Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Meghan Trainor: It’s not just about the Bass!

The song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor soared to the No.1 spot in the charts this weekend in both the UK and US. The undeniably catchy tune appears to have been marketed as a song full of body positivity, but has recently been surrounded by controversy about the true extent to which the song and Trainor herself celebrate women of all shapes and sizes.

When I downloaded this song on my way to University this week, the upbeat retro tune certainly cheered up my grim Monday morning commute. At a first listening, the song does appear to have some really positive affirmations. Meghan calls the Media out on their use of Photoshop which promotes unrealistic body images that influence so many women and young girl’s perception of their own appearance. Trainor soulfully declares “I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop/We know that shit ain’t real/C’mon now, make it stop”. She then goes on to encourage women to accept themselves as they are “’Cause every inch of you is perfect/From the bottom to the top”. Hallelujah. However, the feel good factor ends here for me.

The choice of language in Meghan Trainor’s song initially escaped me but as I listened to it more and more I started to pick up on a quite a negative body shaming element to the song. The most obvious example of this being her announcement in the song that she’s “bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that”. Although concealed as a joke, “I’m just playing” this is a perfect example of what women do every day to one another, which is body shame other women to make themselves feel good about their own bodies.

Body shaming whichever side of the fence it is, is still body shaming. If this song had been sung by the “stick figure silicone Barbie doll” that features in her music video, calling curvier women “fat bitches” I fear there would have been more of an uproar. This leads me to the language that I have previously heard women use to describe one another. I have friends that are classed as “naturally thin” women. They don’t have an eating disorder and they don’t control their food; their body shape is just naturally slim. Whenever they have said something about their body, other women have said things such as “Oh shut up you skinny bitch!” all in good humour apparently... However, if the roles were reversed and one of your friends called you a “fat bitch” when you went shopping, do you think you would honestly still be friends with that person? Why is one way acceptable, and the other so offensive?

For me personally “All About That Bass” is such an oxymoronic song. In some ways it celebrates women as they are and of course curvier women that “ain’t no size two” yet it fails to embrace thin women, in fact it down right degrades them. The song, on closer inspection says that thin women can’t “shake it” (interpret that as you wish!) and more importantly that thin women will not be found attractive by men because “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night”. This is perhaps the most infuriating part of the song, not only because it creates the idea that thin women are somehow unattractive to men but because it generates the ridiculous notion that a woman’s self-acceptance should be based on whether or not men deem you attractive. As cheesy as it may sound, true self-confidence can only come from loving yourself, an important point that Meghan Trainor fails to point out in her song.

Do I believe Meghan Trainor is a malicious anti-feminist body shamer? No I do not. Her talent is undeniable and I believe the message she has tried to put across has unfortunately got muddled up along the way. I think the celebration of women and embracing yourself as you are is great, it is just so frustrating she didn't include all women in this, not just those she herself identifies with more easily. I believe this mistake has powerfully undermined her message that women are perfect as they are because she has neglected an entire body group within her music, which is both sad and unfair.

Looking back to my initial reaction and feelings towards the song perhaps I personally felt good and enjoyed it initially because I myself, as a UK size 14 sit on the curvier side of the fence. Subconsciously perhaps Meghan Trainor’s celebration of curves brought me that much closer to the goal of self-acceptance that so many women strive to reach. However, as easy as it is to fall into the trap of making yourself feel good through the criticising of others, body shaming other women is undoubtedly not the recipe for happiness and self-acceptance. Some may say, "It's just a song, lighten up!" but women in the media have a great deal of influence on society. I believe as women we must embrace and encourage women of all different shapes and sizes to accept and love themselves for who they are today. 

I originally published this article on the website womenmakewaves. Here's the link if you want to check out other articles on the site... 

Monday, 6 October 2014

How I cleared up my acne: Instalment 2

Hey Everyone!

Here is the second instalment explaining how I got rid of my acne. Sorry I haven't been able to get this out quicker. I did plan to but I've just been so busy with uni and starting a new part-time job at Tesco! But here we are, so in case you didn't read the last instalment I suffered with acne badly from the age of sixteen to twenty years old, at which point I started Accuatane. I had a bad experience and came off it prematurely and consequently was back to square one. I was once again typing "How to get rid of acne" into Google. I'm sure you've been there...

Below I'm going to discuss the three things I believe got rid of my acne finally and will hopefully keep me clear. I've had no problems in almost a year and after the years of suffering I had with acne, that's good enough for me. I've listed these three things in the order in which I started them, not at all order of importance. At the end I'll explain which I think has been the most effective in keeping my acne away in case you can only do two of the three things etc. Although I have to say, this golden trio works perfectly together so if you can, give all of them a go!

1. The Contraceptive Pill

Okay, so one of the first thing the doctor usually recommends after antibiotics and various creams etc. is the contraceptive pill, if you're a girl of course! This was advised to me before I started Accutane and is usually a "hoop" you have to jump through before you get approved to go on Isotretinoin. I started on the Yasmin pill in March 2013 but it had no effect on my skin. It was so great in other areas but not in the area I really wanted! I continued on this contraceptive pill whilst I was on Accutane but when I came off it in December my doctor suggested I try the Dianette pill. I saw good results within a few weeks on this contraceptive pill, within this short time it had reduced my acne to a manageable level that could be covered fairly well with makeup. Of course when you have severe acne you'll do anything for it to be reduced even slightly but once that happens the pursuit for perfectly clear skin begins... which leads me nicely to my acne solution 2.

2. Gentle Skincare

Guys, I can't stress this one enough. What so many people don't realise, whether they have full blown acne or a few spots, dry skin, oily skin, whatever... is that irritation is a major cause of bad skin. People get trapped in a viscous cycle where they get a few spots for whatever reason, they go out and buy harsh products that promise to "get rid of your acne in 24 hours!" and all they do is further irritate and inflame already inflamed skin, making the problem worse. Then, women (and some men!) attempt to cover this problem up with thick, heavy makeup that further irritates the skin and in turn makes the problem worse. This is what is known as cosmetic acne; the idea that some people have actually created their own skin problems through the use of harsh irritants on the skin. This cycle is so hard to end if you don't know even realise you're in it. It was something I was guilty of and I didn't even know it. 

Looking back to when I was sixteen and my acne began, I think I used a new foundation that broke me out (L'Oreal Infallible, stay away from this stuff!) and instead of using my gentle face-wash, whatever that was at the time, I switched to a harsh skin wash and moisturiser "suitable for blemish prone skin". This was the beginning of all my problems. I have only now realised that because of my experience on Accutane, in fact it is the only positive I can draw from that experience. When I came off it in December last year my skin was a mess; dry, cracked, irritated and sore so my mum who swears by Clarins, bought me gentle face wash for sensitive skin and a moisturiser. It immediately calmed my skin down and I actually believe this was a major contributor in clearing up my skin permanently. Crap products like Proactive, Oxy, Clean and Clear and even products your doctor will prescribe to you like the grim Benzoyl Peroxide are the enemy of clear skin. They are so harsh I truly believe they just exacerbate the problem. The first step to getting out of this circle is switching to gentle skincare products. Below I've listed the Clarins products I use and a budget alternative.

Face wash: Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser with Shea Butter

This stuff is beautiful; smells amazing, feels lovely on the skin and is so gentle. If you buy this at your average Clarins counter it will cost you £19 but you can get it for £14.95 on discount sites such as allbeauty.com!

Moisturiser: Clarins Daily Energizer cream

Again, this is a lovely product. I use the cream version but there is a gel option if you have an oilier skin. The cream itself is quite rich but not cloggy and leaves your skin feeling like silk. It also has a lovely citrus scent to it. As before, this can be bought for £14.95 on allbeauty.com as opposed to £21 at boots. Whilst we're on the subject of discount sites, I love allbeauty.com as I've mentioned, as well as Escentual.co.uk so check them out!

Budget Alternatives!

Face Wash: Yes to Cucumbers Daily Gel Cleanser

This is the cleanser I use when I'm on more of a budget. It costs £6.99 at Boots and is a very good product, not as good as Clarins but still good enough! In my poorer moments I have used this and it did keep my skin nice.

Moisturiser: Protecting Light Moisturiser with SPF15

I really love the Simple moisturisers, they're such good value and are very gentle on the skin. I've picked this moisturiser as it's very light but the Moisturiser I use from the range does depend on my skin at the time. For example they have a rich moisturiser, one for oil balancing etc. So pick the one most suitable for your skin! This particular moisturiser however also costs £6.99 and is well worth it.
I'm not entirely sure in all honesty if you can get the Yes to Cucumbers face wash or this Simple moisturisers for a cheaper price but if you do purchase them at Boots look out for the 3 for 2 offers they sometimes do and of course, make sure you get a Boots card because those points add up!

So that's it for skincare guys. I don't get in to toners, serums, oils, day/night specific creams etc. I just think the best thing to do when it comes to skincare is to keep it erm... Simple!

3. Mineral Make-up

Last but certainly not least, I'm going to talk about the type of foundation I use on a daily basis. As you've probably guessed it's a mineral make-up, bareMinerals READY Foundation to be exact.

I began using this foundation at the end of January of this year after my sister recommended it. She herself has the odd breakout and said it had improved her skin over the time she had been using it. I was cautious because I've used the bareMinerals loose powder foundation previously and although I liked it, the coverage just wasn't enough and took too long to build up regardless. However, at this point I had been on Dianette and using the Clarins for just over a month and although it had made a fair difference to my skin, it was still troublesome. After hearing more good things about the READY foundation I bought it. Within a month or two my skin was pretty much clear. I remember for my 21st Birthday in March it was perfectly clear and I was so happy.

The pros are undoubtedly that it improves the look and feel of your skin over time, clearing up spots in my experience. It is good coverage and long lasting. 
The cons are that it is quite a matt finish and can be drying but If used with the correct primer for your skin from bareMinerals Prime Time range, it'll sit well on your specific skin type. I use the original Prime Time primer and the foundation colour R250 in Summer and R170 in Winter when I'm paler. 
The best place to purchase this is definitely from a bareMinerals counter itself, their website or a reputable store that stocks the brand such as Debenhams. This is because the previous discount sites I mentioned before for the Clarins products don't always stock this particular foundation and I've purchased one or two fakes from Amazon so its best to buy the real deal.
If you take one thing from reading this post, please consider giving this foundation a go because I'm sure you won't be disappointed!


 So, all in all what do I think finally cleared my skin up? Undoubtedly I'd say it was the combination of Dianette, simplifying my skincare regime and of course the mineral foundation.
 However, from things I have read online and having spoke to my sister who is a doctor, three months is not really enough time for Dianette to have had such a dramatic effect on my skin. Doctors usually recommend giving the contraceptive pill 6 months to see results. I have no doubt in my mind Dianette certainly contributed to clearing up my acne and still does to this day but I don't believe it is the sole contributor.
Next is skincare. I do believe this is something that really calmed down my inflamed and irritated skin after Accutane and definitely contributed to the clearing up of my spots. I would rank the Clarins skincare 2nd in terms of which of the three helped most. 
As I'm sure you've guessed by now, I do believe that the bareMinerals foundation is the number one contributor to my clear skin . I am pretty sure about this because of some experimenting I did. After several months of using the READY foundation I got bored as I usually do with foundations and switched in Summer to a liquid foundation I used to use and immediately it broke me out. I tried another liquid foundation and the breakouts continued. After learning my lesson I switched back to the bareMinerals foundation and my skin was clear again within a week or two. Proof indeed!

I really hope this post is of some help to you guys. I just wanted to provide acne sufferers with other advise than "slather your face in Benzoyl Peroxide" or "buy a face wash for acne prone skin". I don't know about you but these things didn't work for me and if you're sat here reading this then perhaps they haven't worked for you either.
Even if you just try one thing, see how it works for you and let me know!

Heather x

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

My Accutane experience and how I cleared up my Acne: Instalment 1

Hey Guys!

Today I wanted to write a really detailed blog on something that's very close to my heart and something which I never thought I'd be able to write about, which is of course how I cleared up my acne! I wanted to provide a thorough guide to Accutane, how I got rid of my acne after Accutane and tips and tricks to cover bad skin. To prevent information overload I am splitting this issue into two instalments so when they are published you can read them all or skip to the one most relevant to you. I really hope some of you find this helpful!

First off I just wanted to say that this blog is all about confidence in yourself and feeling good about how you look, so I'm not at all saying there is anything "wrong" with you or having acne but if we are totally honest I don't think anyone ever likes having acne. I know it's something that plagued my life whilst I had it and completely knocked my confidence. However, I also know that acne doesn't disappear overnight so as I’ve mentioned, in the next  instalment on this issue I will talk about some foundations that were great for concealing any eruptions and made me feel a whole lot better when I was suffering with this condition.

In today's post I am going to cover my Accutane experience, so for those of you considering going on this drug I hope the details of my own personal experience on Accuatne are of some use to you!

 Skin History

Okay, so before I talk about my Accutane experience I'll just give you a brief history of my acne so you have a better understanding of how bad it was. I'm so sad to say that I do not own a "before" photo. Any photos  I had taken were with thick make up on so it'd be wrong to put those up here as you wouldn’t be able to see the true extent of it.

I was lucky in that I had reasonably clear skin throughout most of my teen years until I was about sixteen. My skin started to get bad when I was in sixth form and it worsened progressively until I was twenty, at which point I was finally approved to start the treatment. Although I only suffered with what I would call “severe” acne for four years, they were some of the worst days of my life. It knocked my confidence hugely and I stayed in on more than one Friday night because I didn’t want people to see my skin. With regards to how “severe” it was, I’d say that about seventy percent of my face was covered in acne. A doctor agreed it was bad enough to go on Accutane and because it is quite difficult to get on this drug in the UK due to its infamous side effects, if you're considering Accutane your acne will have to be considerably severe.

Accutane experience

Now on to Accutane itself. For those of you that don’t know, Accutane or Roaccutane as it’s called in some countries is a very serious drug that clears acne by severely drying out the skin due to the high concentration of Vitamin D. If you live in the UK and want to get on it you will have to see two doctors beforehand for approval. You will have to go to the hospital for your prescription after having blood tests to check your kidney function every month. If you are female you must also have a blood test to check for pregnancy each month and have to sign a contract stating that if you are sexually active you are using two forms of contraception. This is because if you get pregnant whilst taking Accutane or if your partner is taking it, your child will be severely deformed. So yes, this drug is a serious business.

I began taking Accutane in August 2013 and to be blunt, from the word go it was an absolute disaster. The first day I took it I became incredibly ill with an awful migraine and vomiting. Even though I was horribly sick I did not link the two in my mind and assumed I had some sort of sickness bug. This was the first of several awful migraines that I experienced whilst on Accutane, one of which landed me in the Hospital overnight. I had about 3 of these migraines during the 5 months I was on Accutane and this was by far the worst side effect I experienced. After I came off the drug these migraines miraculously dissapeared thankfully. So if you are succeptible to migraines I would not risk taking Accutane for the sake of your skin.

Another side effect I experienced was what’s known as the “Initial Breakout”. This is a term used to describe a huge increase in the severity of a person’s acne which usually occurs within the first month or so of treatment. Not everyone goes through this but I was unfortunate enough to be one of those that did. My skin was literally the worst it has ever been. Not only was it dry, cracked and sore it was also covered in spots that were even more painful than the broken skin itself. This stage began two weeks into my treatment and lasted until October 2013, two or so months after I began taking the drug. As well as this increase in acne and dry skin on the face, my hair became dry as did all the skin on the rest of my body but especially my lips which would bleed on occasion. I also suffered the odd nose bleed but these weren’t too bad and were usually brought on by having a drink of alcohol, which you are strongly warned against doing... Whoops! 

Things came to a head, no pun intended (honest), in December 2013 at which point I experienced one of the awful migraines and sickness I got during my time on this drug. This migraine combined with a 4000 word uni essay which was nearing its due date and a general low mood was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I came off Accutane under my doctor’s guidance just before Christmas as the drug had not yet started to clear my skin significantly and my doctor was worried about my low mood. This is another side effect of Accutane and one of the more serious ones. Many young people experience a low mood on this drug and it is something that both you and your doctor need to monitor closely as it can lead to depression and there have been cases of suicide. My mood was never that low to be even classed as depression but in accordance with everything else I had undergone I just felt that it was time to break up with this drug once and for all.

So as you can see, my time on Accutane was not a happy one. I haven’t listed all of these negative side effects in an attempt to put you off Accutane because I know that for lots of people, they experience very few side effects and are happy with the results. I just want people to be as informed as possible and do their research like I wish I had done. The big question is of course “Do I think Accutane helped my skin?” The answer to that however is a mixed one. I believe that it cleared about 20% of my acne but this returned when I came off the drug because I had to do so prematurely, having only been on it for around four and a half months as opposed to the recommended six to twelve months. In the next section I am going to go into detail about some products that I really believe cleared my skin up significantly and I wish I had known before I had undergone Accutane treatment! 

Stay tuned!

Heather x