The Mini Vegan Christmas Gift Guide

Admittedly I have been a bit pants when it comes to gift-guiding this year. Unlike the troves of beauty bloggers who are actually prepared for Christmas content, I am drowning in uni work and have barely any time to eat let alone buy fancy Christmas decoration for my pictures (in case you were wondering, that handsome reindeer sits upon our windowsill all year long). Therefore, I've submitted to doing but a 'mini' gift guide, including some cute present ideas pertaining to natural and vegan beauty. Enjoy!

Bath Treats
Of course, everyone loves a good bathe and there is something distinctly 'winter' about sinking into a nice hot bath with a candle burning. Talking of candles,  Harper's Bizarre Candles recently released their Christmas selection and my pick, Let it Snow, is absolutely to die for. This peppermint and vanilla scent is pretty universal and non-offensive and so is likely to be enjoyed by everyone. Harper's Bizarre candles are adorable and the cute tins mean that you could probably just get away with popping them in a gift bag.

More bath options include the fabulous Living Naturally Bathtub Teas that I reviewed here. I absolutely adore the Coconut Milk & Chai* variation but they also offer Coconut & Rose, Calendula & Comfrey, and Hibiscus & Lavender. These can be a wee bit messy but they're one of the only bath products that don't irritate my eczema and they create the most relaxing bath. And come on, who doesn't want to smell like a chai latte? For more traditional bath options, I really love the Deep Steep range and the Brown Sugar & Vanilla Bubble Bath is a lovely Christmas sweet treat. I've linked it from iHerb but you can often find Deep Steep products in TK Maxx. 

Traditional Gift Sets
Green People create some really beautiful gift sets and it's hard to say no to their wonderful butterfly gift sets. Their Joyful Body Wash & Body Lotion set* has a super clean and fresh scent that any family or friend would love. It's a little more expensive but the gorgeous presentation makes up for it. Green People are a brand that I trust in terms of effectiveness and ingredients and so I'll be happy to pass this on this Christmas. Secondly, we have the Mallow & White Soothe range which is great for all skin types and would make a great introductory gift for someone only just getting into green skincare. Unfortunately I don't have the actual gift set to show you and I haven't tried the face oil, but I have tried the other two products from the Soothe range (the Cleansing Oil* and Face Mask*) and love them both. The Facial Kit includes a full size facial oil and a full size mask.

Stocking Fillers
And to end, just a couple cute stocking ideas that are a little different. Firstly, this wonderfully presented Women's Fragrance Sampler from Ravenscourt Apothecary. This little set contains samples of all of Ravenscourt's literary inspired women's botanical perfumes including Alice, Anne of Avonlea, Elizabeth Bennett, and Jane Eyre. All of these perfume oils are created with natural ingredients and are available in equally as gorgeous full sizes if any tickle your (or your lucky friend's) fancy. Finally, Nailberry nail polishes are the definition of green luxury and they make brilliant stocking fillers. They come in a variety of vegan & 5-free shades, with something for everyone. I have the shade Blueberry*, a dark royal purple but other winter appropriate shades include Berry Job, Number 69, and Pink Sand.

What have you got your eye on this Christmas?


Review: PHB Ethical Beauty Botanical BB Cream & Pure Skin Foundation

When deciding on my picks for the LoveLula Blogging Programme last month, I was SO excited to see that PHB Ethical Beauty had gone ahead and released two new liquid base products to their ever-growing makeup collection. Enter the Botanical BB Cream* and the Pure Skin Liquid Foundation*. Both products come with all the certifications and accolades that the brand boasts including being 100% natural, vegan, and halal. They're Leaping Bunny certified as well as using a great range of organic ingredients. Both products have been formulated to work for a variety of skins and their slightly odd natural scent is an indicator that they have not included any essential oils - great for those with the most sensitive of skins. They come in really gorgeous frosted glass bottles and although the plastic lids are a bit of a pain to keep stuck, they do look very pretty on my dressing table. Both products also include SPF (the foundation has SPF30 and the BB, SPF15) which is really great.

The shade range is decent and I was able to find options that worked for my very pale skin. However, as with most green beauty brands, PHB are let down here by the fact that their range does not go to far in the opposite direction. It would really be nice to see some more diverse colour options for the darker skinned among us. I picked up the Pure Skin Liquid Foundation* in the palest shade available, Cream. I will say that this was complete guesswork and a sample service would be greatly appreciated in this regard. The shade is good enough for me, albeit a little bit pale and it blends easily into my skin. This foundation has really impressive performance considering its fabulous ingredients and modest price tag. It is 'mid-range' compared to most green beauty foundations, coming it at just under £20. It does require a bit of blending work, and it doesn't really come close to the Sappho foundation, but it's a really great option if you don't want to spend £40. It has a semi-matte finish and although it says suitable for all skin types, I would air on the side of caution if you have dry skin because it can look a bit cakey when I'm dehydrated. In spite of all of this, if my skin is in good nick, it looks great and lasts really well. It has a true medium coverage and also covers up redness and acne quite well.

I picked up the Botanical BB Cream* in the shade Fair, and let me tell you, this really is the star of the pair. It looks a bit dark in the picture above but Fair blends out perfectly on my skin and provides a decent amount of coverage for a BB cream. It far outperforms the famous 100% Pure Tinted Moisturiser and seems to excel in every area that the former fails. It has a satin matte finish, dries down quickly, provides good coverage, and doesn't have that awful six month shelf life that comes with all 100% Pure products. I also often feel confident enough to wear it without the addition of any kind of setting powder and that's something that I could never do before. I've been using this nearly every day since getting it in the post. It's fair to say that the BB cream has become a new favourite and I've already started pushing it to my friends...

Have you tried the new base oferrings from PHB?

Review: Odylique Tea Tree & Herb Shampoo

So I thought that it was about time that I did a review for my absolute favourite, the Odylique Tea Tree & Herb Shampoo*. Now, this isn't the first time that this little gem has popped up on my blog - I seem to mention it constantly - but I've never actually set down and given it the word count that it deserves. 

I was first pushed to try Odylique's shampoo range by the lovely Sarah who is always singing their praises. At the time, I was still looking for a shampoo that effectively cleaned my oily hair, but without stripping my scalp that can be quite itchy and sensitive. She is a fan of the original Gentle Herb incarnation but I was drawn to this one due to the inclusion of tea tree. Tea tree is known to help with itchy reactive scalps and so I was eager to give it a go. And it did not disappoint.

I will say that it did take me a little time to get used to this shampoo due to its slightly odd formula. It's a very runny, almost gel-like consistency and so it's easy to use too much. It took me a good couple of uses to realise that less is more with this shampoo. You only need a small amount. It may not lather much but as long as you leave it to sit on the scalp (very important if yours is sensitive like mine), then you will have good results. The tea tree also adds a really satisfying scent to the shampoo. I know that some people find it a little medicinal but I find it very refreshing and almost comforting. Another kinda of 'out of the box' perk to this shampoo is that it's very good for mixing with other brands when you're trying to use something up. If I'm trying another shampoo that doesn't seem to work for me, adding just a pump of this makes it usable enough to empty the bottle. 

My only issue with this shampoo is that for me, it could be better value for money. It costs about £11/12 and considering the small size of the container (250ml), I seem to go through them quite quickly as I wash my hair every other day. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, it's not too expensive but I'm still getting used to spending more than about a fiver on shampoo! The normal Gentle Herb variety is available in a large deluxe size and I really wish that Odylique would extend that to this version or at least offer some kind of multi-buy deal. This is the only reason that I have begun to stray from the shampoo every now and then, but I can still safely say that it will take a lot for a product to beat the Odylique for me. I'm currently using some from Avalon Organics - that I do really like - but I do find that my scalp gets itchy a lot quicker than it does with the Odylique. It's definitely the best green shampoo that I have come across so far!

Life Update & Making Exceptions

Happy weekend! Today we're having a bit of an interlude from beauty because I thought it was about time to give you a little life update and address something that has been on the tip of my tongue for some time now. 

Late September saw the start of my third (and final!!!) year of my undergraduate degree in English Literature with German. It's already throwing the punches and so that's why my posts have once again, been a little thin on the ground. Despite this, I'm really enjoying my modules this year and am rather excited to jump back into essay writing - because yes, I am one of those weirdos. This year won't be my final year of overall education however as I am planning to apply to do my MA in 2017. Applications have only just opened so things haven't gone to far yet but it's all so exciting! Not much else to report apart from the fact that yesterday I purchased my ticket for Clean Cult Christmas! I'm so happy to be attending as the original event fell during my Croatia trip. I'll be there between 12-3pm so definitely come say hi if you're also going on Sunday 4th December! You can get your tickets here.

Now on to my vague topic to address... making exceptions within a 'clean' and 'green' beauty regime. I feel that the green beauty community can sometimes seem to push a very pure and almost unattainable standard of 'natural' living, specially when considering green beauty products. I will be the first to admit that I have often felt guilty when lusting after a particular product that I knew others in the community would not approve of. But then, isn't it all about balance? 

This first came about when I was trying to heal a particularly bad bout of acne towards the beginning of the year. I had (unsuccessfully) tested a whole army of green beauty products and nothing was making a dent. I was at my wit's end and the acne really started to take a toll on my mental health. I would often cry and really get down about it. It was then that I decided to give the Bravura Salicylic Acid Treatment a go. Not natural by any means, but something with simple ingredients and good reviews. And you know what? It worked - and I didn't feel guilty. Because why should I feel guilty about healing my skin, and healing my mind in the process? I'm not saying that green beauty doesn't offer effective acid products for cystic acne (just look at moss), but they can be expensive and hard to source when living within a student budget. Sometimes a decision has to made: what do I care about more, my green beauty standards or my happiness? 

This is something that I have also considered when thinking about indie beauty products. The indie world is an absolute passion of mine. There is nothing I enjoy more than supporting independent lady-businesses and trying truly unique products. However, indie doesn't always equate to natural. 99% of the indie brands I purchase from ARE also natural (e.g. Brija Cosmetics), but sometimes I do treat myself to a liquid lipstick with dyes and silicones, or a perfume oil with synthetic ingredients. Natural also doesn't equal vegan and occasionally I like to break the rules a bit to try new things. 

Of course there are still some standards that I won't break. I will NEVER buy from a company that uses carmine (horrifyingly popular within the indie world). I only buy vegan and cruelty-free products, and I still avoid certain things like petrochemicals and phenoxyethanol. Perfume-wise, a lot of the companies I enjoy use a mix of natural and synthetic ingredients (ethically sourced and often phthalate-free), and many also carry 100% natural lines (which are likely to be pillaged by myself in the near future if not already). The indie world is fun and care-free, and to be honest, as much as a hate to admit it and submit to consumerism, it makes me really happy. 

This is not a post to warn you about a change of content; most definitely not. KV will continue to be heavily focused on natural and green beauty. I will still happily purchase from natural brands, and there are some natural products that I will never stay from. But, it's also important to remember: balance is important, and so occasionally I may feature something that is not up to your standards, and that's okay.