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23 November 2022

Review Q&A Skincare Grapefruit Cleansing Balm

(I purchased this item)

I'm sure many of us are feeling like we need to watch the pennies and at times like this I've feel a little bit more mindful about my skincare budget. I was on the hunt for a new cleanser and stumbled across Q+A Skincare with a rather attractive price point.

You definitely don't have to compromise too much when it comes to budget friendly plant based skincare. Q&A promise to not test on animals, they don't distribute to places that require animal testing, majority of their products are vegan friendly, their ingredient partners are COSMOS certified and products are free from artificial fragrances and mineral oils.

The Q+A Oat Milk Cream Cleanser had initially caught my eye but I ended up ordering the Grapefruit Cleansing Balm because I prefer balm over cream. You may be wondering about the consistency of this balm cleanser as it's in a tube. It is very easy to squeeze from the tube as the consistency is more like a liquid but it has a silky texture which you'd associate with a balm. I think this is a very clever formulation which makes for an interesting experience.

The Q&A Grapefruit cleanser is super easy to use, simply apply to dry skin, massage in and then wipe away with a damp cloth. I always like to mention that during the day I wear an SPF and tinted CC cream so my nightly cleanse needs to remove daily grime alongside light tinted makeup. I have found the Grapefruit cleanser handles this easily and I don't feel the need for a second cleanse. I'm sure you can imagine the fragrance is fruity and refreshing. For those concerned about allergens it does contain *limonene but not linalool. 

I've been really impressed by this first experience of Q+A Skincare. I have been using the Grapefruit Cleansing Balm daily since mid October with no noticeable reactions to my complexion. That might be a weird comment to some but I have super sensitive skin so I think it's important to note how well I am able to tolerate new products. We are all different but it may be reassuring to some readers to know this little fact. For the price this is a good product and I'm keen to see what else I might be able to try from this brand. 

If you'd like to purchase this Grapefruit Cleansing Balm then note that I ordered directly from their website. I have also spotted a limited selection of Q+A products in Holland & Barrett. 

Sarah x

*Please check ingredients before ordering to make sure formulations haven't changed since publishing this review

10 November 2022

Christmas Gift Ideas inspired by Winners of the Free From Gift Awards 2022
Long time readers will no doubt be familiar with
Free From Skincare Awards but did you know about their 'spin off' The Free From Gift Awards? I'm unlikely to put together a personalised gift guide this year so I'm going to point you in the direction of the winners from these awards.

You may be interested to know that Winners and Medallists in The Free From Gift Awards are brands who manufacture products that are ‘free from’ some of the allergens, chemicals, additives and fragrances associated with skin sensitivities, allergies, and ethical, environmental and health concerns.

Congratulations go to Rhug Wild Beauty who took the Overall Champion prize for their Hand Wash & Hand Lotion Duo in Gift Box.

“A beautifully elegant duo in a chic box,” said the judges. “Gorgeous products, both of which include wild foraged ingredients from the Rhug Estate. A gift set which anyone would enjoy and would feel very spoiled and delighted to receive.”

Many of the medallists are brands I have supported over the years but it's always great to discover new ones. Let me recommend checking out the following -

Blue Labelle, Moroccan Spa Set
Made By Coopers, 'Sleepy Head' Sleep Kit
Silvan Skincare, Hands and Feet Gift Set
BEAM natural body care, Six half sized luxury soap gift set
Eco By Sonya Driver, Hydration Skin System
Green People, Be Kind
Bowe Organics, Get Glowing Face Mask
Sknfed, Rose Trio Gift Set
Lyonsleaf, Natural Skincare Solutions 04 & Hot Cloth Cleansing Revitalising Kit
Obvs Skincare, Well-Being Gift Set

There are more Gold, Silver and Bronze winners (in all categories) to discover so head over to freefromskincareawards.co.uk

Sarah x

3 November 2022

Swap out your plastic bottles for solid beauty bars from Ethique
(Purchased products)

On our recent trip to Italy we travelled with only cabin allowance luggage and that meant a limit to the volume of liquids we could take with us. In an effort to cut back on toiletries I was looking for waterless products and decided to order a couple of skincare minis from Ethique.

The range from Ethqiue has you covered from top to toe. They specialised in solid bars ranging from shampoo, conditioners, cleansers, solid lotions, balms and deodorants. I was pleased to discover a handful of products that are fragrance free/unscented so I ordered the Mini Bliss Bar™ Gentle Solid Face Cleanser and Unscented Solid Cream Body Cleanser.

Ethique face and body cleanser bars are super easy to use. You simply need to rub in the palm of your hands to create a creamy lather. I will say that they are both of these bars are similar in their formulations with key ingredients of coconut butter, kaolin clay and vegetable glycerine. 

The Solid Cream Body Cleanser was just like using any traditional soap bar. I did find it gentle on my skin and didn't notice any dryness. I'd be more than happy to switch out my body wash for this one.
I was happy to use the Gentle Solid Face cleanser for the duration of our holiday. I didn't find it overly drying or disruptive to my skin but I must admit that I did miss my balm cleanser. As a long term skincare swap I don't think it would be for me but I find it perfectly acceptable for short periods. I know it's frown upon to wash your face in the shower but I do enjoy using it in this way for an early morning cleanse. I don't wear much makeup, it's limited to sunscreen and CC cream and for my evening cleanse I used the bar in conjunction with a cloth to make sure I'm thoroughly removing grime. 

To round this post up I was very happy to have tried these Ethique bars and they left me with a great first impression. I would be comfortable recommending to others and I'm thinking of gifting to family now that Christmas is on the way. Visit the Ethique website where you can find background information about the business and read up about their environmental ethics. 

Sarah x

22 October 2022

Italy Rapello Portofino Santa Margherita Sestri LevanteI love Italy with its beautiful scenery, pizza and gelato. I recently was asked if it was expensive to holiday in Italy and my response is simply as with any destination it can be as cheap or luxurious as you want to make it. To travel around by train always feels affordable compared to home and a Marinara pizza usually sets me back five euros.

A few weeks ago we flew into Pisa and hopped a train up the coast to Rapello. The Italian Riveria is truly beautiful. Using Rapello as our base we visited Santa Margherita, Portofino and Sestri Levante. The weather was perfect, we ate plenty of pizza and gelato and had aching feet from wandering picturesque towns.

Next stop was Genoa where we embanked on a completely new to us travel experience; a cruise ship! We had found an cheap last minute deal and booked three nights/four days with MSC on board the Poesia. I always like to focus my travel stories on how I managed as a vegan with mild food allergies. I was absolutely worried about how I would cope on a ship but knew our time was short and I could always eat well when in port.

After booking the trip I complete a Special Needs form and the reply received was....

"Please note that on board you will find in all the menus in the bars, main restaurants, buffet, speciality restaurant a little note close to the list of food where is specified if food is Vegan, in case of any doubt do not hesitate to contact the personnel in the dining outlet and they will give you all the information required."

I felt that my allergies had been overlooked in the email which was disappointing. We boarded the ship at lunch time so we unashamedly made the lunch buffet our first stop. We scoured every inch of the buffet but there was never an indication on signs to state an item was Vegan. The hustle and bustle of onboarding was overwhelming. As a typical Brit, I struggled with having to catch the attention of staff to inquire about suitable food. You're also face with the most enormous buffet and I felt embarrassed to hold up a queue to ask questions. 
vegan food onboard MSC cruises
Our first formal evening meal was a bitter disappointment. The menu arrived with only one dish marked vegan; a main course. I spoke to the waiting staff and mentioned my allergies first followed with "I'm also vegan". There was a difficult moment where milk allergy was misunderstood and reference was made to lactose intolerance but I keep stressing the difference. As you may know these are two very different dietary needs. I was surprised that by registering a special needs form that staff didn't seem informed ahead of time. You are assigned a table where you are sat every evening so it wouldn't be impossible to do this, maybe? Once I stressed the fact I was also vegan I was told it counteracted my allergies because after all vegans exclude milk and eggs. With a heavy heart I sighed because cross contamination does matter. It's hugely important and my biggest risk is a stomach ache for others it could be anaphylactic shock. Moments later I proved that point when I couldn't select any bread from the basket because one of the choices available was a cheese topped roll.

What happened next was comical, keeping in mind I was also on a table of strangers. I had requested a salad for starter. It was an attempt to veganise an existing dish on the menu that evening. Out came quarter of an iceberg lettuce with tomato, carrot and possibly radish with no dressing. I was then served two bagels which were cold to the touch, as if they had been defrosted. I requested balsamic and olive oil in an attempt to make the salad more exciting. My main course was the only labelled vegan dish of Tuscan style stewed legumes. I skipped dessert as I was only offered fruit platter or lemon sorbet. After four days of vegan cakes, croissants and ice cream in Italy, a fruit platter was the most boring things I could be offered (not to mention my OAS).
dinner menu msc cruise poesia
Our waiter advised me to pre-order for the next evening informing me that they could adapt dishes. To keep things easy I opted for the vegetarian starter minestrone soup followed by the vegan dish of spinach, quinoa and potato burger. For the third evening we ended up skipping the formal dining last minute but my choices had been carrot & ginger soup and Tofu morsels (stir-fry).

I'm not much of a breakfast person and with the hurdles of an unlabelled buffet I stuck to the classics. Fruit was readily available and I cobbled together some beans on toast. I did manage to hunt down plant milk but it was only upon request.
travel, Italy, Spain and France
As I found the level of food onboard to be average at best I made the most of my time in port. I had gelato from Amorino in Marseille. In Palma de Mallorca I ate some wonderful empanadas at Las Muns, a giant cookie from Anita Cakes and ice cream at Rivareno. We left the boat in Barcelona and I had a late lunch at Green & Burger. 
vegan food in Palma, Marseille, Barcelona
I'd like to think that other cruise companies may handle allergies and a vegan diet better but it's unlikely we will cruise again. It wasn't just about the food but we actually didn't enjoy the experience of this style of travel. I certainly wasn't disappointed with the ship or our room but I hated being stuck with so many other people. You really noticed the volume of tourists when three cruises come into port at the same time.

I don't expect the world to accommodate me all the time and I understand I'm fortunate to have never experienced anaphylactic shock. However some foods make me really sick and it ruins a holiday to be caught out. If you can't accommodate my needs just be honest and I'll make sure to pack lots of snacks. 

Sarah x

Note: MSC should also reconsider their formulation of body wash and shampoos, although permitted the inclusion of Methylisothiazolinone (MI) was not welcomed by me.

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