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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Eat Your Sunscreen

What if I told you that you could protect your skin from sun damage by altering what you eat? I’m going to guess your reaction would be fairly similar to mine: excited. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a nice, cruelty-free and non-greasy sunscreen. But if I can boost my skin’s self-protective mechanisms with some of the foods that I consume, then why the hell not?

According to 2014 data from Cancer Research UK, 86% of melanomas were preventable. That makes you think, doesn’t it? All the stress and pain that comes with skin cancer which could have been avoided with better self-care.

When our skin is exposed to the sun, melanogenesis occurs. This is the process whereby skin pigment melanin is produced in melanosomes by melanocytes. This is what gives us our tan. Ultraviolet rays can cause cellular damage, so our skin has to have some sort of protective mechanism to prevent frazzling. That’s where the melanin steps up. It’s pretty remarkable really. It’s also the pigment behind our eye and hair colour.

But even with melanogenesis, cell damage can still occur in the form of DNA lesions. Our bodies have protective mechanisms that allow for these and can correct them to a certain extent, but once equilibrium has been surpassed, that’s when danger strikes.

Let’s talk about lycopene. This red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya and red carrots was shown to have tremendous sun-protecting benefits. A study was carried out on a group of women who were used to burning very easily in the sun. They were asked to eat tomato paste (known to contain high levels of lycopene) every day for 12 weeks prior to being exposed again and what was found was a 30% reduction in burning! It’s no substitute for sunscreen of course, but a definite help in protecting the most sensitive of skins.

Ketchup is an easy source of lycopene, but at only 2.5mg per tablespoon, it’s not enough. Consider tomato paste instead, at a whopping 75.4mg per cup or a wedge of watermelon which will provide about 13mg.

Next up we’ve got vitamin B3, otherwise known as nicotinamide. This has been shown to prevent skin cancer in those who are considered ‘high risk’ patients. It is found in trace amounts in many multivitamins, otherwise can be obtained from green vegetables, nuts and mushrooms.

This is really key in patients who have already been diagnosed with milder skin cancers. Supplementing with B3 was shown to have a 23% decrease in the likelihood of these patients developing another cancer.

Finally, let’s discuss Vitamin D. Because while the sun can hurt us, it also really benefits us if we’re exposed in the right amount. Vitamin D is metabolised when UVB rays come into contact with the skin. It is a steroid hormone that prevents a whole host of chronic illnesses as well as fighting short-term infections like cold and flu. It helps regulate calcium and phosphate in the body and a deficiency can cause bone deformities. The key to generating vitamin D is to expose as much surface area of your skin as possible to sunlight, as close to solar noon as possible for as long as possible without getting burned. A pretty staggering finding is shown below:

Having optimum vitamin D levels (70 ng/ml) could prevent 16 different types of cancer including breast, ovarian and prostate.

But what happens when you simply can’t get out in the sun? Perhaps it’s the dead of winter, or maybe you have a demanding job that’s indoors and you work long hours. This is where supplements can come in. You can either buy supplements in the form of pills, or you can enjoy the intake through delicious foods. Do some research and you’ll see that things like oily fish, red meat and eggs all crop up. None of these are vegan-friendly, however. So let’s instead talk veggie options.

  1. Mushrooms – They naturally contain vitamin D, however a cool trick is to leave them in the sunlight to boost levels. Then, eat up! Seems mushrooms really are the one when it comes to powerful prevention. Hello portobello burgers at BBQs this summer…
  2. Plant-based milks – Consider fortified milks as an ideal and easy source of vitamin D. Whether it’s almond, soy, or oat that you’re chugging, check the ingredients list and see what’s included as a helpful addition.
  3. Tofu – Check your tofu ingredients because it’s likely that this too has been fortified. Job done.

If you needed another reason to consider eating more healthily and sun exposure is a risk where you live, consider these protective foods to help yourself out a little. The same goes for including more vitamin D in your diet if your problem is not getting enough sun. For something that can be so easily prevented, skin cancer is incredibly common. Keep your sunscreen handy, but enjoy the deliciousness too.

Photo via Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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candle

There’s nothing like a good candle, is there? And not just for when you want to get all hygge. Candles are an excellent tool for creating a certain kind of ambience and inducing relaxation. But how well do you know your candles? What kind of wax are they made of? Where are the scents derived from? You see, there are a plethora of options when it comes to how one constructs a candle and it’s a good idea to be in the know, as you’ll see below.

Most of the candles we see on the market – usually identified by their low price point – are made of paraffin wax. Yes, the same paraffin that I hashed out in my last post. It’s derived from petroleum and is essentially a waste product produced during the ‘cracking’ process. If it’s not in your skincare, it could be in your candles! And burning paraffin has been linked to cancer. The effects aren’t as dramatic or rapid as that of second-hand smoking, but research out of South Carolina State University found that inhaling the fumes given off when burning paraffin candles has been linked to both lung cancer and asthma. You might be one of the many that thankfully do not contract cancer, but if you suffer with any respiratory sensitivity, give your candles some thought.

Next up, the wicks. My guess is that you’ve never given a single thought to candle wicks and their construction. Am I right? I know I certainly hadn’t. But did you know that some candles – particularly those imported from China – contain lead to help keep the wick in place, like an anchor? There is evidence that toxic fumes are sometimes given off from the lead during burning.

Many of the candles we see on our shelves are scented – and foor good reason. There’s nothing so comforting as the scent of your favourite candle as it gently wafts towards you as you perch with a cup of tea. But maybe looking at the effects of synthetic fragrance will make you reconsider. Synthetic fragrance found in all of our cheap candles (because it’s cheaper to make than using essential oils) is a known irritant for a lot of people. This is why we see so many ‘fragrance-free’ products marketed towards those with sensitive skin. Synthetic fragrances contain pthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors. They can cause sperm damage and concentrate in fatty tissues and breast milk. Not great, right? And you might find if you have sensitive skin that you start to feel a little itchy or irritated if your body is not happy with the chemical concoction that you’re burning.

Aside from all the chemicals used in the fragrance, as paraffin candles burn they give off benzene and toluene. Both of these are toxic and also found in diesel fumes. Many made of artificial dyes will also give off these as the candle is burning. Suddenly the air doesn’t smell so sweet, does it?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are many great candles on the market. They will cost you more, sure, but will provide the best experience. Plant-based candles such as those made of flax, soya and rapeseed can all offer great alternatives to toxic paraffin. Otherwise, there’s always beeswax. You’ll find that all of these burn much slower than paraffin candles, thus lasting much longer. They may come scented or unscented. For scented ones, look out for those containing natural fragrance derived from essential oils. Generally speaking, you find brands that use natural waxes tend to gravitate towards natural fragrance, but not always, so make sure you do your research.

Here are 5 of my favourite brands that stretch across all price points:

  1. Picklecombe House Sensual Aromatherapy CandlePicklecombeI normally purchase these from Holland & Barrett. I’ve tried a few scents, but this is my favourite. A flaxseed candle that smells of ylang ylang and rose; what’s not to love?
  2. Root Lavender Vanillaroot lavender vanillaThis votives pack a serious punch. They burn for ages due to their beeswax base, and throw out a great amount of natural fragrance. This one is super calming and I burn it when I’m working.
  3. Neom Real Luxuryneom real luxury This one is the ultimate for me. Burn while bathing and feel like a total goddess. It’s a blend of lavender, jasmine and Brazilian rosewood…I know right (swoon)?! Neom use seriously high quantities of essential oils in their candles to give you the most heavenly treat money can buy.
  4. Bee Fayre Honey Lilybeefayre honey lilyThese candles are ridiculously long-burning and smell incredible. Vegan-friendly and made of plant-wax, a portion of every purchase goes to protecting bees. I love the whole range, but this scent is really comforting to me. Burn while curled up with a good book and your favourite cup of tea.
  5. Pacifica Island VanillaPacifica Island VanillaThis scent also comes in eau de toilette style, but burnt in candle form it is ridiculously divine. Burn it all day, every day I say!

What are your favourite natural candles? Please share them with me as I’m always on the hunt for new ones!

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