Mailerlite vs Mailchimp: A warning (it’s not what you think)

So about 12 months ago, I was using Mailchimp and there was suddenly a huge drama because they changed their fee structure and got a LOT more expensive. Customers started leaving them in droves. I didn’t understand the issue until I got my new bill and it was suddenly insanely high compared to how much money I was making.

I asked around and everyone told me it was so easy to switch to Mailerlite, and that they were better in a number of ways that no one could explain. I was pregnant and knew I needed to reduce my overheads.

So I exported my contacts and imported them into Mailerlite, where I grew my list to over 15,000 subscribers.

With Mailchimp, the only issue was the cost. Everything else about it worked perfectly, I never had a failed send or anything. They always just sorted out payment and everything was smooth. I don’t know what their customer service was like because I don’t remember ever having to contact them after the day I first signed up.

Also, Mailchimp works in China, and Mailerlite does not. I was living in China when I started emailing my list through Mailchimp instead of using batches via Google mail.

With Mailerlite, it seemed like every time my mailing list grew, they wanted me to re-verify myself, to fill out a tedious questionnaire (for the fifth time) about what I was using their services for, and they threw in some mandatory market research questions as well, which honestly is offensive but you do what you gotta do to get a half-price mailing service to email your newsletter for you.

The best part? They do this when you want to send an email, instead of when you hit the new subscriber threshold. This means, if you’re sending about something time-sensitive, like a flash sale or 24-hour deal, you will not get to send your email in time especially if you want to send according to timezone.

I didn’t like the fact that a lot more of my emails seemed to go to the spam folder when I used Mailerlite, either.

I sucked it up.

Then I had a baby, so I deleted my contacts because no-one wants to pay $150 a month for a mailing list they’re not actually sending any emails to for a year. I downloaded and carefully saved my 15000 contacts in a CSV file that I never actually looked at because I had more important things to do like keep a small baby alive.

Obviously.

Ready to get back to work, I uploaded my email list to Mailerlite and guess what? They wouldn’t let me re-verify because I’d already uploaded this list and deleted it.

So in desperation I went back to Mailchimp, thinking that paying $200 monthly is worth it if you actually get the service you’re paying for. I uploaded my mailing list.

Then I found out why you should never, EVER move your list to Mailerlite.

We’re always told that our mailing list is the most important marketing asset for our business because it is ours and we get to keep that no matter what happens to service providers, right?

WRONG.

Mailerlite has deleted so much information from the downloaded copy of my mailing list that Mailchimp actually doesn’t have the data it needs to let me upload to them.

So I opened the file to look through it. There’s email addresses, but then all the other columns are empty. No first names. No last names. No opt-in timestamps or IP addresses and no confirmation timestamps or IP addresses (all of which you need to be compliant with data handling, CAN-SPAM, and GDPR rules). It’s a mangled, useless CSV file that is as useless as a phone book comprising of phone numbers but no names.

I am effectively stuck with Mailerlite who seemed able to re-connect all the data when I uploaded the email addresses (presumably they’ve stored the rest of the data on their server and can access it by using the email addresses as a “primary key”, but I obviously have a right to have all that data, it’s not theirs, it’s mine, so they shouldn’t keep it like this). Who won’t let me go through their stupid validation and approval process. And anyway, I resent all the bullshit they’ve put me through so I’m not going back to them.

This means I have no mailing list. Mailerlite has destroyed it by deleting key data. Five years of hard work down the drain. Fifteen thousand fans of my business, who I cannot contact because Mailerlite have ensured I can’t go to another service provider.

God I wish someone had written about this before I switched to Mailerlite.

Please, please, PLEASE be careful. If you want to switch to Mailerlite, be sure you’re going to stay with them forever. Because they will not let you take your mailing list when you leave.

I guess that’s what you get when you go with a cut-price mailing list provider. I have learned my lesson the painfully, devastatingly hard way. I have no business to come back to after maternity leave. I built my business to give my baby a future, and now our situation is more precarious than ever.

If I am very, very lucky, I might still have an old version of my mailing list from when I switched from Mailchimp to Mailerlite in the first place. But obviously, that could have people on it who have since unsubscribed, so I have to weigh up whether I can use that old version or not.

This is my honest review of two companies I’ve spent thousands of dollars with, over the past half-decade. Verdict? I’d rather spend more money on a service that actually does what it says it’s going to. Your mileage may vary. If you have a different perspective, or a solution for this issue, please let me know in the comments.

Tested: The Holy Grail concealer for blue undereye circles, dark circles and tattoos.

I’ve been working on my under-eye blue circles for a few years now. Every time I get on top of them with a great skincare routine to erase dark circles, I forget to keep going with my routine then they make a comeback. Thanks, ADHD.

So it’s no surprise, then, that I have tried a lot of concealers to cover up under-eye discoloration and concealers to get rid of dark circles. And I’ve written a lot of reviews of concealers that get rid of dark circles. Here are my previous favorites, in case you are wondering.

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A few weeks ago, I found a product that was so good, it actually covered up my tattoo in just two coats. The Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer. Staring at the empty space where my tattoo used to be, I was still skeptical. I’ve been hurt by concealers that cover everything but cake in my fine lines and age me about two decades in one fell swoop. So I tested it some more.

Let’s look at it in more detail.

The Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer comes in a silver tube the size of a mascara. It looks great in my handbag. And because it’s shiny, it’s easy to find, even in low lighting like when you’re trying to touch up your makeup in the car.

Not that you’ll need to do many touch ups with this one. Honestly, with the amount of actors having to do their own make up right now, this product will be flying off the shelves.

Onto the testing.

So I have this tattoo. It’s Hello Kitty. You might think it was a moment of drunk regret, but you’d be wrong. I got this tattoo when I was in Santa Barbara, California, and the only time I’ve ever wanted to get rid of it was when I was in Japan because you’re famously not allowed to use the hot baths if you have tattoos, even Hello Kitty tattoos, in case you’re a gang member.

At the time I used a different method to get it to vanish, which I’ll talk more about some other time. Today, I decided to see if this waterproof concealer would have worked.

First I painted over half of it with one coat of the Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer. As you can see, the heavy black lines have significantly faded away.

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Interestingly, it actually conceals better in brighter light, as you can see in this photo with the flash on:

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However, since I don’t live my life on a film set, I live in a world of natural light, it would still be obvious to anyone who looked at my wrist that there was a tattoo there. Only now it was a tattoo covered in makeup.

So I added a second coat. That changed things.

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Now that’s what I call coverage. That’s in the same light as the first photo.

But wait. We haven’t tested two coats with the camera flash, yet.

Oh. My. God.

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You would literally have to be 30cm away from my wrist to know there was a tattoo there in bright light.

Okay, great, it works to make the tattoo disappear. But how long does that last?

Before we answer that, you’ll notice I’m wearing a dress with white stripes, I can confirm there was no transfer of cosmetics onto dress. Literally none.

Okay, now let’s see how long it lasted.

Using the time signatures from my phone, you can see I finished the second coat of concealer at 3pm:

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At 9pm, after about 6 hand washes, and doing the dishes, it was only looking a little faded, so it will give good coverage for at least 6 hours:

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At 2am, it had faded a bit but was still giving phenomenal coverage:

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“Ah,” you say, “But you said at the start of this review that testing it on a tattoo isn’t the same as testing it on your face.”

And you’d be right.

So I put it on my ugly mug and took some pictures. On one side, I put the Clio Kill Cushion Foundation SPF 50 PA++++ on top of my concealer. I left the other side bare except for the Urban Decay concealer.

I put it on at about 5pm and it gave pretty good coverage immediately (first photo is my face with no make-up):

And this was after applying the Urban Decay. On the right hand side of each picture, I put foundation over the top to see how this product would work with other make up, because let’s face it, few people wear just a concealer alone.

The coverage was so strong, and yet even up close, my face didn’t look made up, and there was no caking, it just looked so natural! If you get a good shade match for your skin, you could actually wear this concealer by itself.

To be honest I was quite busy that day so I didn’t get to check in again until 3am, at which point I’d lost my phone so I had to use my husband’s phone and get him to send the photos in a Facebook message. After 10 hours, his phone made it look like this, but I don’t know if his camera has some odd settings or isn’t HD or something like that because I didn’t feel that pretty when I looked in the mirror.

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So because I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was seeing, I decided what the hey, let’s leave it on overnight and see what happened.

I woke up pretty late because I’m still breastfeeding a baby who demands milk every couple of hours and I’m coming off some medication I was taking for post-natal depression, and these things are conspiring to make me very, very sleepy right now. So it was 2:45pm when I got up and took a photo.

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Seriously I was shocked.

For comparison, I washed my face and took another photo #nomakeupselfie and all my usual imperfections came back:

 

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This apparently took ten minutes.

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And this is what my pillow and eye mask looked like after sleeping in my make-up:

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Guys the Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer is the real deal. 100%. If you can’t get rid of blue circles or want to know how to erase dark circles under eyes, this is the new best quick fix on the market. The best part? It’s waterproof and stays put for at least 12 hours. Even when you get it wet. There’s a huge range of shades and the bottom line is, it’s cheaper and better than Bobbi Brown’s concealer. And it looks better in your bag and doesn’t require you to buy a separate concealer brush.

Vertict: Holy grail product.

Get it here on Amazon if you’re in the UK and Ireland, or visit your local department store that stocks Urban Decay in the States.

Have you tried this, yet? Let me know in the comments!

“Protein filler ruined my hair” At-home vs salon protein filler review

Protein fillers are being touted as the best thing to ever happen to hairdressing. So I wanted to try them out. To make this a fair test, I waited 1 year between treatments, to be sure the first product was completely out of my hair.

For the at-home treatment, I used the Superdrug protein filler.

For the salon treatment, I got a Brazilian blowout at a local salon.

My hair type is 2c-3b naturally, and I don’t follow CGP (curly girl protocol) because it left my hair greasy at the top and dry at the bottom, something I’ll talk about at some point in the future.

The at-home treatment looked promising, and I’d seen some good reviews of it online, but I wish I knew then what I know now: Not all protein treatments are created equal, and if you have even slightly African hair, like mine, you need to be very careful about what products you use.

God I wish I’d known that. I even Googled “Is protein filler safe” and “can I use protein filler on frizzy hair” and all that came up was girl after girl with really ordinary hair before and flatironed but still ordinary hair after. The hype for at-home protein treatments drowned out any voices of dissent and my hair suffered the consequences.

The at-home hair protein filler went on according to the instructions. I’ve been beauty blogging for 5 years (6 in December) and I have used a LOT of boxed hair products, so I was confident I could do this. I waited the time. Rinsed when I was supposed to.

Funny, my hair felt rougher after I rinsed the product out than before I put it in my hair. I assumed it was because the final conditioner needed to go on, so I left it on for the right amount of time then rinsed again. I even rinsed with a blast of cool water at the end to close the cuticles and let it dry naturally to avoid heat damage. I gave this product every possible chance of working.

The next morning, I had to face the grim truth: The product had left my hair in a worse state than before I started. And later that day, I had to get onto a plane to New York for a book signing, where I’d wanted to look my best in front of readers and other authors, and instead, I looked like my hair had been styled after Ronald McDonald. I didn’t have time to research salons and sit still for someone to fix it because my schedule was too tight.

My hair was drier, brittler and more porous than before I’d used the protein filler.

All in all, I decided that protein fillers weren’t as good as I’d heard, and I moved on with my life.

Fast forward a year, I went to a new salon to get a haircut and the hairdresser suggested I try the Brazilian Blowout.

OMG what a difference that made. It didn’t straighten my hair (a lot of people have described it as a straightening treatment but this isn’t quite accurate), it just improved each individual strand. My hair was glossy, bouncy, and, for the first time in my life, manageable.

I. Was. Impressed.

Unfortunately, I have had to put a second treatment on hold indefinitely until the lockdown ends. The stylist said it would last 3 months but actually, it’s taken 5 months for it to become frizzy again and I’m left wondering how on earth I managed for 32 years without this in my life. This treatment is such a revelation. It cost £70 and took about an hour and a half but it’s worth every penny, and every minute, if you have hair like mine.

It’s just a pity the off-the-shelf at-home treatments only work if your hair is “normal”.

 

Postcards to my baby: Pattaya

Christmas Day 2017. Twenty-four degrees celsius, if you can believe it. Blue, cloudless sky, punctuated only by palm trees. The sound of the sea, gently rising up the clean sand, leaving gifts of shells for me to find. The calls of men selling hats, water bottles and street food on long bamboo poles or hand-carts as they amble up and down the beach.

For our Christmas dinner, we went to the Hard Rock Café Pattaya, and had a delicious English-style Christmas dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, gravy and all the trimmings. After four months in East Asia, it was like coming home, without having to actually go back to England with all its problems.

After we had eaten, a group of twenty or so children arrived and took to the stage, singing Christmas carols they had learned in their English lessons, and their teacher explained how the school had been set up for them. Education is widely seen as the key to ending poverty, and in countries where literacy is low, getting schools built and teachers trained is very important.

I hope by the time you are old enough to see Thailand for yourself, those children are out changing the world and teaching the next generation.

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This is part 2 of my Postcards to my Baby series. Part 1 here. All photos copyright MamaAdventure.

What is a political issue?

The following are not political issues:
1. Misogyny
2. Racism
3. Homophobia/transphobia
4. Animal cruelty
5. Protecting the Environment
6. Cruelty to children

The following are political issues:
1. How many schools an area has
2. Whether roads are repaired
3. Parking
4. Speed limits
5. The opening times of local parks
6. How a law is written and interpreted

Know the difference. Black lives matter isn’t a political statement, it’s an expression that black people in America are currently not getting their basic human right to life.

If racism bothers you, find another mama blog to follow.

This was in response to some of the commenters I blocked and deleted on my last two posts.

A Template Letter to ask Police to use Bodycams at all times. Send it wide!

Dear Police Department,
I am writing to let you know that I strongly support the use of bodycam and dashcam footage for all law enforcement officers. This is for your benefit and the benefit of the community. Impartial bodycam footage can indemnify you and protect you as much as it can prove allegations against racist cops.

Please let your officers know they should be using bodycams at all times, and ensure they are provided with the resources, training, and workplace policies/culture to be able to do this.

I am also concerned about police violence and I would like it to be known that I do not support or endorse the use of unnecessary force against protesters. Violence does not de-escalate violent situations. It is being disproportionately used against persons of color and this is not acceptable. The police should be protecting people and keeping the peace, not attacking peaceful demonstrators.

Police officers should be using “sideways management” within the force to stop their colleagues from being racist, to challenge racist assumptions, and to report upward through the chain of command any incidents of racism either perpetrated against police officers of color or against the wider black/minority community.

Black lives matter.

Yours sincerely,
A concerned citizen.

How I avoided stretch marks with pregnancy and got rid of old stretch marks too!

I always thought this was a myth, and that it was impossible to avoid stretch marks or to get rid of stretch marks. My back is actually covered in stretch marks from when I used to be a professional ice skater, and my legs were, too, from all the stretching. But my tummy? No stretch marks. And I managed to diminish the ones on my legs, too! I’ve had those since I was 12! Okay, full disclosure, there’s the tiniest little scattering to the left of my belly button but check out the pics below to compare my belly to the stretch marks on my back, I am still shocked by how well this worked. I am 9 months postpartum.

Here’s how I did it. As they say, prevention is the best cure. It’s important to know that buying products won’t solve the problem by itself, you need to know how to use them, and you need to actually do it daily. When I was pregnant my skin got very sensitive so I had to be very careful what products I used. I all but stopped doing my facial skincare routine and had to completely avoid products containing retinol or hyaluronic acid, which are usually skincare staples for me, so pregnancy was a challenge to completely re-think my skincare routines and make them more natural. Links to products are further down.

 

  1. From about the second trimester, I tried to avoid exercising my stomach muscles. I cut my usual workout down to just gentle “granny yoga” or “chair yoga” every day. The goal was to stay in shape but to make sure my body prioritised growing a healthy baby not growing my muscles! I still did a bit of walking every day, and in my third trimester, I did a bit more, to prepare my body for labour (I had a C-section in the end but I really, really wanted to try for a v-birth).
  2. During the third trimester, I followed the brilliant active birth “hip wiggle” workout produced by Ulster Hospital (where I gave birth) available here on Youtube. This got the skin moving in all the right ways, opening up the hips and gently stretching which helped me avoid stretch marks. I did 15-30 minutes per day from 34 weeks pregnant.
  3. During every shower, I used a sponge and shower gel and massaged in gentle circles all over my body. This breaks up cellulite and scar tissue and increases cell turnover which promotes skin healing and renewal.
  4. After every shower, I gently massaged my growing stomach. Most days I used body lotion and Innisfree soybean essence. Once or twice a week I used either the Therapy? massage bar from Lush or grapeseed oil. I used this time to connect with my baby and tell them they were loved, wanted, and that we were looking forward to their arrival when they were ready.
  5. I took my prenatal vitamins every single day after the first trimester (I was too sick to take tablets in the first trimester but I’d been taking them daily for 6 months beforehand in preparation for this). These are especially formulated to give you the extra boost you need to grow the healthiest baby possible. They are also good for your skin, hair and nails.
  6. I tried to get at least 50g of protein everyday. Because I am dairy free, this came from peanut butter, nuts, pumpkin seeds, Silk soy milk, Silk almond milk (the UK equivalent to Silk soy milk is probably Alpro soya growing up milk but read the label to check the protein), textured vegetable protein (aka soy mince or TVP) and tofu. I also used vegan protein powder to add to my smoothies. The recommendation is 75g of protein per day but, living in a foreign country where food wasn’t as easy to source as it is in the west, I generally averaged about 55g (and this required a lot of effort, dairy free homemade lattes and peanut butter on everything).
  7. I drank a lot of fruit juice and worked hard to eat as many different types of fruit and vegetables as possible.
  8. I took lots of baths (with no bath bubbles). Usually I kept these at 37-38 degrees Celsius (just below 100F), although when I was in Japan I used the hot baths because there’s no scientific evidence that this is problematic for babies.
  9. I didn’t wear any kind of support band or compression band either during or after pregnancy. I tried about three different ones but I found they stopped my body’s natural movements and made me feel squashed, and I didn’t like that.
  10. I didn’t wear a bra until 7 months pregnant because I couldn’t get a maternity bra in China that fitted over my bump, so I eventually picked one up from Mothercare in Ireland and I highly recommend a shaped maternity bra.
  11. I didn’t wear anything at all with a waistline after I was about 6 weeks pregnant. No hose, no leggings, no trousers, no skirts… I stuck to dresses and flat sandals, and if I was cold, socks. This was on the advice of my ob-gyn in China, and I’ve heard this is also what they advise you in Japan and South Korea. My goal was to let my body grow and stretch in its most natural way possible, without being forced into a certain position or shape by clothing. They tell you to do this to protect the growing baby, and ensure blood flow to the womb, and I 100% get behind this. I don’t know if it’s why I had no pregnancy issues this time but seriously it was so comfortable. I met pregnant women in Ireland who were barely standing up at 7 months pregnant and I was still able to walk easily, clean my new house and carry furniture until about 4 days before the baby came, when a disastrous membrane sweep seemed to have moved the baby into an oblique lie. People can say I’m crazy, but I think our “maternity fashion” has a lot to answer for in the west and at the end of the day, I have the lack of stretch marks to prove it.
  12. After I had the baby, I continued using grapeseed oil and the Therapy? massage bar, as well as using a sponge to massage my skin in the shower.

The interesting thing about all this is, it actually helped heal stretch marks I’ve had on my legs since I was about 12 from doing excessive amounts of stretching for sport reasons (but the ones on my back are still vivid). I didn’t work on the ones on my back at all with any kind of skincare products (silly me) and they really stand out. I am now 9 months post partum so I don’t think those stretch marks on my legs are coming back, either.

Products I recommend to avoid stretch marks and get rid of them:

  1. A good prenatal vitamin. Pregnacare is the absolute best (US link). You can get it in loads of places in the UK but it’s here on UK Amazon If you are in the US, check the ingredients of anything labelled as a “prenatal vitamin” CAREFULLY. I bought my first set of prenatals from the US in September 2018 and I was shocked by how many of them contain vitamin A, which pregnant women should absolutely avoid for the safety of the baby. I was generally horrified by how unregulated the supplement industry is in the US and I only recommend Pregnacare. I had another brand which I got from Walmart and I had to throw them away because they were really bad.
  2. Grapeseed oil. This is the only oil that is able to penetrate deep enough into the skin layer to actually make a difference to scarring and stretch marks, and it’s a LOT cheaper than the expensive named-brand oil that claims to do the same thing (I have tried that other oil and found it to be useless). I used Now Solutions Grapeseed Oil which is reasonably priced in the US. In the UK, I’d go for this one next time because it’s a LOT cheaper and certified vegan and cruelty free.
  3. The Therapy? body massage bar by Lush, if you can source it. I had to import mine into China because there’s no Lush over there. It contains Shea Butter which is one of my fave ingredients because it’s so moisturizing.
  4. Innisfree soybean essence. This Korean stuff is amazing for a range of issues and is made from fermented soybeans. I’ve put this in a spray bottle to make a DIY K-beauty facial spritz and I spray it all over my body, too.
  5. A basic bath sponge and gentle shower gel. Literally any cheap sponge from Dollar Tree/Poundland will be fine.
  6. Vegan protein powder. This chocolate one is delicious! Collagen comes from protein so you need lots of protein to grow your skin and heal it during and after pregnancy. Protein is also important for the baby.

Things to avoid:

  1. Sunbathing. Pregnant skin is more sensitive than normal skin and you will burn. A sunburn is a sign of deep tissue damage which causes premature ageing of the skin, and collagen damage, which makes you more prone to stretch marks because age lines are a sign that your skin isn’t stretching as well as it used to. Cover up, even on that coveted babymoon. I travelled extensively while pregnant, in China, Malaysia, Japan and Ireland, and I 100% recommend you avoid the sun even though it’s tempting at times. If you need to go out in the sun, it should be SPF 50 PA+++ all the way!
  2. Anything that constricts your belly or claims to compress or “support” it, unless you need it for medical reasons.
  3. Excessive stomach exercise e.g. leg lifts or sit-ups.

Here’s some pictures of me postpartum (I’m standing in front of the shower curtain and my boobs are weird atm because I’m still breastfeeding and one boob is much bigger than the other, so no bras fit properly). As you can see I only got one tiny patch of stretch marks that are very, very faint on the lower right side of my belly button. This first pic shows my C-section scar to prove I’ve actually had a baby. I’ve also included a pic of the stretch marks on my back from years of exercise, to prove I’m not genetically immune to stretch marks or something (my next task is clearly to work on those ones on my back haha):

 

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That’s my how-to. Now what I really want to know is how to get rid of that brown line that goes north to south down my belly. I think it’s where the muscles separated ready for giving birth (my entire belly button disappeared and turned dark brown because it stretched so much due to past surgery preventing it from popping out, and it hasn’t completely gone back to normal yet) but they’ve never quite gone back. I’ve been doing so many stomach exercises but maybe it will just take time.

PS I’m not a doctor so legally I have to say, please consult a doctor before taking supplements and if you have any concerns about your health during pregnancy. This article contains affiliate links to Amazon where appropriate, but doesn’t affect the price you pay for anything.

Joining the Front Line

Yesterday, I ventured outside for the first time since the lockdown began. At first it felt like when you’re a child doing something naughty. I was heading to the doctor’s surgery to collect my prescription scripts and then going to the pharmacy to get them filled, but it still felt like I shouldn’t be out on the street.

The way people have reacted to the lockdown says a lot. The vast majority of people have closed their businesses and are following government advice. But there was this one shop on the high street, it’s been a florist for as long as I’ve lived in Northern Ireland, and now they’ve covered over the “florist” sign above the door and written “hardware” then they’ve printed off a very self-important piece of paper claiming they are keyworkers and that their shop is an essential business. Now, I actually needed some hardware because our central heating isn’t working properly, so I stepped inside, assuming they had changed what they were selling in response to the crisis.

There was no hardware for sale in this shop. It was just flowers and decorative plant pots. The proprietor was standing 2 feet from someone having a long chat with them, completely ignoring social distancing rules. Honestly people like that are the reason this virus has spread so badly throughout Europe. “The rules don’t apply to me” types. I’ll have to get the thing to fix the heating from Amazon and increase the pressure on our postal workers instead (sorry Mr. Postman). It’s irresponsible of the florist to pretend they’re a hardware store though because it increased the time I was out mixing, it wastes customers’ time, and it means people who are asymptomatic have more unnecessary places to spread their germs.

Anyway, when I got to the pharmacy, they only let 3 customers in at one time so I stood outside the door, 3 metres away from the next person in line, until it was my turn. Then when I got inside, there was tape on the floor around the counter, with 1, 2 and 3 next to these lines, to tell you where to stand. Behind the counter was one of my usual pharmacists and someone in “civvy street” clothes, who it turned out was a pharmacy lecturer from the University who had been drafted into the front lines.

It’s a sign of the times that they couldn’t fill my prescription for my brown inhaler. Usually these are readily available and easy to re-order. But they had plenty of blue inhalers (relievers for asthma attacks). People’s priorities with the panic buying are just odd. Although I suspect that anyone with the slightest whiff of asthma is trying their best to take their inhaler correctly right now because asthma + coronavirus = baddddd.

So anyway, I could clearly see that they were short-handed and it occurred to me, I used to work in a pharmacy for 6 months about half a dozen years ago, I have a really good understanding of procedure and I know my medications quite well, and I could help with this coronavirus outbreak. I asked the pharmacist if she knew of any list of reserve pharmacy staff and she gave me an email to contact. So when my maternity leave ends next week, I am going to be an on-call pharmacy assistant. All GP surgeries are urging patients to nominate pharmacies to collect prescriptions for them now, instead of patients going to the GP to collect their own scripts, and that means a LOT more work for pharmacies. They have never been so busy. And that’s just the community pharmacies. Hospital pharmacies are also busy, and they will also need people to help.

My husband isn’t thrilled. He doesn’t think it’s very smart for me to put myself on the front lines, especially with my asthma, but someone has to, and I just feel like I need to do this. Honestly I think he just doesn’t want to be alone with the baby all day. It’s all hands on deck right now if our population and our health service is going to make it through this crisis. The infection rates are not very bad in Northern Ireland, yet, but they will be. We’re not being as stupid as they were in England at the weekend, but it’s coming.

Alternatives to toilet paper and baby wipes.

Okay so this post talks about… bathroom stuff. If that bothers you, now is the time to bail.

Still with me? Then you’re probably also out of toilet paper. At the moment it’s almost impossible to get toilet paper, baby wipes and kitchen roll around the world because scared people are stockpiling it.

Here’s some alternatives to consider (most of these are fine for use on babies too):

  1. Cotton roll soaked in water (DON’T FLUSH THIS, it has to go in the garbage).
  2. A personal hygiene bidet or perinatal bottle (it’s a bottle you fill and squirt it over your private parts to clean them). You’ll still want to pat dry but this might reduce TP usage especially if you have underlying health issues like IBS or hemorrhoids. Fill it with warm water and imagine you live in Japan. I bought 2 of these (one for my husband and one for me) and they arrived while I was writing this article.
  3. A towelling washcloth soaked in water (DON’T FLUSH THIS. You can wash it in the machine on a boil wash with some bleach then re-use).
  4. Newspaper (scratchy much? PLEASE DON’T FLUSH THIS EITHER).
  5. Grass or leaves. Hmmm…. I think I’ll try all the others first, haha.

Got any other alternatives to toilet paper that I haven’t covered? Let me know in the comments.

Are you also struggling to buy hand sanitizer? This post details 10 great alternatives (and 2 less great ones).

How to sanitize your hands when there is no hand sanitizer

A quick look on Amazon shows lots of hand sanitizer for sale, but let’s take a look at some of those reviews before discussing what REALLY works to sanitize your hands:

There’s a legit-looking bottle of “50ml” of hand sanitizer (doesn’t that sound like a lot… it’s not even 2oz) sold here and the reviews are claiming it’s not got any alcohol in, it’s a scam, and it’s $7 for a tiny bottle. Don’t buy this hand sanitizer but look at those reviews.

I personally wouldn’t buy hand sanitizer on Amazon right now because there’s so many scams involving fake products. I saw one that said they’d been sent a bottle of glue! Hand sanitizer is a relatively recent invention and before we had it, people were able to clean their hands.

Instead of getting scammed by things that won’t protect you from coronavirus, try these other ways to clean your hands:

  1. Soap and water. The absolute best way to keep clean is soap and water. I’ve talked before about how soap works in my article about micellar water. Basically, you don’t need fancy soap. Any soap will do. And you don’t need hot water (bacteria doesn’t start to die until a higher temperature than you would wash in).  It says a lot about people that you can buy plenty of soap on Amazon still.
  2. Liquid soap and a bottle of water. If you’re out and about, get a bottle of water with a sports cap. Rub liquid soap all over your hands, get all the areas, then wash it off by pouring water out of the bottle. This is the best way to clean your hands if you don’t have access to a faucet. No room in your bag for a bottle? Get one of these flat-folding reusable ones instead.
  3. Shower gel. We should all be washing a lot more now, so this Aveeno moisturizing shower gel (soap free) is a good choice.
  4. Bath bubbles. Guess what? Bath bubbles are identical to shower gel but usually more in a more concentrated form. This one has epsom salt, eucalyptus and spearmint in it.
  5. Shampoo. If you can’t get anything else to wash your hands in, a shampoo with LOTS of sulphates is what you want. Those sodium laureth sulphates we usually avoid putting on our hair are super-strong cleaning agents (which is why they can over-clean your hair and make it dry out). Herbal Essences smells really nice and is full of all the sulphates you can shake a stick at.
  6. Baby wipes. Choose a packet with soap infused into the wipe. One of these is basically a cloth covered in soap and water. As a first choice, soap and water, but baby wipes are a much better idea than those really dangerous “vodka and aloe vera” recipes which won’t be strong enough to be effective. Of course, buying wet wipes online is also nearly impossible right now because people are buying them as a toilet paper substitute, but you can probably get them more easily in a local supermarket depending on where you live and what deliveries are happening.
  7. Micellar water. I’ve said it before, but micelles are basically super-gentle soap. This will clean your hands better than fake hand sanitizer if you wash it off with water aftercovering your hands in it and rubbing it in like soap. You can even get it in teeny tiny bottles to carry around on the go.
  8. Micellar wipes. These are still readily available and will clean your hands.
  9. Dish soap (aka washing up liquid in the UK). This works exactly the same way as any other type of soap or saponified cleansing agent and is cheaper than some of the others, but selling out quickly.
  10. Laundry liquid. Another cleansing agent. Biological is best. Wash hands thoroughly.And if you don’t care if your hands flake/dry out/get dermatitis/burn:
  11. Bleach. Kills all known germs. Not recommended as it’s corrosive.
  12. Listerine. It contains alcohol and is designed to kill things that live in your mouth. As a kid, my mother always used to make me gargle with Listerine if I had a sore throat and it really did help.

Remember these things alone will NOT prevent you getting sick, but they can reduce your chances dramatically if you follow proper hygiene practice and handwashing technique.

Out of toilet paper? Check out my alternatives here!