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.)

Zero Waste toiletry bag

I’m flying back home in eleven days and I’ve already packed three times. This is what I’m taking with me in my toiletry bag. It’s not 100% Zero Waste but getting there. I haven’t included things like soap or toothpaste as I’ll be staying with friends and family so I’ll be borrowing from them, these are just the things that I can’t do without.

Make Your Own – Face Cream

Good evening fellow readers, forgive my absence but I FOUND A JOB so now I have a little less time to plan my blog posts as well as way less energies to concentrate. But here I am now, with a shiny recipe on how to make your own face cream.

Disclaimer: I have dry, sensitive, acne-prone skin (yay). It’s always been super difficult for me to find a good face cream because all the anti-acne creams tend to make your skin even drier, and all the creams for dry skin don’t do anything for your pimples. So I did some research and designed this cream specifically for my skin type. Therefore it might not work for you!

Disclaimer #2: This recipe is 100% made up by me. I picked the ingredients and tried to mix them together. I am not a doctor nor a dermatologist so you’re more than welcome to try this at home but don’t blame me if something goes wrong.

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Ingredients

  • Coconut oil (optional)
    I thought I’d use coconut oil as a base, but I wouldn’t if I could go back. I already use coconut oil to wash my face and it leaves my skin very moisturised, so I don’t really feel the need to add more oil when I apply my face cream. Plus coconut oil makes the cream excessively oily, considering the second ingredient is shea butter. Don’t get me wrong: I still think it works great, however next time I make this cream I probably won’t use coconut oil.

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  • Raw shea butter
    It’s probably a better idea to use this as a base instead. Shea butter is a great moisturised for dry skin, it has a very thick texture and it absorbs quickly. I’ve used shea butter-based creams before and I really love the consistency and the smell.
    Buy it here.

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  • Jojoba oil
    Jojoba oil is known for its moisturising properties (on skin, hair, everything! I use it in my homemade shampoo as well), and it’s gentle on sensitive skin.
    Buy it here.

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  • Castor oil
    A naturally astringent, castor oil helps pull impurities from the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, and it acts as a barrier against the outside world’s harsh conditions, something you really want if you live in a place where you have nothing in between the sun and your face (hello New Zealand). I’m not sure about SPF, but it’s good to know you have some sort of sunscreen in your daily moisturiser.
    Careful: castor oil is very thick so you’ll only need a small amount. (Also, it smells like death).
    Buy it here.

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  • Vitamin E
    It’s never too early to start fighting those wrinkles. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which means it helps preventing tissue aging. Whoo!
    Buy it here.

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  • Witch hazel
    You’ll find witch hazel in a lot of face toners because of its soothing properties. My skin gets irritated easily and witch hazel is supposedly great for nourishing dry skin, as well as working as an anti-acne and fighting signs of aging.
    Buy it here.

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  • Zinc oxide
    Zinc oxide adds a little bit of sunscreen and helps fighting acne, too. It comes as a grainy powder but it is solubile so it will dissolve as lomg as you make sure you mix it in properly.
    Buy it here.

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Because I live in the middle of nowhere I had to buy all these ingredients online. I used iHerb (USA based) and GoNative (NZ based).
GoNative gives you the option to add a comment before placing your order, so I asked them to please use as little padding and packaging as possible, and to draw a unicorn on the box. They are now my favourite shop.

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iHerb was excellent in terms of delivery (it took less than 10 days to deliver from the States to New Zealand – trust me, that’s good), however I couldn’t find a way to ask them to minimise the packaging, so everything came in the usual styrofoam padding.

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The whole point of making your own face cream, beside knowing exactly what’s in it and customising it to meet your specific needs, is obviously to stop buying creams and body products that come in a plastic container. So when it came to purchasing the ingredients, I opted for the products that came in a glass container rather than a plastic bottle whenever I could (only coconut oil, castor oil, witch hazel are in glass, unfortunately).
The good news is that I’m pretty sure I can make multiple products out of the same ingredients, which overall are going to last me longer than a regular face cream. Also, I’m going to reuse the containers, and when it’s time to buy them again I’ll either reconsider the packaging, see if I can refill them rather than re-buy them, or I’ll just buy them in glass jars next time I’m in London (there’s much more variety there).

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Zero Waste challenge – Week 1

As you guys probably know by now, I do love a challenge. What I like even more is getting other people involved, especially when I think it’s for a good cause.
Waste minimisation has been my top priority in the past months, so Giac and I are currently challenging ourselves to live Zero Waste for two weeks.

The first week, which ends today, was all about using anything we already had that came with a packaging, assessing the amount of waste we produce on average in seven days, considering exceptions and compromises, while also refusing to buy anything that comes in plastic and trying to limit any packaging to recyclable materials at the same time.

The second week –assuming that at this point we have used up anything we had already purchased- is going to be about refusing and reducing even more, hopefully avoiding anything that comes in packaging at all, as well as assessing side effects such as whether we are saving money or we are eating better etc.

This is a review of the first week.

First of all let me tell you, this has been much easier than expected. Giac and I are already very aware of the rubbish we produce and we’ve been on a journey to minimise it since we moved to New Zealand. So we were already having a head start.
However there are things we are still struggling with (as in, items we find it hard to refuse or we haven’t found an alternative to yet).

This is all the rubbish we created in the past seven days, divided in recyclable (on the right) and not recyclable (on the left). I haven’t included all the compost, but just imagine a mountain of banana peels and tea bags as tall as you.

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Recyclable: pasta packaging, tin, paper scraps (tea box, notes etc), soy milk carton, flour packaging, paper napkin, toilet paper rolls (let’s ignore the fact that we used five rolls in seven days).
Not recyclable: makeup wipes, floss, receipts, fruit stickers, various plastic packaging, chocolate packaging, oatmeal packaging, canola spread container, contact lenses + container, chewing gums, various plasticky labels.

This is the result of a combination of consuming goods we had already and refusing to buy as many packaged items as possible.
In order to keep out mental sanity we decided not to go cold turkey and give up all packaging altogether. We decided to refuse as much as possible while still buying things that we think we need and we haven’t found an alternative to yet.
Below is a list of things we managed to refuse, things we compromised, and some final thoughts.

Things we refused

  • Spinach
    I do love a green smoothie. I always put spinach in my smoothies, however when I wanted to make myself one on a Friday, I realised I didn’t have any spinach and I couldn’t just go to the supermarket and buy it because spinach comes in a plastic bag. So I had to wait for the farmers market on Sunday to buy some in bulk. Zero Waste is all about being organised!
  • Sugar in coffee
    We’ve been to Starbucks a couple of times in the past week, and normally we’d both grab a sugar to go with it. Now we are either bringing our own sugar from home in a small container, or we simply go without.
  • Painting my nails
    I rarely do it, but sometimes I enjoy nail polish. However, removing it means using a cotton pad (landfill) and nail polish remover (toxic), so my solution was simply not painting my nails. I’m sure I’ll get over it.
  • Art supplies
    I didn’t need to buy any, but I did go visit my favourite art shop the other day, only to sadly notice how pretty much everything is wrapped in plastic. Will need to find an alternative to that.
  • Bread
    The bread we normally buy comes in a paper bag with a plastic insert. I haven’t got round to make my own bread yet, but for now we resorted to buying loose rolls instead, which also turned out to be cheaper.

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  • Incense
    My inner hippie loves some incense. I burn it pretty much daily. That’s why I ran out of it and I’ve been looking for some packaging-free sticks. The ones I found were not really my favourites so I haven’t bought any yet. I really like coconut and nag champa but they come in paper + plastic. Will see if I want to go with the less preferable flavours but in the meantime more research is needed!
  • Chocolate
    Giac is addicted to Cadbury chocolate. The packaging, however, goes straight to the landfill. As an alternative I’ve been baking like crazy to make sure he gets a daily supply of cookies instead.

Things we compromised

  • Pasta
    Unfortunately, pasta in bulk is not really a thing yet. I’m more of a rice person and could happily live without pasta (despite being Italian), but Giac has pasta pretty much every day. So we did buy it, after making sure we found a brand that has recyclable packaging.
  • Soy milk
    Haven’t got round to make my own milk yet. I will try for sure in the future, but for now I’m taking it one step and a time and still buying soy milk, as long as it comes in a recyclable packaging.
  • Condoms
    Probably TMI here, but lots of contraceptives are wasteful. I’ve been considering switching to Daysy, but haven’t made up my mind yet. This probably requires a separate blog post as it’s quite a broad subject, but in the meantime any suggestions in this field would be more than welcome!

Where we shopped instead
In order to minimise the amount of packaging, we went to the farmers market on Sunday (nothing new here, we shop at the farmers market on a regular basis already), and for anything other than fruits and veggies (i.e. rice, sugar, spices, seeds) we found this nice place in Newtown called Moshim’s (go check it out if you are in Welly) which has a huge selection of goods in bulk. We brought our own bags and jars, and ta-daaa! Zero Waste shopping.

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I also made my own shampoo, switched to a new face wash, and will try to make my own face cream as soon as the raw ingredients I ordered arrive (recipes coming soon!).

Overall conclusions
Forcing yourself to set aside every piece of rubbish you produce really makes you aware of it, and personally it still feels like we accumulated a lot. Compared to the average household, though, I think we did pretty well.
For me, the best way to transition is not to go Zero Waste overnight but to take it one step at a time. Replace what you need as and when you run out of it (i.e. I still have a couple of face creams that I’m going to use up before I make my own, so I can re-use the containers as well), take your time  to do your research and find sustainable alternatives. Ideally you want to go package-free, but if you can’t try at least to find the same item in a recyclable packaging.
Keep in mind that the point of living Zero Waste is accepting the fact that recycling is not the solution: refusing is (part of) the solution. So an even better approach is to consider whether something you want to buy is something you really need. You’ll find that nine out of ten times you can probably go without.

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You consume me

Moving to New Zealand has changed a whole bunch of things in my life, one of them being the relationship I have with my possessions.

Life in the Southern Hemisphere is very different from my previous life in London. One of the biggest differences is the impression I constantly have that time has stretched. This is partly due to the fact that I don’t have a job, but at the same time it’s also true that life is so much slower here, which makes me think it’s ok for me to literally take my time – do things at my own pace, don’t rush, and take it easy.

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In the past months, I’ve had a lot of time to think. This is not necessarily a good thing, however – if I manage to not let my stress and anxiety creep up and overwhelm my poor synapses – it also means that I can do a lot of research on things I’m passionate about and reflect on my actions and the impact they have on my surroundings and on my own life.

I’ve obviously been very much into the whole Zero Waste thing, minimalism, and downsizing my material possessions. One thing I’ve learned is that the whole point of simple living is finding what’s important to you. Simple living for me doesn’t mean to only own two pieces of clothing and a pair of chopsticks. Minimalism and downsizing don’t have to be synonyms with depriving yourself of anything. To me, it makes sense to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring me joy or that doesn’t serve me. If it’s something that I feel it weights me down or it stresses me out, I’ll get rid of it.
But at the same time I’m also incorporating more things into my life, I’m purchasing things that I believe will make my life better and me happier.

My goal is to only own things that I love and that are functional to my lifestyle.

Since we moved into our apartment about four months ago, I’ve been into my wardrobe at least once a week if not more, staring at all my clothes and trying to decide what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to chuck.
I have been chucking (by which I mean, donating) at least a third of my clothes. (This is a lot, considering I had already downsized quite a bit before moving to New Zealand altogether.) What I donated were things that I never wore, that didn’t fit me, or that I didn’t like. What is still in my wardrobe are things I love, things I wear all the time, and things I’m emotionally attached to (which I’m ok to keep, by the way).

However, the other day I went shopping for some clothes. I can’t remember the last time I went shopping for clothes. I’ve never particularly liked going shopping, which is proved by the fact that a good part of my clothes I’ve had since I was in high school (yeah, they still fit). But this time I went because I realised that after my wardrobe cleanout I was left with mismatching clothes and I was missing some good quality, durable staples.
For example, I’m all set for summer weather (which is ironic, considering I haven’t been living in a place where summer is a thing for the past five years), but I’m very unprepared for winter (which is double ironic, for the same exact reason). So I set off to go get myself some warm fluffy jumpers.

Now. This shopping experience was nothing like I’d ever thought a shopping experience could be like.

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I’ve never been so conscious about what I was gonna buy. There are two reasons for this.
The first one is that I recently watched The True Cost (you can read my thoughts about it here) and I’ve decided I’m never ever going to buy anything that comes from unethical and unsustainable suppliers. The second reason is more subtle and complicated.
Since about June last year, I’ve had to be very VERY careful about all my expenses.  I’ve always been quite penny-pinching, but travelling and being jobless really takes stinginess to the next level. Obviously not having money to spare completely changes your perspective on the things you can afford to buy. Plus living off the same two outfits for four months makes you realise that yes it is boring as hell, but you really don’t need that many clothes or that many things in general, for that matter.
Since I moved to New Zealand, my attention has shifted from what I want, to what I need. So much so that even when I finally had some money to spare and I could finally afford to go shopping, I realised I wasn’t feeling that thrill of buying things that I was expected I’d get after months and months of restriction.

I made a mental note of the shops I wanted to visit (all second-hand, independent retailers or shops that sell sustainable brands). Then I established my priorities: I would only buy things that are functional, multipurpose, good quality, and that I really liked. Finally, I set myself a budget.
With all these goals in mind, I set off for the most successful shopping trip of my life. I didn’t find everything I wanted (I’m still on the hunt for a pair of black jeans and some good winter jumpers, which is going to be tricky considering it’s summer in New Zealand), but I’m so glad I managed to only shop in second-hand stores, I stayed well within my budget, and I’m absolutely in love with everything I got.

Ideally I want to get to a point where all I have, I love.

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I am so excited and amazed by all the changes I’m making in my life, for the better. I love the fact that I have so much time to do research and understand what’s becoming more and more important to me. I’m learning new values setting myself new priorities. And I’m very proud of the person I’m becoming.