Why Coconut Oil is the Essential Beauty Travel Companion (Hint: It has a Million Uses)

coconut oil

Whenever I’m heading out of town, I have this little competition with myself to see how little I can take. I live for the challenge. For some reason I get this kick out of taking a tiny bag away and wowing the person I’m visiting (or boyfriend, who can’t seem to understand the concept of packing light and takes a giant duffle bag with him even for an overnighter. I know, right?)

One of the areas I’ve focused hardest on is my cosmetics bag. Multi-use products are your friend when it comes to keeping weight down and streamlining your stash. And nothing does quite as incredible a job as coconut oil.

I know, it’s oh-so-trendy and you’re probably sick of hearing about it, but coconut oil really can’t have its praises sung enough. It’s the ultimate multi-tasker and has so many great health benefits. I opt for raw, cold-pressed, organic and human harvested. Yes, I point out that last one because unfortunately the world is a cruel place and not all coconut oil is created equal. Some producers enslave monkeys to perform the harvesting. I know – don’t even. Check out this informative piece for more information. It’ll help you avoid funding animal cruelty all in the name of coconutty goodness.

So why coconut oil? What makes it so special? It contains three medium-chain fatty acids. These are: lauric, caprylic and capric acids. They are anti-microbial, making coconut oil an excellent skincare aid. They’re also easily-absorbed, which means coconut oil gets to work quickly. The real place it comes to shine is when consumed. I highly recommend incorporating coconut oil into your daily diet for benefits such as reducing blood pressure and stabilising hormone levels, boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation. And that’s just a tiny sprinkling of all the perks.

But today we’re specially talking topical, so here are all the uses I get from one little pot when I travel:

  1. Make-up remover – Just as good as any fancy concoction, massage a small amount of coconut oil all over your face (including over eye makeup) and be amazed at how easily it’s all broken down without the slightest irritation or stinging. I remove with a warm wash cloth and then second cleanse with something to clean the skin directly. I’m currently using Organic Surge, but you could use something like Dr. Bronner’s which could double up as a body wash, hand wash, shampoo, make-up brush cleanser…the list goes on.
  2. Body moisturiser – Coconut oil makes one of the best body moisturisers. It smells incredible (if you use the raw, cold-pressed kind) and absorbs very easily. This means there’s no awkward wait before you feel dry enough to get dressed. It’s great for psoriasis, eczema and cracked heels too.
  3. Hand cream – I keep the coconut oil on me for dry hands throughout the day. It’s got the same perks as those mentioned for the body above, but will also nourish the nails and cuticles.
  4. Hair oil – Tame flyaways post-styling, or rub through the ends of damp hair before drying to give nourishment back to your locks. Coconut oil can also be used as a deep-conditioning treatment if your hair is particularly parched.
  5. Lip balm – Coconut oil does wonders as a lip balm when in a pinch.
  6. Highlighter – If you don’t want to carry a seperate highlighting product, coconut oil is perfect swiped across the cheekbones to give back some glow.
  7. Irritation soother – Whether it’s a mosquito bite or a stinging nettle rash, coconut oil is an excellent resource for soothing angry, itchy skin. This makes it ideal for taking on holiday with you. Be aware though that coconut oil will melt at around 24°C, so keep it in the fridge if you’d rather keep it in solid form when staying somewhere hot!
  8. Shave oil – Yes, it can be used for this too. Rub onto damp skin, shave as normal and enjoy how soothed it feels afterwards.

So that’s eight uses before we even get into how I use it combined with a few other simple ingredients to make an array of other cosmetics such as deodorant, massage oil and toothpaste! It’s a truly remarkable, natural multi-tasker that is worth investing in.

Photo via Unsplash

Save

Read the Label: 4 Cosmetic Ingredients to Give a Miss

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

 

Save

Save

Here’s Why You Need to Start Burning Natural Candles and My Favourites

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!

Save

Petroleum in our Skincare: It’s Utterly Useless and Best Avoided

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.

 

 

Save

Healthy home: Tips for ‘cleaner’ cleaning

Before I lived in this apartment, I was in a shared house. In this shared house, the communal areas were cleaned by our gracious landlady. It was great – she did an incredible job and it meant that we the housemates never fought over who’s job it was to clean. Everything really was scrubbed to perfection and it made living with so many others relatively pleasant.

The only thing was, after she’d been there would be that familiar, lingering scent of bleach all up the stairwell and into the kitchen. I get it – I do – she was just sanitising the surfaces. This is what most people do. However I loathe the smell of bleach. I think I always have, but especially after working in a laboratory where bleach becomes a cling-on on the first day.

So the house would be clean, but the bleach would be etched into the surface of my nostrils for hours post. It would almost make me want to hibernate for a little bit before venturing out of my room. It physically made me nauseous and would induce a headache.

When I moved into an apartment with Jonny, I saw the opportunity to consciously think about which cleaning products we were going to use. Hardly the most exciting aspect of moving in with the person you love, but important none-the-less. There’s nothing romantic about sharing dinner and a glass of wine if your surroundings are disgusting, right?

By the time we came to shop for essentials for our totally unfurnished space, I had compiled a list of environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products that I was determined to place under our new kitchen sink. It is now a year later and bleach hasn’t even tried to make an appearance. Irritation no more!

Below are my essentials. I totally encourage you to consider these if you’re wanting to make the move to products that keep agitated skin and environmental pollution to a minimum.

  1. E-cloths – These are by far the best discovery. Long-lasting, machine washable cloths interwoven with the finest of fibre threads that remove bacteria from surfaces. All you need is cloth + water to do the job. No product required. I use this for wiping down surfaces and cleaning windows and mirrors.
  2. Ecover & Method – these are two cruelty-free, plant-based brands that produce a whole array of cleaning products. When water just won’t cut it, or for bathroom cleaning products, I reach for these natural brands. Most supermarkets will stock the basics from these brands, otherwise I recommend Ethical Superstore if you want to pick up some more specialist items.
  3. Baking soda & Vinegar – When the drain is blocked, instead of reaching for those life-destroying, vomit-inducing ‘solutions’ that annihilate everything in their path, try something more fun: baking soda and vinegar. These two will clean just about anything, from a kitchen sink to a carpet stain. Check this article out for great recipes.
  4. Michael’s Original – these scourers are made from biodegradable plant fibres and do an awesome job at everything from scrubbing limescale in a shower to cleaning root vegetables. These are great because there’s nothing to throw away from them…they just wear away over time.

I feel that a home should be a safe and sacred place. Treating it with kindness and respect is a great start. I wouldn’t say that I have a passion for cleaning, by any means, but I do care about my impact on the planet. Oh, and my health. For me, it starts here.

Photo via Unsplash

 

Save

Pinterest