Tag Archives: beauty

February faves

What an excellent month it has been — for me and for the blog! I’ve finally felt the right combination of inspired and organized to keep up with the blog and create content that I’m proud of. And, astoundingly, people are reading!

Thanks to everyone who has been so enthusiastic in the Urban Garlic “community” (ugh, I need to find a better way to describe “people who like my blog”).

Back when I first started this blog I had a sort of “Things I’m loving lately” feature, which I used to enjoy doing, but I think I got more out of it than anyone else. But ya know what? I’m bringing it back!


Back to basics: Vegan skincare

Like many women, I’ve strove (hold up — apparently “strived” is not a word??!) to simplify my skincare routine in the last few years. Few people take pride in having a wide array of products that spills out of their medicine cabinet and requires so much liquid that yeah girl, you definitely have to check that bag at the airport.

But the problem (I find) with the much-coveted capsule skincare collection is that so many of us still don’t actually know what products we need the most in order to actually make our skin behave — never mind trying to stick to a budget. It feels like we can either have a $100 moisturizer that actually somehow manages to do the trick, or a $12 moisturizer that leaves your skin with an uncomfortable milky residue so hey let’s also buy a $10 pack of blotting papers and a $20 loose powder and throw in a spot treatment while we’re at it.


My everyday styling routine

Today I’m going to take my readers (hey guys!) through my everyday styling routine and showcase some of my favourite vegan products.

Feel like you’re experiencing déja vu? You just might be. I did a post like this a little over a year ago, but that was before I was really confident with my photography skills and even had the know-how to actually set up portrait shots. My confidence in my skills has definitely changed drastically over the last year, but so has my makeup routine, so I thought I’d provide a more detailed and high-quality post into what my routine looks like most days!


Minimalist Christmas gift ideas: Orange Christmas spice body scrub


Here’s a great five-minute project that I created last weekend while I was a bit bored. I’m lucky enough to be one of those people who has a million spices in her cupboard, so this was pretty easy to come by. It’s also a great solution if you’re looking for a good gift idea that is budget-friendly, something for a vegan in your life or just something for that one impossible-to-buy-for person. Trust me, the older you get, the more people appreciate homemade gifts, and the best part of this is you don’t need to be some sort of professional blogging, DIY maven to actually succeed at this one.


Vegan nighttime routine: My longtime go-tos

Night Routine

If you asked my partner, he’d probably tell you that my “nighttime routine” involves reluctantly washing my face and then falling asleep on the couch while watching a rerun of Rick and Morty/Brooklyn Nine-Nine/The Office/something equally silly. However, for the past year or so I’ve actually been trying harder to get a more definitive nighttime routine down because helping myself actually ease into sleep and relaxation makes it way easier for me to fall asleep. (more…)

What’s in my (vegan) bag: cyclist edition


Have I mentioned I’m kind of an active person? Between cycling, lifting, climbing, dancing and yoga, if I have a day where I don’t do some form of physical activity, I feel really weird.

At the very least, I ride my bike every day (even in the winter), to and from work. It’s only about 10K each way, but it’s enough to get me pumped and energized — and to turn me into kind of a hot mess. I’m a sweaty person, and because I’m devoted to safety (i.e. wearing a helmet) my hair is always a total tragedy after a ride.


Veganism didn’t make me pretty (and I don’t &$^%! care)


One time while I was working at my old job and desperate to get out of the office (seriously, I hated it) I volunteered to go pick some supplies up at Walmart. I sped a little bit on the way there and spent the time I saved sauntering around the Markville shopping centre, and was (naturally) lured into Lush by the smell of handmade cosmetics and beautiful, complimentary cashiers. When one of the cashiers recommended a product with honey to me, I quickly said sorry, I was vegan.

She smiled and told me, “I should have known — you know why? The whites of your eyes are so bright. That’s what I find about vegans.”

I smiled, thanked her, paid for my impulse purchase and waited until I was 20 feet away from the store to let my bright white eyes roll into the back of my head.

Bright whites of my eyes? Really? They’re eyes, how much could the shade of white honestly differ? I’ve looked at my eyes against my  boyfriend’s eyes in the mirror when we brush our teeth in the morning and I don’t notice a damn difference in the shade. In fact, just this week after months of increasing irritation with my eyes I finally found an optometrist who gave me some pretty frank news: I have deep scarring in both my eyes and shouldn’t wear contact lenses for the next year (which is why, for those of you who follow me on social media, you’ve been seeing me in my specs lately).

So what I’m saying is, I don’t think there’s a damn thing that’s special about the whites of my eyes.

But that’s not the first thing I’ve been told about my physical appearance that’s  been attributed to my veganism. A few weeks ago, a barista at Starbucks told me I had beautiful skin. My co-worker who was in line with me said “It’s probably because she’s a vegan.” They then both started gushing over my apparently flawless complexion. Joke was on them. First of all, that wasn’t my natural complexion, I was wearing Kat Von D’s tattoo effect foundation, which is basically spraypaint (but, like, awesome, fabulous, cruelty-free spraypaint). Secondly, my skin’s condition is such a roller coaster. My last period, I had zits the size of marbles pop up all over my forehead and chin — and I’m 26.

Dark circles under my eyes? I got ’em. Hair? Comes out in my brush. Only reason I don’t have split ends anymore is because I keep it short. Bloated belly? All the time, man. Dry shins and elbows? Over heeeere. They’re all over here.

Oh, my super white teeth? Been that way since I was a kid. Helps that I don’t smoke and rarely drink coffee. Soft-looking lips? I  keep myself well-hydrated and am addicted to lip balm. Everything else I credit to makeup and genetics. It’s not veganism that did it.

But why is there such a strong connection between veganism and our physical appearance? Plant-based diets have already been zealously embraced as a path to a svelte physique (assuming you also ditch those delicious, delicious grains and survive on a 1000 calorie diet of cucumber juice and plain zoodles). But why don’t we talk about this total myth that veganism makes you pretty?

Books like Eat Pretty make us believe that we can actually become physically flawless specimens from eating the right things and avoiding all the wrong things (yes dear, I eat a ton of avocados, my hair still sucks), and a certain I’m-not-calling-myself-a-vegan-anymore-because-vegans-are-so-mean blogger has basically built her entire brand on pushing a diet that supposedly makes you a radiant child of the Earth.

Look, I’m not going to knock anyone for making steps to improve their lives in ways that they see fit. Even if something turns out to be a placebo at best and a coincidence at worst, we’re all reducing harm, right?

But then again, what’s probably more troubling than the myth itself is this continued emphasis on pretty, that something has to make us thin, clear-skilled and all-around lovely in order to be a good choice.

As much as I was thrilled with Kat Von D’s recent decision to go vegan (largely because I cannot wait to not have to check her brand’s vegan list before plopping down my hard-earned coin for something), the emphasis she placed on being “healthy” (read: thin) but still having boobs and a butt made me uncomfortable. Congratulations, you’re hot, that makes you more valid!

I worry sometimes that when I go on these types of tangents I come off like a bitter ugly girl who hates on the pretty girls. Rest assured, I’ve (for the most part) made peace with my totally average appearance.

The worry is that there’s a lot of ideas floating out there that make it really, really hard for a lot of us to make peace with our appearances.

We often talk about the sources of overt negativity in our online interactions. But a lot of times it’s those seemingly positive sources of light and inspiration that can leave us feeling so empty. We see things that we aspire to be, and in some cases we might make drastic changes to do that (like going vegan — which is great, but let’s not pretend that it’s a simple thing for a lot of people to just do).

It should come as a surprise to no one that most big (and by “big” I mean big enough to have released a book, to have six to seven figures of subscribers, to have struck ANY sponsored content deals) bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers and other online influencers aren’t just hanging out making movies in their bedrooms with webcams, even if they’d like you to believe it. Don’t believe me? Should I mention I work in that industry? (Yup, that’s my name on the byline). Again, this isn’t me being pissy over my mid-range income and the fact that influencers are making more money than me (trust me, most of the YouTubers I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to are some of the hardest-working, most business-savvy young people I’ve ever met). But what I am saying is that they are business people. They’re conscious of their brand, they’re paid money to do what they do and they look good because they need to. You can be seen as a Luddite to say anything vaguely critical of social media, but it really needs to be said: stop thinking this shit is real life. It’s no different than other media.

Well, practically 1100 words later and I’m unsure if I’ve really said anything, so if you’re going to look at anything, look at this: I don’t give a shit that veganism didn’t make me pretty. I never went vegan to become pretty. I’m perfectly happy being a normal-lookin’ girl, and if my physical appearance was a factor in changing my diet and lifestyle so drastically, I’d have some other issues to address.

I went vegan because I was sick of being complacent in a system that exploited other living things. Whether you’re the type of vegan who survives off Daiya and Oreos or a kale-and-quinoa type of vegan, compassion and care for our earth (and those we share it with) should always be priority numero uno.

Not the whites of your eyes.

Spread the love: November edition


Did you guys really think I’d forget about Spreading the Love? No way, bro! In fact, I’m super excited about everything on this list, so I want to just jump right in! But before I do, since I’ve gained a lot of new readers recently, I wanted to emphasize that none of the products or brands featured in STL are sponsored products or advertisers — just plain ol’ things I like!

  1. I’ve sung the praises of Pacifica Coconut Kiss Lip Butter before (perhaps in my very first “things I’m loving lately” post) but this year I’m drifting back to more natural colours. Lip Butter in Shell is that really nice kind of muted pink, the classic “your lips but better” style that is really understated and goes with everything. The lip butter itself is super moisturizing but not goopy, and best of all, no fucking shimmer. No, seriously, why do lip balms and butters created for women in their 20s still have shimmer?!
  2. Sunflower seed butter. Okay, so I’m a girl who loves her PB. The problem? My editor, who sits right behind me, is allergic (she’s not allergic to tree nuts, but I’m still worried about cross contamination with almond butter). I’ve since come to actually really love sunbutter, and I find its taste really unique and salty (which is awesome for me. Sweet ‘n’ salty? Hell yeah). It’s actually playing a big part in my upcoming recipe, which may or may not be ice cream for breakfast and may or may not be cookies and cream flavoured.
  3. Can we talk about periods? Can we talk about my period? IT’S AWFUL, OKAY?! I’ve recently found out from my doctor that I probably have endometriosis which explains why things are SO AWFUL. But anyway, because of my issues with pain, menstrual cups have never worked for me, and I hate the idea of filling landfills with pads and tampons. I recently started using Thinx period underwear and it’s a way better solution. It feels a little different at first, but puts way less pressure on mah’ stuff. Best of all, Thinx is a totally trans-inclusive company and recently started a campaign to acknowledge trans men and other DFAB people who still get their periods (when I got my shipment they had just made some changes, so one of my pairs said “For women with periods” and another said “For people with periods” — it was awesome). Highly recommend for anyone who has aversions to a menstrual cup but wants a more eco-friendly option.
  4. Because I now have underwear dedicated to soaking up my vaginal castaways, I’ve decided to start hand-washing more. I don’t hand-wash everything (living in a small-ish apartment in the winter, drying is a pain in the ass, but carrying wet laundry down to the dryer 11 floors down is an even bigger pain in the ass) but I do hand-wash underwear and sometimes blouses. My personal favourite soap for hand-washing is Soak, and boy does a little bit go a long way with this thing. Bonus — if you can’t find Soak in stores (it was hard for me until I found it in a tiny shop on the Danforth) my pal Jordanna at House of Muses carries it in her shop)!
  5. Grishko vegan ballet shoes. Yup, they exist! The dance world is one of the hardest to find vegan accommodations for (jury’s still out on a quality tap shoe) but fortunately I’ve found a soft ballet shoe that is completely free of leather, silk and any animal products in the glue or dye. I found the pair I’m currently using through Big Tent Vegan, which details vegan ballet and pointe shoes in this informative posts.
  6. My Vegan Essentials package just came in and it included a product I’ve been wanting to try for ages: Choco No-nos. Needless to say, they did not disappoint. I’ve missed things like Smarties and M&Ms (note to my American followers: “Smarties” in the land of the North does not refer to those chalky sour hard candies — Rockets — but to a bite-sized, candy-coated chocolate candy that’s kind of like an M&M but not at all and I can’t explain it). The one thing about Choco No-nos is that because the dye is all natural, a lot of it is made from fruit juices and so there’s kind of a fruity taste to some of the dyes, but I actually like it that way.
  7. Cork “leather.” Okay, so I don’t actually own any products in this yet, but, you know, Christmas is coming and I need a new messenger bag. Hey guys? Guuuyyys? IT JUST LOOKS SO COOL.
  8. My new Pantone Universe credit and business card holder. I’ve officially abandoned my wallet (too bulky) and have switched to this, which is totally sleek and cool and fits anywhere (even a woman’s pant/jacket pocket, which is a total unicorn). Amazon doesn’t currently have the shade I bought in, but these make great stocking stuffers!
  9. When I first started working at my new office (in early May), I saw that there was a Kupfert & Kim coming to a nearby corner (Spadina and Richmond) “this spring.” Well, after many delays and glancing through the windows literally every day, it’s finally open! K&K has been around in Toronto for awhile but this is its first standalone, sit-down location (its other locations are sprinkled in various buildings throughout the Financial District). The food is amazing (naturally) and the staff is just great — super enthusiastic and kind. Bonus: K&K is also gluten-free, so if you’re avoiding gluten for whatever reason you’re covered! (My personal pick for lunch is the Oaxaca bowl).
  10. K’s NRG Bars. I have been known to wolf down an energy bar at the speed of light when put under the gun. It is, however, difficult to find one that isn’t date-based and wreaks havoc on my digestive system. These are fantastic for that gooey, sticky quality without dates! I can’t eat the cherry kind, but the original rocks my socks, and the chocolate coconut is *kiss* FUCKING AMAZING.

This “Spread the Love” was a lot more vegan-specific than most other ones I’ve done, but  I’m just really feelin’ like a vegan cheerleader these days. Perhaps it’s because the community at Reddit’s r/Vegan has got me so jazzed about it right now.

Just a few notes as well:

A few people have asked me on social media (following my tattoo post) for some info about my tattoo artist. I’ve been going to Darryl Wiebe in Kitchener for two years now and we have a great relationship. He’s done four pieces on me: the CBC logo, the Jack Layton quote, the Grigri and the ballerina. He’s a great guy and a wonderful artist, and I especially love his line-work. He actually recently opened his own shop with the equally talented, kind and amazing Anabela Fansher and can be found at Luz Marina Studios in Kitchener! You should also check him out on Instagram.

My two weeks without Starbucks and my month without buying clothes went fine-diddly-ine. I don’t really drink that much Starbucks anymore, but like I said, it wasn’t so much about breaking an addiction as it was finding more productive things to do with my time. I’ve found a few new lunchtime routines that I like way better. I was going to go two months without clothes, but with the seasonal change that seemed unwise. I’ve just started doing the seasonal change-over for my clothes and am currently evaluating what to donate. It’s a bit hard because I genuinely like all my clothes, I just have too much for one person, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Also, my hair is back to brown, and thank goodness for that. I look/feel like myself again! Unfortunately I really, really have fried my hair from the experience, so I’m trying really hard to treat my hair’s dryness and frizz. Almond oil? Coconut oil? Whatever, man, throw it at me.

What are some of your best stocking stuffer and gift exchange ideas this season? What’s the one thing a friend could get you that would drive you wild? Let me know in the comments!

A few tips on caring for tattoos (in a vegan-friendly way)

There’s no sadder feeling than writing up a 1,000+ word blog post only to have to toss it out because you were all wrong, and the mascara you were singing the praises for wasn’t at all vegan.

Sigh. Yep, that’s about all I can do right now. Apparently I still haven’t taken my own advice and tend to believe brands when they say their product is “vegan” when it actually contains beeswax and carmine.

Note to the general public: bees and beetles are actually living things.

So now I’m back to using the mascara that I’ve actually said is kind of crappy, Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara (note to everyone: NOT better than sex, because I’ve still never had to pay for even the most mediocre sex I’ve had).

What I’ve decided to do instead of blather on about mascara is blather on about something else I love — tattoos!

I have six tattoos, and doing the math I think there’s just under seven hours of work on my body — which is funny, because I know people who have just one tattoo who have technically undergone more hours of work than I have.

I got my first tattoo shortly after my 20th birthday. I remember being so nervous I shook at my desk all day before it. My friend Sam held my hand the entire time, and I was in a ton of pain, but kept a smile on my face. I think it was up until my third tattoo (the giant CBC logo on my shoulder) that I still found tattoos to be incredibly painful. Starting with my fourth tattoo, I’ve stopped really feeling anything other than mild annoyance (I actually found my most recent tattoo rather pleasurable).

I have no plans for when to stop. I adore tattoos. For me, the art will always be the first priority. I’m not going to just get more tattoos for the sake of more tattoos (not that I think there’s anything wrong with that). Right now I have no ideas for other tattoos, but I’m sure they’ll come around eventually.

I have a great relationship with my tattoo artist, Darryl. He’s done the last four pieces on me, we have a wonderful rapport and I like supporting his new shop.

Here are a few tips for vegans with regards to tattoos:

  • Check for vegan ink! A lot of tattoo inks are not vegan, but fortunately there’s a pretty large selection of vegan tattoo inks and transfer paper. Talk to your artist about inks, and always offer to buy and provide. Showing up unannounced with vegan ink isn’t the nicest thing you can do, so cover this at the consult.
  • Aftercare, aftercare, aftercare! Stay away from fragrance and heavy soaps. I love my Dr. Bronner’s (the “baby” version is fragrance-free) for this.
  • Always protect your tattoos from the sun. I buy vegan sunscreen online. For the summer, I love Lush’s Sunblock, which leaves a nice, thick, strong layer of sun protection.
  • Moisturizing your tattoos shouldn’t stop once the healing is done. Your tattoo is art, so treat it like that! I love to quickly shine up my tattoos with Lush Ultrabalm, but if you want some extra portability, go for the Merry Hempsters hemp tattoo balm. Bonus —  I also love their hot and cool muscle rubs (why haven’t I picked up their “bumps and bruises” rub yet? Bumps and bruises are, like, my thing).
  • About once a week, I give my body a nice deep moisture treatment with almond oil. I rub the most on my knees, elbows and tattoos. That’s a way better visual effect than a heavy moisturizer, has no artificial scents that irritate your skin and makes you extra cuddle-able all day.
  • Tattoos are on your skin and are not exempt from any skin problems like the rest of your body! My biggest issue is flaking skin, which can make my tattoos look dull and yucky. A few years ago I switched from using typical bath sponges to using a more abrasive (but all-natural) shower brush. I give myself a gentle scrubbing which exfoliates my skin, removes flakes and gives me a good wake-up!

Anyway, here are a few “glam” shots I threw together of my tattoos. The most recent one, my ballerina, is still healing, so forgive the little bobos!

Tattoos 1 Tattoos 2 Tattoos 3 Tattoos 4 Tattoos 5

Seven favourite vegan lifestyle, household and beauty products


One of the elements of vegan transitioning that seems the most difficult but is actually the easiest is trading in your personal products for a cruelty-free alternative.

It seems difficult for a few reasons:

  • They are, admittedly, a bit pricier (or at least have fewer cheap alternatives) than conventional products.
  • They’re harder to find.
  • Most people without a science background have no idea what is a vegan ingredient and what isn’t!
  • Even if you don’t see any animal ingredients, the companies may test on animals.
  • Animal testing policy is really difficult to figure out across the board. While some companies don’t test themselves, they may commission other companies to test their sourced ingredients on animals. A lot of companies, especially cosmetic companies, post this info on their web site (and some of these are incorrect — Wet n’ Wild lists its products with beeswax and lanolin as “vegan”), some you have to ask in an email.
  • Greenwashing is very much a thing. Plenty of conventional products realized several years ago that “natural” and “eco-friendly” products were a great moneymaker, so they threw on labels like “natural” and “eco” despite the products lacking any certifications such as organic or vegan certifications (vegan certifications, by the way, are not mandatory in most markets). Some even just change their packaging to look more green and natural.

Wow, that does seem hard when you look at it.

Here’s the good part: once you figure out what you like and what is best for you, all you have to do is buy it once your last one runs out. No worries about cooking all the time, figuring out what your body does or doesn’t like, enjoying the taste (please don’t eat your soap even if it’s organic).

A lot of products are very versatile, too — like, I love Dr. Bronner’s because I can use it as a soap/shampoo, but also because I can use it to wash my dishes or floors!

Here are some things I like to keep around the house:

  • Lush Ultrabalm: every vegan (and most non-vegans) favourite go-to balm. Crusty elbows and feet? Ultrabalm. New tattoo? Ultrabalm. Removing extra-long-lasting eyeshadow? Ultrabalm. Dry hair ends? Ultrabalm. Marriage falling apart? Can’t help you there.
  • Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap. You can get an unscented variety or one of its many mild fragrances, and can buy it in a range of sizes from a personal, shampoo-sized bottle to an actual fucking industrial jug. One store I live near also has bulk refillers for Dr. Bronner’s, so you can keep your same bottle. You can use Bronner’s for cleaning yourself or other things, like countertops and floors (for floors, dilute a little Dr. B’s and about 1/4 cup vinegar in warm water).
  • Re-usable glass or aluminium straws. I’ve started keeping a straw (and the brush that my straws came with) in my purse/pack at all times, because it’s just one more way to take a small (yes, small) chunk out of my carbon footprint (I’m also pretty obsessive about getting food in mugs/plates to stay rather than take-out, of course, the most eco-friendly thing you can do is just eat less take-out)! I use them at home too. The straws I use are from Glass Dharma. Oh, and I guess you could also just use crazy straws… and keep those with you wherever you go.
  • Speaking of things I keep in my bag, I’ve also officially become the type of vegan who carries her own hand soap so she doesn’t have to use the kind of soap provided in public bathrooms (this actually serves double duty because I find most soap in public bathrooms smells like medicine and I hate it). What I usually do is buy a small size of Lush’s shower gels (The Happy Hippy is my favourite for hands). I also keep hand sanitizer at my desk because I work in an office and germs are a thing that people care about, you know? A great cruelty-free brand is EveryOne, and I use its hand sanitizer gel in Peppermint+Citrus.
  • One great option for around the home that’s cruelty-free and creates way less waste is finding a reusable alternative to dryer sheets/fabric softener. I’ve been using these delightful hedgehogs by Kikkerland to help keep my clothes from clumping together. You should replace them when you notice the picks getting duller, but that takes a long time.
  • For candle addicts, soy wax candles are everywhere these days (but read the ingredients carefully because I have found some that mix soy and beeswax). One of my favourite brands is Paddywax Apothecary. I keep a large Rosemary & Thyme candle for the living room and a small Amber & Smoke for the bathroom. Not that I don’t always smell like a rose or anything. *sweats nervously*
  • Shoes are so tricky, especially “nice” shoes, but Will’s Vegan Shoes is a great resource for classic shoes of all styles that are no more expensive than their animal-derived counterparts.

Thanks for reading. It was really important to me that I share this post because this really can be one of the trickiest parts of going vegan — you have to think of things in a whole new way. I still make mistakes all the time! Last month I bought sea sponges for my period, being lead to believe by a sales person that they were plant life, but turns out sea sponges are actually sentient animals. I’ve also mistaken some products for vegan when in fact they’re tested on animals. No one expects anyone to be perfect, but making an effort is the best thing we can all do.

If you’re a new vegan, long-time vegan or a transitioning vegan, what’s been the hardest part for you? What are some of your favourite alternative products, and what are some things people might not know aren’t vegan-friendly?