My Current Morning Skincare Routine

Sunday, 29 January 2017

I didn’t get super into skincare until probably two or three years ago; until then I was just using whatever was cheap and didn’t break me out, with no real understanding of the importance of good products and the benefits that certain ingredients might have for my skin. I’ve always been relatively lucky in that respect I suppose, as I’ve never had any major skin-related issues (until my more recent battles with dryness and the army of blackheads taking over my face) and therefore no need to invest more time into researching how to care for it.

Nowadays though, I try to look after my face as well as I look after the rest of my body, and the changes I’ve experienced in my skin type have definitely been partly responsible for giving me a kick up the arse to start doing so. The rest is just down to investing in the future of my face, I suppose! Given that I blog a lot about individual products and have never actually shared any of my skincare routines before, I thought I may as well start writing skincare posts every now and again and keep you up to date with what products I’m using and why I like them.

My morning skincare routine is much quicker and more basic than my evening routines (which can sometimes include multiple scrubs, masks and treatments depending on how I’m feeling) since I wake up every morning for work at 5:50 and need to be out of the house by about 6:30. Time is of the essence for me in the mornings, so I currently only have 5 easy-to-apply products that I use on the daily at the moment...

I wrote a full review of this product that you can check out here, so I won’t go into too much detail, but this is a beautifully light, refreshing cream cleanser that contains restorative and anti-aging ingredients. I don’t go for full on face washes in the morning because a.) lathering up, scrubbing down, washing off and drying my face takes up too many of my valuable morning seconds and b.) the facial oils and dead skin cells that build up overnight are easily handled using gentler, cream or gel cleansers.

I use just over a pea-sized amount of this, massage it gently all over my face and then quickly rinse it off and pat dry, then move on to the next step feeling cleansed without feeling stripped of moisture.

I’ve been using PHB Ethical Beauty’s products for about three or four years now and this toner has been one of my staples ever since I first bought it. This is designed for sensitive skin, is alcohol and oil free and helps to calm redness and irritation and improve skin tone. As with all of PHB’s products, it’s vegan, halal, cruelty free, organic and made in the UK.

I’ve swapped toners a few times, but I always end up coming back to this one as it’s my ol’ reliable and I can always count on it to do what I want it to do and to also sooth my skin. I use a spritz of this on a cotton pad to apply it, or spray it directly over my face, and it can also be used as a refreshing mist throughout the day over makeup.

I had never been that bothered by eye creams until last year when I realised that I’m finally starting to develop tiny, fine lines under my eyes and figured it’s about time I started targeting that area of my face. Until recently, I had always just tried budget options but when I was given the opportunity to try some REN products without breaking my own bank account I thought hey, why not?

As it turns out, I really love this eye cream. Like every other anti-aging product it boasts dramatic benefits such as instant, visible tightening of the eye area and no, also like every other anti-aging product it doesn’t work miracles. It does however leave my eyes feeling a little bit firmer and very hydrated without feeling oily or interfering with my eye makeup, and I have high hopes for it after long term use. The instructions say to use one pump but honestly, I use barely half of a pump and that’s plenty for my eyes so it goes much further than expected.

Note: REN was acquired by Unilever late last year so although I’m not aware of any changes to their current production practices yet you may want to bear that in mind if you are against companies owned by non-cruelty free brands/corporations.

I’ve been riding the face oil train ever since I tried my first one and I’m certainly not getting off any time soon! I had never heard of FOM London until I’d had the pleasure of trying a couple of their products in my LoveLula beauty boxes (I talked about one of their extremely nourishing but non-vegan products here) and I’ve been regularly using this one morning and evening over the past several weeks.

Loaded with vitamins and minerals, their Antioxidant Repair Oil Complex helps to mend and soothe tired skin and is deeply hydrating. They say that this oil is weightless and fast-absorbing, but I actually find I need to wait a moment for it to sink into my skin before applying anything else to it – I just put this on before I brush my teeth and use that time to let it get to work.

I pretty much never go without this before leaving for work nowadays because it’s intensely moisturising without making my skin end up a bit too oily later in the day (which I found their Hydra Plump Serum did) and helps keep my skin hydrated when bombarded by the heating in my car and the office.  I just have a tester size though, and the full sized once is hella expensive at £43 for 30ml!

Last but not least, my current daily moisturiser of choice is the antioxidant moisturising cream from Kimberly Sayer. I wanted to try this particularly because of the SPF30, as I’ve found it difficult to find good daily face creams that are cruelty free, relatively natural and have SPF without clogging up my pores. If I’m going out and about outdoors, I try to use my Solait SPF50 face cream which works fine, but it can start to feel a bit much if worn all day, every day for weeks at a time as it’s one of those products designed more for the sun protection than to keep your skin looking nice.

The ingredients-list for this product contains lots of skin-soothing ingredients derived from oats, lavender and chamomile and it’s a great everyday moisturiser that feels hydrating and includes SPF without feeling heavy or pore-clogging. If you’re not a fan of heavily scented face products though, I would maybe steer clear of this as it does have a very heavy lavender fragrance (although this does wear off shortly after application).

I hope you found this post helpful and got some new brand and product ideas – let me know what your favourite daily skincare products are!

† Not vegan, contains beeswax.
* 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.

Review / Lippy Girl Vegocentric Lipstick in Schmoopy

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Lippy Girl Vegocentric Vegan Lipstick in Schmoopy
I’ve been vegan for over a year now, but veganizing my makeup products has still been a work in progress. Cutting out certain animal products is a breeze but one of my biggest struggles has been lipsticks as so many of them seem to contain carmine and beeswax, so when I was offered the opportunity to try one of Lippy Girl’s Vegocentric Vegan Lipsticks I was excited to test out a deliberately (rather than accidentally) vegan lipstick.

The Vegocentric lipsticks come in a variety of different shades that are mostly on the natural side, with a couple of bolder pinks, reds and even a couple of purples too. Having been on the lookout for some good natural-coloured lip products to counterbalance my heavily dark and bold collection, I chose to try Schmoopy*, a matte, dusky pink that’s also one of their most popular shades. The name is apparently a reference to something I’m not familiar with, but it amuses me nonetheless (I’m a huge sucker for silly-sounding product names).

The packaging is simple but effective – black with the pink Lippy Girl logo – and it feels weighty and well-made. The lid is fully secure and doesn’t slip off throughout the day if I keep it in a bag or pocket, and the tube is also 100% recyclable aluminium, which is a big bonus!

Lippy Girl Vegocentric Vegan Lipstick in Schmoopy

Schmoopy is on the cooler-toned but still relatively neutral side of things, and is very much a ‘my lips but better’ colour for me. On my lips, it’s near perfectly natural-looking, but is opaque and matte enough to pull together my makeup and make me look a little bit more polished with minimal effort. The consistency is pretty much the same as any other matte lipstick, but because it’s made of shea butter and seed oils it has a slightly softer and more moisturising texture as opposed to feeling drying on the lips, and yet doesn’t have the slicker, balm-y feel that some moisturising lipsticks have. It feels exactly how it should – like a lipstick! It’s also applies opaque enough that you only need a couple of swipes and – bam – you’re good to go.

I rarely wear actual lipsticks these days, because they don’t guarantee the same longevity as matte liquid lipsticks and of course, the Vegocentric lipsticks won’t be able to compete with say, Colourpop Ultra Mattes, in that respect. But, having said that, I do enjoy wearing natural shades of traditional lipsticks as they’re so easy to apply (vs. liquid lipsticks with applicators that can go drastically wrong with shaky hands) and if they’re a natural colour that wears away well, then they’re still minimal effort and suit me just fine for certain occasions. Schmoopy is one of those lipsticks – it lasts for a good 2-3 hours but when it fades, it does so in a natural, flattering way and can be touched up with just another quick, no-fuss application. This is a lipstick I’ve taken to keeping in my handbag with me for those days when I want to wear a lipstick and have that put-together feeling, but can’t really be bothered with the commitment involved in wearing any of my liquid lipsticks.

Lippy Girl Vegocentric Vegan Lipstick in Schmoopy Swatch

The only real downside to this product is one that they warn you about on the website – because the Vegocentric lipsticks are made with a shea butter base, they’re much softer than a lot of other brands, and are therefore more prone to breakage. In spite of following their recommendations of only twisting the tube up a tiny bit, one morning when I popped the cap off the entire stick of product flew straight out of the tube! It was easily fixed and I’ve continued to use it since but it’s definitely something you’ll want to be aware of when using this lipstick.

If you’re in the market for a good natural, vegan lipstick in a lovely, subtle shade that still adds a touch of finesse to your looks, Schmoopy would be a great addition to your makeup bag and is only £12.50 from Botanical Brands.  If you don’t fancy nudes or pinks though, the Vegocentric lipsticks also come in a few different red, peach, coral and purple options (Abraca-bam in particular looks wonderfully witchy and right up my street too!) and they also have some in pearlized finishes if matte lipsticks aren’t your jam.

What vegan lipsticks would you recommend?

* 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.

Vegan What I Eat in a Day #3

Saturday, 14 January 2017

I haven’t done a ‘what I eat in a day’ post for quite a while, so I thought to stick to the Veganuary theme of the month I’d share all of the vegan meals I eat in a day! This particular day was the 2nd January (yes, I sit on this shit for quite a while before posting…) so was a nice, quiet bank holiday spent at the gym and then milling around at home doing blog work.

Forgive the iffy photo quality this time around; I’m not sure if the issue is with my camera, my skill or my eyes but I’ve been struggling to get any fully focused snaps recently.  No joke, I end up taking about 40 of the same photo trying to make sure I have at least one usable one and will end up with all but one or two totally blurry, and even the okay ones are just okay, barely passable and not nearly as crisp as I’d like - it’s starting to drive me a little bit up the wall.  Plus, I’m plagued by winter lighting like every other blogger around this time of year too.

Rant/disclaimer over, on to the food...

If I go to the gym in the morning, I usually don’t eat anything until after I get back as eating too early (and eating and then having to exercise straight away) tend to make me feel ill. So, after a good workout I was in need of something filling and tasty and opted for protein pancakes. I followed my usual pancake recipe but added a couple of scoops of my Pulsin soya protein powder and a little extra almond milk to the mixture, which made ultra-filling but still fluffy pancakes.

The sludge on top is actually an incredible puree of fried bananas and peanut butter and tasted amazing, so don’t be fooled by how odd it looks! I just fried chopped up bananas with some vegan butter until they went completely soft, then mixed with an oil-based peanut butter (rather than the pure, 100% peanut stuff) and some almond milk until it reached as loose a consistency as I could be bothered to get, then plonked it on top of my pancake stack with a splash of maple syrup and sprinkle of cinnamon.

Honestly, I was quite shocked by how much those pancakes filled me up (plus I ate most of Chris’s too since he had snacked beforehand and was too full to eat them) so I only wanted something relatively light for lunch. I had prepped a Mexican-inspired bean and quinoa salad for my work lunches, and had a little bit of that with some chopped baby spinach. The quinoa and kidney beans are pretty high in protein, so are another great post-gym meal option.

We had quite a late dinner and having just had a grocery delivery, decided to take advantage of the nice fresh mushrooms we’d ordered and make some mushroom burgers. These aren’t to everyone’s tastes since many people are horrified by the idea of just having a mushroom between two slices of bread, but I love the taste of them! Big mushrooms also have a surprisingly meaty texture when cooked for long enough, can be as little as 25p per shroom and go well with a variety of different flavours. But, you know, if that’s not your jam you can always make or buy your own vegan burger patties too.

I bake big flat or Portobello mushrooms until they release as much moisture as possible, flipping part way through, and I love having these with an onion and harissa ‘chutney’. It’s super easy to make; all you have to do is finely slice an onion, and fry it slowly on a low to moderate heat with a teaspoon of harissa paste until it’s completely soft and caramelised. Then assemble with whatever else you want in your burger (we just had tomato and spinach, but you could have some melty vegan cheese too) and some sides. To go with ours, we just did homemade garlic and rosemary fries.

Although it’s January, we still have plenty of Christmas treats to get through so dessert for today was one of our leftover mince pies. These are store-bought ones from Waitrose – their Waitrose Essentials mince pies are accidentally vegan! I like to heat mine up until warm, and then pour a generous amount of Alpro soya or Oatly cream over them and enjoy.

What meals have you been loving this Veganuary?

5 Tips for Newbie Vegans

Saturday, 7 January 2017

It’s January, and that also means that thousands of people across the world are participating in Veganuary!  For those who don’t know, Veganuary is when folks pledge to go vegan for the month of January and, maybe, decide to stick with it at the end of the month.  Given that last time I checked, there were a whopping 40,000 people already signed up to take part, there are going to be quite a few newbie vegans running around this month.  In the spirit of things, I thought I would devote most of this month’s posts to veganism and try my best to act as a resource for everyone.

Today’s post is all about, well, tips for new vegans!  I’ve been vegan for over a year now, and while that doesn’t seem very long in the grand scheme of things, it feels like it’s been forever for me and I’m slowly becoming a fountain of knowledge with plenty of wisdom to share.  I could go on and on in terms of helpful hints and my own personal recommendations, but I’ve cut it down to just five that I consider to be some of the most important, whether it’s to do with what you’re actually eating or just your overall mentality when taking the plunge.

Now, on to the tips...

This is a point that I cannot reiterate enough – there are no perfect vegans.  There’s not really a ‘vegan police’, and while there may be other vegans that criticise you and your choices, it’s important to be open to educating yourself where appropriate, and to also learn to ignore those people for whom there is always some other thing you have to be doing to be a ‘worthy’ vegan.

Committing yourself to trying out veganism is already a huge step towards protecting the planet and helping hundreds of animals, and you need to remember to go at your own pace and to allow yourself to make mistakes.  Particularly once you learn about the realities of what goes on in the animal agriculture industry, it can be easy to feel like the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders and that there are horrifying consequences to your mistakes, but that simply isn’t true.  Accidentally eating something containing whey powder or being forced to settle for something non-vegan at a relative’s house is not the end of the world and doesn’t negate all of the good you are doing 99.999% of the time.  Hell, you don’t even have to go 100% vegan to make a huge, positive impact in the world (but that’s a post for another time).

We all make mistakes, and most of us took a long time to get to the stage we’re at now.  I didn’t flick a switch and suddenly wake up an infallible, all-knowing vegan – I took a couple of months to transition, even further to use up old non-vegan products, and even now I still accidentally buy things assuming that they must be vegan when they aren’t!  You’re on a journey – cut yourself some slack.

One of the most common arguments that many people have against going vegan is the idea that it’s super expensive compared to being non-vegan.  In certain areas and for certain people, that’s 100% true (and a fact that you should always be aware of when arguing the ease of going vegan).  In food deserts and for low income people, families living in poverty and in many more situations, going vegan while still eating a healthy and nutritious diet may not be financially possible.  However, for the average person with access to gas and electricity, a decent kitchen, good local supermarkets, a steady income, time to prepare meals and so on, cost is not nearly as much of an issue as we’re led to believe.

Foods like beans and lentils are healthy, packed with protein and far cheaper than meat.  Most supermarkets now have their own often vegan ranges of meat-free frozen foods that are cheaper than meat, too.  Fibre-filled wholefoods like pulses and legumes also fill you up much more effectively than meat and dairy, meaning that the money you do spend goes further.

Even long after I became vegan, I was extremely wary of the cost and still believed that I was ultimately spending more on my food.  I would spend ages mulling over whether or not to buy a certain veggie/vegan item, only to decide against it, citing the supposed extra, extortionate expense as reason to omit it from my shop.  But, once I thought about it, I realised that this isn’t necessarily the case.  For example, I used to feel really antsy about buying tofu because ‘it’s so expensive’, but where I shop at the moment it’s cheaper than buying decent quality meat and feeds my other half and I for just as long.  £1.50 for 4, maybe 5 portions isn’t ‘so expensive’, and other meals we cook like soups, chillis, curries and pasta sauces are actually a fraction of the price now that we don’t use meat.

So, when you are doing your weekly shops and worrying about the cost of your vegan lifestyle, remember to put that into perspective.  Most of us wouldn’t have had the same money anxiety about purchasing meat, eggs or cheese as we do with tofu, meat-free alternatives, non-dairy cheese etc. - we just accepted the cost of animal products as normal and a necessity in our weekly shops when they really didn’t need to be.

I did mention vegan alternatives above, but I think it’s also important to remember not to rely on them.  Depending on where you live and where you shop, vegan versions of meats, cheeses and so on are likely available and there’s a plethora of things out there to try if you know where to look.  That said, if you don’t know where to look or live in a veggie-unfriendly area, they can be difficult to find.  Plus, although they aren’t all astronomically priced, they won’t be as cheap as, well, not insisting on having an ‘alternative’ to meat or cheese as the star of every meal.

I could make stir fries using faux-duck or chicken strips, but I just use tofu and veggies.  I could make all of my chillis and pasta sauces with faux-mince, but I often just use beans, lentils and tomato.  I could make mac-n-cheese using legit vegan cheese, but I usually use home-made concoctions instead.  The latter options are usually more affordable, healthier and consist of easier to find ingredients, rather than relying on hunting down specific fake meats at your local health food store.  Vegan diets are traditionally plant-based, and it’s a shame to not make the most of plants at their purest!

I have been a lucky vegan in that I’ve never really been a fussy eater, so throughout my transition from eating meat, to fish, to being vegetarian and now vegan, I’ve never had a problem with trying new foods.  I am privileged in that respect, because I know there are plenty of vegans and non-vegans alike who don’t like or simply can’t always stomach all of the same things that I eat.  I get that, and you should never force yourself to eat something you hate or that makes you sick just because you’re vegan!

Having said that though, if you commit to going vegan you should also commit to opening yourself up to new culinary experiences.  There is a big, wide world of vegan food out there and it’s foolish to restrict yourself because you might not like something, but haven’t even tried it.  Branch out and try other nations’ cuisine (Indian and South Asian are some of my favourites), dip your toes into the waters of other seasonings and spices, try types of pulses and legumes and vegetables that you might not have tried before you were vegan.

In the same vein, you should learn to not expect vegan versions of your old favourites to be exactly the same as when you used to eat non-vegan versions.  One of the mistakes that a lot of people seem to make and that puts many non-vegan people off even trying vegan options, is the fact that they will taste something expecting it to be exactly like they remembered it and be horribly disappointed when it’s not.  Of course it won’t be identical; it doesn’t have meat or dairy or eggs etc. in it!  But that doesn’t mean that, if you keep an open mind, you can’t appreciate the flavours for what they are instead of constantly comparing them to what you knew before.  I used to hate vegan cheeses, but once I got over the fact that, no, they’re never going to be identical to dairy cheese, I learned to actually enjoy them.  (Well, some of them, others are still rancid…)

I mentioned earlier that veganism is a journey, and on that long, winding journey you may encounter new ideas, people or experiences that change your world view.  Thoughts and opinions you might have with regard to veganism now may evolve, and you should be receptive to conversations with other vegans (and non-vegans) and always be open to educating yourself and absorbing new information.

When I first went vegan, I did so for purely environmental reasons and still believed that there was nothing inherently wrong with eating animals and animal products.  Nowadays, I tend to question that belief and lean more towards the idea that consumption of animal products can never be ethical as long as animal agriculture continues on an industrial scale.  It may be that one day I believe that consumption of animal products can never be ethical full stop, even in an ‘ideal world’ consisting only of small, family farms, and I try to remain aware of the fact that my beliefs could change as I learn new things and speak to other people.

Be aware of the necessity of intersectionality when it comes to veganism.  We aren’t all born equal, and we don’t all have the same experiences, so remember to listen to others when they share their thoughts and experiences with you and be mindful that your lived experiences may not be theirs.  Do not simply close yourself off when discussing aspects of veganism with others, whether they are vegan or non-vegan.  At the same time, though, remember to share your own thoughts and knowledge (where appropriate) and offer others the same opportunity to help educate themselves.  Once upon a time, you weren’t vegan for the reasons you are now and you have the power to change someone else’s mind too!

I hope these tips were at all helpful, whether you’re newly vegan, a veteran or even just a curious non-vegan.  If you have any questions or need any other resources, always feel free to ask!  You can catch me on Twitter or Instagram (@thezombiesaid) any time and I’ll also be doing vegan content for the rest of January, so keep an eye out.

Peace out and may your snacks contain no whey powder!

2017 Hopes & Goals

Monday, 2 January 2017

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone starts mulling over all of their resolutions and deciding on drastic or not-so-drastic changes they want to make for the New Year.  I wrote a 2016 hopes and goals post last year, so I thought I would do the same for 2017 too.  As I said then, I’m not much of a resolution person.  I don’t believe in the ‘New Year New Me’ hype and, honestly, I think setting ambitious and rigid New Year’s Resolutions just piles on too much pressure and has a tendency to make people feel like failures if they slip up.  There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for the new year, obviously, but I think we need to be careful about the amount of value we attach to meeting them and how hard on ourselves we can be if we don’t.

That’s why I prefer to describe my ambitions as hopes or goals – it’s less about publicly committing to a massive change or a ‘New Me’ and more about outlining what I’d like to achieve in the New Year, and if I don’t achieve it?  Well, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a target that I would’ve liked to have met but didn’t!

After the way that 2016 went, I’m hoping for a more positive 2017, but having said that there wasn’t much about last year that was actually bad for me, personally, as an individual.  I was basically having a great time minding my own business while the world around me set fire to itself, and I guess that’s what I’ll hope for in 2017 too – that in spite of the bad things that will inevitably happen in the world that are out of my control, I can at least strive to meet my own personal bests and goals and live as good a life as I can.

So, this year I’d like to…

Now, I’m not quite committed to saying that I will buy a house, because in all honesty we still don’t know for sure what jobs we’ll have or where we’ll be living.  What we do know, though, is that we want to get onto the property ladder and have agreed to start getting our arses in gear and trying to prepare for this.  By the end of the year, we’ll hopefully have enough in savings, built up our credit ratings and have done enough research and preparation that we’ll be able to confidently start looking to buy in 2018.

I don’t dislike my blog photography and it’s certainly come a long way since I first started blogging, but I still feel like there’s something lacking about it.  I want to start being a bit more creative, playing around with props and lights and more than just the simple flatlays I’ve been relying on of late.  I also want to start including myself in photos more, but this is challenging considering my flat is a dump that I don’t really consider worthy of being in photos!

This is a goal I’ve been thinking about for quite a long time.  I love beauty blogging and my beauty reviews and in particular my makeup looks are posts that I put a lot of time and work into and that also get the most page views.  But, I still feel that something is lacking.  I have a lot of passion and a lot to say, and it seems a waste to not use my voice to write posts of more substance and depth.  My ‘deeper’ posts to do with veganism, going cruelty free, intersectionality and so on have all been wonderfully well-received and I hope to write more posts of that nature in 2017 and to put myself out there a bit more.  One of the unfortunate things about living with anxiety on the internet is being well aware of the fact that the more opinionated or substantial your content, the more likely you are to be harassed, trolled, hated and so on and I want to find balance between staying within my comfortable, safe zone and actually having something decent to say.

2016 was the year that the gym became a huge aspect of my life, but my workouts have only just started to have some semblance of structure and personal goals.  I’ve become so much stronger since August alone – before then, my arse was flat as a pancake and I could barely lift anything, and I now have visible triceps and biceps, have a round butt again and can lift weights I never thought I’d be able to.  I want that to continue, and namely I want to keep building up my arms, sculpting my booty and to start setting specific weight goals for myself so that I have something more concrete to work towards that’s strength-focused.

Last year was the first year for quite some time that I’ve actually done a lot of travelling. In the UK, I went to Brighton, Bath, Oxford, Puzzlewood and (several times) London, Norwich and Nottingham and finally got to explore beyond my backdoor in Madrid and Berlin. It reminded me how fulfilling and inspiring I find travel, and I hope to make more of an effort to satisfy my wanderlust in 2017.

What are your goals for 2017?

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