Skin care routine – Revised

Last year in September I wrote a post about my newfound ideal skincare routine. It involved doing absolutely nothing to my skin except washing my face twice a day. I kept it up for a few months and it kind of worked, until I flew back to Europe over Christmas and my skin turned into a desert.
My skin is naturally on the dry side, however since I live in New Zealand I haven’t really experienced THE REAL WINTER: Wellington is very wet even when it’s cold, so in the past year and a half I’ve had to deal with different skin issues.
But while in Italy I knew I needed some extra moisture. Since I hadn’t brought any face cream with me, I thought I’d be a good idea to hunt for something locally made and as Zero Waste as possible. My mum is a big fan of L’Erbolario (they are awesome: all their products are cruelty free and locally made, mostly packaged in glass, and the company is really into environmental sustainability and social responsibility), so we went to one of their shop where I purchased this amazing face cream which I mainly picked because it smells delicious (it’s made with Argan leaves) but also because it was recommended for skin types that are prone to dryness.

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Back home it really helped make my skin softer and more nourished, and I’m still using it now that I’m back in New Zealand.
So in the morning I still only wash my face with lukewarm water, then apply this face cream and that’s it.

In the evening, though, I decided to spice things up a little, especially because when I came back from Europe it was the middle of an uncommonly hot summer, which required me to wash off layers and layers of sunscreen every night.
I’d seen the local vegan community writing good reviews on this particular face wash barso I thought I’d give it a go. It’s made of activated charcoal, French clay and peppermint oil, and it’s designed to remove impurities and fight blemishes, which I have a bunch of. It’s going down quite quickly and I can definitely see myself purchasing it again because I love it.

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After my face is all nice and clean, I take a homemade cotton round (find out how to make your own here), and I tone my skin with Thayers alcohol-free rose petal witch hazel toner (could the name be any longer?). This is definitely not a Zero Waste product but I’ve been wanting to try this toner for years and I eventually gave in – hopefully it’ll last me a long time. I really like it so far and my skin definitely feels cleaner at the end of the day.

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In those rare occasions when I wear make up, I would use a bar of African Black Soapwhich is a bit drying for me so I need to make sure I moisturise profusely afterwards. However I still prefer to remove my make up with this rather than coconut oil, as I found that coconut oil makes me break out if I use it too much.

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(My homemade face scrub is still coconut oil-based, but I only use it maybe twice a month. You can find the recipe for that here.) Talking about scrubs, I also have this face polish that I got from work, I’ve only used it once so far and it’s very gentle which I appreciate.

As for moisturiser, I switch between a few products at night.
The first one is my loyal and forever favourite Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask by Origins, also not Zero Waste but I’ve had the same bottle since way before I even started thinking about reducing my impact on the planet. In fact, I purchased this baby in Canada back in 2013. I haven’t used it every single day, but man this face mask will last you! A tiny bit really goes a long way, and as I’m approaching the bottom of it I’m getting more and more torn on whether I want to repurchase it. I do love it a lot but it obviously come in plastic and – alas – Origins is not cruelty free (they sell their products in China). So yeah I guess the answer is pretty straightforward.

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I also got myself some rosehip oil, which I’ve had my eyes on for a while. Other than coconut oil, I had never used “liquidy” oils on my skin and I was very intrigued. I can’t say love it (I really don’t like the smell), but it does the job: the morning after my skin feels soft and nourished. I picked rosehip oil because it’s supposed to help with discolouration and even out your skin tone, but I don’t think I’ve been consistent enough in using it to see any results just yet.

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Talking about oils, the final product I’ve been using is Jason’s Vitamin E oilwhich I also got from work.
(I should specify, I do get free skincare products from work, and that’s the reason why I have so much stuff. I’m experimenting, but mostly I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase all these products, especially since most of them come in plastic.)
Anyway, I haven’t been using this oil for very long but I am LOVING it so far. I might even dare to say it’s running right behind the Origins overnight mask in my favourite skincare products ever.

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Finally, I’m still using up the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque that I’ve had for ages, I’m almost out now but this is something I’m definitely not going to buy again. Its successor is going to be this Antipodes mask which I also got from work, I’ve used it once so far and I like it, although my favourite face mask ever will forever be Mask of Magnaminty from Lush, which I haven’t used since I ran out of it last year but I am considering getting myself some when I go back to London in October.

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Overall, my skin feels good. I regularly get a few pimples on my chin when I’m on my period but I know that’s hormonal and there’s nothing I can do about it. (Also this is new for me: I used to get pimples on my cheeks or around my nose, as well as some small bumps on my forehead, but only recently I started getting them on my chin. I wonder what it means?) I’m eating pretty healthy since I started working in this organic supermarket, but I also know food has nothing to do with the state of my skin. Finally, I’m not drinking enough water, which is also nothing new. So I’ll probably keep all this up and will check back in a few moths.

(I apologise for how gloomy these pictures look, it’s 2 in the afternoon but the Great Flood is happening outside and it honestly feels like the end of the world.)

Nothing is sexier than confidence

(First written on Feb 28th, edited on March 16th/17th)

Last Monday I was having a lazy day. Winter came all of a sudden, and I spent the morning having ginger tea and working on some video projects feeling cosy in a warm sweater, the rain tick-ticking against the window. Then the rain turned into storm, and I wasn’t really feeling like walking all the way to Newtown t meet Kate for coffee. But I did, and boy was that an afternoon that made a difference.

Kate is not someone I really know. I met her through some volunteering we did together and she seemed like an interesting person but we’d never really had a proper conversation, so I was quite excited to finally get to sit down with her and lay the foundations for a possible friendship. We went to one of my favourite cafes, and over our soy lattes we found out we have so many things in common.
I hadn’t planned this, but as we spoke I opened up like I hadn’t with hardly anyone else before. It might have been because Kate is so chilled and friendly and she made me feel at ease straight away, but I found myself talking about how tough last year was, how it felt to be back home for Christmas, how accomplished I feel with my life now, and what I’m working on for the future. I talked about self love, mental health, self discovery and growth – with a terminology and confidence I wish I could use on a more regular basis.

I wouldn’t normally bring up any of these topics on a first conversation with someone I don’t know, as my inner self tells me it’s not “appropriate” to get too personal with somebody you’ve just recently met.
Being a hopeless introvert, I suck at small talk and I have very poor social skills. I’m always very conscious about what comes out of my mouth when I first meet someone, and I tend to only say things that I think the other person would want to hear, with the result that my conversations often sound clumsy and forced. My worry is that I won’t come across as who I really am, and that by the time I feel ready to open up these potential friends will have an idea of me that is completely different from the real deal, and it will be too late for me to talk about all the things I want to talk about because they will not expect me to have all these repressed issues, they were probably already thinking I was not worthy of their attention anyway and if I reveal my inner self now they’ll be taken aback and I would sound fake and unexpected, so instead I will continue to pathetically cling to these shallow relationships until everybody loses interest in me and I’ll be left to die alone. (In all this I obviously spend hours recreating past conversations in my head where I am the life of the party and always have the perfect comeback and I sound natural and relaxed and people actually like me.)
These thoughts have been haunting me since I can remember. Trust me, it’s not fun to have this voice in the back of your head that constantly reminds you that you really should be concerned about how people perceive you.

By the time I moved to New Zealand, I was done with it.
I saw moving overseas as an opportunity for a fresh start in many senses, and when I settled in Wellington I made a point that I was going to be myself one hundred percent.
It obviously didn’t happen overnight, but I have been working hard towards becoming better at meeting people and at feeling confident talking about myself. What really helped was reminding myself of how it makes me feel when somebody is honest and genuine with me even if we don’t know each other very well. When someone opens up to me, it always makes me feel good about myself, because it means I’m creating a safe space for them to feel relaxed enough to talk abut anything. It means I can be trusted.
I do believe very few traits are sexier than confidence: I admire people who are not afraid of putting themselves out there and expressing themselves for what they truly are. That’s what I aspire to be: confident, genuine, not afraid of whether my feelings are “appropriate” or what others might think of them.

Moving to a place where I didn’t know anyone was the perfect occasion for me to present myself as truly me. If people were ok with that, great; if they had a problem with it, also great – I wouldn’t need them in my life.
In fact, I’ve been getting more and more used to the idea that it’s ok not to be friends with everyone. I’d much rather have fewer friends I can spend quality time with, instead of acquaintances I have hardly anything in common with. After learning it’s ok to say you don’t want to do stuff because you don’t want to do stuff, it became much easier to stop seeing people who were not adding anything to my life.
As harsh as that sounds, it’s true: I’m done with small talk and wasting time building relationships that I already know will not lead anywhere. I only have one life, and what I want to fill it with is authentic interactions. I want to surround myself with people I can be myself with. People who support me and who understand me. People I can drop my barriers and preconceptions with. People who make me feel good about myself, who make me feel at ease and like it’s ok to talk about all my repressed deep shit and who can do the same with me.

So thank you Kate for being one of the first people who made me feel valid and accepted. Our conversation made me realise that being honest and genuine is not as scary as I thought. I can tell people I’ve had a rough year and they will not think I’m not worth of their time.They might even think I’m actually cool. Can I be your cool friend? Ok maybe I still need to work on those social skills after all.

Money tracking – February

Money-wise, February has been shit. I spent way more than I was expecting in spite of my best efforts, which demonstrates that I’m REALLY BAD at money tracking.
Before I draw my conclusions, let’s analyse this catastrophe in more details.

  • Groceries
    This baffles me: somehow I managed to spend more in groceries than I have in January. How is this possible? I get free food from work! I’m thinking I fell into the 20% discount trap I have at work and treated myself with a few goodies too many. I’ll need to keep an eye on this.
  • Coffee/eating out
    In February I funnelled nearly $160 in eating out, of which only $40 were coffee though. My aim was to spend less than $50 in coffee so that’s an achievement. And to be completely honest $120 for eating out in a month in Wellington is not that bad. However, this is the category that would be the easiest for me to improve on, so I’ll throw all the blame on Giac and say he’s the one forcing me to have dinner out once a week.
  • Op shops
    This is a hard one for me because I tend to justify op shopping thinking it’s second hand shopping and so it’s ok. But it’s not if you’re trying to save money. I spent $29 in op shops last month, which mainly consisted in an AMAZING coffee plunger which yes I’d been wanting for months but no I didn’t really need. *tut tut*
  • Other shopping
    And here comes the hot potato. “Other shopping” last month included: some stuff from Amazon and iHerb, two pairs of shoes, a new editing software, A MACBOOK AIR and a plane ticket to go back home in September. In my defence, these are not purchases I have to save up for every month (thank fuck), and yes my old shoes had holes, and yes I did say that I would get myself a new computer when I got a job. BUT. Fuck.
  • I have also added a new category called “Experiences” as it’s festival season in New Zealand and I have purchased a bunch of Fringe tickets. I also went to see the Rubens and to a session at CoLiberate which will be reviewed in a separate post (it was AWESOME).
  • Then here are the things that went as predicted (let’s cut this short as the more I write the more I have the urge to start breathing into a paper bag): I’ve spent the same as last month on transport and phone contract, and I haven’t spent anything on health and sport.

And now, conclusions!
Despite managing to spend zero dollars for a total of six days in the past month, I still spent – in scientific terms – a shitload of money.
Now, I have been working my ass off in February and I will even more in March, so it’s not that I can’t afford all this. Also I don’t want to punish myself too much: I finally got a job that pays well after two fucking years of basically not having a job at all, so there’s nothing wrong in treating myself a little. However, I am learning that shopping considerably raises my anxiety levels. After I bought the shoes the other day, I had a panic attack in the car and had to stop to hyperventilate on the side of the road. The truth is that I am on the stingy side after all, and spending money  – even on things I need – fills me with shame and guilt.
So after seeing the numbers in February and acknowledging how spending money makes me feel, In March I’m challenging myself to spend no money at all.
I am allowing myself some extra food that I might need in case what I get from work is not enough, as well as some home necessities (i.e. soap), but that’s it. Other things I think I “need” will have to wait. (Oh well and I’ll have to pay for my phone. And transport.)
It’s already day two and I’m doing great. Yesterday I worked all day and today I haven’t left the house. I guess if I keep it up (i.e. work like crazy and spend the rest of the time locked in my apartment) I should be fine.
Wish me luck, and you’ll hear from me soon.

Something serious (but with GIFs)

If you, like me, spend most of your time overanalysing yourself, you might be familiar with the joyful feeling of finally realising that you are satisfied with where you’ve got in life. Mind you, this is not a frequent occurrence. I believe it happened to me twice – in fact, I still recall the journal entry I wrote in 2013, when I got my first job in London and I was earning my own money and riding my bike around and I felt like an accomplished, independent woman.

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I love pushing my limits and learning what I can do to improve, and in the past few years I have been working really hard to become the best version of myself. However, since moving to New Zealand I had to face quite a few obstacles along the way. Especially towards the end of 2017, I felt like I really needed a change of scenery in order to take a break from my thoughts.
I found that break in the five weeks I spent back home.
Since I’ve returned, I’ve been so incredibly relaxed. It might be because of the AMAZING weather we’ve had this summer, but my mood has definitely taken a turn for the better. In the past couple of weeks, not once I’ve woken up in the morning wanting to bury my face in my pillow until I choke. In fact, I’ve been feeling really motivated – and I’ve been productive as fuck. Making sure I had a checklist of things to look forward to upon my return really worked.

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But the biggest improvement for me was that I no longer feel compelled to do a bunch of things that I was only doing because I felt like I was supposed to. I don’t know how long I spent forcing myself to do yoga every morning (speed up your metabolism!), drink gallons of water (stay hydrated!), trying to develop a morning routine (get more things done early!), and just making list upon list of things I thought would make me feel better. But the truth is, I was stressing about them more than benefitting from them.
Once I was back in Welly after Christmas, however, I was no longer feeling the pressure to tick all these boxes. Every morning I would wake up, check in with myself, see what I’d feel like doing, and proceed doing it.
The surprising thing is that I didn’t have to plan this. How my brain normally works is, I have to decide to do things. I have to intentionally make the decision that I’m going to do something, write a post about it, and then force myself to do it, ending up feeling anxious and miserable most of the time, because it’s rarely something I actually want to do. But this time round, I simply found myself easing into a new approach to life.
For example, yesterday I quit the gym. I hadn’t plan to do it. Simply, instead of going to the gym as my daily to-do list reminded me to, I – well – didn’t go. I’d been running around all morning at work, it was a beautiful day and all I wanted to do was going to the beach and sit in the sun. And that’s just what I did. Then I went home and quit the gym. I sent an email asking to cancel my membership. Again, not something I’d planned, but I figured I didn’t want to spend money on something I was spending more time stressing about than actually doing. And that lifted a big weight off my shoulders.

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Doing a lot of research on how to improve yourself has its downside: you feel like there are SO MANY things you should be doing, and you feel bad because all these bloggers and YouTubers around you are doing them are you’re not. Stretch, meditate, wake up early, don’t eat carbs, go outside, sit up straight, clean up your space, follow your dreams… No wonder we feel overwhelmed.
And I still feel this way. I still – always – want to grow and better myself. But I’m learning that maybe this means to also take it easy. It’s ok not to do something because you don’t feel like it – you don’t need to justify yourself or find excuses or feel bad about it.

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I realise to most people this probably sounds silly. Why the heck would you make your life more complicated? I wish I was more spontaneous. I envy SO MUCH people who just feel like going for a run and they can get up and go, whereas I need days to prepare for it, plan my meals and poops around it, work out when to wash my hair and a billion other things. Unfortunately, that’s just how I am.
And for once in my life, I’m ok with it.

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Am I a consumerist biatch?

Remember when I said I didn’t want anything for Christmas? WELL.
Since I’ve moved to New Zealand, I haven’t really treated myself to anything rather than coffee. I did buy things I needed (some clothes), but I can’t remember one instance where I got myself something just as a present to myself. The reason for that is not that I didn’t want to, but rather that I never found anything I liked. In spite of never being big on shopping, not buying anything for 18 months is a record even for myself.
Then I flew to Europe. I had already warned Giac that I was not going to be responsible for my actions over Christmas, as I knew I was probably going to unleash my inner consumerist monster in London, and my mum had told me she would pay for anything I wanted back home (I know).
However, in spite of my predictions, I overdid myself and went absolutely bananas. I bought thirteen sweaters, three journals, two pairs of shoes, slippers, some t-shirts, a bunch of winter hats and scarves, and a crazy amount of makeup.
I am sure that, compared to the average consumer, this is not that much. But condensed into such a short amount of time, it sounds absolutely insane. Plus, it totally goes against my Zero Waste/minimalist principles. Although I did try to buy as much as I could second hand/from sustainable brands, it probably doesn’t justify the fact that I had to ask my parents to send me an extra parcel from Italy to New Zealand because I couldn’t fit all the things I bought in my suitcase.
Now, some things I actually needed (I had zero winter jumpers), but some other things I got simply because, well, I could.
And I was not expecting that.
When I wrote about the joys of being frugal and not falling for temptations, I meant that. Although at the beginning I did struggle with not having access to stuff, after a year and a half I’d learned to be ok with it and actually quite enjoyed living on less. But once I was back to the realm of shopping and consumerism that is London, I was surprised by how quickly I readjusted to that and turned into my previous, careless self.
I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t really regret buying things. I love each and every one of my recent purchases. And considering how few possessions I had before, I still feel like I don’t own that much.
But I wonder, why am I so obsessed about it? Am I trying to be a minimalist just because I read about it and watch so many YouTube videos on people decluttering their lives that I feel like I should only own 30 pieces of clothing?
After the big move from London to New Zealand, I wanted to get rid of stuff because packing up 33 boxes of books was such a stress that I didn’t want to do it again next time I move. (Although I obviously still have all my books – fuck it.) So I did go through all my possession and donated everything that I didn’t wear/use/love. My ultimate goal was to get to a point where I owned everything I needed, and I needed everything I owned.
After my clear out I was left with… Not much. And I was missing a bunch of things that I considered necessities (i.e. winter sweaters. Again. It’s cold here, ok?)
This crazy Christmas shopping spree filled that gap. I now only own things I love. I invested in some staple items that I know will last me a long time. I will probably not buy anything else for another 18 months (hopefully longer).
Also, strictly speaking, I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist, unless I refine what minimalism means to me. I sure wish I could live on less material things – especially in view of my next move. However, I do make use of everything I have. And I guess that’s the point: I’m happy to let go of things that don’t serve me any purpose, and to keep those that do, even if they are more than what fits in a single suitcase.
The other point is, I am not perfect (duh). Although I am passionate about Zero Waste and conscious consumerism, I also falter and succumb to my old habits from time to time. And I’m ok to admit that. Living this way is not easy, but in my opinion you don’t have to be one hundred percent “perfect”, this is all about being aware of the consequences of your actions and know that you are responsible for them. In spite of this Christmas craziness, I still think overall I’m doing ok. I’m not claiming to be perfect or to know it all – after all this blog is all about my journey and my struggles and my internal conflicts, and me analysing them as well as accepting them for what they are.

This was just a big fat ramble and it probably didn’t make much sense but I guess I just needed to let it all out, so thanks for listening. I promise the next post will be more constructive!