Cruelty Free Makeup Gift Guide

Christmas really is right around the corner so all being well, you'll have your gifts pretty much sorted. For those who may be slightly less prepared and/or still struggling for ideas, this gift guide could help make decisions a little bit easier particularly when shopping for a beauty lover. 

With so many beauty gifts available at Christmas, it can be hard to work out which companies are cruelty free and which are best to avoid for those conscious of finding brands against animal cruelty.

According to Soap and Glory, ‘it’s important for you to know that no retailer or manufacturer can categorically state that ‘none’ of their raw materials or ingredients have- at some time in the past- been tested on animals.’ With this in mind, there are some beauty brands that host a Leaping Bunny logo, have signed the PETA pledge or avoid testing on animals or including animal products but don’t associate with a cruelty-free organization.

Soap and Glory

Although not on the PETA list, Soap and Glory say, ‘we absolutely do not test our formulations on animals, however we can’t say that each and every ingredient that goes into them has not, at some point historically, been cleared for human use, by animal testing.’ If this fits the needs of the giver and the receiver, then here’s a few gift ideas for you…

Pout-y Popper £6
Perfect for Instagram, you can get that classic confetti Boomerang to glimmer this party season and when that’s all over, make use of the two mini ‘Mother Puckers’ that plump the lips whilst giving them a sultry shine. Contents include a pink and nude lipgloss in Pink Stardust and Bare Enough, fit for any occasion!

Wash Upon A Star £8.50
An ideal gift for a wanderlust… these body washpods fit nicely in a travel bag whether you’re flying across the globe or exploring a city in your home country. With nine single-use pods and three different scents, you don’t need to sacrifice the quality for the sake of space.

Bare Minerals

Despite the fact that the parent company, Shiseido, is not cruelty free, Bare Minerals is PETA approved and offers a number of beauty gifts, ideal for Christmas.

Hello Bright Eyes eye makeup gift set £30
With Lash Domination mascara, eyeliner and a mini well-rested eye illuminator, this gift set is great for any makeup lovers. Useful for creating that well defined, eye-popping look, the products work well together for a bright eyed, luscious look.

Oohs and Aahs makeup gift set £48
For a slightly more expensive gift, the Oohs and Aahs on-the-go palette set includes signature essentials for everyday beauty. The eyeshadows, all over face colour, matte blusher, mascara, matte lip colour and a buttercream lip gloss create a variety of finishes, complimentary to one another.

NYX

As an official member of PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program, despite its parent company, L’Oreal, choosing to sell in China, NYX has a number of fabulous gifts this Christmas!

Vaults
With Vaults galore, you’re bound to find something for that special person, whether they’re a soft matte lover or prefer a metallic look. With prices ranging from £30 to £65, it’s entirely up to you which you go for!

City Set
For a smaller, more compact gift, NYX have a range of lip, eye and face collections for £15. Complete with eyeshadows, a blush, an illuminator and a soft matte lip cream, Berlin, Los Angeles, Moscow and London are just a few in the collection… you’re bound to find the right shade!

Urban Decay

Another pledge for PETA’s cruelty free campaign, any beauty lover would be pleased to unwrap an Urban Decay product on Christmas Day.

All Nighter Spray from £10
It’s all well and good receiving new makeup for Christmas but until you set it in place, it’s not quite complete! The All Nighter Setting Spray is not your typical beauty gift set but makes a unique present as something that people wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. With a few different sized bottles, you can pick the right one for you.

Palettes
There are plenty of palettes available too so whether they like a bold look, a warm toned palette or a smoky shadow, there’s something for everyone.

Vaults
For a more high-end gift, Urban Decay also have a few vaults on offer including UD XX: 20 Years of Beauty With An Edge for £245 (20 shades of Eyeshadow and 20 Eye Pencils) and Naked Vault Vol IV for £195 (with 3 naked palettes and complementary lip products).

With so many cruelty free beauty brands selling gift sets this Christmas, if none of these have taken your fancy, there are still plenty of other options out there. The likes of Lush, The Body Shop, YesTo and Too Faced all offer cruelty free products as well as a number of other brands so for a list of companies supported by PETA, you can look here: http://features.peta2.com/shopcrueltyfree/cruelty_free_companies_search.aspx?Donottest=8&Product=0&Dotest=-1&Regchange=-1&Country=-1&Keyword=


Thank you for reading this post. I hope this has been useful, if you enjoyed it and want to see more from me, you can follow my social media links in the top right-hand corner to see when I next upload. Although my blog uploads haven't been very frequent lately (I'm sorry about that), I have been uploading pretty much everyday on my YouTube channel throughout December so if you fancy seeing content over there, you can subscribe here!

Love, Steph x

10 Places You Need To Visit In Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city well known for its red light district and coffeeshops but there's so much more it has to offer both popular and less well known. If you're planning your next trip and want to see some of the places worth a visit, follow my map down below! You can click the different locations to see some photos and find out what I have to say about the attraction/location...

I hope you found the map useful and easy to follow. Let me know if you've been to any of these places and if there's anywhere else you'd recommend! If you want to see which of these places I visited this year, you can watch the two videos down below from my trip to Vidcon Europe and my Interrail trip this Summer.
Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to follow my social media in the top right-hand corner to see when I next upload and subscribe to my channel here for weekly content.

Love, Steph x

Mental Health Awareness Day: Being More Open

Mental Health Awareness Day is such an important day, giving people the opportunity to see the support around them and helping towards its de-stigmatisation but these things should not end because the clock strikes midnight. We need to keep helping people struggling, we need work on identifying when someone needs help, we need better health care for mental health, we need to teach school children how to deal with it, learn how to spot the signs and generally raise awareness.

Last week was the first time I saw an advert about mental health and the importance of knowing you aren't alone as well as supporting the idea of looking out for symptoms from those around you. One thing I loved about it even more than it's amazing message was the situation it featured; male footballers. Mental health is such a difficult topic to discuss generally, and often can be even more difficult for men to discuss due to the irrational theory that men have to be strong all the time and to be strong they can't talk about their feelings or mental wellbeing. By having an advert showing the struggle of a male footballer and the help his teammates provide, it helps break down these stereotypes that make discussion difficult.

With mental illness impacting 1 in 4 people every year, it's a horrible thought knowing so many can't or won't feel able to discuss it with those around them or with doctors who can provide the medical support. The fact that physical illnesses are dealt with so much better than mental illnesses, as well as being taken more seriously, creates a massive problem for those that do reach out for support. Finding the right person can be a challenge but it's worth it when you don't find the right person to help you.
The media doesn't help either, constantly describing (white) criminals (also a whole other issue) as 'mentally ill' or 'unstable' creates an image that people with a mental illness are dangerous which, isn't the case... of course some can be and providing support is essential but some people are just guilty of a crime without any relevance to their mental health. If that wasn't the case, we'd have a serious problem given the large number of people affected by mental health!

I must admit, I am a bit of a hypocrite... I think it's so important to talk about mental health and to be honest with those around you, to get the support you need. I try and talk about mental health on my blog or in videos but I don't talk about it a great deal in real life. From an objective point of view, I suppose I do, I often highlight the importance of mental health and its de-stigmatisation but on a personal level, I clam up.

I find it challenging to be open and honest when I'm not feeling so great. I refuse to tell people I'm struggling but I want them to identify it- I know that's ridiculous because I also want to come across as 'put together' and 'in control' so I don't let these things show. I know how to spot my own signs when things aren't quite right but I don't let others know them if I can help it, so why should I then feel worse because someone isn't noticing and isn't trying to help?
My aim is to be more honest, to tell people when I can feel myself struggling before things get worse than they need to. I shy away from words like 'anxious', 'anxiety' and 'depressed' because I hate the overuse when it doesn't seem quite right but as a result, sometimes I probably don't correctly describe a state or emotion. People shouldn't be labelled and shouldn't be identified simply because of their mental illness but sometimes having that confirmation that there is something wrong and is something that can be done to improve can help.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this and although it will take me a while, working on it and prioritising my wellbeing is something I need to constantly work on. I suggest those that share my thoughts, aim to do the same and perhaps with each other's support, we can be more open both in real life and online.

I'd also like everyone reading this to think about their use of terms relating to mental illness and challenge those around you that don't use it in a particularly correct or positive manner. I know I hear the term 'so OCD' used way too often and flippantly which, is something I try to challenge each time.
I hope this was useful to some people and has highlighted the importance of opening up and supporting those around you. I have done a few posts before about mental health but two I suggest reading if you are struggling with mental health or are supporting someone who is, can be found linked below. Feel free to offer advice or have a bit of a discussion in the comments as I think that would be really useful for both myself and others.

An open letter to mental health sufferers
An open letter: supporting someone with a mental illness
Recent reads: books to check out

If you want to see more posts from me, follow my social media links in the top right-hand corner to see when I next upload. Thank you for reading this post.

Love, Steph x

Self Recognition

We're so quick to point out flaws, silly things we've done and cling onto memories of mistakes we've made but how often do you pat yourself on the back and applaud an achievement- big or small? How often do you tell yourself, 'you've done amazing, well done!'? I'm going to guess, it's not as often as it should be! We get so caught up in the strive to improve or to reach our goal that the small steps are often overlooked. I want to dedicate today's post to the things I've done recently that I'm proud of, and I hope it inspires you to do the same!

1. Interrailing- you may be aware that my trip didn't quite go to plan but I'm so proud of the things I did achieve on the trip and the confidence and excitement it gave me for booking new trips. I won't detail all the things I'm proud of regarding this here but I discussed it in this post if you want to hear more.
2. Sorrento- booking a holiday so last minute and having it all run pretty smoothly is a great achievement. I didn't wallow (too much), feeling down about the places I'd missed on the interrail trip, I got a replacement booked and made it happen!
3. Getting the subway- not something I would voluntarily do, I'd rather exhaust all other transport options first but I did it whilst away and even though it made me very uneasy, it was alright! I got on with it, didn't think about what I had to do and just got where I needed to be. It's still not my first choice of transport, nor is it anywhere near the top of the list but, I know I can do it if and when I have to!
4. Doing a full workout in the gym at rush hour- I never used to feel comfortable in the gym at all, let alone when it's crazy busy and thankfully, I've avoided those times and find myself not worrying too much... until the other day when there were people everywhere I looked and all I wanted to do was to disappear and hide. With no music to block people out, my mum and I did a decent workout together and for the most part, I managed to ignore the people around me or at least push them to the back of my mind. That's not something I would have been able to do a few years ago!
5. Balancing aspects of my life- as guilty as I feel about not doing enough of something, be it being at uni, being at home, working... whatever, I've actually started to realise I have a pretty good balance going on. Although I don't have uni to contend with at the moment, generally I manage to balance the aspects and see people as much as I can even if it doesn't always feel that way (please remember this Steph so you don't work yourself up in the future).
6. Running a blog and YouTube channel on top of everything else in life- it may not always seem much of a job but if people can do it as a full time career, there must be a decent amount of work to go into it and there is... a time consuming, sometimes stressful project, especially when life gets busy and uni and work take priority but you know what, I manage to keep it going (even if I miss an upload or two). I may not upload the most frequently or have the biggest following but I do pretty darn well to keep both going to as high a standard as I can at this stage and love the support I get from those around me virtually and physically.
7. Climbing the hill in Budapest on my own- I'm not the most confident person when it comes to heights and although I love the likes of Go Ape and activities with a harness, most heights send my head in a spin (literally; it just doesn't seem to agree with my body). Side note: I do love winter sports despite the fear so maybe I just need adrenalin and a distraction to ease my mind! Whilst I tend to give things a go where possible, sometimes things are very out of my comfort zone and require peer encouragement, so the fact I climbed up the hill (sorry, I have no idea what 'the hill' is called) to see the statue and the view of the city on my own is amazing! A small achievement but deserving of my own recognition.
8. Beating my own gym targets- I love those moments when I lift a heavier weight, do more reps, hold something for longer or beat my time... any of these however small the difference may be, prove to both myself and others what I can do. I like having the opportunity to get competitive with myself (and mum when appropriate) to challenge myself more and give me the motivation to go that bit further. Most recently, I beat my 5km cycle time which I never thought I'd manage (8m38s for anyone wondering and so I can remember for next time!)!
9. Work placement at the Nottingham Post- I learnt so much there and enjoyed experiencing the workroom, shadowing journalists and seeing the things I've learnt come to life. It's also the home of my first shared by-line, which I'm very pleased about.
10. Living a fairly healthy lifestyle- for the most part, I'm fairly active, I eat healthily, I drink a lot of water, I don't drink alcohol much and generally, I look after my health. Of course, I have unhealthy or less healthy things sometimes and don't always stick to a gym routine but I try my best and where possible, I do a lot to look after my body and in turn, look after my health.

I hope this has been a nice positive post and a reminder to give yourself credit where credit's due. Big or small, there are so many achievements to be proud of. I would love to see you create a 'self-recognition' list of your own or at least, leave a comment with something you've done recently that you're proud of. I'd love to spread the positivity and share the positive experience with as many of you as possible! If you do do a post then let me know as I'd love to check it out!

Just to let you know, I uploaded a video yesterday all about my moving out experience and the challenge it posed including, my tips and advice for dealing with homesickness/emotional struggles regarding moving out. If you want to hear about that or think it might help you, you can find my YouTube channel here or can watch the video down below!
If you enjoyed this post and want to see more from me, you can follow my social media links in the top right-hand corner to see when I next upload. Thank you for reading this post!

Love, Steph x

Verona: Boutique of Molly Review

 
A new season is approaching (if you haven't heard that enough yet) and I for one am very excited! With the forthcoming change in season, it seemed appropriate to treat myself to a new bag, especially one that looks perfect for the colder months!
Boutique of Molly recently released 4 new bags, all of which are gorgeous and can be checked out here! The only down side is that it made deciding which to get a difficult task and although I do own a lot of black bags, I don't own any quite like 'Verona' and it just seemed to jump out at me, screaming for me to pick it. Perhaps I'll purchase another when I have some extra cash to splash but for now, I am very happy with this one!
The black box shape design with gold detailing looks edgy but elegant and can successfully jazz up any outfit.

Inside, it has a zipped pocket as well as a slip pocket so you've still got the opportunity to separate items! The clasp on the exterior works by pushing the two circles together to release the clasp (I struggled to work this out myself but I'm sure that was just me being silly and most others can use their common sense to work this out!)
I feel as though this bag along with my boots and a red lip could become my staple, especially as Christmas approaches... yes I did just mention the C word! Big enough to fit your necessities but small enough to take out in an evening, it makes the perfect Autumn/Winter accessory.
If you want to treat yourself to 'Verona' or any other BOM purchase, you can use the code 'STEPH20' to get 20% off.

Let me know what you think of the new BOM bags, especially if you decide to get one! I hope you enjoyed this post, if you did and want to see more, you can follow my social media links in the top right-hand corner to see when I next upload. Thank you for reading this post!

Love, Steph x

Things don't always go to plan...

As some of you may be aware, about a month ago I set off on an adventure of a lifetime, one I'd been nervous, terrified and most significantly, excited about. Sadly, things didn't quite go to plan and a week later I found myself on a flight back home. As I mentioned on my twitter, I just wanted to explain a bit about what happened and what I plan/hope to do going forward.

I had planned an interrailing trip with my cousin, starting in Amsterdam, stopping at Vienna, Budapest, Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Rijeka, Verona, Lake Garda, Munich and Interlaken before finishing the trip in Paris... a lot to see and do in 3 weeks!

Unfortunately, my cousin hadn't been feeling well on the trip and whilst in Budapest, it was decided the best option was to come home. We played around with other possibilities but under the circumstances, things were proving too difficult to arrange and as our parents were in Budapest that weekend, it seemed sensible to fly back with them.

Fortunately, my best friend was amazing in ensuring I got to go away again, especially as I'd not seen Italy, which was top of my bucket list out of anywhere in the world, and we managed to book a last minute trip to Sorrento. It was the perfect place to go for the Italian streets, authentic food and great culture I had been after and although I missed out on Lake Garda, I am grateful for the area I did see and plan to go back for the rest! I never considered the history of the area as an interest to me but as I heard and saw bits about it, my mind soon changed and I found myself intrigued, wanting to learn more. Not to mention, the food was even more delicious than I'd hoped!

Proud

I'm so proud of the things I did do whilst out there, especially the day I wandered around Budapest and enjoyed seeing all of the sites I wanted to see, without relying on a map or anybody else. There were so many small challenges that I faced that may seem insignificant to some but to me, showed me that I can just get on with things and push myself out of my comfort zone, without too much outward worrying/complaining. Furthermore, I'm so happy I visited Budapest as it's not somewhere I'd have prioritised had I not managed to go, but has now become one of my favourite places and is somewhere I'd recommend to all! I'm disappointed I didn't get to see the other places but am determined to tick them off my list as soon as I can.

Missing Out

I had wanted to prove to myself that I could carry and live out of a backpack for three weeks, it was a fun challenge I'd set myself to make carrying that weight more worthwhile and to show what I could do (as weird as it is, I actually enjoyed it as well!). There are so many other opportunities I would have loved to make the most of, aside from the whole city exploring and train journeys, that some may not consider important but that I am sad to have missed out on- I suppose it just makes me more determined to make them happen another way.

I definitely get envious when I see people showing the memories/photos from their interrailing trip and start to feel a little sorry for myself but mostly I'm happy they had such a great time and have completed such a great adventure. It's definitely something I would recommend doing as it was amazing fun and some of my favourite moments were actually on the trains or other public transport... it's like nothing else you've done before. The things I expected to struggle with or not like, I actually ended up enjoying and finding more manageable than I ever imagined and I'm sure that's the same for others!

Obviously, we were both gutted and wish things had gone differently but I guess somethings aren't meant to be. It would have been amazing to see all the places we had planned to and to do some incredibly exciting things but there's little point dwelling, and every point in striding forwards, planning new trips to make up for it. I may have only done a week of the trip but it has definitely inspired me to want to travel more and to see more places!

I did film the part of the trip I did do, which is on my YouTube channel now so if you want to check that out, you can click here or watch it down below. I also have another part coming out tomorrow at 6pm, so if you don't want to miss that, make sure you subscribe while you're there!
Have you ever been interrailing, if not, would you like to? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. If you enjoyed this post and want to see more from me, you can follow me using the links in the top right-hand corner to see when I next upload. Thank you for reading this post.

Love, Steph x

Falling in love with Budapest


I've never quite understood how people can claim to have 'fallen in love' with a city, how a single place can capture a heart and impress someone so much... until I visited Budapest. A place of beauty, history and culture, there's so much to it that it's difficult not to be amazed.
To be able to take myself off and wander around a city for a day, not tiring or wanting to return is something I rarely, if ever, find. To not have any real aim other than to explore and hopefully stumble across the city park and the river made it exciting. To not be constrained by time or another person's wishes and to just freely walk or rest... whichever I fancied, was quite refreshing. Of course, it's great to have someone to explore with, to discuss the sites and to share the experience with but occasionally, it's nice to have that change and Budapest is one of the only places I've felt that way about.

Set in a grid like design, it's easy to navigate and to venture off randomly but still find your way back, map or no map- unfortunately (or fortunately), I was the no map option. The architecture is stunning and makes the simplest of buildings seem so grand and exciting. The park is massive but beautiful and great to walk around; bringing you close to the castle with yet another stunning sight to admire and walk through or to sit and relax by, maybe even with a book in hand- it makes for a peaceful reading setting!
The Danube splitting Buda and Pest is beautiful to walk down or across in the day but even prettier at night with the city lit up and glistening! Whichever side of the city you find yourself on, you're sure to find a gorgeous view and something great to explore. Parliament and the Palace are both very impressive buildings, well worth a visit, simply to admire the beauty and in the Palace's case, to perhaps look around (although I'm yet to try this!).

The bustling night life is great for those who love an evening or night out but there's also plenty for those less keen too. A particular place I recommend is the Rumpus Tiki Bar, which has a fun atmosphere; with reggae remixed music that can't help but make you move, not to mention the most aesthetically pleasing and delicious tasting cocktails- great to go earlier in the evening if you fancy a quieter, more relaxed drink or later on for a bustling and lively experience.

Sziget was my first festival experience and one of the best I could have asked for. It had everything you'd imagine and more: a variety of cuisines, arts to delve into, dance tents, no end of stages, a chillout zone by its own beach, a sports zone, a circus and so much more... it would be hard not to find something you'll love! Even with a day ticket, I got to see and do a lot and can see how people can spend a week at the 'island of freedom'. It's easy to get to with public transport links across the city and well worth the trip!

Known for the thermal baths, it's a custom worth trying whilst you're out there but may be better to go to in the evening for the party, if that's your scene, as in my experience, they tend to get quite crowded in the day, with judging looks following you everywhere and pools that don't seem particularly clean. However, I'm glad I gave it a visit and perhaps someone else might enjoy them more than myself.
All in all, I had an incredible time in Budapest, experiencing so many things in so little time but still only scratching the surface. It's a city I will definitely be returning to and look forward to what the next exploration unveils.

Have you been to Budapest? What were your favourite things about the city?

Love, Steph x
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