Thursday, 15 September 2016

Organic beauty experiment.



Whenever I meet people in person, and on these virtual pages, I keep going on about how important organic standards are to me personally. However, if you look inside my beauty cabinet you will find plenty of products that are not certified. The truth is that there are no legal requirements for a beauty brand to be certified to have organic written somewhere in the description of the bottle (and yes even having organic as part of the name is also acceptable), as long as they comply with Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulation. What it means in real terms, is that in the absence of a clear definition of natural and organic, there is room for personal interpretation and what I or you think of as organic, is not necessarily what we will find inside a cosmetic bottle.

Instead of diving into the woods of trying to figure out who is and who isn't trying to mislead you, trusting a third party certification body like Soil Association can be a viable option for many, who are not particularly interested in scrutinising every bottle, trying to make sense of the ingredient lists. If you want to find out what is behind the Soil Association logo on cosmetic products, I have recently interviewed them for the peridot mag

I am actually quite fussy when it comes to what is inside my products (be they certified or not), but again I find myself not always agreeing with other green bloggers on the type of ingredients I choose to avoid, and I think, in the absence of definitive or in-depth studies on many of the things used in cosmetics today. that is only natural (yes, I just gave myself a pat on the back for this pun).The one thing I have never done however, is look through my beauty products and see how many of them are certified organic.

This Organic September I wanted to do an experiment, use only cosmos or soil association certified beauty products for my routine (including makeup). Now if I went shopping that wouldn't be so tough, instead I wanted to use what I already had. The first fail was toothpaste and deodorant, while what I have is 'natural', neither of them have organic ingredients (let alone certification). The second fail is more of a semi-fail, my green people shampoo and conditioner duo is certified organic, but not by cosmos or soil association (although green people do have SA certification for some of their products).

I have managed to find a surprising amount of products (a mixture of things that I have purchased myself, brought home in goodie bags, and a few things that have been sent over for a review). Instead of grabbing absolutely every certified product, I tried to pick products that were already open and not more than 3 of the same type of product (I still want to have options, there is just no way I could stick with only one body oil for the rest of the month).

As my skin is both reactive and temperamental, to minimise the risk, I didn't introduce anything that my face wasn't already familiar with, still I took a bit of a chance as it wasn't a combination of products that I have tried out together. 

Throughout the organic beauty week I will be going into detail of each step of my current beauty routine, and at the end of the month I will let you know if I cheated on any aspect of it, what worked and what didn't.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Organic September | Day 1


I actually can't believe how quickly Organic September has come around. Last year I did the whole 'post for every day of September' thing, and it felt like a blogging marathon. I will not be doing it this time around purely because of the fact that I am also writing on The Peridot and I just don't think I would be able to cope with it all.

I feel like I am in a little bit of a different place from what I was last year, and while my views on the importance of Organic standards haven't changed I am reassessing of what organic lifestyle looks like to me. I am not going to tell you that my fridge and cupboards are completely filled with only organic produce, all my beauty products are certified organic and that all my clothes are made with organic cotton, that would not be true. Of course I aim for it, but the reality is that while organic items are more and more available even in my local stores, there are some things like spices that last for some time (and tend to be given as presents) that I will not be getting rid of because they don't have a certification. 

When it comes to the food that I personally buy, I go to the farmers market that has several organic stalls and I also subscribe to a Riverford Organic box. However if I see some papaya in a local green grocers and I really want it I will get it! Do I wish that it was organic? Of course! However, what I think is most important is for the food that I eat all/most of the time to be organic, not an occasional exotic offering. It really is about the things that make the most impact. I am not going to obsess about my cupcake that I had at a cafe not being organic, this is something I have just a few times a year! My potatoes, rice, veggies and greens that I have every week on the other hand, those I make sure are organic. So if you are starting to introduce some changes this month look at what would make the most impact? Are you partial to tomatoes, peppers or spinach? Those are the things to concentrate on.

I find myself shopping mostly outside of supermarkets. It suits me better, there is more choice of what I am looking for and I don't get bombarded with aisles and aisles of processed food. With lots of online retailers it is pretty easy to stock up on cupboard essentials really cheaply too. Organic food really doesn't need to be very expensive if you know where to look and how to make the best use of google.

When it comes to fashion, production of textiles is extremely polluting unless they have been created specifically to an eco standard. There is a lot of clothes already out there, floating around in the world, I don't feel the need to always buy 'new' clothes when so many unworn items are hanging on the rails in charity shops and are sold on e-bay. Of course if I really fancy something that isn't second hand or vintage, yes I will look for it to be eco or organic.

Skincare and beauty is really tough. To create a small bottle of face oil, a lot of plant matter is used. I don't really see any distinction between growing natural skincare ingredients and food production, so if I want my food to be organic it only makes sense that I want my skincare to be organic too. I will go into more detail on this subject during Organic Beauty Week.

Throughout the month I will be sharing some of my favourite products, recipes and just more about my personal approach to organic lifestyle. I will be keeping the content quite fluid, so if there is a particular subject matter that you would like me to cover more, let me know in the comments, I am very happy to oblige!

*Image courtesy of Soil Association

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Model Zone facial + Giveaway



Coming from a family were both my mom and my grandma are amazing with a sewing machine, house full of Burda Moden magazines and my mom's contagious love of quality fabrics, my interest in fashion is not a surprise. For a long time I was completely mesmerised by the glitz and the glamour, patiently waiting for my monthly glossies. Like a lot of girls, at one point or other, I daydreamed about being a model (I've always had a wild imagination). Of course the stories in the media about the darker side of fashion open up your eyes to the harsh reality of the kind of pressures models face and how few actually make it big in the business.

The Model Zone is the British Fashion Council's project, created to look after the wellbeing of models during the London Fashion Week. As you can imagine, things get pretty intense, and a lot of the girls are young and far from their homes which adds to the pressure. Weleda UK have been supporting this project for several seasons, providing their products to use on the first occasion, and then getting more deeply involved with a team of beauty therapists and homoeopaths. The place is like a little oasis or a mini retreat: a space to relax, get a massage or a facial, stock up on healthy food and recharge your batteries. The location is confidential each season for obvious reasons, but to give us a taste of what it would look like this September (and to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Skin Food) Weleda recreated the Model zone experience a few months ago.


                                                         Photos courtesy of Weleda

The setting was a swanky apartment suite at Ham Yard in Soho, I was assured by Natalie Lewis (my therapist) that it was pretty much the same set up as at the The Model Zone, just a different location. Treatments on offer consisted of hand and foot massages, and of course the signature Skin Food facial that was specifically created for the occasion. Walking through the doors it already felt like a place of calm, of course I have no idea what the atmosphere is like on the day, but it was definitely all set up with relaxation in mind. 

I got to experience the signature facial. I have to admit that I was completely baffled by what Natalie was doing, first I could smell the undeniable sent of rosemary (which turned out to be a hot flannel soaked in Rosemary bath), then my nose told me that something from the almond range was being used (that was the almond cleanser). Luckily, Natalie was very obliging, she not only answered all my questions but also assured me that I would have the step by step instructions of how to recreate this ritual at home in the goodie bag. That was the point when I started to relax a bit, letting my annoyingly busy brain fall into rest mode.

The cleansing was followed by a massage with almond soothing facial oil. The massage extended to neck and shoulders, which in my case are super tense (every time I get a massage, therapists comment on it), so it was really nice to get some of that tension out.


                                                                Photo courtesy of Weleda

Moving on to the piece de resistance, a generous layer of skin food was left on the skin for 5 minutes to do its magic. I have to say this was my first interaction with skin food, the few samples that I had were snapped up by other members of the family so I never got to try it for myself. I actually quite like the scent, it is sort of sweet and herby. One of the ingredients in this product is Lanolin, which means it is not suitable for vegans. Here is what Weleda have to say about their lanolin and it really comes down to whether or not you trust the brand. From all my experiences with Weleda so far, I trust them (of course it is up to you to make up your own mind).

With a flannel soaked in hot water and a little lavender bath the mask is taken off, and the last step is a light application of Almond soothing lotion. The whole process was about 30 minutes, but it left me feeling incredible. Getting ready to come to the event I was definitely a little worse for wear, completely run down and super stressed. Half an hour with a Weleda therapist and I was ready to take on the world. I would have never thought of using Skin Food as a treatment mask, but if your skin is feeling dry it really does the trick. For those of us with oily complexion, the recommendation is to skip the T-zone and only use it on dryer areas, to avoid overloading the skin.

                                                                Photo courtesy of Weleda

I have teamed up with Weleda UK to gift one of my readers with the whole shebang of  the products used in their signature facial, unfortunately a therapist is not included, but they are throwing in some organic teabags and a muslin cloth. The giveaway is open to UK residents only and it closes on 15th of August 2016  (don't worry, there will be something else happening for my international readers shortly after).

The prise:

 Rosemary Invigorating Bath Milk 200ml
Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion 75ml
Almond Soothing Facial Oil 50ml
Skin Food 30ml
Lavender Relaxing Bath Milk 200ml
Almond Soothing Facial Lotion 30ml
Organic cotton muslin
Organic cotton wool pads
Organic chamomile unbleached tea bags
Weleda Skin Food facial booklet

Good Luck!



Weleda Skin Food Facial Bundle

Thursday, 16 June 2016

New look | Herbfarmacy



When a brand announces a new look it always brings up a mixture of emotions: excitement and a little bit of dread, you just never know which way it is going to go (and of course I wonder if the packaging is the only thing that is changing). In the good old days, when Love Lula used to be owned by Claire Braithwaite and sent out cute inspirational cards with every order, on their site I first came across herbfarmacy. Balancing face cream was the first product I ever tried from the brand, the funny thing is I'm sure even at that time Herbfarmacy weren't knew to the game of organic skincare. Over the years I have come to regard them as a solid reliable brand, but let's face it, with the sudden explosion of the green beauty scene it is easy to get lost. 

Herbfarmacy has become like a pair of my favourite but slightly worn out jeans, I know they fit perfectly and show off certain assets in a very flattering way, and of course I wear them from time to time, but not exactly running up to my girlfriends screaming " Check out these jeans, don't they look fantastic?". Now it seems my old favourites have been brought back, with the same cut, the same fit, but also some extra cool detailing, so while these new jeans do exactly what they did before, well they look all sparkly and worth more than a few mentions. OK I'm done with the metaphor, it maybe shallow to talk about packaging, but I am not one to shy away from shallow pursuits (you know, everything in moderation is my motto). So let's dive into Herbfarmacy's new look and overanalyse it.



The jars and bottles are now emerald green glass, aside from the fact that it is just gorgeous, it turns out that when they first launched green glass was what they wanted to go with, but went for clear glass at the last moment, as they didn't want to clash with another brand who was using the same coloured glass. In a way this is like coming home, bringing back the original vision for herbfarmacy. The illustrated labels have been their signature from the get go, but now this print feels a lot more modern, and the terracotta red background adds a new twist to the overall look. Finally there is also a super cool logo on the lids of the jars and on the fronts of the bottles. The logo personifies the view of the hills on the herbfarmacy farm. So when you put all of these together: we have terracotta label representing the fertile soil, green glass representing plants and growth, botanical print showing off herbs and flowers, and the logo giving you a look at the rolling hills of where it all grows. Each jar and bottle is basically a visual story of where your products comes from.

Situated in the Welsh borders, the organic five acre Herfodshire farm established over 32 years ago is where the magic happens. The organic seedlings are hand sown, time is given for the plants to grow and reach their full potential, before being handpicked and turned into beautiful tinctures and extracts. The herbs grown on the farm are not used for essential oils, they are turned into macerated oils or water extracts, which become the bases of all products in the Herbfarmacy range. The most famous being the Marshmallow root.



The roots of marshmallow (the plant of course, not the gooey stuff that marshmallow man is made of) contain soft mucilages that become gel-like in water. In fact if you get your hands on a fresh root, and break a little bit you can feel it for yourself. The inside of the root when is super silky smooth to the touch, it is pretty incredible. These mucilages attract and hold moisture in the surface of the skin, not surprisingly this herb features in quite a few of the products (including Marshmallow and vanilla lipbalm which I have previously reviewed here). 

Other superstars are calendula and echinacea. While calendula, aka marigold, probably needs no introduction, it is an incredibly soothing and anti-inflammatory herb, amazing at calming sensitive and troubled skin. Echinacea is well known as a cold remedy, but it turns out as a mild astringent it is great for toning, and in creams for oily skin types (it is also a hit with bees and butterflies, always a good thing).



As well as a great range of skincare, herbfarmacy has an incredible selection of balms. Multipurpose mallow beauty balm, that can be used as a cleanser, moisturiser and even targeted fine lines treat and skin rescue balm for skin irritation and redness, these two are just the tip of the iceberg. Meditation, easy breathing, bruises, muscle tension, itchy skin, you name it they have a balm for it. I could create a wellbeing cabinet with all these jars (hm maybe I should)!



I have special respect for brands that grow their plants, really understand how to get the most out of them, and have genuine love for the land. To me they always stand head and shoulders above the rest, of course it doesn't hurt if the packaging is gorgeous. Every time I pick up a Herbfarmacy jar I fall in love with it a little bit more. There is just something about it, like a song that you like at first listen, but each time you hear it,  you just enjoy it more and more. Hello gorgeous green bottles, welcome to my top shelf, you are here to stay.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

The illusion of power



Knowledge is power. So why is it that the more I know the more I realise how little power I actually have? We live in an age where information is thrown at us on the daily whether we want it or not. Even without turning on a news channel or owning a TV, if you have access to the Internet and facebook/twitter/instagram you are likely up to date with the latest shock and horror stories.  The question is do you have the tools necessary to figure out what is real and what is BS? This not the question of intelligence, street smarts or even expertise. It is funny how when you start researching any industry be it food, fashion, beauty, etc you soon start seeing similarities with regards to hidden dark corners, dishonesty, misinformation and lack of responsibility.

Let's get a couple of things straight: there are very few certainties (if any), when it comes to natural order of things, science or life in general. So many things through the history of humanity that used to be considered as undeniable, undisputed facts have come to be disproved. Our societies have seen remarkable transformation, so why is it when it comes to our daily lives we seem to be rather accepting of the status quo and believing that it isn't in our power to create real and lasting change? Why is that we are so content with the superficial power of our consumer choices? 

Making decisions on incomplete, often biased studies, when it comes to food and beauty products. Purchasing clothing based on convenience of what is available to us. Being saddled with the full responsibility for the potential health consequences of our nutritional choices, or wanting to appear more attractive through the use of beauty products. Because somehow it is up to us as individuals to understand potential risks of what is in our lotion, or in our food, because we are adults? 

Never mind the fact that large proportions of population leave formal education by the age of sixteen in the rich countries (we are not even talking about what is going on in the so called developing world), and the quality of education varies ridiculously between school to school, country to country. Yet we are responsible for our own wellbeing, and we are told that the things sold to us in the shops are there because we want them. How is that exactly? When given a choice, with explanation of all the consequences and effects that certain ingredients have on our bodies, what mother would choose to give their child food with colourants that could potentially cause their child ADHD? But I mean it is not certain, and in small quantities it is OK right, so lets just roll with it.

Going to an attraction park and not packing a lunch with me (admittedly an oversight), it turns out that my only food options are chips, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, or soup (on a hot summer day), so how exactly do I show my consumer power and preferences for healthy food... oh that is right, I don't, I go to eat elsewhere (where is that exactly when you are in middle of nowhere?). So I get a stupid sandwich, or go hungry. 

How am I supposed to definitively make up my mind on whether or not organic food and beauty is worth it when the supposedly leading scientific minds keep playing tug of war with their findings? Because of course I have time, money, and the presence of mind to subscribe to all the research articles and publications in the fields of environment, nutrition, cosmetic chemistry, and also keep an eye on what goes on in the field of economics, and politics (not of just my own country mind you, but worldwide), read them, and without fail figure out what is the absolute truth. Then I go to the shops and vote with my wallet for the real change in the world. Because I am an all powerful consumer, and if I just keep shopping for fair trade goods, organic produce and natural beauty I am going to change the world. It is up to me and all the other consumers, it is our collective responsibility as walking, talking ATMs to show big business that we are against child labour, food that makes us sick, and beauty products with questionable ingredients. Consumers are ultimately responsible for not only what goes on in the supply chain and the environmental impact of production industries in distant countries, they are also responsible for the effects that cosmetics have on us purely by the simple act of buying one product over another. You have the power to buy or not to buy, with power comes great responsibility.

So now with my new found power, I am drastically changing my shopping habits, yet my budget is still the same. I buy less, a lot less, since instead of 5 dresses I can now only afford 1, and what happens if every single person does the same, what happens then? Well there aren't that many dresses being sold, so either price goes down to encourage people to shop more or all those people who used to make dresses have to find themselves another type of work. And if the price keeps going down, does this mean that those exact things I wanted to avoid by buying a more expensive dress will just happen again? If overnight the whole world goes organic, all non organic farms have to change or go out of business. It is a similar story with beauty. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well that depends on who you ask. Time does not stay still, change happens whether or not we are open to it. While we are free to choose, we can only choose from the selection that is available to us. If you have no access to clean water, you still have to drink to live.  

My buying choices are made with the best information I have at the time, but I am not a mindless consumer of things, I am a person. I had no part in deciding who made a shirt that is hanging in a department store, and it is very unlikely that I will ever find out who made it. I have to put my trust in instutitions and certifying bodies to tell me that a particular item indeed was made under fair conditions, or made with ingredients that it claims to have. I do not have access to all the relevant information, or even the capacity to process it all if it is presented in a particularly confusing way.

While I am great believer in individuality, and yes one person can really create change, they never do it without the support of other like minded people. There is such a thing as too much emphasis on individuals, no one person is responsible for all that is wrong in the world or indeed for fixing it. Yet when we don't have reliable institutions that actually ensure that what is available to us is indeed safe, that the environment doesn't get polluted, and that workers are treated with respect, it falls on the shoulders of individuals to figure what is what. 

So maybe I should see myself as a consumer and embrace this power of shopping after all? At every corner, being met with different opinions presented as facts based on contradicting  information, I will be making choices. Am I vegan? No... Oh that must mean that I do not care about animal cruelty or the environment, and if I do than I am a delusional hypocrite. Do I use only unpreserved organic skincare? No... well that is unfortunate, but I can't be part of the purist green beauty club. And if I happen to be a blogger but do not share every part of what I do, every single beauty product that I have ever used, and some of the ones I missed out on taliking about aren't too clean, if I share green smoothie recipes but do not document the fact that I had a coke once in a blue moon, that means I am just plain inauthenic. Because as everybody knows, having a blog means everyone is not only entitled to know every sinle thing about me but it is frankly my civic duty to overshare in the name of authenticity.

So please clear some room while I get on my high horse, cloak myself in authenticity and point my finger at all the others who fail to navigate this minefield of information, while shopping into oblivion and shaping the world into a better place with the mighty power of my wallet.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Staring at the ceiling...



Alone in the room, looking up above.
My eyes meeting the white concrete instead of blue sky.
Emotions overpowering, consuming my entire being:
Anger, sadness, disbelief.

This too will pass.

There is two of us, watching the patterns and intricate designs,
This man made canopy holds such beauty.
Not in the wildest dreams have I felt so happy:
Amazement, gratitude, disbelief.

This too will pass.

There are people around, yet I am completely alone.
The prison of solid stone will not let me jump any higher.
The answers that seemed so true, have turned on me:
Grief, despair, disbelief.

This too will pass.

Overwhelmed, tired, constantly questioning my own resolve.
Is it true what I see, is it my thoughts that betray me or is it you?
How can you not see the damage, all this pain?
Acceptance, denial, disbelief.

When will it pass?

Keeping quiet, choosing my words.
This cage I created, will not be reinforced.
What I am looking for, you do not possess.
Strength, determination, belief in myself.

This is my path.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Pamper sessions | Isla apothecary



It might have taken an eternity for warm weather to make an appearance, but now the heat is on! For me this means hello shorts and abundance of sunscreen. With all this skin being exposed I am definitely paying a lot more attention to my body routine. It is not about using lots of products, but more about being consistent: using some sort of exfoliant twice a week and a nourishing body oil every time after shower and/or sun exposure. It might not seem that way, but I have always been a little bit lazy about my beauty routines. There are lots of perfectly functional products that will get the job done, but the thing is, if they don't make me feel special in some sort of way I am not going to remember to use them (with the exception of spot treatments, those just need to do the job). I am really fond of beauty products that make me feel like I am in spa, or on an exotic holiday.

Isla apothecary is based in London, and the products are hand blended in small batches, they are rooted in the principles of aromatherapy and it shows. As soon as you open the jar of Blood orange + Vanilla body scrub the amazing scent starts working its magic. Honestly, I am not sure if I should be using it on my body or reaching for a spoon. The gorgeous blend of brown sugar, coconut oil, shea butter, peach kernel oil, vitamin E, blood orange and vanilla smells so delicious and uplifting, that it never fails to put a smile on my face. That is before I even use it! Despite all the oils and butters, the mixture is on the loose side. It is more like sugar with a touch of oil, as opposed to sugar suspended in oil. What this means is that when you are massaging a few handfuls of the scrub (I find that two is enough for my entire body) into wet skin, your bath/shower doesn't turn into a lethal ice rink. Skin is left feeling soft and moisturised yet not greasy. I actually find that I don't need to use a body oil after this treatment, my skin feels perfectly taken care of. The scent doesn't stay on the skin, but if your other half happens to wonder into the bathroom while you are busy scrubbing away, be prepared for them to have a sudden craving for Terry's chocolate orange.

I think my love for neroli is well documented on Instagram. This essential oil is distilled from the flowers of a citrus plant, so has the same mood boosting properties as citrus oils but it is also considered to be an aphrodisiac (this side effect is always welcome in my book). So how could I turn down an opportunity to try Isla's Neroli body oil*? The base of it is made up of safflower, coconut, pumpkin and rosehip oils, making it seriously silky and full of antioxidants. Pumpkin oil in particular is a power house of fatty acids, zinc and antioxidants making it a great addition to a post sun exposure skincare. Rosehip by itself is a dry oil, it sinks in without leaving any residue, when it comes to skincare benefits it seems to be especally helpful with mitigating photo-ageing (sun damage). The overall blend feels wonderfully emollient, leaving my skin super soft and smooth. The essential oils of neroli, patchouli, frankincense, petitgrain and mandarin, make for a very uplifting scent that isn't too sweet or overly floral. The best thing about the scent is that it's both noticeable and yet not at all over powering. I apply this body oil to damp skin after my evening shower. It is nourishing enough that I can see myself using it all year round, but I am especially loving it as part of my after sun routine. About 2 pumps is all it takes since my skin isn't particularly dry. The next morning my skin is still as soft as velvet. 

When I have an hour or two to myself, I really love taking my time with the body scrub and following it up with the body oil (I would use just a little oil as the scrub really is pretty moisturising, and mainly on my legs and arms since these are the areas that tend to be drier). Not only does my skin feel and look pretty darn amazing after, I really feel fabulous overall, in good spirits and very relaxed. This is the best part of combining seriously good skincare ingredients and aromatherapy.

As a very special treat, if you feel like experiencing the wonder of Isla Apothecary for yourself, I have a discount code for my readers: 'rainbowfeet' will save you 15%.

*PR sample, all thoughts are my own based on my personal experience with the product. The whole point of this blog is to introduce you to things that I genuinely think are awesome, so making stuff up would be trully.. well.. pointless!