plenty of reviews and recommendations for cf items. Always feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Instagram if you’ve got a question about cf beauty!

Animal agriculture and the beauty industry are both businesses, and money is the language of business. These companies don’t often really care about animal welfare or protecting the environment, but they do care about their profits. You have the power to sway their decisions simply by being more critical of where you choose to spend your money.

If you aren’t vegan, buy your animal products from known higher welfare supermarkets or brands. Select the items in the super market advertised as better for the environment over the ones that aren’t. Spend your money on a cruelty free alternative to your old favourite lipstick. A lot of people like to say that going vegan or cruelty free is pointless, that we can’t really make a difference, but sales of dairy milk are plummeting while non-dairy milk consumption has sky-rocketed. Big brands like Urban Decay make decisions to pull out of selling in China because of boycotts and outcry over China’s animal testing policies.

They want your money, and if they can see you giving it to someone kinder to animals and the environment instead of them, then that will give them an incentive to change their practices in order to increase their sales.

Not every vegan will agree with me on this, but when I speak to non-vegans about vegan causes I always advocate reduction rather than restriction. For those like me, completely omitting certain things from my diet was easy and a no-brainer, but not everyone is like me, and being told they need to totally remove loads of things they enjoy from their diets will immediately turn many people off the movement completely. For some, decreasing their animal product consumption is the best way to get them on board, may be the best or most realistic option for them personally and is still a valuable way to help animals and the environment.

At the rate that we’re going, our planet cannot support the demand for animal produce, whether that’s chicken or beef or cheese or you name it. The amount of land, energy and resources needed for animal agriculture and the damage it inflicts on the environment is simply too much, but reducing your consumption can help slow it down again. Obviously I would love it if no one ate animal products at all, but if everyone had a meat-free day per week, stopped having dairy milk in their cereals or stopped consuming animal products with every single meal, that would still have a massive impact on the demand for those products and, in turn, a massive impact on the scale in which they’re produced.

You don’t have to give everything up, but reducing the amount of animal products that you consume and learning to treat meat, dairy etc. as a treat rather than a daily necessity will also help to promote change. As long as we continue to think of animal products a necessary part of every single meal, demand for them will continue to be great enough for companies to ‘justify’ factory farming, habitat destruction and low animal welfare practices in order to meet our so-called ‘needs’.

I hope you found these tips a wee bit helpful and when in doubt, if nothing else, use your voice! You may not be vegan, but if you have educated yourself and are aware of animal welfare and environmental issues, you can still spread the word and promote awareness. It only takes one person – vegan or not – to start up a ripple effect and get others thinking more critically about where their food, beauty products etc. come from!

What are some ways that you try to be an ethical consumer?

2 Cruelty Free & Vegan Fragrances for Spring

Sunday, 19 March 2017

I never used to be much of a perfume person, or fragrance-of-any-kind person really. I’ve always disliked how most popular perfumes and body sprays smell – something about the strength and floral-ness of the scents has always given me a headache. It wasn’t until I started looking outside of the usual high street shops that I discovered that there were perfumes that actually smelled like, well, things. I enjoy fragrances that smell like actual things. Not old lady, obscure floral smells but actual smells – coconut, orange, wood, gingerbread, coffee and so on.

In spite of this, I’m not totally immune to spring fragrance trends! I think spring can be a great time to embrace fruity, floral smells (as long as they don’t smell like a grandma’s potpourri) and since spring has sprung I’ve been using a couple of lovely cruelty free, vegan fragrance options.

The Pacifica Mediterranean Fig Perfume* is the first cruelty free spray perfume I tried out; it’s £20 for 29ml and lasts well throughout the day. On first spray, it’s a much earthier smell than you’d expect from the name, but the earthiness quickly softens into a slightly sweeter, fruitier smell. It’s a very natural smelling fragrance that balances the woody and sweet notes very well and is a perfect scent for a warm spring day when the sun is shining and the blossoms are out. I’d heard good things about Pacifica’s fragrances from other vegan bloggers, and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint!

My other favourite that I’ve been using lately is the Balm Balm Mandarin Natural Perfume*. Balm Balm’s perfumes are all single note perfumes that can be used alone, or mixed with their other fragrances to create your own bespoke scent. Because it’s a single note perfume, it’s a very true mandarin scent and is exactly what you’d expect – citrusy and subtly zingy, but fruity, soft and sweet too. It smells almost as though you’ve squeezed some oils straight from a mandarin’s peel! Balm Balm’s perfumes are £22 for 33ml and are also 100% organic and made purely from essential oil and grain alcohol, so they’re about as pure and natural as you can get.

I’m pleased to have finally discovered not just Pacifica, but the lovely single notes of Balm Balm’s line too.  I never would have thought a few years ago that I would be wearing perfumes almost every day but, hey, here I am!  Both of these beauties are available online from – if you’re a fan of perfumes inspired by nature, I’d definitely recommend giving these a try.

What are your favourite cruelty free fragrances?

* 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.

Review / Alchemy Oils Amla Hair Remedy

Monday, 13 February 2017

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?

* 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.

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