Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review of Inika's Peacock Blue Eyeliner

Inika Eyeliner in peacock blue.

No vintage china plates were harmed during the making of this blog post. I can accomplish this sort of destruction all by myself. 

Vibrant swatch.

An actual smile...must be the eyeliner. 

So this is: Lily Lolo mineral foundation in Blondie, RMS UnCover Up, tiny bit of Waikiki bronzer (also by Lily Lolo) and Inkia Eyeliner in peacock blue. 

See how this eyeliner matches my new earrings perfectly?

This is pretty much all of the jewellery I own: a mixture of gifts, vintage finds and hand-me-downs. Thank you to my lovely sister for the gold hoops from Silverado.

Pure genius. Why don't all eyeliners have a tiny sharpener in their lid?

I bought this azure eyeliner in rebellion. I needed to buy some dreary, bread and butter items from an online beauty store: conditioner and tampons, if you're interested.

But the thought of that parcel turning up at my front door was too sobering for a Sunday afternoon. So I added this slick of metallic cornflower blue, completely unnecessary, unwearable for work. This is intentional makeup, eighties film poster makeup, makeup for the first light of dawn, and getting a cappuccino from the only cafe that is open. This purchase was inspired by a natural and organic blog I love: 'No More Dirty Looks.' In their tutorial the eyeliner looks like a soft lilac shade, but in reality it is a true bright blue. It looks great if you have lightly tanned skin (I don't) and with shimmering bronzer: I used Lily Lolo's Waikiki, which is slightly too dark for me, so I wear just a tiny bit it with their Cherry Blossom blush.

I'm still slightly scared of eye makeup. I've only really mastered a wash of bronze eyeshadow. But a coloured waterline seems so much easier: not grungey, but fresh and modern. Perhaps what Debbie Harry would wear if she were starting Blondie now. The wearability of this eyeliner is good, but if I was wearing it from day to night I would top up. The texture is creamy, and the colour is highly pigmented.This blue matches my new glass earrings perfectly, and I am eyeing up their Green Lagoon and Purple Minx eyeliners as I write.

So an impromptu purchase...an unnecessary purchase...but one I regret? Not at all.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Five healthy meals and snacks for when you can't be bothered with complicated cooking...

Green soup.

Tuna Nicoise salad. 

Butter beans and sauteed vegetables - alternative take on pasta. 

Roasted vegtables.

Mango hedgehog, banana, peanut butter and walnuts. 

I am not a chef. These are not recipes. I measure nothing, unless I am baking a cake, which never happens. So think of this less of a couple of recipes, and more of a moodboard, of meals you have probably cooked before, but have forgotten about in the tumble of everyday life. 

1. Green Soup. You can keep your green smoothie: I have a green soup. Sautee some onions (garlic if you wish) and courgettes that have had the skins shaved off with a peeler. Add vegetable stock and frozen organic peas. Blend with one of those really cheap hand held blenders. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Freeze batches and save for the rest of the week. See, I told you it was easy.

2. My take on the tuna Nicoise salad. The big difference that makes this salad is using really high quality tuna, stored in olive oil. I can recommend Fish For Ever, or  the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference one in a glass jar. Trust me, this tuna turns a sad little salad into authentic, nourishing meal. And the olive oil serves as your salad dressing. I added fresh organic cherry tomatoes, spring green, walnuts and mixed grains: you can opt for the pre-cooked kind from Merchant Gourmet, or just cook up a batch of quinoa and keep in the fridge. I also added an organic boiled egg. 

3. Alternative to pasta: butter beans and sauteed veggies. Sautee an onion, celery, and cherry tomatoes in some rapeseed oil and a spoonful of organic butter. Add some greens, the butter beans and a tiny bit of chili powder. This give you the warm, tomatoey starchy feeling of a bowl of pasta, without actually being a bowl of pasta. 

4. Roasted vegetable tray. Chop up lots of vegetables from your veggie box: I like beetroot, carrots, potatoes, peppers, chili and tomatoes. Roast the vegetables, while you go about your business (which is inhaling lavender essential oil and updating your Instagram account, if you are me). Add garlic, garlic and rosemary for a more aromatic effect. Serve with a glass of red wine. Keep the roasted garlic for future soups, or spread on crusty bread. 

5. Banana, peanut butter and walnuts. With a mango hedgehog. This tackles the salt and the sugar cravings, and looks as pretty as a cupcake. Slice the mango in half, and score diagonal lines across the flesh. Then turn inside out. Chop the banana in to chunks, and top with peanut butter and finish with walnuts. Fruit and nut butter is such a good combination: I also love apples and organic almond butter. 

Eczema: natural and organic remedies by my beautiful sister Sarah...

Looking happy and eczema free on holiday...

Your guardian angel, with lots of eczema related advice...

I was asked by my darling sister to write a guest post in honour of National eczema week (which is sort of like London fashion week, but a bit less glamorous, and for itchy people).

Your eczema story. Describe your experience with eczema, when did you first get it, how you've managed to control it.

Eczema is incredibly common in small children and babies, as I'm sure you'll know, but the majority of people 'grow out of it'. Adult eczema, on the other hand, is not so common - so imagine my dismay when the relatively mild outbreaks of eczema I had in the creases of my elbows and the backs of my knees as a young child did not go away but in fact got progressively worse during Sixth Form and continued throughout my first and second years at University. At its worst, I had patches all over my limbs, torso, hands, face, and, most painfully, my eyelids. (Although, weirdly, to this day I have never had a scrap of eczema on my feet. Perhaps they are immune).

Why did you transition from using conventional medicine and beauty products to natural and organic beauty products?

As well as the physical discomfort which any fellow sufferers will understand only too well, I became increasingly more distressed and self-conscious with the look of my eczema – scaly, itchy, irritated red skin doesn’t really provide the best canvas for makeup, and it is surprisingly hard to dress yourself without looking mad when trying to cover every bit of skin from your eyebrows to your ankles - of course I was happy to show off my feet, as they were always lusciously smooth. Frustrated with the doctor’s attempts to palm me off with steroid creams that I didn't want, as they didn't work, and in fact only made it worse, I turned to more natural remedies with the help of my sister to find something to alleviate the itching and discomfort.

Which beauty products or homemade treatments worked for you, and which ones didn't?

I'll need to drop a disclaimer in here that even aside from the eczema my skin is very sensitive, very reactive, and generally a bit of a diva. Having said that, there is one brand above all others which I credit with helping my very upset skin, which is Organic Surge. I am obsessed with this brand. They provide reasonably priced, effective skincare; but what I really loved about Organic Surge while I was making the leap from conventional beauty products and cosmetics to natural and organic ones is that they’re prettily packaged, they smell nice, and not weird and herbally, and the consistency and application is virtually the same as conventional products – but they’re not bad for you. What I mean by this is that things you would expect to lather, like their shampoo, does lather – and if you’ve made a foray into the world of natural beauty you will have undoubtedly have gone through the incredibly disconcerting experience of washing your hair for the first time with a shampoo that doesn’t lather. So. Weird. Now I like the feeling of shampoo and shower gel and face wash that lather up nicely, but the problem with most conventional products is that they contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as the lathering ingredient. SLS is drying and damaging for normal skin, let alone dehydrated and distressed eczema prone skin, so that is the last thing you want to be using. I can't promise that Organic Surge will work on every different skin type, but I can vouch for its effectiveness on mine, and I’ve also seen reviews on their website from other eczema sufferers saying that it helped them also.

My top five tips for coping with eczema:

1.  Be wary of ingredients
So, SLS is a no-no, but here are some other ones to watch out for: mineral oil - also drying, also damaging; perfume and fragrance in beauty products – can be very irritating to skin, especially patches of broken skin. There are countless websites and forums dedicated to natural remedies for eczema, so do your research and read up on what ingredients are good and bad for your skin and why. Try to keep in mind though that just because something is natural or organic does not necessarily mean it will help your specific skin type – for example, coconut oil is widely hailed as being a miracle worker on thirsty skin and the natural beauty world’s biggest multitasker – I think it’s great for other uses, but it didn’t work for me on my face at all.

2. Identify your triggers
Following on from this, it’s a good idea to try and identify your triggers so that you can avoid them, obviously. There are some common triggers found in conventional cosmetics listed above, but it’s likely that you will also have your own personal triggers. Other triggers can be cosmetic ingredients, stress, clothing, pet hairs, alcohol and different foods. It might help you to keep a food diary to identify any food sensitivities. I’ve never really gone in for this because I like cheese too much, but I have read a lot that dairy can be a trigger, so perhaps try cutting out dairy for a week or so and see how you feel.

3. Be consistent – but also be prepared to try new things
This tip sounds contradictory, but what I mean is it might take you a long time to find something that works for you – but when you find it, stick to it. Religiously. Finding a skincare routine or particular brand that works for your skin when you have eczema prone skin can take time. From experience it took quite a bit of trial and error to find the products that make my skin happy. Try to utilise websites like Lucyrose.biz and naturisimo.com that offer free or inexpensive skincare samples so that you can try products out more cheaply before deciding if it’s right for you.

4. Don’t forget your clothes
Autumn and winter are now rapidly approaching, and with them they bring two things which are especially bad for eczema – cold weather, and woolly jumpers. Now, you can’t do much about the first, but remember not to neglect your wardrobe when thinking about what’s best for your skin. Wool and even cashmere can be extremely irritating to eczema prone skin, but also synthetic fibres don’t let your skin breathe. Cotton and other natural fibres will be kindest to your skin, and not wearing things too tight will help to relieve itching.

5.  Be kind to yourself.
I still occasionally get mild flare ups on my face - nothing that isn’t too difficult to cover with Lily Lolo mineral foundation (I use China Doll, my sister uses Blondie) – but for the most part my skin is clear from eczema now. I don’t have a miracle cure – there is no cure for eczema – and I am still not entirely positive what caused my eczema to get so bad in the first place, but I believe I can accredit most of this improvement to my mental state and attitude towards eczema.
Having bad skin does not make you a bad person. This sounds almost too obvious to point out but the reality is a lot of people find it difficult to separate their outward appearance with the way they feel about themselves.
Being calm and able to put my skin issues into perspective has helped immeasurably with not only my confidence, but also ironically with the appearance of my eczema.
Of course, I want my skin to look good, but worrying about something that I cannot change only made me feel worse. Learn to accept yourself and to love yourself unconditionally, scaly skin and all.

If you could give one piece of advice to a teenage girl with eczema on her face and hands, what would that be?

It's not as obvious as you think it is. Honestly. I know how difficult that is to believe, because when you're having a flare up the physical discomfort makes you constantly aware that the eczema is there, let alone feeling self conscious about the way that it looks to other people on top of all that. But I have to say, an overwhelming amount of people do not notice it, even when you feel like it is the most glaringly obvious thing in the world. Think about it - you're too busy worrying about your own insecurities to notice other peoples...and so are they.

I don’t mean this to diminish what you are feeling. It is absolutely okay to be upset sometimes, but know that you are beautiful regardless of the appearance of your skin. Also lots of sleep, lots of water and an excellent moisturiser (there is absolutely no such thing as too much moisturiser). 

Sisters. I'm wearing Lily Lolo Rose Glow highlighter (limited edition, now sadly gone) vintage Laura Ashley earrings (my mum's) and a vintage one shoulder TopShop top from a Brighton charity shop. Based on a educated guess, my sister will be wearing Lily Lolo foundation in China Doll, their blusher in Ooh La La, Burt's Bees lip balm and Dr Hauschka mascara. 

My sister recommends Organic Surge, I would recommend Dr Bronner's Baby Mild soap, and Pai's Comfrey and Calendula Calming Body Cream. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Five things that make life good

Dew laced spider web

Photographs taken by my mum in our garden at home.

Enamel made and decorated by my sister at jewellery school.

I hope that my sister makes these into brooches. 

Saturday fruit platter: passion fruit, red currants and frozen berries.

Wildflowers in an Oxford churchyard. 

100% beeswax handmade tea lights - these have a gorgeous scent.

Beeswax tea light in a Nkuku candle holder. 

How to deal with monster blemishes...naturally

Organic apple from Riverford Organic.

Soaking a thin slice of apple in boiling water for two minutes. 

Organic lavender essential oil from Neal's Yard.

Aloe Vera stalk.

Natural Aloe Vera gel.

Organic raw British honey from Hill Top Honey.

Organic first aid lotion from Essential Care.

Sometimes, when faced with an unsightly or difficult problem, it can be tempting to get a vat of chemicals and simply hope for the best. For instance, the time that lots of ants decided to create their home in my bathroom, I was tempted by the sort of poison that has a skull and cross bones embossed on the front.

But there are always gentler and more natural solutions.

Here are my tried and tested natural solutions for monster blemishes:

1. Slice of organic apple

The apple remedy was a wildcard - a recipe I had borrowed from The Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible, which has lots of good advice alongside reviews of natural and organic beauty products. Aside from the fact that I will always be drawn to one ingredient skincare remedies, the recipe also describes using the slice of apple as a 'poultice.' Any skincare recipe with the word 'poultice' deserves to be trialed. 

So I tried it out, expecting it to be slightly rubbish, and to gently mock it on this blog post. But it really worked. I put a thin slice of apple into hot water for few minutes then held it to the affected area for as long as my patience could possibly bear. The recipe says twenty minutes, but who has twenty minutes to wander around with a piece of apple attached to their face? The redness was reduced, skin made tighter and calmed. The next day my blemishes were visibly reduced. The only downside is that anyone who lives with you will think that you're a complete nutter. But I can live with that for perfect skin.

2. Aloe Vera plant

Get and Aloe Vera plant. Immediately. You won't regret it. Aloe Vera has calming and healing properties, and is used as an ingredient in many skincare products. Go to the source - simply slice off a stalk and cut upon to get the Aloe Vera jelly. Smear this all over your face and leave overnight - it's simply the best overnight treatment. 

3. Organic Lavender essential oil or Tea Tree oil

This one stings. tea tree and lavender oil are not meant to be applied to the skin in large quantities - this stuff is pretty potent. My tip? Mix a drop of either with a few drops of organic jojoba oil. Jojoba is the closest oil to the oil our skin produces, so will help to moisturise the skin, without causing further breakouts. Both these essential oils have antiseptic and calming properties - I prefer lavender, because I think it's gentler and I prefer the scent. I also love hot baths with lavender oil - the steam from this really helps my skin. 

I've raved about raw honey in countless blog posts, but suffice to say, this is a fantastic blemish treatment. Just dab some on and leave for as long as you want - honey is healing without drying out the skin. Don't use it as an overnight treatment, though. That will just make a mess. 

Although it's nice to plaster your face with pieces of plants and fruit, sometimes you need the comfort of something bought. This is when I reach for my Essential Care First Aid Lotion. It's packed with ingredients that will help to heal blemishes: propolis, aloe leaf juice powder, lavender and tea tree oil, echinacea and zinc oxide. Essential Care have changed the packaging and brand name of this product to Spot on Serum - perhaps recognising that was the main motivation for most customers buying this product. The ingredients are still just as good. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Nightime Routine: Natural and organic beauty products to help you get a good night's sleep

No coffee, no cry.

My bedside table.

Locally made organic serum and a Shea butter from Lewes. 

This Works Perfect Hands Intense Moisture

Pai Echium & Argan Eye Cream.

This Works Sleep Spray - this is the baby version, but there is another version  as well.

This Works Sleep Balm.

Novel and the Sunday Times Supplement.

Sleepy tea and a notebook.

Sleep is a precious nectar that slips through your fingers when you are attempting to juggle all the different parts of your life.

I am guilty of skipping sleep.

I almost completed a beautiful irony by writing this late at night, but resisted. There are so many good things to do in a day, and so many others that we are required to be complete. 

I've been known to crash out fully clothed with every electric light blazing, and an obscure film on BBC iplayer as my lullaby. This gives you a sickly quality of sleep, and I wouldn't recommend it.

One solution is to make going to sleep into a ritual. A bath helps, scented with either lavender and geranium organic essential oil, or a drowsily fragranced soap - I also like This Works Deep Sleep Shower Gel with lavender and chamomile. Lighting candles will also help - try to eliminate as many electrical products as you can from your bedroom. Keep the laptop downstairs. I will confess to using my iPhone as an alarm clock, but I recognise that this is unnecessary, and instead dream of a minimalist classic alarm clock from the White Company. 

Eat early, and lightly if possible. Avoid the after dinner espresso as though it will burn you. I love a soothing herbal tea instead - especially Clipper Organic Sleep Easy Infusion with cinnamon, chamomile and valerian root. I also like Pukka Nightime tea with oat flower, lavender and limeflower. You can add raw honey for a little sweetness.

Read or write before bedtime - try not to do anything else. This will calm you in a way that lotions and potions can't. Don't make this reading or writing for your profession, though. Work is long gone, and scrawling to do lists will only circle your mind at witching hour. 

Finally, slather yourself in luxurious creams. I use the Frankincense and Rose Shea Butter from a little shop in Lewes - I use this on my heels. Then the intense rose fragrance of my This Works Perfect Hands Intense Moisture, which I also use to moisturise my nails. 

For my face, I like to add an organic serum, like this Frankincense one that was locally made in Oxford (you can find a similar cream at Neal's Yard). I also use a replenishing eye cream, such as Pai's Echium and Argan oil one.

Finally, I will massage This Works Sleep Balm into my pulse points - I especially love it on my wrists. I will also spray my sheets with their lavender sleep fragrance - one of my absolute favourite things in the world is to slip into a freshly washed sheets after a hot bath. You could easily replicate this fragrance - all you need is organic rose water, a glass spray bottle, and a few drops of lavender essential oil.

Obviously, this is the ideal. There are many days when the thought of anointing my body or drowsily sinking into a novel are pushed aside, in favour of crashing out. But, I discovered there is no nutritious meal, energy inducing juice, or beautifying antioxidant than can replace eight hours of sleep. 

The ideal serene dream. Alarm clock from The White Company.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Sample Review: John Masters and REN

I like REN's products. Their scents are light and fresh, the packaging minimal without being clinical. I like that they are easily accessible: they are stocked in M&S, a shop that I seem to frequent weekly, to stock up on black tights or Nori. 

But my overly sensitive skin does not love REN.

I received a glut of samples (thank you, lovely M&S sales person) last time I dashed in on a tinted moisturiser emergency. But after a few weeks I discovered my skin was looking in a slightly worse state than my late nights or diet could account for. 

When reading Sarah Brown's blog (Pai's skincare founder) I stumbled upon an article in which she slams several ingredients used by other natural brands. Pai's Geranium and Thistle Rebalancing Moisturiser and Camelliaand Rose Cleanser are the simply the best things I have ever put on my skin (with the exception of raw honey). The only reason I deviate from them is because I am inquisitive and a dreamer: I always imagine there must be a magical gold dust moisturiser out there, that will give me the flawless complexion of photo-shopped day dreams. 

Anyway, the two ingredients she identified were:

These are mild preservatives, that might also be irritating to sensitive skin. This makes sense to me: I've always loved the scent of Green people's cleansers and moisturisers, but they don't really work for my skin. They both have small amounts of Benzyl Alcohol.

The best of the REN samples:

The Invisible Pores Detox Mask: The one product I might revisit - I loved it as an overnight blemish  treatment as well as a mask

Hydra Calm Cleansing Milk: Very gentle, and smelt slightly of the herb sage, despite fennel being one of the ingredients. 

Firming Eye Gel: Absolutely loved this. I could feel it tightening my eyes, which was quite a nice sensation. I have extraordinarily wrinkly eyes for a twenty six year old, so I'm a good tester for such things.

Lavender and Rosemary Shampoo: Loved. This is the shampoo for people who don't want an oily, home-grown organic shampoo. This is straight up salon quality: I slept on wet hair, and still looked put together the next day. 

Lavender and Avocado Intensive Conditioner: Possibly not as intensive as it could have been - the ends of my hair still felt slightly dry, especially on the second day (I wash my hair every other day). Then again, I normally use mounds of conditioner - just imagine the amount a normal person uses, then double it. 

Which would I buy again? The John Masters eye gel if I ever got sick of Pai's eye cream, although it's quite expensive. Definitely the Lavender and Rosemary shampoo, for days when I need the assurance of salon imitation hair.