Sunday, 13 September 2015

App of the Month: Bunny Free

This month's app is a handy tool for any of you that are thinking about going, or already shop cruelty-free. Last month I wrote a post all about Cruelty-Free and Vegan products; what they are, why you should switch and all the other information I could think to throw at you at the time. If you haven't already you can go back and read that here.

Name: Bunny Free
Price: Free
Available on: Android & Apple
Category: Lifestyle 

Bunny Free is PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) shopping guide, to sum it up in one line. This app allows you to search companies and their products to check if they're cruelty free and, if you fancy it, have a quick read of their basic animal testing policies. So, basically, you now have a pretty easy way to check if the products and brands you currently use or have on your wishlists are cruelty-free and to what extent. I have my fingers crossed for you and your favourite lipstick/eyeliner!  

A pretty handy little feature is the ability to scan products on the go.  Simply select scan and use your phone's camera  to lookup the bar-code of an item and you'll be taken straight to a summary of the company's details and its cruelty-free status. Simples!

Only issues is, and it's not too big a deal really, this is a US app so sometimes bar-codes might not register to the right item if you're in the UK, like me, or anywhere else that isn't America, quite a few of us I imagine.  This again means that you can occasionally run into a little trouble trying to find smaller or UK only brands but what with America trying to take over the world and all, or it's cosmetic industry at least, I assure you that you can find the majority of products and companies. Bigger companies have headquarters across the pond anyway so there'll be no issue with looking up Mac, Urban Decay, Benefit etc. 

Despite it's occasional grievances, as I am yet to stumble upon a UK or Europe specific version, Bunny Free is still a gem when is comes to time saving on research. It's database is updated regularly so you can be confident that it's giving you the correct policies as well, phew! No to mention that it has a cutie of an icon to prettify your homepage too!

If you enjoyed this post you might like to have a read of last month's App of the Month: UNICEF Tap Project or my post on Cruelty-Free vs. Vegan

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Disclaimer: All images are screenshots taken with my iPhone 5c.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Newest Trend of Detox and Teeth Whitening: Oil Pulling

Image Credit: Bella Life
There's a big thing going on with detoxing nowadays and I, like the rest of you I'm sure, am constantly bombarded with adverts and promotions for the best new teas, juices and diets. All these things are supposed to give our bodies an 'apparently' much needed detox. These types of fads aren't new and tend to resurface every couple of years or so. I'm afraid I simply just don't 'get' the majority of them and if I'm honest I don't understand the appeal of any of it either. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending what way you want to look at it, I don't think anything will ever cure my pessimistic approach to 'quick fixes' for anything, let alone health. Although that being said the refreshed momentum behind a new phase of Oil Pulling has caught my interest.

By now I'm sure the majority of the western world is familiar with the idea of oil-pulling, but if you're not don't worry I'll catch you up! Coco White is the leading brand behind this new beauty/health regime, their website and social media is full of celebrities showing off their pearly whites while waving the acclaimed Coco White products in our faces. But without the time or finances to support regular trips to professional teeth whiteners, is oil pulling the next best thing for  us mere mortals?

Image Credit: CocoWhite's Instagram
Personally I refuse to believe that Katie Price or any of the other stars pictured left owe their dazzling smiles to nothing other than Coco White. However Gwyneth Paltrow was has been rumoured to have followed oil pulling as part of her daily routine for years - but are we convinced? Besides what does oil pulling really do, how does it even work and do we really need to add it to our monthly ever-growing expenses by investing in Coco White's products? (Also why should we be paying out to a company for a supposedly natural method?) I hear the clogs in your brains starting to turn, just as mine did when I first began pondering these questions. But fear not, for I have answers!

First of all, what is this mystical 'oil pulling' I speak of, and where did the idea come from. Oil pulling actually originated around 3'000 years ago as an ancient ritual of Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems from India. (This was a way of life that focused on nurturing and maintaining the delicate balance between mind, body and soul.) The benefits of this process vary depending on who you ask, it's seriously anything from curing pretty much any ailment to simply improving oral hygiene. The most common talked about benefits are:
  • Whitened teeth
  • Freeing up the immune system
  • Reduced stress
  • Aided hormonal changes
  • Reduced headaches or migraines
  • Clear Skin
  • Improved oral health
  • Increased energy
  • Relief from gum and tooth sensitivity
  • Weight Loss
That's a pretty awesome list, huh? See why I was so keen to find out more!?

A question that I can't answer is; if oil pulling has been around for so long why haven't more studies been conducted by the appropriate organisations? All I can say is there simply haven't, so until larger scale studies and more research is done into the whole thing, oil pulling will remain an unaccredited form of detox or teeth whitening. But, and it's a good but, while there may be not hardcore evidence for oil pulling there is nothing at all against it.  On the contrary, the only credible (by that I mean scientific or medical by people who know what they're talking about, not just something written by anyone's crazy old aunt) published articles on the topic are all positive and there is an ever-growing number of people that swear by the thing.

After reading a few articles on oil-pulling I decided to bring up the subject to my doctor and dentist, I do like a balanced view and thought getting both a dental and medical opinion would be interesting. They both responded with something along the lines of give it a go! Each of their knowledge on the topic, which did concur with everything I had previously read, provided them with the opinion that there were absolutely no risks or reasons to not oil pull (providing you do it properly - more detail on that coming up!). Although both of them didn't think I'd get any result other than slightly whiter teeth; being very skeptical of the detoxifying properties of such a routine - which I happen to be myself so who can blame 'em? But if at the least doing nothing other than swishing a bit of oil around my mouth regularly can give me brighter, whiter teeth and at the most give me all the benefits I previously listed, surely I'd be mad to not try it!

But I won't get ahead of myself, because I have yet to explain how exactly it's supposed to all work. Don't worry, I'm not about to lose or confuse you with loads of scientific jargon as the principle behind oil pulling is a simple one. Phew! Basically the mouth, that's yours, mine, your neighbour's brother-in-law's it makes no difference, is home to millions of bacteria, viruses and toxins. Yum! But then again, I guess that's not too surprising considering what we can do with our mouths in a day. (Keep your mind out the gutter.) Anyway, moving on, these microorganisms that I speak of are pretty much always single celled. Now if you didn't know, or just can't remember what you learnt about back in the days of secondary school biology, cells are covered with a lipid (fatty) membrane which kinda acts as the cell's skin. Fatty substances like fatty substances, so these cells naturally adhere to the fat present in the oil, it's effectively a magnet. Hence the presence of the word 'pulling' in the term which comes from the act of drawing or 'pulling' out these toxins by swishing the oil around the mouth and sucking through the teeth. The idea of detox comes from the belief that by drawing your toxins out in this way it stops them from spreading around the rest of the body.

So where do we sign up? That's the thing despite what Coco White would have you believe you don't have to sign up anywhere, it's just as simple as getting hold of any extra virgin vegetable oil. 'Extra virgin' simply means that the oil is made from the first pressing of the highest quality sources and has not been muddled with so you have 100% natural oil with all its goodness. As for the oil you can take your pick; coconut, sesame, olive or sunflower! Coconut oil seems to be the most popular by far, and there are reasons for this which will feature in my next post (got to give you a reason to come back!). Oil pulling is therefore a very cheap form of teeth whitening or detox - whichever way you want to go about it! Depending which oil you wish to use and the quantity/quality you buy the cost can vary between approximately £5 to £15. Coco White charges £19.99 for a 2 week course, that's quite steep considering the average £15 spend in Holland and Barrett with provide you with approximately a month's worth of coconut oil.

So what do you get from Coco White for you money? The answer depends on your personal view. Coco White offers you cutely individually packaged sachets of flavoured oil. Well I assume it's coconut oil, but all the website says is that their products are 100% natural and preservative free. Therefore it's completely up to you to decide whether a bit of flavouring and some adorable packaging is worth the cost, for me it's just not. I can't help but feel resentment towards a company that's making money off of people's ignorance.

If you want to try oil pulling for yourself,  I'll have another post coming up shortly about my experiences and how to go about it all or if you can't wait for that then a simple google search should give you all the information you need!

All the best,


(Have a read of my experiences with Oil Pulling here!)

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Who wants to go Reading anyway?

Well I do, for one, as do all the people that saved up to buy their tickets and the big bunch of us left at home I'm sure. I have to say I have been incredibly jealous of all festival goers this year and have had to avoid social media over the weekends of Heavy Fest, Download, Boom Town, Green Gathering and now, last but not least, Reading. Green has never suited me, but I can't stop myself from having to fight that monster off when it comes seeing so many people getting to do so many things with their summers! Although I shouldn't really complain, this summer was the most active I've ever had! While usually June, July and most of August just flash past without me doing anything notable this year I went on my first independent holiday (Ibiza), got to go to my first ever festival (Somersault) as well as going to Lanzarote with my family. To be honest the whole thing exhausted me, and more importantly my bank account! How do they all manage to do it every year?

Anyway the point of this post is to be happy (or at least content) with what we have and to prove that you don't need to spend crazy amounts or hit every single festival and Greek/Spanish island to make your summer count. This bank holiday weekend while avoiding social media and all the news/photos of Reading I took time out for what really matters, peace of mind. It's the second to last weekend before I move back to university so instead of spending it away I took extra care to pamper myself and spend time around the people I'll be missing over the next 9 to 10 months. Family matters, don't get me wrong, but looking after yourself and giving yourself space from things is really important. I did my best to get the balance right over the long weekend and I think I cracked it!

Friday 28th 
My First Massage
I haven't had a job this summer as I've had other commitments over the last few months so my entire weekend was free. No job does by no means that I have any more free time though and definitely doesn't mean any less stress! So I took the rare opportunity and started the weekend with some pampering, my first ever massage! Massage is something I've been interested in for a while as I do suffer with back difficulties due to having osteopenia (a less severe form of osteporosis).  It's taken me a while to find a place I felt comfortable going to as I can be pretty picky about the products places use, whether they're cruelty-free or not, and the people that work there. There are millions of salons, spas and/or hairdressers around where I live but a lot of them can be quite expensive and are more likely to cater to the tourists down on their holidays and not provide what I was really looking for. At last I found Serenity Body and Beauty Salon which is only a 20 minute walk from my house, is not in the middle of town with no one I know working there and only uses CCF approved products. (If you're confused about what that means have a read of my post 'Cruelty Free vs. Vegan') Sounds perfect, huh?!

Well to be honest it was. I've had Bowen Technique before (something I plan to do a post on in the near future) as part of therapy for my medical conditions but still always feel really uncomfortable stripping off! Even if it's only down to my underwear and I'm covered by towels and blankets, I'm just a bit of a prude I guess. Anyway despite my nerves I was put to ease as soon as I walked in! The receptionist was lovely and the lady I was going to be seeing was sat in the area waiting for me (I turned up 10 minutes early) as she knew I was a new customer.

After filling in the typical new client slip she lead me into a back room, told me where to put down my things and sat down with me going through how it worked and what she usually did, double checking that I felt comfortable with everything, not that there was anything out of the ordinary. So once she left the room I got undressed (keeping on my bra and pants) and slipped between the two towels on the massage bed. She knocked and waited for an answer before coming back in, and preceded to start the process - putting a warm wheat bag on my back to loosen the muscles and then massaging with warm oil. I had only asked for a half an hour session what with it being my first one, which consisted of a 20 minute deep back, shoulders and neck massage followed by a 10 minute 'wishy washy' kind of massage.

Simple sum up? It was lush! I wanted it to go on forever, and I had none of the usual tenderness in my back when it's touched. When the half an hour was over I was ready to fall straight asleep, in fact I'm sure if it wasn't for nerves I probably would have! Jane, the lady I saw, slipped out the room and returned with a glass of water quietly before leaving again - before starting I was told I could take as much time as I liked afterwards to rest/drift off/relax before getting up, having a drink and redressing.  It was all really laid back and casual, I felt so comfortable about it all and the cost, only £25!? Afterwards I carried on my pampering by treating myself to a berry flapjack and coffee from my favourite cafĂ© before getting on with the days to-do list.

Family Dinner
That evening it was decided we'd go out for a family meal. My sister works pretty much full time and is starting university this year, I'll shortly be going back and my mom, well she's as busy as the pair of us. So it's always nice when we can all set aside that bit of time for family bonding! We're a pretty close-knit trio but obviously life can get in the way of what's important some times and I swear family time is the easiest thing in the world to put off or cancel on because of other things. Or maybe that's just us, but either way we're always very understanding of each others commitments even when sometimes maybe we shouldn't be. Anyway although we always spend time with each other in turn, recently we haven't really managed to all get together at the same time. Weird considering we all live in the same house, huh?

Image Credit: Terrace Tapas Bar's Facebook Page
Anyway to have a change we decided to go out to a new tapas restaurant in a close by town. Being lucky with the weather and it happening to be a rather warm night, we got to dine outside! I have to say it felt like I was on holiday abroad somewhere which was really lovely. The vibe was totally relaxed and the food was AMAZINGG.A weekend of firsts as I've never actually had tapas before, believe it or not. I have no idea why! There was a extensive selection of veggie dishes to try and I was all to happy to dig in and stuff my face!

After such a big meal... I think it was 9 dishes we had in total and our appetite for Spanish cuisine spared nothing! So after demolishing all that a walk was in order. We had a stroll around the town streets which was lovely. I haven't visited Ilfracombe for a year at least, and it's been over three since I had a proper walk around. It was one of those evenings when it just kinda dawned on me how lucky I am. I live in such a beautiful area and do forget to make the most of it. I'll be going back to Cardiff in just over a week and always miss living on the coast when I'm there, so why am I not making the most of my time here!?

Saturday 29th
I spent my Saturday morning meeting up with my best guy friend, getting breakfast and treating ourselves with the last of the month's paychecks. It was just the typical Saturday scenario.

Burning Down Trumpton Town
Saturday evening another family outing was in order. The Torrington Cavaliers raise money for several local and nationwide charities through a variety of fundraising events, most well-known are its massive bonfires! This year they decided to make a life-size replica of Trumpton town, the setting of a well-known children's show that came into being in the late 1960s. 


Image Credit: Andy Davey Photography

Image Credit: Andy Davey Photography

This structure took 18 months to build and on Saturday night we got to watch it be burned to the ground! It was another day where we got lucky with the weather and got to see an amazing display. I'm afraid I have quite the fascination with fire and go crazy for fireworks so I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the evening! It was so lovely to do something different that I thoroughly enjoy, whilst also spending time with the fam and knowing I was donating to some great causes.

Sunday 30th
Lazy Day
Sunday was a day that I took to myself. I wanted to sleep, and just be lazy. I suffer with ME along with other medical conditions so doing a lot over the last few days, a lot for me anyway, kinda drained me. I took the day out to look after me, self-care can never be underestimated!

Cake and Wolves
By the late afternoon I felt much more energised and went out to visit some family friends. It was a great relaxing, casual catch up which included cake, coffee and cuddles with two beautiful sammys! Spending more time with people important with me was great and it was the perfect end to a very chilled day - plus my skin loved the day off from make up.

So overall I had a really wonderful weekend, with yesterday (Monday 31st) being day of movies and relaxation with two more of my favourites. I feel all relaxed and ready to go back to the day to day life struggles. Obviously I'm sure that Reading would have been an amazing experience and seeing all my favourite bands would have been unforgettable but at the end of the day my weekend was great! I spent time in the places that mean a lot to me and with the most important people I have in my life as well as looking after myself. What could be better?!