1 March 2016

My thoughts on defending free from skincare labelling
I am very passionate about "free from" skincare because I have allergies and sensitivities to foods and cosmetic ingredients. I recently commented on the skinsmatter.com site in which they were defending “free from” labelling on skincare. Their first article was initially in response to a report headline from Cosmetic Design Europe "Free-from claims are based on fear and should stop". They have since written another article defending it again. Then coincidently I also found myself drawn into a similar discussion after Sarita Coren who published "Six terms green beauty brands should stop using now”. Sarita raised some valid points but we differ in our opinions on the use of “free from”. 

I continually review products that promote “free from” awareness, whether that is for gluten or nuts or SLS and parabens. Rachael of Myroo summed up perfectly why I shop for Free From skincare.

"The average woman uses 168 different ingredients across 12 products, so getting to the bottom of a cosmetic allergy trigger can be difficult. This is where free from cosmetics come in. We believe it is really important for those with skin allergies, sensitivities or other personal considerations to be able to quickly and easily locate products that don’t contain ingredients they avoid. Labelling products ‘free from’ signals to customers that the products have been formulated with allergies and sensitivities in mind, just like it does for food products." 

I think of free from labelling as a unique selling point and it enables me to make purchasing decisions but I have been criticised for thinking this way. Apparently it’s simply clever marketing. I’m the most cynical person ever over product claims and I certainly don’t fall for product hype. Every product we pick up is marketed to us. They all have short tag lines which lead us to make a purchasing decision. A cream that claims to target wrinkles, a shampoo that protects against frizz or a toothpaste that whitens teeth, so why shouldn’t a free from claim be a similar statement? Of course I am aware that sometimes cosmetic labelling is flawed, for instance, I don't approve of "free from chemicals" and I recently critic a range which claimed “preservative free” but I encourage the term when focusing on a specific ingredient. 

Sarita mentioned she didn't like the use of "free from parabens" especially when a product contains other preservatives or ingredients which were not any better. My counter argument to this would be if a product is genuinely free of that ingredient then the statement is not wrong. As Bloggers we must think outside of their online community as not everyone has the same ingredient standards. There will be consumers who actively chose to avoid parabens but are not fazed by other preservatives. I suggest that what Sarita is referring to falls under the umbrella of "Greenwashing" and that an entirely different debate. Without regulations we currently can’t stop manufacturers for misleading but we can help raise awareness and educate.

A couple of comments on Skinsmatter’s article also brought up the issue with Parabens and felt that free from labels promotes scaremongering of this particular ingredient. Brands are not daft they will use this to their advantage but is catering to a consumer who is worried about this ingredient really scaremongering? Surely, it is only scaremongering if a product said “we don’t include parabens because they cause cancer” Some Scientists would have you believe parabens are safe but aren’t I entitled to make up my own mind about what I use on my body?

For those of you who are anti-free from labelling let us not forget the fear of allergic reactions is genuine and the concerns are very real and legitimate. Free from labelling is important for food and I believe it should be the same for skincare. I would hate to see the disappearance of "free from" just because some brands are using the term incorrectly. For those that dislike it what would you like to see instead? Think about how you would feel if you had an allergy to a particular ingredient, how would you advertise a safe product if the term “free from” wasn’t allowed?

If you are a reader that relies on free from labels I would love to get your thoughts on this topic.

Sarah x

7 November 2017

Christmas Gift Ideas for Sensitive Skin Allergies
(contains Gifted PR samples & affiliate link marked*)

I'm changing things up this year and I'm focusing on Christmas Gifts for sensitive skin. I love when Santa brings me skincare but with allergies and sensitivities it can be a little tricky for friends and family to know what to buy. That's where I step in with this handy guide for you to drop them hints. Of course these brands also have products suitable for a variety of skin types so check them out.

All Natural Soap have won several awards for their natural, handmade and cruelty free soaps. The entire range is vegetarian with vegan options and they do not use palm oil. There is a wide range of gifts on their site but I'll point you in the direction of the Sensitive Skin 8 Bar set. The box contains Castile Olive Oil x 2, Gentle Goat’s Milk x 2, Shea Luxury x 1, Oatmeal Soother x 1, Coco Castile x 2. If the selection isn't to your liking then perhaps choose the Custom 8 Bar Box where you make your own choices.
all natural soap for sensitive skin gift idea Christmas
Conscious Skincare Pure range is designed for highly sensitive skin types and products are fragrance free. New items will be added to the range expanding it to include body wash, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner. They offer lots of gift options for men and women. Conscious Skincare are approved by the Vegetarian Society, PETA, and Cruelty Free International.

Gerlinde Naturals have gift sets option and offer the choice to order fragrance free versions of their products. You could pick from the Gift Box with 5 products or the Double Cleansing Method, both come beautifully boxed with tags and ribbon so ready to be given as a gift. Pictured above is the Soothing Toner which I'm currently using, it's fragrance free with aloe vera and green tea extract. All products from this brand are suitable for Vegans.

Green People have teamed up with Plantlife, a UK charity working to save threatened species of wild flowers, plants and fungi, to inspire the new Modern Botanicals gift collection of certified organic skin, hair and body care products for men and women. The Leaf & Stem gift set contains shower gel & lotion from their Scent Free range.

Made for Life by Spieza Organics have lots of gift ideas, when viewing their website check out the "made for Christmas" section. I particularly like the Bath Baubles but they do contain essential oil allergens. The Made for Christmas Candle might make a lovely alternative if you are worried about suitability, avoiding skincare is always a safe bet.
Christmas Gift Ideas for Sensitive Skin
Mallow & White Soothe Cleansing Oil is my favourite product from this brand, it's fragrance free but has a delicate cucumber aroma. I've been informed that mini gift sets will be launched in time for Christmas so look out for those. The Soothe & Restore collections are aimed at Dry and Sensitive Skin.

Myroo is a brand that fully understands allergies, products are available fragrance free but across the range they are also 14 food allergen free and vegan suitable. The Mini Trial Sized Skincare Set would make a nice stocking filler and help someone to discover the range. (UPDATE 2022 - MYROO ARE NO LONGER TRADING)

Silvan Skincare offer a range of oils, creams, balms and salts. For those with sensitive skin I would point you in the direction of their Soothe and Extra Gentle products. The Extra Gentle Facial oil was shortlisted in the 2017 Free From Skincare Awards and has received positive feedback from customers who experience eczema.
silvan skincare skin therapy extra gentle face oil
Sukin gift sets give you a 3 step routine and have every skin type covered - chose between Love Your Skin for all skin types, Love Your Skin: Sensitive, Love Your Skin: Oil Balancing and Super Greens Facial. I have reviewed a couple of products from the sensitive range so I'm happy to recommend. These sets will be available from Holland & Barrett stores.

The Rose Tree is an award winning, luxury brand, they have several gift options and are due to release some new boxes this month.  

Sarah x 

14 March 2013

Seascape Island Apothecary - Ingredient Review
This is the blog post where I hover the mouse over the publish button and hesitate for a moment. However, my passion never dies and this is my corner of the web. On occasions I have a gut feeling that a product isn't as good as it initially sounds. I certainly mean no disrespect to these brands but I'm a consumer with allergies and I spend my life reading labels. 

I recently won a giveaway and a parcel of Seascape products landed on my doorstep. I was genuinely excited by this brand. I received five products and it was the hand wash and body wash that sent my head into a spin. The formulations on both washes are almost identical. Seascape was off to a good start with the promise that products are free from paraben, petroleum, silicone, SLS and artificial colours & fragrances. 

Here are the ingredients for the Refresh Hand Wash - Aqua (Water), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamide DEA, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Limonene, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Linalool, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Citronellol, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Citral, Geraniol, Triethylene Glycol, Benzyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Magnesium Nitrate, Magnesium Chloride, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Potassium Sorbate 

Before I go any further I would like to point out that full ingredients are available on the Seascape website so I am not accusing them of hiding anything. Let me talk you through the ingredients I've highlighted above starting with Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. I have been known to use products that contain ALS but I do limit my exposure to it. It is an ingredient similar to SLS/SLES so it has the potential to cause skin irritation. Next up is Cocamide DEA which is a suspected carcinogen. The wash contains water so it needs a preservative system but Benzyl Alcohol is a potential skin irritant. I raise concerns over Propylene Glycol but it can be synthetic or natural. Methylchloroisothiazolinone is a restricted ingredient that has been associated with allergic reactions. Also the same can be said with Methylisothiazolinone, apparently this ingredient is a buzz word in France and is being blamed for a rise in allergic reactions (source)Disodium EDTA can irritate skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

As this is a wash off product you could argue that the ingredient risks are minimal because most of it ends up down the plug hole. I know everyone's allergies are different and viewpoints on ingredients vary. The ingredients in the body butter, hand cream and lip balm do look slightly better. However, I can see the use of Phenoxyethanol which some people like to avoid. 

The reason I decided to write this blog post is because I've seen a number of bloggers mentioning the "natural" ingredients and I felt it was important to review them from a different prospective. The decision to use Seascape rest entirely on your shoulders but just keep in mind that for £16 a bottle I don't see value for money in terms of natural ingredients.

In case you are wondering what I have done with all the products, they have gone to a good home. My friends who have less concerns about allergies were happy to take them off my hands. I wouldn't have been able to use them anyway as they all contain essential oil allergens.

Sarah x

27 February 2014

The Mighty Bee - Venom, Propolis, Honey, Royal Jelly, Beeswax

I am noticing a new trend in natural skincare for all things Bee related but I want to raise awareness that some bee by-products are potential allergens. You will be aware from my reviews, at this moment in time I do not avoid beeswax or honey. I am also going to touch on the issue of cruelty but I understand this is a sensitive topic. Let me talk you through the ingredients used in skincare that Bees produce.

Bee Venom - I am sure most of you understand that venom is the poison which makes a sting painful, but are you aware of how the venom is collected? Bees are given a tiny electric shock as they enter the hive, not enough to kill them (debatable as I'm sure some would die) but just enough to put them in a bad mood so they will release venom. Believe it or not this method is regarded as cruelty free because the alternative would involve killing the bees by removing the stinger and venom sacks. People with an allergy to bee stings need to avoid this ingredient in skincare.

Royal Jelly – secreted from the glands of the bee and used to feed the larvae. Royal Jelly is used in skincare because it is rich in amino acid, vitamins and minerals. To harvest this ingredient a bee hive needs to be encouraged to produce more queen bees. The hive does not survive without a queen bee so she is removed and larvae introduced, this then encourages worker bees to feed the larvae to produce a new queen. I have read that anyone with asthma or allergies may wish to avoid Royal Jelly. Reactions can range from mild skin irritation to anaphylaxis shock.

Propolis – a resinous mixture which is used to seal open spaces in the hive and is collected by Bees from tree buds and sap. Propolis is used in skincare because it seems to have anti inflammatory and skin healing effects. Claims have been made that it can be used to treat allergies but it can cause severe reactions especially if you are sensitive to bees. Some experts believe it can make asthma worse and anyone allergic to conifers, poplars, Peru balsam and salicylates are advised to avoid propolis.

Honey – if you follow natural bloggers, you may have seen the growing popularity in using honey as a cleanser because of the antiseptic, anti inflammatory, healing and moisturing properties. Honey is made when bees transform nectar by a process of regurgitation and evaporation. That does kind of gross me out a little. If you wanted to substitute honey in skincare, then opt for products containing manuka essential oil which is extracted from the species of New Zealand tree called Leptospermum Scoparium. It offers the same benefits as manuka honey but is obtained from the leaves, flowers and wood. If you would like to substitute honey in cooking, Vegan alternatives are Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup, Coconut Nectar and Dates (there are probably more but these are the ones I am familiar with).

Beeswax – worker bees secrete wax from their glands and use it to build the honeycomb cells in the hive. It is used in skincare as a surfactant as it forms a protective barrier on the skin but unlike mineral oil, as with all Bee by-products, it does offer antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits. Harvesting the beeswax and honey involves taking it from the hive which they reside in. This is the part of the Vegan argument that likens it to factory farming, forcing the bees to construct the hives for humans to steal from.

The thought process for writing this post was sparked following a Twitter conversation where someone told me propolis would ‘cure’ my eczema. I personally believe that when you have eczema linked to allergies you need to be very wary of this type of advice. From my viewpoint, bee venom and royal jelly are the ingredients that upset me the most due to the method of extraction. I can appreciate the Vegan argument that bee keeping is exploitative and cruel. Writing this blog post has certainly got me thinking in a different way. Eliminating beeswax from my skincare at this time seems a little daunting as several creams I rely on to help manage my eczema contain this ingredient. I'm not against the idea and I will be researching into the alternatives. The decision to avoid ingredients from bees is entirely your own but I hope by sharing my thoughts you can understand why it matters to me and welcome opinions.

Sarah x
image courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/FromNikkiCharms

13 August 2012

(The information provided is for guidance and is not a substitute for medical advice)

On occasions I've received emails asking for recommendations on how to manage skin prone to eczema. Often people have ended up in a vicious circle of flare ups and are unsure what to try next. I know how it feels, I grew up with atopic eczema which became manageable with the diagnosis of allergies but has never truly left me. There is no cure for this condition and it's heartbreaking, often all we can do is cope and try to put on a brave face. I can only offer advice based off my own experience but it is important to remember eczema takes on many forms and what works for one may not for another. I've decided to put together my survival tips as a quick easy reference. Always consult your Doctor if you have any major concerns or require further advice and treatment.

If you experience eczema you'll know that your skin is as super dry. Your skin isn't producing as much fats and oils as other people and your protective barrier is weaken. You need to moisturise daily, sometimes hourly to try and soothe itchiness and soften dryness. One of the reasons I started a "green" and holistic skincare journey was because I believe the ingredients in emollients exasperated my condition. As someone with Atopic eczema clearly linked to allergies it was time to start reading labels.

Tip 1 - Find your triggers
I quickly ditched SLS/SLES (sodium lauryl sulphate/sodium laureth sulphate), a detergent and surfactant found in skincare and household products. This is the ingredient that helps products foam. Sulphate is believed to irritate and potentially dry out skin. Speaking from experience I believe SLS can effect my skin but in order to provide fairness in my anecdote there has been no solid evidence that confirms or denies that SLS is a cause of concern.

I made a personal decision to avoid prescription emollients and steroids. I was tried of ineffective creams and worried about side effects. Paraffin is a key ingredient in emollients and I have previously blogged about why I dislike it - Why I choose not use Petroleum JellyI strongly believe that a lifetime use of steroid cream has caused pigmentation issues.  My back no longer tans evenly in the sun instead I suffer white patches which remind me of Vitiligo. Alternative plant based emollients which I highly regard are shea butter, coconut oil, avocado and cocoa butter. 

Tip 2 - Changing old habits
Sometimes you have to think outside the box. A very simple solution for me has been washing my hair over the bath.  I switched to SLS free body care long before changing over my shampoo.  I noticed mainstream salon shampoos caused irritation during showering. I have eczema on my body so washing my hair over the bath reduces the areas that products come in contact with.  Also if you use aerosol styling products I find wrapping a towel around my shoulders helps to eliminate the product coming in contact with my neck and shoulders.  Keep hairdryers and water at low temperatures as high heat dries out the skin.

Tip 3 - Cleaning your Home
I don't clean my home without wearing a pair of gloves as it reduces contact with cleaners which are often full of irritating chemicals and fragrance. When I had eczema on my hands I made sure I used latex free gloves. Bonus tip is consider your work environment as well. I once was getting itchy skin on contact with my desk, turned out it was the cleaning products used by my employer's cleaning staff.

Tip 4 - Clothing
The type of clothing you wear and the products you wash them in are worth consideration.  Cotton is often most comfortable on skin and allowing it to "breathe" when sweating.  I find wool an irritant which can quickly trigger eczema. I am constantly battling with laundry detergents, often overly fragrance products which cause itchiness. I opt for Non-Bio and keep perfumes and dyes to a minimum. I recommend this article Odylique put together covering "Best Washing Powders for Eczema Prone Skin"

Tip 5 - You are what you eat
Gut health is believed to play an important role in managing skin conditions. I personally would find it hard to argue against dietary changes as there is a clear correlation between my atopic eczema and allergies. I think most of us can agree we would all benefit from a healthy lifestyle.

Tip 6 - Favourite Skincare
Odylique is a brand I heavily rely upon and they have many products which I have found helpful in managing my skin. In particular the Ultra Rich Balm and Repair lotion may be helpful on eczema prone skin
Lyonsleaf have an excellent range of creams, I have found the Calendula one to be effective
Balmology Comfort Balm is a beautiful product for dry skin. The key to finding a good balm is looking at the ingredients that suit you best
Balmonds formulate for skin prone to conditions such as eczema, many of their products are fragrance free and vegan friendly.

If you have not mastered the art of understanding ingredients then look for websites that stock natural product and have strict policies on ingredients. There are many online retailers competing for your money, check out my Where to Shop post.

Tip 7 - Useful Resources
It can help to speak to other people with eczema and there are useful resources online. I'd recommend checking out the following:-
National Eczema Society (UK)
National Eczema Association (USA)
Allergy UK
Anaphylaxis Campaign
Skins Matter & Free From Skincare Awards

I hope this post has been helpful. If you have any tips to share please let me know, you can email or contact me via social media.

Sarah x

10 July 2012

You have seen me whine many times about Supermarkets and their free from ranges. I pick on Tesco as that is where I do my weekly grocery shop. I don’t particular like any one supermarket it simply boils down to convenience. In recent months I have started free from shopping at Holland & Barrett. The selection for dairy and egg free (vegan) food outweighs what Tesco and Sainsbury's has to offer. FYI to save any confusion I am allergic to dairy and eggs and I choose not to eat meat so Vegan food is a nice easy safe option as far as I am concerned.

This week my local Tesco, which is a considerable size, stocks Bessant & Drury dairy free ice cream and Food Heaven dairy free cheesecake.  Wait a minute don’t get too excited you will only see one flavour in each product even though each range offers three flavours. Tesco you give in one hand and take from the other. You remember the chilled dairy free range I was happy to blog about finding? Oh boy those yoghurts and dessert are disgusting.  Yes you read that right, disgusting, who on earth taste tests these products? Stick with Alpro I know I will never stray from that path again.

Hold on a minute I cannot live on dessert for the rest of my life. What about main courses? Where are the dairy and egg free (vegan) foods Tesco? You keep tweeting me that you stock them but all I see is the gluten free aisle expanding.   Classic example, this week I spotted a new range of sauces they are all gluten free but not dairy free.

The newly launched chilled free from ready meals has one vegetarian option but its cheese pasta.  As for the chilled vegetarian section, my store fills it with Quorn which contains milk and egg.  Tesco own brand vegetarian sausages and burgers all contain milk and egg.  I can find  Cauldron  Tofu but what about giving them some more shelf space? Cauldron’s range includes more than Tofu.  The freezer section is equally annoying.  Thankfully Linda McCartney sausages are vegan friendly along with Cauldron Aduki Bean Kievs (if I can get them as they sell out fast). When it comes to Tesco own brand the choice is vegetable fingers, whoopee thanks Tesco (I am being sarcastic just in case you were unsure). Imagine the joy when I see Amy’s Kitchen in the frozen aisle, that has been short lived excitement.  Not a single vegan option from the range can be found.  Oh and this goes for Sainsbury’s as well, you are guilty of this.

I have a question for those with dairy allergies, what cereals are you buying? I stood in the breakfast cereal aisle last week in tears.  I'm sick of Cheerios but couldn't find a replacement.  Okay I am a little fussy I hate Weetabix, Shredded Wheat and the types loaded with sugar.  Also what is with all the chocolate breakfast cereals? That is wrong on so many levels. I don't want to pay over £2 for the Free From varieties because I don't need to remove Gluten from my diet. 

I have heard fellow allergy sufferers discuss the Supermarket hop.  Free From food is blooming expensive and at one time my weekend food shop took me from Tesco to Waitrose to Sainsbury’s to Holland & Barrett and finally a local independent health food store.  This ended up costing me my sanity as well as my petrol. Now I know I am better off cooking from scratch but I am only human and there are times when I come home from work and want to bung something in the oven.  I also require lunches for work during the week.  Packed lunches when you have allergies are a freaking nightmare, something I still struggle to master.  I have managed to perfect the art of Vegan baking, far tastier than the Supermarket free from offerings, come to think none of those are Vegan.

I had to laugh Tesco offered to send me their Vegan stock list.  Honestly what a joke this document was.  Apparently vegetables and salad are vegan friendly.  Really, am I stupid Tesco?
If you are reading this Tesco my weekly shop at H&B is worth £20-£30. That’s on top of the £50 I spend in your store on other essentials. Are you interested to know how I spend my hard earned cash? then take note.  Frys Vegetarian and Redwood Foods have a nice selection of vegan meat replacements. Tofutti have cheese slices and spreadable cheese much nicer than Tesco offerings. Of course I can buy my beloved Amy's Kitchen.  Dairy free burritos and a Vegetable Korma perfect for lunch times and lazy evenings.  Tesco only stock vanilla Swedish Glace but at H&B I can indulge in Raspberry & Blueberry. If I am peckish I can grab a vegan sandwich from Cranks.  Imagine that Tesco, Vegans like sandwiches, wow who would have thought it.

I suppose I should be grateful you brought back the dairy free buttons you took away from me.  Thank god they came back I could no longer stomach another mouthful of that own brand free from imitation you market as chocolate.

So there you go Tesco that pretty much sums up why I hate you. Unlike your other customers I can’t protest with my feet because my diet is limited. If I boycott you I would probably starve (Okay slight exaggeration but you get the idea). You have me where you want me cashing in on Clubcard Deals.  I don’t care what you say Tesco you are rubbish at catering to multiple allergies. I am guessing you don’t give a s**t what I say as I keep spending my money with you anyway.

Sarah x

P.S - I respect that a gluten free diet is difficult to manage, my Sister is a coeliac but recently I think the tables have turned. I now struggle to find replacement foods and feel she has more options.  I am aware some of you may disagree.

29 May 2012

When you have allergies room fragrance is difficult to use. Everyone likes their home to smell pleasant and I am no exception to this. Aerosol sprays can make it hard to breathe and plug in and candles have potential to burn your house down (dramatic statement but I do worry about these things). I got it into my head that a reed diffuser may be the solution but could I find something natural and plant derived rather than full of synthetic ingredients? It is possible but they come with a higher price tag

TK Maxx is a great place to have a look around and come up with bargains.  I recently found a Parks London Pomegranate reed diffuser which claims natural essential oil ingredients and eco-friendly. I enjoy the aroma and do not find it over powering.  I like it so much that I went back and purchased a larger size. I've since discovered that Parks London also manufacturer candles which (according to website) are made with certified vegan ingredients, eco friendly and natural wax (they do not use petroleum or paraffin).

Do you have a favourite way to fragrance your home or maybe you have allergies so synthetic fragrances are a concern for you?  

Sarah x

21 January 2014

ilumi Dairy, Gluten & Nut Free Ready Meals

UPDATE - ilumi contacted me via Twitter to say they control for 14 allergens. I pointed out that this information needed to be clearer on the website as they only appear (from my viewpoint) to promote GF, DF & NF

UPDATE 29.01.16 - it has come to light that ilumi will no longer guarantee free from nuts. Please consult with them if you have concerns.

Ilumi are expanding their product range and they contacted me, asking if I would like to try the Lentil Dahl. I ended up receiving several products which included Spicy Butternut Squash Soup, Vegetable & Chickpea Jalfrezi and Spanish Style Rice & Vegetables.

I discovered ilumi at the Allergy & Free From Show 2013. They offer a range of convenience meals guaranteeing to be free of nut, gluten & milk. If you have other allergies, do not dismiss them entirely because you maybe in luck. The search function at the top of the shopping page allows you to filter the range of foods based on what you want to exclude. You can also narrow by vegetarian or vegan.

Reviewing foods is difficult because personal taste is involved, what I like you may dislike and vice versa. Out of the products I received the Butternut Squash Soup was my favourite. Vegan/dairy free soup is very difficult to track down at the supermarket, until Amy's Kitchen arrived I was making my own soup. Nothing wrong with that but sometimes I lack time or space in the freezer and I like to keep tinned soup in the cupboard for rainy days. I shy away from spicy food so I did worry the soup may not be to my liking but I found the chilli content to be mild and palatable. The soup had a nice consistency, not too thin, not too thick. It looked and tasted natural and fresh. 

When it comes to ready meals, I regularly buy Amy's Kitchen products, (Red Thai Curry & Vegetable Korma) from my local shop. I tend to favour curries which are mild, sweet and fruity so I'm not surprised that I found the Vegetable & Chickpea Jalfrezi and Lentil Dahl palatable but not tantalising to my taste buds. I wouldn't be inclined to purchase these for myself.

This is the second time I've tried the Spanish Rice as I was given a sample at the Allergy show. I have to be honest, I am not the biggest fan. I find it too sloppy and would rather it be a little drier and more along the lines of paella or risotto, just a little less sauce. I also find that paprika is the stand out flavour on my taste buds, not a bad thing but seems to overwhelm the other ingredients.

ilumi Dairy, Gluten & Nut Free Ready Meals

I commend ilumi for tackling an area of the free from market which has been lacking for many years. Putting ingredients on the front of the packaging is innovative and I wish more free from companies did this. I can not make up my mind whether I would order from ilumi because I do find the Vegetarian/Vegan range limited. I also have allergies which are outside the top 8 so this limits my choices even more. From where I'm sitting I think ilumi heavily promote towards the gluten free market. I feel Coeliacs are their target audience rather than me, the Vegetarian with every allergy but Gluten. I think if ilumi expanded their veggie soup range I would be more inclined to order because that is where the supermarkets let me down. During the colder weather I feel there is a place for ilumi in my lunchbox when I'm up for braving the scummy microwave at work. I can also see this as a handy option for camping or self catering holidays as the pouches have a long shelf life and do not require refrigeration. 

Prices are reasonable, the products I tasted are between £1.50 to £2.75 each and currently UK delivery is Free. Meals are 100% natural and do not contain any preservatives, additives, fillers, flavourings or sweeteners. Have you tried ilumi? What did you think of the products and range?

Sarah x
Disclaimer - PR Samples, 100% my own opinions, links are not affiliated

26 January 2015

How To Read Ingredients Labels & Understand New Food Labelling Laws

Last week Bodhi Luxe published my article titled "How To Read Ingredients Labels & Understand New Food Labelling Laws" In this post, I am giving a brief overview of the new EU Regulations regarding labelling of food allergens for pre-packaged foods, eating out and food served loose (non-prepackaged).

The Bodhi Luxe website has been removed so I have posted my original article below.

When it comes to our food most people are likely to take an interest in what they consume and will read labels. I assume most of us are now familiar with nutritional information, but the way in which allergens are identified has recently changed.

Companies have been preparing for new EU regulations (‘Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011′), which have been adopted into UK law and officially came into effect on 13th December 2014. The regulation affects pre-packaged foods, eating out and food served loose (non-prepackaged).

There are fourteen major allergens which need to be highlighted: Cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame, sulphur dioxide, lupin and molluscs.

Allergens need to be identified according to these names and emphasised on the label; this could be in bold, italics or underlined. For example, you should see allergens listed as tofu (soya), tahini (sesame seed) and whey powder (milk). 

A ‘contains X’ allergy statement will no longer be allowed. A ‘may contain’ warning (for cross contamination risks or production methods) is voluntary information which should be taken seriously, yet the new regulations do not control how this information is provided by businesses.

When it comes to making consumers aware about gluten, it’s the cereal that needs to be identified e.g. wheat, rye, barley. There are existing regulations for labelling products ‘gluten free’ (a threshold exists and these products must not contain more than 20ppm gluten). If Coeliacs have any questions about food labels, further information is available from Coeliac UK

Another major change affects businesses selling unpackaged foods, such as those sold on market stalls, restaurants or deli counters. These sellers will no longer be allowed to say they do not know if the product contains allergens. However, the new regulations are not asking chefs to specifically cater for allergies or remove allergens from their kitchens, it is simply to provide information which can assist allergic customers to identify safe dishes.

Allergen information could be written down on a chalk board or chart, or provided orally by a member of staff. When allergen information is not provided upfront, clear signposting to where this information could be obtained must be provided. If you struggle to obtain the information you require, then report the establishment to your local authority (Trading Standards).

The year ahead is going to be an interesting one for food labelling. Old and new styles will co-exist for the time-being until older stocks are depleted. Not everyone has been ‘getting’ the labels and mistakes are being picked up by consumers.

22 January 2019

Reviews for Love Lula Crazy Rumors, Ethically Organic, Fair Squared & Mono Naturoils
(I participate in the Love Lula Blogger Programme and can select products from their site each month, I am not obligated to review)

It always amazes me how I never seem to run out of product to try from Love Lula. I face the restrictions of allergies, yet I still manage to fill my basket. I've a lovely selection to tell you about so lets crack on. Just as a heads up everything here is suitable for Vegans and free from linalool (an ingredient that natural occurs in essential oils and happens to be one of my allergies).
If you're a regular reader then you'll know I adore Crazy Rumors lip balm but I hadn't tried any from their tinted range. I'm not much of a lipstick wearer so thought this would be my perfect lip product. Coral is described as medium neutral pink which I would agree with. It's sheer and provides a wash of colour with a hint of shimmer. I was won over straight away. Very easy to wear and all the benefits and flavour you'd expect from this brand of lip balm.

Ethically Organic Radiance Glow Face SoufflĂ© 
A new-ish brand for Love Lula and it caught my attention because some of their products are free from essential oils. The Glow Face Souffle appealed to me based off the ingredients of shea butter, baobab and jojoba. This is a super rich formulation thanks to the shea butter but in all honesty it's far too intense for my face and that saying something given my history with eczema. In order not to waste an great formulation I'm loving this as a body butter as it tackles dry skin with ease. I certainly would champion this brand on the basis of simple but effective ingredients and for offering a fragrance free solution for consumers with sensitive skin. 

I've spoken about Fair Squared in the past and it's an interesting brand. I consider them to be family friendly and their range includes skincare but also extends to intimate items such as condoms and period cups. The vanilla shower gel is suitable for the entire family and formulated with Olive oil to gently cleanse and moisturise the skin. The scent is delicate and reminiscent of foam ice cream sweets; it's very pleasant without being over powering. It's nice to see a formulation without an overly lengthy ingredient list. The consistency is runny and low foaming which is to be expected. 

I was initially attracted to Mono Naturoils Rose & Cucumber Cleansing Oil because it ticked a couple of boxes for me. Firstly, no essential oil allergens and secondly a blend of ingredients which personally appeals to my skin type. There is no escaping that Mono is a luxurious brand with packaging and prices reflective of that image. This cleansing oil is light with a delightful delicate scent, its the cucumber that hits my senses first followed by undertones of rose. If you're a fan of Mallow + White Soothe cleansing oil (as I am) then this one will also be an instant hit. Mono Naturoils Rose & Cucumber Cleansing Oil is an absolute pleasure to use and it turns your cleansing routine into a ritual that you don't want to skip.

If you missed my December reviews then here's a link for you - Silvan Skincare, Benecos, The Handmade Soap Co

Sarah x

15 May 2012

When I was first diagnosed with my allergies my little world fell apart my main concern was no more birthday cake, no more jelly and ice cream.  That is all that matters when you are a kid.  Back then the internet was not a part of every day life so access to allergy free cooking recipes must have been very difficult for my Mum.  I remember she would always cheer me up with Rice Crispy treats as they can be made free of my allergens.

I was poorly over the weekend, not sure if it was bad food or food allergies (the effects are similar).  I decided I needed a little childhood cheer and made rice crispy treats.  Mum always made them with dairy free margarine and golden syrup.  I decided to pimp them out USA style and add peanut butter. I am very lucky not to have a Peanut allergy and I grew up eating peanut butter.  I've visited the USA numerous time and I came to realise that US PB is the best.  So ditch the Sunpat and Supermarket own brands to invest extra pennies into the real stuff.  Skippy is a personal favourite and available in Sainsburys.

Did you know the Peta website had recipes? I did not and it is where I got the idea to add PB to my crispy treats.  I used this recipe as guidance for quantities (link).  I substituted corn syrup for golden syrup. In hindsight leave out the sugar, I've been bouncing off the walls, I am so daft I did not put my brain in gear.  I can feel the cavities forming in my teeth. Despite the sugar overload, I am loving my regression back to childhood. Sometimes its the simple things in life that are the best. What are your comfort foods?  If you have a recipe to share feel free to leave a link below.

28 March 2017

Free From Easter Eggs suitable for dietary restrictions milk allergy and Vegans

(provided for information/no sponsors/no affiliate links)

Original Post Updated for 2024

Easter products for those with dietary restrictions are fairly easy to find in the big Supermarkets, even Aldi has upped their game this year. You'll find branded and own brand easter treats on the shelves in most stores. Please do check ingredient labels and remember Vegan chocolate isn't always suitable for Milk allergy. 

Cocoa Libre - artisan chocolate eggs are available suitable for allergies including nut free

Moo Free - this is a brand catering for allergies, available direct or in retailers, Free From Rocky Road Easter Egg and Strawberry Sundae are looking tempting this year

NoMo - I'm totally addicted to Cookie Dough Bunny, I've usually eaten a million of them before Easter! Ultimate Egg Bunnies & Mini Bars is top of my wish list

Mummy Meegz - if you are missing Creme Eggs then Chuckie Egg is your vegan alternative, I purchased a 3 x egg box at Waitrose

Happi - Oat Milk chocolate Easter Eggs in three flavours - Plain, Orange and Salted Caramel

Kakoa - a range of luxury Easter eggs alongside truffle eggs in a variety of flavours, I'm currently eyeing up cookies & cream and peanut butter

Ombar - you have a choice of Coco M'lk or Oat M'lk for these Easter Eggs

Firetree - whilst they may not have a egg shaped chocolate in their collection, I had to mention this beautiful, luxurious chocolate if you want an extra special treat

12 March 2013

pictured sourced from Google images

I will warn you this blog post may not make much sense but I feel like having a moan. As you know I have been living with diagnosed allergies for a long time which means I have seen the growth of the free from section in supermarkets. Just recently I have been feeling a little left out. From my viewpoint the tables have turned and attention has focused onto Gluten Free (GF) products. Big brands like Warburton and Heinz are joining the market with GF breads and pasta. Of course, I don't begrudge those on a GF diet, my sister is Coeliac so I know first hand the struggles that are experienced.

Last year at the Allergy Show, I walked passed a brand of biscuits and dismissed them as unsuitable. I did that because the front of packaging listed they were free from gluten, wheat and dairy. There is no mention of being egg free until closer inspection on the back of the box. I wonder how many other brands I have ignored. I always thought egg allergy was very common so I'm confused when it gets over looked in this way. I feel it should be prominently displayed.

A while back a GF company, selling bread and cakes, asked me to review products. When I said it was not of interest they queried me because I had blogged about the Allergy Show. I must admit I was a little peeved by that. I explained that gluten is not one of my allergens and I can not recommend foods I would not purchase. Their response was the entire range was dairy free but a couple of items were not egg free. I'm nit picking but that's a selling point as far as I can see so why not promote it in their email to me? 

Last week I stood looking at the free from section in the supermarket and stomped my feet like a petulant three year old. There are a handful of dairy and egg free products compared to the expanding range of GF foods. Is it just me being silly but have you noticed the new wave of GF foods are simply GF and do not cater for other allergies? The latest buzz on Twitter surrounds Heinz introducing GF products but can anyone tell me if they are free from other allergens? Unless I'm mistaken this information in not glaringly obvious on the press releases. You also don't hear high street restaurant chains promoting their egg and dairy free meals, they just market the GF ones. 

Perhaps I am being over sensitive. I am just rambling observations off the top of my head but I am curious, is anyone else feeling a little left out?

Sarah x

23 January 2018

Looking for Eco Friendly Laundry Products suitable for allergies and vegans
Ethical, cruelty and allergen free laundry products are the biggest headache in my daily life. I feel like the worst person ever for the products I currently use and I've beaten myself up about it but I'm stuck in this really difficult place. I desire a more natural formulation, I don't want it to be tested on animals, I'd like it to be Vegan, I want fragrance but need to avoid linalool, there is the dreaded MI (methylisothiazolinone) to avoid and accessibility is important.

I think the most eco-friendly laundry product available is soap nuts. I experimented with these some years ago but it just didn't suit me for the long term. I wasn't happy with the way my clothes were feeling and smelling over the long term so I ditched that plan.

When looking for ethical products available in supermarkets, most people think of Method and Ecover but both brands were acquired by S.C. Johnson & Son in 2017, a company not associated with ethical or cruelty free values. Seventh Generation has hit the shelves at Tesco, its a popular US brand but despite the claims of suitability for sensitive skin, I was shocked to see it contains methylisothiazolinone (MI). This can also be said for Tesco's own brand Eco Active. Astonish and own brands from Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Co-Op and Marks & Spencer carry the Leaping Bunny logo which gives reassurance for cruelty free but you're not getting a "natural" formulation and on my last inspection I was struggling over MI and linalool (I do need to re-visit this to check labels as things can change).

I know of Greenscents, Bio-D and Mangle & Wringer which are greener brands so tick all my boxes. I do use various cleaning supplies from their ranges and have repurchased from time to time.  Since I can only buy online (no local stockists) this leaves me agonising over courier charges and delivery slots which I find expensive and stressful. It also requires me to be organised and when you're down to the last drop it's much easier to pop to the supermarket. 

There are several brands on my list which I need to do further research on including Faith In Nature, Ecozone and The Gentle Label. I'd be interested in getting feedback from readers who have tried any of their products.

I guess I'm writing this as a personal rant because sometimes I think living your best "green" lifestyle can get a little stressful. I wanted to demonstrate that I don't have the answer to everything, I do struggle with decisions. I've spent months going round in circles but I determined to find a solution. Anyone else in the same position?

Sarah x

19 September 2016

Organic Beauty Week: Look for the Logo  Soil Association
The Organic Beauty Week Campaign for 2016 is #lookforthelogo. A long time ago I wrote a piece titled "How to make sure you are buying truly organic skincare". It could do with updating but the general principals remain the same, in order to guarantee a beauty product is truly organic you need to look for a certification logo such as the Soil Association.

I thought I would share with you some of the organic brands which I enjoy using and talk you through my favourite products.

Odylique - if you are regular reader you will know that I rave non-stop about Odylique Gentle Herb Shampoo, honestly it changed my life the day I discovered it. No more itchy scalp for me, I can't be without it and purchase the 500ml bottle in bulk. I also love the Creamy Coconut Cleanser, my struggles with linalool have been well documented and this cleanser is a repeat purchase for me. I also think Superfruit Concentrate is one of the best facial serums your money can buy and if you struggle with eczema then I recommend the Repair Lotion.

Skin & Tonic - the Naked Beauty Oil is up there with Odylique when it comes to unscented facial oils. It's a beautiful product which I highly recommend. I haven't tried much else from the range because of my allergies but I know many of my blogger friends rave about their products so I'm confident there is something for everyone.

Terre Verdi - I've had the pleasure of knowing this brand through the Free From Skincare Awards and more recently they attended our Gorgeously Green Event. The brand has come a long way since my review last year. Elegant and stylish bottle full of gorgeous ingredients what more do you need.

Herbfarmacy - you'll often hear people mention their balms, Mallow Beauty Balm appears to be a cult favourite amongst bloggers and I have enjoyed using it over the years. I recently took on my holidays the Marshmallow & Vanilla Lip Conditioner and I know some many think "what's so special about a lip balm" but seriously it's a wonderful buttery blend of ingredients.

Botanicals -  an award winning vegan brand that I've had the pleasure of knowing for quite some time. I highly recommend the Rose & Camellia Nourish Cleanse Melt is you love using cleansing balms. I also enjoy using their Raw & Pure range of Cold Pressed Oils perfect for those who like to keep things simple or have fragrance allergies. 

Balm Balm - simple packaging and ingredients makes this brand awesome. I've been a fan for years and often recommend Super Light Coconut Cleanser if you have sensitive skin. Also an affordable range for organic certified products.

Lulu & Boo Organics - dig around in the archives and you'll find a review for the Chamomile Cleansing Balm and Shea Butter & Jojoba Hair Treatment. I've know this brand for a long time and I recommend them.

Do you have a favourite certified organic brand or product? 

Sarah x 


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