Cruelty-free and Vegan

A few years ago, when I decided to no longer purchase cosmetics produced by brands that consent to animal testing where it’s required by law, I felt proud of my decision. Don’t get me wrong, I have every day since, too. But something I’ve grown to realise over the past couple years is that that alone isn’t enough for my ‘ethical purchasing consciousness’. I want every purchase I make to feel good. I want it to feel right. And despite the advantage of purchasing cruelty-free and vegan, I’ve realised that it isn’t enough. There are numerous other aspects to consider, such as quality of ingredients, packaging, ethics of production etc. These things have been niggling. I’m at the point now, where I simply can’t deny them.

The global cosmetics market is estimated to be worth around €181 billion. And I can’t see this figure decreasing any time soon. With influence thrown left, right and centre from Youtube, Bloggers, and Instagram as well as the more traditional television and magazine advertisements, we are bombarded. Those promoting cruelty-free and/or vegan brands totally get my praise. Many people still don’t realise that while we don’t test on animals here in the UK, many of the brands sold here are also sold in China where it’s required by law. (If you aren’t familiar already, Logical Harmony is where it’s at for determining the ethics of products before you purchase them.)

There are obviously some great things that come out of purchasing CF & V options. Firstly, you aren’t supporting the trade in China. Secondly, you’re choosing to support more compassionate consumption. Thirdly, you’re getting the ball rolling and increasing awareness. But I’ve realised that these aren’t the only ethics to be aware of in the consumption of beauty products. What about the formulation? Are you willing to use potentially harmful ingredients that can bioaccumulate in your body so long as it means that you aren’t supporting animal testing? Do you sacrifice yourself for the greater good? And what about landfill? Do the brands you support have an environmental policy? Is the packaging recyclable? Do they encourage you to bring it back to counter/store? Some brands who do support animal testing actually offer these. There are mixed priorities, clearly.

But the thing that I question is the ethical supply chain, or perhaps lack of, in many CF & V drugstore brands. It really can be summarised like this: 99% of the time the more you pay, the better quality you’re going to get. By ‘better quality’, I mean better ingredients with smarter formulas, more innovative packaging and probably happier staff who are producing those products for you.

It goes in the same category as ‘fast fashion’ for me. Granted, cosmetics won’t last you nearly as long as a piece of clothing if you look after it, but is it better to purchase every shade of a cheap drugstore blush for the same price as one high quality option from a niche brand? Depends on what your priorities are, I suppose.

The cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics market is still in the minority sector. That’s going to be the case for at least a few more years. But in the meantime, I encourage you to do your research on the brands you’re purchasing from. Go further than CF & V as your check boxes and ask questions like:

  • How am I going to recycle this packaging when the product is empty?
  • What ingredients are used in this formula?
  • Where is this product made and by whom?

There’s no one out there doing things perfectly. We’re either producing trash or driving around in pertroleum-fuelled cars or whatever else that’s harming the planet. It’s a constant quest for improvement. But I feel that as long as you’re on the path, that’s really what matters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to encourage your favourite brands to go one step further in becoming more ethical in their production.

If money is the issue, before you feel the pressure to buy luxury brands in recyclable glass bottles that cost you your whole month’s salary for one product, consider DIY instead. Keep it simple. Invest in a jar of high quality organic coconut oil that is multi-purpose and can allow you to make some of your own products.

Be mindful and ask questions about everything you’re purchasing. Remember: what you spend your money on is what you’re investing energy in. Make sure those purchases align with your values.

Photo via Unsplash

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Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

I’ve kind of reached this point now, where if there’s a beauty product that I can DIY, I will. It almost always costs less money and it means I know exactly what’s in it. Therefore, I’m not buying ‘filler’ ingredients. It’s pretty much the same principle as cooking with whole foods. If you prepare a meal made from identifiable fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses, you know what’s in it. This is contrast to a processed alternative.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are so many incredible brands out there producing high quality, beautiful products. And many of these I like to indulge in. But for something that’s needed in bulk, such as body lotion, deoderant, shampoo or conditioner, I choose to save my money. I’d much rather splurge on facial products or cosmetics where you really do get more for your money when it comes to the ingredients used. And these products use ingredients that I don’t have at home in my DIY stash and wouldn’t invest in.

Today’s recipe is nothing revolutionary, but it works for me and I know it can work for you too. It’s an apple cider vinegar conditioning rinse and this is how we do.

Yes, you’re going to be spraying vinegar on your hair. If this seems utterly ludicrous to you, let me shed some light. The pH of our skin and hair is about 5.5. Anything below 7 is acidic. Apple cider vinegar is acidic of course due to its acetic acid content. It has a long history of treating all sorts of skin ailments with its antimicrobial properties. It’s also clarifying, so that means it’ll help with any build-up that’s clogging your cuticles from hard water. This in turn will add volume. Think about it. If your hair isn’t weighed down with build-up, it’s free to bounce around in the breeze. This is what the vinegar rinse will do. It also adds shine and detangles.

What you’ll need:

  1. Spray bottle approx 250ml in size (I opt for a stainless steel bottle)
  2. 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  3. Filtered Water
  4. Essential oil of choice (I opt for lavender)
  5. Funnel

Here’s how we do it:

  1. Begin by adding your vinegar to the bottle via the help of a funnel
  2. Add water to just shy of the top of the bottle
  3. Add about 4 drops of your essential oil
  4. Replace lid, gently invert to mix, voila!

How to use it:

  1. After you’ve shampooed your hair, rinse and sqeeze out excess water
  2. Liberally spray the rinse and allow to do its thing for as long as you can (at least a couple minutes)
  3. Rinse with cold water. I know, this part sounds awful, but the cold water will help to seal your hairs’ culticles, thus making your hair less at risk of breaking and much shinier! It helps to flip your hair upside down and only rinse what needs rinsing. Don’t let that shit freeze your spine!

The mix will last anything from a couple weeks to a couple months. It all depends on how frequently you wash your hair and how much hair you have! Don’t worry about it spoiling for a few months though. This also works really well as a treatment if you prefer using more conventional conditioners. Use as an intermediate step between shampooing and conditioning to remove the build-up and strengthen the hair. Then, rinse and go in with your regular conditioner.

Apple Cider Vinegar
apple cider vinegarlavender essential oilHave you ever messed around with DIY hair recipes? If so, let me know what you recommend!

 

 

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skin

When it comes to skincare and any kind of routine, we tend to stick with what we know. That usually means, how we were raised and what we picked up from friends or magazines growing up. But it consistently amazes me how many friends I have now as an adult in my twenties that have a less than ideal routine and then wonder why their skin isn’t looking its perkiest.

Diet, hydration and adequate sleep are of course your power trio when it comes to good skin. As is minimising stress levels. Your skin is a mirror of what’s going on inside. Dehydrated? Fine lines will become more visible. Eating too much sugar? This is a collagen killer; you know, that important protein that gives skin its bounce? Then there’s sleep. Lack of sleep causes the undereye blood vessels to dilate. This will give you those tired-looking dark circles that hardly scream, “Look at me, I’m a youthful, healthy human!”

No life is perfect and from time-to-time we don’t drink enough, eat too much junk food, get sick and party too hard. That’s a given and quite honestly, life would be boring without that variety. However, one thing you can do is have a consistent, thorough skincare routine. If you feel like you’re generally pretty healthy, but still finding your skin isn’t looking the greatest, try incorporating these into your day.

Skincare Routine

  1. Double-cleanse. If you wear make-up or sunscreen, or live in a very polluted city, you need to be double-cleansing. If you think about it, any layer(s) of product(s) that you apply to your face will be the first thing that a cleanser comes into contact with when you lather up at the end of the day. Massage it all in and break down the sunscreen/make-up/smog, wash it off and then think about what you’re left with. The answer is, skin that hasn’t been cleaned. Your fancy cleanser may have done a great job at breaking down your layers, but what are you doing to clean your skin itself? Your skin secretes oils and sweats and it’s important that you remove those at the end of the day to keep skin healthy. I personally use an oil cleanser as my first cleanse, massage in and emulsify with water. I then use either a cream or gentle foaming cleanser for my second cleanse. It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to budgeting for your skincare, try to spend less money on your first cleanser and more on your second as the second one is the one that’s actually going to be giving you the skincare benefits. You want the first to do its job of course, but if you’re going to invest in a pricier option for one of your cleansers, make it the one that will be cleaning and nourishing your skin directly.
  2. Wear sunscreen. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but prevention is key. The sun – that beautiful, glowing star – does wonders for our energy and gives us vitamin D, but it also causes cell damage and therefore aging. Wear an SPF that you like on your face every day and the future you will be glad that you did. I personally love the This Works In Transit Skin Defence SPF 30. I apply this right before my make-up. It absorbs quickly and is non-oily. Plus, although the packaging is a big chunk of plastic, you can see when you take it apart when its empty that it is cleverly designed. An inner,thin bag stores the product and pumps every last drop out for you so you don’t waste anything. Big thumbs up from me.
  3. Exfoliate. This makes a huge difference, whether you’re complaint is dullness, acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation or aging. Check out this post where I cover everything you’ll ever need to know about chemical exfoliants and why you should make acids your best friend. They sound scary, but forget whatever horrid connection you have in your mind with acid on skin and read up. They are great for cleansing the pores, dissolving dead skin cells and revealing more youthful skin underneath. You can also opt for physical exfoliants if you like a good scrub, but I pick chemical every time because they are less likely to irritate and more likely to give a noticeable improvement.
  4. Take time to remove eye make-up. We all know to remove our make-up before we go to bed, but most of us don’t pay particular attention to removing all the little bits of eyeliner and mascara that stubbornly cling to our eyelashes. Consistantly leaving a layer of make-up in this delicate eye area can lead to blepharitis. This is a common inflammatory condition caused by oil glands at the base of our eyelashes becomming clogged. It can cause redness and sensitivity. Eyes are the windows to the soul, so red and squinty simply won’t do! I have also found that sleeping with crusty eyelashes makes me more likely to mindlessly pick at them in the morning. This increases the chances of pulling them out – not a good look!
  5. Introduce a face oil. Everyone can benefit from using a face oil either daily or occasionally. Yes, even the oily skin types. I think there’s this huge misconception that if your skin is very oily throughout the day that adding oil into your routine will only make things worse. WRONG. Our skin often produces too much oil when it is dehydrated. Giving it oil intentionally hydrates it so that it doesn’t have to go into overdrive producing sebum. For a really great overview of facial oils, I recommend giving this a read. Sunday Riley do a comprehensive range, otherwise for a really affordable, vegan and cruelty-free option I recommend Viridian’s.

You don’t need a million products to have great skin. It starts with a healthy lifestyle and can be supported by care and consistency with high quality products that you do choose to use. Less is more. Quality over quantity.

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Hello Beautiful

When it’s time to make a new skincare/bodycare/haircare or other cosmetic purchase, what are the main factors that contribute to what you choose? What do you prioritise? It might be:

  • Price
  • Packaging
  • Brand
  • Ease of purchase/accessibility

Or it might be the actual composition. See, when you’re purchasing a product, you are doing so because you have a job that needs doing. A niche that needs filling. You might have skin that needs cleaning, hair that needs styling, nails that need painting or dry skin that needs soothing. And while we must consider a price point within our budget, a product that we can easily get our hands on and we’ll actually enjoy using, first and foremost we should be critiquing the formulation.

Marketing is a powerful tool. Placing an attractive model before us – along with a sports car and a beautiful house on the beach – plays on our subconscious. A part of us truly believes that by buying that product (whatever it is) it will help us achieve that dream lifestyle. And it’s incredible how many of us would purchase without even taking a look at what’s in the can.

Today we’re talking common, but unpleasant ingredients currently littering our products. These are those unnecessary fillers that are best hunted out as you peruse the label and then avoided.

  1. Synthetic Fragrance & Colour – The former is there because it’s cost effective and the latter for aesthetics. But both have been found to be hazardous to health. Many chemical concoctions used to create a mimic fragrance are capable of causing hormone disruption. And as for the colours? Some of those are known carcinogens and culprits of anxiety and hyperactivity, not to mention skin irritants.
  2. Phthalates – These are plasticisers, therefore making a product softer. This makes sense if you’re making a child’s toy, perhaps? But added to products we’re putting on our body? In theory, they can allow a product to reach the most desirable texture, but in reality they are endocrine disrupters. There’s ample evidence linking it to an array of behavioural dysfunctions, as well as breast cancer.
  3. Formaldehyde – An excellent preservative used to keep strange specimens in glass jars for hundreds of years, formaldehyde is added to products as an antibacterial agent to extend the shelf life of the product. In theory, sounds good, but with so many excellent antimicrobial essential oils able to do the same thing, why are we bothering with this carcinogen? Look out for this one in nail polish where unfortunately many formulations still contain the chemical.
  4. Talc – There has been evidence linking talc-use with a higher risk of ovarian cancer. It really depends on whether the talc is asbestos-containing. Talc consists of hydrogen, oxygen, magnesium and silicon and is mined from the soil. Asbestos naturally occurs close by and so it’s important that care is taken during processing to ensure the purity of talc on the market. Aside from the obvious talcum powder, talc is found in many powder face cosmetics like finishing powders and eyeshadows, so be mindful of this one. Cornstarch and arrowroot are great alternatives to conventional talcum powder for the body and as dry shampoo. If it’s makeup you’re looking at go for formulations with silica and mica.

I’ve not included SLS on the above list because in my experience and research, evidence for any long-term effects is inconclusive. Irritation is a potential side effect of using it, but that’s on a case-by-case basis for sensitive skin. As a personal preference, I purchase products without it, but I don’t necessarily think everyone needs to do that.

There’s also inconclusive evidence for parabens. Yes, these preservatives have the ability to bioaccumulate in the body and have been found in the breast tissue of cancer patients, but the evidence to say that they contributed to the cancer is sparse.

Too much of anything will lead to one or another detrimental health issue. And no matter how hard you try, there comes a point where you realise that life must be lived fully. It’s a miserable existence trying to avoid every potential hazard you come across. But if there’s one change you make, let it be to make your next cosmetic purchase one that is a bit more natural and a tad more beneficial to health. Oh, and if you’re looking for a list of cruelty-free companies, start here.

Photo via Unsplash

 

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petroleum in skincare

Let’s talk about petroleum. Not in terms of it’s role in fueling our transport or making our plastic packaging, but how it has become such a normal component of our cosmetics. It’s slippery self has slipped in and it’s really better that it slip on out again, in all honesty. Today I’m discussing a little bit about what it actually is and why there are better alternatives you can be using.

To commence with a product with which everyone in familiar: Vaseline. Your tub of vaseline starts its lifecycle amongst a thick sludge of crude oil beneath the sea bed or land. It’s drilled, collected and then undergoes a process known as ‘fractional distillation‘. This process splits the oil into groups based on hydrocarbon chain-length. There are the short-chain hydrocarbons that are the most volatile and these become our gaseous and liquid fuels. These are the most desirable. The heavier, long-chain hydrocarbons (the sludgier stuff) that are less volatile are actually considered waste products of the petroleum industry. However, they’re scooped up and used in everything from industrial lubricants such as motor oil to fertilisers, pesticides and many, MANY cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

So, we’ve got our super obvious petroleum-based products like Vaseline, but this same ingredient is found in a whole host of topical skincare, bodycare and cosmetic products under names such as: petroleum jelly, mineral oil, paraffin, and petrolatum in various different wax to liquid oil proportions. I’ll use these terms interchangeably throughout the rest of this post.

Why it’s not worth a moment’s notice

Mineral oil is an emollient and applying it to a surface will prevent moisture from evaporating from that surface. Hence why it has a reputation for being great for dry skin. Dry skin doesn’t want any more moisture lost, so slathering on a layer of mineral oil surely does the job, right? Wrong. It acts as a barrier, but offers nothing to soothe the dry skin. It offers no kind of nourishment. Worse still, a recent article showed that long-term use of paraffin-based products actually makes us and our textiles more flammable. There have been several tragic deaths caused by heavy-usage of these kinds of topical treatments for conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

You can see the appeal though, can’t you? Petroleum jelly is dirty cheap, has a long shelf life, plus it seems like a great moisturiser, lubricant and cure-it-all for any kind of ailment. But that’s really all it is: an imposter. It appears in so many of our cosmetic products because it is an emollient and can hold moisture in. But that’s assuming you’ve already cleaned and moisturised the part of your body in question first, which we wouldn’t because we’re often buying the moisturiser containing the mineral oil with the promise that it will do the moisturising!

Any Alternatives?

The good news is that there are so many things that you can use instead of wasting your money on cheap, crappy, petroleum-based fillers. Coconut, olive, avocado, sweet almond or one of the many other natural plant oils do an excellent job at giving your skin or hair the nourishment it needs. There are also shea and cocoa butters as richer components to add to the mix.

There are a plethora of alternatives on the market. All you have to do is start reading the ingredients lists on the products you’re picking up off the shelves and you’ll soon come to recognise which brands are investing in quality over quantity. Or you can go one step further and simply make your own. Scour the internet until you find a recipe that you like. For the face, try here and body here. That should get the cogs turning.

FYI Tattoo Lovers

It’s been a long time since I eradicated petroleum-based products from my household and as you can imagine, I’ve never looked back. Bar one. My tattoo ointment. Like most people, I use either a specific tattoo balm (petroleum-based) or Bepanthen nappy rash cream (also petroleum-based). I just assumed that it was the one product that I’d have to suck it up and use. However, it was a revelation to meet an artist this year who recommended coconut oil. I’ve never experienced that recommendation before and he was so right. And of course it made sense; much like any other scabby cut that needs nourishment, why not feed my skin coconut oil?! Here I was not even following my own logic. It worked and it’s all I’ll use on my tattoos from now on. Thanks Merry!

You may well have no negative reactions and if you enjoy the petroleum-based products that you’re using, by all means go ahead. But I’d like to put it out there that you only have one body to love and nourish and keep looking its best. No matter how many layers you slather on, no amount of petroleum jelly will feed your skin the goodness it needs to regenerate and replenish.

 

 

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