Don’t sweat it

Wow, London… this is how you do summer!

One of the cool kids now ❄️ #coffee #artisan #simplepleasures

A photo posted by Claire De R (@greatveganexp) on

Luckily for me, with an empty schedule I am free to enjoy today at my leisure and in my underwear, if I so wish. No sweaty backpack back (try saying that three times fast), no empty water bottle, no train delays from people fainting.

Apparently my brain isn’t working today… I went out to pick up some bits and pieces, but what I did was forget to measure the pictures that needed frames, walk around the market three times, buy carrots from the supermarket, peruse bed linen sets in a discount store for way too long, and prowl around the market again to eventually buy two bags of spinach which turned out to be completely wilted* (that would be why the stall-holder shoved those in the bag so quickly, then).

But what is working is my deodorant – my vegan, natural, eco-friendly, alcohol-free, paraben-free, aluminium-free, budget deodorant – so I’m giving up on anything else today and talking about that instead. Seems timely and appropriate, no? When else will you let me talk about armpits and sweat?

Coconut oil tea-tree deodorant

Most of the time, I actually get away without deodorant (this has been confirmed by people I know would tell me if there was a problem)… until the dreaded stress sweat. You know, that clammy sticky sweat you break into in a stressful situation, that produces an incomprehensibly intolerable smell? So, most of the time, I begrudgingly wear it, especially now that I work on a one-to-one basis with clients who are stuck with me and my upper body movements for an hour.

But it has always kind of seemed wrong to me to apply a chemical-laced ointment to my poor unsuspecting armpits, just to stop their natural efforts to cool my skin down. And while adding some fragrance is a nice idea, after a while I begin to associate the smell of deodorant with the smell of sweat, in the same way that toilet freshener always smells of what it is trying to mask.

Coconut oil tea-tree deodorant

With anything else, I’d have just snapped up a bottle of vegan eco-friendly skin-friendly deodorant from a health food store and been on my way, but have you seen the price of those things?! Whereas for most organic-natural-yadda-yadda products you might pay a fraction over what you’d pay for a mainstream brand, the price of natural deodorants seem to be a multiple of the usual cost – and half of them are still filled with incomprehensible ingredients, while the other half are composed of nothing but the contents of your kitchen cupboards.

I already knew that sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) prevented sweating, so I knew the internet would tell me how I could turn that into a fully-fledged sweat-shield. What I didn’t know was just how many different recipes and recommendations and reviews there would be out there!

Coconut oil tea-tree deodorant

My first port of call, as always, was Oh She Glows but to my dismay, Angela had found that making her own deodorant didn’t work for her. In her post, she links to this recipe which was about what I’d had in mind, but seeing as it hadn’t worked for Angela I decided to keep looking. I checked out Wellness Mama and Scratch Mommy which, between them along, serve as good examples of the plethora of different techniques and ingredients out there.

Starting to feel a little bit worried that there was no single proven method, I found comfort in Crunchy Betty’s experiment review and ploughed ahead with the easiest recipe I could find. Long story short – it is now about six months later, I have received no complaints, and I wouldn’t dream of using anything else.

Coconut oil tea-tree deodorant

I went with Wellness Mama’s recipe option 2 which is roughly:

  • 3 parts coconut oil
  • 2 parts baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 2 parts arrowroot
  • and a few drops of tea tree oil

I melt all of my coconut oil before adding the other ingredients, then stir the dry in as well as I can. Some of the powder components do sink to the bottom fairly swiftly, but the ratios in this recipe mean that you aren’t left with too much “spare” coconut oil floating at the top. I add enough drops of tea tree oil that it smells fragrant, then pour into small metal ramekins which I leave to cool then pop in the freezer for easier removal (the freezer makes them shrink just enough that they come off the edges – you can use this method to easily pop any drops of spilt wax out of candle holders, should you ever need to). I store my current deodorant “block” in a glass jar, and the spares in the fridge.

Throughout the winter months I just picked up the whole block and rubbed it straight onto my armpit (smoothing out the whole area with my fingers after)… but, as you can see in the photo, in this weather I am spooning a little bit into my palm and rubbing it on. It’s a bit messier than your average stick deodorant but it’s so much better!

Coconut oil tea-tree deodorant

Yes, I do think this is better than any deodorant I’ve ever used ever (admittedly, I’ve only really used Superdrug or Cooperative own-brand, since they’re vegan and cheap). I don’t get sticky clammy armpits, and they smell delicately of coconut and tea tree. I feel comfortable in the knowledge that the coconut oil and tea tree oil keep me free of bacteria and fungus,  whilst also moisturising and keeping those poor armpits super soft! Shaving has always left me with horrible rashy bumpy skin in the underarm area but no more!

A word of warning though – this stings like a million angry mosquitos caught in your armpits if you apply it right after shaving. The first time this happened, it was pretty irritated for most of the day, so I started applying only coconut oil after shaving. Now, I seem to be able to get away with it as long as I don’t have any cuts – but be careful around sensitive skin and certainly don’t get this into any cuts or grazes.

Oh, and also… this is not little black dress-friendly. This one may be a case of picking your battles – I am totally fine with a bit of a powdery white mark on the armpit area of my sports bra or on the inside of a black top, and it comes right out in the wash. I have found that it helps to put it on first thing, and leave it to dry as I get on with other morning routine tasks like making caffeinated beverages.

This coconut oil deodorant clearly won’t work for everyone – we all have different skins, different smells, and different wardrobes and priorities – but for me this is working out a treat.

*In case you’re wondering, I cooked up those two bags of spinach with mushrooms and plenty of salt and pepper, and enjoyed them on fresh rye sourdough bread with hummus. But… I did set the fire alarm off whilst doing it. And then my hairband snapped. If all else fails… stay hydrated, folks.

Lessons I am learning from yoga

It’s funny how the world works sometimes… With a few free hours between appointments last week, I took myself to a coffee shop eager to put this post together. After a couple of hours of typing and deleting, I was slowly coming to the conclusion that there were no words to describe what was in my head. It must be a Claire thing. Nobody will get it. It’s not even relevant to your post, I told myself; you’re meant to be writing about how yoga has helped you implement everything you believe about fitness and training, how it has given you renewed faith in yourself and respect for your body. I was about ready to trash the personal stuff and just present a list of the benefits of yoga.

Then, just two days later at my friend Viv’s – who I hadn’t seen in three months – we got talking about yoga and fitness, and to my great surprise and excitement, out of her mouth came my thoughts in her words. Continue reading

Bring it on down to Vegan Town!

Sorry, today’s blog post has nothing to do with Justin Timberlake. But it is about chocolate, so I’m hoping maybe you can forgive me.

When I was in university, I was lucky enough to be the friend and housemate of a guy – let’s call him James, because that’s his name – who despite not being much of a vegetable lover himself completely understood and supported and encouraged my plant-based lifestyle. In fact, he confided that he caught himself reading the ingredients on a packet of beef mince to check it was vegan (spoiler alert: it wasn’t), out of habit after having become inquisitive as to all things “accidentally vegan”!

It is true that I, along with all vegans I’m sure, read a lot of labels. It has turned into a subconscious habit, picking up packets of foodstuffs that could potentially be accidentally vegan whether I want to eat them or not – and it is something I have come to enjoy. In the interests of hurrying a shopping trip along, I sometimes have to not read the ingredients of every product that I have no interest in buying… but there is always time to dissect the contents of any new-to-me bar of chocolate.

VeganTown banner Continue reading

Why we need the Body Positive Fitness Alliance

You know when something is on your mind but you can’t quite articulate it? And then you stumble across a website or a blog – or (gasp) a real life person – who says everything you’ve been thinking, so that you end up nodding incessantly like one of those nodding dog toys (whilst resisting the urge to hug said person/computer)? I had that a couple of weeks ago when I discovered the Body Positive Fitness Alliance. And now I have finally found the words to tell you why I am so excited about it. Spoiler alert: #partofthesolution. Seven Pillars of the Body Positive Fitness Alliance Continue reading

Oh, the vegan Duke of York

I am not great at being spontaneous. As much as I love the idea of setting out for a day of unknown adventures exploring the streets and market-stalls of London, sniffing out and picking up vegan treats as I go, it never quite comes together; any hint of spontaneity is stamped out by train timetables, the picking out of changeable weather-appropriate layers, and the realisation that going anywhere or doing anything in London usually requires spending money which, when there’s nothing you have your heart particularly set on, can feel a touch prohibitive. So if I can avoid spending three hours on public transport, getting rained on, only to find myself parting with a week’s worth of grocery money for a substandard falafel wrap… well, I’ll make plans that steer me clear away from that experience.

It may have taken me only just over 24 hours to get myself to the Startisans food market at Duke of York Square when I heard that Vegan Sweet Tooth would be making their debut… But it has taken me weeks months to get my hands (and mouth) on the gorgeous Italian food served up by Sara of Pomodoro e Basilico. Continue reading

Happiness habits

Shortly after I spent ten days at a silent retreat, I read a brilliant quote on Twitter:

It is not necessary to meditate for one hour a day,” it said – “unless you are too busy; then you should meditate for two hours.”

 I thought that was perfect, and to this day whenever I catch myself making excuses not to do something (you know, like, several times a day), that line runs through my head.

After all, we all perform many little tasks mindlessly every day, without even questioning whether we have time for them. Brushing our teeth; showering and/or washing our hair; for some of us, exercising; Instagramming our breakfasts… In a world where we are increasingly prioritising productivity, certain daily non-work rituals still squeeze their way into the schedule. Continue reading

Vegan Sweet Tooth London

This month, April 2015, marks my sixth veganniversary – six years of being vegan (not counting the comparatively brief stint when I was a teenager).

In that time I have evolved a bit as a vegan; while avoiding animal food products never gave me any headaches, I was a little slower to catch on to vegan cosmetics. Thankfully, now almost every non-vegan product in my bathroom has been phased out, with the exception of some eyeliner that I have had since before I was vegan (I know!), and a couple of perfumes that was given to me as a gifts before I became discerning enough to re-gift them before opening.

The vegan lifestyle having now become second-nature to me, I now focus on prioritising more ethical products too, wherever possible. And if I can pick a local and/or independent business over a chain or mass-produced product, I’ll happily spend a little more if required. Knowing that spending money will have a tangible, positive effect on someone, it just makes parting with the cash even sweeter. When you hand money over to an independent business owner, you might just be that exchange that turns their day from average into successful – be it from the financial reward or just from the personal exchange. And well, if you get cake out of it…  Continue reading