Victoria Hall

The Pros And Cons Of Going Vegan

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There might have been a time when vegans were few and far between, and some might have considered them as tree-hugging, lentil-loving hippies. But that time has well and truly passed. Over the past couple of years, the popularity of veganism has skyrocketed. Last year, The Vegan Society and Vegan Life magazine revealed that at least 542,000 Brits are following the diet.

Tinseltown is also onboard with the likes on Beyonce, Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio all advocating the plant-based diet. The latter has invested in Beyond Burger, a meatless burger made of plant protein.

First things first, what constitutes a vegan diet? Veganism rules out all animal-derived produce, including meat, fish, dairy and some would argue honey. Those following a vegan diet for ethical and environmental reasons also extend this approach beyond the kitchen to household and beauty products, opting for brands and formulas that don’t contain animal-derived ingredients and weren’t tested on animals.

With most things in life, there are pros and cons of going vegan, and it has become quite a contentious subject. We’ve outlined the good and the bad, and offered some suggestions to overcome the latter.

What are the pros of being a vegan?

Veganism is believed to be a healthier option as it’s low in saturated fats, which have been linked to heart disease, diabetes and various cancers. Not only do vegans tend to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, they generally consume fewer calories, which reduces the risk of obesity. Some might argue that the weight loss incentive has helped to bolster the popularity of veganism in recent years.

There’s also the ethical stance, whereby vegans and vegetarians are vehemently against the killing of animals for human consumption. Anyone who has watched Netflix’s Cow Conspiracy documentary will also be aware of the huge implications that farming animals and their by-products has on the environment. The industry accounts for around 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and that figure is predicted to rise up to 80 percent by 2050.

What are the potential pitfalls of being vegan?

Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet can have its downsides. Aside from foregoing cheese and most wines, there are several deficiencies associated with the diet. While these can be overcome with food alternatives and supplements, it does require more thought and effort. Here are the key deficiencies linked with veganism and how to prevent them:

Calcium: Cutting out dairy has been linked to lower cholesterol levels and a reduction in acne, but is it a key source of calcium, which is essential for bone health. Fortified, unsweetened  soya, rice and oat drinks are good alternatives to milk. Pulses, sesame seeds and white and brown flours will help boost your calcium levels too.

Whether you’re considering going vegan or not, it is worth incorporating a vitamin D supplement, such as DLux 3000 spray, into your routine as vitamin D helps your body to better absorb calcium.

Vitamin B12: This is one of the biggest concerns for vegans as vitamin B12 cannot be found in plant-based produce. Helping to promote healthy digestion, circulation and energy levels, deficiencies in this vital vitamin have been linked to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, as well as short term health issues including fatigue, headaches and loss of appetite. Fortified foods and Marmite can offer small amounts, but supplementation is the steadfast way to keep your levels up. We recommend Methyl B-12 by Jarrow Formulas.

Iron: It’s essential for your body to produce red blood cells and an iron deficiency can slow this, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish, and eventually weakening your immune system. While dark, leafy green vegetables, nuts and pulses are a good source of iron, you’ll need to eat a lot to absorb the same amount as a piece of red meat. Taking an iron supplement, such as Viridian’s Organic Liquid Iron, will help replenish your levels.  

Protein: For most of us, fish and meat are our main source of protein, which is essential for healthy cells, muscles, skin, hair and nails. Grains, beans and pulses are worthy substitutes, but you need to eat higher quantities. For example, the average chicken breast contains around 25 grams of protein, while a cup of broccoli only provides around 6 grams.

Omega 3 fatty acids: For non-vegans, oily fish is the primary source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help keep your heart healthy. Flaxseed, rapeseed and soya oils are good alternatives, but there is evidence to suggest that plant-based omega 3 fatty acids aren’t as competent as the animal-based ones when it comes to looking after your heart.

While there’s no doubt that veganism is becoming more popular, especially with more restaurants and supermarkets offering vegan-friendly alternatives, there are still a lot of people unwilling to change their diet. According to The Vegan Society, 46 percent of Brits say they would never become a vegan, even if it improved their health and impacted on animal welfare.

That said, one in five Brits have cut down on the amount of meat they buy and check if their toiletries are tested on animals, so perhaps we could all be won over by Leonardo di Caprio’s plant-based burgers come 2050…

Retinol: What Is It And What Are The Skincare Benefits?

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What is retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and has long been touted the holy grail of anti-ageing. Several studies have shown that using the ingredient topically can reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, pigmentation and acne.

What is the difference between a retinol and a retinoid?

Vitamin A comes in different forms, including retinols and retinoids, which is where it gets confusing for most of us. Essentially, for your skin to process vitamin A it needs to be converted into retinoic acid. Retinoids need fewer conversions and are, therefore, the strongest derivative of vitamin A. Only available via prescription, retinoids are most commonly used to treat acne with GPs regularly prescribing tretinoin to help alleviate problem skin.

Retinol is a more diluted form of vitamin A as it needs more conversions and can be bought over the counter. Don’t let the idea of it being a weaker form fool you though, as plenty of studies have revealed its anti-ageing benefits.

What are the skincare benefits?

As mentioned, vitamin A has many skincare benefits, including increasing cell turnover and getting rid of any old one. A US study in 2016, found that using retinol increased the production of collagen and reduced expression wrinkles over a 12 week period. It can also help reduce acne and correct pigmentation over time.

What are the side effects of using a retinol?

With the good must come the bad and there is a downside to using retinol. For some, this is the main reason they avoid them. Vitamin A is an incredibly irritating ingredient and even the lowest percentage of retinol can cause redness, itchiness and peeling, and can increase your skin’s sensitivity. With this in mind, those with sensitive skin should proceed with caution. It’s not safe to use retinol or any form of vitamin A when you’re pregnant either.

What is the best retinol product for your skin?

When shopping for a retinol based product always look for airtight, tinted packaging as vitamin A is photosensitive, breaking down when it is exposed to sunlight. Retinol has many derivatives and can appear on product labels as retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate and retinyl palmitate, depending on its strength. If you’ve never used a retinol before, start with a low percentage and don’t use it every night as it is an incredibly strong ingredient. One pump of LixirSkin Night Switch Retinol 1% mixed into the Universal Emulsion used twice a week before you go to bed is a good place to start, depending on how sensitive your skin is.

However, if you’re shopping The Ordinary, it’s worth noting that Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is the latest formula with the newest technology and is less irritating than the 0.2% Retinol in Squalane. It contains 0.2 percent hydroxypinacolone retinoate, which is a non-prescription retinoic acid ester that is incredibly unique as it offers little-to-no irritation.

How do you use retinol products?

To reap the benefits and minimise the side effects, build up your skins tolerance and start by using small amounts twice a week.

Some brands strongly advocate using all retinol products overnight due to it’s sensitising powers that can make your skin more susceptible to UV damage, others argue that some forms of the ingredient can in fact give your skin a natural SPF 20 protection. While the jury is out as to whether you should use retinol during the day or not, we recommend using it at night and using an SPF during the day to protect the new skin cells from UV damage.

Remember that this is a strong ingredient and you don’t want to overload your skin with acids. There’s no need to use vitamin C and A at the same, instead opt for a hydrating hyaluronic acid based formula to maximise the results.

As with most skincare ingredients, vitamin A won’t offer instant results. Expect to wait around 12 weeks to see any noticeable change in your skin though as it takes that long for your body to produce collagen.

What Beauty Means To Me

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‘Which skincare brands do you really rate?’ is always the first question someone asks when they find out I’m a beauty editor. What follows is usually a list of products and a debate on whether or not they delivered results. Then we tend to move onto their favourite make-up buys. But not before they discover that I don’t follow a high-tech, elaborate 14-step beauty regime – in fact, it’s borderline basic. Disappointment follows when I struggle to name one single product that will solve all their skincare issues in one swift swoop.

It’s not that great products don’t exist, there are plenty of incredible brands creating groundbreaking, skin-transforming products. But for every game-changing product, there are at least ten duds that come beautifully packaged, feel and smell divine, but do next to nothing for your skin. Read More…