Thursday, 17 May 2018

what cleaner beauty means to me

i believe that clean beauty is important for everyone. and i've personally been using a natural skincare, bodycare and haircare regimen for the last 12 years of my life.... here's why...

in my late teens i had a job at a well-known high street cosmetics company, and it took me a long while to learn that the products we were marketing as 'green', 'eco' and 'natural' were actually rammed full of ingredients that were toxic. i felt so annoyed that a company could so easily misrepresent themselves - and people would so easily fall for the marketing and pay such a high price for those products.

i guess there's three things to this:

  •  firstly, people don't tend to look at ingredients labels - usually they tend to look at an advertisement and a price label
  •  secondly, people do like the idea of a 'greener' brand
  •  thirdly, people see usually the origins of a companies ethos and not how it develops - The Body Shop used to be similar to Lush (actually they are sort of half sisters) and the products were hand made, and then the company expanded and was bought by L'Oreal. now, inherently i think the brand is much the same as it was before that takeover, as with most mass production, there seems to be a dip in quality if you want to see the same price. anyhow, the important thing here is, whilst some of the ingredients are fairtrade, lots of the rest of them are toxic, and it's very different from where the brand started. 

one item that comes to mind as a particular bestseller from those days was the Hemp Hand Cream, which was always bought by people who thought that it was an eco product, partly because of the packaging and the name - but it rates a scary 8 on the EWG website!!

which leads me to one of the most important steps in my cleaner beauty journey - the EWG website. the Environmental Working Group have put together the Skin Deep Database, where they are continually adding new products and scoring them in terms of their levels of toxicity (0 is not toxic, 10 is super toxic). it's been a really helpful resource for me when looking for new products or ingredients. unfortunately not all products are on there, but i often type in the ingredients.

the main problem i had from switching over to cleaner beauty products was actually how my skin reacted! i'd been using a simple routine for a few years and then as soon as i added natural skincare products i started to break out. i was 19 and i got my first proper spots! not very good for my self confidence at uni... i was supposed to be past that now.

it turns out that a lot of the cheaper natural skincare brands used heavy oils which really don't work well with my skin (arguably most skin under the age of 50). and seriously 12 years ago the whole natural skincare market was nowhere near as vast, comprehensive or well-researched as it is today!

but i was sure that it was the best decision for my skin. and here's the main reason why i stuck with natural skincare even when i had acne....

some of what we put on our skin may be absorbed into our body.

for me i didn't need a percentage, even if it was just 1% it was too much. and there are certain places in my body where i know the % has to be higher - like my lips, my eyes, my underarms.

and so, i slowly experimented, trying out new products until i found my HG (Holy Grail) for each thing in my arsenal. and there was so much experimenting and failure, that i even started my YouTube channel to document the things i liked and the things i didn't. also, because not many of my friends seemed to care about what they put on their skin (although that is changing a little now, thanks to Goop), i found a community of like-minded people who i trusted to recommend me new products.

it's important when you start on your cleaner beauty journey to be know your boundaries as to what you think is acceptable and how you'll choose your products, because every single company is different. some are really into small production and supporting small/local businesses. some are very much into sourcing high quality ingredients. some are into trying to get 'better-for-you' products into the wider market. each of them have their benefits.

for me, i like a range of brands and love to support them if the products are of good quality. and i do find that a lot of companies have a champion product that stands out amongst the rest. if you're not familiar with natural beauty brands, i would recommend getting a bunch of samples from various online stores, so you can try some things out.

it also helps with not spending too much money on products that don't work for you. because the prices of some of these products are pretty high! you can get samples or minis from Naturisimo, Content Beauty and Glow Organic.

keep an eye on my YouTube channel for reviews of my HG products, like my favourite natural deodorant or my favourite natural under-eye concealer. and please keep asking me for specific items you'd like to see a review of. i've really began experimenting again, after using the same products for years on end - mostly because, vain as it sounds, i started to see fine lines on my face and wrinkles on my forehead, and wondered if there was a natural solution to slowing down that process. i also wanted to try out some of the incredible new organic makeup lines available - because there're LOADS to try!

much of what my content is about is trying out products and reviewing them so there's another voice and opinion out there. how else would you know that the Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil makes your legs look silky smooth and smell delicious all summer? there are more and more voices speaking for the cause of cleaner beauty, and i'm proud to be among them so i can help you find products that perform.

so, if i were to give you a place to start i'd say to start with your most used item and google like crazy for alternatives and seek video/blog reviews of them. ask your favourite instagrammers for advice and what they might suggest. seek truthful people who seem similar to you in terms of skin type/hair type etc. what works for one person doesn't always work for another - but if their skin is similar it's more likely to help!

obviously cleaner beauty is just a part of a more holistic picture - i think most skincare 'problems' stem from something deeper than skincare, so make sure you look at the whole of your life.

final thing to say is, this post was written in conjunction with the fabulous Weleda and their #CleanerBeauty campaign - they're a fabulous brand to start off with, and perfect if you have kids (my son has only ever used Weleda products - toothpaste, body wash, nappy cream - since he was a tiny baby). also Pete has used their Skin Food for years as his daily moisturiser. i was so honoured to be a part of spreading the message of cleaner beauty.

any questions you have, please ask - i'm here to help x

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

a girl so dear, taken so soon

two weeks ago today we lost our youngest niece, my brother's littlest daughter, in a tragic accident. she was only five years old.

you probably read about it in the papers or saw it on the news - there was a 'freak wave' down at Durdle Door that day that literally swept her off her feet and pulled her into the ocean, and then carried her out in a super strong tide faster than my sister-in-law could swim to rescue her.

once the rescue boat arrived it was too late - she was pronounced unconscious. a helicopter airlifted her to a nearby hospital but after an hour of trying to resuscitate she was pronounced dead.

these last two weeks have been the worst days of our lives, riding the wave of grief so unexpectedly. we are broken. i don't know how to begin to 'mend it' or 'move forward'.

it's odd to think that two weeks ago this morning my mum had come down for the day and we spent the morning paddling in a river in the New Forest. the sunshine was so glorious that day, and it twinkled over the waters in a way that made it look like the river was full of glitter. i remember thinking how perfect things were in that moment, how blessed i felt. and then...

it's the weirdest thing waking up each day thinking of the event, thinking at first, in those sweet moments of being semi-awake, that it's a nightmare, and then each day seconds later remembering all those feelings and events that make it true, that mean that it happened.

and i'm just the auntie. i cannot possibly fathom how it feels ten hundred thousand times more painful for my brother, sister-in-law and niece.

the following Friday my husband Pete and i went to see her body at the funeral home in the chapel of rest. i needed to do it, even though i was scared. i'd never seen a dead body before, but because of the way she died she was still as beautiful as always. beautiful hair, taller than i remembered, with such a knowing wisdom to the look on her face. she was at peace.

we spent time with her, put some of her favourite rose hair oil on her hair, and touched her as if she was sleeping. we said 'see you soon' instead of goodbye. we said 'we're sad because you're not with us, but we know you're in a better place'. we said 'thank you for being a ray of light, for being so completely you, for being our Rose'.

we didn't say 'i'm sorry you won't get kissed, get married, grow up, etc' because i fully believe she lived the full life that was planned for her, that she was destined to live. i'll be sad i won't see her grow, but she was never meant to be more than five and a half years old. i'll be sad she won't be with us at Christmas, but i believe she was never meant to be there.

and we didn't say 'i should've said...' because praise God we had said it all - we always told her she was beautiful when we saw her, that she was smart, that she was strong. we don't regret how we spent our time with her and the things we said - she was SO extremely loved by her family. praise God.

i don't think i would've handled the funeral as well as i did without having seen her that day.

the funeral was the most beautiful ceremony, the most intimate gathering of family and friends. our son was well behaved and his comprehension of what was happening was beyond what we could've expected - as she was being covered over he looked in and said 'night night'. we all wept. we planted trees nearby, we planted wildflowers on the top of her grave and we sprinkled dried roses in with her body.

actually the dried roses are a bit of a story in themselves. i'd been keeping and drying roses that i've been given by my husband for as long as we've been married which is pretty much the same length of time she was alive on earth - because my sister-in-law was pregnant with her at our wedding. i never had any intention with these roses, and the bag was getting furiously full.

when we moved back to the UK recently i almost got rid of the bag because it was so big and i didn't know what to do with it, but my husband told me to keep them. and it was my husband that remembered that the bag was there a few days after her passing. i seek comfort in knowing that God knew the purpose of the roses so many years before i did, before she was born, before any of us knew what would happen.

i seek comfort in knowing how many people were at the sea that day, and that the 'freak wave' so specifically took our Rose above all others. i keep visualizing scenes from Moana. it helps oddly enough, because she loved that film. and it also helps to remember that God is in charge of the waves, they don't have a mind of their own.

i believe God chose to spare her from something worse by taking her in that moment.

and what a life she had lived! i know she wasn't 96 years old, she was 5, but, she really knew how to live, to play, to smile, to be cheeky, to be kind, to be an explorer and to be a friend. life hadn't made her cynical or bitter, she hadn't learnt to think that the world was big, complicated or full of bad things. she saw things as truly as we all should remember to see them.

how precious life is! how short!

how i wish it had been me. how i wish i'd rather have died any of the many times that my diabetes has almost taken me there, instead of her. how i'll never understand why i'm here and she isn't.

i praise God that we moved back to England in time to spend lots more time with her, to have an Auntie Bid sleepover where we went to the park, we ate pizza together and i read her stories and we tried on lipsticks. she wore her favourite bright red for the rest of that day, smudging it across her face and then reapplying it when she woke up.

we are so grateful for the huge support and love that has been shown through the GoFundMe campaign, which has since seen over £9,000 of donations - friends, family, strangers all donating to make sure that her funeral was as the family wanted, without worry for cost, and that my brother and his family can somehow find a way to start again in a new way, maybe in a new place, probably in a new house, who knows yet.

i am also so grateful to those of you who reached out on my Instagram with messages of love and support. and to those who sent flowers and encouraging texts. literally the only reason i think none of us fell into pieces was because of the huge love we felt from those around us.

i keep thinking too of Beth from Little Women, and i've found reading parts over from the books to be a true comfort. she was also someone taken at a young age, and i know it's a novel, but it helps.

it's strange too how when this thing so tragic, so unexpected, so sudden happens, it forces you to look at your own life. to ask the questions, what if i were to be taken tomorrow? would i be happy with how i've left things? would i be happy with how i spent my time?

i don't know the answers - in fact, most days my head gets overwhelmed with trying to think of answers to those and so many other questions i have. i still don't know how to move forward. how our family is going to deal with things like Christmas, and birthdays - every time i think of my birthday, i can't see how i'm going to have fun because i picture her face poking round the corner of the front door and yelling 'Auntie Bid!' with that cheeky smile. but it won't be there.

i guess one day this will be the new normal. but how can things ever seem normal without her. i don't want them to. it seems wrong.

anyhow, that's where i'm at at the moment. a big confused mess of a brain, in the middle of grief. feeling for my brother and his family in the most raw way. and i need to find somewhere to sew this patch so i never forget her beauty...

for anyone wanting more detail on the circumstances of her death, the Daily Mail article provides the greatest level of detail and eye witness accounts.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

how i fixed my digestion & healed my gut naturally

last summer i spent many months having the strangest digestion, it wasn't balanced at all. one day i would be in pain in the bathroom, the next day i would be in the bathroom many many times, and then i wouldn't be in the bathroom for days. i would have gas and really bad bloating.

it hadn't always been like this, i'd usually been a pretty regular kind of girl. but, i'd had to take a course of antibiotics for some mastitis symptoms in the May of last year, and after that my system got out of whack. BUT i hadn't appreciated it could be the antibiotics that had cause it until my mother asked if i'd taken any back in May before the symptoms started.... so i'm very grateful to her for having highlighted that as the cause.

so, if you do suffer with digestive problems, maybe have a think back to when it started and think about whether you took antibiotics - it may even be a very long time ago, but it has depleted your body of the essential probiotics it needs for a healthy digestive system.

so, once i realised that was the course, it was quite easy to set out a gut-healing plan for myself, and it became much better really fast! here is the list of 5 things that i did to improve my digestive health, and continue to do, with the exact details of what i did and what i took.

1. taking really good (live) probiotics
this was probably the MOST important thing i did - because after it being out of balance because of taking ANTI-biotics, i needed to replenish my body with PRO-biotics. so, i bought the best ones i could find (and it cost about 40euros!)

even if you can't find this particular brand, what you want to be looking out for is probiotics in the FRIDGE, because probiotics cannot survive on a warm shelf. you want to check that the probiotics are multi-strain and don't contain any unnecessary extra ingredients.

i started taking probiotics last august, and took one every two days for a week, until my body system started being regular and comfortable again. it didn't take long and i couldn't believe i'd spent so many months in pain when the answer was so simple. since that week, i only take one of these strong probiotics when i feel like i'm out of balance again (i've taken about two since last september).

of course, you can also add in yogurt to your diet, but i don't find it's strong enough to fix a situation as fast as one of the good pills will because of the amount of probiotic strains you'll find in it. however, i do have yogurt a few times a week to keep things moving and it does work - i have soy yogurt or coconut yogurt instead of dairy though.

so, i noticed another shift in my digestive system after i stopped breastfeeding my son in november. my once enormous appetite had depleted by about half, and it was taking a while for my brain to catch onto the fact, and my body to rebalance my gut once more. so in february, i started doing a few more things...

2. having a green juice week, and lemon water
the best thing that i did was to detox with green juice for a week. i borrowed my mums juicer - just a basic one - and followed this recipe every day for a week.

detox green smoothie
3-4 celery sticks
2 apples
2 handfuls of spinach
1/2 a cucumber
a handful of mint
a thumb of ginger
1/ 2 a lime

add all these things to the juicer, one by one. enjoy!
the more you experiment, the more you'll know how much of what you prefer, but this is a good basic recipe to start with.

i only had one every morning, and it wasn't in replacement of anything, just alongside my regular meal plan. just be a bit prepared that this stuff makes for a strong detox! so you may want to do this on a week when you can be resting at home and near to a bathroom perhaps.

3. learning to stop when i'm full, and eat when i'm hungry
since i was little i was always of the mindset that it was important to eat everything that i was given, and i always had a big appetite, that only increased even more whilst i was breastfeeding for 19 months!

actually it was quite a big deal the first time i didn't finish my plate. i literally couldn't finish it. it was like i suddenly realised that if i ate all of it i would feel sick, not just for that evening, but for the following day too. i would feel foggy and sleepy and low in energy. so i just had this mental block in place of finishing it when i could feel my body had had enough.

and i swear since then, i've eaten much less and i've felt SO much better. and on the occasions that i eat too much (usually emotionally), i do feel awful for a couple of days, and it's pretty intense pain in the bathroom, as well as lots of time.

unfortunately, because this is really just a result of a hormonal shift, i don't have much advice for other situations, other than to be mindful of your senses, and probably eat more smaller meals and less gigantic ones - you know, the sensible stuff we hear all the time, but is harder to put into practice. LISTEN to your body - you shouldn't feel tired after a meal! the post-sunday-lunch nap is simply a result of too many calories, and it shouldn't be glorified as a sunday ritual, or any night of the week for that matter!

having said that, i think it's also really important to eat enough quantity, because without eating enough quantity your digestive system doesn't need to be used as much and can get out of a regular routine. sometimes you need to push it all through with a bigger meal - like a big bowl of soup and a large sandwich or a huge salad with a cup of mint tea after.

4. identifying foods that don't seem to digest well
one of the other things you will learn by eating lighter and more consciously, is what foods don't sit well in your tummy and take ages to pass through your gut.

for me this includes: baked goods with refined flour and sugar (even when i make them myself), meat (pork & turkey in particular have always made me feel super rough), and dairy (which causes me to have acne as well, so i steer clear for that reason too!).

i think everyone has different foods that trigger it, and that makes sense, because everyone lives in a different part of the world with access to different types of foods. what triggers indigestion for me might not for you, so you'll need to hear what your body is trying to tell you after you eat.

5. load up on vegetables and soup-y meals

this one might be obvious to any of you who know me, but i eat a LOT of veggies - i make sure at least half my plate is vegetables, and often i'll make the whole thing just veggies. it's my go to when i'm feeling sluggish or run-down - "oh, i just need more veggies" you'll hear me say.

of course there are also a lot of vegetables that are "prebiotics" - which help digestion also. things like garlic, onions, leeks, jerusalem artichokes, chicory and asparagus. i don't make an effort to eat these all the time, but i very often cook with garlic and onions as they can be kept/grown throughout the seasons. prebiotics work in that they don't digest fully in the stomach and ferment in the colon by the gut microflora (read this useful article for more on prebiotics).

and the other thing that works really well on keeping your system flowing is soup-y vegetable meals, like curry and chilli and ratatouille. because all that good moisture will help the food to digest. which is why you should always make sure to drink cold drinks before your meal and warm or room temperature drinks with your meal, and hot ones after (just like the italians do with a coffee).

so, if you're stuck and need to keep things moving, get the veggies in, you'll definitely be getting SO much more fibre and you will therefore be going to the bathroom more frequently and it will make all those visits easier too. i'd always recommend having fibre in its wholefood form, rather than taking fibre supplements or "fibre cereal".

other things to keep in mind:
- drink lots of water
- chewing your food is VITAL to making it come out smoothly the other end with no gas in the middle. so make sure to chew more than you think it needs and swallow only when it's a really good pulp.
- exercising a little bit each day keeps everything moving - for me, all i do is make sure to walk each day for 30 mins. that is enough to keep my system fresh and working.
- caffeine can help in some situations - because it can often stimulate things to move. but it can be addictive - both the actual drink and the ease with which it helps bowel movements. you might even hear my grandmother say that she needs her morning coffee to help with her morning bathroom visit. i think it's a helpful tool if you overate the night before and your feeling blocked up, but with the above tips, i don't think that should be a regular occurrence if at all.

so there you have it,my top tips on how to improve digestion and get a healthy digestive system. i feel so much lighter and happier since i implemented these things, and i know it will do me so much good in the long run too!

i also did a little video, for those of you interested to watch instead of read: