Why I got rid of my silver hair

If you’d asked me in October 2018 whether I would ever stop dying my hair silver, I would have replied with a resounding no. I’ve written so many tutorials and made so many videos about how to dye your hair silver and how to get white hair that I think I spent about 1/3 of 2015 just teaching other people how to get silver hair at a time when no one else was doing it.

I explained the science, how to get your hair to a point where you can bleach it, and what to do if you accidentally over-bleach your hair (I’ve achieved that at least twice, haha. This was before protein filler was perfected. Hair grows).

I still have dreams where my hair is that beautiful color, then I awaken and see myself in the mirror. Dark hair. Washed-out face. Different. Older.

I still think silver, white and white blonde hair are the three most stunning colours you can dye your hair. The next most stunning? Purple.

In October 2018, I took about 3 bottles of Renbow Crazy Color Platinum, 2 bottles of Crazy Color Lilac and a medium bottle of silver shampoo and another of conditioner back to China with me in my suitcase, along with other western staples I just don’t like living without (coco pops, decaf coffee). They got through New York JFK airport no problem, and I couldn’t foresee a time when I would stop coloring.

Fast forward to December 2018, when I was stuck in the bathroom in our apartment in Malaysia, just being sick constantly. Pharmacy. Test. Positive. The most exciting day of our lives up to that point (it was about to get a lot more exciting). We had seen half of the world, flown over Everest, learned to cook in Cambodia and driven to Rome from York in our homemade Citroen Picasso campervan. It all paled in comparison to this. We were about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives.

After years of trying and heart-wrenching disappointment, our baby was finally on the way.

We had four miscarriages before now, including two in England, one in Nepal and one in China. I was not going to take any chances on anything at all. I occasionally had wine before now, but when we got that positive test, I stopped drinking. I wore socks in my sandals which is the Chinese way. I wore nothing tight around my waist and didn’t even wear a bra for 7 months. I slept on my side. No coffee or tea. Vegetables. Vitamins. I wanted that baby to have everything.

This pregnancy was kind to me, especially contrasted with my first pregnancy, where I’d had hyperemesis and ended up in hospital on IV fluids. And finally, when the baby arrived, I thought I’d start doing all the things I’d done before.

I didn’t.

See, there’s this thing called breastfeeding, and it turns out, you’re not allowed to do anything while you’re breastfeeding. Except make cosmetics with excess milk. So I left my hair alone. And left it. And left it. Eventually, I had this block of white which was around my collarbone, and lots of dark hair further up. In February, I got most of it cut off, and the rest went in July, so now all my hair is brown.

I’m still breastfeeding. Jellyfish is 15 months old and I will keep giving him boobie milk as long as he wants it. I could probably dye my hair again with no major problems, but honestly, at the moment, I don’t have any interest in doing it. White hair is ultra-high maintenance. Silver hair is labour-intensive, too. I don’t want to spend so much time on it. I thought about (gasp) getting it done at a hairdresser but they’re all a) closed and b) always tell me not to have silver hair which leaves me frustrated at wasting money on a hair colour I don’t want.

There’s a box of Schwarzkopf silver permanent dye in the bathroom. It’s been there since last August, when I bought it without thinking. Every time I go in there, the girl on the box stares at me, her gaze penetrating into my soul and calling to me, like Poe’s raven. Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.

And like the raven, my hair will be silver again… nevermore.

Okay that was way too serious. It’ll probably get attacked with bleach in a year or two. IDK. I don’t want to say never but I’m not feeling a full-color whiteout right now.

How about you? Have you stopped coloring your hair? Started? Let me know in the comments!

At-home half-hour DIY facial for new mamas

The salons are closed in my country. We don’t know when life will get back to normal. That doesn’t mean compromising on beauty treatments, especially when you’re a new mama and need pampering after pregnancy and birth. Here’s my go-to facial. The steps are based on when I lived in China, where the K-beauty routine is basically standard. This facial takes about half an hour and includes plenty of time while treatments are taking effect to go sort out the baby. 😉

First, set the scene. Light some scented candles or get your oil diffuser going. Put on some relaxing music (I love Enya or Clannad, which is probably my Irish half). Get into your comfiest clothes or dressing gown. And let’s dive into the half-hour facial for new mamas.

Part 1: Cleansing

If you’re wearing make-up, sunscreen, fake tan or anything else you’ve already put on your face today, start with an oil-based cleanser. I discovered these when I was in Japan and they’re soooo good! This one is my current favourite.

Next it’s time for exfoliation. The key to keeping skin looking firm, hydrated and toned all starts with a good exfoliation. This can be a physical exfoliator, such as the St Ives apricot scrub, which I’ve reviewed here (although I don’t know if they’ve changed the recipe due to the microplastics ban… I really need to try this again), or a chemical exfoliator, such as the Nip + Fab glycolic fix exfoliating pads. If your skin needs some serious TLC, I really recommend the Nip+Fab glycolic fix exfoliating scrub, which combines the chemical exfoliator glycolic acid and physical exfoliation for a very thorough skin exfoliation.

Part 2: Face mask

The benefits of a good vitamin face mask cannot be overstated. My favourite is the Dermalogica multi-vitamin power recovery mask, which contains nourishing vitamins and the clinically-proven anti-ageing ingredient retinol (so avoid during pregnancy as it will burn your skin, but it’s fine afterwards). It’s a great dupe for Kim Kardashian’s favourite Chantecaille Bio Lifting Mask, and I haven’t yet found anything else that’s even a fraction as good as these two, so for me, the Dermalogica one is worth the splurge because retinol doesn’t just make you look younger, it actually reverses the effects of ageing.

Keep this on for at least 15 minutes and don’t get any on your baby (retinol, duh) e.g. by kissing them or snuggling them. If you can’t last 15 minutes without a cute baby snuggle, you would be much safer using my homemade breastmilk face mask recipe, which is especially good for acne-prone skin. If you’re not breastfeeding, my avocado face mask recipe literally just requires some mashed avocado. You can actually leave any of these on overnight (my last tube of the Dermalogica mask had this idea as a tip from a skincare expert inside the box and it really works). I have a Japanese silicon face cover for using with wet masks.

Part 3: Cleansing (again)

You need to wash off the face mask. If you’ve made my breastmilk soap recipe, this is the perfect time to use it, as it’s super nourishing and a gentle but effective cleanser. Otherwise, another homemade soap or plain water will work fine.

Part 4: Essence and serum

Grab your favourite K-beauty essence (mine is Innisfree soybean essence in light) and cover your face in it. I have mine in a spray bottle so I can use it as a facial mist.

Once this has dried, I add a thicker serum. I love the It’s Skin Q10 effector serum. I use the dropper to get some on my fingers then I pat it into my face, avoiding my eyelids.

Part 5: Moisture

The last thing is a replenishing moisturising cream. I have a bad track record for my favourite creams getting discontinued. It happened with my favourite Sanctuary Spa Covent Garden one, then the Manuka Doctor one, lastly the Innisfree Soybean one which I never even got around to reviewing, so I’m constantly wandering the beauty aisle like a nomad trying to find the next great cream. I still think there’s a lot to like about the Olay Regenerist 3-Point Cream, which contains matrixyl which is fab for under-eye dark blue circles, although for overall skin care, I prefer the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, which I reviewed here in 2016 and, in 2020, my skin’s now four years older (33… wow that went fast!) and I think this cream is better for thirtysomethings than people in their twenties as you get the long-term effects as well as the short-term plumping and moisturising effect.

Finished?

If you haven’t put a lash conditioner on your eyelashes, now is the perfect time.

Don’t forget to pop some hydrating lip balm on your lips to keep them soft! I love using a bit of coconut oil as a quick DIY lip balm.

That’s it for my new mama facial. Did you try this? Let me know in the comments if you want more articles on at-home pampering!

How to increase your breastmilk supply? Power pump

Are you breastfeeding and worried about low supply? If you haven’t already properly established your breastfeeding relationship with your baby, this is not the info for you, but if you’ve been feeding at least four weeks and still think you don’t have enough milk, try this natural method that doesn’t require any supplementation or weird lactation foods! You can do something called power pumping which mimics the baby’s cluster feeding and is especially helpful if you’re exclusive pumping as I was when my baby was aged 3-7 months.

You will need: A double electric breastpump. If you don’t already have one, I recommend the Medela Freestyle Flex Double Electric Breastpump. I’ve tried a few breast pumps and this is hands down the best one you can buy for the money. If you can’t afford that, the Medela Swing Electric Breastpump is also fantastic, but apparently you can’t get the double Swing Flex in the US Medela Amazon Store for some reason? Weird. Get the Double Medela Swing Flex here in the UK (if you want this one in the US, you can probably import it from UK Amazon if you don’t mind the shipping costs/extra tax).

That’s it.

The very easy method:

Pump 20 mins

Rest 10 mins.

Pump 10 mins.

Rest 10 mins.

Pump 10 mins.

Do this for two weeks to increase supply or for a few days to give yourself a little boost e.g. after you’ve been ill or gone away for a weekend and missed some pumping times.

I found this out from an adoption/lactation group for women who had never breastfed, so this works even if your body isn’t currently lactating (although you will probably need other help if that’s the case, e.g. domperidone prescribed by your doctor).

I actually modified this as I didn’t have an hour every day. If you can’t get a pump that fits your boobs very well, and your nipples are sore, this will also be kinder to your poor nipples. You can also do this (for a mini version of power pumping) but your results will be less spectacular:

Pump 10 mins

Rest 5 mins.

Pump 5 mins.

Rest 5 mins.

Pump 5 mins.

The end.

Do you have any tips for increasing milk supply? Let me know in the comments!

How to deal with poo in reusable cloth nappies

It’s not a pleasant topic, is it? But, as lovely as the idea of cloth nappies is, there’s always this worry, lurking at the back of my mind. What if they won’t come clean one day?

So there I was, standing in the kitchen, holding a nappy covered in poo and with no idea at all how to clean it. I vaguely remembered my grandma showing me how to do this with those godawful terry towelling squares back when I was about 7, and I know I thought it was disgusting, and swore to myself that my twenty babies would all wear disposable nappies. But then, I also knew I was going to grow up to live in a castle and that I was never, ever getting married (I was going to adopt the babies. This was the early 90’s so Angelina stole the idea from ME not the other way around). And I was going to be the most famous singer in the world and Whigfield would be queueing behind Ace of Bass for my autograph.

Sadly, we didn’t know about plastic the way we do now. Honestly, I didn’t fully appreciate just how much waste disposable nappies create. And in good conscience, I can’t continue to use disposables. Also, they won’t fit in our wheelie bin with all our regular rubbish because we have one of those tiny bins and if the lid’s open, the council won’t collect it.

I have a breastfed baby (11 months next week… amethyst boobies, here I come!) which is great in almost every way, except for one. You see, breastfed babies have the most sloppiest, liquidy, aromatic poo. And when they have allergies, their poo is even worse. We have allergies.

What can you do?

The thing is, breastfeeding and cloth nappies go hand-in-hand for a lot of people. I for one am absolutely not going to stop breastfeeding my baby just because his poo isn’t pretty enough. Apparently people do this. Crazy people.

There are several ways to deal with poo in a cloth nappy, and one of them is my favourite. Let’s look at them all:

  1. So the baby has pooed in your cloth nappy, now how do you clean it?
    – Scrape off as much of the poo as you can with tissue, a wet wipe, or something else disposable like an empty crisp packet, and dispose of as much of the solid poo as you can.
    – If it’s all mushed into the nappy, dangle it down your (clean) toilet and flush. Get the pooey bit under one of the main streams of water. If you’ve got good water pressure, this should rinse it nicely.
    – If there’s still a stubborn stain, soak for a couple of hours in a bucket, using non-bio detergent.
    – I’ve heard of people soaking their nappies in Napisan (bleach powder) in the bottom of the toilet, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that (and bleach powder apparently degrades the elastic and PU outers of reusable nappies) so I would use a bucket.
    – When the nappy has been soaked, fish it out, and run it through the washing machine on a cold wash.
    – After the cold wash, it should be ready to wash with the rest of your nappies.
  2. Should you use disposables during the day and cloth nappies at night time?
    This is one possibility, because it’s well-known (IDK if that makes it true) that babies can’t poo when they’re asleep. If it is true it has to be one of the coolest facts about the human body. So using the reusable cloth nappies at night time and using disposables during the day might work for you. However, since my baby uses more nappies during the day, and since cloth nappies can be very bulky, especially the two-part nappies with velcro fastenings, and since my baby insists on rolling onto his front during every nap, he isn’t comfortable in cloth nappies all night, so we use them during the day instead. Your mileage may vary.
  3. Nappy liners. The best thing since bamboo triple-layer inserts.
    These are my favourite long-term solution to the whole how to get rid of poo out of a reusable nappy issue. Basically, a company called Little Lamb (you may have heard of them) do these thin disposable nappy liners which come in a roll of 100. You put them between the baby and the cloth nappy, and… voila! No more poo! The nappy liner catches the poo and lets the urine soak into the nappy, so you don’t have to scrub out any more mashed chocolate mousse from your cloth nappies.
    These have completely changed our nappy situation and made my husband more confident about using the cloth nappies (he doesn’t like mess).
    Since we’ve started using these, a reusable nappy with poo in it is as easy to change as any other nappy. You simply pull out the liner, with the poo on top, and throw it in the bin (they’ve recently changed the description to say they’re not flushable), then put a new nappy on the baby.
    The liner itself is so thin, it’s like a tumble dryer sheet (but unscented, of course), so you can rest easy that you’re not contributing to the landfill problem in any meaningful way. Certainly not compared to disposables.
    I can see these being especially useful after lockdown ends, when we can go out again, because I wouldn’t want to be carrying around a dirty, poo-stained reusable nappy all day, waiting to take it home and wash. With these liners, that’s not a problem.

So that’s how to deal with poo in reusable nappies. Do you have any other tips for cleaning poo in a cloth nappy or avoiding poo in reusable nappies? Let me know in the comments.