A List

I thought this would be a good post to follow up the last no poo update! So: Ways in which I am attempting to live a greener, more sustainable lifestyle, in no particular order-

Switched to renewable energy
When I came to renew my energy plan I realised that switching to my suppliers green/fully renewable electricity plan was similar in price to mixed fuel so I went for it. Really pleased to see my fuel breakdown on my bills now.

Next step: put standby loads onto remotes so I don’t leave anything on standby that doesn’t need it.

Switched soap and moving to greener cleaning products
Switched my liquid hand soap from the supermarket brand to soaps from the The Little Soap Company and Handmade Naturals. They are way better on my hands, smell gorgeous and are, well, more expensive, but I get to support small UK businesses. I have also been looking at using more eco cleaning products, and am currently switching to products by Ecover and Method. I think both of these are based in Europe so it’s not as good as supporting a smaller UK business would be, but both are affordable and I can pick them up in my local supermarkets which makes a huge difference. I love my liquid soaps above, but it’s a pain that when I run out I need to order them online and wait for them to come – I want to be able to nip to my local shops (again local, not have to go to the city center or anything either!) so I’m compromising a little with the cleaning products and looking at what I can get in my supermarkets, rather than being fussy about using only UK brands. At least the products themselves are much better for the environment. On saying that, I do need to do more research about homemade cleaners, such as white vinegar. Though I can’t get white vinegar in my local shop actually :/

Next step: use more reusable cleaning tools, such as microfibre clothes. I probably use way too many paper towels.

Switched to reusable pads, decomposable pads
I am still happily using cloth pads and liners. The first pads I bought are only now beginning to fail on me, over 5 years (I think) after buying them. It’s pretty cool. (And well the cost of these is really high up front despite long term savings – so it’s good they last!) I was struggling with using cloth pads when traveling though – whether for the day for a client visit, or going on holiday. Thankfully my mom told me about a brand that produces fully decomposable, cotton only pads. (Not sponsored- but I love the Organyc brand) I like to use those when I need to be on the road or when travelling abroad as a happy middle ground between cloth pads/liners and the normal ones.

Next step: learn how to make my own liners. (Not ambitious enough to try pads yet!) The plan is to turn old cotton clothes into new liners, or something like that.

Switched to reusable face cotton, cardboard ear buds
As well as cloth pads I have been using reusable cotton rounds to apply my face toner, which I sew up myself (as it’s very easy to do, and they don’t exactly need to be pretty!). I also use a lot of ear buds for my eye makeup, or to apply spot treatments, and I was totally lost as to how to what the reusable alternative to those would be. So I was pretty happy to discover ear buds with cardboard stems. Again, it’s a happy middle ground. Still producing waste, but at least its better waste. Less plastic.

Next steps: none.

Carrying and using reusable bag(s)
I try to always take a reusable bag with me to the shops. I like the envirosax bags, which are available on Amazon. They are huge, strong, and lightweight and, if you can be bothered with it, you can fold them up into a tiny parcel. It’s amazing that something so flimsy feeling and looking can actually be so strong. Oh, and they come in beautiful patterns, with lots of styles and colours to choose from. Cath Kidstons shoppers are also wonderful – but almost too cute to use. (Again not sponsored, just in love.)

Next step: stop forgetting the reusable bag at home. Must start keeping a stash in my car.

Using a Bamboo toothbrush
My most recent experiment – I bought and started to use a Bamboo tooth brush. It’s honestly no different, though I’m keen to see if it lasts as long as the plastic ones. Once I’m done with my toothbrush, many months after its recommended to change them admittedly, I tend to hang on to them to use for cleaning. I would like it if the bamboo toothbrush had the same life cycle, and if in the end would it make as good a cleaner? It was very expensive. :/

Next step: alternative toothpaste maybe…?

Taking a reusable cup to Starbucks
The 25p off is a good incentive. I admit I still use the plastic straws they provide – must remember to buy steel ones! On the subject of steel….

Next step: buy steel straws.

Switched to a Steel Water Bottle
I tried to use reusable plastic bottles but no matter how much I cleaned them I always found they gave my water a funny smell and taste. Mildew built up really easy in them. So now I’m trying a steel bottle. It’s bigger and heavier, clumsier and louder to use too, than I’d prefer, but so far none of the problems keeping it clean and fresh like with the plastic ones. And it keeps my water cool for a long time which, as a fan of cold water, I really appreciate.

Next step: buy a different steel bottle, with a smaller design.

Changed my lightbulbs to LED types
More efficient (should save me money!) and equally bright. Totally easy to do (or for my dad to do for me ;) )

Next steps: none.

Recycling!
As a service provided by my council this one is free, easy and takes no extra effort on my part so I’m not sure if it counts. But I recycle the majority of my paper, cardboard and plastic waste. (My council doesn’t take glass though :( ) I am currently looking into clothes recycling too. I have a lot of old clothes, which not all are in good enough shape for charity. The next thing to do would be to reuse the materials, to make cotton facial pads or liners for instance, but not all the materials are right for reuse. So I need to find a way to…do something with them that’s not throwing them in the trash. I do believe H&M have a scheme, and maybe M&S. Just got to find the courage to do it!

Next steps: make the effort to gather my glass recycling, take clothes into town for recycling.

I’ve found it all easy so far, but expensive (even if, like the pads, there are savings to be made in the long run.)(On saying that, when it comes to LED bulbs and renewable electricity – these have no become on par with older technologies, so no more expensive to do. These are the exceptions.) (I also feel there is some irony that I need to get a lot of the stuff like steel water bottle and bamboo toothbrushes from amazon. That’s an ok use of the word ironic isn’t it? If not, hope you see how it’s quite funny.) (It can also be a pain that all of this stuff needs ordering from amazon or other websites – see soap example above. I forgot to put an order through for my decomposable liners before my recent holiday and of course I couldn’t get them in the shops, not even in the city center, so I just had to buy ordinary ones to take on holiday. You can’t get hold of this stuff last minute/without planning first!)

I’m only doing little things here and there, but I hope I’m making a difference, no matter how small. I am still haunted by the last episode of Blue Planet 2 (I pretty much cried through that episode). It’s easy to feel overwhelmed – what can I do? Will it make any difference at this point? But I do care, and so I will do what I can and keep experimenting to find new ways to make a little difference. At least it’s something.

A ‘no-poo’ update

Hair that has not been washed with shampoo in seven years. Sorry for poor lighting; forgot to take last no-poo pictures in daylight :( I modelled this photo after the four year update picture, as I am amused at the fact that I am wearing yet another stripey cotton knit. Some things don’t change.

I bought a bottle of shampoo today.

This is kind of a big deal actually, as I have been ‘no-poo’ for SEVEN years now. Honestly, I was a bit shocked when I saw the dates myself. SEVEN. YEARS. For seven years I have been washing my hair using just water, and have trialled all kinds of teas and other slightly odd ‘natural’ hair masks as treatments/other forms of cleaning (I still don’t like using the term ‘natural beauty’ as I’ve mentioned before.) However for the past year, I’ve become increasingly unhappy with it. A year ago I said I would not start using shampoo again and my stubborn self really wants to keep clinging to that, to try and force this thing to work.

But. My hair doesn’t feel as clean as I want it to. It doesn’t look as clean as I want it to. It looks dull. I don’t like going to work with it looking like this. When no-poo works it’s great, but I feel you need a lot better water quality (read: soft water) than I have, and although I have a water filter, I just don’t think it does enough and for money and living-in-a-rental reasons I feel reluctant to buy a new one of those (I have been changing the filter medium every few months as required, so that’s not the problem I don’t think.) I also think its water pressure? I have found a higher water pressure helps with no poo, but my shower isn’t so strong and obviously I can’t change that. I could try the usual teas and hair masks but I want something more convenient. And this is weird, but I miss the smell of shampoo. Whenever my sister comes over the bathroom smells so nice after she has showered. I miss those delicious chemical scents. D: I feel like over the past few years that sulfate free shampoos have become much more mainstream and easier to get hold of than they were back when I first went no-poo – and that there’s a lot more of them. I bought one of those and am planning to use it. I’m super nervous about it! (I can’t believe I’m so nervous about something like washing my hair. but – seven years!) I hope it doesn’t irritate my eczema. No-poo has been amazing for my eczema – it sadly never cured it, but it did make it a lot more manageable. It also made my hair curlier, and at one point it was thicker and more voluminous too, although sadly that did pass (the volume, but I still have some waves that I like and I am worried will disappear when I start up shampoo again. T_T) (I would not mind the texture, look or feel of my hair right now, if not for the extra grease and dullness.)

I don’t regret going no-poo, and I’m glad for how it introduced me to ‘natural’ beauty products and then to more sustainable life style choices in general. I like how convenient it was and how cheap and easy. I like that it made me think about what I use and whether it’s all actually necessary, or if it’s actually just marketing/society/pressure to conform. But I want to try something new now. I just hope that using shampoo doesn’t go completely wrong, as trying to transition back to no poo will be awful, basically, especially when working.

So that’s another thing I’m giving up. 2017 and 2018 are the year where I abandon things, it seems. I feel like I’m giving up so much lately, that lately so much is just not working or has just changed for me. I’ve changed? My sister gave me a “Let the quarter life crisis begin!” card for my 25th birthday last year. Maybe there’s a hint of truth in it? As I shed the student life and enter the professional world, my world has become a little topsy turvy. I’m trying to adjust. And maybe I’m taking it out on my hobbies and my old routines – which, I suppose, is actually kind of natural. Maybe. :/

Skincare

(Subtitle – A very long essay on extreme acne treatments.)

I don’t have very good skin. I’ve discussed it before on the blog– I have eczema, allergies and sensitive skin. It’s been like this my whole life. When I reached my late teens, my body decided all this wasn’t enough – I started to suffer from acne. It got worse in university, I suppose as my hormones got worse, my stress increased, and my diet worsened. I felt really self-conscious going to interviews for jobs looking like a spotty teenager, and I feel even more self-conscious going to work with it. My skin was flushed, with red marks and red, inflamed, lumps (spots sitting under the skin) and little scabs from where ok, I picked, and the subsequent scars. I had clogged pores and blackheads. My skin felt lumpy and uneven.

Armed with a salary, I decided I wanted to do something about my skin. I wanted my acne gone. It would be an investment in my professional image, I told myself.

Unfortunately after visiting a skin clinic for a consultation I was told that they could only treat me after a doctor had officially diagnosed me with acne. I really didn’t want to go to a doctor for this, after terrible experiences with going to them for my eczema. It was for that reason I had gone straight to a privately run skin business as my first port of call. But I swallowed my fear and went to the GP to get my diagnosis. The doctor was nice enough, she agreed it was acne, prescribed me something, and I went home knowing I wasn’t going to use it. I do not trust doctors with my skin and nothing will change that. I went back to the skin clinic and ended up dropping a large sum of money on eight sessions of laser treatment. I had never spent so much money on something so…so…intangible in my life. And it was only on the chance it could work. Honestly, I spent nearly half a grand on hope.

But that was one of the reasons I decided I really liked the clinic; the esthetician was honest with me that it could improve things to any degree or not at all. That and their little forms detailing exactly what side effects could be experienced, advice on how to handle your skin when undergoing treatment etc. I felt that I had been briefed so well on this treatment and given all the right expectations for it. So I went for it.

Laser treatment started out painful and my skin never really got used to it, although I got used to enduring the pain. I would lie there on the world’s comfiest bed, the esthetician would clean my face, put on the special gel, cover my eyes, then place the laser around my face. It was like a sharp burst of stabbing pain, followed by another, and another. It hurt like hell. Especially on the sensitive skin around the nose and mouth. My eyes would water. I cried once. It was not a nice treatment. It was sharp and painful, afterwards my skin felt sensitive. I’d be smothered in sunscreen and sent on my way, and my skin would be bright red from the laser and slimy from the amount of sunscreen needed to protect it. (Bet I looked really sexy on the bus ride home.) I paid a further £100+ for some products recommended to use alongside the laser – a super strong sunscreen, a gentle every day exfoliant, a tougher weekly exfoliant and a clay based mask. My skin became dry, irritated. I stopped the tough exfoliant and started to moisturise more. Had more treatments. My skin…

Was clearing up.

I had a lot of painful spots that sat under the skin, red and inflamed. I had clogged pores. I had blemishes and blackheads. Scabs and scars.

I was left with flushed skin and blemishes. My skin felt smoother, looked less angry and red, and was less clogged up.

It was kind of amazing that it had done something, but still my heart sunk a little that it hadn’t been a miracle. It still wasn’t completely gone. My blackheads remained. I still had blemishes and scars. Was still too red. Even though I knew better than to have expectations for a miracle, I still wanted it so badly. You have no idea how much I long for beautiful, healthy skin. I want my face to have that translucent glow that the Korean celebrities have.

Following the laser, I took a little break, still using the products I’d been given, and then I started on a course of chemical peels.

This was a war and I was going all out. I’d already dropped over half a grand to go from spotty to blemish-y, I was willing to keep shelling out to see the next transformation. Please let there be another transformation, I thought.

I lay on the same bed, had my face cleaned, was handed a fan, then had a substance that smelled and felt exactly like nail polish remover dragged over my face. I didn’t understand why I needed the fan – the esthetician said it would get hot. How could that be?

I soon got it. The stuff sinks in and I could feel my face growing hot, then it began to get hotter, then it began to burn. The laser was a sharp, severe pain concentrated in a small area. This was an intense all over sensation of heat. It felt like my entire face was on fire. I fanned away at myself and waited for it to be over. After the first peel I had to go to work the next day and it was not pretty- my skin was peeling off in great big chunks, it was completely raw. What have I done?! I freaked out and went to boots and spent a stupid amount on an extra hydrating moisturiser, smothered myself in if, and after a few days, my skin emerged, smooth and trying to glow. Still blemishes, still scars, still so dry.

I had two more peels. One two weeks after the first and the last a month after that. My skin never peeled as intensely as the first time and I’m not sure why or if I should be disappointed by that.

During this time I started using retinol and it scares me a bit but it is working on that redness, the blemishes and the scars.

Whilst drying my skin out.

Even more. It was getting so dry. I was trying to moisturise but everything I used never seemed to be hydrating enough, whilst at the same time clogging my pores back up. (The money I spent on that supposedly super hydrating moisturiser from boots was a complete waste, I could have stuck with the creams I already had and been in the same position. They were all useless.)

Another break.

Then I went back for a facial. This was a startling experience. The same room, same bed, but candles and low lighting, and no pain. Afterwards my skin felt soft and soothed. My esthetician recommended me a moisturiser to buy to counteract the retinol without clogging my pores and I did – another stupid amount of money – and finally my skin felt calm.

It’s not red. It’s not spotty. It’s soft and not as dry. But I’ve got a couple of clogged pores (not as bad as before though, this moisturiser is quite good), a scattering of blemishes remain, and those scars, those stupid scars are still there. It’s better, but not completely gone and I’m almost a grand poorer and I want more.

What do I do next, I wonder? More laser? More peels? More facials? I think I want more facials, but I feel reluctant to ever go through laser or a chemical peel again.

I am thinking of focusing on skincare. Facials every few months paired with a strong skincare routine. Actually I’ve had a rigid morning and evening skincare routine for years now – but I still don’t think I’ve found what really works for me. I have a few products I love and a whole bunch sitting in my drawers, gathering dust because I can’t return them and don’t want to use them.

I first tried Korean and Japanese products, then I played around with more western products, then I tried more organic and less synthesised products. After it all I think my skin looked the best when I used Korean skincare, and and I enjoyed that the most. So I’m going back to that now. Well, I never really left it…but I was drifting away. I thought for a time that I was using too many products, because Korean skincare routines tend to involve many steps, which was causing my bad skin and so I tried to simplify. But that didn’t work. I tried to go even simpler, with products that were less synthesised the so called “natural beauty” but that really didn’t work. So I’m going back to the Korean layering approach. So more serums, more essences, more masks and treatments. I’m going to smother my skin with care and hope it responds.

As for other things? I’ve tried diet and drinking water…drinking green tea… and that does nothing. Stopping eating dairy has done me some good, except I still eat chocolate. I go a few months with no chocolate, then can’t handle it anymore and start eating it again, then go without and rinse, repeat. I would like to get a handle of that to see if full and proper no dairy for the longterm will really help. I do get flare ups around the time of month, which was an interesting discovery (I was so spotty before I couldn’t notice when it got worse cos it was always so bad. Now it’s milder it’s easier to tell when things are getting bad) but that one I can’t do much about that. (I tried the pill at one point, and I’m never doing that again. It didn’t do anything for my skin and it just made me feel angry and depressed 24/7. No thanks).

I will win this battle, somehow. And I fear I’ve stopped caring about the price. I really hope that in the long term things are going to work out for me and my skin, and I’m not just ultimately making it worse.

P.S Changed the no poo category to beauty and lifestyle! :o

“I dream on, in the border between reason and reality. I fly to you, in this reality that’s like a lie.”

I used a tea rinse on my hair tonight and it was messy but worth it. My hair has a beautiful shine to it. According to my mother my hair doesn’t look dirty, but it looks dull. I feel rather self-conscious about that now that I’m working, as I do every aspect of my appearance. I wouldn’t give up no shampoo though. I wouldn’t use shampoo again.

As I’ve talked about before, no shampoo has been a journey to new territory and it has really made me question my lifestyle and well, my relationship with the supermarket. Just how many of the things that are pushed on us are actually necessary? When I gave up shampoo I found myself skipping at least half an aisle in the supermarket, filled with must haves and should be usings. It makes one think.

I started to use reusable sanitary towels and liners and that was also game changing. I always wondered how mere cloth could absorb everything but as it turns out, a good cloth pad is better than any disposable. The good is the key part- a bad pad will be uncomfortable, not absorb as much and not come as clean. Once I found good brands I could rely on though? And got comfortable with the care of them? No going back. From there I started to notice what a big chunk of waste I was not producing, and I started to question just how much I was throwing into my black bin (I.e the one for the rubbish heap) I started sewing up reusable facial cotton rounds, and there was another chunk of stuff I wasn’t throwing away. I read some eco lifestyle blogs and felt excited at the possibilities but also aware that a lifestyle like that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to start agonising over every little thing. I just wanted to do what I could and what I felt comfortable with.

Of course not all aspects of this journey have been successful and there is one aspect I have been struggling with: skincare. I really wanted to try using simpler, less synthesised products, preferably from UK based sellers. I have had great success with no shampoo, milk/oil based soaps, using plain oils as body care, sugar scrubs for exfoliating my legs before shaving. So I thought this would go well. And it hasn’t. I have found so many of the products I have tried- and there have been many- greasy in texture and yet my skin feels dry. Oil cleansers that won’t wash off, moisturisers that sit on the skin in a fatty layer, but never sink in. The only success I have had is in using rose water as a toner, and I have found a night cream I can tolerate. I feel like I’m using up too much money and messing around with my skin too much by this point, but I also feel unwilling to give up. Isn’t this supposed to be the better choice? I feel frustrated by it; I want it to work, to become another amazing, revealing step in my journey. Instead I find myself leaning towards the uncomfortable conclusion that maybe heavily synthesised products with lengthy, confusing ingredients may be better for me.

(I also hope I am using this right wording here. I refuse to say chemical free, because that’s nonsense, but even natural sounds wrong- there’s nothing unnatural about that in the drugstore, I can’t say that, so I’m going for the words simple to describe the skincare others may feel comfortable saying natural, and synthesised for the products you get in the chemists. Ok?)

Meanwhile, where to next? I am playing with crystal deodorant. I’ve been dying to give up my supermarket brand, but I thought the only other choice was that coconut oil/bicarb mix and I didn’t want bicarb anywhere near me. A bit silly – crystals seem a popular method that’s been around years. I bought a tiny travel sized one and am tentatively using it on the weekends.

I started to venture away from beauty and personal care. I tried to change up things in the kitchen and am now happily using reusable/washable dishwashing sponges and microfibre clothes for minor cleaning, but I find myself unable to bring myself to use clothes for heavy cleaning. I am using up my dish washing liquid and multi surface cleaner bought in the supermarket, and plan to replace them with a more eco friendly product from a small British company. I refuse to change anything in the bathroom- I will keep my bleach and won’t use reusable clothes to clean there. I still use the supermarket, even though I also buy things from the organic store.

In the end, I think it’s best to be doing something, no matter how small, than nothing. It’s about making the choices and changes you can afford and are comfortable with. It’s about awareness and a willingness to try (outside of the bathroom. I will be hypocritical in that way) and I guess, through my failure in that one aspect, because I think I’m giving up now, it’s about accepting your limitations and being able to say this isn’t working and give up or compromise (I’ll keep my night cream and rose water, but switch my day cream and makeup remover) I think. To be honest, on this journey, I am constantly changing my mind, becoming uncertain, questioning exactly what is it do I want? To focus on beauty and personal care, purely to see if it’s better for me, or also for environmental reasons? And do I want to take it further, to venture outside those subjects? Is this something I’m really interested in, or am I just letting myself getting dragged in because it feels I ought to – if I’m already giving up shampoo and using reusable pads surely it’s not right just to do so just for me, should I not be thinking of the greater consequences and issues surrounding these things? It’s all quite overwhelming really.

If there is just one certainty though- it’s that it doesn’t stop being interesting to question.

Unexpected no-poo success: powdered seaweed

I’d never heard of using seaweed for the skin before, but my sister and I were at a food fair when we stumbled upon a small store selling powdered seaweed. I asked about using it for a dry scalp/eczema and the woman gave us an amazing sales talk, and let us try some on our hands. My sister and I were quite surprised with how nice it felt and how smooth it left our hands. Still, usually I would not be so easily led to purchase, what with no prior research and one sales talk, but as anyone who has eczema knows, desperation for a cure/for relief makes you an easy sell. I purchased the smallest tub, and then set it aside for a while, before eventually deciding to try it out. I was a bit nervous about using it, as I’m always nervous for trying new things – I don’t want to make my eczema worse, or mess up my no-poo routine after all!

I mixed it up with a little warm water to make a soft, spreadable paste and smothered my scalp in it, before shoving my hair in a disposable shower cap (collected from hotels by me and my sister for this purpose!) Then I had some left over, so I put it on my face down to my décolletage. Then I left it be for a bit. It stank. It was messy (both to apply and when rinsing.) It was ugly – if you live with anyone, prior warning would be needed before turning yourself into a green skinned monster. It didn’t feel that amazing on my skin. However, once I had rinsed it away I was amazed by the results.

So I’ll get it out the way, this is yet another product that I bought for the intention of healing my eczema which did not do that and yet did other great things which means I still like it. phew. I’ve taken to using it every couple of months now. I use it the same way- smothering my scalp in it, shoving my hair in a cap, using the leftovers on my face, neck and back. Leaving it for 10+ minutes to do its thing. It rinses out really easily, although clumps of it do somehow end up everywhere so you have to give the shower a good rinse as well after. It leaves my hair glossy and with a lot more body to it. It’s noticeably nice, for lack of better terms. My sister even complimented my hair after using it, saying that it was looking good. (My sister does not approve of my no-poo routine, so this is unusual.) It does not really have any cleaning properties, but it does not make my hair any greasier. It does not soothe the scalp really, but it does help cleanse flakes. As for my skin, it leaves my face feeling smooth and clarified. It’s really great for when skin is a little bit red and unhappy, a little sensitive, usually because of stress in my case. It calms the skin. It also makes my body skin soft. It doesn’t cause any irritations anywhere.

I think I’m even getting used to the smell now. Because it’s worth it. I’m really loving this stuff and am quite pleasantly surprised by the results. I use the Aalgo brand, and I’ve got tonnes left (this stuff lasts forever) but if I was running out I would repurchase.

*This is not sponsored. Purchased it myself with my own money, and all opinions are my own.