Coeliac Awareness Week

I hadn’t intended to write a blog post for Coeliac Awareness Week (12th -19th May) because in amongst all the bumf for the latest gluten free products I have seen some decent articles explaining exactly what Coeliac Disease is. It is an auto-immune disease caused by the small intestine’s abnormal reaction to gluten. To put it simply, gluten is mistaken for something that shouldn’t be there and the immune cells attack it. However, I noticed the focus was on the digestive related symptoms; stomach pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, indigestion, excess flatulence and vomiting, that untreated Coeliac Disease can cause. These are some of the more common symptoms experienced by the estimated 1 in 100 people in Ireland who have Coeliac Disease, so I can see why putting out information about them is important. Since my symptoms didn’t follow this path I thought I would share my diagnosis story.

It was a combination of ongoing menstrual issues, fatigue and migraine that brought me to my GP. I thought they were linked, but didn’t know how. My GP wasn’t so sure. He prescribed the pill to regulate my period, put the fatigue down to my Rheumatoid Arthritis, even though it was under control at the time, and along with migraine medication suggested I keep a food diary in order to figure out my migraine triggers.

The food diary seemed to suggest that coffee and chocolate were my triggers so I gave them both up. The migraines were less severe, but still too frequent for my liking. Chocolate has since made a comeback in my diet, but now on the rare occasions that I drink coffee it is decaf.

I tried four or five different brands of the pill, but none of them made any difference so my GP referred me to a Gynaecologist. Blood tests showed that I was deficient in iron and vitamin B12 and my thyroid function was slightly on the underactive side. All of which could explain my fatigue. I was prescribed iron supplements and B12 injections. A laparoscopy was done to rule out Poly Cystic Ovaries and Endometriosis and once that was clear I referred to an Endocrinologist.

Appointment after appointment threw up new avenues to try. My thyroid function wasn’t low enough to be the issue in its own right and was deemed a symptom of something else. Of what, they didn’t know. Further tests revealed that my inactive prolactin levels were really high, but my active prolactin levels were normal which confused the doctors. Again, this was deemed a symptom rather than the cause of my symptoms.

By this stage frustration was setting in big time. I was being sent from doctor to doctor and having test after test, yet nobody could tell me what was wrong.

Two years after that first GP visit I presented to him with a migraine that was on its fourth day. I also had eye pain, blurred vision, pins and needles in one side of my face and numbness and weakness in my arm and leg. He sent me to A&E for tests. I spent a week in hospital while they ruled out Transient Ischemic Attacks (mini-strokes), a tumour of the pituitary gland and Multiple Sclerosis. The list of illnesses I didn’t have grew longer, but they still didn’t know what the cause was. I was discharged with an out-patient appointment to see the Endocrinologist again.

That out-patient appointment was to prove vital to my diagnosis. This time while ordering blood tests, the doctor I saw ordered one that I’d never had before. It indicated that I had Coeliac Disease and an endoscopy was ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

After my endoscopy and biopsy I was informed that I did have Coeliac Disease. Although it had taken the best part of two years to diagnose, the amount of damage to my villi indicated that it was something that hit me in adulthood as opposed to being something that was undiagnosed since childhood.

It took a long and windy path, but since being diagnosed and going gluten free my health has improved drastically. My thyroid and inactive prolactin levels have returned to normal, my periods are now sticking to a cycle I can actually keep track of and I only get a migraine when I’ve inadvertently ingested gluten. My iron and B12 deficiencies were caused by the fact that my gut was incapable of absorbing nutrients properly.

While not having an immediate digestive reaction to ingesting gluten can seem like a good thing, because I am not in any physical pain or discomfort, the truth is it isn’t. These last six years have taught me that by the time the migraine appears I have probably been glutened over the course of a few days. This causes more damage to my small intestine than if I had been aware of the problem and able to find the gluten containing culprit sooner. These days the culprit usually turns out to be a cross contamination issue and thankfully these situations are rare.

Coeliac Disease wise; a gluten free diet, blood tests every six months(ish), calcium supplements and the use of iron supplements and B12 injections when needed are keeping my health on the right track.

Review: VOYA Maskerade

VOYA Maskerade

Over the last couple of months I have been using the Maskerade* (€38 for 50ml) anti-ageing face mask by VOYA. VOYA is an organic seaweed based  brand which originates from County Sligo. Their products are never tested on animals and contain no mineral oil or synthetic colours and fragrances.

The instructions for Maskerade are pretty simple. Apply an even layer over the face, neck and décolleté. Leave for ten minutes and rinse off with warm water and either a flannel or muslin cloth. I prefer flannels as I find muslin cloths too flimsy. Although, the VOYA muslin cloths are the sturdiest I have tried.

According to VOYA the “hydrating seaweed-based ingredients and soothing chamomile extracts will leave your skin feeling refreshed and rejuvenated all day long”.

Ingredients wise this contains; Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Algae (Hand Harvest Seaweed) Extract, Xanthan Gum, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder*, Hibiscus Sabdariffa (Hibiscus) Extract*, Plantago Lanceolata (Plantain Leaf) Extract*, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang Flower) Oil*, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot Fruit) Oil*, Coriandrum Savitum (Coriander Seed) Oil*, Cymbopogon Martini (Palmarosa) Oil*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil*, Pelargonium Graveolens (Rose Geranium Fruit) Oil*, Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Oil*, Vanilla Planifolia (Vanilla) Extract*, Vetiverira Zizanoides (Vetivert) Oil*, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove Bud) Oil*, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger Root) Extract*, Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract*, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Extract*, Benzyl Alcohol, Deyhdroacetic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid. [*Organically Grown Ingredients.]

VOYA Maskerade (Bottle)

The pump top bottle is handy as it means that you use the same amount of product each time. Scent wise I would describe this as deep and earthy. The ingredients blend together in such a way that the individual oils are difficult to pick out.

Texture wise it is more gel like than I am used to when it comes to face masks, especially hydrating ones. This surprised me considering the amount of oils it contains and when applied it is rather sticky feeling.

Once rinsed away my skin looks smoother and feels softer and plumper. Much like with any other face mask. I can’t say that I noticed any major changes anti-ageing wise, but then I am always dubious of such claims when the product in question only remains on the skin for a short period of time. I expect serums to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to targeting specific skin issues. It is also possible that I saw no difference anti-ageing wise because my skin hasn’t reached the stage of needing that level of care, yet.

Would I spend €38 to repurchase it? Honestly, I don’t think I would. Sure, it did a good job at giving my skin a moisture boost but I can get the same, if not better, results from the Vichy Aqualia Thermal Sensitive Skin Mask  for under €20.

*PR Sample


Review: La Roche-Posay Rosaliac CC Creme

La Roche Posay Rosaliac CC Creme

I reviewed the initial Rosaliac range from La Roche-Posay back in 2012 (you will find it here, complete with really bad photos). The Rosaliac AR Intense serum (as mentioned in this post I now use it daily regardless of whether I’m wearing make-up or not) and the Rosaliac UV Riche Moisturiser are still staples in my skincare routine. When I heard they were adding a CC cream to the line up I was intrigued. I love the idea of a product that contains skincare benefits and offers some coverage without the need for a full on foundation, but the ongoing BB and CC cream craze has largely passed me by as the majority of them are too dark.

I had hoped that the Rosaliac CC Creme would be different, but upon seeing review after review pop up in my Bloglovin’ feed I was concerned that despite being created with Celtic skin in mind this universal shade would still be too dark for my paler than pale skin. The only way to know for sure was to try it out. €22.50 is a lot to fork out for something that may not be the right colour match, so I asked for some samples the last time I was in a pharmacy.

The first thing I noticed about the Rosaliac CC Creme was the scent; it is the most heavily scented La Roche-Posay product that I’ve come across. The scent lingered on my skin too which was a bit surprising. I have used other La Roche-Posay products with Parfum/Fragrance in them, but it has never been as strong as it is in this one.

The cream itself is neither too heavy nor too light and blends in really easily. I used my fingers to apply it and had no trouble, but you could use a brush. I was pleasantly surprised when it seemed to be the right shade for me, but as the day wore on the CC Creme darkened to the extent that I was bordering on orange when I finally removed it. It covered my redness, which is predominantly across my nose and cheeks, well and at first it looked nice, natural and ever so slightly dewy until the orange showed up and spoiled the party.

Skincare wise this contains; La Roche-Posay’s Thermal Water, Glycerin, Shea Butter and the active ingredient Ambophenol, a natural extract from the Tambourissa Trichophylla plant which is found in Madagascar. This same ingredient is what makes the AR Intense Serum as good as it is by acting as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and also providing vascular protection. It also has SPF30 which is my preferred choice for daily wear when not in direct sunlight, i.e. most of the time.

I wanted so much to love this product as I’m a big La Roche-Posay fan, and as a moisturiser it did fare well on my dry skin, unfortunately the issues with scent and colour meant that  it wasn’t to be and I will be sticking with the Avene High Protection Tinted Compact for covering my redness on a day to day basis.

Irish Skincare Brands: Bia Beauty, Kinvara Skincare and Skin Essentials by Mariga

We all know that I love a good skincare product and in my quest for the best skin I can possibly obtain I have discovered some really great skincare brands. Today I thought I would talk about three of my favourite Irish skincare brands. As much as I adore the French skincare lines I do enjoy being able to support local businesses knowing that my skin is being well looked after in the process.

First up we have the Cork based Bia Beauty whose motto is ‘feed your skin’. Their products are made using plants and foods with proven benefits for the skin.

Bia Beauty - Hand Gift Set

A gift from a friend, of the Lemon Myrtle Hand Wash (€12.95) and Lemon Myrtle Hand Lotion (€12.95) was my introduction to Bia Beauty. These products all smell divine and the hand wash doesn’t contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate so there’s no risk of already dry hands suffering even more.

I have heard nothing but good things about the Skin Food (€12.95) and intend trying it out at some point. It sounds like a great multi-tasker and who doesn’t love a product that has more than one use.

Next up we have the Galway based Kinvara Skincare. I’ve mentioned some of their products on the blog before (you’ll find the reviews here), but the range has since been streamlined and repackaged.

Kinvara Skincare

It now consists of the Absolute Cleansing Oil (€20) which I originally reviewed back in 2011 and updated here, the Rosehip Face Serum (€28) and the Active Rosehip Day Cream (€24). When I originally tried the Face Serum my skin was at its driest and this stuff worked wonders. It worked equally well when I repurchased it last year when my skin was all over the place and I was suffering from medication induced spots.

Lastly we have the Wexford based Skin Essentials by Mariga. I’ve already waxed lyrical about my love of the Nourishing Oil, Hydrating Cream and the Enzyme Exfoliator so I won’t go into too much detail here except to say that these products work. (clicking the links will take you to my reviews). Boy, do they work.

Skin Essentials by Mariga

The Enzyme Exfoliator has been the single best skincare discovery I’ve made so far. It is that good. Go buy it, you can thank me later. Or curse me for draining your wallet, whichever you prefer.

Bia Beauty can be purchased here, Kinvara Skincare can be purchased here and you’ll find Skin Essentials by Mariga here.

Do you have a favourite Irish skincare brand? Are there any products or brands you think I should check out?  Let me know in the comments below.

Note - I received some Kinvara Skincare samples in 2011, but have since repurchased some products. The same goes for Skin Essentials by Mariga, I received some samples in 2012 but have since repurchased those products and more. This is not a sponsored post I just really like these brands.

Review: Avene High Protection Tinted Compact

Avene High Protection Tinted Compact (Beige)

Given the recent storms we’ve had writing about sunscreen might be the last thing you would expect, but as I type this the sun is shining and I’m clinging to the hope that Spring is well and truly on the way so bear with me. Besides, it can serve as a reminder that we need to protect ourselves from sun damage no matter what the weather.

I’ve written about the importance of wearing sunscreen, especially for Irish men, before and have provided a rundown of the complete Avene suncare range here. As you can probably tell I’m a fan of the French pharmacy brands like Avene, La Roche-Posay, RoC and Vichy when it comes to suncare. They seem to get the balance right between providing sufficient protection without irritating sensitive skin.

One of my current favourite sunscreens is the Avene High Protection Tinted Compact in the shade Beige (RRP €25)*. I like it because on days when I’m not wearing any makeup, which is most days, it helps to cover up the redness in my skin as well as giving me broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage.

SPF 30 is usually my go-to on a daily basis with SPF 50 being used when we actually have sunny weather, but since this is a dual purpose product for me (i.e., it replaces my foundation) I don’t mind that it is at the highest end of the scale. My skin is quite photosensitive at the best of times so I figure that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I know not everyone needs such high protection on a day to day basis, but at a minimum we should all (and that includes men) be wearing SPF 15.

Application wise I use either my fingers or a foundation brush. I find them easier to use than the sponge that comes with compact.

Avene High Protection Tinted Compact (Open)

The tinted compact is available in two shades with Beige being the lightest one. In the pan it looks ridiculously dark, but believe me when I say that it blends seamlessly into the skin. Covering redness as it goes without actually changing skin tone. I am left with skin that is still my natural pale colour minus the pigmentation issues that my Rosacea can cause. I’m not sure exactly how it manages that, but I am grateful that it does.

*PR Sample