September favourites

You may have noticed some recent changes to The Fourth Month. I’m now residing at thefourthmonth.blog and pages like Food, Wellbeing and Shopping have returned to the site. In February, I wrote a blog about Changes, where I announced The Fourth Month would focus solely on the publishing industry and books. However, since I made this ‘niche’ for myself, I found myself completely uninspired. So I’ve decided to go back to my roots and The Fourth Month will be a mix and match of anything and everything once again.

In the spirit of embracing chaos, I am starting a monthly ‘favourites’ blog, which will be a list of random products from books and magazines to beauty and candles to delicious foodie treats.

Enjoy x


Breathe & Teen Breathe Magazine

I featured Issue One of Breathe Magazine in a blog last year (August 2016 Home Inspiration) when I first discovered this amazing publication. A year on and they have recently launched their sister magazine, Teen Breathe, which aims to help teens and young adults find a bit of peace and quiet in their hectic, social-media driven lives. The beautiful illustrations and peaceful content of Breathe magazines have resonated with me from day one. A year later and I’m still enjoying every issue. Not only does it look great on your coffee table but it’s bursting with ideas to improve your mental and physical wellbeing. I also think it’s pretty inexpensive as far as luxury magazines go. I recently subscribed so that I never miss an issue – I love it that much!

Get an annual subscription to Breathe for your Amazon Kindle.

If you’d like me to do a full review of the recent issues of Breathe magazine then please comment below or drop me a line at thefourthmonth@icloud.com.

Rustic bath shelf from Sainsbury’s

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Face cloths from Asda, candles from Aldi and Wax Lyrical UK, face mask and body scrub from Lush Cosmetics

I’ve been desperate for a bath shelf for AGES. I love running a hot bubble bath after a stressful day and some over-the-bath storage is the perfect addition to a soak in the tub. I picked this up in Sainsbury’s – their homeware selection is gorgeous – and I like to use it to show off my favourite bath time products: some rolled-up face cloths, Lush cosmetics and a couple of gorgeous candles. It’s like my own mini spa. There’s also room for a glass of wine (or two). If you’re on a budget, you can up-cycle an old wooden shelf for the same (if not better) effect.

Aldi Lime, Basil and Mandarin Candle

This Jo Malone dupe is getting ALL THE HYPE lately and I can see why. At £3.99, this supermarket candle will cost you 90% less than the real deal. While I’m not convinced about the ethics behind such a cheap dupe, I can confidently say that this candle smells just like the Jo Malone original and leaves a long-lasting, strong fragrance in the air. It also looks really luxurious and mimics the classic Jo Malone style beautifully. Ultimately, I will probably continue to splash out on a real Jo Malone candle once in a blue moon because you always get what you pay for but this Aldi dupe will definitely keep me going in-between – I’ve already bought three!

Mini lavender pots

I love a bargain! So I was pretty excited when I saw this set of three artificial miniature lavender plants in a cream wire basket reduced to £7 in Tesco. I skipped to the checkout and to my delight, these cuties were reduced even further – to £1.70! I couldn’t believe it. I love seeing these lavender plants perched on my kitchen windowsill every morning. I haven’t seen them in any local Tesco stores since and I can’t find them online but you can get a similar set from Melody Maison for only £8.95.

Try adding a couple of drops of real lavender essence to give some authenticity your artificial plants. Lavender oil has some wonderful healing properties which make it a great bedtime companion.

Lazy Sunday Coffee

Jamie and I recently bought a coffee grinder and French Press from IKEA so that we could enjoy freshly ground coffee in the mornings instead of instant. However, I often find fresh coffee too strong or too bitter but I was pleasantly surprised by Taylor’s of Harrogate’s ‘Lazy Sunday’ coffee. With hints of hazelnut and citrus, these coffee beans don’t claim to be “knock-your-socks-off, drag-you-awake coffee.” Instead, this is “coffee for lie-ins and Sunday papers, for lazy mornings with your feet on the sofa.” If I was a cup of coffee, this is what I would be.

You can buy three bags of Taylors of Harrogate Lazy Sunday Medium Roast Ground Coffee for £8.65 on Amazon.

On the subject of coffee, we’re thinking about getting a proper barista coffee machine for our Christmas this year. Do you have any recommendations or know of any coffee machines we should steer clear of? Let me know in the comments or get in touch on Instagram.


What are you loving this September? The weather is cooling and it’s time to break out the hats and scarves again. Do you have any go-to products for Autumn? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram.

Wee Tree Soaps: Part 1

Everyone loves to pamper themselves. Put on a candle, run a bubble bath and choose a lovely soapy product that smells like bubblegum or lavender, so good, right? Then you end up with a red rash or a UTI because of the high levels of fragrance and chemicals that just don’t agree with you. It was my body’s adverse reactions to commercial skin care products that sent me on a hunt for high-quality products or “dupes” which were not only cruelty-free but natural and kind to your skin. Cue Etsy: I searched for vegan soaps and found the Wee Tree Soaps store. I was immediately enchanted by their products which look good enough to eat!

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As a Scottish blogger, one of my main goals is promoting handcrafted products from Scotland so it is an added bonus that Wee Tree Soaps is, like me, Ayrshire based. Then I discovered that Wee Tree Soaps are actually manufactured in my hometown: Irvine. What are the chances? When I realised this, I knew I had to get my hands on some of these gorgeous soaps. Not only because they are earth and skin friendly but because they are conjured up right on my own doorstep.

It turned out that Leigh, who makes these incredible soaps, has actually known me since I was a little girl! These products are made in my old street where I have the fondest childhood memories. Some of which include playing with Leigh’s kids who lived round the corner. After chatting about old times, Leigh was more than happy to send me a few products to try. I’m trialling Dead Sea MudHoney Oatmeal Scrubby, Spicy Cinnamon, Avocado and Tea Tree and Tangy Tangerine.

Since I have five soaps to review from Wee Tree Soaps, I am splitting this review into two parts to allow for a proper look at each product. All of Leigh’s soaps are free of palm oil, animal products, and artificial colours/fragrances. She made her soaps with her daughter’s eczema in mind because most bath products would irritate her sensitive skin: a feeling I’m sure many of us can relate to. They are fantastic for anyone suffering from eczema, psoriasis and allergies and perfect for anyone looking for a luxury artisan treat without nasty chemicals. The first of my five to try was the Dead Sea Mud soap which I opened on my first night staying in my new flat in Edinburgh. Here’s what I thought…


Dead Sea Mud

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Dead Sea Mud is a muddy treat: beautifully packaged with a lovely marbled effect. I love the quaint tree stamp that adorns every soap; it really makes you feel like you are using an earth-friendly product. It doesn’t give off a huge scent other than a subtle buttery avocado smell with a hint of citrus from the May Chang essential oil. For me, this is proof that there are no artificial chemicals in use so, if anything, it enhanced my experience.

Like all of the Wee Tree Soaps, it is great for sensitive skin. It is marketed more towards mature skin because of its nourishing ingredients. The oils used in this product will draw moisture into the skin, act as a natural barrier between your skin and the harsh elements you face every day and keep your skin feeling regenerated and moisturised as well as providing a lovely bubbly lather.

I used it on my hands, body and face. I don’t recommend using soaps on your face because they are too astringent. Despite all the nourishing oils, this product was still too drying for my face. Leigh also makes Facial Bars which I’d love to try. However, I absolutely love it for refreshing my hands and body. I really wasn’t expecting much of a lather with a chemical-free soap but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how bubbly it is! It doesn’t take much coaxing to froth up – a tiny bit of water goes a long way. Speaking of water, it is really important to keep your product dry and use a good draining soap dish. Because it’s chemical-free, it will just turn to mush if it lies in water for too long. Keep it dry and your Wee Tree Soap will last a very long time.

Oh, and it’s only four quid on Etsy!


 Honey Oatmeal Scrubby

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Having oily and acne-prone skin, a decent exfoliator is key to maintaining a good skincare regime. This Honey Oatmeal Scrubby does the job whilst being cruelty-free and skin-friendly. It does contain honey so may not be suitable for some vegans.

Why do I love this soap? This exfoliator uses ground oatmeal to provide a natural exfoliant. Many high-street exfoliators contain harmful plastic microbeads which are terrible for the environment. These beads go down your drain, into the sea and subsequently into the food chain. According to this article about microbeads by Greenpeace, 90% of birds now have plastic in their stomachs! By swapping out products that use these dangerous beads for an all-natural soap like this, you could make a big impact on the environment as well as your skin.

Like the Dead Sea Mud soap, this soap contains loads of natural skin-loving oils which keep your skin feeling soft and supple as well as providing a bubbly lather. I’m sure many of you will know that the use of honey for beauty goes way back! Women have been bathing and using honey throughout history to keep their skin looking radiant, it’s been used in folk medicine to treat illnesses and various ailments and it’s just generally really good for you. While it doesn’t have a strong fragrance, the combination of honey and oatmeal gives it the faint smell of sweet porridge.

I use this in the shower (do not leave under the water for too long) to scrub the dry skin on my body. This is a great soap to use before applying fake tan or for anyone who feels their skin is looking dull and rough. Unlike many exfoliators, it is very gentle but leaves your skin looking healthy and shiny.

Again, it is a mere £4 on Etsy so fetch yourself a bargain today. This is a lovely gift for vegans and for friends and family with sensitive and irritable skin.


Next time I’ll be reviewing Avocado and Tea Tree, Tangy Tangerine and Spicy Cinnamon!

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Find Wee Tree Soaps on Etsy and follow them on Facebook.

For more home and beauty inspiration, follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 

How To Turn Student Accommodation Into Your Dream Home

Starting University is daunting but moving into student accommodation doesn’t need to be scary. Once you’re done packing the bare essentials (pyjamas and loo roll), fill your suitcase with adorable bits and bobs to give your new flat that cosy feel.  Here’s some of my favourites:

Inspirational Quotes & Prints

One of the things I did to jazz up my new room was frame some gorgeous illustrations. Get on Etsy and search for prints that reflect your personality. It could be something witty that’ll make you laugh when you see it or something more motivational to get you in the studying mindset. If you’re into a Live, Laugh, Love quote then who am I to judge? Be careful sticking them on walls because some letting agents will kick up a fuss – avoid blu-tac and sticking pins straight on to a wall. If you have a corkboard that’s a great way to showcase your favourite designs and throw up some family photos too. I like framing my prints and resting them on bookshelves and desks. My favourite illustrators right now are The Fuzzy Bee Paper CompanyClaire Barclay Draws and Lemmon Studios.

Candles

You’ll know by now that I’m addicted to candles. I guess it comes down to that Danish lifestyle concept: Hygge. Candles will turn any empty room into a warm and fuzzy place to snuggle up and read a good book. I’ve written a lot about my favourite independent Scottish candle companies but here’s some to get you started. If you’re a book lover like me, invest in a couple of Meraki Candles. For something a bit more luxurious, try MoBros Candles and use my 10% off code: APRIL10. Other candles I love are Love Scottish Candles and McKelvie Candles. Please be careful because not all landlords allow you to burn candles. Find out if it’s okay and if not they still make for gorgeous decorations and smell gorgeous even when they’re unlit.

Books

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Books, glorious books! Nothing makes a room feel more homely than a shelf stacked with your favourite books. I like books that are worn and weathered from a loving reader who has pawed the pages so many times and a cracked spine from an overly zealous reading session. There’s a reason this John Waters’ quote is so famous…

If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!

Books are the life source of any room and you can completely personalise your space by choosing which books you put on display. At the moment, I don’t have many books in my new room but I’m getting there. They’re mostly to-be-read like A Court of Thorns and RoseHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Improbability of Love but I will be fetching a fresh copy of Jane Eyre because no bedroom of mine is complete until Jane and Mr Rochester are adorning the shelves!

Soaps, Lotions & Potions

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You don’t need to spend a fortune to have some luxury beauty products in your new home. Having some sweet-smelling, pretty soaps and lotions adds a special something to your room. Between the chaos of starting your course and moving out, it’s important to take time out to practice self-care. That means burning a candle and pampering yourself with your favourite beauty products. Like I said in the Top 10 Tips For Acne-Prone Skin, I love Liz Earle and I’ve recently been enjoying the amazing Wee Tree Soaps too. They are cruelty-free, perfect for sensitive skin and only £4. Investing in nice soaps and lotions makes your room feel more expensive and gives you the chance to unwind too.


For more home inspiration, follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Breaking Up With The Internet

I’ll be the first to admit I am addicted to the internet. Like most people my age, I have become entangled in the worldwide web and it’s pretty impossible to extract my ~real~ life from the one I live in front of a computer screen. And while the internet is a wonderful and life-changing piece of technology, I can’t help but think we have gone too far. There are whole lanes dedicated to Pokemon hunters in shopping centres and just the other day I was at the train station when I heard an announcement about keeping your head up from your smartphone on the train platform to avoid accidents.

The Internet isn’t all bad. Social media has been connecting people around the world for years. I can keep in touch with family who live all over the world at any given moment. Oh and the internet is an incredible educational resource! I swear I got my degree from Google.

But is it information overload? I’m not the only person that Wikipedias an entire TV series plotline while I’m watching it – crazy, right? And with new Facebook features, I can actually locate all of my friends (and acquaintances) pretty much at all times. Spooky.

So while there are many amazing things on the internet, I think it’s time we all stepped back into the real world and here’s the little things I am doing to try and be more present:


1. Set Time Boundaries.

Limit the amount of internet you consume every day. I have decided any time before 8am and after 9pm should be internet-free. I mentioned the blue light in 5 Tips For A Better Sleep and turning your phone off earlier at night to help get a better sleep. Switching your phone off earlier means you begin to unwind quicker therefore you get a higher quality sleep at night. It’s win-win.

To make sure I stick to it, I turn my phone on to airplane mode at night and don’t turn it off until 8am the next day. This also means I’m less distracted when I’m getting ready in the morning. How many of you get out the shower and sit on the bed for like 30 minutes scrolling through your news feeds? Just me? Okay…

2. Turn Off Notifications.

This is something I tried recently and it definitely works. Go on to the notification settings on your phone. Switch off all notifications for any apps that aren’t important. I’ve kept them on for phone calls, text messages and emails but everything else (yes, even Facebook) are now switched off. That means I can only access the information when I actively go into the app or visit the sites on my laptop. When your phone is constantly lighting up every time someone likes your photo or a funny tweet you are being overly stimulated and getting sucked into the cyber world every time you check the time on your phone. Be kind to yourself; remember that not every text/tweet/email/like/comment notification needs to be dealt with straight away.

3. Swap Your Apps.

Try swapping toxic, time-wasting Internet habits for more positive and life-affirming ones. Ditch your Facebook app or online games and swap them for more positive apps and websites. There are many online apps for fitness, diet, meditation and creative thinking which will all help towards a happier and healthier life. Remind yourself that you don’t need the constant stimulation of other people’s lives when the one you’re living is so important! Every time you think about checking your Instagram or Facebook why not take 10 minutes of “me-time” instead.

Try apps like 30 Day Squat, Calm or HeadSpace. Download the free Kindle app and read a chapter of your favourite book whenever you want to cruise the internet. Also use websites like StumbleUpon which allow you to find new websites catered to your interests that will feed your brain rather than turn it into mush. Let me know what your favourite healthy lifestyle apps and websites are! Are there any life-affirming blogs that you just love?

4. Create No-Internet Spaces.

Another good tip is to have “no internet zones” in the house. For example, no phones at the dinner table or keeping the internet out of your bedroom.You don’t need to know what Sarah had for her lunch or what a great holiday Tom had while you’re cosying up to go to sleep or enjoying a meal with family and friends. I’ve never been allowed a phone at the dinner table because it’s a time to unwind and talk to your family about your day. Try these 3 Fun Ways to Avoid the Silent Dinner Table post from oprah.com.

Similarly, keep your phone far away when you’re out with friends. I’m getting increasingly annoyed when I go to a party and see everyone (including myself) fiddling on their phones instead of talking to each other. We are a generation obsessed with letting everyone online know how much fun we’re having instead of actually having fun in real life. Turn off mobile data if you’re out with friends or switch your phone on to airplane mode for that extra boost towards an internet free day. If you’re feeling really brave just leave your phone at home!

5. Discover What You Really Love.

Spending less time on the internet gives you more time to cultivate good habits and discover hobbies that make you really happy. What do you enjoy doing? What did people do before the internet? Go for a walk or a cycle. Join a new fitness class you’ve always wanted to try. What about something creative like crocheting, drawing, painting or writing? If you’re not sure what gets your blood pumping, here’s 16 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Quality of Life. When you step away from the screen and take the time to remember what you love you will start to enjoy life a whole lot more! I recently saw this lovely image on the Happiness Planner Facebook page and it really resonated with me:

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Yes, the ironic thing is that I’m writing a blog about simplifying your relationship with the internet on an online blog and as part of blogging I have to spend a lot of time on social media outlets on a daily basis. However, I’m trying to separate the time spent productively using the internet for blogging and the time I spend scrolling aimlessly through statuses and photos from people I went to school with and wouldn’t even say hello to me on the street. The Internet can be an incredible tool if you use it wisely but don’t let it take over your life!

However, if you are browsing the Internet on your break… why not follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

 

Other Resources

Monday Morning, you sure look fine.

Am I the only person that sings Fleetwood Mac as another hazy Monday morning welcomes you to the working week?

Here I am, it’s 6.50am on a dreich Monday morning in Ayrshire. (For non-Scots dreich definition) But today is different from other Monday mornings because for once I have time to sit and blog. Why? Because I woke up at 6.15am instead of 7.15am. Why? Why would I choose to get one less hour sleep in favour of enjoying the grey and overcast views from my bedroom window?

Well, I recently read an amazing blog by Sarah Whyte from Whyte Happened Next about waking up one hour before you need to get up and give yourself some precious “me” time every morning. I’m a serious sleepaholic and would do anything for 5 minutes more so I was intrigued to see if getting up an hour earlier would actually increase my daily happiness. ‘Cos that’s what it’s all about after all.

Scientifically, early risers are associated with success:

The early bird catches the worm.

According to a 2008 Texas University study, students who identified as “morning people” earned a full point higher in their GPAs than their “night owl” classmates. Harvard Biologist discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive and feel “in charge of making things happen.” You can read more stats here but you get the picture.

So I’ve been convinced to ditch my 7.15am and rushed morning routine in favour of a slow and easy morning starting at 6.15am. Bonus points for fitting in an extra cup of tea and some reading time. Here are the three things I hope to gain from waking up early and I’ll write a blog at the end of the week.

1. Preparation

Like most people, I scramble around in the morning trying to squeeze in a shower, full face of makeup, breakfast, reading my Facebook timeline and just generally making myself look like a functioning human being before 8am. Something always falls by the wayside as time runs out and that’s usually food preparation. Getting up earlier means I can prepare a healthy lunch to take with me to work and a hearty breakfast that will keep my fuller for longer.

2. Alertness.

I go to bed early every night. You can read my top tips for a good night sleep here. My tiredness every morning cannot be attributed to a bad sleep because I sleep like a log most nights. So I’m hoping that waking up an hour earlier every day will give me more time to come to my senses so that by the  time I get to work at 9am, I’m not reaching for another cup of coffee just to feel human.

3. Happiness.

This is probably the main reason I have for adding an extra hour into my day in the morning. Allowing yourself some “me” time every morning might sound very new-age hippy-dippy to some people but the idea of starting your day with a good book and the gentle tinkling of your favourite radio station sounds so much more appealing than crash landing into my shower half-asleep. I hope to set aside time in the morning to meditate and practise mindfulness!

What about you? Are you an “early bird” or a “night owl”? Let me know on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Top 10 Tips For Acne-Prone Skin

Hello and welcome to my first beauty post. It felt appropriate for me to start at the basics with skincare and to go with something personal like spotty skin because I’ve suffered from breakouts since I was about 15. I am not a dermatologist or a dietician. I don’t have any formal training but I have been through a long process of trial and error to get my skin to a state that I’m happy with. Yes, I still have breakouts but now I know how to control them and why they happen. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last 7 years – I hope it helps!

1. You are what you eat.

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If I could give only one piece of advice about looking after your skin it would be: turn to your diet. Skin is susceptible to change due to many things including hormones and the weather but more often than not you can reduce your spots by cutting down on refined carbs, sugar and trans fats. For me, it’s pizza. If I eat pizza, my face literally looks like a pepperoni pizza the next day. Keep a food diary and whenever you have a breakout, ask yourself what foods did you have the day before and try to eliminate them from your diet. Now, I do still eat pizza but knowing that I will face the consequences of a bad breakout the next day!

Skin healthy foods: Lots of green tea and water. Fresh fruit and veg packed with vitamins  and antioxidants like tomatoes (check out recipes like Huevos Rancheros), kale (you could throw some into my Quadruple Green Sweet n Sour dish) and yellow bell peppers (dice them into Classic Lasagne) Check out this list of 25 Best Foods For Your Skin.

2. The drugs don’t work.

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Okay, that’s a bit harsh. A lot of medication does work. I’ve spent years being prescribed different drugs but, more often than not, they only provide short-term solutions. My skin would clear for a few weeks but my spots would soon fight back with a vengeance. Having said that, Roaccutane will clear severe acne undoubtedly. I have never used it but know many friends who have clear skin now as a result. It comes at a price though: mood swings, dry and flaky skin, sore bones and joints… It just depends on how severe your acne is if you’re willing to try it. If you are really suffering from your bad skin, do go to your GP. They will offer a sympathetic ear and hopefully provide you with some form of solution to your problem. My only advice is to follow these other tips in conjunction with medication. Don’t expect a drug to fix it all if you’re not looking after your skin in other ways too.

3. Let it breathe, let it breathe…

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If you don’t need to wear makeup, don’t. If you’re off work for the day then avoid putting any makeup on; cleanse and moisturise skin as usual and let your skin breathe. On days where you can’t avoid make-up, clean your face immediately when you get home. Don’t wait until late at night if you don’t have to. Likewise, wash your face thoroughly after gym sessions and don’t wear makeup when you’re working out. Taking your makeup off as soon as you can is really important to let your skin breathe and heal itself. On this note, try to avoid really heavy-duty foundations. I know it’s tempting to cover up with a heavy slick of Double Wear – been there, done that – but you’re only prolonging the issue. Try a lighter coverage, even a tinted moisturiser if you feel you can, with some concealer on problematic areas. See my next tip for my favourite and least favourite foundations for spot-prone skin!

4. Start at the foundation.

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I mentioned Estée Lauder Double Wear because it is the holy grail of heavy coverage. When my skin was really bad, I felt more confident covering myself up with a thick layer of this foundation. I used it for a year plus and thought it was amazing but I’ve since realised that the heaviness was only worsening the issue. Heavy foundations will clog up your pores and prolong the inevitable. The best foundation I’ve ever used for my skin is Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Foundation. It is made with really natural ingredients which soothe your skin rather than damage it with nasty chemicals and it still gives a great coverage. Bonus points: it contains an SPF 15 for sun protection and it’s vegan-friendly.

5. Back to basics.

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There is no use in applying a chemical-free foundation if you are damaging your skin with a disagreeable skincare regime or, worse, not using one at all. If your skin is prone to spots it is important to find a cleanser, exfoliator, toner and moisturiser that work for you. Start with your cleanser. Don’t use make-up wipes. I love Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser with their muslin cloth. It’s a cleanser that will remove makeup, clean impurities and act as a gentle exfoliator at the same time. I have never found a better cleanser and have repurchased several tubes. For me, nothing works like it. I’m trialling and enjoying Emma Hardie Amazing Face Lift & Sculpt Moringa Cleansing Balm at the moment so I’ll let you all know how I get on with it. It smells lovely and feels very luxurious so hopefully, it clears up my current breakout. I love Liz Earle for toner and moisturiser too. All their products are very light, enriched with skin-loving nutrients and leave my skin feeling soft, radiant and clean.

6. Be prepared for change.

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When I first went to the doctor about my skin, she explained that a woman’s body goes through a hormonal overhaul every 7 years. Not just puberty. That means every 7 years, your skin can change dramatically. You may have crystal clear skin all through your teens and twenties but could wake up with acne in your thirties. Do not get complacent with your skincare routine! One of my friends had been using the same moisturiser for years when suddenly her skin took an adverse reaction to it and she experienced redness on the sides of her face. She gave it up, swapped it for a different moisturise and the redness quickly disappeared. What I’m saying is: don’t be afraid to change. What was once your knight in shining skincare armour could quickly become your worst enemy. Similarly, the weather has a dramatic impact on your skin.  You might find your skin gets uncomfortably dry in the wintertime so you have to opt for a more moisturising regime. Likewise, the heat of summer might cause you to sweat more and, in turn, cause breakouts so you need to be wary of any oily makeup. I go between Liz Earle‘s moisturisers for Normal/Combination and Combination/Oily skins depending on how my skin is feeling at the time.

7. Don’t be afraid of moisture.

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It’s a common misconception that you want to dry your skin out to combat spots. I never moisturised until I was like 19 because I believed it would make my skin oilier and therefore spottier. I was so frightened of adding any moisture to my face but I later discovered that my skin was severely dehydrated in some areas especially under my eyes. You should moisturise morning and night. Period. Look at your skin: is it oily? is it dry in some patches? is there redness? Like I said, there are moisturisers to suit your skin needs so use them! If, like me, you have combination skin then apply your moisturiser first in dry areas, like your cheeks, and blend out to your oilier areas, like your t-zone. If you’re really fancy you can use different products for different areas but that’s expensive!

Moisture surge products I loveESPA 24-Hour Replenishing Eye Moisturiser and CREME FRAICHE DE BEAUTE masque.

8. Get ready to fight back.

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Have a go-to emergency regime when you have a really bad burst of acne but don’t have a lot of time for slow healing. There are plenty of tips online but I think one of the best things you can use to combat a bad breakout is tea tree. Bodyshop does a great range of tea tree products. I’ve trialled several of them including the foaming cleanser, scrub, toner and night lotion. Do not overdo it with tea tree products because they will really dry out your skin.

My emergency regimen: The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Foaming Cleanser or my ordinary daily cleanser using a slightly abrasive muslin cloth to gently exfoliate my skin. After cleansing, I splash my skin with cold water to close my pores and gently pat it dry. Once my skin is dry I’ll sweep The Body Shop Tea Tree Toner over my face with a clean cotton pad and moisturise as normal. I then apply a small amount of Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream (for nappy rash) with a clean cotton bud on any spot breakouts. The next morning I find the pain, redness and unsightliness have reduced dramatically and I can return to my usual less-intensive routine.

9. Treat yo’ self.

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When your skin is really bringing you down, your self-confidence can plummet so it’s nice to pamper yourself once in a while. Why not book into a spa for a deep cleaning facial? It’s a good way to lift your spirits when your self-esteem is low. It will leave your skin feeling totally refreshed and recharged and you’ll get the chance to talk to a professional about your skin problems. Beauticians often have a lot of skin-loving wisdom to pass on. I’ve received some amazing tips from beauticians over the years and they certainly know a lot more about dermatology than me! If you don’t have the time or money for a spa trip then set aside some cash for a luxury skincare product once in a blue moon.

My Future Splurge Products: Elemis Skin Buff and La Roche-Posay Effaclar 3-Step Anti-Blemish System (I was recommended La Roche-Posay by a beautician and adored their products but have never justified the price again since I ran out)

10. Learn to love your skin as it is.

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This is easier said than done. You can buy all the fancy skincare and beauty products in the world but there is no telling that your skin will ever completely clear up. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone suffering from spot-prone skin is to learn to accept it. Spots may be a physical problem but the emotional turmoil they can cause can be awful, especially in your teenage years when you are so preoccupied with your looks. My self-esteem has been greatly affected by my bad skin over the year. I was always envious of my friends with perfect skin and perpetually worried about the redness and bumps all over my face. By no means am I saying that I like having spotty skin now. There are days when it drags me down but more and more I have come to accept it and not let it bother me as much. Now I can go out without makeup and feel comfortable enough in my own skin because the truth is the stress caused by worrying about spots will only make your spots worse! Remember: there are a lot worse things in the world than spots and while I try to reduce them as much as I can it’s important to remember that your complexion is not a reflection of how much of a funny, intelligent or kind person you are!

So what are you skincare secrets? Do you have any fool-proof ways of clearing spotty skin?

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5 Tips For A Better Sleep

I love to sleep. Alongside reading, it is my favourite hobby and, as luck would have it, it’s actually really good for you too. Before I give you my super fantastic tips for the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have, take a gander at some of the cool health benefits of catching some proper uninterrupted Zzzzzz.

Health Benefits

[source: health.com]

  • Longer Life-Span – who doesn’t want immortality?
  • Decreased Inflammation Pain– if you suffer from aches and pains in daily life then one thing you could be missing is a proper snooze at night.
  • Get The Creative Juices Flowing – studies have shown that the strengthening of emotional components of a memory during sleep can actually increase creative thought. Perfect for all you bloggers out there with writer’s block.
  • More Stamina – whether it’s on the tennis court, football field, or maybe in the bedroom (hey, I won’t judge) the more sleep you get the less fatigued you will be during the day (duh) so your athletic performance will improve.
  • Become Super Brainy – sleep deprivation = impaired learning. So go to bed early during exam time guys to avoid all that exam time stress.
  • Focus – if you’re finding yourself being inattentive and distracted all the time, you might not be getting enough sleep.
  • Help Weight Loss – apparently, you feel hungrier when you sleep less. The evil hormones that send your appetite through the roof increase as you get sleepier. If that’s not a reason to go to bed right this second then I don’t know what is.
  • Decreased Stress Levels – this is one of the huge benefits I experience from getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep reduces levels of stress and anxiety which in turn decrease your chances of so many other nasty side-effects of stress like heart disease or depression.

My Five Top Tips For Catching Zzz’s

1. Step Away From the Blue Light!

Never heard of the blue light? Well, it is probably the reason you’re struggling to fall asleep at night. If you want the science behind it then read this interesting article from Harvard Health on the dark side of blue light. To summarise, the blue light which is found in all of your electronic devices, like mobile phones and tablets, is like artificial sunlight to your brain. This means that your brain never truly realises it’s nighttime and, therefore, time to go to sleep. It basically attacks your body’s natural biological clock and your sleep will suffer as a result. Since I first discovered more about the dangerous blue light, I’ve tried to cut down my exposure to it about 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed.

In a world of social media addiction, what can you do? Text your friends or tweet that you are going to bed well before you intend to go to sleep so that nobody bothers you while you unwind. Set your alarm thirty-forty minutes before you go to bed and put your phone out of arm’s reach. No laptops or TV either. Try reading a book (there are plenty of good book reviews on my site if you’re struggling for ideas) or if you’re in a relationship try talking to your partner until you fall asleep.

2. Try a Little Lavender.

Okay, since reading and watching Outlander I am slightly perturbed by the uses of lavender oil but before I knew about the menacing Captain Jack Randall, I was using lavender essential oil to soothe me to sleep. It’s a very simple and natural solution for anyone suffering from mild insomnia. It has calming properties and has been used throughout history for treating anxiety and nervous tension. It’s ideal for those bad days when you’re really worked up and stressed out.

What to do: Sprinkle 1-2 droplets of lavender oil on your pillowcase before you go to sleep at night. Don’t overdo it; you will regret it when your bedroom smells like your granny’s perfume for the next two weeks. Alternatively, put 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your evening bath to relax your muscles and get ready to sleep. Try lavender scented candles too! The Lavender and Chamomile candle from Love Scottish Candles is a great bedtime treat. For more information on the health benefits of lavender, click here.

3. Cut Out the Caffeine.

Up until this year, I took almost no caffeine in my diet other than the trace amounts of caffeine in green tea and even then I wouldn’t drink it before bedtime. I hated coffee and energy drinks so I never had to worry about how this everyday drug could be affecting my sleep. Then I discovered caramel lattes and now I am a self-confessed coffee addict. My body does not react well to caffeine. If I have too much, I get anxious, my heart races and, worst of all, I realised that my sleep was suffering as I was drinking more and more coffee. Studies show that your sleep can be affected by caffeine if you drink it anytime up to eight hours before bedtime!

How to avoid caffeine: Try to stop drinking coffee at lunchtime if you can and switch to decaffeinated for the evening (most cafés offer a caffeine-free option) Drink an alternative hot drink like milky tea, hot chocolate or a malt based drink which are all great for inducing sleep. My secret sleep potion is a cup of chamomile and honey tea. Like lavender, chamomile is a natural relaxant which can soothe aches and pains and promote a good night’s sleep. For more health benefits of chamomile, check this out.

4. Zzz is for Zen.

Some of you may be apprehensive about meditation. There is an abundance of health benefits to meditating and, contrary to mainstream belief, meditating does not need to be a religious experience. Myth busting: you don’t need to be a yoga superstar or a Buddhist to reap the rewards of meditating. Basically, it is just sitting in a quiet and peaceful place and breathing. If I’m really restless or anxious, I find a peaceful moment before I go to bed and listen to the sound of my breathing and float away for a few minutes. Meditation helps to alleviate the stress that has built up on your shoulders throughout the day or week and you can totally unwind.

Meditating for beginners: If you want to create a meditation habit then zenhabits.net have a wonderful guide to practising meditation here. I’ll pick out a few thoughts and I sincerely hope you forget any preconceptions you might have and give it a go. Sit in a quiet place. Breathe deeply. Forget what’s going on around you or what you have on your to-do list and just exist. Count your breaths and scan your body all the way from your toes to your head. What are you feeling? Personally, I like to imagine a little orb of white light which fluctuates with my breathing. It really calms me if I’m struggling to fall asleep.

5. Regular Exercise and Healthy Eating.

I am definitely guilty of not following my own advice here. I’ll give you an example of how your diet and exercise affects your sleeping pattern. Have you ever overindulged on a takeaway? I’m talking large-Domino’s-pizza-to-yourself-food-coma. Visualise that horrible ache in your stomach after you’ve over-eaten and how awful you feel as all the greasy, doughy food lies at the bottom of your gurgling stomach. Think of the wine and chocolate induced heartburn or that kebab-shop nausea. Bad food = feeling bad = bad sleep. It is not rocket science.

What to do instead: Ditch the heavy, fatty and rich foods for fruit, veg and healthy carbohydrates like wholemeal pasta, couscous and rice. Be aware of the food you eat and how it might have an effect on your sleep. Check out this article on the five best foods to eat for a healthy sleep. Aaaaaand, EXERCISE! Go for a long walk at night when the weather’s good or try a new exercise class. Your body will burn up all that excess energy, your muscles will tire out and you will probably fall fast asleep when your head hits the pillow.

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night – William Blake

Give some of these a go and see how you feel tonight. I promise you there is no cure quite like a proper sleep at night.


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