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

Save

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.

Save

Save

Save

Vegan Brownies

For the month of May, I’ve decided to take a break from all junk food. This isn’t as difficult as I’m sure it is for many others. Most of the time my meals are home-cooked, vegetable-dense and fresh. But my big thing is baking. I LOVE baking. And I bake frequently. But while I love the therapeutic process, it’s a lot of sugar. Let’s be honest. I guess it doesn’t affect me so much if I’m passing on the goods, but if they’re staying under my roof? Well…

These days, my cakes are vegan. And generally speaking the recipes I follow opt for sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, agave and date syrup whenever possible. Otherwise, it’s unrefined cane sugar. However, sugar is sugar at the end of the day. And then there’s flour. Too much flour isn’t the best either. SO I decided to put something I’d read about to the test: sugar-free, gluten-free brownies – wait for it – with just THREE ingredients!

This recipe is super quick, convenient and can be made ahead of time. I think of these brownies as both as a dessert and a snack. They’re a great bite to have after the gym, as a mid-morning snack at work, or to end a meal with a treat. I cannot recommend them enough.

Ingredients

3 Ripe bananas

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 Cup nut butter (in the below I’ve used almond butter, but I’ve also made mixing almond and peanut, or just using peanut. Experiment and let me know which is your favourite!)

Process

  1. Preheat over to 180 C and grease a small round or square brownie tin
  2. Blend all ingredients together
  3. Smooth batter into tin and bake for 20 minutes (or until inserted skewer comes out clean)
  4. Let cool completely
  5. Slice and refrigerate – these definitely taste best cold from the fridge. Voila!

3 Ingredient Brownies

Brownie Batter

Vegan Brownies

Save

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

Wills Vegan Shoes

I have been on the hunt for a pair of well-made, water-resistant, vegan, ethically-manufactured black boots for months. I mean MONTHS! And there are several brands out there, but none that totally had me sold and were within my budget.

Along came Wills Vegan Shoes. This London-based retailer prides themselves on producing vegan shoes that are both ‘animal and human-friendly’. I sure liked the sound of that! With plenty of styles on offer, I went back and forth until finally settling on the Aviator 2’s. I was after a boot that was suitable for everyday, but could also be dressed up for an evening outfit and this option seemed to tick all the boxes. The reviews were all beaming too, which helped me make the decision.

Aviator 2s

They are a delight! They definitely feel the way new Dr Martens do – as though they need a good few wears to break them in. But that’s good – it indicates a sturdy boot that is likely to last. These are breathable and water-resistant, so perfect for the British weather. They have a slight heel too, which gives them a healthy dose of feminity. Chic work boots, if you like. Ethically-made and PETA-approved, they tick all the boxes.

I don’t think I can give these a full review until after a few months of wearing, but so far I am so pleased with the size (true to size) and quality. I would highly recommend checking out the Wills Vegan Shoes website if you’re looking for a new pair of kicks. I can’t think of a single outfit that these wouldn’t go with.

Save