Cruelty Free Products: Holiday Edition

 
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Sean and I are heading off to Florida next week to stay with family, and this will be the first trip I’ve taken whilst fully committed to cruelty-free products. 

As it’s summer holiday (and soon festival) season, I thought I’d put together a little round-up of the bits I’ve picked up and some recommendations for cruelty-free holiday essentials and travel-sized minis.


Suncream | I’m so pale a high-factor sun cream is essential for me, even on a rare sunny day in England! I picked up Superdrug’s own-brand Solait Suncream for £4.49 (buy one get one 1/2 price), they have a great range of different factors and products like after-sun. I spotted a cruelty-free label on Bondi Sands Suncream in Boots, but personally couldn’t justify the price tag, they start at £10.99 each. 

Dental Hygiene | I usually travel with a mini toothpaste and mouth wash, I like to be able to brush my teeth on the plane! Superdrug’s own-brand came through again with Pro Care Mini Mouthwash (£1.50) and mini tooth paste. These are £1 each, or their travel minis are 3 for 2. 

Hair Care | I’ve recently dyed my hair a brighter blonde and use toner a couple of times a week to keep it from going brassy. I picked up a Mini Provoke Touch of Silver Shampoo (£1.50) for our trip, which is the brand I use at home. It’s inexpensive and does the job. I haven’t bothered buying any other hair care bits as we’ll have access to them, but Superdrug’s Own-Brand mini Shampoo and Conditioner (£1.50 each) is cruelty-free, and cult-fave brand Batiste do a Mini Dry Shampoo for £1.50. Great for festivals, camping or city breaks this summer as well as popping in your gym bag / handbag. 

Deodorant | The only brand of cruelty-free deodorant I’ve tried so far is Soft & Gentle, so I’m packing their 0% Aluminium Roll-On Antiperspirant (£2.00) It smells fresh and lasts all day, needed in 30 degrees!

Body Care | This week I picked up Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Mousse in Medium (£19.95) to prep my pasty legs for my cousins wedding this weekend. I’d heard rave reviews about this brand by tanning icon Jules Von Hep, and it hasn’t disappointed! It’s colour correcting so gives you a natural glow (not orange!) and doesn’t smell of biscuits like some self tanner, plus it’s easy to apply if you’re inexperienced like me. I’ll definitely be using this to give myself some colour before I have to put on a swimsuit! I don’t need to pack any other body care products for Florida, but have a couple of suggestions. For past trips I’ve purchased a Mini Original Source Shower Gel (£1.50) - these smell great and are vegan! Superdrug also offer own-brand cruelty-free shower gels. To freshen up on long flights, Yes to Cucumbers Facial Wipes (£3.99) are leaping-bunny approved and if you’re a germaphobe like me, Soap & Glory Hand Sanitiser (£2.50) is a must have for planes/airports/life in general.


If you’re heading off on holiday and have been struggling to find a cruelty-free option, I hope this post has been useful! I still think that there are quite limited resources on. products that are available in England. 

Even if you’re not committed to only buying cruelty-free beauty, perhaps you could challenge yourself for your next trip away, and switch your summer essentials out for some of these bunny-friendly alternatives! 

Doing the Most

 

Film taken in Chicago, 2012.

It’s become abundantly clear that I am a shitty blogger... with the best will in the world, I find it so hard to be consistent. Some weeks (all weeks) my job really maxes out my energy and thought capacity, so the thought of sitting in front of my screen in the evening or at the weekend is less than appealing. That being said, I’m paying for my domain name each month and Sean has been furiously blogging since January, so to ensure I don't lose our bet - here I am!

When I first started this blog a couple of years ago, my intention was to create a space where I could talk openly about my mental health and work through some of the things I was feeling at the time. Those posts aren't live any more, not because I'm ashamed of them, but because in many ways I've moved on. However, I've been reflecting on how far I've come recently, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts. 


Managing Anxiety | Recently, my job has taken me into London 2-3 times a week. These days usually involve rush hour trains, suffocatingly cramped tubes and navigating myself around central to client meetings. I've co-hosted a training session for 40 people and presented work in front of senior colleagues, all while somehow keeping my cool. Two years ago when I joined my company, I was in a good place but still often felt anxious. When I found out I'd been hired and my role would involve trips into London, I took myself in to the city to see a Yayoi Kusama exhibition the week before I started working, with the intention of practicing getting myself around on the tube. When I got up and running with my job, I found I could manage the travelling but I'd spend the whole hour between Oxford and London in knots of anxiety thinking about whichever meeting I was on my way to. I'd feel pretty sure I was going to throw up (although never did!), and relied on rescue remedy pastilles for a few months. Some evenings now, when I'm sitting on my train home dishevelled and occasionally drinking Diet Gin & Tonic (from a tin, classy), I feel really proud looking back at how far I've come. 

Socialising | If you've ever struggled with your mental health, you'll know it's all too easy to push people away. There was a time when I'd cancel plans last minute or just not make them at all, choosing instead to spend time alone feeling sorry for myself. It was what I needed at the time but this year so far, Sean & I have spent almost every weekend catching up with family and friends. I even recently caught up with a friend I hadn't seen for a few years because there was a time where I just didn't feel I could reach out to people, and it feels so good to be in a different place.

Self Care | I've been working on losing weight this year, and whilst I have a long journey ahead of me, I've seen some good progress so far. Most notably I've been working on improving my running and trying to run for 20 minutes at least five times a week. I used to barely manage two minutes without getting out of breath, and can't wait to see where I'll be by the end of the year. I'm also working to ditch gross old habits like biting my nails.

Keeping Busy | In the midst of the worst of my anxiety, I indulged myself by spending almost every weekend and evening sitting around and 'recharging'. This usually involved accomplishing very little, sleeping too much and feeling worse for it. These days I gym after work at least three times a week, and Sean & I often stay out for dinner or go to the cinema in the evening. When we do have a weekend at home, I try to fill my time with a substantial to-do list. I like to gym a couple of times and try to improve my running, clean (much less of a chore now we own our home!) and do our laundry, read, watch new movies, spend time working on my Japanese (i'm currently learning!) and once in a while... blog. I usually don't sit still until the evenings and keeping myself busy makes me feel like I have my work-life balance nailed, because I get things done and don't spend my free time stressing.


A lot of these things might seem unremarkable if you've never struggled to achieve them, but in the words of Jonathan Van Ness I really feel like I've been 'doing the mostand taking some time to look back keeps me motivated.

UK Cruelty Free Products

 
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When I was on my lunch break yesterday I was accosted by a group of people sporting rabbit ears and super-cute face paint, accompanied by someone in a full bunny mascot suit. They were a team from the Body Shop gathering signatures for their Forever Against Animal Testing campaign. Apparently if they get 8 million signatures, the Body Shop and Cruelty Free International will be able to ban animal testing for cosmetics forever. Even if you eat meat or aren't passionate about animal rights, I'm sure we can all agree that animals don't deserve to suffer for our vanity or products we can do without. A global ban on animal testing would be incredible, so if you're inclined or see a team of bunnies in a town near you, please take a few minutes to sign the petition

After reading up about this, I was inspired to share some recommendations for the cruelty-free products I use here. I'm not going to focus on make-up (for the curious - some of my favourites brands are Urban Decay, Charlotte Tilbury & Glossier) because there's an impressive range of cruelty free beauty available and hundreds of beauty-bloggers, so it's easy to make conscientious decisions. When I started transitioning to products that aren't tested on animals, alongside make-up reviews I found a lot of recommendations for U.S products, but struggled to find suggestions for affordable essentials like toothpaste, shampoo and cleaning products that can be purchased over here. Sure, bathroom cleaner isn't as exciting as bronzer, but it's necessary!

Here's what I've purchased recently and whether or not it's worth buying: 


Hits

Soft & Gentle Antiperspirant | Apart from roll-ons which I find uncomfortable or natural deodorants which I don't trust to get me through a full working day and a trip to the gym, Soft & Gentle is the only cruelty-free deodorant brand I've found so far. These antiperspirants don't leave marks on my clothes, last all day and keep me feeling fresh. I don't rate either the two scents I've tried, the Wild Rose & Vanilla (far too perfumed) or the Jasmine & Coco Milk (the better of the two), but they don't linger after application so that's incidental. I'll stick with this brand, and plan to try their 0% aluminium range next. 

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Gradual Tanning Lotion | I've purchased this product in the past but I picked up the Palmer's Natural Bronze Gradual Tanning Lotion on a whim the other day and was pleasantly surprised to find a statement against animal testing on the back. This lotion smells delicious and leaves you bronzed after just one application, good for days when you want a glow!

Shower Gel | Much like make-up, it's not tricky to find a great cruelty-free shower gel. Original Source products have always been a permanent fixture in our shower (I love the Mint & Tea Tree Shower Gel) and at the moment we're using the Green Banana and Bamboo Shower Milk which smells great and leaves your skin really soft. We're also big fans of the Treacle Moon Bath and Shower Gel in One Ginger Morning, despite the twee packaging. If you're looking for a place to start with products that aren't tested on animals, both these brands are affordable and the products last a long time. 

Anatomicals Face Masks | I recently picked up some Anatomicals face masks in 'Look You've Got Chocolate All Over Your Face' and 'Hawaii Five-Glow'. These are reasonably priced at £1.50 and soothing on the skin... would buy again.

Method Hand Wash | There's only so much you can say about hand soap, but I highly recommend the Method Foaming Hand Washes. We've currently got Pink Pomelo and Green Tea & Aloe (which smells like spa/hotel toiletries) on the go and because they're foaming they last for ages. Method also offer refill pouches for some of their products, including their hand wash (although they only seem to have one scent available at the moment), which is great if you're trying to reduce your plastic consumption. 

Cleaning Products | If you aren't already bored of me waffling on about deodorant and soaps, brace yourself, I'm about to talk about cleaning. A lot of people are aware of animal testing in the cosmetic industry, but might not have given any thought to the brands behind their household products. Method offer a good cruelty-free cleaning range. So far we've tried their Anti-Bacterial Spray in Wild Rhubarb (which smells so good!), the Kitchen Cleaner in Clementine and the Daily Shower Cleaner. The brand Ecover have products from dish washer tablets to Limescale Remover that are certified by Cruelty Free International. As a more affordable alternative, Tesco have a suprisingly wide range of own-brand cleaning products that are not tested on animals. I recently picked up their Window & Glass Cleaner Spray and Bathroom Cleaner. I haven't been disappointed by any of these products, they all do the jobs they're supposed to and are guilt-free.

Misses

Kingfisher Natural Toothpaste | Kingfisher's Natural Toothpaste in Mint was my first foray into cruelty-free toothpaste and... it's just OK. It doesn't lather much whilst brushing, nor does it have a particularly strong 'mint' flavour. After a few minutes of cleaning your teeth it's pretty much tasteless. In the past, my preference was for super minty, whitening toothpastes and without a lingering flavour or much foam this product just doesn't leave my mouth feeling as clean as others I've used in the past. It does the job but I'll look for an alternative once it's used up. 

Kind Natured Shampoo | Much like the toothpaste, the main downfall of the Kind Natured Colour Care Shampoo is that doesn't lather enough, which doesn't leave my hair feeling cleansed. I've seen some other haircare brands that aren't tested on animals, so I won't repurchase this!


I'll end this post by saying I'd really encourage anyone to try to and swap some of their products for cruelty-free alternatives. Perhaps this is an odd comparison but when Sean first started eating gluten-free five years ago there weren't many product options available. It's been really interesting for us both to see an ever-increasing range of higher quality items available and I'm sure it's down to the increasing awareness of gluten-free diets. I believe in voting with your wallet and we often try new gluten-free products to support the companies making them. Attitudes towards animal rights are changing, not just in the food we eat but in the fashion & cosmetic industries too. When I picked up the Anatomicals face masks they were on a whole stand highlighting different cruelty-free brands in Boots. In another example, last year Gucci announced they were going fur-free and Donatella Versace vowed that the Versace brand will stop using real fur just this week. It's really remarkable for such influential brands to take this kind of stand. I'd hope that the more people put their hard-earned cash towards bunny-friendly products, more brands will pledge to end animal testing. 

I'll keep sharing my recommendations here... let me know if you have any!

February Round-Up

 
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In contrast to the endless misery that is January, February really flys by, doesn’t it?

February was busy and tiring, I’ve had a lot on at work recently and have been pushing myself in the gym, but we got up to some fun things! Sean & I celebrated Chinese New Year and Valentines Day. I know Valentines day isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I actually think it’s pretty cute. I enjoy picking out a card for Sean, and I don’t even mind seeing everyone’s soppy social media posts. More love in the world can only be a good thing.

This month we caught up with one of our oldest friends - George - who we hadn’t seen for a few years. We also went out with a group of our friends to ‘Junkyard Golf’ -  a boozy mini golf-course with a bar half-way through. Alcohol unfortunately didn’t help my game, I truly suck at mini-golf, but it was fun! 

Here’s a short round-up of some of the things I enjoyed:


Queer Eye | Sean and I discovered the 'Queer Eye' re-boot on Netflix and, you guys, I can't even express how much I love this show. I remember watching the original ‘Queer Eye For The Straight Guy’ with my parents, but this re-make is amazing. The 'fab five', a team of five gay men, revamp the lives & looks of men who have lost their mojo. Not only are the team adorable and hilarious, but every episode of this show reduced Sean & I to tears at least once.  It’s so touching and I plan to re-watch it at least 50 times between now and Season 2. Watch it!

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Chinese New Year | I was in London for meetings on Chinese New Year this year, and before getting my train home I walked over to China Town for a look around and to take some photos. Sean & I had a celebratory meal at Sojo in Oxford, and ate our favourite Gan Bian beans & stir-fried shredded potato, a dish my sisters  recommended when they came to stay with me last summer. One day I'll make it to China to celebrate the New Year with my relatives there, but for now, I will take any excuse to stuff my face with delicious food...

Running | To balance out stuffing my face, I spent a lot of time running this month. It might be difficult to relate to this one if you’re not unfit or overweight, but hear me out. At the start of the month I could barely run for 1 minute without shin splints, getting out of breath or getting a stitch, but this month I decided to push myself. I committed to running at the gym (and twice outdoors!) as frequently as I could and I’m really proud to say that as of today I can easily run for ten minutes without a break, and can push myself to 15 minutes most times. In March I’d like to push myself up to 15-20 minutes and work on my speed. I’ll keep you posted!

Florence | In February I played through 'Florence' on my iPhone. Florence, which could be described as a visual novel or interactive experience, tells the story of Florence and her love interest Krish. You follow the daily monotony of her life pre-Krish, snoozing her alarm, riding the subway to a dull office job, scrolling through people's Instagram posts and enduring strained conversations with her mother. After meeting Krish you experience the awkward magic of new relationships through Florence's eyes, finding a routine and fumbling through conversations. The mechanics here are so clever, on Florence's first date with Krish the conversation bubbles are presented as jigsaw pieces that you have to rush to fit together, but over time these become easier to match up until they don't feel challenging at all. When Krish moves in, you have to put away some of Florence's things to make room on her shelves for his belongings and when - spoiler - he moves out again, it's hard to remember which things belong to each person. The story Florence paints of relationships is real, human and at times moving. There are moments anybody who has fallen in love could relate to and when I finished the final scene, I wished there was more. At £2.99 for about 45 minutes of run time you might not be able to justify buying this, but I'd really recommend giving it a shot. 

What did you do last month?

Buying Our First Home

 
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Last year, Sean & I unlocked a massive adult achievement and bought our first house. It's been almost a year since we bit the bullet and reserved the plot of mud & scaffolding that would one day turn into our little home and what followed were some of the happiest, most exciting and stressful months of my life.

As is to be expected, through buying our house we learnt a lot, and so I thought I'd write down the advice I have. These tips may or may not be obvious to you, but are all things I hadn't thought of before we made a start. 


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Sean and I made the decision to consult mortgage broker rather than going through a bank, and I'd recommend that anyone buying for the first time does the same. He ended up being an invaluable resource, we were able to ring him with any queries we had and he patiently explained every step of the process. You have to be prepared to evidence your whole identity to be accepted for a mortgage and honestly, it would have been so overwhelming gathering this information together without our broker to guide us. 

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You're going to need to provide a minimum of three months worth of bank statements (every! transaction!) to be accepted for a mortgage, which really focuses your mind on what you waste money on. We were fine, but I'd really recommend cutting down on takeaways, frivolous spending and things like online betting where you can to make this process less embarrassing. The extra money you save can go towards your house anyway!

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We knew that was 2017 was the year we were going to buy a house but we procrastinated on searching for one for a good few months, it was just so hard to know where to start. When you're buying a house, you'll quickly realise what you will & won't compromise on. It's a good idea for you (& whoever you're buying with!) to get down all those ideas down before you start looking, having some criteria to narrow down our search really helped us in the beginning. Are you willing to commute? Do you want to be near family? Do you want a garden? Do you have pets to accommodate... or do you want to get a pet? Need a dishwasher or parking spots? How many bedrooms would you like? Do you like open plan living? The list will quickly grow and you'll probably end up buying a house with two of the things you listed, but at least you won't be searching aimlessly. 

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Once we had our deposit, we were ready to buy a house! What we hadn't really accounted for was all the fees that come along with doing that. In terms of the actual buying procedure we needed to cover our broker, a solicitor, reservation fees, searches and surveys, credit checks... the list quickly added up. Don't be discouraged, but don't be naive (as I was) about the fact that you need a good chunk of change on top of your deposit either. It's also worth bearing in mind that if you're buying a house for the first time, chances are you've been renting or living at home up until this point and don't have much in the way of furniture. It's wise to set some money aside for 'essentials' you'll want or need to be comfortable when you first move in and then build from there. For us this included our bed & mattress, a couch and white goods; a fridge and a washer/dryer. That shit is expensive!

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Before we bought our house, we were choosing between a 2 & 3 bed model. We ended up going for the 2 bed because the larger houses weren't going to be completed when we needed to move in. We thought our budget could have stretched to either house but when we started to add on the cost of everything that isn't included, the difference between the prices of the two houses quickly narrowed and we wouldn't have been able to stretch ourselves. You don't want to blow your whole budget and have nothing left to play with. 

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If you're buying a new build house, as we did, don't assume anything is included. It was a real slap in the face for me and Sean to learn that flooring cost extra. When something as basic as flooring wasn't included, we were surprised to find that other, more trivial things were. Included in the cost of our property was an outside light (front & back!), a decent choice of kitchen fittings and a glass shower screen. We (...Sean) managed to get some bits thrown in when we reserved our property, but we needed some money to pay for extras we wanted like a garden tap (ha, adulthood) and a better shower.

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On the topic of new builds, I have some advice on measuring your expectations. There's a 99.9% chance your house will not be ready on time. I was furiously optimistic about this until ours ran-over, and in the end it was almost two months late. It's also likely that your home builders won't be willing to go 'off-plan' for some of the things you want. Our house is in a terrace of five other houses and three of them have porches. We weren't allowed a porch... even in exchange for money. It was also a 'no' when we wanted our bedroom door rehung, wanted to squeeze in a dishwasher and a breakfast bar, wanted to run plumbing out to our shed... and well, do anything that was off-plan. The sales office strung us along, but ultimately everything was a 'no'. 

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Honestly, when we were buying our house I got to the point where I couldn't remember what it was like to not be stressed. I have zero chill anyway but it's hard and you have to make a lot of sacrifices. We had to turn down no less than three holidays and a lot of invites to do fun things with our friends. There were times when we had to leave the house & go to a coffee shop just to motivate ourselves to read the small print on whichever piece of paperwork we were completing. There were so many morning's when my colleagues would ask me how things we coming along with the house and all I could do was grumble. It will all come together in the end though, so hang in there and try to enjoy the process as much as you can.

We feel so incredibly lucky to own a home. Once you're in, it really is the best thing ever and five months later the novelty has yet to wear off!