Saturday, 23 April 2016

The 4 unlikely products that are helping my blemish prone skin

I've made no secret of the fact that while my skin was very, very good to me throughout my teenage years adulthood has been a very different story. I have skin prone to breakouts and redness, the scars take an age to fade and it's not done a whole lot for my confidence!

I've tried so many different products to help clear these persistent blemishes, but many have been a waste of money or have ended up being too harsh or stripping for my sensitive skin. I've always pretty oily skin but at nearly 24 years old it seems to have taken a turn towards combination, with dry patches around my forehead, chin and eyebrows.

I've recently taken a far more stripped back approach to my skincare, avoiding harsh cleansers in favour of gentle ones and coconut oil. There are four products (two of them supplements) that have really earned their place in my daily routine.

Dr Stuarts Skin Purify Tea

This organic and naturally caffeine free tea contains red clover, nettle and dandelion - the idea is that these plants have anti-inflammatory properties, regulate hormones and accelerate healing. I noticed a difference after having 1-2 cups a day for only a week and they are incredibly cheap and easy to get hold of. The company actually won a Queen's Award this week for their efforts and I can see why!

Vitamin D

After an eye condition ruined my start to 2016 (and yes, it's unfortunately still ongoing!) a blood test found that I was very vitamin D deficient. I work in a windowless office so winter really took its toll on my levels. D plays a huge role in the body's ability to fight off infection, inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which is why it's so important for healthy, glowing skin. After finishing my megadose course I now take Holland and Barrett liquid D3 capsules daily. I actually notice my skin looks sallower when I forget to take it so I make sure I never miss a dose.

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

It seems everyone's become obsessed with this product since Kylie Jenner revealed it as one of her skincare secrets over on Snapchat. Calming calamine takes down redness while salicylic acid works to tackle bacteria and dry out whiteheads. It's a weird formulation with the lotion at the bottom and an alcohol solution sitting on top, but it's not harsh at all and doesn't dry out the surrounding skin. You simply dip a cotton bud in to get the lotion out and apply to the blemish for leaving on overnight or until you put your makeup on. Again this is a steal considering the quality at only £12.50.

Bare Minerals loose foundation in 'Light'

I must admit I had never really been sold on Bare Minerals in the past. I had this idea in my head that it wouldn't provide me any more coverage than a pressed finishing power, which would never be enough for my angry skin. After my eyes got bad though I wondered if products like foundation could be exacerbating the problem and decided to try something more natural. Used with the Bare Minerals G3 brush the powder is light but very build-able. The more you blend the creamier it becomes. It also doesn't feel greasy at the end of the day which many powders tend to, so I'll be continuing with this stuff for daytime wear and switching to a thicker liquid for nights out (I say this like I have more than one a month these days!). Since I began using it I've had far less blackheads and a lot more confidence in my skin.

What products or supplements have helped your skin? Let me know in the comments!

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Monday, 18 April 2016

10 years of Neal's Yard Remedies' One Pot Wonder

Last week I was invited down to the Cambridge Neal's Yard Remedies store to celebrate the tenth anniversary of one of its most iconic products, Wild Rose Beauty Balm*. Like most people my experience of NYR until now went as far as their rather luxurious hand creams - I'd seen the product in store before but never actually tried it. My experience at the store has totally converted me to the rest of their range.

When I arrived I got chatting to the staff a while and picked up a couple of aromatherapy roll-on's to help with my daily struggle with eye strain. You see NYR is more than just a skincare brand. The whole ethos surrounds herbal remedies and every ingredient in all their products from candles to eye cream is selected for its unique natural properties. There were loose lead teas, tinctures, essential oils and more to indulge in and the ladies that work in the store are incredibly knowledgeable.

The store is also a spa, with treatment rooms downstairs offering a wide range of packages. My visit entailed a hand and arm massage, using none other than Wild Rose Beauty Balm. When I was invited to the hand and arm massage I wondered how necessary they really were, but as someone with chronically dry, sort-of elderly looking hands that also spends a lot of time hunched over a desk I was proved very wrong.

The massage works the balm into the skin, with the therapist massaging out any knots (my mouse arm had plenty!) and also paying special attention to the hands and cuticles. The balm contains antioxidant rich rosehip seed oil, patchouli to strengthen and stimulate damaged skin, borage (a.k.a. starflower) to tackle inflammation and restore the moisture barrier, and geranium to balance and smooth. I probably don't need to tell you that the scent is incredible, but the moisturising effects also lasted more than 24 hours even with showering - I'm impressed!

I spoke with the therapist about the balms different uses and couldn't believe how many there are, hence its reputation as a 'one put wonder'. You can use the balm as a cleanser, a moisturiser, a mask treatment, a lip balm, a cuticle treatment, as a highlighter over makeup and to tame unruly brows, to name but a few!

At £38.00 per pot I was initially startled by the price-point, but can say after just a few uses at home that it's worth every penny and will last for ages. Having a product that's truly luxurious yet so versatile means I'll always find a use for it. You can purchase some for yourself here, complete with a soft muslin cloth.

*The product and treatment were provided by Neal's Yard Remedies for review purposes but all gushing opinions are totally my own.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

5 ways to bring creativity into a busy everyday life

I'm not a full time blogger, nor am I a full time writer, painter, musician, chef or any other creative profession. That said, I love to write, take pictures and create things. It can be hard to find the time when juggling a 'normal' career and home life, but I'm learning that there are ways in which creative activities can be included in each and every day no matter how busy you are.

So why be more creative? Even if you don't think of yourself as particularly artsy, finding a creative passion and devoting a small part of your day or week to it can be an amazing form of therapy. Creativity is a great outlet for stress and can have calming effects that overflow into your daily life, making you happier as well as more focused and more productive.

1. Just add colour

So this is a simple one, but I've found recently that using a pack of coloured pens in all my 'to do' lists at work and at home has been weirdly motivating. You could even try starting a bullet journal (check this post by the lovely Hannah Gale out to find out how they work) which allows you to be more creative in the way you set out your day.

2. Embrace technology

If you're artistic but don't have the space or the time to set up an easel or crafts room (who really does?) there are tonnes of apps for iPads and other tablets now that give you the freedom to paint and draw. Have a peek at the app store and whatever takes your fancy spend 15 minutes of your lunch break or commute doodling away. It's guaranteed to relax.

3. Change up your reading material

If you're the sort of person that usually reads magazines, newspapers and articles on your phone, switch it up with some genre fiction (think sci-fi, post-apocalyptic or whirlwind romance) to transport yourself to another world. There are also some great motivational books out there written by creatives that are sure to inspire. I'm excited to soon be reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear which countless people have recommended to be.

4. Choose structured creativity

Many people (myself included) have become obsessed with adult colouring books and writing prompt books lately. I recently picked up 642 Things to Write About and there are activities both long and short, I also had a copy Wreck this Journal at university that was so much fun to spend time on in between essay sessions.

5. Reduce your screen time

I know I just told you to download some apps but I suppose in the end there is one thing that's sucking up most of our free time these days, and that's the internet. If you're feeling bored, uninspired and like you can't relax then nothing beats putting away your phone and doing something you really love. You might feel like you don't have enough time to bother doing this, but using an app like Moment to track just how much time you really spend watching snapchats and scrolling through twitter might make you thing twice. Take creative ownership of your free time and stop letting the phone win.

How do you inject creativity into your everyday life? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Taking some time

This is a bit of a 'dear diary' type post, but as usual you definitely won't hear me apologising for my absence. I've been a lot less active than I planned to be on this blog and on social media for the last few weeks. I just didn't have the energy. I've had far too many sleepless nights lately, laying awake and worrying about my health, my career, finances, everything really.

I'm a natural born worrier and have struggled in the past with anxiety so my current troubles with blepharitis (you can read about my eye struggles here), a possible relocation at work and our mission to save a mortgage deposit definitely got on top of me. I cope a lot better than I used to but I'll never be great with this kind of stuff.

I've now been seen by an optician, which didn't help very much as she said my eyes just looked like I'd had an allergic reaction and sent me on my way. A week later I was back at the doctors in tears after they flared up again and I had begun struggling with the dry air and long periods in front of screens at work.

The doctor mentioned something called Sjogren's syndrome to me, which is an autoimmune disease that affects glands, and said it fit with some other medical problems I'd had in the past. I'm now awaiting a referral for more investigation.

The moment she said it I just had a gut feeling that maybe that's whats wrong with me, that my various seemingly unrelated problems over the last few years could really be down to just one thing. I began obsessively googling it and was met with some very scary articles about an increased risk of lymphoma and a lack of proper treatments. Cue minor breakdown and onslaught of extreme hypochondria.

After fretting all week and really driving myself into the ground with a lack of sleep and more obsessive googling and supplement buying I ended up where most of us end up when things get too much - at my mums house having a massive cry about it to her.

I don't feel bad about having dropped the ball recently because I know it needed to happen. I needed to hear someone say it will all be OK. I needed to step away from the internet a bit and have some 'me time' to stop myself from going crazy. At first I felt guilty, like a bit of a failure, but today having taken stock I feel so great about it.

I feel motivated to take on whatever life throws at me, so if I really do have some kind of disease, and even if my eyes never really get better, I'll deal with it. I've also noticed I don't feel half as self-conscious about not being able to wear eye-makeup very often when I steer clear of Pinterest and Instagram.

I guess the moral of this story is that you should never, ever feel bad for needing to take a break from blogging, or from any other aspect of your life. These days people juggle so many different pressures, so if you can reduce them by stepping back from something for a while then you should never question yourself. Don't compare yourself to 'perfect' internet celebrities who seem to be able to have and do it all either - online you only see the parts of peoples' lives they choose to show you.

So this is me saying that sometimes, I might duck out of the world wide web for a few days, but it doesn't mean I'm giving up or being lazy. It means I'm focusing on being my best possible honest, healthy self both online and off. I usually come back more motivated than ever!

Do you ever take time out to switch off and clear your head?


Sunday, 3 April 2016

5 places you must see in Marrakech, Morocco

It seems like this is the time of year when people catch a glimpse of the Spring sunshine, remember what it's like to experience a bit of warmth and daylight, and head straight to the travel agents or Expedia website.

Marrakech is definitely a hot destination at the moment. It's very affordable (we did our whole trip - flights, accommodation, food, the lot - for £600) and the Moroccan city is hot, vibrant, busy and beautiful. There's an awful lot to do there, so I thought I'd share our top 5 places to visit:

1. The Souks

The markets of Marrakech (known as souks) are an absolute must visit if you want to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city. When I visited we stayed just off the main market square, Jemaa el Fna, which is a central hub for both locals and tourists alike.

Don't be put off by how chaotic it seems, or be afraid to haggle for everything from spices to pottery and leather handbags. It's a maze-like market with artisan workshops at the centre and more touristy trinkets around the edges, so if you're open to getting slightly lost be sure to dive straight in.

Make sure you head back to Jemaa el Fna at night too. As you take in the beautiful sunset from one of the many cafe terraces, street food stalls begin to pop up on the ground below. Be sure to enjoy some of the skewered meat and Khobz bread, followed by deliciously sweet pastries and mint tea.

There are about 50 stalls but all serve very similar food and very similar prices and will go for the hard sell to get you to choose theirs. I'd also advise eating with your hands as they often clean cutlery in the same bucket of water all night thanks to the lack of running water on the stalls. We did and it was not only fine but totally yummy and a real experience!

2. La Jardin Majorelle

These gardens require a quick taxi ride into the new part of the city but are a true oasis compared to the hot and dusty old town. French painter Jacques Majorelle created the gardens, which then become home to designer Yves Saint Laurent until his death in 2008. The bright blues and yellows of the buildings interspersed with cool, shady greenery are honestly such a joy to behold. It felt like we'd stepped into another world. 

The gardens are also home to a museum dedicated to the ancient tribal cultures of the Atlas mountain region and a gorgeous cafe. Visit first thing in the morning for a relaxing few hours, as the bus loads of tourists that arrive before and after lunch can make things quite busy.

3. Madrasa Ben Youseff

We visited many a historic site in the 5 days that we were in Marrakech but none blew me away quite as much as the ancient religious school of Ben Youseff. Entry was incredibly cheap but the asymmetrical architecture and central courtyard complete with a clear blue pool of water are just stunning.

The mosaic work that covers the entire building is perfect and you can wonder in and out of the many rooms to your heart's content. It's also virtually next door to the Musée de Marrakech that contains some impressive works of art and is also a beautiful building, having once been a palace.

4. The tanneries

Our trip to the tanneries was somewhat involuntary, thanks to a very sneaky, pushy young man who claimed to be a guide and kind of swept us towards the leather district. Be wary of this and be sure to make your own way there as these phony 'tour guides' will demand a large sum of money in exchange for their 'help', even if you didn't want or ask for it!

Shady wheeler dealers aside a properly planned visit to the tanneries is still a sight to behold. Hides are treated and cured on the rooftops, so not only is it interesting to see how it's done but the views are ah-mazing (I'm running out of adjectives to describe just how picturesque Marrakech actually is!).

The 'exit through the gift shop' trick has also not been lost on the Moroccans, so if you find yourself in one at the end of your tannery tour and don't want to haggle for a purchase then politely but firmly decline. The prices they will try and charge you will be astronomical.

5. La Palmeraie

The very last thing we did our trip was take a camel tour through the palm groves on the outskirts of the city. The land here is flat and dry but populated by, you guessed it, a lot of palm trees. You can do all sorts of activities in the area, from walking to quad biking, and there are also golf courses dotted around, but we opted for more traditional transport. Gotta try everything once!

We went at the end of the day as a storm was brewing, which was good because it meant that the June weather wasn't so scorching, but not so good because my camel had properly had enough. He was as scary as he was fed up (I have to admit I did feel quite bad for him once I saw that) but eventually he settled into it and I think we both had a good time. The guide was interesting too and made us little origami camels out of dried leaves.

Don't forget to read this post on what I wore during our trip to help you cater your wardrobe to the climate and local customs!

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Friday, 1 April 2016

Fit Fridays: My favourite YouTube workouts

You might notice a few changes around here over the next few weeks in terms of the content I'm putting out, starting with a few serialised posts like this one! I'm declaring every first Fridayof the month a part of 'Fit Fridays', where I'll be sharing my favourite workouts, recipes, songs, gear and more in my quest to make staying healthy and active a natural part of my everyday life.

I thought I'd kick things off by sharing some of my favourite YouTube workouts. I do have a gym membership and I use it 3-4 times a week, but I also have days where it's not easy to fit going over there into my schedule or the thought of making myself presentable and scrambling for the squat rack is just too much. YouTube has hours and hours of quality workouts that you can do at home for free with minimal equipment and there's something out there for every taste, ability and lifestyle.

Kickstart your day with some yoga

I've been following Rachel Brathen, A.K.A. Yoga Girl, on Instagram since what feels like forever. Her positive outlook and genuine love for the practice of yoga inspired me to start and while I definitely can't hold a handstand I can finally touch my toes for the first time since age 9. This short routine is a restorative flow that's idea for energising and stretching out in the morning.

Take a quick 10 mins to tone your abs

Victoria's Secret runway here I come! OK, maybe not but this speedy but effective abdominal workout will leave you feeling just the right amount of sore. I've pretty much learnt it by heart and have been busting it out at the gym after a good long cardio sesh.

Get stuck in and work up a sweat

This 30 minute routine from Pop Sugar Fitness will burn some serious calories and uses a full-body range of exercises for all over results. This style of video reminds me a lot of my old favourite Jillian Michaels' DVDs as the three women demonstrate adapted moves for a wider range of ability levels - just about anyone could follow this.

Do you have any YouTube favourites for keeping fit?

© kelly anne rist

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