lifestyle?

Top 5 Lush Products

I was a christmas temp at Lush just after I graduated for the fist time, then again when we first moved to Sheffield. I have never before or since smelled that good. Seriously, people used to stop and ask me about it in the street. And, although I possibly hit it a bit late in life to buy into the infectious brand philosophy, I took away a huge amount of product knowledge and a secret love of luxury bathing.

There are a buttload of products I tried, but don’t give two hoots about now – equally there are a few I generally have in my ‘let’s feel pretty’ arsenal – which are truly excellent and completely unique to the brand. New to Lush? Intimidated by cheerful sales assistants/eye watering aromas? Read on for my top 5 all time favourite Lush products.

Image courtesy of Lush Retail

Image courtesy of Lush Retail

Soak and Float Shampoo bar

I generally need something anti dandruffy and this shampoo contains antimicrobial cade oil and soothing lavender to sort out my dry scalp. It lathers nicely, lasts ages and is very handy for travel if you aren’t a fan of lugging teensy bottles of EVERYTHING about. I feel that the cade oil scent of this product may divide people, but it works. It smells like it works, too.
lush top 5 - Ceridwen's Cauldron

Ceridwen’s Cauldren luxury bath melt

This is a creamy, oaty, lavender-y bath for dry skin in need of some softening (so me, forever). The puck of stuff melts in the water leaving a little muslin baggy of oats for you to rub on all your chapped bits. I always liked the idea of an oat bath for soothing eczema and this is a way of doing it without submerging yourself into in a hot porridge. Does anyone really want that?
lush top 5 - Blue Skies

Blue Skies and Fluffy White Clouds bubble bar

Firstly, this sucker is massive. If you’re feeling frugal, you can probably make this do 6 or 8 baths (this has been known in my household). It smells like bergamot and it brings such comfort. Really good if you are feeling run down/have a cold/are sulking. This is my favourite bath product from Lush. NOTHING can compete. Plus, no glitter!
Image courtesy of Lush Retail

Image courtesy of Lush Retail

Wiccy Magic Muscles massage bar

This one has peppermint, clove and cinnamon for relaxing tired muscles. Rubbing it directly onto your skin is brilliant because of the adzuki beans shoved on the top. There was one day when I put it on my stomach during ‘the painy season’ and it helped. A bit. But jokes aside it smells reassuringly medicinal (are you noticing a theme here?) and has a similar effect to a kind of luxury Tiger Balm with an added bit of slip and moisture. It’s not the sexiest massage, but its…functional.
lush top 5 - Ultrabland

Ultrabland facial cleanser

Yup, this is it, THE ONE. I have not been without this since about 2007. It’s another non-sexy, no perfume, basic item that does its job really well and doesn’t cost ONE MILLION POUNDS. A cleansing balm/cream with an almond oil, beeswax and honey base, it has enough slip to give yourself a really thorough facial massage while feeling substantial on your skin.  I think it’s particularly suited to dry/sensitive skin types, because however thoroughly you remove it (warm, damp face cloth is my preferred method, though Lush recommend cotton pads for some reason) it leaves a sort of protective film on your face. If ever I have been experimenting with new skin care and things go a bit tits up, I use this in an attempt to sooth any redness and help heal spots. I’m tempted to write a separate post on facial cleansers (have a few favourites) – you know this will be in it.

So there you have it! Nothing pink or sparkly, nothing fizzy or penis-shaped. Just good, effective products that I usually have stashed away somewhere in the bathroom. Do you have any staple Lush items?

Mental Health Disclosure and Professional Appearance

As I started out as a sole trader/blogger/maker I received a great deal of advice, some very useful, some extremely counter-productive. In the interests of making my position on this matter clear, allow me to share the following with you.

Last year I was offered a business advice session with a person from a Sheffield company who aim to assist new startups. At this point in time I had been looking at the idea of selling online and blogging for about 6 months. I had not made huge amounts of money, nor did I have a logo or any business cards. I had a very basic business plan which bore little resemblance to what the revenue or cost of my business would be. I had this blog, a few commissions and a huge enthusiasm for making stuff out of fabric and sharing my endeavours.

It is also relevant to say that I had been medicated for severe depression and was continuing to work through some problems, which were unrelated to the new business. During the meeting, I was offered advice to the tune of ‘don’t discuss your mental health on your blog or on social media. It’s bad for your image’. I was also asked the question ‘are people buying your stuff because it is good, or because they feel sorry for you?’

It is almost a year after the fact that I have decided to discuss these ill-chosen words. Although I saw that they came from a lack of understanding of me, my venture and my aims, they caused me a huge amount of uncertainty about what I was trying to do. I was sitting in a room with a person who had looked at my website for 10 minutes and proceeded to write off a significant part of my life.The implication seemed to be that an individual’s mental health narrative had no place in a business context. After mulling it over for a few months, I can now state that I disagree with this entirely. Here are some conclusions I have come to.

there should be no need to hide facts about your mental health

You should not be discriminated against for having a mental health problem, IT’S THE LAW. That doesn’t stop people from being dicks, but it does mean that if you need to disclose, you can bloody well do it. For some people it’s a huge deal every day and pretending it doesn’t exist is like saying you haven’t got an arm. We need to discuss our arms, people!

people say stupid things

A downside to discussing your mental health can be that people can respond in ways that are not helpful to you. Most of the time, it’s because they feel weird about it and don’t know how to respond. I say, be brave and persevere. It’s good practice (for me anyway) to work on filtering out some of the negativity that is barefacedly just defensive misunderstanding. Everyone benefits from open discussion.

working under a pretence can make things worse

In my experience, trying to soldier on in a job while suffering with a mental health problem can make things worse, particularly if people start to notice a change in your behaviour. It’s a double-edged sword unfortunately, but I have found that at least if you’re clear with your employer, they have the opportunity to accommodate your needs. If you remain silent, they will not be able to do that.

speaking with your own shaky voice is better than not speaking at all

It is possible that writing this makes me vulnerable. It may alienate people from my ‘brand’. But on the whole I would rather speak with conviction and authenticity on a subject I feel is important, than ignore that conviction in favour of an image or a few sales. I’m going to be making things anyway – it makes me and the people around me happy. At least this way I can do it in the knowledge that I am not obscuring who I am. Clearly this is down to individual choice, but there we are.

So here are my opinions on this. More balanced, less anecdotal information about disclosure is available on the Time to Change website. For further tales of disclosure, I offer this triumph, written by a friend of mine.

Comments, queries? Please leave below.

Contact Dermatitis (or how I learned to deal with skin conditions exacerbated by work)

Working with my hands, I have often found that my skin reacts really badly to detergents, prolonged contact with water and physical abrasions from general tasks. The palms of my hands have, split peeled, bled and felt stiff and course, much to my chagrin. At its most severe, I had constant pain and pins and needles in my hands, preventing me from doing regular stuff like playing the violin or sewing (shock!).  Over time, I have come up with a few ways to limit damage to my skin and encourage my hands to heal on days away from work.

THE PRODUCTS AND WHEN TO USE THEM

hydrocortisone

This is a steroid often prescribed by GPs for eczema and available over the counter at the chemist at a concentration of 1 – 2%. Prolonged use can actually prevent my skin from healing, though it is good for reducing inflammation and relieving irritation in the short-term, used sparingly. I only use this occasionally (maybe once a week) when my hands are inflamed and feel like they may crack or peel. I use this one straight after washing my hands and always follow it up with a hand cream.

hand creams

Call me excessive, but I have a few in stock which I use at different times of the day. For early morning and last thing before sleep applications, I use Weleda skin food. It’s thick and has a sunflower seed and almond oil base which is great for the skin (unless you have a nut allergy, obvs). It also contains extract of Calendula which is very soothing and it smells divinely herbal and comforting. You can massage loads of it in and leave it overnight, putting a pair of cotton gloves over the top if that is your preference. I can rarely be arsed to sleep in a pair of gloves.
At work or during the day I prefer something that sinks in quickly and has a lasting effect and there are two that I frequently reach for. First, the Neutrogena concentrated hand cream (I like the fragrance free version). This is a glycerine heavy formula that sinks in quickly and leaves my skin feeling much more flexible. I find it’s great for the palms of my hands but not quite intense enough for my fingertips and cuticles, which get very dry and sore. It doesn’t do a great deal for any pain or discomfort caused by dermatitis either.
The Aveeno hand cream has an oat base and feels very cooling on my hands. It’s a light cream that sinks in quickly and claims to last between hand washes – though I cannot substantiate this! A great ‘doing things’ cream, this one doesn’t have a strong smell and is pretty friendly on the finances too. Sadly it ran out recently, so isn’t pictured above.
Last up is the Nelson’s Calendula cream – a fairly new one for me, recommended by a colleague. This too is a light formula which calms irritation and helps prevent my skin from peeling or cracking. I use this throughout the day as it doesn’t have a strong smell either. It is a good one to double up with – I often apply this first with a heavier cream over the top, getting a double whammy of irritation calming, moisturising goodness. Oh yes Sir.

TIPS FOR CONTROL OF SYMPTOMS

be vigilant

 Letting your treatments slide and your symptoms get worse can be awful, especially in a situation where you are regularly exposed to irritants and abrasions. Keeping on top of symptoms and applying (lets face it) a ton of moisturisers very regularly is the best way to keep things in shape, meaning you won’t need to use nasty steroids or have to take a break from whatever you are doing down the line. It is kind of annoying to have to carry hand creams with you all the time and keep putting them on every half hour or so, but it makes such a huge difference in maintaining reasonable, non-reptilian skin.

find products that work for you

Lots of creams that claim to be good for skin with dermatitis or eczema in the chemist are largely composed of petrochemicals which I would argue are not always best for skin. In my experience, they offer a short lived burst of moisture but eventually dry it out. They are not particularly soothing to irritation, but they are cheap to produce, which may be why they are so prevalent. However, mineral oils do create a barrier over skin, which could be beneficial in some contexts. I prefer to use products which are free from, or contain only small amounts of mineral oil. But, research ingredients and experiment to find things that suit your condition.

avoid irritants

This advice I have heard many times, but my symptoms always get worse if I am working in a kitchen environment, which I currently am. The truth is, everything is an irritant, but I love my job and need to work. So, I can’t really avoid irritants, but can smother them in emollient.

treat skin when it flares up

when my hands are really red, inflamed and sore, I will use hydrocortisone, which does calm everything down. Be aware of your symptoms and treat flare-ups as quickly as you can. And of course, go to the doctor if anything crazy happens.
Phew! Ok, I think I’m done. Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post, here’s hoping it is in some way helpful. If you have any comments or questions, do feel free to leave them below. As always, thanks for reading.