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 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

Saturday, 11 October 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. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Five things that make life good

When you can persuade your sister to plait your hair like a Swedish person. Thank you, Sarah! This photograph is actually a couple of months old, my hair is too short to tie up now. Perhaps I should grow it again...

Super soft bamboo socks by BrainTree - an ethical clothing company.

Finding a beautiful thistle on a wasteland path. 

Beautifully darned sleeve...John Smedley merino wool skinny sleeved cardigan. Made in England.

Current fruit favourite: passion fruit. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Five basic organic and natural lip balms: Dr Bronner's, Neal's Yard, REN, Essential Care and a homemade recipe

Close up of the Neal's Yard Bee Lovely Busy Bee Lip Balm

L to R. REN, Essential Care, Dr Bronner's, Neal's Yard and a homemade balm in a recycled jam jar. 

 There's nothing more beautiful than hastily assembled piles of auburn autumn leaves, and nothing worse than chapped lips when October kicks in properly. So here is my guide for tough, basic lip balms: no messing about with tints or flavours: just getting the job done. Organically.

1. Dr Bronner's Naked Organic Lip Balm: this is loaded with the sort of oils that are full of essential fatty acids: namely avocado, coconut and jojoba seed oil. This is exactly what your skin is craving right now. I got into these balms because of my sister, who got into them from a YouTuber we both love: Cloudy Apples. You can buy them from Lucy Rose, and brilliantly the price is comparable with conventional, non-organic lip balms. I always have one of these in my makeup bag, and get distressed if I lose one. I also love the Ginger and Orange version: it tastes like Christmas. £2.69

2. Neal's Yard Bee Lovely Busy Bee Lip Balm. This tastes like melted Terry's Chocolate Orange. It also packs a punch in terms of moisture, and has almost food grade quality ingredients. It’s also wonderful on dry patches on your handles, and as a moisturiser for cuticles. This balm is part of Neal’s Yard’s project to Help Save the Bees. Bee populations are decreasing rapidly, but they are essential for our ecosystem. If we lose the bees we’re screwed, people. So get this balm, and keep lavender bushes in your garden or windowsill. £6.50

3. REN Vita Mineral Lip Balm. This is my post bath, night time lip treatment. I love the clean minimal packaging, and although it isn’t certified organic, it does have very clean, natural ingredients. Interestingly, one of the key ingredients in this lip balm is honey, which is perhaps what makes it so moisturising. It sometimes has a slightly grainy texture, but I don’t mind because of how much it heals my chapped lips. I got this free with a REN travel pack, but the price is reasonable enough for the amount, and if you think of this as a lip treatment, rather than just a balm. £9.00

4. Essential Care Lip Silk. This is a new acquisition to my collection – I recently received it in a the September Love Lula Beauty Box. I’ve loved Essential Care for a long time now – I’ve raved about their first aid cream here and here. This lip balm is everything you’d want from a basic staple: nourishing, with a pleasing beeswax nutty scent. This has slightly more beeswax than the Dr Bronner’s balm, which has more of an coconut oil consistency. As I received this in a beauty box, and was slightly surprised at the price, but it does have Soil Association organic certified ingredients. And you eat lip balm. Think about it. £5.50

5. The homemade lip balm. This is for all my Zero Waste devotees, who can’t stand the sight of tiny tubes in the plastic recycling. You can find my recipe for my homemade lip balm here, and creative ideas on how to reuse old lip balm tubes here. My personal favourite is the transportable salt shaker.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Perfect autumn moment and a healthy snack

These photographs were taken last week, at my parent's home. It was such a good moment, I wanted to document it for my blog. It was the perfect autumn weather: crisp and cool, but still (just) sunny to sit outside with a cashmere jumper on. I was eating some of my favourite foods: organic Medjool dates (which have the sweetness and sticky texture of fudge or soft toffee, you must try them) and local strawberries, with a glass of coconut water. These are the food I reach for when I want a sweet fix, but still want to be healthy. There are lots of raw vegan desert recipes online that incorporate dates and strawberries, but I just like to eat them plain. I love coconut water - I can't drink any other juices now, they just taste too sweet. Well, except for fresh orange juice with scrambled eggs on toast. I ate my snack and leafed through the Sunday Times Style supplement, thoroughly enjoying my autumn moment.