Initial Thoughts on The Last Jedi (SPOILERS!)

Monday, 18 December 2017

Okay, I am a massive Star Wars nerd – probably only a few pegs down from ‘walls of unopened Star Wars action figures in their original packaging’-level nerd – so I’ve obviously been extremely excited this year to see The Last Jedi.

I went into The Force Awakens with hope but scepticism – I’d never been disappointed by Star Wars before (yes, I do enjoy the prequel trilogy) but I’ve seen so many reboots and remakes and sequels go wrong, and Star Wars is my thing. The thing that has stayed with me my entire life, that I still adore to this day, that I literally have tattooed on my body. Much to my delight, I ended up being blown away by the combination of nostalgia, new direction and some of the best representation we’ve seen in a fictional movie world so far. Similarly, I went into The Last Jedi ultimately hopeful, but still not knowing what to expect, and knowing that there were so many unanswered questions that I may not end up liking the chosen answers to.

Unexpectedly, I wasn’t really sure what I thought when I left the cinema. “This isn’t going to go the way you think” was an understatement Luke, and as it turned out massively foreshadowed a number of different elements of the film. I walked away invigorated but confused by my own feelings; it didn’t end with me wanting to jump out of my seat with thunderous applause like I had with The Force Awakens. It wasn’t until I had time to reflect on it that I realised just how much I enjoyed and genuinely appreciated it.  I’ve heard others say it and I wholeheartedly agree: it may not have been what we wanted or expected, but it was what we needed.

I thought I’d include some of my early thoughts here, but be warned: there will be spoilers. Stop reading now if you haven’t already seen The Last Jedi!

You have been warned!

The Force

The Force is, obviously, integral to Star Wars and something that features heavily in canon and Expanded Universe lore, but it’s something that many of us have felt we already knew the limits of. We knew what to expect – Force push, maybe some mind tricks, lightning if you’re into that, all that good stuff. The Last Jedi shattered these expectations and used Luke and Leia in particular, but also Snoke, Rey and Kylo Ren to dip its toes into a wider world of what the Force really is.

We finally got to see Leia actually use the Force – not as a trained Jedi, not wielding a weapon, but as a seemingly dormant survival instinct that kicked in just as she was about to die. In true Carrie Fisher style, it was almost as if Leia simply wasn’t finished yet and was unwilling to check out until she was ready.

Luke’s use of the Force has apparently been a controversial one, but it was absolutely the display of Jedi power that we needed to see and I didn’t fully pick up on it until we saw him back on the island at all. We got a glimpse of the immense power that those of us who are familiar with the EU know Luke Skywalker wields – not in the form of an epic lightsaber battle but in the form of a grand but pacifist and elegant trick that brazenly exploited Kylo Ren’s weaknesses and that, to me, was 100% fit for a Jedi Master.  Mark Hamill in this movie was also utterly incredible, but I plan to go into this in another post.

The connection between Rey and Kylo Ren engineered by Snoke was another hint at elements of the Force that haven’t been explored before – we know that people can have connections and sense feelings through the Force, but having a ‘physical’ presence in the way we’ve experienced with these two (and Luke) in The Last Jedi is new and unfamiliar territory. Regardless of whether or not it was Snoke’s doing, it was a clever way to bring the two of them together without having to somehow get them to end up in the same physical location, and created a vulnerable intimacy that I found really compelling. And for the record, that’s even as someone who hates Reylo as a concept, but I’ll get to that another time because I disagree that the film suggests it’s even a thing moving forward.

The Theme of Identity

The cast and crew thought that Rey’s backstory and lineage were done and dusted with The Force Awakens, but with the massive amount of interest from fans evidently needed to address it and put it to rest once and for all. Assuming that Kylo Ren isn’t lying or manipulating Rey in some way, she (and we) now know that her parents simply weren’t important. I find this a huge relief, not just because I didn’t personally want to see any other Skywalkers or Kenobis or what have you, but because it’s integral to the theme of identity that runs through the film.

Kylo Ren and Rey are two sides of the same coin; in addition to being representative of dark and light, they’re both trying to navigate who they are and find their places in the universe. Rey is the nobody thrust into a world of adventure and heroes and expectations, who constantly looks to her past to try to find meaning and her place and purpose in the circumstances she’s found herself in. Kylo Ren is the reverse of this; he’s consumed by his family’s history and, unlike Rey, burdened by his lineage and the expectations placed upon him because of it.

Their stories and their desires to solidify who they are run parallel, and ultimately end with Rey realising that Maz Kanata was right all along (“the belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead”) and choosing the Light, while Kylo Ren casts off Snoke’s shackles and finally refuses to be a tool endlessly compared to his grandfather, but unfortunately makes the decision to choose the Dark and create his own ‘empire’ as he wishes it to be without being under the thumb of another. Both find themselves by abandoning their pasts, but they choose to embrace dramatically different futures as a result.

It isn’t just the younger characters that struggle with identity though; Luke experiences his fair share too and unlike Rey and Kylo Ren who look to their family for answers, he’s burdened by the weight of his own legacy. He maintains that he isn’t a legend, that he isn’t a master, that he has nothing to teach Rey. With the help of a couple of blasts from the past, he finally comes to term with his mistakes and lets go of his own history and failings, embracing the legend of Luke Skywalker one final time to give the galaxy not the version of him that he believed in, but the version of him that it needed.

Our Perceptions

Tying in somewhat to the idea of identity in The Last Jedi was the running theme of perception. It’s a huge element of Kylo Ren’s turn to the Dark Side – we see two different versions of that night in Ben Solo’s room before we finally see what really happened – and is touched upon by DJ when he brings up who funds the excess and oppression of the Canto Bight rich, as well as played with for individual characters like Rey, Admiral Holdo and Luke himself.

In Return of the Jedi, Obi-wan said to Luke: “…you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” and this is called upon again and again in The Last Jedi. Our point of view determines whether or not Luke was attacked by an already dark Kylo Ren, if he attempted to murder his nephew, or if he contemplated it and ultimately decided it was wrong. Our point of view determines whether or not Canto Bight is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, people just making a living or a simple necessity in the reality in which we actually live.

The concept of our point of view can also extend to Luke’s final showdown; I didn’t catch it until I read about it and listened to podcasts later, but there were numerous hints to suggest that he wasn’t really there. Yoda mentions in The Empire Strikes Back that Luke always looked to the future, never where he was and what he was doing – it seems that he jogged Luke’s memory with this too, and it ended up being what Luke was able to use to buy the Resistance time to flee. Kylo Ren lacks the same focus on the here and now, and missed all of the same tells that gave Luke away that I did. Kylo Ren perceived Luke to be there, and looked no deeper than that.

Political Statements

The Star Wars films have always been a statement about war, about good vs evil and have even explored some elements of politics in the prequel trilogy, but I’ve never seen mainstream Star Wars make as many overt, political statements as The Last Jedi did. I didn’t love the scenes on Canto Bight in and of themselves, but I loved the messages that they tried to convey and the purpose that they served in the end.

Rose hates the city of beauty and wealth and wishes she could tear the whole thing down, and Finn doesn’t see why until he sees the disparity and oppression when he looks at things a little more closely. They’re both then forced to grapple with the reality that it isn’t just the First Order who are buying weapons from these obscenely rich arms dealers, but the Resistance, too.  It suddenly isn’t as black and white as ‘good against evil’ anymore, although they maintain the need to pick the right side.

I didn’t take to the scenes with the children right away, but when I sat back for a moment I really embraced the imagery and the story The Last Jedi tells with the kids in the Fathier stables and the Broom Boy at the end of the movie. When it comes to the bigger picture, I took away that anyone, from anywhere, has the potential to change the universe; the boy looking up at the stars and dreaming of the legends of Luke Skywalker and the Resistance fighters he met harks back to Luke first staring off into the twin sunset, hoping to one day be a part of that change himself. On the smaller scale, it feels to me like a nod to the new generation of Star Wars fans, the ones who are looking up at the stars and embracing the future – the fans that these new movies are really for – instead of those dwelling on the nostalgia of the past.

Combined with the other elements of the movie, whether it be the idea that change is possible and worth fighting for, that heroes can come from anywhere or that there’s always a place for you (in the world in general, or in Star Wars as we can now come to know it), these scenes ended up being really emotional, heartwarming and hopeful for me.

Oh, and being vegan I couldn’t let the apparent, subtle plant-based leanings slip through the net. Luke’s drinking the milk (on top of being a wonderful way for him to show Rey ‘hey look I’m not that great look at me I’m a gross weird old hermit man, leave me alone’) and Rey’s obvious discomfort with what just happened, coupled with Chewie caving into porg-pressure and the use of the Fathier racing to illustrate the injustice and cruelty of the upper classes of Canto Bight were a very unexpected accidentally (I assume…) vegan message!

I loved The Last Jedi. It may not have been what I had expected or had hoped for, but it nevertheless exceeded all of my expectations and has been a movie that has grown on me the longer I take to think about it. I may not have loved everything about it, but it’s left a stronger impression than I thought it would, and both is and represents everything I hope Star Wars continues to be from now on.

Expect some more musings as time goes on! What were your first impressions of The Last Jedi?

Review / Joik Soy Wax Scented Candles

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

When the temperature starts to drop and the evenings get darker, most of us gravitate towards things that make us feel warm, cosy and comforted. Autumn and winter can be a dark and dreary time of year and, depending on where you live and what your daily routine is like, you may struggle to get a good look at the sun for days or even weeks at a time. I know back when I was working earlier hours this time last year, I’d leave the house before the sun rose and be back after it set, with no time left to actually enjoy the daylight and soak in the fleeting rays of winter sunshine.

I know plenty of other people who enjoy all things hygge and love a good candle at any time of year, but the thought to light one doesn’t usually cross my mind until the seasons start to shift. Most of my favourite scents are spiced, cold weather fragrances, and I tend to find candles more enjoyable when you get to see the soft, flickering candlelight dancing in the darkness of a chilly winter’s evening.

I’m not much a connoisseur of scented candles, but I’d heard about Estonian brand Joik’s candles before and had been on the hunt for some more natural alternatives to more commonly found paraffin candles. They fit the bill pretty nicely – they’re made of soy wax, and promise high quality and a lasting, true fragrance that can be difficult to find in many natural candle brands. They come in a range of delightful scents, and of course the ones that called out to me were Cinnamon Bun* and Gingerbread*.

I could smell these candles as soon as I opened the package they arrived in, and long before I decided to burn them they added a spicy, cinnamon sweetness to the room I’d left them in. Although both carry a festive spice to them, Cinnamon Bun has a much sweeter scent than Gingerbread, and smells nearly identical to a freshly baked cinnamon bun smothered in sticky, vanilla icing. It isn’t overbearingly sickly in the slightest (in fact, it smells delicious and as if I’d been baking without any of the effort) but it may not be suited to those who don’t enjoy food-based, sweet scented candles. Gingerbread is also delectable, but is a slightly more ‘mature’ smell with notes of cardamom, clove, ginger and the like, and is perfect for the holiday season.  I’ve been burning this throughout December so far, and it was a wonderful addition to the evening we put up our Christmas tree.

Both candles fill my home with fragrance when lit, and can be noticed as soon as you open the front door. Even when left to rest for days on end, they still give the room a subtle but welcoming sweet, spicy smell. These are advertised to burn for around 30 hours when used as recommended, and so far even after regular use the wick hasn’t burned down particularly far in mine. Each candle is £13.50 from, which is comparable to mainstream brands like Yankee Candle and cheaper than many other natural, soy wax-based brands. Even if that does seem like a high price tag, these make perfect luxury gifts and come in a variety of different fragrances for all occasion. Spiced smells may not be your cup of tea, but they also have many different floral, fruity, sensual, fresh and other smells from hot chocolate to strawberries and wine to ones inspired and named after cities and moments.

What are your favourite kinds of candle to burn at this time of year?

* This review is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however the product was sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

Admitting Where Our Food Comes From

Monday, 27 November 2017

Unless you’re completely new to my blog, you’ll already know that I don’t eat meat and haven’t for nearly three years now. I gave it up initially for my health (red meats in particular triggered my IBS symptoms), then for the environment and for animal welfare. In spite of what you might think of meat-free people though, many of my views about meat consumption and animal welfare have remained unchanged since my younger years guzzling beef burgers and gnawing on chicken wings.

One of the biggest criticisms that many vegetarians and vegans have about meat-eaters is the hypocrisy of our meat consuming habits – what is and isn’t acceptable to eat, what is and isn’t acceptable to find outrageous and cruel, and ultimately how distanced we’ve become (namely in white Western culture) from where our food actually comes from. It might surprise you to know, but even when I was an avid ‘carnivore’ with a real disdain for vegetarians and vegans, I still saw and called out that hypocrisy and I continue to do so today as a vegan. Sad thing of course, is that people took my criticism much more seriously when I spoke as meat-eater to meat-eater than they do now!

I’ve been mulling this over for a while, but after seeing a few tweets recently following an episode of Countryfile, I thought I may as well put fingers to keyboard and type something out.

Perhaps my biggest frustration as a vegan isn’t that people can’t see the environmental devastation that their eating habits cause, or that they don’t appreciate the suffering that eating meat or dairy causes animals or the communities in the nations livestock feed is mass produced. It’s that within the age of fast food and easy availability and the realities of slaughterhouses being hidden far, far away from our prying eyes, most of us have either forgotten or are in denial that the animal products we consume were from just that: animals.

It’s not unusual to hear people say that they don’t like eating meat on the bone because they don’t like to think about the animal it came from. They don’t like to be shown images of captive animals or what lies beyond the gates of slaughterhouses. Customers of restaurants routinely complain if they find a chicken feather in their chicken meal, or evidence of hair on the flesh of an animal that, when living, did indeed have hair. Even the biggest meat-lovers will often still say that if it came down to it, they wouldn’t be able to kill an animal themselves unless their lives depended on it. This is the most difficult attitude for me to navigate as a vegan, and was one I found difficult to navigate in the years before I gave up meat, too.

For me, it has always been simple. If I had to in order to feed myself, or if we lived in a society where killing animals ourselves was necessary in order to eat them, I would’ve done it. I killed fish myself when I went fishing. I ate meat off the bone because I knew it was an animal, and animals had bones. I loathed hearing people complain about seeing whole fish in fishmongers, made uncomfortable by the eyes of the dead fish watching them, and I hated that parents would file complaints over butchers displaying pig carcasses in their windows because ‘it’s too gruesome’ or ‘it frightened their children’. When I was a child, I knew bacon came from a pig. I knew that the dead pig would become the food, and that this was just ‘how it was’.

I’m not the type of vegan that demands that everyone become vegan overnight, that all animal slaughter end instantaneously and that it’s in everyone’s power to give up animal products (it’s not). I’ve spoken before about ways non-vegans can help support vegan causes, and how important it is to understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and that this impacts our abilities to live and consume as ethically as others might. What I do expect though, as an absolute bare minimum, is that if you are going to consume animal products that you understand and don’t shy away from where it came from.

Ultimately, I am now and always have been of the opinion that if you can’t handle the reality of the meat on your plate – if you can’t bare thinking about a cute pig dying for your bacon sandwich, or any kind of reminder that what you’re eating is an animal – then you shouldn’t be eating meat. If your conscience makes you feel so uncomfortable being reminded that what you’re eating used to be a fluffy little lamb or a chick or a cow, that should be a signal to you not to eat it. If you’re fine with the idea of someone else slaughtering something for you behind closed doors, miles and miles away so that you can bury your head in the sand, but it makes you sick to your stomach to think of doing it yourself, then you shouldn’t be eating meat.

Of course, as my post on intersectionality references, contrary to what many vegans suggest, it simply can’t be this black and white for people with financial difficulties, families to feed, different religious or cultural backgrounds, physical or mental health needs and so on.  I refer here instead to those who do have the level of privilege, comfort and capacity to think more critically about their food choices and potentially make changes.

Even so, I don’t blame the kinds of folks who think this way for having this attitude; it’s a product of a society that has become almost completely detached with where our food comes from and what’s in it. The average person has little concept of what real nutrition is, what ingredients are used in our foods, whether our foods are grown locally or in countries hundreds of miles away. Particularly when it comes to industrial farming, the companies behind it work hard to keep the truth from us, so it’s only natural that we are left in ignorance in some respects. 

What I believe we need to work on is a combination of holding companies accountable, refusing to accept being left in blissful ignorance about the source of our food, and listening to and understanding our own guilt. We no longer live in a time when we’d pop to the local butcher who sourced their meat from the farm we know down the road; we’re almost entirely cut off from the path our meat takes to our plates nowadays. We can’t afford to forget and deny where it comes from, as that only leads to decreased welfare standards and gives even more control to food giants when it comes to what we can and can’t know about our food (meat or otherwise).  This is an ethos that should be applied across the board too, not just in the consumption of animal products.  For example, how many people who can access better are aware of the cruel reality of sweatshop labour and know that it’s a horrid practice, and yet continue to push it to the back of their minds and spent £100s in Primark at every opportunity?  We take for granted what a privilege it is to be able to say “I’d rather not think about it” and carry on as normal.

If you can’t stand the truth and have alternatives available to you, then to not take those alternatives is hugely hypocritical. Funding something that makes you feel sick or that you hate just because you like the taste or how it looks and when you have other options is behaviour that has been normalised that (I believe anyway) really shouldn’t be.

If you’re able to come to terms with the fact that something died for your meal, or you accept the fact that death and suffering is a necessary consequence of eating meat, or you feel perfectly capable of killing to eat yourself, then I have no issue with that. Honesty and acceptance of reality is hard to come by in the world we live in now, and I respect those that understand that reality and own it. If you can’t stomach it though, and you have the knowledge and resources available to you to make a change in your lifestyle, then why keep dancing around the truth that you already know makes you so uncomfortable?

What are your thoughts?

Making More Ethical Christmas Gift Choices with Oxfam

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year for anyone, but throw being vegan or low waste or having other strong ethical consumer principles into the mix too, and it gets even more challenging. When you want to only buy ethical products and to avoid fast fashion and sweatshop labour, and you not only have a limited budget but relatives that request not-so-ethical purchases, you start to get your own fair share of holiday guilt weighing you down. Shopping ethically and sustainably is a minefield at the best of times, but there are still ways you can give wonderful (and affordable) gifts and make a positive difference in the world.

I probably don’t need to introduce Oxfam, as they’re one of the most recognisable charities in the UK, and are an organisation dedicated to tackling poverty at a grassroots level, responding to disasters and spreading awareness of the real, human issues surrounding social and economic inequality, climate change and more. Out on the streets, they’re most likely known for their charity shops where you can pick up some cracking second-hand finds, but they also stock a variety of gifts and goodies that all contribute to helping people help themselves out of poverty.

Oxfam were kind enough to send me a selection* of some of the treats they have available this Christmas, as an alternative to the usual mass-produced, ethically questionable products that line most shelves around this time of year.

They’re not for everyone, but one type of gift I love are those that give more than just a physical item, and they’re a perfect option for those relatives or friends you know who have everything they need and insist that they don’t actually want anything. Oxfam offer a variety of charity gifts that skip the item and send your money straight to those that need it on behalf of your loved one, from much needed supplies to contributing to shelter and education. You can even give your friends a pile of poo – but it’s actually a combination of manure, fertiliser and training to allow people to grow their own crops and make a living!  Plus, hello, this is a very amusing card and gift on top of actually being a very good cause to put your money towards.

For the beauty lovers among us, Oxfam have a lovely selection of organic, cruelty free and many vegan skincare, bath and shower items. I first tried Faith in Nature in a VeganKind box a couple of years ago, and I was excited to see that as well as stocking a massive range of Faith in Nature products, they also have little gift boxes like this one, which is full of different flavoured bubble bath minis. This type of gift is perfect for people who are already cruelty free, or as a little taster for those of us who’re dipping their toes in or just starting their cruelty free journey.

Another wonderful vegan option they offer is the Southsea Bathing Hut Vitamin Sea Hand & Body Balm, a multi-purpose product that can be used as a hand and foot cream, lip balm, moisturiser or even a make-up primer. These are all natural artisan products that are hand-made in Portsmouth with the aim of bringing back the city’s heritage as a soap-making city. This one is mint and orange scented, smells incredible (although the mint is definitely the dominating scent) and is deeply hydrating!

What Christmas gift hamper would be complete without cards? Charity Christmas cards are a staple of the season, and Oxfam offers a range of their own. These woodland folk art inspired cards have a super cute Scandinavian vibe, and last year Oxfam's Christmas cards raised enough to fund three years of a project helping children in Niger to recover from malnutrition. They also do a few bits and pieces including gift wrap, tags and things to make your own decorations, like these paper chains made of FSC certified paper (although it would be even better if they were made from recycled paper too).

There’s a selection of gorgeous, handmade decorations and homewares that Oxfam are stocking right now that I’m really enamoured with. This washbag is one of a range of products made in India using cotton and kantha stitch, produced by an organisation called Aspiration that supports local artisans.  Mine is the perfect size for my storing my make-up brushes.  The colours and pattern are lovely, and you can find similar colourful, statement goodies in their shops and online too – I’m in love with this recycled sari bunting, and their gold sequin baskets made in Vietnam from natural seagrass would make an amazing practical and pretty gift (it’d also make one heck of a blogging prop every now and again, in my humble opinion).

If you’re also vegan like I am, you’ll know how tough it can be to track down a good advent calendar that doesn’t cost the earth. You can pick up this absolute beauty by Divine from your local Oxfam shop, and it’s £4.99, vegan and palm oil free. Better still, it’s animal themed! This particular advent calendar was made with the Woodland Trust, and 3p from the sale of every calendar is donated to the Trust to help protect, maintain and restore the UK’s woodland. Each door contains a 70% chocolate little critter, and behind each critter is a daily animal fact. Vegan chocolate that also helps animals and our local environment? Perfect!

If you happen to pop in one day, many Oxfam charity shops also stock a small range of other vegan-friendly chocolates from Divine and a few other brands.

If you want to put together your own hamper of gifts, they even sell this handmade hamper basket to create your own custom selection!

I hope this post helped to give you a bit of an insight into some of the fair trade, ethical gifts offered by Oxfam this year. They have a whole range of items in their online shop, from second-hand clothes to gifts they’ve sourced that help to fight poverty and support vulnerable people around the world. Christmas is an important time of year to reflect on not just the love in our lives, but the privilege we have too. Whether you choose to buy from Oxfam this year or not, there are plenty of options out there for you to make more ethical, sustainable purchases for the holiday season. Charity shops, eBay, indie brands, local artists, vintage markets and more are all wonderful options that can support local people, donate money to worthy causes or lessen your contribution to fast fashion and harmful labour conditions.

What are your tips for ethical shopping this Christmas?

* This post has not been sponsored or paid for, however all of the items photographed in this post were given to me free of charge.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

On emotional walls.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

I don’t have a lot of friends these days. This is partly because of, well, life (I’ve moved so often since starting university that it’s made it difficult for me to make and maintain friendships) and partly my own doing. I don’t talk too much about my mental health on my blog or social media because, frankly, I never feel like I have much of a right to. The struggles I deal with are so minute in comparison to real mental health struggles, that I don’t always feel right using my own voice instead of amplifying others’. Nevertheless, I’ve come to realise that my mental health has played a huge role in my ability to make lasting, fulfilling friendships, and not in the way you’d expect.

I’ve had a few shitty friendships. You know the type; the one-sided ones that drain you of all of your emotional energy, and give you nothing in return. I learned how to read people and whether or not they actual value and respect me as a person and a friend after a while, and my talent at judging others’ characters and my apparently distinctly INFJ distaste for acquaintance-ships and pleasantries have allowed me to swiftly navigate myself away from other potential disasters or unfulfilling relationships. Running in tandem with these experiences though, has been the evolution of my mental health issues, and I knew early on that toxic relationships that take and take and take do not mesh well them.

I’ve had some huge ups and downs with my mental health, and have gone from being utterly terrified of meeting new people to putting myself in situations that I never would’ve thought myself capable of. I’ve pulled myself up from the deepest lows I’ve experienced yet, to being confident, comfortable and steadfast in who I am and what I can do. And yet, you never really ‘recover’ from certain types of mental health issue. You can make improvements, you can manage it, you can live your life sometimes forgetting that it even exists… but it doesn’t mean that you don’t slip up and it doesn’t rear its ugly head again every now and again and send you plunging back into that dark place you thought you’d long escaped.

I realised only recently that this reality has played a huge role in my relationships since I got a firmer grasp on my mental health. To put it simply, I’m selfish. I not only disengage with people that I don’t feel are a good match for me, but I disengage with those who are, but who carry too much baggage or are too dependant on me, too. There is a very tiny, tiny number of people for whom I will happily volunteer to help bear their mental and emotional burdens, while I subconsciously keep the others at arm’s length.

At first, I thought I was just being a cold, distant bitch. Maybe I am – I’m sure it probably comes across that way to whoever’s reading this. But it’s more than that; it’s a defence mechanism.

I’m sadly the type of person who just naturally absorbs other peoples’ issues. Without even meaning for it to happen, their sadness becomes my sadness, their stress becomes my stress, their dark days become my dark days. I willingly transform myself into their therapists or confidants and spend my time apart worrying about them, thinking about them. And, even when the problems are more superficial than that, I find that I have a finite amount of emotional energy that eventually gets sucked dry if the person in question doesn’t deposit as much into the Bank of Emotional Investment as they withdraw.

I’ve worked so, so hard to get myself to the point that I’m at now where I’m happy and self-assured and no longer battle daily with the same demons I used to, and I know from experience how fragile this state of mind is. I’ve slipped before, and it doesn’t feel good. So, I cling to that, and whether I realise it at the time or not, I steer myself away from situations and relationships that might be detrimental to it – needy colleagues with emotional issues, acquaintances that regularly need shoulders to cry on, those friends who always seek advice about the same problems but never actually listen. I might reply, but I don’t fully engage or encourage, because I’m not prepared to be that emotional baggage handler again. I’m not prepared to put my own mental health on the line in order for someone else to lean on me anymore. I’m not prepared to be the person that’s always there for someone, but gets little to no support in return again.

It’s pure and simple selfishness, but it’s self-preservation. When your emotional and mental state, however stable it might appear at the time, is ultimately like walking a tightrope, you can’t afford to keep inviting other people in and shouldering their problems. Take on even a little bit too much, and you risk everything you’ve built coming crumbling down. Of course I try to be there in a crisis and when I’m desperately needed, but I’m unwilling to be privy to every issue or drama or emotional trauma going on in the lives of those I know (save for that select few) when I know all it will do is weigh and drag me down until I ultimately snap and I’m back to square one again.

I’m a bad friend, a bad colleague, a bad family member. I’m absolutely selfish. But, when the consequences of taking on someone else’s emotional baggage or negativity or drama is absorbing all of it and losing your grip on your own mental health and happiness, distancing yourself is more than not having the time or the patience or just not caring about the person. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s simply that I’ve learned through trial and error that I have to pick my battles and decide whether or not I have to prioritise caring for myself instead.

Review / Phee's Makeup Shop Eyeshadow Single in Polilla

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow
Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla EyeshadowIf you’ve been following me on my blog and social media for a while now, you’ll know I tend to be a matte kind of lady – matte eyeshadow, matte lips… the only shimmer I used to like was dewiness on my skin and a highlight as bright as the sun on my cheekbones! Today’s review is about one of those rare gems that brought me around to the shimmery, metallic way of thinking, and is a member of the Phee’s Makeup Shop family that I’ve talked about a couple of times before.

Polilla is sold as an eyeshadow single, and as with all of Phee’s products is handmade in Sheffield, cruelty free and vegan. In some lighting, it looks like a relatively unassuming metallic turquoise in the pan, but once swatched or applied to your lids, it reveals itself as a stunning shade of rusty brown with turquoise reflect and has an incredible level of dimension and pizzazz.

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow Swatch

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow

It’s difficult to do justice to it in photos and even in videos; the colour shift is oh so impressive in person but it simply doesn’t translate with as much vibrancy when you try to capture it! Like it’s sisters from Phee’s Makeup Shop, it’s very opaque, with one swipe of a fingertip enough to give full coverage of the eyelid, and being brown-based it is still considered neutral and can work with a variety of other colours. Even so, I have to admit I rarely – if ever – actually use Polilla with any other eyeshadows, purely because it works magnificently on its own. Blended out, the brown tones in this shade start to stand out more than the blues, creating a beautiful warmth that (I think, anyway) means you can get away without crease colours or transition shades. With the colour packed onto the lid and blended out into and above the crease and under the eye, you get a nice reddish brown frame that diffuses into to a more opaque duochrome with the turquoise shimmer dancing on the lid.

Can you believe that an eyeshadow primer and Polilla are the only things used to create this eyeshadow look?

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow

Polilla can be purchased from Phee’s Makeup Shop either in a compact for £10.50 or pan only for £6.50, both for 3g of product. Like Phee’s other products, that’s much more than you tend to get from high end or high street brands! It’s an eyeshadow that’s well worth the investment, too.  It’s wonderfully versatile and can be used for neutral, everyday makeup or as an exciting addition to more glamorous looks.  A little goes a long way too; it’s one of the most used eyeshadows in my collection, but I’ve barely made a dent in it because the colour payoff is that good.

Phee’s shop has recently undergone a bit of a change, and now only opens temporarily for pre-order instead of being open for orders all year around. If you follow Phee on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to her mailing list, you’ll be one of the first to know when pre-orders are approaching. If you’re really interested, there’s a pre-order window until midnight on 4th November (today!) so if you want to grab this little beauty or any of the other eyeshadows or highlighters from Phee’s Makeup Shop, don’t miss out!

All products used:
Inika Organic Primer with Hyaluronic Acid
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion*
Sleek Makeup Colour Corrector Palette
The Body Shop Moisture Foundation SPF15 in Shade 01†
The Body Shop Lightening Shade Adjusting Drops
Illamasqua Skin Base Lift Concealer in Light 2†
Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade in Dark Brown
Lily Lolo Mineral Eyeshadow in Black Sand†
Barry M Take a Brow Brow Gel in Brown
Phee's Makeup Shop Eyeshadow in Polilla
Pixi Extra Eye Bright Liner
PHB Ethical Beauty Natural Mascara in Black
Ardell Demi-Wispies Falsh Lashes in Black
theBalm Down Boy†
Phee's Makeup Shop Glow Highlighter in Bellini
Lily Lolo Finishing Powder in Translucent Silk
Nabla Cosmetics Dreamy Matte Liquid Lipstick in Sweet Gravity

* Parent company is not cruelty free. 
† Product is not vegan.

The Tipsy Vegan in Norwich

Sunday, 29 October 2017

If you didn’t already know, I used to live in Norwich. I haven’t lived there long term for over eight years now, but I still visit my mum there and it seems like every time I go back, there are exciting new vegan places to try! It was my mum who sent me a link to The Tipsy Vegan as a potential place to try out for lunch when Chris and I were last in town, and after browsing the menu I couldn’t resist giving it a go. We were going at a good time too, because after being open for evening meals about three months, they were only recently opening their doors for lunch too.

The Tipsy Vegan serves good, wholesome comfort food ranging from mouth-watering sandwiches and ribs to carbonara, and offers an incredibly impressive range of bespoke cocktails and mocktails that compliment the restaurant’s speak easy vibe well. Fun, retro music adds a great, cheerful but laidback atmosphere and even the drinks are served in vintage-style crystal glasses!

Given the nice list of cocktails, I couldn’t resist trying one (even though it wasn’t exactly cocktail hour) and opted for the Black Gin Smash, which uses infused gin, beetroot and activated charcoal to give it a distinctive black look. The subtle beetroot and pleasant earthy combination of this and the charcoal was delicious, and it was an easy to drink but nonetheless grown-up tasting cocktail that was beautifully presented with a beetroot garnish. Had we gone in the evening, I definitely would’ve had to try a few more, since unlike most places they serve things like aquafaba and soya milk in their drinks, making everything vegan!

For my lunch, I chose the pepper steak sandwich, served with parmesan dusted chips, coleslaw and smothered in a creamy, cheesy sauce. Don’t worry, ‘pepper’ steak just refers to the seasoning and isn’t a trick – it is indeed a kind of meat substitute and not made out of a bell pepper as I’d been suspicious of! This was honestly one of the most incredible vegan meals I’ve had since going vegan over two years ago now – the ‘steak’ was just the right kind of meaty without tasting or feeling too much like meat, and the sauce was out of this world. Every bite left me wanting more, and the chips were perfectly cooked and seasoned to boot.

Chris chose the half rack of barbeque ‘ribs’, served with coleslaw, potato salad and a corn cob and it was just as delectable as the steak sandwich. The ribs were filling (Chris said he wouldn’t have needed the full rack, although being a glutton I would probably go for full next time…) and the sauce was spot on with a mix of spicy, sweet and barbeque-y flavours. The potato salad and the coleslaw were also so nice that they actually made me forget about my usual dislike of mayonnaise!

I can never say no to desserts when I visit a vegan restaurant, especially when the menu is obviously created by and for vegans. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve seen enough raw cheesecakes and sorbets to last me a lifetime. Luckily, The Tipsy Vegan’s comfort food extends to the dessert menu, and I got to try one of their caramel chocolate tarts. Served with vanilla ice cream, this incredible tart is rich, creamy, and best of all has a gooey, caramel filling! I love the chocolate tarts that I’ve had at other restaurants and at places like Zizzi’s, but this one was by far better than them and was sweet without being too sweet, and wonderfully luxurious and comforting.

My first impressions of The Tipsy Vegan couldn’t be better – the service was wonderful, the food was amazing and the selection on the menu is exactly what more vegan places should aspire to. I can’t wait to visit again in the evening one day; the food is certainly comforting but isn’t overly stodgy and doesn’t just rely on burgers and hot dogs, and it isn’t ‘healthy’ and light like vegan food so often is either. It strikes a balance somewhere in between and fills a gap in the market that I think has long needed filling. The décor feels special and unique, but laidback enough to kick back, relax and enjoy your vegan cocktails and treats in style and know you’ll be looked after well by the staff.

If you’re ever in Norwich, I can’t recommend this place enough! Follow them on Instagram for more tasty foodporn, and grab an extra steak sandwich for me when you go...

I've missed you, autumn.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

There are two kinds of people: the spring and summer songbirds that relish the longer days, the smell of freshly cut grass and the warmth of sunshine on their skin, and the autumn and winter souls that blossom like snowdrops as the cold weather creeps in. I can understand why so many people are sad to see the warmer weather leave us behind (especially given what a short and lacklustre summer we saw this year) but I’m one of the many that spends May through to September just counting the days until the leaves start to change and I can smell the shifting seasons in the crisp, morning air.

Most of the autumnal things that us bloggers like seem so cliché now, but there’s no shame in enjoying the festivities and the comfort of warm blankets, cinnamon-scented candles and curling up with a good book and a pumpkin spiced latté on chilly evenings. Spring and summer and the warmth and buzz they bring with them are so often associated with hustle and bustle, enjoyment and making the most out of life and the ever-fleeting good weather. But, for those of us slipping on our knit jumpers like a new skin, it’s autumn that provides the fresh start and new beginnings. Autumn may be the end of mild evenings sipping cider in pub gardens or spent barbequing with friends and family, but it’s a harbinger of change that brings with it new experiences to enjoy that those of us who appreciate all things hygge welcome with open arms.

I’m never one for restricting what I wear throughout the seasons – I’m a three shades of black kind of gal – but I’m always so excited to greet the cooler weather and the trends it brings with it time and time again. I’ve been loving using darker nail polishes and Maggie Anne’s Inga*, a deep warm plum colour, has been the perfect shade to channel my inner seasonal goddess. Being able to browse shops and finally see colour palettes and styles of clothing that actually suit me and that I adore again is a joy, and in my quest to shop more ethically I’ve managed to find a few good bargains and have been living most of my days in my new favourite second-hand grey and forest green knit sweaters. Ever the blessing when that time rolls around each year, I’ve also been thrilled to finally return to wearing boots with every outfit again.

Dark greens, reds, plums and rusty oranges and yellows inspired by nature are some of my favourite colours; it’s like picking a pleasing shade from a piece of autumn foliage. The most frustrating thing to find as a vegan are the dark, vampiric lipstick shades that come back into style every year, but I’ve already got my eye on some. Nabla Cosmetics do a wonderful range of all vegan makeup products, and this year released their Dreamy Matte Liquid Lipsticks, of which Unspoken is the perfect deep, ruby red and Coco the perfect dark chocolate brown, both of which I’ve been coveting since they were first released. When it comes to eyes, I’ve been enjoying using a wash of PHB Ethical Beauty’s Grape mineral eyeshadow* to add a subtle reddish purple that suits the season to my everyday makeup looks.

Contrary to what many might think of vegans, I’m not much of a salad person – rather I much prefer the hot, wholesome one-pot dishes that are staples of cold weather cooking. Now is the ideal time to live off cheap, filling stews like my smoked paprika, butter bean and fennel stew that I mentioned in this post, roast dinners, spicy curries, and anything and everything with squash or pumpkin. I’m already preparing to make a pumpkin pie, and have been bringing homemade vegan cinnamon rolls into work, much to the delight of my colleagues. People can be as uppity as they like about pumpkin spiced lattés and those that live for them, but even as someone who tends to avoid spending money on takeout coffee, I was over the moon to see that Pret a Manger have released their own pumpkin spiced drink that – unlike Starbucks’ – is possible to veganise.

The colder, darker evenings also bring with them the perfect opportunity to enjoy quiet, reflective candlelit nights wrapped in faux fur blankets. It should go without saying that anything musky, earthy and spiced make for a perfect autumnal fragrance; cinnamon candles and essential oils, for example, are in frequent rotation in my household, and Joik’s Cinnamon Bun Soy Wax candle is top of wishlist at the moment. Scented candles don’t have to be heavily spiced to evoke a cosy, fall feeling though – Harper’s Candles Wolf Wood is one of my absolute favourites and is crisp, clean and subtly sweet but still somehow feels woody and autumnal. Skandinavisk Koto is also a perfect hygge scent with its soft vanilla and mandarin fragrance with notes of amber and spice.

As the leaves start to wither and fall, giving way in preparation for new life next spring, my subdued summer self gives way to a more vivacious me with a greater lust for life. It may not be everyone’s favourite time of year, but even as I start to feel the chilly winds and darker mornings eat away at my energy and motivation, like clockwork I still always come into my own during autumn. What are some of your favourite things about this season?

* This post is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however this product was sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

5 vegans you meet when you go vegan

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Like most communities, the vegan community is one that can seem quite homogenous from the outside, but once you’re a part of it you start to realise just how diverse the different people in that community are. It probably goes without saying that vegans get a pretty bad rap and are viewed quite stereotypically by the ‘outside world’, but funnily enough once you’ve been vegan for a little while and had a few weeks of exposure to other vegans, you start to notice types.

After two years of being vegan and interacting with a variety of different vegans online, I’ve started to be able to class a lot of us into different categories, and thought I’d share some of those with you today! As usual, there’s been a few wee controversies in the vegan world over the past few days, resulting in certain subgroups of veganism turning on the others, and as much as it sucks to see people who support your ethical and moral beliefs be complete and utter bellends, sometimes you just have to step back and laugh.

So, in the interest of looking on the bright side and learning to poke fun at ourselves, here are five types of vegan you meet after you’ve made the switch!

The Raw Yogi

For those of us who are super into food, one type of vegan is very quick and easy to identify – the Raw Yogi. Although there’s more to vegan food than acai bowls and colourful, vibrant salads and fresh vegetables, the Raw Yogi’s diet is almost exclusively these kinds of food and, as the name suggests, most of what they eat is raw, earthy goodness. There isn’t anything bad about that in and of itself, but for the rest of us mere mortals munching on our vegan chocolate chip cookies it seems a bit daunting and unobtainable.  Plus, they give omnis a skewed idea of what vegans actually want to eat - it’s thanks to the Raw Yogis that the rest of us have to suffer menu after menu of raw cheesecake as a dessert option instead of proper junk food puddings!

The next level Raw Yogi vegan doesn’t just eat raw of course, but embraces part of the hippy-style stereotype that non-vegans often assign to the movement. They’re chilled out, they practice yoga, they meditate, they probably own a few pieces of jewellery with a hamsa on ‘em and may or may not dabble in Buddhism and/or some forms of appropriation from ‘exotic’, ‘enlightened’ cultures in the Far East.

The Know-It-All Nutritionist

Sadly, it’s not just non-vegans who feel the need to quiz vegans when it comes to nutrition. The Know-It-All Nutritionist is that vegan we all know and love who is super into ‘clean eating’ and, while they may not have exclusively gone vegan because of the health benefits, just loves to preach what a positive impact a healthy vegan diet can have on you. This isn’t a problem until they decide to impart their wisdom onto others uninvited; it’s the Know-It-All Nutritionist who you’ll often see getting into spats with other vegans over their love of processed foods and refined sugars, let alone lambasting omnivores for eating cheese.

Some of us just want to sit and eat our Oreos and pizzas in peace, others expect all vegans to be model representations of pristine, vegan health and assign far too much value to nutritional content of snacks and meals than is really recommended. Oh, and while many, many types of vegan can be guilty of fat-shaming, it’s most likely to be the Know-It-All Nutritionist, because haven’t you seen What The Health, don’t you know you’re killing yourself with meat and dairy and a wholefoods vegan diet could save your life?!

The Anarchist

We’ve probably all encountered the Anarchist on many, many occasions. You know the type – they’re the ones who are vegan for the animals, but to them, the animals are everything. And I mean everything. They’re the people who get into Twitter arguments with vegetarians and omnivores at the drop of the hat, who post graphic images of slaughterhouses and animal abuse on the social media feeds and who loudly equate animal agriculture to rape, slavery and yes, even the Holocaust. Goes without saying that such comparisons are problematic at best, but good luck calling them out without getting your head bitten off.

They might mean well at their core, but the Anarchist creates such an offensive, intimidating and unobtainable image of veganism that it’s just down right off-putting, and they do a great job of alienating not just omnivores but other vegans, too. To them, there’s a standard of veganism you’re expected to meet, and if, for example, you buy from cruelty free brands with animal testing parent companies, or choose to buy vegan products from food brands that aren’t 100% ethical, then you’re you’re not a real vegan and should be ashamed of yourself.

The #Goals

A favourite of bloggers, social media and magazines alike, the #Goals vegan is everything we aspire to be and more. They seem to live a picturesque life in either a beautiful modern or shabby chic apartment, grow their own herbs and plants and they’re slim, effortlessly beautiful and fashionable. All of their clothing (or at least what they choose to show us) is ethically sourced, and most of the time they live a zero waste, minimalist lifestyle with a classy monochrome capsule wardrobe and collections of upcycled kilner and mason jars filled with all their kitchen perishables lining their shelves.

Putting it simply, these folks are the vegans that make veganism fashionable to your average person.  The #Goals is the vegan ideal brought to life and their artfully arranged marble flat lays and food photography put the rest of us to shame. Of course, for most of us mere mortals their way of living isn’t actually achievable, and while their carefully curated blogs and social media platforms are gorgeous to look at and full of aesthetic inspiration, their content can encourage us to doubt ourselves and believe we’re somehow not ethical enough to really call ourselves vegan.

The Tesco Vegan 

Named so because ‘every little helps’, the Tesco Vegan is seen as realistic, inclusive and approachable by some or a slacker and a cop-out animal abuse apologist by others. Unlike the Animal Anarchist who is very much all-or-nothing, the Tesco Vegan believes that even small changes like giving up dairy milk in our cereals or simply reducing our consumption of meat will make a positive difference, even if we don’t all go vegan. They’re the vegan that, rather than trying to scare their omnivorous friends with gory photos or health statistics, simply leads by quiet example and lets questions be asked without judgement. While this might be seen as a great thing by omnivores who’re tired of feeling attacked by vegans, other vegans would argue that coddling ‘carnists’ and making them feel less guilty for still contributing to animal abuse and environmental destruction is foolish and counter-productive.

Although I’d definitely class myself as one of these, whether or not the Tesco Vegan’s approach actually makes a difference remains to be seen, but they pride themselves on their positive advocacy and the impact they can make by being intersectional and inclusive rather than frightening and exclusionary.

So, if you’re vegan, what type are you? Got any others that I might’ve missed?

Review / Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter
I never used to be a highlighter kind of gal – back when I first started getting into makeup, I was all about matte products. I still am, to an extent, because my preference for eyeshadow and lipstick always leans towards the matte end of the spectrum. Over time though, my tastes in base products have evolved and I now thrive on dewy finishes and looking like a gleaming, iridescent moonbeam.

Enter, Phee’s Makeup Shop. I blogged about some of Phee’s loose highlighters about a year ago, but for those who aren’t familiar with her makeup, beauty blogger Phee of Phee’s Makeup Tips hand-makes her own high quality, mineral makeup up in Sheffield. Because her looks are vibrant, bold and enchanting it’s only to be expected that the products she makes are just the same.

Phee’s Makeup Shop was one of the first brands to start stocking pastel and colourful highlighters, and some of the latest in her range of unicorn highlighters are extremely bright, holographic and intense. They come in single shade compacts in a variety of colours with different kinds of reflect, but when Trance, a combination of three, came out I couldn’t say no.

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter
Trance Unicorn Highlighter is £20 for a 59mm compact, and contains the pressed highlight shades Gloaming (purple), Buzz (turquoise) and Glo Up (yellow green) that can be used separately, or swirled together for an intense and truly unique glow.  (Badly) pictured above is each shade swatched individually.

I also have and frequently use Phee’s pastel rainbow highlighter, which sadly no longer appears to be in stock, but is a beautiful combination of all of her pastel shades and The Original Glow Highlighter. The pastel highlighter is colourful and eye-catching yet soft and still subtle depending on how heavily you apply it. Trance, on the other hand, is almost always a bold as hell statement in highlighter form.

On first dabbing your finger or brush into the product, the texture is a little bit chunkier than most traditional powder highlights and almost seems as if it’ll be glittery and awkward, but once applied and blended properly into the skin, it almost immediately melts into a holographic wet-look. This texture pre-application does make it prone to fall out (I sometimes end up with little highlight powder chunks glistening all over my face), but as Phee’s Makeup Shop is a small-scale, independent and hand-made brand I wouldn’t personally expect the products to be factory fine-milled powders.

And besides, the result speaks for itself.

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter

To be honest, whenever I try to take photos of Phee’s highlighters and eyeshadows, they never really do the products any justice. Trance in particular is so multi-dimensional that I find it difficult to really capture its essence; depending on how the light catches it, it can appear a number of different colours and gives you a stellar, ethereal sheen visible from space. So, trust me, it looks even better in person than it does in my photos.  If I want to turn heads and get complimented on my highlight (or make people wonder why I want to obnoxiously glow brighter than the sun), this is the beauty I always wear.

Of course, you don’t have to be as bold and brash as I choose to be with it. Without a doubt, it’s a unique and interesting highlighter no matter how you wear it, but you can still use it with a lighter hand for a subtler look, or use it to highlight your inner corners and really draw attention to your eyes and make them pop. It looks incredible on all skin tones, not just my paper white complexion (the incredibly talented Lima of Fashionicide regularly slays the highlight game using Phee’s highlighters) and is one of the few highlighters I’ve ever seen that’s capable of a true metallic finish. Not just glittery or shimmery or dewy or glowy, actually made-of molten-crystal-unicorn-rainbows metallic. You can use it dry or wet and, yeah, using it wet really packs an extra punch.

Phee's Makeup Shop Trance Unicorn Highlighter

Phee’s Makeup Shop highlighters continue to be my absolute favourite highlighters, and are cruelty free, vegan and made from simple ingredients with no added nasties or other bullshit that waters down the pigment. The products are also much bigger than your average highlighters – 59mm is pretty huge and will last for ages, especially given that you need very little product to achieve a perfect glow. Plus, by buying them, you’re not only going to bless yourself with an incredible highlight, but you’ll also be supporting an independent, British brand.

 9 times out of 10, if I’m doing my makeup to experiment or impress I’ll be using one of Phee’s products, and they’re some of the first that I always jump to recommend whenever I get the chance.  So, if you love a good glow, definitely check Trance out!

Have you ever tried Phee’s Makeup Shop before? Are you into the holographic trend?

All products used:
Inika Organic Primer with Hyaluronic Acid
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion*
Sleek Makeup Colour Corrector Palette
The Body Shop Moisture Foundation SPF15 in Shade 01†
The Body Shop Lightening Shade Adjusting Drops
Illamasqua Skin Base Lift Concealer in Light 2†
Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade in Dark Brown
Lily Lolo Mineral Eyeshadow in Black Sand†
Barry M Take a Brow Brow Gel in Brown
ColourPop Super Shock Eyeshadow in Sailor
B. Pro Duo Eyeliner in Black
Pixi Extra Eye Bright Liner
PHB Ethical Beauty Natural Mascara in Black
Ardell Scanties Falsh Lashes in Black
theBalm Cabana Boy†
Phee's Makeup Shop Unicorn Highlighter in Trance
Lily Lolo Finishing Powder in Translucent Silk
ColourPop Lippie Stix in Wet ?

* Parent company is not cruelty free. 
† Product is not vegan.
? Unsure if vegan, product & ingredients list no longer available.

Review / Sukin Oil Balancing + Charcoal Facial Masque & Facial Scrub

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Sukin Oil Balancing + Charcoal Masque & Scrub
When I was a teenager, I was blessed with near perfect skin. I still had a collection of immovable blackheads on my nose of course, but I never had blemishes or breakouts and I had barely any hint of dark circles under my eyes. So, you can imagine as my skin has got worse and worse into my twenties, it’s been a little bit hard for me to deal with – your skin, spots and so on are ‘supposed’ to improve with age, not deteriorate.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that my skin isn’t the same as it used to be for the most part, but the changes have nonetheless played a part in my resolve to treat my skin better and properly nourish it. Bre of Brianne Etc. recently shared on her Instagram that she’s been going makeup free, and inspired me to go back to basics and start doing the same (she even published a post recently on the best plant-based foods for good skin). I’ve never been one of those people that feels like they need makeup to leave the house, but I’d fallen into a habit of putting it on every morning for work as part of my routine again, and it’s not really a routine that I wanted.

This post isn’t about makeup or going makeup free, though – it’s about skincare. I’ve cut out some of the nasties I’ve been putting on my skin (I’ve even been wearing full eye makeup and highlight without a hint of base products recently) but I’ve also been trying to concentrate on putting some good things onto my skin and into my body too. One brand that I kept seeing come up time and time again over the past few months has been Sukin, so I was excited to give them a try after seeing so many other bloggers singing their praises.

I settled on Sukin’s Anti-Pollution Facial Masque* and Pore-Refining Facial Scrub*, both part of their Oil Balancing + Charcoal range. Although I’m not a particularly oily person, the charcoal in these products was what won me over, as it’s long been associated with beauty benefits due to its ability to draw oil, dirt and micro-particles out of pores, resulting in a clearer complexion and better cleansed skin. I’d only ever tried one other charcoal mask before, and I had high hopes for these two products after the positive reviews I’ve read about the brand.

Sukin Oil Balancing + Charcoal Anti-Pollution Facial Masque

The Anti-Pollution Facial Masque is a beautifully smooth mask that hardens very slightly as it dries, but doesn’t dry completely stiff like a clay mask. Sukin say that the bamboo charcoal, rooibos tea and willowherb in it lift impurities to help clear your pores, while the bilberry, white tea and pomegranate are high in anti-oxidants to give your complexion a healthy glow. It doesn’t smell strongly, and it’s almost cooling once applied and doesn’t feel harsh or heavy on the skin.

The instructions say to apply to damp skin, leave on for 15 minutes and then rinse off with a wash cloth, but I’ve left it for up to 40 minutes so far with no ill effects. Because it feels so gentle and nourishing on my skin (albeit not as hydrating as PHB Beauty’s masks), I like to leave it on and go about my business, and then use my muslin cloth to gentle rub it off with warm water so I can use it to exfoliate too. Immediately afterwards, my skin feels softer and looks a little brighter, and it’s a mask that I’ve really enjoyed including in my beauty routine because it’s nice and fuss free to prepare (it’s just a soft, grey cream in the tub) and isn’t a pain in the ass to remove like others I’ve tried.

Sukin Oil Balancing + Charcoal Pore-Refining Facial Scrub

I’ve also loved incorporating the Pore-Refining Facial Scrub into my daily routine. The bamboo charcoal and jojoba beads in this scrub help to exfoliate and deep clean, keeping pores clearer, and it also contains gentle, calming ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile and cucumber to soothe the skin (I love to see things like this in scrubs as they can sometimes lean a lil’ on the harsh side). I tend to use this in the evening, and will either apply it to damp skin or I’ll start gently massaging it into dry skin until it feels mostly absorbed and a bit sticky, then I’ll re-introduce water and scrub it away.

Sukin’s facial scrub is, to me, the perfect formula for an exfoliating scrub – there’s not too much ‘gritty’ texture, but there’s just enough to feel like I’ve given my face a proper good clean, and the other ingredients compliment this well and leave my skin feeling soft, glowing and hydrated rather than completely stripped of moisture. As for the pore-refining qualities, I’m pleased to say that after using this product at least once a day (sometimes twice) for several weeks now, it has actually been working wonders for me! It’s not often that I can categorically say that a product is doing what it claims it will, but using Sukin’s facial scrub in combination with the mask has reinvigorated my skin and minimised the steadily expanding pores around my nose that I was starting to get a bit concerned about. They’re still visible, of course, but are much smaller than they were before I added these items into my beauty routine.

I’m really happy to have tried these two out and the scrub is now a staple that I’ll be refusing to travel without, and it’s great to see that, at least based off of these products, Sukin is a brand that lives up to the hype!

Sukin’s products are all natural, vegan, cruelty free and, as their tagline says, don’t cost the earth both when it comes to financial and environmental costs – they’re an affordable, 100% carbon neutral brand. The Oil Balancing + Charcoal Anti-Pollution Facial Mask is available from LoveLula for £11.95 (a bargain as you don’t need to use a lot of product to fully coat your face), and the Oil Balancing + Charcoal Pore-Refining Facial Scrub is around £9.99 but unfortunately seems to be out of stock at the moment. I’m definitely going to be ordering some more of their charcoal products, and they do a variety of other ranges for different skin concerns, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Have you ever used a charcoal-based skincare product before?  What did you think?

* This review is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however the product was sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

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