Wednesday, 28 January 2015

SLS and sulphate-free products on the high street

In light of our dedication to 'Healthy January', I wanted to share a bit about SLS-free products. As Kay has already mentioned, approximately 60% of the ingredients we slap onto our skin on a daily basis are absorbed into the bloodstream. And funnily enough, after a long time of wondering why the skin on my hands got so irritated, a doctor finally decided that I should try avoiding products with SLS. 

She had ruled out food allergies and nickel allergies, but within a week or two of avoiding SLS my hands got better. I’m not the fount of all knowledge on the subject, but here is a little bit about why you might want to consider avoiding SLS, especially if you have sensitive skin.

What does SLS stand for?

Sodium Laurel Sulphate (also Sodium Laureth Sulfate) is an inexpensive and widely used chemical found in many products we use on a daily basis: shower gel, toothpaste, shampoo etc.

What actually is it?

SLS is a detergent and a surfactant, so essentially it cleans and foams up to create the kind of lather we have come to expect from our shampoos, cleansers and shower gels. The more bubbles the better right?! Wrong. SLS can be highly irritating to the skin, scalp, gums and so on. It is a harsh chemical and therefore far better suited to cleaning your kitchen floor than your face. Go and compare the ingredients in your shower gel and floor cleaner and you’ll see what I mean! I wear gloves when I am cleaning to avoid the chemicals coming into contact with my skin, so why would I put unnecessary chemicals on my face?!

Won’t I miss the bubbles?!

Nope. We have been trained to think that bubbles equate to cleanliness, but as soon as you tell yourself that a product doesn’t need to lather up to clean effectively, you will get used to it and be pleased with the results. If you want bubbles stick to champagne.

How can I avoid SLS?

The good news is that because the world in general is starting to become more aware of the ingredients in food and beauty products, many manufacturers have started to create SLS-free items. In fact any brand worth its salt in terms of using high quality natural ingredients wouldn’t even consider using floor cleaner in its face washes! I have only tried a few items, but here are some SLS free products at high street prices worth a look:

Yes to Carrots/Cucumbers shower gels

My lovely sister bought these for me from Waitrose when she found out I was on the hunt for SLS-free products. They are fantastic, smell great and last a really long time! They are 95% natural, Petroleum, SLS and Paraben free and cruelty-free.
£7.99 for 500ml 
Find a UK stockist here.

L’oreal Ever Riche No Sulphates shampoo

Shampoo is a funny one to review as the results vary so much depending on your hair type. First and foremost it didn’t irritate my hands which is a bonus, and the first few times I used it the results were great. It is surprisingly thick and almost lathery for a sulphate-free product so a good first one to try. However, although my hair is thick in volume, the individual strands are quite fine and poker straight, therefore the heavier consistency started to weigh it down. My verdict? If you have dry, thick or course hair and like a very moisturising shampoo this might well be for you. If you have fine hair, give it a miss. Another point to consider; it may be sulphate-free but L'Oreal is never going to be a go-to brand for healthy, natural ingredients.
£5.99 for 200ml 

The Body Shop Rainforest Shine Shampoo

The Rainforest Shine Shampoo is free from silicones, sulphates, parabens and colourants. Instead it contains pracaxi oil, caméline seed oil and Community Trade olive oil, sugar, and aloe vera. This shampoo works much better for my hair type. It cleans it nicely and I then leave my hair in a towel until it is 80% dry before blow-drying with a large round bristle brush. The result? Very shiny hair and a happy scalp!
For other hair types they also do Volumising, Moisture and Radiance versions.
£2 for 60ml, £4.50 for 250ml 

Unlike other ingredients we have discussed this month, there is no scientific evidence linking SLS and cancer, so I'm not suggesting you throw all your shower gels in the bin! However, if you have any trouble with skin irritation, or simply want to lessen the amount of chemicals you are putting onto your body, SLS-free is something to consider. Especially when you can find good products on the high street. And if the result is shiny hair that needs washing less frequently, who's complaining?!

I haven't eliminated SLS from my skincare routine entirely but, if I am stressed and my skin is feeling sensitive, I keep well away and it certainly does the trick for me. Unfortunately there are still one or two products that contain SLS that I really like which leaves me in a bit of a quandary... 

For lots more information about SLS visit

Have you tried any good SLS-free products? We would love some recommendations!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Naked Lips? Why, yes!

Naked Lips Organic Lip Balm, £3.82 €5 

Glossybox was super useful this month. It's as if they knew we were looking for natural products in our 'Healthy January' quest! Ta muchly. 

It's 100% natural and looking at the ingredients, it's easy to see why. The flavour is 'Superfruits' and includes blueberry, acai, gojj, baobab (no, I had no clue about this one) and pomegranate. This basically means that it smells yummy and to me, it doesn't have a weird 'natural product' smell. 

It's also 97% organic, which I'm pretty sure means that I can eat it and it counts as one of my five a day. Just kidding.

However, I do seem to ingest anything that is on my lips and so knowing that it probably isn't going to do me any damage is pretty nice. 

For any Carmex lovers out there, try this. It's not quite as thick but it moisturises for a old long while and is my new favourite handbag friend. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible

This book has become my new best friend (sorry Jen, budge over). So I thought I'd share a few points as to exactly why it is so darn great.

1. It suggests natural products to use but isn't all preachy about it. Nor does it state that totally natural products are the only way forward. It deals with makeup, skin care and beyond.

2. There is a key that really helps to decipher the natural-ness of the products.

3. The information and advice shows an understanding of botanical ingredients that are effective and companies such as Origins, This Works and Liz Earle that create such products. 

4. The photography makes me happy.

5. It includes DIY beauty remedies, from teeth whitening to face masks. When I feel crafty, I shall try some of these.

6. Each product is given a daisy rating from the key and quick reviews from a range of consumers looking at performance and quality.  

7. The book is pretty. It fits in my living room. It's on display on my table. 

8. It's written by Sarah Stacey and Josephine Fairley (who co-found Green and Black's Organic Chocolate...yum) who have worked together for years, including writing for The Mail on Sunday YOU Magazine, multiple books and have an excellent website, (look at the Insider Deals section).

9. It teaches you to read labels effectively but warns people not to be paranoid. This is exactly what Jen and I think. A smidgeon of iffy ingredients probably won't have a major impact. It's about being a lot more aware and not worrying too much.

10. It's well written with useful advice that I will take on board.

The Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible is published by Kyle Books, web price £15.99 (RRP £19.99)

Monday, 19 January 2015

Balance Me – Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm

As you will know by now, we are devoting January to looking at a healthier approach to beauty. Kay wrote this post about the not-so-pleasant ingredients that can crop up in some products and, after reading it, I thought it would be a good time to review a cleanser that has been in my rotation for a while. It is a great cleanser and most importantly it is free from the kind of ingredients that many of us try and avoid.


Cleansing balm for normal to dry/sensitive skin


I received a selection of Balance Me samples at an event last year. This UK brand has won several awards and its products contain no parabens, sulphates, petroleum, mineral oils, silicones, artificial fragrances and colours, or other nasties. You can find a full ingredients list on the website which is another bonus.


Massage a small amount of the balm into your face for 30 seconds. Add water and continue massaging for a further 30 seconds, before removing any residue with a warm cloth. A cloth is provided but I prefer my usual white flannels; they are better at removing residue and I can grab a clean one every day.

If you haven't used a cleansing balm before, it might feel a little oily initially – not what you want if you are trying to avoid breakouts – but it massages beautifully into the skin and trust me, it does a great job.


This is a very effective cleanser and feels nourishing for the skin. It contains fine oat powder to smooth the skin yet I find it gentle enough to use around the eye area. I typically use it as a second cleanse and it removes any remaining, stubborn makeup effectively. It leaves your skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and ready for any serums/moisturisers, although I prefer to use a toner on a cotton pad in between, to ensure that all traces of the cleanser are removed. I love that the brand use natural ingredients and the products are great value for money.


By the time I was halfway through the 15ml sample (which lasted a surprisingly long time!) I had already ordered a full size tube. Delivery from the Balance Me website is quick, you build up discounts as you purchase, and I even received a free sample of their Radiance Face Oil. You can buy the sample sizes too, which I think is a reflection of the brand’s confidence in their products – the perfect way to try before you buy and ideal for travel.

I think that my more recent discover of Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser might just beat this one for me, but both are great cleansers and worth a look if, like us, you are paying attention to the ingredients in your products.

£20 for 125ml 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Happy Birthday, Jen!

            Clare, Me, Jen and Chloe 

Yesterday, we celebrated Jen's 30th Birthday. In true Jennifer style, her birthday outfit was short shorts (with tights..t'was chilly) and a gorgeous pair of Kurt Geiger shoes, that she, her sister Sarah and our friend Chloe went to three stores to find. Just to clarify, she was wearing a top! Please see pics above and below!

         Jen, Clare and the new shoes

After breakfast and a Selfridges shop, I met the girls at The Savoy. We wandered over to Simpson's in the Strand Knights Bar for a touch of presecco and then, back to The Savoy for a cocktail. They were the size of our heads. 

When Jen and I are out, we revert to child like behaviour because yes, at the age of thirty, we are mature enough to wedge each other in a revolving door and yes, this is always hilarious. Especially after cocktails. 

Jen's husband cooked the girls a dinner before a girly night out at 'Call Me Mr Lucky'. Fun had by all! 

Happy Birthday, Jen. Xxxx 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Craving sugar?

It's about this time, halfway through January, that resolutions to eat healthier, be healthier and everything else healthier are starting to dwindle. I mean, it's cold out. We are still waiting for a snow day (aka, a day off) and it's dark and rainy and have I mentioned that it's cold? That whole shamozzle does not help anyone to be 'healthy'. 

However, not trying to do everything at once is probably better. Cutting out anything vaguely fattening and working out three hours a day probably isn't motivating and enough to make anyone want a Dairy Milk.  If you have fallen off the wagon, do not worry. Try it again...slower. You haven't failed. You have worked out what doesn't work for you and realised that you need to alter the way that you do things. Research, if you will. 

There is one main change that I have made. I have cut out sugar from my diet. Salt is in. Bread is in. Pasta and anything else that I fancy is in. I was asked to do this by medical professionals prior to Christmas to help my good bacteria multiply. I did it to help my symptoms and at this point it wasn't to help my appearance. 

However, after a week I felt so much better. My cramp in my legs had gone, sickness had gone, bloating had gone. I was starting to be a convert to this no sugar thing. Of course, I did lose weight, which was a bonus but taking that out of the equation, I had more energy, I didn't feel jet lagged and my skin was so much better. I did not look sallow. The eyes weren't looking tired, nor red (not devil like but blood shot) and my early signs of aging seem subdued. It was a Christmas miracle! 

I have decided to continue to cut sugar out for a while longer. I want to see how my skin and innards will fair in the long term. So, for me, it's not 'Dry January' but 'Sugar Free January'. I intend to re-assess the situation in February. 

With sugar in so much of what we eat (pasta sauces, juices, crisps, dips, salad sides, dressings, ketchup, mayonnaise, mint sauce, prawn cocktail, baked beans to name but a few) label reading is the key to supermarket shopping. To be really hard core, rule out honey, brown sugar, glucose syrup, fructose, corn syrup, maple syrup, golden syrup, lactose and artifical sweeteners. 

I wouldn't have done this unless I had been requested to but I am so glad that I did. It really does make a difference to how I feel and look. My skin has not looked this bright in years and I have managed to stay up longer than 8.30pm, which means that I am no longer a social recluse. Hurrah! 

If you decide to cut sugar out or have done so already, let us know what you think. Also, if you are still craving a sweet treat try following these Instagrammers for great, clean eating recipes: @sammybfit @withpeanutbutterontop @neuroticmommy @fitness_dishes . These are my favourites for yummy snack ideas that won't leave you on a sugar high. 

Friday, 9 January 2015

I Do Not Want a Sweaty Sheep on my Face!


Beauty products can be filled with 'nasty ingredients' that cause skin irritations and link to an increased chance of developing cancerous cells. This is something I have been researching in recent months as I have had to make some changes to my diet etc. for health reasons.

To cut a long story short, my good bacteria was killed off due to taking several courses of antibiotics last year, leaving bad bacteria to rave and party it up. To help with strength and stamina, I decided to cut out sugar and yeast based food. Uhhhh, it was dull, but worth it when I started feeling better after just one week. That had a knock on effect and I started doing some general health research. Hence, this is all fairly new to me but I am paying far more attention to what is in the stuff I eat and slap onto my face and body.

Before I begin, it's important to mention that although it is good to aware of these issues, this post is not designed to encourage paranoia. Using a small amount of the so-called 'questionable' ingredients that I am about to discuss probably isn't the end of the world, but it is certainly a good thing to be aware of what is in the products that we use. Especially when 60% of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our blood streams. To me, that's quite a high percentage.

So, which are the less than favourable ingredients?
Petroleum, carcinogenics and parabens.

Why are they used?
They are used as fillers, to bulk the product and to preserve the shelf life, which tends to be seven years. That seems a tad long to me. 

Which beauty products contain them?
Multiple brands use them, so it is worth checking the labels. (I have actually stopped using Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream because it contains mineral oil. It's not necessarily harmful but it doesn't react too well on my skin).



Parabens: There are several names that all apply, the clue is to look for the paraben bit in the name. It is used to preserve a product, however, it mimics the oestrogen hormone, which has been linked to breast cancer tumours. Parabens have been found in multiple cancerous tumours. 

Talc: Advice to all you dry shampooers – do not breath it in! The talc is a carcinogenic. Carcinogenic = causing cancer in living tissue. 

Mineral Oil: It's the top bit of petroleum when it is distilled. It's scooped off (I'm pretty sure that is not the correct term). It is difficult to get rid of and so, is sold to cosmetics companies as a filler. It clogs pores and causes skin reactions, acne and can emphasise signs of ageing. It's used in baby oil and having done some research, there seems to be some controversial issues starting to arise. The other school of thinking is that it is ok to use mineral oil in cleansers, but only if they are ones that you wash off immediately. It's definitely not a product that you want to leave on your skin.

Petroleum: It does not allow the skin to breath and absorb oxygen into the blood stream, potentially resulting in premature ageing. Also linked to tumours, acne and breast cancer. 

Animal bi-products: Imagine this if you will... everything that humans will not eat from an animal is put into grinders. This is alongside road kill and animals from shelters that have not been adopted. Horrid. The remains are steamed and cooked. The fatty material on the top is refined and used as a cosmetic filler. A quarter is fecal matter. Now, I know that there has been a surge of unique facials using bird dropping masks but at least with that you have made the conscious decision to have poop put onto your face. 

Lanolin: I would really prefer sheep kept their own sweat to themselves. This is from wool and is a sheep's perspiration. It can cause skin irritations and poisonous if ingested. Quite frankly, it makes me feel a little queasy.  

With that being said, it would seem natural products are the way forward. However, organic/natural/botanical products are probably better for us but can cause havoc with the skin. Breakouts, acne, redness, as the skin struggles to break down the natural ingredients.
So, if I'm honest, I have been trying to find a happy medium. Products that are have fewer fillers etc. but will actually show results and will not leave my skin looking lumpy and bumpy.  

My happy mediums include: 
Coconut oil Good for you and reminds me of cocktails
Liz Earle products Thumbs up!
Ole Henriksen I use the Truth Creme and serum
Yu-be Moisturising Skin Cream
REN The Omega 3 Optimum Skin Oil serum is excellent and has a clean skincare certification

Do you have any suggestions for products we should try? Please let us know! 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Healthy January 2015!

Let's face it, New Year's resolutions nearly always involve health in some form or another. I was having a conversation with my brother-in-law and he said that it's shame that resolutions aren't more fun. Rarely you will hear someone saying, 'I shall smoke more and drink myself into oblivion!'

With that in mind, Jen and I have stepped away from the alcoholic beverages (for now) and have been looking at beauty products and their ingredients, to find out whether they are really as good for our skin as we would like. Actually to be honest, this happened at the start of December but seemed more appropriate to discuss it all now.

However, do not fear, it will not be boring (or rather, we shall attempt not to be) nor it will represent everything that's beige and lifeless, which is so often the way when discussing all things 'healthy'. We aim to be informative and fun....sparkly beige organic skincare boring snoring posts. 

That being said, here's to a healthy, happy 2015.