Are commercial brands like Neutrogena suitable for sensitive skin? 

opinion piece

*Disclaimer; I am not a trained cosmetologist or scientist, opinions included within this post are based on my own experience, skin type, research and opinion* 

I know I have previously mentioned all of my hundreds of skincare concerns, however I am going to reiterate for the sake of this post. My skin seems to incessantly hate me, for it doesn’t matter how much time or money I spend trying to love it – it still misbehaves almost instantaneously. The main problem is that I have suffered with acne for the last 10 years, meaning my t-zone is naturally full of oil. I was taking accutane for a year to treat my acne (a very strong drug used to treat cancer and other ailments). This drug severely dries out your skin, so now I have both permanently oily and dry skin. Oily overall with dry peeling patches. So not ideal really. 

Over the last few years, I have tried and tested a myriad of skincare brands and products. And there seems to be one thing in common with a majority of them.  They are super stringent on sensitive skin, and consequently cause an over production of sebum – making any skin issues worsen. You see, if you strip your skin of its natural oils, as a defence mechanism your skin will start to product more sebum (oil). An over production of sebum is what causes acne. This is counter productive to treating your oily skin problem, as you are in fact adding to the issue. 

If your skin feels tight after your skincare regime, you may be using a cleanser containing alcohol. Or simply over cleansing. A lot of drugstore / commercial brands use alcohol within their face washes and toners. 

I recently attended a press event for Neutrogena, where I received these skincare products in my goodie bag:Using these products just emphasised to me how there is an entire branch of the skincare industry misadvertising. If we take the above cleanser as an example, ‘gently cleanses..’ – there is nothing gentle about this cleanser I can assure you. I have attempted to use this cream wash and it totally dried out my skin. It contains alcohol AND salicylic acid. Now, although salicylic acid is known for its acne fighting properties. What these advertisers often don’t mention is that prolonged use can dry and thin skin, and cause excessive dryness. The combination of these two ingredients plus a whole host of other chemicals makes these products very drying. There are also websites where you can check if a product contains irritant ingredients, this is helpful as you can check before investing. It’s important to remember that some of these ingredients are necessary, however try to choose products with less harmful amounts of these irritant ingredients. 

I’m sure that these products may be suitable for those with less sensitive skin. However the fact that some of the ingredients are harmful to skin, rings alarm bells in my mind. 

If you do have sensitive skin, I would avoid brands that make products similar to this. Remember to check ingredients before purchasing. Here are some other tips to stop you from over-drying your skin; 

1. Limit chemical exposure 

If you can, try to cleanse with a plain oil or water. Of course you can use a gentle oil or make up remover to take off make up beforehand 

2. Tone it down 

A lot of toners are stringent and drying. They often contain perfumes, alcohol and salicylic acid. Check the ingredients, and remove them from your skincare regime 

3. Creamy dreamy 

Invest in an appropriate moisturiser for your skin type. Especially for over night moisturisation, this will help to repair skin and leave it replenished in the morning 

The conclusion is that you must be over careful when purchasing skincare products. Always check and research ingredients – and be aware of what your own skin can handle and needs. Every facial wash out there is going to emphasise how brilliant it is – we must learn to read between the lines. I think as consumers we can often become lazy, and we trust certain brands because they have a huge reputation. This does not necessarily mean that they always have our best interests at heart. Products are produced on a mass scale to make money. Sometimes, you have to stop and think about what exactly you are choosing to lump on your skin. 

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5 signs you are in a toxic friendship 

opinion piece

There are numerous songs written about the pains of heart break. Losing the one you love, the emotional and physical side affects of people’s worlds seemingly falling apart. However when it comes to friendships, we have more pride. When you break up with a good friend, you act as if you don’t care. When really, it can be just as painful as any relationship break up. We’ve all been there, having had a best friend that you thought would be around forever. Things change and people move on. But how do you arm yourself from falling victim to a fake friend in the future? 

There is no sure fire way to tell a friends intentions, especially at the beginning of friendships. Naturally over time peoples true colours will shine through, until then keep your guard up and your observation on point. 

Over the years I’ve come across many friends and acquaintances; a diverse range of people. It’s difficult to correlate any similarities in my individual friendships with these people and why they turned out to be so fake. It’s hard to pin point. Moreover, there are some similarities that I have noticed. If only I had been warned in hindsight I may not have wasted my time with such individuals. Below are my 5 main signs that your friendship is not as rosy as you anticipated. 

1. It’s always on you 

This is one of the more obvious signs, but it doesn’t always show in long term friendships, as people can get complacent and comfortable. If you feel within your friendship that the effort is one way – maybe it’s time to stop trying. Frankly, if someone who is part of a generation of people who walk around with their phones glued to their hands (sorry to stereotype millenials) can’t find 30 seconds in their day to message you; Perhaps, really you ought to accept that they don’t care as much as you do. 

Wasting your time chasing someone who isn’t interested in spending their time with you can be draining, and demoralising. The only way to stop this is to either approach your friend and discuss how you feel, or simply to stop making the effort. The way in which your friend reacts can often be a sign of how they view / value / don’t value your relationship. 

2. They are severely selfish 

Don’t get me wrong, your twenties are the perfect time to be utterly and completely selfish. And I get that. There’s levels to selfishness though – the trick is to tell who is around because you are of beneficial use to them? And who is around you because they genuinely enjoy your company? 

The reasons why your friends want to meet up, why they want to see you. Will often be a huge giveaway if their subconscious intentions are pejorative. For example: if a friend only contacts you when they need something from you, this pattern will emerge with clarity after the passing of time – try to nip it in the bud to avoid further hurt. 

3. Going with the flow 

If one of your friends seems passive in conversation, they could just be genuinely shy, or they could secretly hate you but despise confrontation? Alarm bells should start ringing in your mind if this person who is supposedly close to you, cannot express an opinion when they conversate with you. That portrays that they either don’t agree with something about you, they are secretly jealous or they talk about you to others. Of course, we can’t spend our lives being massively paranoid – we wouldn’t trust our own mothers. But if your friend exhibits a few of these traits, there could be some underlying reasons why. 

4. Misery needs company 

Good friends will contact you whenever they can, within reason. If you only hear from a friend when they are down, it could be that they just want you as a shoulder to temporarily cry on. This is fine as friends will help each other through tough times, the problem arises when this particular friend no longer has an interest in you when circumstances in their life become happier. This is pretentiousness. This is an example of narcissism. They need you to stroke their ego when things are not going smoothly, when all is well you get dashed to the side like an unwanted child’s toy. 

5. Enjoy the party 

We all go through chronological phases in our lives. The entirety of life is a learning curve. Most people at some stage have a phase of partying in their life – no matter how regularly they go out or how wild they are they enjoy the party scene. The party scene is great for temporary thrills. Sometimes it’s difficult to see amidst the alcohol fuelled nights out and drug binges who your true friends are. Stop partying and see who’s still around? Who wants to actually know you as a person when you become ‘boring’? 

Friends should be around regardless. Regardless if you want to get smashed everyday or you chose to read a book in the library. Why should it even matter? You accept diversity within people, and you accept them for who they are. 

If you have a friend who exhibits more than one of these traits towards you, then you need to seriously reconsider your friendship. It can be difficult and awkward to confront these things, but, as with most things in life – honesty is the best policy. Talk through how you feel and how it can be resolved. Otherwise just leave. Go and get yourself a better, loyal friend who’s there for life. Not just the parties or the good times. Forever friends. 

Why you need to quit the job that’s making you miserable 

opinion piece

I get it. I really get it. You stay at that job you secretly despise because you feel you have no other choice. Better to be working in an unhealthy environment than not working at all, right? Right? 

Wrong. It’s all wrong, whatever your preconditioned thoughts on work are. Let me tell you, they are most probably wrong. Inevitably, any of us can end up working a job that we are not happy in. People stay for a myriad of reasons; out of comfort, laziness, financial commitments, fear of the unknown.  

It’s important you understand the message I am trying to portray. I don’t want to inspire anybody to quit their job and end up broke, up to their eyeballs in debt, and quite literally broken. No no no. 

Let’s face it, we spend the majority of our lives at work (assuming full time work). If you spend those days watching the clock, stressed beyond belief, feeling your blood boil; and every Sunday evening you get that sheer feeling of dread. You need to leave and chase your dreams. Time waits for no one. 

Now I do understand the apprehension before leaving a job… you are walking out into the unknown. The act has to be executed, and planned well. Here are my top tips to ensure the transition runs smoothly, and you are promised a happier working life: 

1. Saving face 

If you are staying at a job you aren’t happy in, because of severe financial commitments – this can be very tricky. What I would advise is that you maintain savings as much as physically possible. Set yourself a goal, for example, give yourself three months to save as much as possible and start moving towards your leave. If your bills outweigh your wages, perhaps even try to find a second job (temporarily) just to get you out of your current situation. You could also try selling unwanted items on eBay (believe it or not eBay kept me going when I lost my job a few months ago), having a clear out will also help you to feel more liberated and envigorated. When the time is right and you feel secure, you can hand in your notice and start again. 

2. Temp work 

In London there are so many work agencies that can help you find temp work – and this can be in a variety of industries. This really helps when you are between jobs / careers. It gives a steady cash flow, and you gain experience. You may even find a company that you’d like to stay at long term. Temping is a really great opportunity for graduates and job seekers alike to make up money whilst searching for permanent positions. 

Also, you can be a complete agency whore and sign up to as many as possible. Go with the one whom finds you a role first. 

3. Apply, apply, apply 

Even whilst you are at the job you want to leave, apply for as many positions as you can. If it’s feasible, speak to your manager and explain your situation. You cannot be fired for attending job interviews, you are well within your rights to do so. I know a lot of people feel very awkward about doing this, but I personally feel your manager should respect your honesty. Otherwise, you will continue to do so in secrecy – and this will make attending interviews very difficult. 

Now when I say apply for as many jobs as possible, I think a lot of people misconstrue what ‘a lot of jobs’ implies. I’m not talking about sitting at your laptop and applying for ten jobs. No honey. This is London, there are millions of people competing for job roles. It’s dog eat dog. I would say realistically, every evening apply for 20-30 job roles. 

You’ll start hearing back around two weeks later, this is when you’ll start organising interviews. You’ll also need to filter through and only attend the ones you feel are worth leaving your current job for. There are a lot of fabricated companies / agencies out there that are deliberately looking for staff to exploit. Don’t fall into the trap of leaving your long term job for a short term fail.  

I would advise (and I only know this now after a terrible experience), before attending any job interview to thoroughly research. Research the company itself, and if you have any pejorative gut feeling about the job. Do not go to the interview – they’ll be plenty of others. You see, desperation often makes us deluded, we convince ourselves the situation at hand is fine because we are desperate for a job. It’s important to always keep your cool in this scenario – don’t accept what you don’t deserve. Patience is key. 

4. Part timers 

Another option would be to discuss your situation with your manager, and perhaps have one day off in the week. Or cut down your hours so that you are able to attend interviews – having time off your current role to attend interviews can be one of the harder tasks. Particularly when you don’t get the job, you feel disheartened at losing money by missing work and wasting your time. But you must plough through. There will be hella rejection throughout this process, you have to take the rough with the smooth. 

5. Education is key 

Depending on your situation, perhaps you feel you don’t have enough education or skills to get into the field you want to. Remember you are never too old to learn. If you want to leave your job to study, it’s a great thing to improve your knowledge and skill set. 

Approach your employer and discuss the various options, maybe you’ll leave altogether, or continue to work part time until your studies are over? This really will depend on your personal situation. Another option could be temp work while you study, as there’s little commitment but it’s steady money. 

6. Social security

Now this is going to be an unpopular option, but sometimes it’s necessary. If you do end up unemployed, either by choice or not; remember that the welfare state in this country is there to help you. 

There is such a negative stigma surrounding job centres, and claiming benefits. You have to remember while you are out of work, this is money you are entitled to. It will allow you to have money to attend interviews, you can also claim housing benefit whilst unemployed if you are worried about not being able to pay rent. 

It’s not nice, it’s not glamorous and nobody wants to sign on. But actually it’s a great reality check, and I think it pushes you harder to get a job. 

When you think you have no options, this is always an option. It’s not a fantastic one, but it’s there to fall back on nevertheless. 

Conclusion 

Overall I would say that your health and happiness is what is most important. Chase your dreams, there is no point wasting your time in dead end jobs that make you miserable. I’m only 25, and I have witnessed individuals staying in jobs out of pure laziness, willing to put up with corruption, breaking laws and other terrible misdemeanours that you can’t even imagine. You really have to ask yourself, what am I worth if I don’t have the strength to leave this job, if I am willing to betray my personal morals and make myself miserable, whilst this company grows richer at my expense? 

There is a big wide world out there, and it is scary. But your dream exists out there, ready to be captured. If you don’t chase it, you’ll spend the rest of your life helping others chase theirs. 

How the Foo Fighters helped me overcome depression 

opinion piece

Yesterday I read an article on post graduate depression; which I have briefly mentioned in previous blog posts (how to deal with rejection), and it is definetly a thing. Infact, it’s a big thing that needs to be recognised. Once you graduate you are thrown into the big wide world, with the expectation that getting a job is not so difficult. And it isn’t really, if you want a job. If you want a career in something you studied – that may be slightly trickier. 

I went through this awful depression, and I know other people that have experienced the same. You feel down, powerless, useless. I got that dark feeling a few months ago. I had just got what sounded like my dream job after graduating – a marketing executive for an educational institution. It wasn’t journalism which I studied, but I vowed to keep my freelance work on the side and save up to enable me to complete internships for journalism. 

I won’t go into extreme detail as I would quite like to leave this subject to a forthcoming blog post; but this new ‘job’ turned out to be a complete and utter facade. The company was built upon lies – I had left my long term loyal job to work for a scandalous agency! I felt so betrayed that I had been manipulated and indoctrinated into thinking I was entering a completely different type of company, compared to the bleak reality. The only way I can describe this place (I refuse to refer to it as a workplace because it is NOT), it was like being in what I would imagine WW2 East Germany to be like. We were in a room with no natural light, in a cellar type environment. Our ‘manager’ watched us like a hawk throughout the day, talking was not allowed. We had cameras everywhere (the reason for this was never confirmed), and we were all pretty much convinced that these cameras had sound. It was terrifying to me that this type of work place exists – continues to exist and that individuals are subjected to these unhealthy working conditions. 

This ‘job’ came to an end after just two months and I was left with nothing. 

This is when it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. Waking up at 5am daily, shaking and sweating in pure angst. My anxiety had reached new levels. I knew what was causing it but I had zero control over the situation. It was the lack of structure to my day, the innate fear that I would never find a job. The utter self depreciation of consistently telling myself I was no good, useless. You will never get a decent job repeated in my mind like a choir hymn. 

There came a point one random monday I was getting ready to attend a job interview, I put my iTunes on shuffle. Foo Fighters came on, I remember the moment so vividly. Because it was the pivotal moment where my attitude took a turn for the better. It was their song ‘The Pretender’ which had been playing. So much feeling within the song, and the lyrics at that point in time meant the world to me. ‘What if I say that I’ll never surrender?’ 

I continued to listen to the band for the rest of the day, their uplifting, reflective lyrics helped me remember why I even started trying in the first place. And why I would never give up. 

The Foo Fighters are a great example of why you should never give up. Dave Grohl started out his music career in Nirvana, after Kurts death he was traumatised – but made the controversial decision to start another band. For which he received a lot of criticism for. Thr band went through numerous members, and numerous dramas. But they ploughed through, Dave never gave up. 

Eventually their efforts and talents were recognised. But if they would have gone and got a day job and given up on the music dream – they wouldn’t be where they are today. And that’s just it, despite my self depreciation and anxious thoughts ripping at my inner confidence – I won’t give up. I really no longer care how long it takes me to get where I want to be. I know that I will be there one day, and that is comforting enough. It’s enough, you are enough. 

Why I’m embracing my pale colour and saying no to fake tan 

opinion piece

Throughout high school I was that chick who looked like she had splashed her dad’s creosote on her face. Yes I was perma tanned, and for some reason (still unknown to me) I thought I looked great. But in reality I was probably a streaky orange mess. I become reliant on fake tan to feel good about myself. 

We are constantly told that a tan makes you look healthier, slimmer and more sexy. And that’s fine if you obtain a natural tan, or if you apply fake tan wanting a natural looking tan. I get it. Tans are beautiful. But we can’t all be naturally tanned. 

The fundamental with keeping up appearances is that you become addicted. Two or three years ago I probably would not have left the house without tan on. You start to believe it’s your natural colour, your brain becomes numbed to your pretense. 

About a year ago I decided I was going to embrace my natural colour. And I haven’t looked back since. I don’t mind if people tell me I’m really white, too pale or call me Casper. 

I will be conforming to others beauty ideals no longer. This is my colour. I’m going to embrace it and love it. 

The art of comparison: how Instagram is detrimental to female self-esteem 

opinion piece

I’ve had severe ups and downs with Instagram. It’s both my favourite and worst social media app. Because on the outside, it’s aesthetically pleasing to scroll through people’s seemingly perfect lives, perfect selfies, perfect food and their perfect relationships. But we often forget, usually, a huge amount of effort has gone into constructing these images. It’s fake.

As females we all have days where we are insecure. And unfortunately with social media girls of younger and younger ages are aware of their looks – and feeling an innate pressure to be conventionally attractive. Adhering to false beauty standards portrayed on social media. Now Instagram, being a visually based app – and thriving off of a like for like and comment for comment culture can breed self esteem issues.

Of course, it’s not a new concept for the media to convey unattainable beauty standards. This has been the case for traditional media platforms for most of cultural history, however the online realm; and in particular Instagram has accelerated this. Let me tell you why.

The app itself is, of course, irresponsible for a high increase in young girls developing mental health issues plagued by body image or self esteem. It’s how the app is used, and the nature of the characteristics of the app. It’s so fast moving, that users often feel pressure to upload. They have followers and ‘Insta celebrities’ they aspire to be like – and therefore this often breeds a competitive nature. Or a feeling of inferiority.

The art of comparison is what is killing our young girls souls. Scrolling through pretentious images, constructed for social validation. Comparing yourself to images that are fake. Comparing your life, your goals, your face, your ass and your entirety to someone you’ve never even met.

Possibly one of the worst things you can do in the cut throat world of Instagram is to compare. You must must must always stay grounded, remembering that most of these images are socially constructed. And even if they aren’t, everyone progresses at their own pace in life. You are doing great and that’s all you need to watch.

Survival of the fittest.

Neo-feminism vs. Neutrality 

opinion piece

Personally I don’t even believe in feminism as a concept or philosophy. If you are a female who does not believe in gender equality, then I would be forced to seriously question your entire morality and set of values. 

This being said, on the contrary, I would however still refer to myself as a feminist. There are still far too many sexist agendas which discriminate against women, that are simply just accepted in our society. For example, rape culture, which has received a lot of media exposure in recent years. 

We still have a long way to go. And I fear we are going completely the wrong way about tackling it. Just recently I have read several articles which refer to a neutrality in some form. First of all we had, ‘pan-sexuality’ – the belief that one has no sexuality. I next heard about ‘gender neutrality’. I understand these neutralities are being formed as a positive action, they are there to decrease discrimination and gender stereotypes, archetypal gender roles etc. 

Now just yesterday I read an article which was stating that body positivity is a farce. We should have ‘body neutrality’ as an alternative. That it causes us to put immense pressure on ourselves to always feel positive, and naturally everyone has insecure days. 

But I feel like ‘positivity’ is being misconstrued completely, I believe in the power of positivity. Now as cliche as it may sound, staying positive and believing things will get better, has aided me through some of the toughest times of my life. For one to assume that means you aren’t allowed a bad day, would be naive, no? 

Staying positive is a means to help people believe in themselves. It comes from a good place, and I just feel like, why must we always criticise? For example, body positivity is encouraged because of body shaming. And now positivity is being criticised because of being positive? 

This is just one fundamental example, but it relates to my initial point about neutrality. Why can’t we accept things for what they are? Biologically there are differences between females and males. That, in no way shape or form justifies any type of inequality or discrimination. But there are clear differences, no one can deny the fact. 

It’s awesome to write counterintuitive articles, it’s often something I enjoy doing myself. Criticism is how we learn, challenging the norms is a crucial part of being a competent journalist. Conforming to your role as the fourth estate within society. But some of these articles, and ‘neutralities’ are just scraping the barrel now.