How to be kind to yourself

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When was the last time you paid yourself a compliment (or accepted one from someone else)? ‘Oh, I look nice today.’ Or ‘My hair is great!’ I’m guessing you might be struggling to remember?

One of the main themes I explore in Tough Love is this difficulty we have with liking ourselves – and treating ourselves with kindness as we would a friend. That’s why I thought this would be a fab post topic – especially as the nights set in and the Christmas food fest looms. Are you ready to learn a few quick tips on how to be kind to yourself?

Stop comparing

I dedicate a whole chapter in Tough Love to this, because it really is something we all do without thinking which makes us feel bad. Scientific research has shown that our brains process our own image differently to images of others. What this means is that your less than favourable opinion of yourself in comparison to other people is down to chemistry – not because you are any less beautiful. We rarely come off better when we compare – so try to keep the focus on you and what you are doing rather than on how other people look.

Identify one thing you like

In the book I dedicate a whole chapter to this, too! We spend so much time finding and thinking about things we don’t like that we often forget to identify something we like. Take a look at yourself and try to be impartial and non-critical just for one second. Is there anything you like? Perhaps it’s your nails, or your eyes, or your big toe. If you’re struggling, how about noticing something you don’t hate? That’s a step in the right direction. You might learn to like it more once you notice it.

Focus on what really matters

We’re taught that our outside appearance is the ‘be all and end all’ – but actually, it’s a very very small part of who we are. Although undoubtedly the way we appear to others is important, we don’t need to lay so much store by it – and even less so when it effects the way we live our lives. I always find it sad that people will miss a fantastic event because they are so busy trying to snap the perfect selfie – or sacrifice time they could spend with family and friends or doing something they love agonising over outfits and make-up and hair. I’ve been there, and I’ve done it, and I know how miserable it is to be obsessed with ‘perfect beauty’. It doesn’t exist – and what’s more, the ‘holy grail’ of satisfaction you’re striving to achieve will never match up to the euphoria of doing something you love, or that warm fuzzy feeling inside when you sit and enjoy gossip with friends or take off on holiday and bask in the warm sun. You matter – as a human being – and that includes all of you, not just what’s on the outside.

If you need more encouragement, support and tips on how to see yourself in a better light, take a look at Tough Love here.

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Sudsatorium Shampoo Review 

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So today back to one of my favourite subjects – hair, and shampoo. I will bore anyone who will listen to death about hair – hair loss, what’s good for it, what’s not, what products to use, which to avoid…(you get the picture). I’m always on the lookout for my next shampoo – a better shampoo which is easier to use, smells great, doesn’t damage my hair or scalp and ultimately doesn’t contain any chemical nasties.

I’ve been using a combo of Khadi and aloe vera for some time – or simply using aloe with honey or powders in between. Because I only need to wash my hair once a week, I get through shampoo fairly slowly. This doesn’t stop me constantly looking for something new though – and after debating trying John Masters Organic I decided to head onto Etsy and see what I could find there.

I wasn’t disappointed; there are so many gorgeous homemade beauty brands on Etsy each listing their ingredients for the hair-conscious (paranoid) consumer. I’ve used skincare bits from Etsy before, (a beautiful all-natural tanning oil from Herbanna) so I knew I was sure to find something which floated my boat. The ones I found to be very pure yet still exciting and professional looking were produced by a company called Sudsatorium. Based in Canada (sadly, many of the brands are based abroad in the states or beyond), Sudsatorium offer a huge range of shampoos and body washes packed full of natural ingredients.

I was very excited to try this product, an excitement. Which was only slightly dulled by over a month’s wait for it to arrive (more on this later!) when it finally did arrive, I used it straight away.

My choice, Brewed Awakening, is as the name suggests made with ‘freshly brewed coffee’ to give your hair a caffeine induced growth kick and to add depth and shine to brunette hair. It also contains lime juice, hemp oil and vanilla; all organic of course. There’s nothing I don’t love about the ingredients list which is a bonus as I usually find something I dislike when a product’s scent and texture is just right!

The shampoo feels just like any other just slightly more runny. It lathers minimally (no SLS!), but enough to be spread evenly on the scalp (I don’t wash the ends of my hair). I left it on for a couple of minutes with my head tipped upside down(bit of inversion method) then rinsed with cold/lukewarm water as always. I don’t use conditioner and didn’t use oil on this occasion as I wanted to get a true idea of what the shampoo was really like.

When dry my hair was so soft,  so shiny and my scalp felt great. I particularly liked this shampoo because of the base of coffee – as caffeine has been shown in studies to nourish and stimulate the hair follicle, resulting in better growth and thicker, healthier hair overall. This isn’t a shampoo specially formulated for hair loss, but if you’ve read any of my previous hair blogs you’ll know That after trying most of the products out there are researching the hair and scalp I’ve discovered the best thing for the hair and scalp is going back to basics with all-natural offerings.

Anyone worth their salt when it comes to hair will tell you that 2 weeks is hardly long enough to be able to give a proper review of a product – but these are my initial views which I’ll be sure to update you with as I continue to use the shampoo! So, what’s the overall verdict at this stage?

Pros: Beautiful product with good credentials when it comes to natural ingredients. Smells incredible before, during and after application. Leaves my hair soft and shiny and doesn’t disrupt the nice natural rhythm I’ve spent ages getting it into. The company also donate a portion of their profits to charity – so I can’t argue with the price which I feel is fair for such a good product. You don’t need a lot, so it lasts a while, especially if you dilute it with aloe vera gel. 

Cons: This shampoo took ages to make and ages to come. The manufacture and shipping took 3 weeks, then it took a further 3 weeks to arrive by what I can only assume was pigeon mail. I was not impressed with this one bit and I would advise anyone wishing to try these shampoos to order WELL in advance! I understand anything sent from Canada will take a while to come, but I wasn’t prepared for a 3 week manufacture time.

Have you tried Sudsatorium? Let me know!

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If you enjoyed my Sudsatorium Shampoo Review, you can read more here.

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Aloe Vera for Hair Loss

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If you read the blog, you’ll know by now that I’m prone to putting a lot of obscure things on my head (unless they contain chemicals, that is!). Recently I stopped using powders with water (too messy) in favour of Khadi and Morrocco Method shampoos. I only wash my hair once a week, so you can imagine how long my shampoos last! I often add Aloe Vera, coffee or Rhassoul to the Khadi shampoo to make it more potent.

In between using these ready-made poos, I like to make my own (much less messy) shampoo which works wonders for my hair and scalp. It’s easy, no fuss and cheap.

Aloe vera is said to have cleansing and purifying properties for the scalp whilst maintaining healthy, shiny hair. It’s supposed to help strengthen the strands themselves whilst soothing the follicles at the root, which can also help with hair loss. After hearing glowingly positive reviews about fresh aloe vera online, I was determined to give it a go. I’ve heard equally good things about honey, so I thought why not combine the two? They’re both gloopy and shampoo-like, plus some people had already used them together with decent results. Cheap runny honey in a squeezy bottle will do – apparently using raw wild honey causes build-up of beeswax (no thanks!)

I am currently growing my aloe vera (it’s only a baby so I can’t cut it – and don’t want to!) so I bought fresh, pure organic aloe vera gel online (it’s relatively cheap and you don’t need a lot). Mine came in a sachet so get a clean jar or pot to decant it into.

To make the honey shampoo, simply squeeze equal amounts of each into the palm of your hand. You don’t need a lot – about the size of a 50p coin each. Then mix them with your finger and slop it all over your head, getting right onto the scalp and all over the roots. Don’t worry about the ends so much – my ends are never dirty now I don’t use chemicals and wash only once a week – but if yours feel a little heavy then add some more down there and massage it in.

I leave this on a bit like a mask sometimes for 5 or 10 minutes pre-shower or while I’m in the bath – or rinse straight away. Each time my hair is soft, shiny and clean – and it stays that way for the duration of the week.

You can see from this BTS that my hair is growing a lot thicker and longer – I’m positive that the no-washing no-chemicals policy is working wonders. Have you tried aloe vera for hair loss??

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Khadi Review – Hair Loss

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Now, I have to be the first to admit that after a few weeks, despite fabulous results for my hair, the powdered shampoo routine was wearing a little thin. I’m also under a lot of stress at the moment and until that subsides, I know that unfortunately my hair is going to be at risk. When it started falling out again the other week I decided that a) clearly whatever shampoo I use is probably not enough at this time to save my hair and b) why not find something which was still nourishing but less hassle?

Ah, but I’d already tried that before, right? I felt like I’d already trawled Google but I did so again – and this time I used a few different terms and discovered natural brand Khadi.

Khadi hails from India and all products are SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate), Paraben and Silicone free. Instead they feature the exact same ingredients I’ve been using on my hair (Shikakai, Amla, Bhingraj) but in a handy liquid-gel formula which is easy to apply, wash out and doesn’t make my hair as tangled afterwards, either.

Word of warning: there’s loads of choice. I’m not good with choice and decisions because of my anxiety so it took me a few days to send off for one! I (finally) chose the Aloe Vera  shampoo – as I’ve heard fabulous things about its benefits for hair.  This shampoo also contains extracts of the Indian herbs mentioned above in addition to pure water and aloe vera.

The shampoo lathers soo well when I apply it that it makes me massively suspicious as to whether the ingredients are as they say they are (paranoid, much?) However on further inspection the bottle does only state that the ingredients listed are KEY ingredients, leading me to then panic about what I have just put on my hair.

Khadi’s website claims all products are free of chemical nasties, but I have emailed them to ask exactly what is in this particular shampoo as others simply say ‘Ingredients’ with an equally short list.

Anyhow, I’m really impressed with the smell, the texture and the cleaning power of the shampoo. As you know I only wash my hair once a week – so I’ve only used it twice now – but I’ll certainly keep you posted as to how I’m getting on.

Has anyone else tried Khadi?

 

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Khadi Review

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Soap Nut, Shikakai and Rhassoul clay shampoo for hair loss – Recovery hair

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You might have seen that recently in my hair loss quest (I lost a considerable amount of hair for the third time last year) I’ve gone all-natural in my quest to find a solution. I’m very lucky in that my hair is growing back thick and strong (although this hair is only 3-4 inches long at the moment!) but I want to maintain that growth, in addition to the health of my hair and scalp, to hopefully ensure no further hair loss takes place.

I posted about Rhassoul Clay and its benefits for the hair and scalp a few weeks back – and although I loved it as a shampoo I did feel it was a little drying and that I needed something more than just Rhassoul in the mix. On further research I discovered that a basic Indian shampoo is comprised of Soapnut and Shikakai – then often mixed with Rhassoul, Henna, Amla or other ingredients to further benefit the hair. I read a lot of good reviews online, so I decided to give it a try.

What is Soapnut (or Reetha) powder?

Soapnuts are used as a natural cleansing and conditioning agent which have been used for centuries in Indian culture for washing the hair and body. It effectively cleans the hair without stripping the scalp, restoring softness and shine. It’s great for hair loss and an unhealthy scalp because it’s all natural and contains vitamins A, D, E and K. Because of these aspects, and especially when combined with Shikakai, Soapnut helps to strengthen, lengthen and encourage regrowth of hair – keeping the scalp AND the hair happy is a powerful tool in combatting hair loss.

The powdered form is SO easy to use. Some do say they boil the nuts and make shampoo that way but honestly I don’t have the time, patience or attention span for that!!

What is Shikakai?

Shikakai strengthens the hair and cleanses just as Soapnut does – but where Soapnut (and Rhassoul especially) can cause the hair to become knotted, Shikakai combats this with detangling properties. It softens the hair whilst giving it lots of healthy volume and shine – plus it stimulates hair growth and nourishes the scalp preventing dandruff and flakiness.

Together, Soapnut, Shikakai and Rhassoul provide a perfect pH and a powerful combination of hair and scalp loving vitamins and minerals to aid in combatting hair loss. Without any moisture they can be a bit drying, so they’re really best combined in a recipe for optimum results.

How do I use it?

I mix a dessertspoon (around half a tablespoon) of Soapnut powder and Shikakai powder in an applicator bottle (you can get these from eBay for £1 or just use a plastic bowl) with about the same amount of Rhassoul (your bowl and mixing implement need to be non-metal as this reacts with Rhassoul clay) and then add a little boiling water and mix or shake until I have a foaming paste. It looks a lot like a runny, creamy shampoo consistency which is good (If you’ve tried Rhassoul on its own, you’ll know that it’s a little like cement dissolved in water – you get none of that with this!)

Then I add a few drops (I’d say around a teaspoon) of Argan Oil or Almond Oil (I use pure organic oil from Argan Liquid Gold). The shampoo does have a funky, ‘spicy’ scent but it’s nothing you don’t get used to after a while and it doesn’t linger on your hair once it’s dry. I love using essential oils in my shampoo – I usually add rosemary essential oil as it has fabulous hair-loving properties which help to repair and soothe the scalp but Cedarwood and Peppermint oils are also good and you can also use essential oils just for the scent, like Orange and Rose (I use pure Rose essential oil from Thailand – it’s TO DIE FOR!).

So, now for the application. I apply mine like a spa treatment in the bath so that when it goes everywhere (which it inevitably does!) it goes into the bath and not on the bathroom floor. Then I soak and leave it on for around half and hour then wash it off still sitting in the bath tub. I won’t lie, it’s incredibly messy. But so worth it!!

The good thing about Soapnut is that it foams and lathers up a little bit like conventional shampoo. I scoop it out with my fingers and apply to directly to my scalp, gently massaging my hair over the covered areas. I make sure my whole scalp is covered – I usually just pour the rest of the mixture over my head. I don’t bother too much about the ends of my hair, because they tend to get covered in the mixture by default and of course the ends of your hair don’t need washing as the scalp does. The Shikakai does make it quite gritty, so it’s a little like rubbing in and washing mud and gravel out of your hair (well, that’s exactly what it’s like),

The BAD NEWS about this shampoo is that it is an absolute NIGHTMARE to use and wash out if you’re used to ‘normal’ shampooing and hair washing. The GOOD NEWS is that you only have to wash your hair once a week – because your hair is returning to its natural state and is not getting greasy so quickly. Also the less you wash your hair the better it will be for the health of your hair and on improving hair loss.

I just stick my head under the shower for at least 5-10 minutes until the water runs clear and I can’t find any grit. I always find at least one little piece when my hair is dry but that’s fine as they come out easily.

Once your hair is rinsed clean, wrap it up in a warm towel and leave it to dry (don’t use heat when you’re suffering from hair loss!!). As always, don’t brush until it’s dry.

There you have it – the method seems lengthy when you first read it, but I promise that after one or two gos you will be sold as I was and won’t mind the slight hassle when you see the incredible effect it has on your hair. Go on – give it a go – and let me know how you get on!

 

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Natural cocoa dry shampoo for hair loss

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When I first stopped using chemical shampoos and started only washing my hair once a week to help my hair grow, I relied on dry shampoo about once a week to keep my hair looking fresh. Then I realised with horror that my ‘natural’ dry shampoo was full of chemicals too!

With that in mind, I scoured the internet for a natural alternative. A lot of these included baking powder which as we’ve already discussed is not the best thing to put on your hair. After a little while I found this recipe using cocoa – and it sounded good and simple enough to try!

All you need is:

  • A pot to store the shampoo in
  • 2 tbsp Arrowroot Powder, Cornflour or Rice Starch
  • 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder

Pop a spoonful of each into a bowl and mix them well. Then use your fingers to apply it to the roots of your hair where you feel it is needed. It’s that simple!

If you have blonde hair, you can omit the cocoa or put less in so that it doesn’t discolour your hair.

More natural recovery beauty here!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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5 simple calming beauty rituals

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Guaranteed to brighten any bad day!

When you’re having a bad day, sometimes it can feel like NOTHING will make you feel even a tiny bit better. You might not feel like it, but taking care of yourself in a way that doesn’t involve food can really make a difference to even the crappiest day. You can do these calming beauty rituals alone or with friends and family – plus they can be really simple or you can go to town! The choice is yours. Which one will you pick?

Rosewater Mini-Facial

There’s nothing like a bit of aromatherapy to lift your mood and brighten your day! The scent of roses has been proven to have a calming and uplifting effect on your mind and your body – plus rosewater has lots of skin-loving properties which are fabulous for all types of skin. I always tone my face morning and night with rosewater, but sometimes in the middle of the day I feel a bit oily or fancy a bit of a treat. Close your eyes and with a soft cotton pad gently smooth the rosewater all over your face. Mario Badescu has a beautiful Rosewater Toner with added Aloe Vera which is also beautiful – I keep it with me to spritz on the go! You can find pure rosewater online or at Asian grocery stores – just make sure its therapeutic or food grade.

Treat your feet

If you’re anything like me, your feet will be pretty battered. My circulation is still terrible, so my feet need a bit of extra love now and again. Invest in a plastic washing up bowl (you can get them from bargain and pound shops for pence!) and fill it with warm water, bubble bath and natural oil (olive oil and almond oil work REALLY well). If you like, add a few drops of essential oil. Essential oils can work wonders for the mind and body – each has different properties, or you might just like the smell of one in particular. I love sweet orange, rose, peppermint and almond. Soak your feet for 5 to 10 minutes and relax! If you’re feeling fancy or love a regular foot treat then perhaps invest in an electric foot spa – they’re not pricey and just make the experience that little bit more luxurious.

Nail it

I always feel better with my nails done (hands and feet!). Plus research has shown that little things like having our nails painted a bright, happy colour can actually have a positive effect on mood. If you can’t afford to go to the salon, don’t worry – there are lots of good, inexpensive polish brands out there which can do the trick. I like Mavala, OPI and Barry M – plus you can check our this tutorial which promises an ‘at home’ gel manicure which lasts for weeks without the price tag!

Care for your hair

I talk a lot about hair loss on the blog because it’s a real problem for lots of people with eating disorders, anxiety and other mental health problems which cause the body and mind any sort of trauma. Why not take 10 minutes to give your hair a bit of a treat? Gently massage in a conditioning treatment – the best thing you can do is to use natural oils like avocado, castor, almond or coconut (you can take a look at my Rosemary Hair Oil recipe here). There’s something really therapeutic about sitting with a hair mask on under a warm towel, knowing it’s doing its magic under there. You can even combine it with my next tip!

Home-made face-pack

I love slathering on a natural face pack, sitting back and relaxing. There’s nothing like removing a pack to reveal fresh, soft glowing skin – plus it forces you to sit and relax because you can’t do much with a load of gunk on your face! Face masks are simple and cheap to make:

For dry skin:

– Blend 1 avocado with a little honey and yoghurt

Mix equal amounts of raw oats, water and milk with a little honey

For normal skin:

 – Mix a couple egg whites and lemon juice for a clarifying mask

– Banana milkshake – mash a banana with a little milk and slather all over your face (this one’s edible!)

For oily skin:

– Coconut oil, cocoa powder and honey (this one’s edible too!)

– Bentonite clay with water and honey

 

Got any simple, uplifting beauty rituals of your own? Share them with me!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Lip Balm Reviews

Being freezing cold all the time and living in a body which is depleted of nutrients, dehydrated and generally is struggling to survive, usually things we often take for granted such as moist mouth and lips completely disappear. Even if you’re well on your way to recovery your body is still getting back on its feet, and I found that my lips were very easily dry and chapped even a couple of years after my eating disorder. My circulation even now is ruined and I struggle in cold weather so a good quality lip balm is still a must in my beauty arson! It’s so difficult with so many products on the market to decide which ones are best. I’ve bought so many lip balms in the past and they’ve ended up sitting in my drawer unused because they are hard, too slippery or too greasy (I HATE Vaseline, eugh). Here’s my run down of the 5 best I found – to save you throwing your money away and heal those chapped lips fast!

  1. Palmers Cocoa Butter – Original Solid Formula

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Yep, it’s not exactly portable, and I apologise for this in advance! However it’s got to be one of the most hydrating, silky lip balms I have found and not only is it 100% natural it also smells/tastes AMAZING. Palmer’s do have a stick-balm range, but I’ve always preferred this and when I was a make-up artist I always had a tub of this in my kit, as for hygiene reasons it made it easier to scoop a little out with a metal spatula and apply it with my fingers than using a traditional stick balm. It’s moisturising without leaving a horrible greasy film on your lips and because it’s all natural you don’t have to worry about ingesting anything untoward if you’re applying it frequently.

  1. Aldi Lacura Lip Balms

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I know people are often dubious about buying cheap supermarket cosmetics (that’s because I’ve always been one of them!), but not only are these such a good buy at 99p for three, they are fantastic quality and so moisturising. I bought them on a whim one day whilst I was doing my food shop and I’ve been so pleased with them. Just one lasts forever so you can imagine a pack of three lasts a fairly long time! The only thing with Aldi is that lines tend to come and go, or come once and then go forever – luckily this appears to be an almost constant line (probably owing to its popularity), but the flavours differ; the one I have is Mandarin but they do a natural one and also did a cranberry one for Christmas. They’re free from mineral oils and contain exactly the same ingredients as much more expensive brands – so they’re a super savvy buy!

  1. Bodyshop Almond Lip Butter

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These handy little pots are great for putting in your handbag and they have a lovely buttery consistency. Of course as with all Bodyshop products they’re natural and made with Fairtrade ingredients. I love anything almond, anything marzipan, so this for me tastes like absolute heaven. Not a fan? Not to worry! Bodyshop do a huge range of lip balms so you’re sure to find one to your taste – from fruity flavours like strawberry and mandarin to sweet flavours like chocolate, Shea butter and vanilla.

Any of your own to add? Please comment below!

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Enjoyed Lip Balm Reviews? There’s more in Beauty here!

Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Moisturiser Reviews for recovering skin  

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Just like lips, (You can read my lip balm review here), your skin suffers massively when you’ve had an eating disorder. It’s dry, sore, flaking, tight; symptoms which are exacerbated by time spent glued to the radiator through the cold or in hospital. My skin was dry and cracked in places and I had horrendous chilblains on my toes (I still get those now!) and I really struggled to find anything which kept my skin hydrated for longer than half an hour. Here’s my top five body moisturisers – you’ll notice a few of them are butters and oils and most are natural, as I always think natural is best for your skin and overall health. Let me know if you’ve tried any and agree (or disagree!)

  1. Body Shop Body Butters

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I already raved about Body Shop Lip Butters in my Lip Balm Review, but I couldn’t help but include their body butters too in this post. So luxurious and thick, but easy to rub in and quick to absorb, these body butters also smell AMAZING. As always, you can expect an all-natural product from Body Shop which includes fair trade ingredients. There are so many to choose from, but if you’re into warm scents like me, Vanilla, Argan Oil, Shea Butter, Almond, Cocoa Butter and Chocolate (to name but a few!) will probably take your fancy. Body Shop also offer these in lotion form so if you’re looking for something more portable, they’ve got it covered. The butters are very reasonably priced and tend to last a little while so they are great value for money and certainly a good investment for parched skin.

 

  1. Kiehl’s Crème de Corps

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Kiehl’s was a brand I’d never heard of until I started working in luxury beauty 7 years ago; and as soon as I tried this moisturiser I fell in love. It’s pricey, but a little goes a very long way. I think the warm, buttery smell is heavenly but I can imagine it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – they do in fact offer a fragrance-free version now for those who don’t find it as tempting as I do!

My favourite form of this product is the whipped body butter. It is so light and fluffy, almost like buttercream, and sinks into the skin beautifully. The lotion form is thick but spreads lightly and as with its creamy counterpart, it absorbs quickly so no waiting around in the cold bathroom wafting your limbs around waiting for it to dry!

 

  1. Original Source In-Shower moisturiser

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It may not be enough on its own, but I decided to include this anyway because for anyone wishing (as I do!) to limit their time out in the cold wilderness between the shower and their pyjamas, body lotions and creams aren’t always practical. Plus they can be sticky and greasy even if they absorb well – not everyone’s cup of tea.

These nifty products have been emerging over the past year following the introduction of Nivea’s In-Shower Moisturiser; I like this one because it has a really natural, fresh scent.

 

  1. Argan Liquid Gold Pure Argan Oil

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I first met May, founder of Argan Liquid Gold, when I worked for a magazine a couple of years ago. With so many Argan products on the market (many of which tend to just contain a small percentage of Argan as an ingredient), her passion to introduce something which is pure and natural and 100% authentic, as well as Organic and Fairtrade, was so inspiring for me. Argan Oil hails from Morocco, and May is Moroccan herself, so what better authority on Argan Oil can there be??

Lots of people are more than dubious about using oils on their skin; but for parched skin oil can be one of the only emollients which effectively penetrates the layers of the skin and nourishes it more deeply. Liquid Gold Argan Oil sinks in very quickly, so it’s not greasy or sticky on your skin. May advised me to use it on damp skin as this enables it to be absorbed more efficiently – but doing this also means that you spend less time out in the cold bathroom slathering oil on yourself. Because it’s completely pure and natural, you can rest assured there’s no chemical nasties in there either.

This product is going to sound expensive (£60   a bottle, stay with me), but I use such a minimal amount that my current bottle has lasted since I first met May! Not only can this be used on your skin, it’s also an amazing facial moisturiser too so you are effectively getting two products in one.

 

  1. Laura Mercier Body Souffle

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I know I feature a fair amount of these products on the blog but honestly, I love them so much and they really are amazing. The only catch is they are pretty expensive – and I can’t make an argument here for that extra expense other than the fact that I am IN LOVE with the smell of them which lingers for hours, and the moisturising qualities, which stick around for a few hours too! The lotions (in a tube) are a little cheaper and just as thick and creamy, with the same scent, so I think if you’re on a budget, there’s a lot to be said for purchasing one of these rather than one of the most expensive pots.

 

Let me know how you get on with these – I love to hear your thoughts as always!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Hair loss shampoo – the low down

Shampoo

Hair loss is particularly relevant to the blog because eating disorders often cause acute hair loss, or at least result in thinner hair, and stress and anxiety are also culprits in causing women to lose an excessive amount of hair.

As I’ve said before on the blog, losing your hair is one of the most awful things a woman can experience aesthetically. It’s one of those things which you just want to stop immediately – so you’ll pay anything to get your hands on something which promises to stop your hair falling out, and improves the look of your hair, instantly. You feel anxious and upset about your hair and how you look and therefore you enter a vicious cycle because stress will do your hair absolutely no good whatsoever.

I’ve covered a few things that have worked for me, such as Castor Oil and other methods, on the blog before, but in this post I wanted to focus purely on shampoos because they really can be a bit of a minefield and there are a lot of them about. I can honestly say I’ve tried most of them! I’ve also spent hours trudging through reviews online and frankly, they always tend to be mixed and it takes a long time and a lot of review reading to get a decent picture of how and how well a product works! Here’s my genuine, balanced views on the top 5 I have used below:

  1. Alpecin/Plantur

alpecin

This stuff worked wonders for me. It’s a caffeine-based shampoo – the caffeine acts as a stimulant on the scalp to encourage hair growth. Scalp Stimulation is a main discipline in the hair growth bible, that’s why head massages and cinnamon and peppermint along with caffeine are extensively used in the industry. Like cinnamon and peppermint, caffeine gives a tingly sensation when it is applied to the scalp. Alpecin instructs users to leave the shampoo on for at least 2 minutes – this is when you start to feel the tingle. The instructions say ‘leave as long as possible’ so sometimes I would sit in the bath with it on my hair for 20-30 minutes just to give it a good go.

There are 2 different brands here – Alpecin and Plantur. Plantur is basically the ladies’ version of Alpecin and from what I have heard they are very similar – I used Alpecin so I had to put up with the manly smell for a few months but in all honesty it was worth it.

After a month or so of using it every other day I noticed new hair growth and the rest of my hair began to grow very rapidly. After 2-3 months I had a thatch of baby hairs about 2-3cm long and my hair was growing very quickly, so I stopped using Alpecin and switched back to my normal shampoo. Another 3 months later and that baby hair is now 2-3 inches long – I’ve had no let up in the speed or thickness of growth and I now have a little fringe of baby hair down to my eyebrows! It really worked for me it just took persistence and regular washing, plus sticking to the instructions of keeping it on for a fair amount of time.

The only thing I will say about Alpecin in particular is that I may not recommend it for lighter hair colours or anyone who dyes their hair. I have naturally mousy brown hair which I dye a shade or two darker but the shampoo actually faded my natural hair (and the dyed hair) to a weird gingery-brown colour which I had to keep dying over. It does say in the instructions that Alpecin may cause discolouration of the hair, especially blonde hair, so it’s a risk you may want to weigh up before using. Personally, I was happy to take this in return for rapid, sustained new growth.

Pros: Fantastic, good-quality new hair growth, very good price, readily available in lots of retailers.

Cons: Manly-smell (if using Alpecin), hair can get more greasy in-between washes, hair dye and natural hair colour can be affected by product.

 

  1. Nioxin

nioxin

The favoured premium go-to hair loss solution, this is the product you’ll likely be recommended by your hairdresser. I used this a couple of years ago when my hair started to fall out (not as much as when I was poorly, or last year) but still significantly enough for me to feel I needed to take action. I also had a Nioxin scalp treatment at a hairdresser which involved a long vigorous head massage using a grainy peppermint solution made by Nioxin which made my hair look thicker straight away!

I loved Nioxin so much that I continued to use it as my usual shampoo until last year when my hair started falling out uncontrollably and I felt I needed to try something else; I’m not sure whether Nioxin might have become ineffective because I’d been using it on a day to day basis for so long before my hair started falling out.

Simply put, Nioxin works using peppermint as one of its main active ingredients, to stimulate the scalp but also to fully cleanse the scalp of any debris which may be blocking hair follicles and therefore negatively affecting growth. This is also what gives it its strong, clinical minty scent. Nioxin is great because rather than being ‘one size fits all’, it caters to different hair types and therefore different types of hair loss. For me, I needed something for fine, visibly thinning hair, so I went for Number 2. This meant the shampoo cleansed my hair really nicely and left it bouncy and thick-looking, not at all weighed down. I’d still go back to Nioxin as a regular shampoo now as I liked it so much.

The only complaint I would have about Nioxin is that the range is huge; there are now different foams and lotions you can buy as well as the shampoo and conditioner which are all fairly pricey. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when your hair is falling out and you are desperate to combat it in any way possible but my advice here would be to buy the shampoo and conditioner first, then see how you go. I went ahead and purchased one of the ‘Diamond Boost’ products only to find it made my scalp really dry and itchy and made my hair look greasy. I couldn’t tell if it had any effect on the hair loss because I had to stop using it, and now I have a full bottle of expensive serum lying in my drawer.

Extra tip: I bought Nioxin in bulk from my local beauty wholesalers (you can buy online too) – it was a HUGE bottle but saved me a lot of money.

Pros: Fantastic range of hair loss shampoos and conditioners (and shampoos and conditioners in general), tailored to your hair type and hair loss type, recommended by stylists, works to clean hair and scalp and promote new hair growth, range of salon treatments which are reasonably priced (RRP) and really do work to improve the look and condition of hair.

Cons: A little expensive at £12 a bottle, only available in salons and online (the best price tends to be online!), a confusing extra range of add-on products which are expensive and may be purchased in desperation but may not be best for your hair.

 

  1. Mane n’ Tail

 manentail

I heard about this years ago when I was recovering from my eating disorder but I couldn’t get my hands on any for love nor money. I even spoke to my friend who has horses and she said she couldn’t find any at the equine wholesalers!

A few years on, I noticed it advertised in the beauty section of a magazine and realised that everyone must now have cottoned on to the Mane N Tail craze, hoping this meant it was more readily available. It was! I bought mine from a local African hair retailer but you can find it on Amazon and eBay too.

I bought a bottle on eBay and started to use it straight away. What I will say about Mane N Tail is it’s a fantastic general shampoo. It doesn’t claim to contain special ingredients like others do, and it’s definitely not all-natural but it lathers up so nicely and your hair is fresh and clean and bouncy after use. It also smells gorgeous!

Originally there was just one type of Mane N Tail but there’s now a few to choose from which baffled me at first – I stuck to the original. The range also now features conditioners and a detangling spray however I haven’t tried these (yet!) so I can’t say how good these are.

All in all a good shampoo but I’m not sure it made any real difference to my hair growth. This may be a placebo opinion in that because it wasn’t tingling on my head it wasn’t ‘working’, but I would definitely use the shampoo again.

Pros: Great shampoo, smells lovely, lathers very well and cleans hair well. Good price and readily available.

Cons: Not sure it affected my hair growth (not a con for many but given the point of the article…!)

 

  1. Michael Van Clarke 3 More Inches

 michaelvanclarke

I had NEVER heard of this stuff (and shamefully the name made me giggle) when I heard about it for the first time when talking to a friend who has beautiful long thick hair, but felt it was thinning at the front due to wearing it in tight buns for work.

She told me she really rated it and that I should definitely try it, but that it was expensive. I went online and yes, it is a little pricey, however easily available from Amazon which also sold trial travel packs for the sceptical to try. I was so happy using my Alpecin that I decided to leave it and subsequently went back to my old shampoo; so on Christmas day when one of the said travel packs landed in my stocking I was over the moon and excited to try it!

The pack contains a tube of leave-in treatment, a tube of conditioner and a tube of shampoo. The treatment is for weekly or fortnightly use whereas the shampoo and conditioner are for regular use. I decided to go for the leave-in treatment straight away and slathered it all over my hair then went off to bake Christmas cookies for a few hours.

When I washed it off, my hair was incredibly silky and soft. It was plump and not at all weighed down by the product, which surprised me as it contains keratin protein and in my experience keratin products can be heavy.

Keratin is the main component in the 3 More Inches range; if you take a look at the ingredients you’ll see there’s no chemical nasties and a hell of a lot of keratin, which is basically protein-rich hair-food (like a smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and avocado steak salad, topically applied!) Keratin is actually a protein itself, naturally found in hair fibres. A lack of Keratin can result in dry brittle hair which breaks off easily – so you can see why sufficient Keratin is important to stop hair loss from breakage and also from brushing out huge knots as it also makes hair much smoother and easier to comb through.

I haven’t used this range enough to be able to categorically say whether it has made a difference or not but it was certainly visibly nourishing for my hair and my friend tells me it has made a massive difference to hers in just a matter of weeks.

Pros: Luxurious shampoo, smells lovely, easy to use and lathers well considering it doesn’t contain any of the worst chemical nasties. Packed full of hair-loving Keratin which can certainly be no bad thing.

Cons: Expensive, only available online.

 

  1. Naked Shampoo 2 in 1

 naked shampoo

When I started reading up on hair loss I read a lot of articles which encouraged me to ditch chemicals completely in order to repair my scalp and restore my lost hair. Some even urged me to stop washing my hair entirely (never going to happen – I have a job!!). Whilst I could see the science behind this I struggled with the practicality. When I started looking at the ingredients lists of shampoos in the shops and the ones I used currently, I noticed they were full of the said ‘nasty chemicals’ that according to those articles under no circumstance should I be applying to my scalp. I panicked, then I Googled natural shampoos.

It took me ages going through online shops and forums to find that one of the Naked range of shampoos did not contain the dreaded Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is what makes shampoos and soaps lather. I wasn’t particularly happy about going lather-less because that’s part of the shampooing process that I love, but with bald patches rapidly emerging I was willing to try anything and going all natural made complete sense. Some of the reviews cited rapid hair growth using the shampoo so I was very excited to give it a go.

I used the Purifying 2 in 1 Shampoo from Naked. It smelt heavenly in the bottle but that smell unfortunately didn’t really linger on my hair. I was pleasantly surprised that it lathered up nicely when I washed my hair and my hair felt really clean after using it – plus it was nice and soft.

I used the shampoo for around 2 months but unfortunately in all honestly I don’t feel it made any difference to the growth of my hair. That’s when I switched to Alpecin.

Pros: Cheaply priced, smells nice, easy to use and still lathers a little bit. 100% natural no nasties.

Cons: You can only buy it from Boots and Sainsburys, and bigger stores at that. Online you can only buy it from these retailers or direct (it’s on eBay but is much higher than retail price, weirdly). Personally saw no difference to my hair growth and wasn’t the best shampoo I have ever had cleansing-wise.

 

Having read this article back, it’s funny that the two products that worked best for me are the ones with the most cons. Don’t let this put you off – as the saying goes, no pain, no gain. Some of the most potent medical treatments have the worst side effects. The point is, they work. Have you guys used anything you feel is share-worthy here for hair loss? I’d love to share them with everyone else!

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HAIRLOSSSHAMPOOLOWDOWN

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