Sunday, 14 May 2017

Review / Walden Natural Perfumes: A Different Drummer

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.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Fatphobic Problem in Plant-Based Living

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.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

My First Cervical Screening

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

Monday, 17 April 2017

Why I Don't Like Diets

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.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

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

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.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

My Self-Love Journey

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.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

5 Simple Ways for Non-Vegans to Help Vegan Causes

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?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

2 Cruelty Free & Vegan Fragrances for Spring

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.

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?

* 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.

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?