Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pai Anywhere Essentials Travel Kit, Perfect Balance Collection

I'm going to see my sister in Brighton for a few days...just a quick post to show the skincare routine I will be popping into my overnight bag. 

Pai has only recently brought out their travel kit, and as someone who doesn't travel that often, they have been absolutely indispensable. They are the perfect size for a weekend or week away (two weeks might be a stretch, but then I always use a generous amount of product!). 

I use the Perfect Balance Collection, because I have combination skin (I have known this since about age fourteen, due to those sliding questionnaires that Clinque used to have on their counters). But they also have travel ranges for sensitive skin (Instant Calm) dry and dehydrated (Pure Hydration) and  skin with signs of ageing (Age Confidence). 

I truly believe that skincare is worth investing in. I recognise that Pai products are expensive (a result of high quality organic ingredients and sustainable glass packaging) so this is a perfect way to sample the three step routine without committing to a full glass bottle. 

Of all the skincare I write about, it is Pai that I feel the most confident in recommending. There's no beeswax or alcohol and the products are certified vegan. Sarah Brown understands skincare, and she doesn't compromise on ingredients. They are perfect for sensitive skin. And, if nothing else will convince you?

Natalie Portman swears by their moisturiser. 

Natural and organic cold remedies

Homemade chicken soup.

Vegan version: lots of kale, and either rice or quinoa.

I refuse to get ill. The last time I was properly ill, I spent most of my time weeping softly and eating Del Monte orange ice lollies on my parent's sofa, watching the Simpsons and a television programme about people who want to emigrate to Australia. Not my finest hour. 

So you can be sure that I will do a lot to prevent illnesses, especially rubbish, incurable afflictions, like colds and sore throats. Here are a few of my tried and tested tips:

1. Drink hot water with fresh lemon, fresh ginger and raw honey. I've written about this in several posts already. I drink this concoction all year round, but it's especially useful in those bitter winter months when people start sneezing on you.

2. Eat homemade soup. I don't really understand shop bought soups (unless they are especially delicious). To my mind, soup is just everything that is left in your fridge with vegetable or chicken stock. The best soup ever for protecting yourself against winter is a chicken and vegetable soup made with home-made stock from the bones of the chicken. After you have had a roast chicken dinner, keep the carcass. Put in a large saucepan with peppercorns, an onion, some whole garlic cloves and a carrot, some celery and salt. Cover with water. Simmer on a very low heat for about four hours (this will also fill your home with a delicious, warming scent). This is homemade chicken stock, and it will revive your winter beaten soul.

Then you sieve the stock out, and in a fresh pan, start adding the other ingredients needed for a chicken soup: onion, garlic, celery, leftover roast chicken, carrot and potato. If you have kept the juices from the chicken, then add this for extra flavour. Cook with the stock for about forty minutes, and then enjoy. This is good with buttered brown bread.

I recognise there will be some vegetarians or vegans who are reading this and are incredibly hurt because I have used the word 'carcass.' Do not fear! I love the vegan version of this soup as well. I tend to use a powdered vegetable stock from Steenbergs, or you can make your own vegetable stock. I tend to include extra ginger, rice and potatoes to bulk this soup up. As an extra twist, add Thai style seasonings like lemon grass.

4. Smooth Eucalyptus balm on your chest when you sleep. One of the most exciting things about transitioning to an organic and natural beauty routine is finding duplicates for your favourite products without even trying.

One such find was this natural beauty balm from the Thai brand Saim Kampan. I discovered this in T K Maxx, which is the only place in England you can find these products. This balm has minimal, natural ingredients (coconut oil and essential oils)and a pretty glass jar. But the best part? It's the perfect dupe for Vicks Vapour Rub Ointment, but without the paraffin. I like to smooth this into my chest and pulse points before I go to sleep; if I feel that I'm getting the start of a cold or sore throat. I highly recomend this balm. If you are in T K Maxx - or Thailand - stock up.

 Or, alternatively you could customise a natural balm that you already own with a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil (such as this one from Neal's Yard). Eucalyptus essential oil clears the lungs and soothes a fever, but must be diluted.

5. Eat tons of garlic. I can always find a quasi medical reason for needing to eat lots of garlic. In the summer, it's because it protects me from insect bites, and in the winter, it's because it staves off a cold. I like to eat it roasted with root vegetables, or spread onto bread. It's also perfect in the home-made chicken and vegetable soup.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Pai Copaiba & Zinc Serum: first impressions review and my night-time routine for blemished skin

The new Pai Serum, Pai BioRegenerate Rosehip Oil and Eco Pimple Clear (horrible name, I know, but a really lovely mix of lavender and tea tree oils).

I'm really not a skincare expert. When reading blogs and watching YouTube videos, I'm never sure whose advice to trust. There are some bloggers who look as though their skin has always been perpetually fresh and blemish free - no matter what kind of ragged apricot kernal scrub or chemically laced cleanser they are using. But similarly, I don't want to take advice from a blogger who always has blemished skin. Because that's like taking dating advice from your single friends (I'm single - trust me on this one - the advice tends to range from: 'Have a personality drink! For luck!' to 'Have you thought about Match.com?).

My skin is far from ideal. It definitely isn't ideal at the moment. But is has been at certain points, so here are my tricks and tips.

1.  Drink tons of water. I'm sorry, I know you will have heard this before/ be doing this already. I'm actually not sorry, because I always forget to do this properly. You're supposed to drink two litres of water a day. Do you know what two litres of water looks like? Neither did I. Actually challenge yourself to drink this amount in water each day. Most of us are quite dehydrated, most of the time. I tend to notice the most significant difference in my under eye circles. They virtually disappear when I drink lots of water. Water on it's own is quite boring, so I intend to write a whole post on different healthy things to spike it with: my top tip is fresh lemon juice.

2. Sleep lots. Yep, I know this is an annoying tip. But it really works. There isn't much that sleep, or a hot bath, or healthy food can't cure.

3. Eat lots of avocados. Avocados are a good source of B6, E, C Vitamins, Potassium, and essential fatty acids. These will make your skin look plumper (in a good way) and fresh, as though you are the sort of person who goes hiking before browsing the organic farmers' market for local produce. They basically make your skin look really good. As does oily fish: think salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout. The two bad foods for skin (in my own personal research) are alcohol and pasta. Now I love alcohol and pasta, so I'm not going to be on a restrictive diet. But I do accept that they make my face look puffy and dehydrated the next day. So I distract people from my face with chandelier earrings and my wit.

4. Acceptance. Zooming in on one aspect of your appearance, and expecting it to change through money/effort/angst never works. People who are on diets are far more likely to put on weight (Yep, been there.). Excepting your skin to look flawless - especially when you are going through a period of stress, such as a break up, a move or a new job - is completely counter-intuitive. It's also so much more difficult when you are surrounded by people wearing BB creams, under good lighting, with a filter on top.

5. Products. My two new favourite products for good skin are the Pai Copaiba and Zinc Serum, mixed with their classic Bio-Regnerate Rosehip Oil. If you've even briefly read my blog, you'll know that I'm slightly obsessed with Pai skincare. So I bought this in over excitement, but it's really good.

This serum has a gel like consistency and the the three active ingredients are copaiba (taken from the trunks of South American trees, antibacterial with essential fatty acids) zinc (inhibits sebum production) and Hyaluronic Acid (attracts water, so softens the skin from within, in addition to reversing free radical and UV damage).

I love to mix this serum with the rosehip oil, because I find it a tiny bit drying on my combination skin. I put two pumps of the serum then one drop of the oil together on my hand so that they look like a Haribo egg, then mix together and apply to my face. You can then use a moisturiser afterwards if you want to, but I don't like using too many different products on my face.

 I can honestly say that I've seen a real difference in my skin after using these two products together for a couple of weeks.

Other times, my skin looks completely rubbish. On those days I have mineral foundation (Lily Lolo) humour, tons of water... and a really good Instagram filter.

Avocado, roasted pumpkin seed, quinoa, cucumber and lettuce leaves. 

Five ways to beautify your home...when you're broke

I feel really hypocritical writing this post. I'm sitting in bed, with my laptop and a mug of Clipper berry tea, and my bedroom is an absolute tip. There are clothes organised into washing piles on the floor, a stack of old Sunday supplements that I stole from my parents home; an Aloe Vera plant that is looking at me mournfully because I seem to be unintentionally killing it; and there are about five lip balms on every spare surface.

I'm not exactly Kirstie Allsop.

But I am broke (I buy a lot of Pai skincare) and when there aren't random pools of clothing on the floor, my home looks pretty good, albeit in a vintage sort of way.

Here's my thrifty home tips:

1. Have bowls full of pebbles. This idea is stolen from my mum, who is a committed stone pebble thief. Her preferred location for this is Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk. Anyway, beachy stuff always looks pretty and relaxed in the home, and pebbles don't need watering. Opt for circular shaped pebbles in shades of cream or taupe.

2. Display jewellery on second-hand mirrors. This is actually a mirrored coaster, but I think the few pieces of jewellery I have on there look really pretty and delicate. Mirrored surfaces are also wonderful at reflecting candlelight.

3. Have mason jars full of wildflowers. I set myself a challenge last weekend. I was going to create a bouquet of flowers, without spending any money, or having to go into the Oxfordshire countryside. I ended up with a bizarre combination of ivy, bamboo leaves and what are most probably weeds, but what I have more romantically and optimistically dubbed 'wildflowers.' If there any florists reading this post they are possibly grinding their teeth in exasperation, but I honestly love all flowers, and don't have the knowledge to differentiate between a proper flower and a weed.

4. Buy beautiful versions of everyday items. I wholeheartedly believe that you should spend more money on the things you use everyday, and that they should be beautiful and useful. There's a shop called Objects of Use in Oxford that I love... it's devoted to old fashioned and handmade items for the home, from glasses to tea towels to brushes. Each item has a little label explaining what it is made from and what it is used for, so the it feels like part shop, part museum. The scrubbing brush and grater are both from there.

5. Be prepared to find home finds in unusual places....such as the old school desk that my parents claimed from a school that was throwing them out (if this item had been in a interiors shop in Brighton, it would have cost a fortune). Or even my local Sainsbury's, where I found a classic silver alarm clock.

This should be enough inspiration to tidy my room.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

My signature scent: Neal's Yard Rose Eau de Parfum review

Scent is a difficult thing to write about. I find that when I write this blog I am constantly invoking tastes instead of scents: delicious, refreshing. 

One of the first things I was happy to cast aside when starting a natural and organic beauty routine was perfume. 

I'd tried the popular teenage classics: Thierry Mugler Angel and Chanel Chance. I would buy sugary sweet bottles of vanilla oil from the Body Shop, because I could afford them. I liked Stella McCartney's fragrance as I got older, mostly for the beautiful, bevelled, amethyst bottle. 

But perfumes often gave me a headache - a caught, raspy throat feeling, like being trapped in an elevator with an oppressive personality. These conventional perfumes were easy to do without, and I would wander through department stores with the detachment of a Zen Buddhist. 

And yet. I missed the ritual of applying scent, and having a fragrance that I felt belonged to me. 

We all know how disarming this can be: when confronted with a stranger that is cloaked in a loved ones's signature scent. I always feel compelled to a) follow the person and b) tell them that they are wearing another's signature fragrance; but I try to resist such impulses. 

My mum is Clinque Happy and Cerutti 1881.  My Grandma is Chanel No5 and the original Loreal hairspray. 

There are so many other scents I don't know the name of, but identify with with different individuals. 

I hope that one day the Neal's Yard Pure Essence Eau de Parfum in Rose scent will remind people of me. 

Natural and organic fragrances are often single notes, or thick with heavy essential oils. Neal's Yard fragrances, of which they have two: Frankincense and Rose, are neither. They have the complexity of a conventional fragrance, without any of the mind blurring qualities. The top notes of the Rose fragrance are Palmarosa and pink pepper, the mid notes Damask rose and rose geranium - my favourite essential oil, you must try it - and the base notes are cedarwood and benzoin. It's a true rose, an earthy rose, not the sugary fragrance evoked by sweets or Dr Bronner's rose Castille soap. 

I always find the scent of roses to be therapeutic, whether that be rosewater, a rose garden, or this rose fragrance. 

What's your signature scent? 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Dr Lipps Original Nipple Balm for Lips and Gwdihw Smoochy Lips Review

Yes, it has been about five minutes since I wrote a post on lip balms, but there have been developments since then.

My first accidental lip balm purchase was the Dr Lipps Nipple Balm for Lips, which I received in the Love Lula beauty box - I highly recommend this beauty box, by the way, if you are anything like me, and love surprise parcels of organic beauty treats. Anyway I received a sample of this balm, which I had been contemplating trying anyway. I love it when that happens. 

The second lip balm I acquired in that typical accidental spendthrifty way... I needed toothpaste, but wanted specific toothpaste, then had to spend fifteen pounds for free delivery. Gwdihw lip balms are made in England, they are stored in tins, not plastic (surely slightly more eco friendly?).You and I both know how easily these things are justified. 

Anway, here are my thoughts on both products:

Nil points for the oh so witty name, doctor, if you are even a real doctor. This balm is made from 100% medical grade lanolin. The internet and green beauty community seem divided on whether lanolin is good or bad for your skin. After a bit of stealthy googling, I can summarise as this: lanolin is a natural oil found on sheep's wool. Lanolin had a bad rep for causing allergic reactions (but remember, natural ingredients and essential oils can also give allergic reactions). Dr Lipps states that it uses medical grade lanolin from Australian sheep's wool that is harvested in the summer, and absolutely nothing else.  

It's a heavy duty moisturiser, the sort of lip balm you apply generously before you go to sleep. I liked it, but I wasn't as impressed as I felt I should have been (especially for the price of eleven pounds fifty). The consistency is similar to Vaseline (please don't ever use Vaseline) and there is no discernible scent or taste. However, I feel that I get equivalent - if not better - results with a coconut based balm. There are so many delicious coconut based lip balms made by organic beauty companies - such as Dr Bronner's - that this didn't feel like something I needed to replace. Although the website states that this balm is also good at keeping nipple tassles in place...so if this is your main concern, this product may be useful to you. 

Smoochy? What is with all the silly names lip balm makers? I really like Gwdihw (pronounced goody-hoo: Welsh for owl). I rate their first aid and foot balms, but had not tried a lip balm. I wasn't disappointed: from the minimalistic ingredients: marigold flowers (grown locally in their herb nursery) coconut and olive oils, beeswax and natural flavour, to the sweet taste. For the amount you get (25g) they're incredibly inexpensive (just under four pounds). Plus, they deliver free to the UK. Get one. Thank me later. I'm a wise owl. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

No one is born with perfect eyebrows


  But they can be earnt.

Ancient angled brush by Laura Mercier, Lily Lolo Eyebrow Duo

I knew the brow game had changed for good whilst travelling on the train the other day. A group of teenagers got on the train, and proceeded to be very messy and loud and self concious; with lots of Smart Phones and hair flicking. The teenage girl who was sitting opposite me got out a brow pencil and a compact mirror and filled in her brows for a good couple of minutes. After she had finished, she turned to her friend and said: "Do my eyebrows look okay?"

This wouldn't have happened a few years ago, would it? She'd have been ostentatiously applying lipstick, or kohl, or if she was from my generation: lip gloss. 

Eyebrows are important.

I used to lightly outline my brows in a Neal's Yard Organic soft brown eyeliner. This was a good colour, but I was still craving something I could paint on with a brush, which is why I was delighted when British mineral makeup brand Lily Lolo introduced their Eyebrow Duo. It's a little pot with a soft shadow in the the one half, and a clear wax to tame brows on the other half. I feel that I am able to create a stronger brow, without the lines looking too hard, However, the colours they have (three shades at the moment) are quite dark. I have dirty blonde hair and brunette eyebrows, and I need to use the lightest shade. The general rule for eyebrows is to go for your exact shade, or a shade lighter. Never darker. I would love Lily Lolo to introduce more shades in this range. 

All you need to know about brows:

1. A strong brow is a beautiful thing. Don't mess with it.

2. Equally, if you don't have a strong brow, that is also beautiful. Please don't feel compelled to paint Groucho Marx style stripes on your face, just to adhere to a current fashion trend.

3. If you must reshape your brows, get them done professionally, then follow that shape when you pluck them. Make sure it's a salon you trust, and who will listen to you. Don't let your face be reshaped by someone who is rude to you. 

4. When you are plucking your eyebrows, take time to step away from the mirror. You will be able to get an idea of the overall effect, as opposed to being continually zoomed in on an extreme close up.

5. You know that saying of eyebrows being sisters, not twins? It's true. Perfect symmetry will only highlight the other parts of your face that are less than symmetrical. And no one wants that.

Strong brown icons:

1. Frida Kahlo
2. Kiera Knightly
3. Brooke Shields
4. Natalie Vodianova
5. Cara Delevinge

Slim brow icons

1. Kate Moss
2. Louise Brooks
3. Debbie Harry
4. Dita Von Teese
5. Karen Elson