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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Let’s reform Valentine’s Day

With a capitalist society like ours it is very difficult to maintain the line between what is important to us, and what marketing departments want us to think is important. This is how Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc, have become vile spectacles of consumerism. I do not think it is possible, or wise to get rid of deeply entrenched cultural traditions that don’t actually do anyone any harm (you can’t exactly make buying a red heart-shaped cushion illegal, or organise a protest against Easter eggs, can you). What I think we can do though, is change them for the better.

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These consumer-driven festivities obviously didn’t start out that way. The first iterations of many festivals were Celtic celebrations of seasons changing. They were rooted in the environment, focused on celebrating life and the world. When Christians invaded Celtic lands the religions were combined, creating the festivals we celebrate today like Christmas and Easter. During the industrial revolution, these religious festivals morphed again to encompass the concept of ‘wanting stuff’. And with the subsequent invention of marketing, they developed again thanks to this new method of ‘making you want stuff’. And here we are. As for Valentine’s Day, it began as a feast celebrating a Saint, and then morphed (I think because of his martyrdom?) into a celebration of love, and then into the plastic-wrapped red-rose travesty we endure today.

I find it deeply upsetting to think about the way our society revolves around wanting and getting stuff. It’s bleakly shallow, meaningless and unsustainable. However, I’m also very lucky. I was raised by people who find mindless consumerism revolting, and in our house we wouldn’t really celebrate any festival apart from Christmas (which I think my parents realised they couldn’t ignore without making me a total weirdo at school). However they taught me that it was about sharing a day with your favourite people – having a relaxed, cosy time with people you genuinely like. Gifts were always thoughtful and nothing was bought ‘for the sake of it’. As a result, I don’t have a super negative attitude towards Christmas. I see Christmas as a time to spend with my loved ones, show them how much I care with thoughtful gifts, and eat good food that we all helped to cook. Christmas is never going to go away, and it is therefore better to reform it into something sustainable and meaningful than just to try and avoid it all together – because that way lies bitterness, anger and loneliness.

This has also made me more open to other festivals. Valentine’s Day is one in particular. Consumerism has made it into a fucking horrible celebration. Red hearts everywhere, shitty force-grown roses shipped in from somewhere that definitely doesn’t have ethical labour laws. Novelty chocolate flavours. The horrendous cis-heteronormativity of it all. All manner of gendered shite. I completely understand why people get so bitter about the whole thing – I think these things are utterly revolting. It should be noted that if you only hate Valentine’s Day because you’re single and not because of all that shit I just mentioned, you need to get a grip. I was single for 25 years and I never had a problem with people in relationships celebrating their love, don’t be so selfish.

ANYWAY. I guess maybe I could have cut out those 700 words and just got straight to the point, but the Philosophy student in me will never be able to make an argument without fully explaining it, so well done if you got this far. It’s time to rethink our approach to celebrating our love. What is Valentine’s Day about? Here are five ways you can help make Valentine’s Day something we can be proud to celebrate:

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Here are the gifts my partner and I got each other this year. We were both so excited about what we’d bought the other that we ended up giving them as soon as they arrived, which is actually what inspired this post! Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay available here (non-Amazon link), the Choose Love Help Refugees t-shirt available here

Do something with your friends if you’re all single. You love your friends, right? Lesley Knope it up and do something together! Get each other gifts! Have fun!

If you’re if you’re the only one who isn’t single (I’ve been there) then spend the day fucking the bejeezus out of yourself. Masturbation is an act of self-love, reclaim the it for yourself and make V-Day 100% about you. Or alternatively, have a bubble bath, put on your favourite film and ENJOY an evening alone. You shouldn’t feel obligated to go to some cringe singles event, or find someone on Tinder to spend the night with because the idea of being ‘alone on Valentines’ freaks you out. Own it. Your relationship status is not a measure of your worth as a human being.

Don’t buy the tacky shit from the shops. Get your partner something that will be meaningful for them, and them alone. Even better if you can make it something that will do good – a charity donation or a purchase from a charitable organisation, ethical chocolate, you get the idea. Brands are watching you, and if you demonstrate that you are 100% uninterested in their nonsense, they will stop making it. Trust me, I work in the consumer goods sector, I haven’t just seen it done, I’ve done it. Don’t click on the ‘Gifts for Her’ links – we notice.

If your partner loves flowers, go for it. But DO NOT get them those shit supermarket red roses. They are unethical, unsustainable and unimaginative. Get them a plant, or find their favourite blooms. The most important part? If you’re buying a bunch of flowers, always get them from an independent, small florist like Rebel Rebel.

Talk about it!! Tell people what you’re doing for Valentine’s. You can inspire others to make more positive decisions about the way they spend the day without tearing down their own choices or writing a 1k word blog post about it (sorry). All you really need to do is plant the seed in people’s minds and for many, it will grow into and idea for their own wonderful way of expressing love and affection.

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.

Collection Velvet Kiss Moisturising Lip Creams

Watching people apply liquid lipsticks on Instagram is one of my favourite ways to spend a bleary-eyed morning or long train journey – there’s something so satisfying about watching people perfectly swipe these gorgeous pigments onto their lips! But I was always dubious about doing it myself because I have full lips, a very feathery lip line and they aren’t symmetrical, so I always feel like highly pigmented products look like I put them on in the dark. That was, until I was given Collection’s Velvet Kiss Moisturising Lip Creams* to try…

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The first thing to note about these Lip Creams is that they are sooooo cheap. At £2.99 each there’s no reason not to try a couple! Not only are they the perfect choice if you’re on a budget, they’re also brilliant for trying out a risky shade, or like me, working out if liquid lipsticks are for you.

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I’m wearing the shade ‘Cotton Candy’ in this photo, and I have to say that it’s become my my favourite lip colour, ever. It’s SO pretty! But let me show you the rest of the shades before I talk more about that…

Mango

Vibrant but not quite neon orange shade – perfect for anyone who wants to try an orange lip without going too bold.

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Rosie

Looks much darker in the tube – a gorgeous muted red with and amazingly consistent pigmentation and smooth texture. My second favourite shade.

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Mulberry

Beautiful purple shade with brown undertones, doesn’t apply as smoothly as Rosie but still pretty great. Make sure you exfoliate and moisturise your lips first because this one clings.

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Blackberry

Cool purple shade – the hardest to apply in terms of consistency but a really awesome colour. Definitely need more than one coat, as you’ll see in the swatch at the end.

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Cotton Candy

Requires no effort with application, smooth, thick formula that spreads perfectly and lasts all day. I love this shade.

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Here are all the shades together in the same order as above so you can compare. I did double layer Blackberry here and the coverage is much more consistent.

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In terms of the formula, I can confirm that these lip creams are really moisturising – I’ve worn them all day and my lips haven’t flaked AT ALL, unlike other matte lipsticks I’ve used that make my lips so tight, flaky and itchy that all I can think about it getting it off at the end of the day! They also don’t make my lips sticky, which I have found the some other brands to be really bad for. And while they’re long lasting, a quick swipe with micellar water and they’re gone. I absolutely love these lip creams, and really recommend that you give at least one a try sometime! There is one other shade called Caramel, but there was no way that one was gonna suit me so I didn’t bother with it. They’re available from Boots and Superdrug, whichever you prefer – have fun!

Aesop Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser

Aesop is fast becoming one of my favourite brands, so when my boyfriend presented me with their Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser on my birthday, I was so excited to try it! This is a cleanser unlike anything I’ve used before, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

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The idea behind Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser is that it helps to keep your skin immaculately clean in polluted environments. Something I recently learned is that microscopic pollution particles stick to your skin like you wouldn’t believe – even after cleansing. Unless you have a layer on your skin protecting you during the day (obviously many of us wear foundation, but this is a flaky layer which doesn’t actually stick to the skin consistently) then you will end up with this sticky pollution layer which is slowly absorbed by your skin, and is almost impossible to get off with conventional cleansing. Because of the way Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser works, it is uniquely able to combat this problem….

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What looks like a pretty normal gel cleanser is actually an acid exfoliator as well. With lactic acid in the formula, it very gently eats away at the upper parts of the stratum corneum (layers of dead skin) – not just to leave your face smooth, soft and radiant, but also to completely remove that pollution! To use this cleanser, you gently dampen your face, then gently apply it all over, without massaging. Then, leave it on for a couple of minutes (they say moments but uhhhh, it’s £27 per 100ml, you leave that stuff on your face for 2-3 minutes baby). After that, you wet your hands and massage it into a lather, then rinse it off. My favourite way to use it is just before a shower, because I can wipe the excess gel onto my neck and chest without worrying that I’ll create a huge mess when I wash it off.

I was really expecting my skin to be at least a little bit red, flaky or irritated after using this, but it’s been completely calm. This is an incredibly gentle cleanser, and the exfoliating effect is just absolutely perfect! My skin is left feather-soft just after leaving it on for a couple of minutes. It’s been radiant and bright, and much softer than it usually would in winter.

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Along with the lactic acid, this cleanser contains a mixture of antioxidants – parsley seed extract, liquorice root and blackcurrant seed oil to help the skin to process the free-radicals it has already absorbed. There’s also soothing, anti-bacterial lavender, and two types of chamomile to calm the skin. The cleansing base is SLES, the more skin-friendly version of SLS, along with olive oil cleansing compounds. This means that it effectively washes away dirt, without upsetting the balance of the skin. The bottle has an open mouth, which I expected to make it difficult to dispense the right amount, but the gel is very thick so you have good control over it. The scent it a light herbal/floral concoction that is absolutely wonderful – soothing and refreshing all at once.

Aesop Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser is absolutely perfect for people in their 20s and 30s, looking to prevent ageing but also to give the skin what it needs right now – oil balancing, soothing, radiance and redness prevention. Yes, it’s a bit expensive for a cleanser, but you only need to use it in the evening, and you can use it 3-4 times a week to make it go even further. I’m confident that it will make a huge difference to my skin in the long run, as it’s made such an amazing difference already. Get the 100ml bottle from Beauty Expert, or the 200ml from Cult Beauty.

 

Five of my favourite face masks

I’ll be straight with you. These are not my 5 all time favourite masks. But I am obsessed with face masks, and I want to talk more about them! Think of this as part one of an introduction to my mask collection. These masks are all very different, and funnily enough I realised I’ve managed to pick five from different countries and different skin concerns! Let’s get stuck in!

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Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask – A New Zealand skincare brand, Antipodes have some of the nicest smelling products in the world, the Manuka honey reviews are really good – their hand creams are divine, and I’ve been dreaming of their Juliet Brightening Cleanser for years (soon, my love…). I was very cautious about trying this mask because a lot of people with sensitive skin do react to honey in cosmetics. But I’ve found it to be unbeatable on problem areas! I don’t usually put it all over my face, but when I get hormone-chin it is The Best. It hydrates, soothe redness and inflammation, and purifies with the honey’s antibacterial properties. I will also often dot it on spots when I get in from work and leave it there until I go to bed.

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Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask – Origins are well known as The Mask Brand, and rightly so, their masks are out of this world. But I especially love this active charcoal mask both for myself when my skin is super congested, and for my boyfriend, who has oily skin and open pores. Because I trial a lot of skincare products, some of them don’t work for me and I do occasionally have a skin meltdown where a cleanser hasn’t been working well enough, or a face oil has been way too thick for me. This is my go-to rescue mask for when that happens – over the course of a couple of week’s use it clears my pores and prevents them from turning into spots. Love it.

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Tony Moly Aloe Sheet Mask – This is probably the simplest sheet mask of all time from one of the most famous South Korean skincare brands. With aloe vera to soothe and bamboo water to hydrate, this is a seriously cheap and cheerful mask that anyone can try. It leaves your skin plump, soft and calm. I’ve tried more complicated sheet masks, and they are great, but for me I like to be careful about what I leave on my skin (remember with these other masks they get washed off) so this has become my go-to for when my skin needs a moisture boost.

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Lush Rosy Cheeks Mask – Ok so I may have about 20 favourite masks but if I could only choose one as my all time favourite, it would be this. A pink clay mask with a beautiful rose scent, this mask has everything. Kaolin to draw out impurities and deeply cleanse, glycerin to hydrate, calamine powder to calm redness or irritation and rose extracts to soothe and balance. Honestly, it does everything, and it leaves your skin feeling absolutely wonderful. This is one of my top five all time skincare products. It is absolutely incredible.

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Caudalie Moisturising Mask – Everyone needs a moisturising mask in their collection, and this is one of the best. With hyaluronic acid to hydrate, grape water to soothe (also hydrate) and reduce sensitivity, and Vinolevuere, a hydrophilic active ingredient that draws water into the skin as it’s absorbed, this is a powerhouse of a moisturising mask. It also contains grape-seed oil, a nourishing but light oil packed full of anti-oxidants that will both nourish and protect your skin. This mask can be used on the eye area, which most masks can’t, so if you’re into multi-masking you can always put this around your eyes to give them a treat too.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this mini world tour of my mask collection! If you have any questions about any of these, let me know in the comments.

 

How to do something for the world (instead of just feeling bad about it)

The world is in terrible state right now and it’s frightening to sit and watch it happen. It’s easy to feel powerless when we look at the awful things that are happening to people at home and abroad. I’ve participated in my fair share of volunteering and activism over the years, so I thought I would share a few ideas on ways that you can help. This isn’t about being a ‘saviour’, this is about the fact that people reading this almost certainly have a far more comfortable existence than a lot of people in the world. We have a moral duty to do something with our personal resources. Sharing posts on Facebook, by the way, isn’t on this list. Sorry, but it isn’t enough just to ‘care’ anymore. I’ve split these suggestions into sections – things everyone can do, things you can do with money, things you can do with your time, things you can do with yourself. I hope you find something helpful! It’s not exhaustive by any means, but if I’ve missed something you think is vital, please let me know.

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Things everyone can do

These are just a few little ideas that you can adopt into your life to help your everyday life make a more positive impact on the world.

Reduce meat consumption or cut it out entirely. The meat industry contributes to global warming more than almost anything else, so the less of it you can eat, the better. If you feel you have to, stick to poultry. The dairy industry is also linked to this of course, so reduce that too if you can.

Buy ethically. Sounds daunting but it’s really not! Shop in Lidl, Aldi, the Co-op, M&S or Whole Foods. Make leftover food into lunches. Use The Guardian’s ethical fashion directory for clothes, or buy on second hand apps like Depop. Get clothes, homeware items and cosmetics from independently owned companies or creators. Donate your old clothes to charity. If you have enough money to be looking for a car, get a hybrid. Let your license fee lapse (the BBC promotes fascism, sorry). Consider boycotting some of these. Bank with Nationwide or the Co-op, if you have a choice of energy supplier get an ethical one like Ovo Energy. Buy cosmetics and household products that are as natural as possible, and buy recycled toilet paper. Basically whenever you hand over money for something, think to yourself ‘is this doing damage, is it fairly neutral, or is it doing good?’

Do what you can to make your home more energy efficient. From double lining your curtains to making sure nothing gets left on standby, from timing your showers to only flushing the loo when you have to.

Join a political party (you don’t have to have any money OR time to do this), and vote in every election you can, even if you think it’s meaningless. There’s no such thing. Not sure who you should join? Take the Political Matchmaker!

Things you can do with money

There are thousands of worthy charities in the world – you can commit to one and donate just to them, or dot your donation around different ones. Either way, if you have disposable income this is the best way to use it if you want to help people. 

Donate to Syria. There are specific Syrian charities such as Syria Relief that you can donate money too, or you can donate to UNICEF, UNHCR, Oxfam or Save the Children.

Donate to environmental charities. While humans may be pretty preoccupied with killing each other right now, the war on the environment rages on in the background. Deforestation, waste, the depletion of resources such as rare earth elements, fossil fuels and water is still happening, as it global warming. Pollution is through the roof, in the UK especially. Crops are fucked. The World Land Trust, WWF and Rainforest Alliance are solid choices.

Donate to human rights/wellbeing charities. Mental health care in the UK is in disarray at the moment, and it’s clear that huge groups of people are suffering massively from mental health problems. You can donate to Mind to help with this. Or how about Amnesty International, to help end female genital mutilation, to help hold war criminals to account, to protect refugees and to protect human rights worldwide. If you’re particularly concerned about women, perhaps you could donate to Womankind, a charity that supports female entrepreneurship in developing countries. Or Women’s Aid, a UK charity that helps female and child victims of domestic violence. What about water availability? Wateraid works to provide safe drinking water around the world. Poverty in the UK is rising fast. Why not donate to Shelter or Barnardos?

Donate to your chosen political party. This will help them to fight the rising altneo-rightnazis which as we can all clearly see, is growing problem that we really fucking need to do something about. Donating to the party that you believe is the best for the job will help them to eradicate white extremism.

Things you can do with your time

Not all of us have spare time, but if you do, these are great ways to spend it.

Take the UNICEF free online course on Social Change. This is a wonderful thing for anyone who wants to be a better citizen, activist or campaigner. The course looks at the distinctions between societal norms and societal conventions, before moving on to social change, and the tools that can be used to enact it.

Do volunteer work for political parties or charities. Small charities and parties in the run up to elections are often desperate for tech savvy people to do a bit of SEO, HTML, Photoshop or photography for them. During the last general election I volunteered on Natalie Bennett’s campaign and learned photoshop so I could produce digital campaign communications as well as doing some social media. Unfortunately I was in the middle of moving jobs and I had to stop, which is why it’s very important to work out if time is something you have to give. Just like some people don’t have money to give, others don’t have time.

Work for a helpline. I put this in ‘time’ but it depends. Sometimes helplines that offer online or social support will let you do it from home, and I’ve heard about helplines doing the same, but more commonly you will have to go to their office. Samaritans, LGBT+ Switchboard, Refuge and SANE all offer volunteer positions.

Sign petitions and write to your MP. A while ago I campaigned against funding cuts that were being made to the research teams at Kew Gardens – I attended some advisory meetings and learned a lot about how to put weight behind a cause. Making ‘noise’ is one of the best ways to do this, and can be done by writing to your MP about an issue you are concerned about, whether it’s sending aid to Syria, poverty in the UK or violence against women For lots of campaigns, especially ones that have a petition attached to them, you will be able to send a pre-written letter to your MP that you personalise as well.

Things you can do with your self

Some of these are very big commitments indeed, but I thought I’d put them in because if you’re in a position to do something big, why not? 

Sign up to the UN Volunteers Database. I joined this recently. Basically you go on their website, fill in all necessary details about yourself and your skills, as well as the level of commitment you can offer. If anything comes up that’s suitable for you, they get in touch.

Do VSO. Voluntary Services Overseas is an organisation that sends skilled people to other countries to help the community using their skills. I know someone who helped with tourism infrastructure in Sri Lanka because she had lots of business knowledge, but there are positions for loads of different areas of expertise including accountancy, education and agriculture. The great thing about this particular organisation over others is that you are required to have skills that a community can benefit from before you can be placed somewhere. You aren’t just buying a trip to ‘Africa’ to ruin the lives of some children play with orphans.

Join MSF. Médecins Sans Frontières is one of the most important critical aid charities in the world. They are at the forefront of every health crisis, be it conflicts, epidemics or natural disasters and their teams are fearless. They don’t just need healthcare professionals though – HR managers, pharmacists, technical engineers, supply chain management, finance, communication and admin coordinators are all needed. This is a very big choice. I’m not suggesting you join MSF after reading one blog post by an irrelevant woman in London. But it’s worth being aware of, no?

Do some community volunteering. Something less perilous and much closer to home! There are always local groups looking for help maintaining a nature reserve, painting a school, being a friend to an isolated person or working in museums. I can’t link to this obviously, but here’s the website for my area, hopefully it will give you a clue as to how to search for yours.

Canvas for a political party. I’ll never forget how cold I got handing out leaflets at 7am for the Green Party in February 2015. But it was important, so I did it. You can do house calls, leafleting or phonecalls for your chosen party, depending on what you prefer.

Join a protest. Numbers make an impact. If a protest for something you believe in takes place, stand up and be counted if you can. Protest marches have been effective many times before. Often they aren’t, but it is one of the purest expressions of our democratic rights and you can’t deny its importance.

Fundraising! Everyone loves a sponsored half marathon, coffee morning or whatever else you fancy doing. Not only does fundraising generate more funds than you might be able to give yourself, you also raise awareness of the cause you’re helping. Plus, it’s usually pretty fun, especially if you’re an outgoing sort of person with lots of friends.

And one final thing that everyone, everyone who doesn’t have to use them should do? Donate food to your nearest foodbank. 3.8 million workers in the UK are now living in poverty – and that’s just people in work, let alone people out of work. If you can afford to feed yourself, you can afford to buy a little bit of food for someone else.