Tanya Burr Lips + Nails Review with Swatches

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When I heard that Tanya Burr was launching her own make up collection, I unashamedly jumped on the bandwagon! Instead of waiting for them to be stocked at Superdrug, I went to feelunique.com and bought four glosses and two nail varnishes. There was a discount at the time so I paid a bit less than the RRP of £5.99 for the nail varnishes and £6.99 for the lip glosses. Feel Unique currently has many Tanya Burr products on sale so head over there if you are interested in making a purchase.

From the nail varnish line I have Penguin Chic and Mini Marshmallows. Penguin Chic is a lovely muted mauve that is similar to my holy grail nail colour by Barry M, Cappuccino. It has a mixture of brown, grey and purple tones which combine to create a truly sophisticated and chic shade. Mini Marshmallows is a baby pink that reminds me of candy floss. It is a cute shade without being overly girly or sickly.

Penguin Chic:

penguin chic

Mini Marshmallows:

Mini Marshmallows

 

I bought four of the lip glosses: First date, Let’s Travel the World, Exotic Island and Afternoon Tea. First date is a slightly shimmery pale baby pink. Let’s Travel the World is an orangey, coral red. Exotic Island is a bright magenta but can be applied more thinly as a hot pink shade. Afternoon Tea is a your-lips-but-better shade that perfectly toes the line between peach and pink. The last three shades do not contain any shimmer.

lip gloss swatches

First Date:

first date

Let’s Travel The World:

lets travel the world

Afternoon Tea

afternoon tea

Exotic Island, which is edging slightly ahead as my favourite:

exotic island

 

Several months have passed since I bought the products so I have had ample time to road-test them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the nail varnish I have worn the most is Penguin Chic. Mini Marshmallows is a bit bland and thin in my opinion, so unless I am wearing an outfit that calls for a nude nail shade I tend to forget about it.  Of the lip glosses, my favourite two are Exotic Island and Afternoon Tea. I wear Afternoon Tea the most because it is a more nude shade, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like Exotic Island as it is not the sort of colour that I normally gravitate towards. I usually wear a small amount and it helps to perk up my everyday neutral makeup looks. Let’s Travel The World is also very wearable, but I tend to reserve red lip colours for special occasions. The only lip gloss that I regret buying is First Date, as it is far too pale for me. However, I think it would really flatter a more tanned or warm skin tone.

I have uploaded a detailed review of the shades to my Youtube channel which you can watch below:

Since I go into detail in the video, I’ll give a brief overview of my thoughts here.

Penguin Chic and Mini Marshmallows:
– I love the shade of Penguin Chic
– Mini Marshmallows is a good nudish shade for pale skin
– Long-lasting and relatively chip-free
– Thin, watery formula so requires minimum of 2 coats to be opaque, more like 3
– Mini Marshmallows is translucent so natural nail will still show through
– They both smell strange. The closest thing it reminds me of is mould. It’s a bit off-putting

Afternoon Tea, Exotic Island, Let’s Travel the World and First Date:
– Very hydrating and lip-plumping. The hydrating affect lasts even after the lip gloss has worn off
– Not at all sticky or uncomfortable on the lips
– Sweet, fruity smell and pleasant taste, a bit like strawberries
– The pigmentation is superb
– My hair still sticks to my lips but it’s almost worth it!

I really love the lip glosses, but was less impressed by the nail varnishes. This was unexpected as I normally love nail varnish and do not like lip gloss. I wouldn’t say the lip products have converted me to be a lover of glossy lips. I still love a matte to satin finish, but they are up there with my most loved and used lip products.

What do you think of Tanya Burr’s collection? Have you noticed a same issue with the nail varnish smelling like mould or did I get a dud batch?!

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My POTS medication story: beta-blockers, Ivabradine and a happy ending

What were you doing on Valentine’s Day this year? Normally it skips right past me but this year it marked quite an important moment in my journey to treat my POTS symptoms. So this February 14th, rather than anticipating an exciting date night with my husband, I was in hospital to trial the drug Ivabradine, which my cardiologist has been using to treat most of his POTS patients.

You can watch the video below to hear about my personal experiences with Ivabradine and beta-blockers. But if you prefer written rather than spoken word, you can skip down to read about it instead.

I was quite excited to try Ivabradine as I was told that it has helped a lot of other POTS patients. However, I did not want to set my hopes too high as some patients had experienced more severe side effects and had to stop taking it. In my history of taking medication, I tend to collect side effects in abundance and I was a bit concerned that most of the side effects are to do with eyesight. I have also not had the best experience with other medications that slow down the heart-rate.

Prior to Ivabradine, I was taking a beta-blocker known as Bisprolol (1.25mg daily) because, although my first cardiologist was not entirely sure what was wrong, one thing she did know was that my heart was beating much faster than it should do. She also misdiagnosed me with another condition (supra-ventricular tachycardia) which is often treated with beta-blockers. However, Bisprolol and me did not get on well! In fact, taking it seemed to make many of my symptoms worse including dizziness, tinnitus, brain-fog and fatigue. I also started to develop uncontrolled blood pressure while on Bisprolol, and began to faint as my blood pressure would drop suddenly. Prior to Bisprolol, most of my issues with POTS were to do with tachycardia, nausea, palpitations, extreme breathlessness and chest pain rather than issues around inadequate blood supply to the brain like dizziness and brain-fog, and of course the fainting. Since Bisprolol is often used to treat hypertension, it is perhaps not surprising that it affected my blood pressure negatively. Although I contribute a lot of my physical decline at that time to doing ‘all the wrong things’ and the anxiety of being so unwell without a diagnosis, looking back I can see that beta-blockers were perhaps doing me more harm than good.

So how do beta-blockers work? Beta-blockers act on the beta-receptors responding to stress hormones, which stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (our fight/flight response). This means that they lower the activity of the heart by blocking the action of hormones like noradrenaline. They also tend to lower blood pressure, as they reduce the force at which blood is pumped around the body, and can be used to treat anxiety by turning down the volume on how the body responds to stress. The most common side effects are dizziness, cold extremities,  fatigue, nausea and disturbed sleep. Notice how many of those side effects are also symptoms of POTS!

Ivabradine, on the other hand, slows the heart rate down through a completely different mechanism. It selectively inhibits the cardiac pacemaker current known as the ‘funny channel’. This current affects the spontaneous action of pacemaker activity in the sinoatrial node, which is the part of the heart tissue that controls ‘normal’ beating of the heart. It therefore slows down the heart rate in a completely different way to beta-blockers, and tends to have fewer side effects. The most common side effect is luminous phenomena, or phospenes, which presents as bright vision. It is thought that the reason for this is that the funny channel is similar to an electrical current in the eyes (see this study for more details). While it is contraindicated in patients with very low blood pressure, it is not thought to affect blood pressure as much as beta-blockers. It was designed to treat stable angina pectoris and chronic heart failure, so it was not designed with POTS in mind. However, there have been a few studies that have shown Ivabradine can be beneficial for POTS patients (see further reading below).

I will not lie, I was certainly quite anxious about trying Ivabradine. However, the trial itself went well – my resting heart rate did drop to the low 60s but I felt fine – and I was let out of the hospital in the afternoon. I was told to take the usual starting dose which is 2.5mg three times a day at intervals of four hours, and at the same time I was told to stop taking my beta-blocker. My biggest worry was that taking Ivabradine would set me back after months of hard work to get better. So you can imagine my concern when a few days after taking it, I started to feel my breathlessness, dizziness and palpitations creeping back.

I go into this in more detail in the video, but in short my body was struggling with me not taking Bisprolol and it not yet being used to the Ivabradine. After consulting my GP, I reduced the Bisprolol gradually and was able to wean myself off it. However, as soon as I thought I was out of the woods, I began to develop quite bad vertigo and nausea. Again, I go into this in more detail in the video so I won’t repeat myself here! But, simply put, the Ivabradine was too strong for me so I reduced my dose.

I now take 2.5 mg twice a day, leaving a gap of around 7 hours. I often find I only need to take one 2.5mg tablet in the morning depending on how I am feeling that day and how active I will be.

What you would probably really like to know is, has it helped?

Yes, it definitely has. These are the improvements that I have noticed:

  • NO FAINTING EPISODES!
  • No more tinnitus
  • No more tremors
  • Drastically reduced dizziness and brain fog
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Reduced blurry vision and hearing/visual disturbances
  • Reduced breathlessness and palpitations
  • Reduced nausea
  • Better memory and concentration
  • Dramatically reduced exercise and heat intolerance
  • Less problems with reduced sweating
  • Fewer issues with cold extremities and blood pooling
  • Fewer low moods (I would not say I felt depressed but I did find myself feeling overwhelmed and down at times)
  • Better sleep and fewer nightmares

I am sure some of these improvements are down to stopping the Bisprolol, but the Ivabradine has made a huge difference to my health even compared to how I felt before developing more severe symptoms of POTS. I have struggled with fatigue and exercise intolerance for a very long time and this is considerably better now.

The greatest change is that I have not fainted at all since taking Ivabradine. Although I had managed to improve this considerably I still had a few faints and much more pre-syncopy while taking Bisprolol. I now rarely feel like I am going to faint, and if I do it is mild and transient. I also have a much more active life. I exercise three times a week, commute into and out of London after a full day of work, and still have energy to cook dinner, clean and do anything else I need to do that day. I can even stand still on the train for up to 20 minutes! My body works more efficiently and I am almost living like a ‘normal’ person again. I still have good and bad days, but the bad days are nothing like as bad as they used to be.

The only two side effects I seem to get with Ivabradine are that occasionally my heart does beat quite slowly, in which case I stick to one dose of 2.5mg. I also do experience luminous phenomena (phosphenes) on occasion, but it is transient and does not really bother me at all. I see this as a brighter field of vision and ‘sparkly lights’ – it can actually be quite pretty!

All in all, I think my experience so far with Ivabradine has been a success. I still need to see how I will be with it long term, but it has allowed me to improve my fitness enough that it might be possible for me to reduce taking it in future. I’ll let you know how it goes and if there are any changes to my health along the way.

Thank you for reading and I hope it has helped you in some way. Please feel free to comment or message me if you have any questions or would like someone to talk to. I’d also love to know if you have tried Ivabradine for POTS, or are about to take it. Take care xx

 


Strange fact: One of the things you cannot consume when taking Ivabradine is grapefruit!

Further reading:

NICE guidelines: Ivabradine for treating chronic heart failure (http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/TA267)

Ivabradine in the treatment of Orthostatic Intolerance (http://europace.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/3/306.full.pdf)

Single centre experience of Ivabradine in Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043639/)

Package Leaflet for Procoralan/Ivabradine (http://www.servier.com/sites/default/files/pil_procoralan_0.pdf)

Tutorial | Red lips and smokey eyes

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For my husbands’ birthday dinner I wanted to do a look I don’t usually go for – bold lips and smokey eyes. Why does the mere mention of those two things make me squirm a little bit inside?! Well, ever since I burst out into the world I have been incredibly pale, and I’m genetically cursed with my dad’s hooded eyes.

Red lips can look beautiful, but they can also completely over-power pale and fair skin. I think this is particularly the case for girls like myself with pale skin and a fair complexion – light coloured eyes, freckles and blonde to light brown hair. This is because, unlike dark-haired and/or dark-eyed girls, there is nothing dark enough on or around the face to balance out the depth of an opaque red. It has taken a lot of trial and error to find the ‘right’ bold red for my lips, but I believe I have found it in MAC’s Viva Glam I. It is a bold blue-toned red but with enough brown tonnes as to not drain all the colour from my face. And paired with No.7’s lip liner in Fire, which comes in a handy retractable pencil, it’s a match made in red lip heaven!

Have you ever followed a youtube tutorial for an amazing, dramatic eye look only to find once you have finished that all of the drama has all disappeared into the recesses of your eyelids? If the answer it yes, you may have hooded eyes. Having hooded eyes means that you have very little visible eyelid area when the eyes are open. At the same time, you will tend to have quite a large area of skin between your crease (the fold above your eyelid) and the eyebrow, so highlighting this area can make it look even larger. Hooded eyes can be cause by age, as the skin above the eyelid looses elasticity and starts to droop downwards, or, as in my case, it can be hereditary. The aim with this smokey eye look create the illusion of wider, sultry eyes that are drawn upwards.

A little tip is to apply your blush last so that you can judge how much you need to add to warm up your face and balance out the red lip. If you are not very pale, you may not need to apply any blush at all. It’s up to you 🙂

You can watch the tutorial for this makeup look on my Youtube channel:

I’d love to know what you think about this look in the comments below! Would you add, remove or change anything about it? Do you have a favourite bold red lip product?

Beetroot and Barley Risotto

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Before changing my diet, I loved a good risotto. Creamy, gooey and oozy it hits the spot every time. But when I changed my diet, I had to say goodbye to the short-grain and risotto rice varieties that can kick-start a sugar crash.

The ambition behind creating this dish was to satisfy my risotto cravings while also keeping my reactive hypoglycemia in check. Now for a bit of science, so feel free to skip this bit if you hated biology class! Put simply, reactive hypoglycaemia means the body is very sensitive to glucose, a simple sugar that can be found in almost all carbohydrates to varying degrees. Because of this sensitivity, after a carbohydrate-heavy meal such as chips, coca cola or a doughnut the rise in blood sugar levels triggers the pancreas to produce too much insulin. Insulin regulates the amount of glucose in the blood, so too much insulin causes blood sugar levels to fall sharply. This drop in blood sugar levels is known as hypoglycemia. Consequently, the brain sends out alarm signals that it has too little glucose to function, causing symptoms such as confusion, intense anxiety, uncontrollable shaking, palpitations, blurry vision, headaches, nausea and, in some cases, unconsciousness.

One interesting thing that I have learnt on my journey to better health is that sugar is not just the stuff we put into our tea and biscuits. Sugars like glucose make up all carbohydrates and so a diet low in sugar can be quite restrictive. In Europe, we rely quite heavily on carbohydrates in every meal, from bread and bananas to pasta and porridge oats. We also drink a lot of sugar in our fizzy drinks, juices, hot chocolates and alcoholic beverages.

However, all of these carbohydrates have very different effects on our blood sugar levels, and that is where the glycemic index comes into play. This is a clever way of checking how carbohydrates affect our blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index cause blood sugar levels to increase rapidly, whereas foods that have a low glycemic index allow glucose to enter the blood stream more gradually. For someone with reactive hypoglycaemia or diabetes, high-GI foods are especially problematic. By avoiding foods with a high glycemic index (high-GI) it is possible to better control blood sugar levels. It is not an exact science since the glycemic index can vary depending on how food is grown, prepared and cooked (for example, this study found completely different results for three varieties of dates). However, excluding carbs with a high-GI rating, eating moderate amounts of medium-GI carbs and increasing low-GI carbohydrates is a good place to start. There are many online tables that outline which foods to avoid:

http://www.the-gi-diet.org/lowgifoods/

http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php

Reactive hypoglycemia also varies in severity. Some patients may be severely affected and may be unable to eat any carbohydrates, meaning that they have to follow a low carbohydrate diet. Others such as myself are fortunate to be able to include some carbohydrates, and so can follow a low-GI diet that permits some carbohydrates while excluding others.

Although I have not cut out all carbohydrates from my diet, I avoid high-GI carbohydrates entirely. That includes potatoes and parsnips, short-grain rice, fruits like watermelon and pineapple, white bread, cereals like rice crispies and bran flakes, most biscuits and cakes (fortunately there are exceptions which I will get onto another time!) and a few other foods. I am also conscious of the glycemic load of every meal and so I incorporate protein, fibre and a little fat into my meals as much as possible. There are many health benefits to this diet, including weight loss and stable blood sugar levels. Additionally, I do not eat meat out of personal choice.

So science over, are you still with me?! On to the risotto…

The main swap in this risotto is to use pearl barley instead of short-grain rice. This requires a slightly different cooking method as pearl barley does not behave like risotto rice. But the nutty flavour of this wonderful grain goes perfectly with the earthy sweetness of the beetroot. And it’s glycemic index is low at 25.

Beetroot is a medium-GI carbohydrate, but balancing it against the other high-fibre, low-GI ingredients in this dish cancels out much of the negative reaction. And if there is one thing I love to put in my risotto it is beetroot (or mushrooms, but that is a future post!).

So here is my lower-GI, ‘healthy’ alternative to a standard beetroot risotto. And it is pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself!

Serves 2, but can easily be doubled

Ingredients:

3 raw medium-sized beetroots, around 300g

Pearl barley, 40g uncooked per serving

1 white onion, finely diced

1-3 garlic cloves (to taste)

A dash of white wine

500ml warm vegetable stock

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper to season

 

To serve:

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Sour cream, 1 tbsp per portion

Grana padana or other Italian hard cheese, a small handful for 2 servings

Your choice of leafy salad or green vegetable side. I had mustardy peas and broccoli

Directions: 

1.  Start by steaming or boiling the beetroot. Leave on the skins but trim any leaves. Get them on early as they take a long time to cook – up to 90 minutes. I leave mine to cook for 1 hour and then go back to check on them periodically until they look right. You will know they are cooked when the skins are starting to peel and come loose when rubbed gently.IMG_0621

2. While the beetroot is cooking, get started on the barley. Unlike risotto rice, pearl barley requires up to 75 minutes of cooking. In a medium saucepan boil 125ml/1/2 cup of water for every serving and add the pearl barley. Boil for 20-30 minutes to start softening it.

3. Finely chop the onion and crush or mince the garlic. Sauté the onion in a large casserole dish on a high heat, using 1 tsp each of olive oil and butter. Once softened, add the garlic and reduce the heat.

4. Drain the pearl barley and add to the casserole dish, stirring constantly. You might have to add a touch more oil if the barley sticks to the pan, as it will still be moist.

5. Add a dash of white wine, or up to 75ml per serving if you like it boozy! Let the wine simmer until almost completely absorbed.

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7. Add all of the stock to the dish. Unlike risotto rice, pearl barley cooks best if submerged in liquid so you do not need to add the stock in stages. Continue to simmer until the stock has been almost entirely absorbed.

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7. While the barley is cooking, remove the skins from the beetroot and trim the top and tail. Cut two of the beetroot into bite-size pieces. Roughly chop the second beetroot and place in a blender or a bowl (if using a hand blender) with a dribble of oil. Blend the beetroot into a purée.

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8. Add both the chopped beetroot and beetroot purée into the casserole dish and stir until everything is well incorporated. Turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste.

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And now you are ready to serve it. I added the following toppings and sides:

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I hope you enjoy this recipe!

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Tips and tricks:

  • I counteract the sweetness of the beetroot with lemon and sour cream on the side. But if you like your risotto sweet, just leave out those steps.
  • If you are looking to reduce your salt intake, use low-sodium stock and a lower-sodium cheese much as ricotta, goat’s cheese or emmental or, if you can find it, some low-sodium cheddar.
  • If you don’t have the time to wait for your beetroot to cook, you can buy it pre-cooked or use a pressure cooker to slice the cooking time by half.

The fear of being sick (health anxiety)

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So for my first post, I thought I should address something which I think is close to the heart of many of us who are chronically ill.

That is, the fear of getting sicker.

Being afraid of illness is quite natural. Nobody likes to have the flu or a migraine. Have you ever noticed that when we are sick, it is as if our bodies cannot remember what it felt like to be healthy? But as soon as we are better again, our bodies forget what it was like to be sick. Our energy returns to us, our pain diminishes and we can function ‘normally’ again. Yet in our minds we remember enough to fear that bug that is going round, or the person next to us on the train who cannot stop sniffling. Having an aversion to being sick is a normal, adaptive behaviour to have as we learn from a young age, when our immune systems are less well-developed, that being sick is not much fun!

But when you are sick every day, that fear can become all-consuming. When I was at my worst, and before my diagnoses, I was terrified every day of getting sicker. I was already heavily dependent on those around me. I was also completely clueless as to what was wrong and so I did not know to do the self-help techniques that I turn to now.

Even now that I know to an extent what is wrong with me, I am still terrified every time a new symptom occurs. I start to panic that it might catapult me onto yet another overwhelming journey of pain and struggle for recovery. I am also afraid that the symptoms I do know about could deteriorate. It is perhaps an extreme analogy, but it is like living with a permanent sword of Damocles over your head. Although, unlike Damocles it is the curse of weakness rather than strength that has hung it there.

I wish I had some inspired, wise advice on the subject, but honestly I am still afraid most of the time. At my worst, the fear was an omnipresent, powerful force that took up most of my head-space. Now it has tempered to a daily niggle, but it is still there and I think it always will be. When I start to see myself going backwards it is difficult not to panic; to think “here we go again” and try to brace myself for the roller coaster that is potentially to come.

So far, I have bounced back relatively quickly. Pacing myself definitely helps to prevent a complete crash but it can only do so much. Unlike those who experience hypochondriasis, which can itself be a devastating condition, those who are chronically ill have already been diagnosed with one or more serious illnesses. It is difficult to calm the mind when your worst fears are already manifesting themselves inside you.  One thing I can say, though, is that if you are afraid I am there to listen to you. What has helped me the most is being able to voice my fears to people who understand and accept me, and for that I am deeply grateful. Receiving accurate medical advice on your condition is also important. Finding a doctor who is well-educated on your condition will help you to understand the prognosis and limitations that your condition may place on you, and the steps that you can take to live as healthily as possible. Another port of call is to contact charities whose aim is to help those with your condition, which are wonderful sources of information and support. For my own conditions I have been in contact with STARS (Syncope Trust and Reflex Anoxic Seizures) and HMSA (Hypermobility Syndromes Association). You can find them at www.stars.org.uk and hypermobility.org.

And remember, Dr Google is not your friend!