Saturday, 23 July 2016

My All-Natural Skincare Routine

It's taken me a while to learn one key thing about my skin; less, for me, is more. Gone are the days where I was hoarding masks and treatments in every corner of my room and scouring the new in page of Space NK. It's taken some time but I'm finally happy with my skincare regime, and it seems to work a treat. Four steps, four products (three pictured - woops). Here goes:)

  • Cleanse - Liz Earle's Cleanse and Polish has been in my life for over four years now and I think that does a lot of the talking here. Trustworthy, simple, effective, and cruelty free too; winner.
  • Moisturise - This changes occasionally depending on the season and whatever samples I've kept aside, but currently I'm enjoying the Liz Earle Superskin Neroli Moisturiser as a day cream. Smells divine, light but hydrating, and quick to sink in. Another favourite is Astral Original, (which my nan has been using for about 60 years and let me tell you her skin is insane) which is affordable, rich and great for extra dry or winter skin.
  • Spot-Treat - Tea tree oil is the best thing I've found for drying out any pesky spots, especially those under-the-skin nightmares. I dot it on any problem areas before bed (avoiding broken skin and the eye area) and wake up to shrunken or disappearing blemishes. Any brand will do, but warning the smell takes some getting used to so perhaps dilute it with a serum or moisturiser to start.
  • Moisturise, again - I don't know if it's because I have fairly dehydrated skin, or because my mum has drilled into me from the age of 12 to moisturise my face day and night without fail, that I'm so into my moisturising. Each night, focusing around my eyes (mum also likes to tell me about 'crows feet' lines), I apply the Origins Overnight Drink Up mask as a night cream, which helps quench and plump any previously parched skin by morning.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Had a Bad Day?

I've been wanting to let you all in on what I do when feeling down, because hey, it happens to all of us. For me these help reduce stress, overthinking and general anxiousness, and became practically rituals over the recent exam season.

  • prepare fruit (or cooking in general, whatever you fancy) - oddly therapeutic, unsurprisingly very tasty
  • browse Free People - the styling, the visuals, the photography... All so aesthetically pleasing, I can scroll for hours 
  • watch anything David Attenborough - The "Africa" series on Netflix has been my favourite recently. Man this is like an emotional rollercoaster; you can be egging on a baby turtle to reach the ocean one minute, and the next minute be borderline crying over a tiny bird after seeing he's being hunted by prey. Also, the videography is immense, which makes it stunning to watch and very addictive
  • catch up on a couple of Youtube subscriptions - Watching a good YouTube video is always a nice way to chill out, see my favourite channels listed here 
  • look up at the sky - (I'm telling you the sky doesn't get enough credit) Gazing at sunrises, sunsets, stars, cloud speckled blue skies, whatever's up there. Some of my best/ most reflective thoughts happen when I do this, it's both beautiful and calming
  • listen to music that reflects your mood - if you want cheering up then of course go ahead and blast that mid 2000s pop playlist. But if you feel the need to sing along to 'Fix You' whilst staring out a rainy window the day before an exam, nobody's stopping you from hitting play on those slow Coldplay/Tom Odell/James Bay tunes
  • watch impractical jokers (aka marathon your favourite show of choice) - OK clearly TV helps me escape all my problems. This show though can have me in tears of laughter, though I warn you I have the same humour as a 12 year old boy so Impractical Jokers might not be for everyone
  • go outside - I know you've heard this a million times already, but it genuinely does have a soothing effect. Stopping to appreciate wildlife and plants or breathing in fresh air to cleanse and relax clouded headspace can really help ease stress (plus your camera roll becomes full of cute flower pics). Bonus tip for any of you going through exams right now, take your materials/flashcards outside! Walking the dog whilst lecturing my poor mum about A level geography was so much better than sitting at the dining table staring at dull notes, let me tell you
Remember, bad times are temporary ~ 'onwards and upwards' :)

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Going Vegan!

As you may have guessed from my 'Favourite Youtubers' post, I've started eating only plant-based foods. Ask me a year ago what I'd thought about vegans and I would've said something along the lines of 'hippies' or 'what about bacon, duh'. Ignorant, I know. But fast-forward to now and I can tell you it's one of the best choices I've ever made.

this cutlery looks so menacing I'm laughing
For some context, I'd been raised on a standard meat, dairy, veg, carbohydrate diet my whole life and for a good, well nearly 18 years, had very little awareness of any other ways to view and eat food (besides the school's vegetarian sausage on offer every christmas dinner, I was clueless). Combine some overweight early teenage years and a period last year of dishing myself smaller and smaller portions thinking that was the way to being 'healthy', it's fair to say my body and nutrition weren't on the same page. To add to this, my face began breaking out more and more around last Christmas, which led me to Googling acne causes. After some reading I found articles listing the downsides of cow's milk - you can imagine after over a decade of drinking a cup of the stuff each morning to round off breakfast, I was pretty shocked. I immediately made mental notes of some of the facts and talked mum into buying some alternative milks to test out for my skin's benefit. 

A week later, I (naturally) felt the need to bake brownies and stumbled upon TheVeganCorner's YouTube channel, quickly falling in love with their brownie recipe. Some YouTube clicks later, I came across a speech about this newfangled 'Vegan' ordeal and gave it a watch. One sitting of "101 Reasons to go Vegan", and I was completely convinced to give plant-based foods a try. It just made sense - I'd always been an animal lover, not much of a meat person (besides the bacon) and had been trying to become healthier for months, just not in a healthy way. This can sound extreme but it felt like a total awakening, part of me was angry; I had no clue about animal agriculture and it's physical, environmental and ethical repercussions. After all, dairy calcium and meat protein had been drilled into me from a young age as diet essentials, hence I didn't question what I was putting into my body. The other part of me was incredibly curious about the whole vegan thing, it was completely new territory and unbeknownst to me would become one big never-ending learning experience. From that video followed many others. Not just speeches; I was reading new recipes, preaching to my parents, telling my friends, researching more studies, writing grocery lists... I'd known of vegetarians and pescetarians for a while but had never even considered veganism.

I don't want this to get preachy, but I do want to let you know how much this switch has positively changed my life. First of all, it made me question a lot. I had been a total designer bags obsessive for a while (I was even adamant on saving up for a Chanel bag for my 21st birthday), spending my time online perusing leather bags I couldn't afford or fancy suede boots I'd be too afraid to scuff. These days, after a period of feeling torn between committing to a plant-based diet or a wholly vegan lifestyle, I've decided that the leather goods aren't cutting it for me. I've now realised I'd rather have the £1500 going towards a holiday or driving lessons than be in the knowledge that the bag in my hand was essentially an animal's skin dyed in an appealing colour and formed into a recognisable shape. Don't get me wrong, I still adore fashion and accessories, but from now on I've been trying my best to source faux leather options and avoiding fast fashion whenever I can.

Even me a year ago would've said this was crazy, but from initially just switching to plant foods, I now feel so much more aware of other elements of my life; beauty products, clothing, the environment, wildlife and even to my choice of pillow to avoid down filling. The discovery of veganism was quite the eye opener concerning the realities of animal agriculture (I won't elaborate but the likes of Cowspiracy/Earthlings will have you covered), something which I now do my best not to support. 

The change has also benefitted my body tremendously; my weight doesn't fluctuate, I feel keen to move more, my skin has drastically cleared (besides the unavoidable hormonal breakouts), my hair grows faster, nails are stronger, I feel much less cranky and bloated, and my own confidence has boosted as a result. The whole body and mind connection thing has begun too, I'm more understanding of my body, my outlook is more positive, I have less down days and I've gained so much knowledge simply through swapping out some foods for alternatives.

The only downside I've encountered as of yet is eating out. Unfortunately this will be a bit of a bummer until more vegan-friendly joints open up or more options are available at stores. Though this hasn't been a crisis yet and many places will either gladly take dietary requirements or alternatively to save the hassle, vegan options (from local places to chains) are listed on sites such as HappyCow or TripAdvisor. On the bright side, even in the past several months the amount of vegan supermarket options has increased dramatically; from the days of having only cows milk or soy milk on the shelves to having a dairy-free milk option available from practically every nut/grain available. There's also been an increase in the specific veggie/vegan sections emerging in shops, and not to mention all the commonplace goodies which are unintentionally vegan. 

Woah that was a hefty post. To round off, if you're curious about the lifestyle, maybe add in a vegan dinner to your rota once a week ( is a good place to start), or switch up your regular milk carton for a plant-based option. It's the small ingredient changes, recipe experimentation  and research that make the potential big step less overwhelming. Amazingly, from me clicking on that speech back in March, both my dad and my best friend now eat plant-based diets! How cool is it that such a positive lifestyle is catching on, and actually has the potential to change/heal the planet :O  Congrats if you've made it to the end, and remember to leave me any questions in the comments and I'll get back to you ASAP.


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Healthy Nails How-To

Rather than the ol' 'fingertip picks' installation, I thought I'd let you all know of my nailcare favourites this time rather than colours. For years I chomped on my nails and the surrounding foundations which caused havoc to their general length and health, and seeing as I know this is a common habit, I thought I'd share what's worked for me in the form of three easy steps.

Sorry for the dodgy 2012 instagram filter 'before' shot, it's all I had:(
  1. Omit the polish. This was the one crucial thing I was overlooking when I wanted to quit biting and start seeing progress. Often I'd paint my nails more than once a day (bad move) in the mindset that nail polish = glue. How wrong I was... even just the likes of clear varnish treatments were doing way more harm than good; when you think about it, its hard to believe any amount of well-branded chemicals will cure damaged finger nails, much like too much facial abrasion can cause people to break out. The sooner I stopped cracking out OPI's Nail Envy from my drawer like a madman, the sooner my nails could see sunlight, have a break, and grow out naturally.
  2. Nourish. Once the varnish products were gone from routine I began reading into nail care. This lead to me Essie's Apricot Cuticle Oil, something I've used so often the smell instantly reminds me of bed time. After swiping this across all my nail beds, I'll douse my hands in a good coating of plain ol' hand cream and pray that not too much of the concoction wipes off onto the sheets. If a ritual like this becomes second nature, your nails will be healing in no time. (For me this meant no more flaking-woohoo!)
  3. Wait. The most annoying and difficult of all three phases. Time is indeed a healer here, and the longer you can distract yourself from biting or picking, the better. For me this took a year to realise and another year to follow up, but trust me, it works! My nails are shinier, longer and sturdier than ever; 100x better than their flaking, weak and cracked past selves.
  4. [Bonus tip] Ditch the nail clippers. At least for a little while. For me personally, the 'snap' force of the clippers would send cracks and weaknesses through my nails, causing them to become fragile and would therefore break or crack the moment I knocked my hand. All I use now to shorten and shape my nails is the Crystal File from Leighton Denny, but any glass file will work just as well.
Happy nail growing!

PS- nowadays I only paint my nails occasionally in case you were wondering :)

Sunday, 3 July 2016

What School Actually Taught Me

Ah school, some people love it, some people hate it. Upon my reflection of the 14 years I'd say I'm on the fence about the whole shenanigan. I mean, I can't resent it completely because it's where you grow and become shaped as a person etc etc, but at the same time, it was sometimes pretty brutal. Anyway, here's what I've taken from it:

  1. Friends come and go. I probably would've been devastated if you told me in Year 7 that my whole circle of what I considered 'best friends' would vanish, change, and evolve a good three or four times. It happens, and just know that the right people will stay with you, and that people will move on throughout life, so don't be so consumed by lost friends as school is just the beginning.
  2. People can be nasty. For me this never reached bulling but the occasional bitchy comment or mocking (or laughing, laughing was the worst) was definitely a downer. What you must keep in mind is that these comments are a reflection of the offender, not you. Also say to yourself, will this moment still bother me in a year/5 years time; 9 times out of 10 it won't, therefore you know it's no long term problem (plus whoever's dishing it out will likely be gone by that point too).
  3. Homework stress is absolutely not worth it. I used to be the type of person to never miss an assignment as I was so afraid of the consequences. More questions to ask yourself if you happen to be in a similar position: 'Is this counting towards an important grade?', 'Is the teacher really going to care in a few weeks time if I don't hand this in, or hand it in late?', and 'Will this homework even be marked or acknowledged?' (bearing in mind the track record of some teachers...) Ultimately, I found it best that for each unit/subject, have a rough picture of what you will need to know for the exam or final assessment, and put a lot of your energy into learning this exact information, splitting the rest amongst other hobbies and your free-time. You'll be surprised at how irrelevant some of the homework becomes once you have the bigger picture and an accompanying mark scheme in your head. Obviously homework can be a great expansion of class understanding, but be aware of the rough importance of each piece and never sweat the small stuff.  Which brings me onto my next lesson learned..
  4. Health is more important than any letter on a page. Though it's frustrating that I only realised the true importance of self-wellbeing in my last year of school, better late than never hey? And it means I can spread this message to any of you guys still within school. I know how pressured it can feel when everybody is expecting a good grade from you, or you alone are over-working yourself to achieve good results; and whilst ambition is not the enemy, the accompanying stress for many is certainly an issue. Take a step back every so often - breathe deeply, drink plenty, and eat well. Deadlines can be extended, exams can be re-sat, and university placements postponed. Prioritise yourself over any grade; once you begin taking steps to help ease worry (by doing tiny snippets at a time, and as much as I found it impossible, try to start more serious tasks as early as you can), you will have more clarity and focus to work towards the bigger picture more strategically. Tackling it the other way round (overworking and sacrificing your health) can get pretty destructive.
  5. Exams are NOT a reflection of your intellect. I cannot stress this enough. If I had a pound for every time I'd gone into an exam tempted to fill my paper with 'Why I hate exams' essays, well, I'd have a lot of pounds. To put it simply, an exam is nothing more than a memory test. I think once you realise this, it can make you do two things; either crack down on your revision knowing exactly the information you need to regurgitate, or you get increasingly frustrated at how twisted the education system is, and how unrepresentative that hour-long paper is of the knowledge you've amassed from x years at school. Ideally, it'll be a mix of these two. Once you can embrace the second and tackle the first, you can realise that school is not the end of the world. In that moment in that exam hall, you can only write what you write, and that is all you can do. Exams do not last forever. These are mere stepping stones which will not determine how many opportunities or potential you have. Gotta move onto bigger and better things.
  6. Everyone is just a person. There were people throughout school I used to fear, envy, or judge subconsciously on the regular. I think everyone is guilty of these thoughts at school, it's impossible not to when you are so impressionable and are surrounded by a myriad of other people your age. Again, this took me a while but once you jump the hurdle and realise that every single person at school (including yourself) experiences doubt, insecurities, problems and embarrassing moments, the sooner you can find more comfort in a once extremely divided environment. Inevitably there will be cliques and labels assigned, but once you question what these labels, groups and individuals are actually defined by (what is 'popular/cool' besides a social construct?) and by who, you feel less alone than perhaps you once did. Be confident in yourself, give out positivity, and do not do what you would dislike other people doing (bitching, sniggering, acting superior or arrogant) as this will only make you unhappy in the long run. Most of the time, people are in the same boat, and any divisions or supposed differences are defined by ourselves. Try not to be a part of the problem by walking around claiming to 'hate everyone' etc; negativity generates negativity.
  7. You are allowed to change. I am so far away from the person I have been at different stages of school. We all fluctuate depending upon our friends, influences and experiences, and whilst these changes can be bad and good, they fundamentally shape who we are in this moment. Confidence will grow, maturity will emerge (to a degree, like I've said previously my humour is not the most advanced), and the right people will stick with you throughout the process; don't hold on to negative people who are draining to you. Even if your school experience is tainted with any bad decisions, bad people, or bad experiences, know that none of these are permanent, and that the growth we face within school is fundamental to who we are today. All you can do is take what you can from school years, work hard, and know that the outside world is so much bigger and better.