Happy Organic September! 

organic beauty week 2016

organic beauty week 2016 Every September the Soil Association celebrates going organic – for food, fashion, health, beauty, even holidays – and 19th September is officially the start of Organic Beauty Week, where we get to big up brilliant brands doing great things with natural ingredients and better farming methods (organic produce is grown with no synthetic fertilisers and lower levels of pesticides, which is better for farmers, the soil, the environment, the end product and ultimately our health).

Supporting organic is a no brainer – according the World Health Organisation, over 350,000 unintentional deaths occur each year, mainly in developing countries as a result of pesticide use. Closer to home in the EU, two thirds of all antibiotics are used on livestock (contributing to serious bacteria resistance) but under Soil Association certification routine use of antibiotics wouldn’t be allowed. Check out the Soil Association’s Save our Antibiotics campaign here.

In beauty, the focus is on labelling. Next time you need to buy a new moisturiser or change up a skin or bath product, instead of turning to any pretty packaging with a leaf or floral print, look for a certified label instead. This proves the brand has been regulated and accredited with rigorous scrutiny across the whole of its supply chain to prove every element is as sustainable as possible – accrediting bodies like Soil Association really put brands through their paces so that stamp is well earned!

organic-beauty-week-soil-association-2016-postcard
What being certified means….

So #lookforthelogo or check out the Soil Association certified organic beauty brands and find your favourites or try something new.
organic-beauty-week-soil-association-2016

My beauty recommendations? I featured a few of my favourites in September issue Health & Fitness magazine so check out Botanicals facial oils, Neal’s Yard Remedies new oil-free hydrating serum, Pai moisturisers and Odylique’s new sunscreen.

organic beauty week 2016 health & fitness magazine

 

Let me know what you’ve tried and loved. Happy organic September!

 

Stocking filler #2 Tea

tick-tock-lemon-ginger-honey-tea

Tea, glorious tea…

It’s definitely having a bit of a moment in the limelight and it’s my recommended choice for a perfect Christmas gift this year.

Boutique, loose leaf brews with the fancy combinations are catching my eyes everywhere and supermarket tea isles have suddenly expanded packing in new brands, more varieties and prettier boxes than ever before. Even traditional brands such as Twinnings seem to have upped their game.

As a gift, secret santa or just to try for yourself, I’ve picked a few new discoveries. Alternatively why not go for an experience and take a friend/lover/mum/dad/cousin/neighbour/mutual-Christmas-hater (see Christmas rant for more on that) to a tea house in town (sorry for the London-centric ideas):

Amanzi Tea has just opened in central London (just off Marylebone High Street) offering an impressively large variety of teas for all tastes. 40 blends to be precise. It’s like the Harrods for tea I guess. I’m due a visit soon so will be back with more info on that.

Also check out Camellia’s Tea House on Kingly Court in Soho, which I recently discovered (thank you Mark Smith), which serves traditional afternoon teas in a quaint setting.

If you’re enjoying a brew at home, time to put the kettle on…

tick-tock-lemon-ginger-honey-tea1. Tick Tock Rooibos Honey, Lemon and Ginger – a new brew for winter with a warming combination. If you like a kick of ginger this doesn’t fall short and the honey and rooibos give it a mellow edge. It’s gone down a storm in the BeautyMART office and I just about caught the last tea bag today – the rapidly empty box said it all. £1.99 at ticktocktea.com.

Eco credentials? Tick Tock supports the British Bee Keeper’s Association for bee health research; no GM crops, no additives and no chlorine-bleached tea bags; they also trade fairly and work with South African Rooibos Council to protect region’s agriculture.

2. Neal’s Yard Remedies New Organic Teas – a new collection of organic teas coming in eight varieties. The Vitality is my favourite with Siberian Ginseng, thyme and liquorice for a unique and uplifting brew.

Neal's Yard Remedies Vitality Tea great stocking filler on Brighter Shade of  Green

Just noticed NYR also has a glass mug with built-in diffuser which makes a great gift for loose tea lovers, like me. £2.99, nealsyardremedies.com

Eco credentials? 100% organic and Soil Association certified.

3. Camellia’s Handmade Herbal Infusion (not a press sample)

I discovered Camellia’s Beautiful Skin Tea on a visit to Nirvana Spa in Reading with Germaine de Cappucini and bought a box as I was instantly impressed by the interesting combination (dandelion and chickweed) and the way it was wrapped up in natural cloth and hand tied. Too cute.

Eco credentials: Can’t find any info on the website about where the tea is sourced etc but there is some mention of things being handmade in small batches.

4. Choi Time Teas

choi time tea flask with jasmine flower
Jasmine flower unfurling in the flask…

Last but certainly not least it’s Choi Time – a Chinese heritage tea brand, whose founder Melissa Choi is seriously passionate about the benefits of green tea and rose tea in particular. I discovered Choi Time several years ago and was luckily reintroduced to it recently.  The jasmine flower teas which open up as they brew make a visually impressive brew and all the teas are packaged in gorgeous boxes so they make excellent gifts as they are.

Another thing to check out is the Tea Flask, which Choi Time kindly sent me recently and I absolutely love, it’s a staple in my day. This 750ml flask has a compartment for lose tea leaves at the top and a built-in diffuser so you just top it up with hot water throughout the day and tip it upside down to brew. It’s the most convenient way of drinking lots of green tea, great for keeping skin glowing.

Eco credentials: Sourced personally by Melissa and directly from growers in China, who are connected to her family there. No conglomerates, no unfair trading.

So there we have it – tea is my recommended choice for alternative Christmas giving this year. It has an every day use, it’s good for you, delicious and is not a gift that will clog up your loved one’s life with unnecessary stuff!

Stocking filler #1 Organic Wipes

mendill organic lavender wipes brightershadeofgreen

mendill organic lavender wipes brightershadeofgreen

Admittedly, not a very sexy sounding Christmas present but if you’re into new eco beauty and if you’re off on festive travels, stick with me.

Plastic ingredients in skincare is kind of uncool. Traditional wet wipes use plastic resins like polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene which don’t break down easily in landfill but they’re cheaper than using a woven fabric such as cotton.

Having said that, you can get your hands on wipes that don’t go down the faux cotton route and don’t use silicones and mineral oils (to make the product feel soft), preservatives (to keep them bacteria-free) and mild detergents. There are alternative ways and natural ingredients that do a great job too.

I tried and loved Neal’s Yard Remedies Facial Wipes, (£5.50) which are 100% organic cotton, soaked in aloe vera and white tea. A few more pennies than your usual supermarket fare but hey, you’re getting 100% organic cotton. Super soft on skin and very hydrating. Can’t recommend them enough for face cleansing as well as travel.

A new kid on the block is Mendill, a brand recently picked up by BeautyMART. Individually wrapped towelettes made from 100% organic cotton, soaked in 100% organic essential oils and sans parabens, preservatives or synthetic fragrances. I’m hoping the little plastic wraps are recyclable / biodegradeable.

 

Five varieties and five uplifting scents with antibacterial and antiseptic properties. A joy to use as the scent keeps on giving. Apart from cleansing hands, wiping a runny nose, deodorising armpits and removing make-up, you can also use one in the tumble dryer to scent linen – if I had a tumble dryer I’d certainly be trying that one.

Each box contains 20 sachets (£10) so you can pop a few in a stocking or gift the whole box for a whole season of on-the-go hygiene and care. Available in lavender and eucalyptus from BeautyMART or other flavours from LoveLula.

EU bans bee-killing pesticides…But is it all good news?

EU bans neonicotinoids bees news

In case you missed it, the big environmental news this week was the EU banning three types of bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees from further decline. A victory for bees! But will it mean the rosy future everyone expects?

Environmental groups have been campaigning for years to promote bee-friendly activities and farming – you may have seen Friends of the Earth Bee Cause campaign, Neal’s Yard Remedies with Bee Lovely Campaign and Melvita supported bee campaigns through its Melvita Foundation. Even fashion designers Katherine Hamnett and Dame Vivienne Westwood took to the streets to protest this week.

The good news is that the EU implemented a two-year continent-wide restriction (starting 1st December 2013) on the use of three types of neonicontinoids, the super-strength strain of pesticides linked to the dramatic decline in bee populations. This temporary ban should give bee populations a chance to recover and buy scientists more time to investigate the problem.

Sounds like great news doesn’t it, however, I looked a little more closely at the counter-argument and the potential situation bees might face as a result and it could be quite worrying.

It’s been well reported that the UK did not support the ban as our Environment Minister Owen Paterson felt the evidence was incomplete and that a ban could have detrimental effects on farmers and food production costs.

There’s been strong lobbying against the ban from farming groups and pesticide manufacturers (of course!) for several years despite over 30 separate scientific studies showing the link between neonicotinoids on insects’ nerve endings and falling bee numbers.

Then Farmer’s Weekly report this week said farmers will face a ‘catastrophic blow’ from the ban and will potentially resort to older forms of pesticides ‘with potentially worse environmental impact for bees.

“We now expect farmers to use products such as pyrethroids that we know are hazardous to bees,” said Tim Lovett, of  British Beekeepers Association. So far, not good.

The National Farmer’s Union said: “Banning neonicotinoids will put pressure on agrochemical businesses to develop a treatment which will have the same effects.” That sounds pretty worrying to me.

Now I’m no farmer or environmental expert so it’s difficult to tell the level of scaremongering going on from each side – the farming industry is warning us bees will not be better off with the alternatives farmers will be forced to use and predicting dire consequences for all.

I understand farmers have to keep yields high and keep virus-carrying aphids and beetles away from crops; after all their livelihoods depend on supplying pretty perfect vegetables for supermarkets to stock our shelves with. But instead of throwing more chemicals at the problem why don’t they try to come up with alternative solutions?? If it’s not one strain of pesticide, it’s another more harmful one…

From the little I’ve read and learnt from organic farming pioneers such as Neal’s Yard Remedies and Weleda, which adopts biodynamic farming methods, I believe crop-rotation, growing nitrogen-balancing crops and using manure to improve soil are just a few of the many strategies for pesticide-free farming.

Organisations such as PAN (Pesticide Action Network) work across 90 countries to ‘replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.’ Some years ago PAN and Friends of the Earth wrote Breaking the Pesticide Chain which detailed how to adopt an organic, biodynamic, permaculture approach to farming.

The main goal is not how to replace specific pesticides but how to redesign agricultural cropping systems.’ 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if farming groups around the world adopted even just a few pesticide-free approaches? Chemical companies wouldn’t be so powerful and we’d all have clean food to eat. What a dream!  Is this just an utopian view on how to solve the problem? No. That’s why organic, bio-dynamic and permaculture farming exists and that’s why we should support it because the bigger the movement grows the more conventional farmers will take notice and see it as a viable alternative that works.

A few facts…

Neonicotinoids have been used by the farming industry for the last 20 years but for the past ten years bee-keepers have noticed a massive decline in honeybee and bumblebees which has incredibly serious consequences on world pollination and food supplies.

Scientists who have studied neonicotinoids in the UK and France said they found evidence bees become disorientated by the chemicals which then prevents them from finding their way back to hives. This then causes colony collapse disorder. However there are other factors that are known to contribute to declining bee populations and these include loss of habitat, nutrition, the varroa mite reduced immune system defences to parasites and increased exposure to pesticides.

Read more on both sides of the argument:

Farmer’s Guardian on Mixed Reactions to EU neonicotinoid ban and NYR Natural News.

What do you think???

Stress-busting aromatherapy and massage

NYR aromatherapy massage course emma robertson

NYR massage aromatherapy course

Did you know the quality of an aromatherapy oil is affected by the quality of the soil and where/how the plant is sourced? Did you also know rose oil was once used as a hangover cure as well as a way to heal a broken heart? And, in addition to relaxation and sleep, essential oil of lavender can also soothe and heal cuts, bites and burns.

I soaked up these fantastic facts and more at the Neal’s Yard Remedies Introduction to Massage course which I was lucky enough to attend last weekend. With it being National Stress Awareness Day last week, alleviating stress was the focus of the day.

I highly recommend this one day course that runs twice a year, especially if you’re excited by the therapeutic benefits of essential oils and wish you could get more massage into your life. Led by Neal’s Yard Remedies Head of Massage, Elaine Tomkins, it’s relaxed and informative with oil blending in the morning and basic hand, neck, back and head massage techniques in the afternoon. Take a partner you like or love and you’ll have a giggle too.

Here I am with beauty freelancer Emma Robertson attempting to give a relaxing head massage but judging by the look on her face I could be causing more pain than pleasure!

NYR aromatherapy massage course emma robertson

How to cure stress with essential oils and aromatherapy:

Rose – it’s one of the most healing (for skin) and anxiety-relieving oils you can choose. Just a few drops with water in an oil burner can calm the mind and prepare it for sleep. My rose oil is burning now as I write…

NYR aromatherapy rose oil burner

It takes 60-100 rose petals to make just one drop of rose essential oil – this fact always makes me wonder how sustainable it is to produce natural rose oil, which is why it’s important to buy from brands that grow organically and show a commitment to the livelihood of growers and farm workers.

Neal’s Yard Remedies has a history of building impressive relationships with its raw materials suppliers and works with a cooperative in southern Turkey for its rose extracts, using organic farming methods and ensuring fair living wages.

Bergamot –  this oil is extracted from the rind of a small (inedible) pear-shaped fruit from a tiny citrus tree (commercially grown in Italy). Bergamot is apparently great with gin (I’ll be trying this) as well as being the distinctive flavour in Earl Grey tea. The scent is uplifting and refreshing with a subtle spikiness.  Blend it with rose in a burner to help soothe nervous anxiety, create a harmonising massage oil or mix it with two drops of lavender for an uplifting bath oil. Along with rose, this was one of my favourites we sniffed.

Frankincense – this ancient oil has been used for religious ceremonies for thousands of years and might remind you of wintery, festive seasons. Its earthy, warm aura feels slightly uplifting and if you blend it with black pepper or citrus oils feels even more powerful. Interestingly, it enhances deep breathing making it great for meditation.

Clary Sage – from these five essential oils we smelled this was my least favourite. The strong muskiness didn’t agree with me at all, however, once blended with bergamot and rose it was far more attractive. This oil is said to help lighten a heavy state of mind, sadness, fatigue or fear. That’s sold it to me.

Holeaf – tipped by our trainer, Elaine as the next oil-to-watch, she predicts more beauty and fragrance brands will be using holeaf to lift their products to life over the next five years. Extracted from a Chinese evergreen tree (the wood of this same tree produces Camphor oil), it can enliven a low mood and low libido. Also good as a post-exercise massage oil to relieve fatigued muscles. Or add to your bath to help with flu, coughs or colds – perfect for this time of year.

If like me you’re fascinated by essential oils and desperate to get some of this vapour energy into your heart, body and mind then here are a few ways Elaine described to drip, pour, mix and burn oils for emotional and physical wellbeing…

1. Burn a few drops with water – inhaling the vapours can have a great effect on mood and emotions.

2. Use as a bath oil – apparently best mixed with full-fat milk to disperse into water more easily or mix with Epsom salts.

3. Apply neat to skin  – please note, not all oils are safe to do this with.

4. Blend with a carrier oil – such as almond or jojoba for a therapeutic massage/body oil.

5. Add to floral water – try orange flower or rose water to make a refreshing facial toner.

6. Combine with unperfumed moisturiser – to nourish and enhance skin.

7. Add a few drops to hot or cold water – to make a healing compress.

…and a few I found searching online which I might try too:

8. Mix 3-5 drops of essential oil to unscented clothes detergent.

9. Mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water in a spray bottle for an oil-purpose household cleaner. (I love this one as I absolutely loathe all the chemical cleaning sprays everyone buys).

10. Soak a cotton ball with patchouli and/or lavender and place in closets to keep moths away from clothes – I’m definitely going to be trying this one as I’m so paranoid about moths eating my clothes.

So there we have it, a very long post about amazing essential oils! I’m off to buy a life-enhancing wardrobe of essential oils, so please pass on any tips you might have too, would love to hear them…

Find out more about Neal’s Yard Remedies courses here. 

The perfect post-election eye

Tonight I’m up late watching the US elections (terrified we’ll wake up with Romney-red all over our screens) so I expect tomorrow will be a good make-up day to conceal my tiredness (or my tears if he wins).


A good make-up day means my absolutely preferred look which is eyeliner rimmed lightly around the outer edge of eyes with a darker shadow blended on top for extra holding power and a slightly misty look.
The new Neal’s Yard Remedies Eyeshadow Brush, which the Brit-beauty brand launched earlier this year as part of its make-up collection expansion, is my favourite tool for this. With UNE Sfumato Eye Shadow in S27 – an intense navy shade, which I recently discovered and really loved.


I love this NYR eyeshadow brush because it’s firm and flat but not too long or wide so control is easy. It blends the shadow into your eye line without any dusty fallout. It can also create a clean, precise flick – simply by moistening the brush, patting it into shadow and following the eye’s line from end to end.

With this eyeshadow the end result is a bit ‘smoky’ without looking too made up and without any harsh lines. I honestly can’t do my eye make-up without this brush and shadow now!
 
Eco credentials?
Neal’s Yard Remedies Eyeshadow Brush – totally animal-free with bristles made from synthetic fibres and handles made from environmentally-friendly bamboo which is biodegradable and sustainably sourced.
UNE Sfumato Eye Shadow – a mineral shadow, talc-free, contains 12.6% organic ingredients and 99.5% natural. Vegetarian. Not tested on animals. I believe this brand is part of Bourjois and sold at Boots but I’ve linked to Naturisimo. LoveLula also sells UNE but not this particular eye shadow. The packaging is a bit clunky but the concealers are also very good so worth a try. Let me know if you’ll be concealing your dark circles too!



Update: Since writing this post a press release has come through from UNE about new shades in this line of eyeshadows and guess what, it appears the Sfumato range was created for a natural, day-time smoky look – so I was on the ball all along! Good to know I’m not just making things up. See, you can trust me :)

Bee Lovely products from Neal's Yard Remedies out now

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entrance

Last year Neal’s Yard Remedies launched a Bee Lovely Hand Cream which was a glowing hit with everyone who tried it. Creamy, luscious and very nourishing.

It was created to raise awareness and funds for the decline of British bees with £1 from every tube going to UK wildlife charities. This week, NYR launched exciting new additions to the range, which I think everyone should check out and try.

Here are a few pics from the product launch – very gorgeous garden-themed event in Covent Garden.

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entranceThe beautifully packaged Bath & Shower Gel, Hand Cream, Body Lotion and Bee Balm (great for dry skin, cuts, grazes, cuticles and lips) among dreamy country-style flowers…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty An abundance of bunting…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event  Honey from Sheepdrove Farm where owner Peter Kindersley lives… A gorgeous, flowery honey which is a dream on toast or in tea…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty  honey… and here’s how to recycle your Neal’s Yard Remedies famous blue bottles…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty bottles

 The products are out now and suitable for the whole family, including children (over three years old).

The Hand Wash is currently sitting by my kitchen sink getting a happy squidge from me every day. I can’t recommend the Hand Cream enough too. This year 5% from each product will go to wildlife charities working to help protect bees.

Go buy, and help save some bees!

See and shop the range

Read more about the campaign here

Bee Lovely products from Neal’s Yard Remedies out now

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entrance

Last year Neal’s Yard Remedies launched a Bee Lovely Hand Cream which was a glowing hit with everyone who tried it. Creamy, luscious and very nourishing.

It was created to raise awareness and funds for the decline of British bees with £1 from every tube going to UK wildlife charities. This week, NYR launched exciting new additions to the range, which I think everyone should check out and try.

Here are a few pics from the product launch – very gorgeous garden-themed event in Covent Garden.

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entranceThe beautifully packaged Bath & Shower Gel, Hand Cream, Body Lotion and Bee Balm (great for dry skin, cuts, grazes, cuticles and lips) among dreamy country-style flowers…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty An abundance of bunting…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event  Honey from Sheepdrove Farm where owner Peter Kindersley lives… A gorgeous, flowery honey which is a dream on toast or in tea…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty  honey… and here’s how to recycle your Neal’s Yard Remedies famous blue bottles…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty bottles

 The products are out now and suitable for the whole family, including children (over three years old).

The Hand Wash is currently sitting by my kitchen sink getting a happy squidge from me every day. I can’t recommend the Hand Cream enough too. This year 5% from each product will go to wildlife charities working to help protect bees.

Go buy, and help save some bees!

See and shop the range

Read more about the campaign here

Bee Lovely…

Bee-Lovely Campaign

I walked by Neal’s Yard Remedies in Covent Garden yesterday to see the windows bursting with posters and products celebrating the brilliant Bee Lovely and Save the Bees campaign – a project I’ve been working on with Neal’s Yard for several months now (writing the NYRBuzz blog) and it was great to see it come to fruition.

Bee-Lovely Campaign

NYR Bee Lovely Honey Hand Cream

The hand cream is the hero product with £1 from every bottle going to three charities that support natural wildlife and bees: Buglife,  LandLife and Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN). To launch the campaign there was a symposium hosted by Peter Kindersley (owner of NYR) and activist Sam Roddick at Sheepdrove Organic Farm. The Soil Association, The Natural Beekeeping Trust and several other charities were there to speak.

Sign the petition! We want to ban the latest, super-strength strain of pesticides – neonicotiniods. This chemical penetrates plants and attacks the nervous system of insects that feed off them – posing a deadly threat to all pollinators. Neonicotinoids are 7000 times more toxic than DDT, a chemical pesticide the UK government banned in 1984.

So – please sign the petition here, or in one of the stores. NYR will be taking the petition to Downing Street in October.  France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already banned this pesticide and we want the British government to ban it too.

If you’re passing a Neal’s Yard Remedies store pop in and pick up the Bee Lovely and Help Save the Bees Book, edited by Sam with great info about why bee populations are declining and what we can do about it.

Out now: Neal’s Yard Remedies make-up

Neals Yard Remedies makeup

British natural beauty brand, Neal’s Yard Remedies‘ make-up collection is on shelves now – the first cosmetics line with the Soil Association seal of organic approval. The range is a simple offering of three eye pencils, four mineral eye shadows and six lip glosses and took a few years to develop because it’s so difficult to create organic make-up.

I talked to Lou Green, Head of Sustainability at Neal’s Yard, to understand why it’s such a mean feat.

“We had to challenge convention and challenge why certain ingredients are used and offer alternatives. Mineral oils and paraffin are so cheap and it’s what everyone uses but it’s an oil base so we replaced that with an organic plant oil. And we replaced talc with cornstarch, which actually works beautifully and created an organic lip gloss base with our suppliers in Gujarat.”

Synthetic fragrances were out, and essential oils were in giving products a gorgeous sweet smell. Standard preservatives out and combinations of white tea powder and vitamin E used instead for their preserving power.

Not all the ingredients can be organic because anything that’s not farmed – e.g. minerals or water, by default cannot be organic. Instead they have to meet high ecological standards in processing, environmental impact, biodegradability, among others.

So what are the results like? Well, the lip glosses are an absolute pleasure to use with a subtle orange scent thanks to the sweet orange peel. The eye pencils are perfect for day wear – you may not get a Twiggy smoky eye but add a dab of  mineral eye powder and you could be on your way. They are great for sensitive eyes and the eco-credentials are seriously impressive. Well done Neal’s Yard.

Mineral Eye Shadow, £10.25/Colour Lip Gloss, £9/Eye Liner, £9

Available in stores and www.nealsyardremedies.com