My Top Cruelty Free Product Picks!

As you may or may not know, I’m a vegetarian and completely cruelty free; this means that I only use cosmetics, skincare products and other toiletries that haven’t been tested on animals. I wanted to compile a list of all of my favourite products (with one expensive and one slightly less pricey option available in most of the categories), because it can be incredibly difficult to know what is and what isn’t cruelty free, what with brands sidestepping questions and claiming not to test on animals ‘unless required by law’, meaning that they do, in fact, test on animals! It’s a personal pet hate, but on with the list…

Skincare

Face Wash:

This is definitely the either the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Hot Cloth Cleanser or Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish.

Toner:

Superdrug strikes again with their Naturally Radiant Glycolic Toner, and the Pixi Holiday Glow Toner is fantastic also!

Facial Oil:

It’s a hat-trick for Superdrug – their Vitamin E Skin Oil is just fantastic, as is a product from Manuka Doctor, the 24K Gold & Manuka Honey Face Oil.

Face Moisturiser:

Okay, okay, I’m sick of Superdrug too, but their skincare is undeniably fantastic! The Vitamin E SPF15 Moisturising Cream is one of my favourites, but sadly doesn’t quite measure up to the Tony Moly Magic Food Banana Sleeping Mask.

Lip balm:

This one’s easy-peasy: Boots Essentials Lip Salve Spearmint is both hydrating and refreshing, whilst LUSH’s Honey Trap Lip Nectar is my favourite balm of all time – it’s intense, sweet smelling and light on the lips (plus, it tastes great… Oops!).

Eye Cream:

Aaaand we’re back to Superdrug! Their Vitamin E Eye Cream is fantastic, as well as the absolutely adorable Panda’s Dream So Cool Eye Cream from Tony Moly.

Body Care

Body Wash:

I promise I’ll stop promoting Superdrug so much, but I adore the scent of their Fruity Berries Shower Gel, although I have to say I prefer the slightly more nourishing qualities of Soap and Glory’s Clean on Me.

Body Moisturiser:

This one is incredibly difficult, as I love and use so many! However, I think the winners have to be the Boots Essentials Body Lotion Cocoa Butter and Vitamin E and – my personal favourite – The Righteous Butter from Soap and Glory, with a little shoutout to The Body Shop for their amazing range of body butters (I know I said only two, but I just can’t help myself!).

Hand Cream:

Simple – the Superdrug Hand Cream 2 in 1 and The Body Shop’s Vanilla Chai Hand Cream.

Haircare

Shampoo:

If I’m honest, most of this section is Superdrug, too, as I’ve not really been CF long enough to try any higher-end hair products. So, that being said, this amazingly-scented shampoo is definitely my favourite.

Conditioner:

… And here is the matching conditioner!

Hair Serum:

After using Frizz Ease for forever, I struggled to find something which tamed my messy mane of hair, but I’ve recently discovered the Style Expertise Anti Frizz Serum, and I’m hooked!

Hair Mask:

As someone with naturally fine hair which breaks easily, I had issues with growth and thickening until I tried the Lee Stafford Hair Growth Treatment, which I have recently repurchased in abundance (there are three tubs sitting in my drawer at the moment… Oops)!

Heat Protectant:

I was surprised to discover that the GHD Heat Protectant Spray – along with their entire collection of haircare products – is cruelty free, and, so far, I’m really happy with it, and would definitely recommend!

Make Up

Face Primer:

Instablur from The Body Shop is truly my favourite primer of all time, as it blurs imperfections, allows product to adhere to the skin and keeps everything in place for hours, yet I usually use it in conjunction with the NYX Honey Dew Me Up primer for a slightly healthier and more natural finish.

Eye Primer:

NYX’s Proof It! Eye primer is a cheaper, cruelty free dupe for the NARS (who have only just started animal testing) Pro Prime eye primer, and I absolutely adore it!

Concealer:

The Collection Lasting Perfection concealer is unequivocally the most fantastic concealer of all time – with a full-coverage finish and a ridiculously long wear-time, it was, is and probably always will be my go to. If you don’t live in England, however, the Tarte Shape Tape and Catrice Liquid Camouflage are great alternatives (although the latter is in serious need of a more inclusive shade range – it’s completely unacceptable for a brand to solely cater for light skinned people).

Foundation:

My current obsession is the NYX Total Control Drop foundation, but I’m also a massive fan of the No. 7 Lift and Illuminate foundation for when I’m doing a more natural look.

Powder:

I was surprised to find that the MUA Pro Base Prime and Conceal powder worked as well as it did for me, although I do prefer the e.l.f Translucent Mattifying powder powder for around my nose!

Bronzer:

Not only does the NYX Highlight and Contour Pro Palette have some amazing sculpting powders, but it also has the perfect warm-toned bronze shade for me, and I think that it’s more than worth the price!

Blush:

This is easy-peasy: the Sleek blushes are absolutely wonderful, with my personal favourite shades being ‘Life’s a Peach’, ‘Rose Gold’ (this is an excellent dupe for ‘Orgasm’ from NARS) and ‘Flushed’. If you’d prefer a cream blush, however, the NYX ones are brilliant, with the shade ‘Pinxie Dust‘ from the Bright Idea Illuminating Stick range being my go-to.

Highlight:

Once again, this is simple: the Sleek Solstice highlighting palette, the NYX Born To Glow Liquid Illuminator and, of course, theBalm’s Mary-Lou Manizer all have phenomenally pigmented and blendable formulas which I use without hesitation every single time I decide to do my make up.

Eyeshadow Palette:

My favourite palette of all time is Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar, but I also absolutely adore my Morphe 35T, Urban Decay’s Ultimate Basics and the NYX Ultimate Brights Shadow palette.

Mascara

I absolutely adore the Soap and Glory Thick and Fast mascara – it fills the void left behind by my Maybelline Lash Sensational!

Lip Products:

Not only do I adore the Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker glosses, but their range of matte lipsticks is just incredible! I do also love NYX lipliners and their Liquid Lingerie range.

Fragrance

Perfume:

This is very much a personal thing, but I can’t get enough of Mugler’s Alien, Define from Next, Amazing Grace from Philosophy and The Body Shop’s Red Musk.

Body Spray:

Scents either from Soap and Glory or The Body Shop are my favourites – I simply can’t choose!

Aaaaand, drum roll please… We’re finished! I haven’t included things such as toothpaste and feminine hygiene products, as most of the less advertised items (e.g. Tesco’s or Superdrug’s own brand) are not only cruelty free, but cheap and accessible also – just remember that brands such as Always and Colgate are not bunny-friendly when doing your next supermarket shop, and you’ll be fine!

I hope that you found this post useful, and – if you’d be interested – I can write a post explaining exactly why I decided to a) stop eating meat/gelatine etc. and b) clear out my not-so-friendly collection of cosmetics!

Thank you always,

Grace

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A Little Poem

I wrote this poem because it’s okay to be angry and upset about your disability (or any challenges you may face throughout the course of your life) sometimes, and there is absolutely no shame in admitting that you’re finding it difficult to cope. Although I’m not at all in the same mindset as I was when I wrote this, I think that it’s incredibly important to share as much about my experiences with sight loss as possible, even if only to find one other person who relates. If I’m honest, sharing my poetry leaves me feeling extremely vulnerable and exposed, but I was advised by someone who I really trust to start sharing some of it on here, as and when I feel able to.

Regarding this particular piece, I wanted to mention my reasons for comparing blindness with the speedy departure of a partner; of course, both are extremely intimate losses, and are bound to have enormous emotional impacts on the person(s) involved, but this isn’t the only reason I chose this… Analogy, if you like. I felt that the poem would not only be more relatable, but that it would allow sighted people to empathise more easily with sight loss, without accidentally patronising or misjudging those affected by it. Perhaps it works, perhaps it doesn’t – let me know either in the comments or by emailing me using this contact form.

A Premature Loss

I lost my sight like a lonely soul loses a fleeting lover –

It, The Transient,

danced with me, flirted with the notion of perpetuity,

and then left in the morning without so much as a

goodbye kiss.

It didn’t warn me, didn’t leave a phone number I could call when the

dark nights returned;

I consented to Its kiss but not Its departure,

why is that so hard for It

to understand?

I sit on the bed where we were last,

cupping my face just like It did – my hands are

too cold, too rough,

they don’t offer the same kind of inexplicable

security that It did.

We only spent the night together but my body feels

hard done by,

almost as if it is entitled to more, almost as if it fell for a vagrant overnight.

I spend my days trying to reclaim the scent It left behind

on my pillowcases, but

It hadn’t even stayed long enough to scatter

parts of itself about me.

I don’t dance with transients anymore,

I don’t dance with anyone.

Thank you always,

Grace

Education and I

For all of us, education is a tumultuous, idiosyncratic journey; from the age of three until turning sixteen, we study for around six hours a day, five days a week, discounting any additional revision or extracurricular activities we may participate in. Then, we may choose to go on to either college or sixth form after our GCSEs to study A Levels or perhaps a vocational course such as a BTEC or an NVQ. I can’t comment on higher education processes as I’m currently only in Year Twelve, and therefore have little to no authority on the subject.

I decided at the end of last year to take English Literature, Psychology and Spanish as my A Levels, and to stay on at my high school’s sixth form for the sake of practicality and ease. I definitely don’t regret my decision, and I’m lucky enough to have an amazing group of friends and teachers who support me in every way they can. If you didn’t know, I’m blind, and so tend to need a couple of adjustments in order to be able to properly access my subjects and achieve my full potential. In the past, the extra assistance that teachers give me when I need it, alongside the advanced technology I am lucky enough to receive from my local authority, has caused some people to feel irritated or angry, which is understandable I suppose. However, I must stress that I – and every other blind person out there! – love being independent and will very rarely, if ever, ask for help from a teacher in the lesson; personally, I would prefer to catch up after school as opposed to monopolising the subject specialist!

So, you have an idea of where I am now, but it hasn’t always worked in the same way as it currently does for me. As a young child with partial sight, my mum fought for me to be given a statement, which is a legally binding document providing me with things such as additional funding, a support assistant and reformatted work. Throughout my primary school years, other than my eyes becoming easily fatigued and itchy, my vision was fairly stable, allowing me to access lessons as a print user. I used things such as dome and bar magnifiers, enlarged worksheets and a huge device called a CCTV which had a TV-esque screen and projected any piece of paper that you slid under it onto the aforementioned screen as a magnified image, to learn alongside my classmates. It was suggested that I learn Braille and how to use a long cane, but I ardently despised being different from my peers as it was, and totally refused, claiming that the fact that I could read size eighteen print proved that I was essentially fully sighted. Eventually, after acknowledging that my lack of peripheral, depth and distance vision was severe enough to warrant one, I trained with a symbol cane, which is smaller than the typical white cane and is used to show others that you are visually impaired, before learning how to use a long cane during my transition up to high school.

Until my sight began to deteriorate in Year Eight and Nine, I continued to access lessons in this way, albeit with worksheets that were reformatted far better than in primary school, and without the embarrassingly clunky CCTV by my side! Steadily, the print became larger and my ability to read was increasingly impacted by my rapidly disappearing vision. Before I knew it, I was unable to read my own writing, or indeed anyone’s handwriting. Within a short period of time, this had extended to printed type and even bright colours. Now, save for a little light perception (if you shone a torch directly into my right eye I would be able to detect it), I have absolutely no vision. I don’t want to delve into the emotional impact of my sight deterioration, but I will say that it lead to me becoming complacent in lessons, especially as I was using a reader-scribe.

All too often, blind children and adolescents are given a support assistant, aren’t taught Braille or how to use technology, and are expected to manage using their one-to-one support as a reader and scribe, because somebody else reading and writing for you is just the same as actually doing it for yourself, right? Wrong. In actuality, when a student isn’t actively participating in tasks (and you’re not unless you’re doing the note taking, I assure you!) they become disinterested and almost desultory; they ask their support to please write down what the teacher is saying, thereby leaving their mind free to wonder, most likely resulting in them staring off into space and not engaging with the class. We need to encourage Braille literacy, but – as that simply isn’t a viable option for some pupils, and even if it is – we also need to familiarise them with speech synthesis software and other assistive technology from a young age. From iPads to laptops and Braille notetakers, technology for blind and visually impaired people is indeed an esoteric field, but it shouldn’t be! I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic QTVI with an extensive knowledge of all things both blind and techie, but not everybody has that luxury. Schools should be taught, support staff and teachers should be proficient and the student in question should be able to receive educationally beneficial lessons from being as young as possible in technologically pertinent matters.

It seems that digression is a bad habit of mine, so let’s get ourselves back on track, shall we?! As I was saying, I couldn’t read Braille and so was entirely reliant on my support assistant, but I was also learning how to touch type in my free time, and had been briefly introduced to certain letters in the Braille alphabet. Luckily, I had the most amazing teachers in Year Nine and Ten; I had the same English teacher from Year Nine to Year Eleven, and she was simply phenomenal! My Maths teachers for my final three years at school were also brilliant; my Year Nine teacher was extremely innovative and would constantly create new tactile strategies which allowed me to access most of her lessons, and the teacher I had for the other two years – along with a one-to-one Maths teacher who was also fantastic – was wonderful! She bought things with her own money that she thought would help me, and was always willing to give up her time so that we could go through my homework together. My Biology teacher in Year Nine, my Year Eleven Chemistry teacher and my Year Ten Spanish teacher were also fabulous – I’m absolutely grateful to every member of staff who I’ve worked with over the years, but these few teachers constantly went above and beyond, simply so that I could do well in my GCSEs, and I just had to mention them.

After muddling through Year Nine, I got a new QTVI (Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired) who came into school every Thursday in Year Ten and taught me how to read Braille and interpret tactile diagrams as well as supporting me in certain Science lessons. Just before Year Eleven, another QTVI (my current one) came to work with me, increasing my finger sensitivity to enable more fluent Braille reading and graph interpreting, as well as teaching me how to use a Braille notetaker. Both women – let’s call the former Annie and the latter Maria – worked with me throughout Year Eleven, with Annie working with me in all of my Science lessons and Maria working with me in Maths, as well as both of them spending free periods teaching me general-blindie-things and going over anything I’d missed in the preceding two years. I couldn’t have completed my final year without their help, and I am so indebted to both of them! They are inspirational, hilarious, supportive people who not only supported me academically, but enabled me to grow emotionally and viscerally – something I never thought possible after the loss of my vision. They, as well as my excellent teachers and other staff from the authority, have absolutely changed my life, and I am so grateful to be accessing lessons independently now, all because of their dedication and skill.

As it stands, I use a Braille notetaker and an Apple Macbook Air to access lessons, with no physical support in the class with me. I read Braille – both English and Spanish – and use speech synthesis software. Every single teacher I have this year is simply brilliant, with my form tutor/Psychology teacher supporting me in my every endeavour, my English teacher volunteering his time to help me and my Spanish teachers always prepared to catch up with me if I miss anything. I am so lucky, and I recognise that not all visually impaired people have as amazing a learning environment as me, nor do they have the opportunity to learn that I do (although they really, really should!), and I never take what I have for granted. I am a peer mentor, a reading mentor and an A Level student, and it’s difficult, but I absolutely love it. Even on my bad days – because everyone has them – I know that my turbulent educational adventure is finally plateauing, and I am settling into the rhythm of things easily, a privilege I never thought I’d have post vision loss.

I haven’t spoken about mobility traing, which is where someone teaches you how to navigate new environments, how to use public transport and other independent living skills such as cooking and cleaning, in this post because I want to save that for a separate one – would you be interested in that at all? I also haven’t talked about just how equally difficult and amazing it’s been, nor have I explained exactly why so many people have changed my life, because – frankly – if I did, we’d be here forever. I like to think that my friends, family, teachers and support staff know how much I appreciate them! Let me know though, do we share any of our experiences? Are you visually impaired too?

Thank you always,

Grace

Keeping Up Appearances

Just like most seventeen year-olds, I have an avid interest in make up, hair and fashion: I enjoy feeling good; feeling empowered; feeling accomplished. I like to leave the house secure in the knowledge that my red lipstick accentuates my pale complexion, and that the curls falling about my face cause my usually lacklustre locks to appear full and healthy. I like pops of colour on the lower lash-line, oversized mustard jumpers with black jeans and nails with a little bit of sparkle to them. So why, then, are people so fascinated by everything from my morning routine to the reasons behind my obsession with highlighting powders? The only difference between myself and any other young adult is that I’m blind, with no useful sight whatsoever. That’s right – I can’t see my face in a mirror, nor can I identify the colours of my clothes by simply perusing the cavernous depths of my wardrobe. Today, I’m here to outline the ways in which I cope with such ‘visual’ tasks, and to explain that this doesn’t make me an inspiration or a genius, but an ordinary girl with a whole lot of passion and determination; just because I – and thousands of other blind people the world over – choose to care about aesthetics, it doesn’t make us different, or special. If anything, it assimilates and integrates us with sighted peers, so why not normalise it when that’s exactly what should be and deserves to be done.

Rant over: I thought I’d start with first hair styling and then fashion, as these are the two elements in which I have the least faith in myself! As for the former, I can straighten, curl and ponytail like a professional, but I’m hopeless at plaiting and casual messy buns. Regarding the use of hot tools (for me, at least), it’s simply a case of practice and hopefulness in equal measure; sometimes, my hair will cascade like a poker-straight waterfall over my shoulders, and others it will be kink-central – there’s no predicting what mood the fine, flat mess atop my head will be in on any given day… It’s a struggle, it really is. Seriously though, my sister (a soon-to-be recurring character in my beauty-related posts) taught me how to use both my curlers and my straighteners based on a mixture of tactile and auditory clues – I’ve had them for absolutely ages now, and so I’m both proficient and confident with their usage. I am, however, still inordinately bitter that I can’t french plait or throw my hair up faux-carelessly into a voluminous bun; I’d like to learn, and I suppose that I’ll get around to it at some point.

Moving on to clothing, jewellery and all things properly tangible – recently, I’ve grown to like this aspect of presentation a little more, and I’ve even begun to revel in shopping, as opposed to it intimidating me to an almost embarrassing extent. Although many online stores aren’t too accessible with my screen-reader, my sister and I enjoy perusing various pages together and waiting, full of excitement and anticipation, for our orders to arrive. As for colour-coordination, I use an app called ‘Aipoly’, which tells me what colour something is, therefore enabling me to piece things together that I think will look good. I can, after all, always double check with my family that I appear to be at least presentable before I leave the house! Over time, I’ve built up notions of what works and what doesn’t, and my outfit picks are usually pretty decent. The same goes for jewellery; I attempt to ensure that I wear either all silver or all gold, and I’m usually successful in my endeavour. When I’m not, however, it isn’t the end of the world, and I could always remove the offending ring or bracelet if I felt truly uncomfortable – not that it ever bothers me that much, of course!

Before ending this post, I’m going to talk, nay, ramble, for a while about my favourite aspect of (let’s call it) self-adornment: make up. Yet again, my sister has helped me massively in this area; until my vision had deteriorated to the point of uselessness, I held absolutely no regard for anything so much as pertaining to eyeshadow or powder.

From being about twelve, whenever I was going anywhere special, I would wear a light layer of tinted moisturiser (applied with my fingertips), a few coats of clumpy mascara and, occasionally, a little lipgloss. Yet, despite having no sight left by the age of fourteen, I only started to properly care after discovering some beauty YouTubers, which – weirdly – coincided with the loss of my remaining vision. I spent hours pouring over their content (I still find Tati particularly helpful as she is incredibly thorough when reviewing and demonstrating products) in an attempt to emulate their prowess with a powder, their skillfully sculpted shadows and their luxuriously lucent lips. At first, I would simply endeavour to locate the desired areas on my face; for example, as ridiculous as it sounds, I made sure that I understood exactly what was meant by the ‘Cupid’s bow’ and the ‘apples of the cheeks’. Then, once I had established a better understanding of my own face, I was able to use a brush for the first time to apply my liquid base products. With help from my sister and mother, I mastered the art of concealing, powdering and applying foundation to my face. The next natural step to take was blush, which I got the hang of fairly easily, although it’s always important to check the intensity of any new blush you buy (powder or cream, with the latter needing to be applied before you set your face with powder, therefore giving a more natural finish) with a sighted person if you don’t have enough vision to discern it for yourself, as they can vary quite dramatically, both within and between brands. I didn’t actually use bronzer for a while, because I always ended up having lines and splotches dotted all over my face, but with a lot of persistence and many evenings spent angrily scrubbing my face with a flannel only to redo my base make up for the third time, I realised that a less pigmented bronzer works well for me, and – if I use light, circular motions with a fluffy brush, and keep building the product up rather than heaping it on all at once – I can achieve a smooth, even finish nine times out of ten. Highlighter and lipstick were also two things I picked up without really thinking about them; one of my friends explained the former to me at school, and – after borrowing hers before buying my own – I was able to dust the shimmering powder atop my cheekbones with ease. In fact, I’d advise everyone, if you’re finding that using all other make up products just isn’t working for you, to get your hands on a highlighter and add some to the high points of your face – it brightens your complexion in a beautifully natural manner, and you can purchase them in liquid or powder form, with hundreds of inexpensive options available as well as slightly more high-end ones. As for lipstick, though, I don’t always get it right, but I’m usually almost there; sometimes, I miss the particularly idiosyncratic undulation of my top lip, or smudge the product a little at the corner of my mouth, but it’s a mistake easily fixed, and, thankfully, doesn’t occur all that often. This also applies to mascara – after years of practice, I’m usually pretty spot-on with my application, and, if I’m not, all it takes is a swift wipe of a cotton bud across my eyelid when the wet, black liquid has dried. The last element I’m proficient enough with to talk about on here (I’m still working on eyeliner and brows), is eyeshadow. I absolutely adore creating a golden, smokey look, a neutral brown lid with a bright blue on the lower lash-line, a buffed out burnt orange base with a glittery pop… Anything and everything – I love it. Don’t get me wrong, it took me forever to get to know my eye shape well enough to blend the shadows near-perfectly, and I still have difficulty with more complex looks, but I usually persevere until I’ve fixed whatever errors I’ve made, and – above everything – I’m always ridiculously conscious about buffing and blending every step of the way.

As for identifying the colours, names and formulas of my products, I label the packaging with Braille and using a device called the PenFriend2. The PenFriend is a small, sleek labelling device, where you record things into stickers, and then tack those stickers onto an object (I also use it for labelling tactile diagrams in school, and for making revision a little more fun – it’s an incredibly versatile item!). So, either myself – if someone has told present-me which colour(s) I should point out to future-me – my sister or a friend will speak into the PenFriend, I will paste the sticker onto its correlating product, and Bob’s your uncle – it’s ready for future use!

I hope that you enjoyed this post, and I’m really sorry if it was stupidly incoherent or confusing in any way! At some point, I’d like to make a YouTube video detailing exactly what it is I do to get ready, and the way in which I approach it. However, I can’t film and edit entirely independently, and so that will have to wait a while… Let me know your thoughts though, and please tell me if I can explain anything better, or articulate something in a more concise, comprehensive and clear way. I’d love to know if any other visually impaired people enjoy applying make up, styling their hair and/or putting outfits together, so do let me know, either by commenting or emailing me (see here).

Thank you always,

Grace

It’s Me: An Introduction

Despite feeling somewhat adventitious whilst writing this – strange, almost as if I don’t quite belong in this minute corner of the internet – I am excited, although, as usual, a little reticent and cautious, because this marks a new chapter in my life, a project with some focus, an idea with a point.

I don’t want this post to be too long at all, and so you can discover more about exactly who I am here, on my ‘About’ page. I would, however, like to briefly outline the aim of this blog, and the content that you’ll be reading should you wish to follow.

Essentially, I want to meet new people, to compare life experiences and to learn a myriad of important lessons that will stand all of us in good stead. I’d also love to educate – be it didactically or overtly, tacitly or explicitly – and to advocate for equality, equity and emancipation. As for content, I’ll be posting everything from book reviews to recounting my personal experiences pertaining to disability, from fun tags to tendentious rants about feminism or blindness, or whichever cause I choose to assimilate myself the most readily with on the day!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and that you’re as apprehensively hopeful as I am regarding the future of this blog.

Thank you always,

Grace