Joining the Front Line

Yesterday, I ventured outside for the first time since the lockdown began. At first it felt like when you’re a child doing something naughty. I was heading to the doctor’s surgery to collect my prescription scripts and then going to the pharmacy to get them filled, but it still felt like I shouldn’t be out on the street.

The way people have reacted to the lockdown says a lot. The vast majority of people have closed their businesses and are following government advice. But there was this one shop on the high street, it’s been a florist for as long as I’ve lived in Northern Ireland, and now they’ve covered over the “florist” sign above the door and written “hardware” then they’ve printed off a very self-important piece of paper claiming they are keyworkers and that their shop is an essential business. Now, I actually needed some hardware because our central heating isn’t working properly, so I stepped inside, assuming they had changed what they were selling in response to the crisis.

There was no hardware for sale in this shop. It was just flowers and decorative plant pots. The proprietor was standing 2 feet from someone having a long chat with them, completely ignoring social distancing rules. Honestly people like that are the reason this virus has spread so badly throughout Europe. “The rules don’t apply to me” types. I’ll have to get the thing to fix the heating from Amazon and increase the pressure on our postal workers instead (sorry Mr. Postman). It’s irresponsible of the florist to pretend they’re a hardware store though because it increased the time I was out mixing, it wastes customers’ time, and it means people who are asymptomatic have more unnecessary places to spread their germs.

Anyway, when I got to the pharmacy, they only let 3 customers in at one time so I stood outside the door, 3 metres away from the next person in line, until it was my turn. Then when I got inside, there was tape on the floor around the counter, with 1, 2 and 3 next to these lines, to tell you where to stand. Behind the counter was one of my usual pharmacists and someone in “civvy street” clothes, who it turned out was a pharmacy lecturer from the University who had been drafted into the front lines.

It’s a sign of the times that they couldn’t fill my prescription for my brown inhaler. Usually these are readily available and easy to re-order. But they had plenty of blue inhalers (relievers for asthma attacks). People’s priorities with the panic buying are just odd. Although I suspect that anyone with the slightest whiff of asthma is trying their best to take their inhaler correctly right now because asthma + coronavirus = baddddd.

So anyway, I could clearly see that they were short-handed and it occurred to me, I used to work in a pharmacy for 6 months about half a dozen years ago, I have a really good understanding of procedure and I know my medications quite well, and I could help with this coronavirus outbreak. I asked the pharmacist if she knew of any list of reserve pharmacy staff and she gave me an email to contact. So when my maternity leave ends next week, I am going to be an on-call pharmacy assistant. All GP surgeries are urging patients to nominate pharmacies to collect prescriptions for them now, instead of patients going to the GP to collect their own scripts, and that means a LOT more work for pharmacies. They have never been so busy. And that’s just the community pharmacies. Hospital pharmacies are also busy, and they will also need people to help.

My husband isn’t thrilled. He doesn’t think it’s very smart for me to put myself on the front lines, especially with my asthma, but someone has to, and I just feel like I need to do this. Honestly I think he just doesn’t want to be alone with the baby all day. It’s all hands on deck right now if our population and our health service is going to make it through this crisis. The infection rates are not very bad in Northern Ireland, yet, but they will be. We’re not being as stupid as they were in England at the weekend, but it’s coming.

Alternatives to toilet paper and baby wipes.

Okay so this post talks about… bathroom stuff. If that bothers you, now is the time to bail.

Still with me? Then you’re probably also out of toilet paper. At the moment it’s almost impossible to get toilet paper, baby wipes and kitchen roll around the world because scared people are stockpiling it.

Here’s some alternatives to consider (most of these are fine for use on babies too):

  1. Cotton roll soaked in water (DON’T FLUSH THIS, it has to go in the garbage).
  2. A personal hygiene bidet or perinatal bottle (it’s a bottle you fill and squirt it over your private parts to clean them). You’ll still want to pat dry but this might reduce TP usage especially if you have underlying health issues like IBS or hemorrhoids. Fill it with warm water and imagine you live in Japan. I bought 2 of these (one for my husband and one for me) and they arrived while I was writing this article.
  3. A towelling washcloth soaked in water (DON’T FLUSH THIS. You can wash it in the machine on a boil wash with some bleach then re-use).
  4. Newspaper (scratchy much? PLEASE DON’T FLUSH THIS EITHER).
  5. Grass or leaves. Hmmm…. I think I’ll try all the others first, haha.

Got any other alternatives to toilet paper that I haven’t covered? Let me know in the comments.

Are you also struggling to buy hand sanitizer? This post details 10 great alternatives (and 2 less great ones).

How to sanitize your hands when there is no hand sanitizer

A quick look on Amazon shows lots of hand sanitizer for sale, but let’s take a look at some of those reviews before discussing what REALLY works to sanitize your hands:

There’s a legit-looking bottle of “50ml” of hand sanitizer (doesn’t that sound like a lot… it’s not even 2oz) sold here and the reviews are claiming it’s not got any alcohol in, it’s a scam, and it’s $7 for a tiny bottle. Don’t buy this hand sanitizer but look at those reviews.

I personally wouldn’t buy hand sanitizer on Amazon right now because there’s so many scams involving fake products. I saw one that said they’d been sent a bottle of glue! Hand sanitizer is a relatively recent invention and before we had it, people were able to clean their hands.

Instead of getting scammed by things that won’t protect you from coronavirus, try these other ways to clean your hands:

  1. Soap and water. The absolute best way to keep clean is soap and water. I’ve talked before about how soap works in my article about micellar water. Basically, you don’t need fancy soap. Any soap will do. And you don’t need hot water (bacteria doesn’t start to die until a higher temperature than you would wash in).  It says a lot about people that you can buy plenty of soap on Amazon still.
  2. Liquid soap and a bottle of water. If you’re out and about, get a bottle of water with a sports cap. Rub liquid soap all over your hands, get all the areas, then wash it off by pouring water out of the bottle. This is the best way to clean your hands if you don’t have access to a faucet. No room in your bag for a bottle? Get one of these flat-folding reusable ones instead.
  3. Shower gel. We should all be washing a lot more now, so this Aveeno moisturizing shower gel (soap free) is a good choice.
  4. Bath bubbles. Guess what? Bath bubbles are identical to shower gel but usually more in a more concentrated form. This one has epsom salt, eucalyptus and spearmint in it.
  5. Shampoo. If you can’t get anything else to wash your hands in, a shampoo with LOTS of sulphates is what you want. Those sodium laureth sulphates we usually avoid putting on our hair are super-strong cleaning agents (which is why they can over-clean your hair and make it dry out). Herbal Essences smells really nice and is full of all the sulphates you can shake a stick at.
  6. Baby wipes. Choose a packet with soap infused into the wipe. One of these is basically a cloth covered in soap and water. As a first choice, soap and water, but baby wipes are a much better idea than those really dangerous “vodka and aloe vera” recipes which won’t be strong enough to be effective. Of course, buying wet wipes online is also nearly impossible right now because people are buying them as a toilet paper substitute, but you can probably get them more easily in a local supermarket depending on where you live and what deliveries are happening.
  7. Micellar water. I’ve said it before, but micelles are basically super-gentle soap. This will clean your hands better than fake hand sanitizer if you wash it off with water aftercovering your hands in it and rubbing it in like soap. You can even get it in teeny tiny bottles to carry around on the go.
  8. Micellar wipes. These are still readily available and will clean your hands.
  9. Dish soap (aka washing up liquid in the UK). This works exactly the same way as any other type of soap or saponified cleansing agent and is cheaper than some of the others, but selling out quickly.
  10. Laundry liquid. Another cleansing agent. Biological is best. Wash hands thoroughly.And if you don’t care if your hands flake/dry out/get dermatitis/burn:
  11. Bleach. Kills all known germs. Not recommended as it’s corrosive.
  12. Listerine. It contains alcohol and is designed to kill things that live in your mouth. As a kid, my mother always used to make me gargle with Listerine if I had a sore throat and it really did help.

Remember these things alone will NOT prevent you getting sick, but they can reduce your chances dramatically if you follow proper hygiene practice and handwashing technique.

Out of toilet paper? Check out my alternatives here!

It’s Skin Q10 Effector review vs Q10 supplements: Inside or outside?

After my article yesterday about eating beautiful, I thought I’d talk about whether the It’s Skin Q10 Effector Serum is better than taking a Q10 tablet as a supplement to improve your skin, because it’s in a similar vein.

Q10 smaller

Basically, Q10 is a beauty ingredient that’s supposed to be good for anti-ageing, if we believe the L’Oreal advert and Naomi Campbell. Now, until I was about 27, I was completely in love with Q10 and it was the only thing I was using to make my complexion look good. One of my friends was getting seriously bad first signs of ageing (she liked coke, and I don’t mean the drink) and she was using the same products as me: Lacura (Aldi own brand) Q10 day and night cream.

Then, I had a bit of a problem. That cream seemed to become less effective. I needed more ingredients in my beauty regime, in a stronger cream. But I couldn’t find any better creams with Q10 in them that weren’t targeted at the over 40 crowd. It’s a bit soul destroying when you’re 27 and are contemplating creams that say 40+ on the back. Although, I think the cosmetics companies exaggerate to hit your self esteem and to make you think the creams for older people will work better. Certainly, at 28, I didn’t think Avon’s line of creams for women in their twenties was going to do a whole lot. But their next stage of products was for age 35+. What?? This was one reason I began beauty blogging: There’s a lot of nonsense out there, and finding the right products can be a minefield.

If anything, my skin has gotten BETTER since I hit 30, and I attribute that to two things: Diet and finding the right range of products.

So Q10… I’ve not been using a Q10 face cream since I was 27. But I *have* been taking Q10 supplements since I was 29. I think these have overall done good things for my skin. It’s not as instantaneous as vitamin E supplements, but Q10 doesn’t wear off as quickly, either. When I was taking vitamin E tablets, every day I didn’t take them, my skin looked worse. Vitamin E supplements also interfered with the vitamin K I needed to take, and it gave me bad headaches.

Because the effects of Q10 are subtler, it took me a while to decide if it’s been effective or not. Overall, I’d say it has, alongside all the other things I’m doing, and it gives my skin a bit of a boost when I can’t seem to get rid of the surface dryness which makes my makeup cake (when I actually wear makeup).

While I was in Korea over the past couple of weeks, I went shopping for loads of beauty products, and one of the things I bought was this incredible Q10 effector serum from It’s Skin. If I ever doubted the effectiveness of Q10, I know now that it’s definitely a good one for my skin. So which is better, supplements or direct application? The It’s Skin Q10 Effector Serum applies straight on my face, and it works really quickly and it complements the other products in my beauty regime. I’ve been away from my beloved Innisfree Soybean Energy Serum since I left China to go to America in February, then I spent 2 weeks in Korea, and that gave me a a great opportunity to try out this new serum.

Five stars, would recommend. The only drawback is now I can’t decide between the It’s Skin Q10 serum and my Innisfree Soybean Energy Serum on a daily basis. So I use one in the morning and one at night. Luckily, you don’t have that problem! It’s Skin Q10 serum is available in the US for about the same as I paid in Seoul, South Korea, and my favorite Innisfree serum is not. This is also half the price of the Innisfree one, so if cost is a factor, this one definitely wins out! Also, when looking at Korean products bear in mind that date written on the bottom is the date it was MADE not the expiry. 😉 Shop smarter than all the people who gave this product unfair shitty reviews.

Eat beautiful: food ideas and review

Okay, so I got this book called Eat Beautiful by legendary makeup artist Wendy Rowe and it was packed full of tips on which foods are good for you and will nourish your skin from the inside. Spoiler alert: It’s totally awesome, BUT they’re mostly expensive and some of them are obscure and hard to find.

However, such things don’t normally bother me. I totally loved this book and will use the info in it when I am in a country where I can acquire the foods it talks about. But for now? In China? I am not. Most of the food here is weird.

So instead, here’s my own list of things I have found that really make a difference, all of which I’ve been able to buy in one form or another in China (except Miso soup… WTF China?!):

  1. Tomatoes. Tomato juice is my favorite, but also passata, any kind of tomato-based pasta sauce or soup, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes… they all contain antioxidants and lycopenes, which help protect your skin against cancer by helping the cells stay healthy. Healthy cells are pretty cells.
  2. Blueberries. These also contain antioxidants. Now, current research shows that you don’t want to overload on antioxidants because after a certain point they’re not so useful. However, most of us don’t get enough dark blue and purple fruits and vegetables, so I’m still reaching for the blueberries in the store.
  3. Avocado. Vitamin E is SO good for your skin, especially as you age. It gives you a healthy glow. And avocados, along with nuts and olives, are full of vitamin E.
  4. Coconut oil. I’ve talked before about coconut oil. It’s good for you on the outside and the inside. Enough said.
  5. Miso soup. Expensive, but really healthy. Fermented soy beans are the ones that are effective in the fight against cancer. We’re talking PREVENTION here; if you HAVE cancer, go to a real doctor.
  6. Black grapes. As well as making the BEST wine/champagne, black grapes are healthy AF, and like blueberries and tomatoes, they help reverse skin cell damage to ensure your outer layers are in tip-top shape.
  7. Orange juice. Some people buy vitamin C serum to put on their faces. Others just drink more orange juice. I prefer to drink it because I put enough other stuff on my face, lol. It’s not a buzzy fad food, but sometimes the oldies are the best. Also, OJ is WAY cheaper than vitamin C serum, by several orders of magnitude, and if you only put it on your face you’re losing out on all the other health benefits of orange juice.
  8. Shiitake Mushrooms. Got a vitamin D deficiency? These will help. And we’re all more beautiful when we have the inner tranquility of not having nutritional deficiencies.
  9. Spinach, kale and broccoli. If you’re low on vitamin K, leafy dark green vegetables are the way forward. A vitamin K deficiency makes your skin look pallid and washed out, and it also makes you bruise more easily, making blue under-eye circles and veins worse. Consult your doctor if you’re on warfarin.
  10. Carrots. Beta carotene gives you a healthy glow (some people even take tanning tablets with a high amount of beta carotene to make them look tanned, although I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s also the reason that flamingoes are pink– they eat shrimp packed with beta carotene. That’s why they sometimes turn white in the zoo; lack of beta carotene), and pro-retinol of course has boatloads of research to support its effectiveness as a beauty product.

New products for blue and purple dark circles under eyes!

Panda smaller

This article is about some products that are supposed to help improve under-eye dark blue and purple circles that appear under eyes, especially in people with pale skin.

I’ve talked quite a lot in the past about how to make lifestyle changes to get rid of blue circles and some quick fixes for blue and purple circles, but one thing people keep asking me for are articles about concealers, color correctors, and products designed to target these areas. I’ve said in the past that the targeted products don’t really work, but since I wrote my original, really long article about getting rid of blue under-eye circles, things have changed a little. That article is still packed full of good blue circle busting advice, but there’s some more products on the block that might also help you out:

So let’s first look at the two on the left: The Maybelline The Eraser Eye Perfect and Cover Concealer (in the US it’s called “Age Rewind” but for some reason they changed the name in the UK). The two on the left are different shades: Light and medium.

Firstly, they now contain peptides, which, as I’ve said before, if used over time will improve the appearance of blue and purple circles because they thicken the skin. Thinning of the skin is one of the main causes of blue under-eye circles.

Secondly, however, they also act as a concealer. The coverage isn’t huge but it does visibly reduce the under-eye blue and dark circles, especially in photographs.

I have found this product works really well in the short term, but I don’t know if there’s just not enough peptides in it, but I only noticed a very small improvement in my under-eye area over a longer term. I think you still need to make lifestyle changes overall, but this is a nice quick fix.

The only downside? It only comes in two shades: Light or medium. I’m an NC20 in the MAC color spectrum and I found light was sometimes a little too orange for me. If you have the same issue, the only way to get it to blend with your skin is to wear foundation. Obviously, that’s not a great solution if you don’t like wearing makeup or if you can’t wear it. I also found it slightly drying of the under-eye area, but I solved that by using an under-eye moisturizer under the Maybelline The Eraser Eye Perfect and Cover Concealer aka Age Rewind Concealer.

Now onto the pandas: These are the Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Cooling Eye Stick and the Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Brightening Eye Base. They look the same, but they’re quite different. The cooling eye stick goes on like a gel, and feels light and refreshing from the moment it touches your skin. The brightening eye base is a solid white stick.

The brightening eye base is the least pleasant to apply, because it tugs on the under-eye area, but it is also the most effective of the two, for getting rid of dark and blue circles. The other one is mostly a feel-good product.

My best tip is to use the Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Brightening Eye Base first, then to go over it with the Maybelline Age Rewind concealer.

I’ve also found both the Panda’s Dream Brightening Eye Base and the Maybelline Age Rewind Concealer have good longevity: I bought them six months ago and they’re still going strong. I highly recommend both of these as tools in the war against blue under-eye circles. The only thing I didn’t like is with both the Tony Moly products, the stick seemed to pull itself off the base inside the panda, and now they sort of wobble loosely meaning I have to hold the actual sticks of cosmetic in place while I use them, and then I get product on my fingers during application. Of course, that doesn’t stop me recommending them.

 

Home made avocado face mask

One of the most fun things I did while I was in the US was to make my own avocado face mask. It was SUPER moisturizing and all you need are these things:

  1. Half an avocado (per face).
  2. One sprig of fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
  3. A hand blender, smoothie maker, full-size blender or food processor (any of these will work).

Method:

Open your avocado by cutting around it in a circle from top to bottom then from bottom to top. Twist the avocado, and pull it apart. You should now have two neat halves of avocado (no drama).

Scoop out the insides from half the avocado (ignore that big seed in the middle). Put it in a bowl, if you’re using a hand blender, or put it straight into the jug/container for your blender/smoothie maker/food processor.

Make sure that rosemary is finely chopped. You don’t need much of the stem. When it’s all chopped up, there should be about a big teaspoon’s worth. If not, you may need to chop up another sprig. I use scissors to chop herbs because they don’t seem to cut as easily with knives. Add it to the blender.

Blend the ingredients until they have formed a smooth, creamy paste. If your avocado was unripe, it won’t turn creamy, in which case, add about a tablespoon of coconut milk and blend it again. Luckily, if you put it on your face before you realize (like I did… the hazards of inventing recipes I guess) you always have another half an avocado to work with. 😉

 

Now it’s ready, apply to your face and leave for 10-15 minutes. I found cotton wool helped remove it. As well as eliminating dry areas, I also found this face mask really helped my skin with redness. This mask gets very messy, though, so make sure you’re not wearing anything that might stain with avocado, and I applied it with my fingers, and then I couldn’t take any pictures because the avocado got all over my nails so I couldn’t unlock my phone!!