Spring Skincare Favourites

While I don’t believe in changing your body in preparation for warmer months, I do think there’s a lot we can do with our skin. In colder weather the skin can wind up dull, dry, lifeless and clogged, and unfortunately it’s often ignored because full coverage foundation and concealer are much easier to slather on in 7am half-darkness while you’re still basically asleep (this is how I spend my winter mornings, don’t know about you). I get a red nose in cold weather too, so there’s no point even thinking about going foundation free! In the spring, all I ever want to do is take a layer of makeup out of my routine, but to do that and feel confident, I need radiant, smooth and soft skin. Over the past few months I’ve been using some amazing products that have renewed and rejuvenated my complexion, so I wanted to share!

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The first product I wanted to talk about is Caudalie’s new Vine[Activ] Glow Activating Anti-Wrinkle Serum. This serum contains a complex of four anti-oxidants that increase your skin’s ability to product anti-oxidant enzymes by 255%, thereby helping protect the skin from pollution and stress. which for someone who works in central London, doesn’t sleep very well and is stressed all the time, is an absolute lifesaver. I’ve been using this for four months (one bottle lasted 2.5) and I have never seen a product work such wonders on my skin – it literally glows from the inside out, as well as being super hydrated, calm and smooth. It absorbs immediately, smells gorgeous and is 98% natural. It’s oil and silicone free, contains an exclusive anti-oxidant patent created by Caudalie, and is just about the highest quality product I’ve ever used. Get it for £36.

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Next up is Aesop’s Parsley Seed Cleanser. I adore this thick, gel cleanser and it’s gentle exfoliation from lactic acid. It leaves my skin soft and ready to absorb my skincare. I’ve been using it for quite some time now and it is honestly the best cleanser ever for helping to boost your skin into ‘only wearing BB cream’ territory. If you’re worried about pollution, using this together with the Caudalie Vine[Activ] Serum is the absolute dream team, because the Aesop Parsley Seed Cleanser helps to slough pollution particles away from the skin at the end of the day, while the serum defends your skin from the free-radicals during the day. Get it for £27.

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I feel like I’ve been looking for a BB Cream that won’t make my skin react or break out since the beginning of time. The Bobbi Brown BB Cream is the only one I’ve found that has a good SPF without containing any of the ingredients that my skin hates, and I absolutely love it. It’s so important to use an SPF everyday, so if you want to use a lighter product than your usual foundation and you have sensitive skin, this is PERFECT. The formula gives much higher coverage than I expected, and I feel like it evens out my complexion flawlessly – obviously it doesn’t cover blemishes completely, but I actually don’t feel the need to use concealer under my eyes, which is a bloody miracle. The coverage lasts all day and my skin feels nice and soft when I use this too. They have 9 shades and definitely don’t serve the darkest skin colours, so I wouldn’t usually recommend it, but my skin is SO picky and this really works for me. Get it for £29.50.

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Pixi’s Makeup Fixing Mist has become my favourite part of my morning ritual. It’s gorgeous light scent and fast-drying, refreshing consistency is absolutely perfect for perking my face and my mind up. I feel like it puts me in a positive mood whenever I use it, and it helps my makeup stay put ALL day. Seriously, it’s soooo good. My skin also loves it as a primer to help prepare for a full coverage face, but recently I’ve just been using it over the Bobbi Brown BB Cream and it’s leaving my skin looking smooth and radiant every day. Get it for £16.

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The last product I’ve been obsessed with over the past few months is Jurlique’s Skin Balancing Face Oil. This stuff is perfect for when your skin is just losing its mind, which always happens to me at the change of the seasons. It contains a blend of herbal extracts including marshmallow (protects and soothes), evening primrose oil (heals), macademia oil (nourishes without being heavy) rosehip oil (anti-wrinkle, healing) and chamomile (calming). I find that when I use this at night, dry patches and areas of irritation disappear. The scent of this product is absolutely unbelievable, it smells like a fragrant meadow in the sun, which just makes it even more perfect for use in the warmer months! It might not be suitable for hypersensitive skin types though, as it’s heavy on the essential oils. But I absolutely adore it. Get it for £30.50

What are your spring skincare essentials?

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Homemade face masks with Latin Honey

Honey has been a beauty product pretty much since humans first learned how to harvest it. It’s anti-bacterial properties are well known, and is the reason that raw honey never actually goes off. This means it helps to reduce blemishes by eliminating bacteria, and it also helps to soothe irritation in some people because it purifies the skin without stripping it of natural oils. It also has some anti-inflammatory properties, and as if that wasn’t enough, honey is also moisturising, which makes it great for both the skin and hair.

I’ve never actually tried using honey in skincare so when Latin Honey invited me to try out their honey with a beauty perspective I was intrigued. Their honey is raw, organic, single origin South American honey and let me tell you before we begin that it is the best tasting honey I have ever tried. Raw honey is far more nutritious than pasturised honey as it contains enzymes that are apparently good for digestion, as well as some antioxidants.

But what does it do for the skin?

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My partner and I have very different skin types so we both had a go. Firstly I tried the Riviera Gum Honey* as a hair mask. I mixed it with shea butter and coconut oil, and applied it all over the front section of my hair. This part is very brittle, so it dries out and frizzes up much quicker than the rest of my hair. After I applied this mask and left it on for half an hour, it definitely felt different. The honey created a barrier to hydrate and to keep the oils in, and I’m absolutely certain that this mask repaired damage to my hair. It was very sticky and took a while to wash out, but my hair has been softer ever since.

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Then we tried the Volcano Sunflower Honey* as plain face masks – and this was amazing for me. After leaving it on for 10 minutes and rinsing with warm water my skin was so soft and smooth, with no sign of irritation or redness. In fact, some of the redness I already had was reduced, thanks to those anti-inflammatory properties! Some blemishes I had very quickly reduced afterwards too. I was really impressed that my sensitive skin looked so calm after using honey on it. I will definitely continue to use the honey this way, as I can’t quite believe how soft my skin was! It’s also worth nothing that because they’re raw, these honeys can be used to exfoliate thanks to the slight crystalisation that naturally happens in storage. I felt the granules when I was washing it off and it was very gentle, but definitely contributed to the smooth feeling.

For my partner, who has very oily, blemish prone and congested skin, we tried something a little more intense, and squeezed half a lemon into the honey before he applied it. The effect was amazing. His skin was much more radiant, mattified and super soft without being oily at all when he washed it off.

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We were so impressed by the honey’s effectiveness on its own. But of course we had to experiment, and we also discovered the best beard scrub of all time: mix a tablespoon or two of honey into roughly blended oats, and massage into the beard. This not only purifies the skin underneath facial hair by eliminating bacteria lurking there, it also softens the skin and hair, AND gets rid of dead skin buildup, allowing the hair to grow healthily. I think this could also be used as a really luxurious body scrub too, but I have so many scrubs to use up I haven’t gotten around to trying that yet!

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I am amazed by the quality of Latin Honey, they taste incredible, and the effect on my skin and hair is really impressive. By using a raw, organic honey as a face or hair mask, whether combined with ingredients or not, you’re also benefitting from using simple, pure skincare that you know is safe enough to eat – and when those kinds of products are actually effective, it’s definitely a good idea to give it a whirl! Latin Honey have a selection of four honeys which all look amazing, but here are the two that I’ve tried:

Volcano Sunflower Honey from Mexico: Tastes fruity and floral – this is amazing on toast. This is the honey I’ve used for face masks, which have left both my and my partner’s skin smooth, radiant and purified.

Rivera Gum Honey from Uruguay: Tastes buttery and toffee-like. I love eating this on porridge. It’s also apparently good for dandruff so this is the one I used this on my hair, and was very impressed with how soft my hair ended up.

Have you used honey in your beauty routine before?

Reviewing my entire lip collection

I own a lot of lip products, and when I thought about reviewing them all I had to roll my eyes. There’s only so much you can say about a lipstick, so I thought, why not just review all of them at the same time?! I’ll be honest, this is a long one. But if you like your lipsticks I hope you’ll enjoy reading about what I think of all mine! I’ve separated this into matte lips, lipsticks (+ lip stains) and glosses. Just an FYI, my ultimate favourite is the very last one 😉 enjoy!

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Matte Lips

Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – Lolita (£17)*

I like the way this looks on my lips and it goes on really easily, but I have to say I don’t find that it lasts very long. It comes off the second I take a bite of food or drink anything. The colour is amazing and it’s not as drying as some liquid lipsticks, but I don’t think it deserves cult status when it comes off so easily.

Would I buy it if I hadn’t been gifted it? Maybe, but I would try a different colour – despite being the ‘cult’ shade I don’t 100% love Lolita.

Sleek Matte Me Lip Cream – Bittersweet (£4.99)

So insanely, unbearably drying. I cannot stand this stuff. It looks amazing when I first apply it but in a few minutes my lips are sticky, wrinkled and so tight they practically itch. Unsurprisingly, it has great staying power, but it feels like wearing PVA glue with some pigment in it.

Would I buy it again? No. It’s too drying and very uncomfortable, and makes my lips extremely wrinkly.

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream – Ibiza (£6)

The formula of this is amazing, super pigmented and goes on really smooth, but I don’t really like this colour – too vibrant for me, as I spend all my time at work! I bought this one thinking it was a pretty pink but wasn’t too bright, but on the lips it’s very intense. It’s really hydrating and long lasting, so it’s a shame I bought the wrong colour.

Would I buy it again? Yes, but in a more natural looking colour.

Collection Velvet Kiss – Cotton Candy (£2.99)*

I am absolutely in love with this stuff! This is the prettiest shade and my absolute favourite matte lip. It’s gorgeous, lasts for AGES and is really hydrating too! It’s really easy to apply as well, which a matte lip ought to be if it possibly can. It’s the cheapest product I think I’ve ever tried but oh my god it’s so good. This shade is perfect for my skin tone, however, I don’t think the other shades are as good, they can get a little streaky.

Would I buy it if I hadn’t been gifted it? Definitely, I will repurchase this forever.

Lord & Berry 20100 Maxi Matte Crayon Lipstick – Intimacy (£12)

I like this one, it’s a sample size so is very portable. The colour is lovely, it’s not very drying and it goes on easily. It’s not very hydrating but in comparison to liquid matte lips there’s nothing to complain about. However, it doesn’t really blow me away and I prefer the formula of the next one…

Would I buy it? Probably not, see below.

No7 Matte Lip Crayon – Raspberry Wine (£9)

This was a gift with purchase from Boots. We went out one day and I absentmindedly put this on. When we got back I looked in the mirror and was like ‘damn I look goooood’ and realised that this lip crayon had not only stayed on all day, it had kept my lips hydrated whilst still looking matte. It’s easier to apply than the Lord & Berry stuff and it’s really affordable, and very comfortable.

Would I buy it? Yes! I really like this stuff.

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Lipsticks and Lip Stains

Burt’s Bees Lipstick – Blush (£9.99)

Ohhhh I love this so much. Like, SO much. It’s the prettiest colour, so hydrating, natural and long lasting. It goes on smooth, the blush pink suits me perfectly and I cannot get enough of it. I wear it so often and feel like it makes my face look brighter and more awake.

Would I buy it? God yes, I will definitely be getting this one when it runs out.

Benefit Benetint, Posietint, Benebalm and Posiebalm (£24.50 & £15.50)

I got all these in a gift set together which was great, because I had been wanting to try the Benetint and Posiebalm (wasn’t too bothered about the Benebalm or Posietint but it worked out as half of it being free so…). I really like the Posiebalm, it gives a cute, subtle colour and is very moisturising. The pigment has a tendency to flake a bit when you wear and reapply all day, which is annoying, but I think that only happens when my lips are super dry. The Posietint is a waste of time for me, but my lips are very dark – I should try it as a blush but I really don’t trust cheek stains because I do my makeup in the morning with about three minutes to spare and I always think that stains are a risk when you don’t have a margin for error. I really like the Benetint, it’s subtle but very pretty, and I was surprised by how much I liked the Benebalm too – together, they look really lovely. I think you need to use the Benefit tints with a balm, because they leave my lips feeling very strange if I don’t apply something over the top.

Would I buy it again? I think I would buy the Posietint again, but I’m not 100% obsessed with it.

Tony Moly Delight Tony Tint – 02 (£8.80)

I bought this to try the really cute ‘ombre lip’ trend from Korea, and thought a lip tint from there would be the perfect product. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work for that as it goes super patchy, but when used all over the lips it’s a really striking colour. Like, really striking, I think I could use it in a vampire costume!

Would I buy it again? I don’t have much call to use it because it’s soooo bright, so I don’t really think I’ll need to repurchase any time soon!

Benefit They’re Real Double The Lip – Lusty Rose (£16.50)

The idea of this product is that it lines your lips and colours them in at the same time, making them look really full. Perhaps I got the wrong shade for my lips because I look like a flight attendant from the 90’s wearing this, the contrast is so stark between the two colours. It actually looks like I’m only wearing lipliner. I smudge it up and it and it looks better like that, but what’s the point in buying a whole product for that? It goes on very easily and the line is super even (which never happens for me when I try real lip liner!). I have super full lips anyway so I have no idea if I don’t like it because I don’t actually need it.

Would I buy it? No, but if you’re someone who likes to line their lips a different colour to make them look bigger, this would save you a lot of time in the mornings.

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Ultra Lipstick – Rose (£21)

My boyfriend got this for free along with a load of other bits when he bought a tonne of Elizabeth Arden Cleansers for himself, so naturally I got the pile of free stuff. This formula is amazing, it’s SO hydrating and nourishing. It feels like a rich lipbalm but is intensely pigmented and doesn’t run. The only issue is the shade – it’s a very old-fashioned plum colour but with family large glitter particles in it. I simply can’t wear it which is such a shame because my lips love it!

Would I buy it? Definitely, but in a different shade.

Lipstick Queen – Frog Prince (£22)

One of my favourite lip products, I love the natural tint it gives and it’s always fun to put on a green lipstick. I also find it very moisturising. I think this lipstick is universally flattering too, which is a definite bonus, and it goes with every makeup look imaginable, because it just gives your lips a full, subtly glossy ‘just bitten’ look.

Would I buy again? Hell yeah, I love love love this stuff.

Lipstick Queen – Hello Sailor (£22)

The weirder sister of Frog Prince, this is a blue lipstick that goes on as a ‘berry’ shade. I like the colour, but you have to be careful to blend it in because otherwise you end up with blue smears on your lips. When you successfully apply it, you get a subtle dark tint, and again, this is nice and moisturising.

Would I buy again? No, because there are other dark berry/moody lip colours to try and I don’t think it’s that special. I still enjoy using it though, definitely not a purchase I regret.

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Glosses

Lancome Juicy Shaker – Meli Melon (£19.50)

Bleurghhhhhh this is horrible. It smells of that watermelon fragrance that was in everything in the 90s, but I mean exactly like that, not a modern, bearable reinterpretation. It doesn’t give much hydration, the colour doesn’t show but the sheen is quite pretty. To be honest, I get exactly the same sheen from my coconut oil lip balm which costs £4, actually moisturises and smells bearable.

Would I buy it? Absolutely not, you couldn’t pay me to use this again.

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Lustre – Blondie (£16.50)*

This is a golden gloss that gives a classic shimmer. It reminds me a lot of the glosses you would get in the 90’s, but it’s very pleasant to use and I actually think it’s really pretty and surprisingly modern (despite my concerns, it doesn’t actually look like you fished an old glitter gloss from when you were 9 out the back of a drawer in your childhood bedroom). I find myself wearing it more often than I thought I would, and it hydrates my lips fairly well (though considering it’s a gloss, it could be better).

Would I buy it if I hadn’t been gifted it? Probably not, I only wear it because I have it and I don’t think I’ll miss it.

NYX Intense Butter Gloss – Peaches and Cream (£6)*

I have two of these, one bright red and this candy pink colour. The bright red one is quite easy to apply and gives very nice colour although it’s just way too bright for me to wear, and the pink one has a very streaky formula that just won’t apply evenly on my lips, so I can’t wear it at all! They are very hydrating and extremely glossy, but they’re just too much for me.

Would I buy it if I hadn’t been gifted it? Probably not, I am not bold enough.

Zoeva Pure Laquer Lips – Strong Career (£9.99)*

This is quite an incredible product – it’s as highly pigmented as Sleek Matte Me but GLOSSY AF. It’s actually too pigmented I think, because the formula doesn’t dry or set, it transfers way too easily. If you’re not careful it can literally smudge over everything so you really have to be careful not to let your lips touch a thing. However, for a selfie session, it’s great fun and I love this brown shade.

Would I buy it if I hadn’t been gifted it? No, but I actually really like it, it’s just not practical for me.

Perricone MD No Lipgloss Lipgloss (£25)*

I saved the best ’til last here folks. This is possibly my favourite lip product of all time. It feels GORGEOUS. It looks INCREDIBLE. My lips stay soft all day. It lasts for at least half the day which is insane for a gloss. It applies perfectly, the pigmentation and colour are absolutely beautiful and it doesn’t transfer.

Would I buy it if I hadn’t been gifted it? YES. FOREVER AND EVER. I don’t care that this stuff it stupidly expensive, it’s the nicest lip product ever.

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Collection Velvet Kiss – Cotton Candy (£2.99), No7 Matte Lip Crayon – Raspberry Wine (£9), Burt’s Bees Lipstick – Blush (£9.99)Lipstick Queen – Frog Prince (£22), Perricone MD No Lipgloss Lipgloss (£25)

Here’s a final picture just to recap my favourites! I hope you enjoyed this post. It’s interesting to see how many misses there have been, but I really do love putting some of these products on in the morning Let me know your favourite (or least favourite!) lip products in your collection!

12 Things men want women to know about sex – the feminist version!

Last week I went to a brilliant panel discussion by the Scarlet Ladies – it was called ‘Grill the Guys’ and was an opportunity for an audience of women to ask 6 guys with diverse sexual backgrounds any questions they wanted to about sex and relationships. It was really interesting to hear so many men talking about sex openly. Even people who have male sexual partners only generally get to talk to a few of them in depth, so this was phenomenally informative. My own partner was really interested in the points I came back with, so I thought I would share some of the best gems of knowledge from the evening, interspersed with some ideas my partner would like to share as well.

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A quick note: I found the event to be quite cis-heteronormative, for example the term ‘sex’ was often used to describe p-in-v penetration, with other forms of sex described as ‘foreplay’. I wasn’t sure about this so I’ve edited some snippets from the talk, however I recognise that people talking in depth about the kind of sex they have do need to rely on their own terminology.  As a group, the Scarlet Ladies welcome all women, so I don’t think this reflects on them, it was simply the nature of this particular talk.

12 Things men want you to know about sex:

1. A man can be really, super, ridiculously aroused but still unable to get it up. Sometimes it just isn’t happening and it can be for hundreds of different reasons. Since men are encouraged to push their feelings away, there might be something bothering them that they aren’t aware of. Or it might be something far more benign. Talking never hurt anyone so be nice, understanding, and encourage them to share their thoughts!

2. Similarly, it’s also true that sometimes penetration just doesn’t feel good for women. Don’t feel obligated to go ahead; communicate it with your partner and have sex some other way if you still want to. Be patient obviously; some of them might not be familiar with the fact that a woman is sometimes just unable to take a dick!

3. It’s very difficult to understand exactly what something feels like when you don’t have the same sexual equipment. This is why men can have a hard time with the clitoris, even when they’re genuinely trying, and this is why communication (and demonstration) is essential.

4. However, the pleasurable feelings that men and women experience are actually very similar (after all, they’re made from exactly the same stuff). By communicating the actual sensations you’re experiencing, you might be able to understand one another’s pleasure even better.

5. It’s easier for men to be lazy about sex because of how their orgasms are achieved. Encourage your male partners to explore the different responses of both your bodies, not just yours. Once they understand how their own body responds to different things, they will be able to better understand yours as well.

6. Embrace the fact that the way they touch you feels different to the way you touch yourself, and the way you touch them is different to the way they do it too. It’s not a bad thing; you can touch each other in ways its physically impossible to touch yourself – so embrace the differences and enjoy them.

7. That being said, for a lot of men there’s nothing sexier than watching their partner touch herself.

8. Sex isn’t just penetration – some people enjoy extraordinarily satisfying sex lives without ever putting anything in anyone else. Don’t limit yourself by considering penetration as the end game, and don’t let male partners limit your sexual experience  by doing this either.

9. If you can’t orgasm with your partner and you genuinely don’t mind …explain it to him. He has absolutely no right to be fragile about it. You have every right to expect the sex you want to have. Your orgasm isn’t for his gratification.

10. Most of the time, great sex is not beautiful sex.

11. Period sex is great – you don’t deserve to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Don’t be shy about asserting your desire to have period sex.

12. Neither party should ever assume that penetration a certainty. Even if you’re naked, in bed and kissing.

Alix Fox, the host of the discussion I attended, summed it up perfectly at the end; “There’s no right or wrong way to have sex and the most important thing is that everyone involved has a good time.” I’m really grateful to her, and the panel of men including Exhibit A, Master Dominic and Paul Thomas Bell for their time and insights!

The Scarlet Ladies is a fantastic member’s club that are working to dispel the shame and silence around women’s sexuality, enabling women to open up to themselves and their partners. They hold talks twice a month and I really recommend you check them out!

 

 

 

Yoga and cultural appropriation

It’s almost impossible to cope in our narcissistic, capitalist, violent and fragmented society without something to help. For an ever-increasing number of people, that thing is yoga. And that’s great. Yoga is a wonderful thing to do – it helps with anxiety, stress, poor posture, flexibility, joint health and muscle tone, which in turn can help support your immune, digestive and even endocrine systems, as well as improve your patience, sleep and mood. But yoga also has a long, dark history of cultural appropriation and class exclusion. No one is saying that westerners should stop doing yoga (although they certainly could) because of this, especially if it already forms a part of our self-care routine. However, it is extremely important that we are educated about it, and that we take steps to ensure that our yoga is inclusive and respectful.

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If you practice yoga, you have almost certainly engaged in cultural appropriation of some kind. This video is the ideal starting point for learning about cultural appropriation in yoga, as well as this article on Everyday Feminism. It’s pretty much a certainty that all western yoga students have done something disrespectful, ignorant or arrogant at some point. It’s frustrating to hear, of course, whether because you feel guilty or because it’s inconvenient for you to acknowledge it, but either way, lets move on to some practical ways for you to be a better yoga practitioner!

Call it what it is. It’s difficult to know exactly what to do when you realise just how deep the issues of colonialism, religious oppression and cultural appropriation go. If I’m not spiritual, but yoga is, should I just say to people that I’m going to a ‘meditative stretching’ class? Of course I shouldn’t. The stretches are yogic stretches and if I call it ‘lying on my back in the dark’ instead of savasana, I’m erasing the fact that it was invented in India thousands of years ago. Learn about the ever-developing history of yoga, and keep in mind that yoga is founded on religious teachings. There is nothing wrong with learning lessons from different religions. But there is a lot wrong with benefitting from something and not knowing about, or giving credit to, the culture that created it. And if you are only engaging in the physical aspects, perhaps you could consider clarifying that when talking to your teachers, to give them the choice about if, and how to engage with you.

Two things growin outchea…. Aloe… and the yoga booty #SquatsNotShots Photo cred: @glorychildproductions

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Step away from the skinny white rich people. Western yoga is notorious for classism, racism and fat-shaming, and really doesn’t do well when it comes to inclusivity and acceptance. The fact that the most popular yoga instructors on instagram and youtube are white, skinny and able-bodied is sickeningly reflective of our society, and it needs to change, because that is not what yoga is about. Please stop following that tidal wave of brand-endorsed whiteness, or at least cut down. Instead, why not follow some of my faves: @biggalyoga@yogaplegic@nolatrees,  @daughteroftheuniverse, @mynameisjessamyn, @curvygirlmeetsyoga@justferd. It’s so important to show diverse bodies participating in yoga, because everyone deserves to benefit from it, and how will people know that yoga is for them if no one like them does it?

Join, or support, a more physically and financially inclusive yoga group. The relationship between yoga and money is complex, and an unfortunate by product of capitalism. But there are some things you can do. Practise yoga somewhere that makes an effort to be actively inclusive. People on low incomes, children with learning difficulties and pregnant women are almost certainly in need of the healing properties of yoga more than you, so support a group that supports them (unless you belong to one of those groups, in which case, here are some places you can go!) My suggestions are all based in London because I’m only one woman, but do your own research and I’m sure you’ll find one where you live too! Yogarise in Peckham do pay-what-you-can donation classes (so if you can’t afford Yoga you can donate a little, if you can afford yoga you can donate more). Donate to Special Yoga which is just about the most amazing idea I’ve ever seen. The West London Buddhist Centre does low cost and community classes. There’s pay-what-you-can yoga at the DIY Space for London where you can pay more so other people can pay a little, and St Margaret’s House in Bethnal Green does the same thing. Triyoga offers discounts to seniors, jobseekers and students, so if you are one you could sign up with the discount, and if you aren’t, sign up anyway so they can continue offering the discount to those that need it! And the Iyengar Yoga Institute is an incredible charity that offers free classes to pregnant women and kids, as well as being extraordinarily knowledgeable about the practise.

You're already stronger than you know, and it's not just about what it looks like. Photo by @mixtapedonthate

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Don’t perpetuate the show-off culture so prevalent in westernised yoga. Yoga is not a trend, it’s not cool and it’s not a sport. It is a culturally significant, physically challenging, deeply spiritual practice that should be approached responsibly and sombrely. Make sure that your attitude towards yoga is in line with the intentions of yoga. You aren’t better than someone else because you have expensive yoga pants, or because you pulled off a headstand on your first try. Be nice to everyone in your class, take steps to ensure you don’t make anyone feel embarrassed or self-conscious. In the UK for example, black women practicing yoga can often feel like outsiders. That’s not fair, or in line with the intentions of yoga. Obviously you shouldn’t be going up to women in your class saying ‘hey, you’re welcome here!’ but you could at least be nice to them and ensure that no one is being actively excluded.

Buy ethical or inexpensive yoga clothes/mats. You don’t actually need special yoga stuff (again, that’s not really in line with yogic intentions). But if you don’t have anything that can comfortably accommodate a warrior pose sequence, or the Lululemon yoga pants that you got when you didn’t know any better have sprouted an unfixable hole (hi, that would be me), then you need to get something from somewhere. It’s extremely difficult to find ethically made (or any, actually) yoga pants for less than £45, and most are £60-£70. This isn’t right, and if you’re financially unable to buy adapted yoga pants you shouldn’t feel like you can’t take part – all you need is a stretchy pair of leggings that you feel comfortable in, and a top that doesn’t ride up or fall down. You don’t need a £62 bra, £18 thong, £52 yoga mat or a £138 cardigan (yes, I just went on the Lululemon website to find all those…feel free to browse for a great lesson in white privilege…they sell a ‘namastay put’ thong. Seriously?) As for mats, well you don’t actually need one, but again the most ethical are the most expensive. If you can afford to spend £50 on a jute mat, get one, but if not, please don’t feel guilty about buying a £6.50 plastic one.

Yoga is not perfect, and neither is anyone who has been, or is, is involved in it. That’s kind of the point. No one is perfect and we’re always learning. You are benefitting from yoga, so you must take it seriously, treat it with respect and approach it with humility. Avoid explicitly capitalist behaviour like buying expensive clothes, or paying loads for classes in studios that only benefit themselves. There is a fantastic website called Decolonizing Yoga that you should definitely visit if you want to continue learning to be a better western yoga practitioner.

Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum

Murad is a brand I’ve always been curious about, and on my seemingly endless hunt for the perfect serum this one jumped out at me as a perfect way into the brand. I’ve tried Avene’s Hydrating Serum, Weleda’s Pomegranate Serum and Caudalie’s Hydrating Serum and while I loved the Caudalie one, but the bottle didn’t seem to last very long. Long story short, I don’t recommend any of them. REN’s Omega 3 Serum was good for a while but a few months ago it completely stopped working for me. So I went back to the drawing board, and decided to give Murad’s Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum a try…

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The Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum is part of their Redness Therapy range, which is formulated to tackle the causes of irritated redness, and soothe the effects of it too. By intensely hydrating the skin with hyaluronic acid and glycolipids the Soothing Serum helps the skin to maintain its protective barrier. There’s also chamomile, cucumber and camellia extracts to soothe and calm any redness or irritation. Mallow extract provides an invisible protective shield to support the moisture barrier, and there’s also goji berry extract for, I assume, antioxidants. I was really surprised to see all these plant extracts in the formula (there are even more than I’ve mentioned here; ginseng, elderberry, ivy, arnica, seaweed and yeast extract all feature) because it looks like such a plain, basic product on the outside!

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I am so incredibly impressed with this Skin Soothing Serum. The texture is a bit like hair gel, but without being sticky. It leaves my skin super calm, it sinks in immediately and my skin is soft and plump all day, and it lasts for ages (I’ve been using it for months and it isn’t even half gone). It was nothing like I was expecting – I think Murad have struck the perfect balance between pharmaceutical and plant based skincare, and even though this serum is really simple, it’s amazingly effective. It’s perfect for anyone who’s skin gets tight after cleansing, or blemish prone skin types that can get dry patches (as these are usually caused by dehydration so you need to hydrate your skin rather than add oil to it). It’s also perfect for anyone with red patches or sensitive skin, and according to Murad you can even use it to soothe razor burn, sunburn and after waxing so you know it must be gentle!

I really like Murad’s Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum. If you’re looking for a good starter serum because you aren’t sure where to start with them or you have sensitive skin, this is definitely the one for you! Get it here for £47.

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A Feminist Engagement

A quick note: In this blog post I will talk about how my partner and I got engaged. This is in no way intended to criticise any one else’s proposal – ESPECIALLY LGBTQ+ couples who have had to fight for their right to just to have access to the traditional, patriarchal symbolism of marriage and engagement. The story is in essence heteronormative because we are a middle class cis man and woman, but the actual message is intended to be highly inclusive. I am not going to compromise when sharing my opinions on engagement traditions, because if I can’t share them here, where can I? But I don’t mean for you to feel hurt or judged if these formed part of your (or your dream) proposal. I believe that we have a responsibility as feminists to challenge the way things are done. It’s not a personal attack on you or your relationship, I know that there are many factors to take into account when considering how to get engaged and married, and I respect your right to choose your own path. Just as I don’t know your backstory, you do not know ours. 

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A year and a half ago, walking down Tottenham Court Road at the weekend, my partner James and I were talking about the future. We’d spoken about it many, many times before, about love, marriage, relationships, children. But this time, the conversation bent a little and we drew ourselves into a discussion about when. We stopped outside Boots, with half of London pushing past us unnoticed, and hesitantly, emotionally landed on 2017 as the year we wanted to get married. A consensual agreement, whatever form it takes, is essential to any feminist engagement. Springing a marriage proposal on someone out of nowhere has been widely misrepresented as romantic because of the misogynistic, heteronormative assumption that women are always ready to get married. These surprise proposals can range anywhere from a bit misguided to emotionally manipulative, and there’s just no need for it.

Over the next few months we frequently discussed the idea of a ‘proposal’, and whether or not we wanted it to be a part of our love story. James asked me about rings, saying he didn’t want to get me a diamond because not only are they horrifically unethical, their value came purely from a marketing campaign by De Beers in the early 20th Century (and also, as a geologist he has serious opinions about rocks). But I was adamant that I didn’t want a ring, and his response was relief. We both think that ethically sourced wedding rings are a beautiful way to symbolise your dedication to your partner. But engagement rings are yet another example of imbalanced, gendered expectations between women and men. ‘Marking’ a woman as yours when you have no such mark yourself. ‘Buying’ her. I’m not saying I think they’re inherently bad, especially since it’s becoming more mainstream for non-heteronormative couples to have them too, but for us it just seemed like pointless consumerism. There was absolutely no way that one of us was wearing an engagement ring while the other wasn’t, but we also didn’t see the appeal in both of us wearing one.

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However, the idea of proposing just seemed so lovely. A declaration of love, a statement of intent and a memory that we could share. Plus, neither of us had cried over the sheer weight of our feelings for each other since we first said ‘I love you’, and it’s nice to do that occasionally. We were immediately in mutual agreement that I would be the one to do it. Much of this was from a desire to challenge the status quo of course – engagements have a very sexist history, there’s no denying it. But also, I am bisexual, so until I met James I never knew who I’d end up with. I never really imagined being proposed to, but often thought about myself doing it, because that’s just who I am – it’s the kind of gesture I live for.

If you’re wondering how James, ‘as a man’ felt about the subject – he simply didn’t. As a feminist the idea of anything being a ‘threat to his masculinity’ is laughable to him. I’m not sure what else to say on the subject, other than by him being strong enough to free himself from oppressive, fragile ideas about how to ‘be a man’, he was able to experience the joy and excitement that comes with the person he loves making a grandly romantic gesture of love towards him.

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So with that decided, the task fell to me to decide how and when I was going to do it.  I had a vague idea in mind but it didn’t fully form until we decided to go on holiday to Paris. James’ birthday fell in the week we planned to go away and I thought to myself that it would be the perfect opportunity to ask him. But Paris didn’t seem like a particularly personal choice, so I suggested we spend a few days there and then travel south to explore the Calanques National Park on his birthday (a beautiful national pack on the coast near Marseille that consists of incredible rocky cliffs leading into little beaches, the perfect holiday spot for a geologist). He enthusiastically agreed to this, because one of our favourite things to do as a couple is hike. I think it must have been pretty obvious what I was planning at this point, and he tells me he was pretty sure after I suggested a ‘birthday hike through a beautiful outcrop of rocky cliffs’, haha.

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Location decided, my plan for how to actually go about it came to me almost immediately. We briefly discussed the idea of gifts like watches and bracelets instead of a ring, but we were both totally disinterested and a bit uncomfortable with the whole ‘here is a gift, will you marry me’ thing. We definitely felt like there was something missing from the whole thing, and I realised that it was the idea that our love should benefit only us. I decided to spend the money I would have spent on a ring on charity donations. I worked out that if I were to save up to buy a ring in my current financial situation, I could afford to spend £500 on it (another thing that we really need to stop doing? Selling the idea that a proposal has to be extravagant. Not everyone has disposable income and people shouldn’t feel the need to empty their bank account for love) so I set that as my donation budget, and that’s when the full idea came to me:

I chose five charities that reminded me of something I love about James. They were things that are external to our relationship, aspects of his personality that I deeply admire but have nothing to do with me. I donated £100 to each charity, and asked them if they would be able to send me a ‘thank you’ letter (all but one said they do this anyway so I wasn’t putting them out, the other emailed it to me so I printed it and put it in an envelope). On the back of each of the envelopes, I wrote the reason why I’d donated to that particular charity.

5 reasons2.jpgThe charities chose were WaterAid, Women’s Aid, Woman Kind, Amnesty International and Mind.

After spending a magical few days in Paris, we travelled down on the TGV to Marseilles, and the next day was his birthday. I packed us a picnic in our backpack, hid the five letters in different places in there and put a note on the top saying ‘five reasons’. I wouldn’t let him go in the backpack until we had hiked to our picnic spot – one of the hundreds of secluded beaches dotted along the Calanques coastline.

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After we had settled on the beautiful stony beach, I told James he could finally look in the backpack. He drew each letter out and read the notes on the backs (I told him not to open them until he found them all) and was completely confused, but touched by whatever I was doing. After he had found them all and had opened a couple, I took his hands and said that these charities all worked on areas that are related to things I admire about who he is as a person, and then started telling him all of the things I love about the way he is with me. The way I love how safe he makes me feel, how patient he is with me, how he makes me laugh so much and how he is so open, so kind, so affectionate. Obviously we were both crying at this point, and through my tears I managed to say ‘I want to marry you’, to which he responded ‘Of course’ and kissed me. Then we both realised I hadn’t actually said what I meant to say, so I pulled away and said ‘Will you marry me’ to which he again responded ‘Of course’, and we kissed. So yeah, I messed that part up lmao.

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We cried a bit more as he read all the letters. We had our lunch (brie and tomatoes on still-warm bread from the patisserie next to our AirBnB), and splashed in the freezing water for a bit. It was absolutely perfect, and I was so happy and proud that I was able to make my partner feel so loved and wanted.

Everything about our proposal was intensely unique to both of us, but at the same time it also helped other people. Me being the one to do it ended up being the least important part. Our proposal’s unique, personal nature, combined with a concerted effort to help make other people’s lives better is what made it feminist. And we will always be proud of that. I hope that weddings and engagements don’t go away, because they are a wonderful way to express dedication and love. But they are steeped in years of oppression, negativity, consumerism and selfishness. I’m absolutely not saying people should do what we did and I’m definitely not saying that I created the perfect proposal. Rather, I just want to share this and use it to communicate the idea that we all need to work hard emotionally, creatively and intelligently to make these gestures as beautiful and inclusive as they have the potential to be.