TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 31, 2022

From Dry Skin to Depression: The Truth about Taking Roaccutane for Acne

With so much to take into consideration, we spoke with Dermatologist and Head of Medical at Skin+Me Dr Jason Thomson to discuss the pros and cons of this so-called miracle worker.

You’ve likely heard of Roaccutane – the hotly debated miracle medication famed for its acne curing capabilities – but are the extensive physical, mental and emotional side effects associated with the drug worth the end result?

Oral Isotretinoin, often prescribed under the brand name Roaccutane / Rizuderm or Accutane if you’re in the US, is an anti-inflammatory agent derived from vitamin A, belonging to a group of treatments called retinoids. It works by reducing the amount of oil your sebaceous glands produce and killing acne-causing bacteria on the skin. 

Image Credit: Kate Snooks has documented her Roaccutane journey on her blog and YouTube

Due to its potency, Roaccutane is only prescribed in severe cases such as nodular or conglobate acne and where patients have not responded to other treatments, usually antibiotics and topical creams. The list of potential risks of taking Isotretinoin can be daunting but according to the NHS website, only 1 in 1,000 patients suffer from serious side effects. However, 1 in 10 people experience common side effects including dry skin, aches, pains and headaches. 

Though serious side effects are rare, it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering taking Roaccutane. The list of side effects include:

Common side effects

  • skin becoming more sensitive to sunlight
  • dry eyes
  • dry throat
  • dry nose and nosebleeds
  • headaches and general aches and pains

Serious side effects

  • anxiety, aggression and violence, changes in mood, or suicidal thoughts 
  • severe pain in your stomach with or without diarrhoea, feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting) – these can be signs of a serious problem called pancreatitis 
  • bloody diarrhoea – this may be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding
  • a serious skin rash that peels or has blisters – the skin rash may come with eye infections, ulcers, a fever, and headaches
  • difficulty moving your arms or legs, and painful, swollen or bruised areas of the body, or dark pee – these can be signs of muscle weakness
  • yellow skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow, difficulty peeing, or feeling very tired – these are signs of liver or kidney problems
  • a bad headache that doesn’t go away and makes you feel sick or be sick
  • sudden changes in eyesight, including not seeing as well at night

Understandably, getting your hands on the drug isn’t an easy process. In the UK, it can only be prescribed and supervised under the care of a consultant dermatologist and requires a psychological assessment, blood tests and regular pregnancy tests as it can cause serious harm to an unborn baby.

With so much to take into consideration, we spoke with Dermatologist and Head of Medical at Skin+Me Dr Jason Thomson to discuss the pros and cons of this so-called miracle worker, from risks to success rates and the skincare you need to have on standby… 

What exactly is Roaccutane and why is it a controversial treatment?

Roaccutane is the brand name for an oral (taken by mouth) prescription medication called isotretinoin. It belongs to a family of drugs called retinoids which means they are all related to vitamin A. It is highly effective in treating acne and has been used by dermatologists for decades, usually to treat the more severe forms of acne. 

This is a complex area and decades of research into this link have not proven that the medication causes depression or suicide and the relationship between them remains uncertain.Dr Jason Thomson

The main reason that there is controversy around Roaccutane is due to some of its potential side effects and a possible link between taking the medication and depression and suicidal feelings. However, this is a complex area and decades of research into this link have not proven that the medication causes depression or suicide and the relationship between them remains uncertain. It’s very difficult to prove such a link and many believe that it is the severe acne itself that is contributing to the psychological distress rather than the medication and we do know that having acne means you are more likely to suffer with psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety. 

For anyone with depression, what would your advice be when considering Roaccutane?

Tell your dermatologist about this so they can properly evaluate whether or not you’ll be suitable for treatment. Having depression doesn’t mean you won’t be prescribed Roaccutane but it might mean you’ll be monitored more closely and sometimes a psychiatrist will be involved in your care too. If whilst on the medication you feel low or depressed, it’s important to get in touch with your dermatologist or GP as you may need to stop treatment. It’s always advisable to let your friends and family know that you’re on the medication so that they can keep a lookout for any changes in your mood or behaviour. Like any medication, deciding whether or not it is for you is about weighing up the risks and the benefits with your doctor and coming to a shared decision. 

Is there a psychological evaluation beforehand?

Yes, before starting Roaccutane a thorough psychological history will be taken and a psychiatrist may be involved to do a psychological assessment. As a precaution, before starting Roaccutane, dermatologists will discuss this possible link with depression and will always check with a patient if they have low mood, any mental health conditions or a family history of mental health conditions. 

During treatment patients are monitored for any signs of depression and are encouraged to ask family and friends to look out for any mood changes.Dr Jason Thomson

During treatment patients are monitored for any signs of depression and are encouraged to ask family and friends to look out for any mood changes. There are also reports of sexual side-effects including erectile dysfunction and decreased libido whilst taking Roaccutane and these should also be discussed with patients before starting the medication. This might all sound scary but it’s worth remembering that in the UK, Roaccutane is always prescribed under the supervision of a dermatologist and the vast majority of patients respond well to treatment with minimal side effects, the most common being dry skin and lips.

When would Roaccutane be prescribed and when wouldn’t it be deemed a suitable medication? 

Roaccutane is normally prescribed in severe acne that is at risk of causing scarring or in people whose acne has failed to respond to other treatments such as prescription creams, gels and oral medications such as antibiotics. It’s never prescribed in people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive as it can harm an unborn or nursing baby. For this reason, people taking Roaccutane who can potentially fall pregnant need to be using effective contraception (ideally two, most commonly the pill and condoms) and require regular pregnancy testing throughout the treatment course.

How does it work to target acne specifically? 

Roaccutane works by targeting the main factors that cause acne. It results in the shrinking of the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands) which reduces the amount of oil production and this also results in a reduction in the amount of the acne-associated bacteria Cutibacterium acnes. It also corrects the way your skin cells are shed, stopping pores from being blocked – another key cause of acne.

How long can you expect to see results?

Usually acne starts to improve after around 4 weeks of treatment and most people will be on the medication for between 4 and 7 months. 

Is there anything you should avoid when taking Roaccutane?

Alcohol should also be avoided or kept to a minimum when on Roaccutane as the medication can put strain on your liver. Dr Jason Thomson

Your skin will be very dry so avoid applying anything to your skin that can be drying or irritating. This means just very basic skincare – moisturise regularly and avoid harsh cleansers, acids or any other active skincare such as retinol or vitamin C. Alcohol should also be avoided or kept to a minimum when on Roaccutane as the medication can put strain on your liver. The British Association of Dermatologists advise not to exceed the government guidelines (no more than 14 units per week).

Do you have any product recommendations that are safe to use alongside Roaccutane? What does an ideal skincare routine look like for someone with severe acne?

The key to your skincare routine when on Roaccutane is to moisturise and protect your skin as it will be very dry and you’ll be more sensitive to sunlight. Look for simple moisturisers that are non-comedogenic (do not block pores) and also use a lip balm regularly. I advise La Roche Posay’s Effaclar H moisturiser and Bioderma Sebium Hydra which have been developed specifically for acne patients on treatments such as Roaccutane.  Avoid any skincare that can be irritating and drying such as retinol, vitamin C, chemical peels or harsh cleansers or scrubs. Try to avoid strong sunlight when on Roaccutane and apply sunscreen regularly, I advise SPF50 with UVA protection.

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 30, 2022

6 Valentines Date Outfits That Cupid Himself Would Approve Of

After the long ol’ month that was January 2022, who isn’t seeking a reason to celebrate being loved or in love, and an excuse to enjoy a tequila or two wearing your favourite red lipstick?! 

Alexa: Play Lover by Taylor Swift. February is within touching distance and soon a chore as mundane as popping to the supermarket won’t be safe territory for those seeking to avoid being bombarded by heart shaped chocolate boxes, Me to You Bears and red roses galore as the 14th draws ever nearer. Single or taken, Valentine’s Day has a reputation as one of the lesser appreciated holidays, but if you look past the pressure it puts on us to find love there’s something heartwarming to be found in celebrating those that matter to us most, whether it be a romantic partner or the best galentine going. And after the long ol’ month that was January 2022, who isn’t seeking a reason to celebrate being loved or in love, and an excuse to enjoy a tequila or two wearing your favourite red lipstick?! 

If you and your S/O have something romantic AF planned (may we suggest our 50 budget date ideas if you’re stuck for inspo) including everything from a trip to your favourite Italian or a hand-in-hand walk with a coffee and pastry accompaniment, let us take the reins and provide all the inspiration you could need to get hearts racing and love flowing. Don’t say we don’t treat ya!

For The Expensive Cocktail Bar:

Let us set the scene. Your significant other knows you love the finer things in life, and dressing up is 100% YOUR jam. Overdressed? No such thing. Your Valentine’s weekend is to be spent sipping on the most delectable cocktails going, and obvs you need to look 10/10 doing so. For this occasion no outfit is OTT as this dimly lit bar and extra strong drinks mean things are seriously heating up. A* in chemistry, that would be you! You can never go far wrong with a classic LBD and this ultra short number is perfect for showing off those killer legs and statement heels that make footsies all the more fun. Complete with some seriously sparkly accessories and suddenly all eyes are on you Ms star of the show. Valentine’s Day: completed it.

*ASOS, Flounce London satin mini slip dress in black, £25

*ASOS, Public Desire Midnight bow heel shoes in silver, £35

*Ego, GEORGIE RING DETAIL TOTE BAG IN SILVER DIAMANTE, £39.99 

*Jon Richard, MOOD By Jon Richard Silver Crystal Moon And Star Statement Drop Earring, £12 

For The Cosy Brunch:

Maybe you’re continuing things from the night before or perhaps food is your relationship love language, either way brunch is never a bad idea, and exchanging loving looks over a stack of chocolate covered pancakes sounds like what dreams are made of. Go easy breezy with a pair of straight leg jeans, add a colourful oversized shirt and boots for some flirtatious fun (extra points if they’re colour coordinated), and finish with some simple jewellery for a put together look that never gets old. Comfy and effortlessly cute without trying, this chic take on weekend date attire will have them coming back for more than just the French toast.

*H&M, Straight High Jeans, £24.99 

*ASOS, ASYOU branded oversized shirt in green, £20.99 

*Missguided, black contrast chunky pull on ankle boots, £48 

Ana Luisa, BEAUTY WITHIN, £53 

For The ‘Booked-Months-In-Advance’ Dinner Reservation:

The time has come! You’re heading to the highly coveted restaurant your S/O paid attention to you lusting over (subtle as ever) and you know exactly what you’ll be having for every course thank you very much. If you ever needed an excuse to wear the item in your wardrobe that doesn’t get nearly enough outings then this is it, because if you’re going to be awkwardly finding a way to maintain a conversation whilst eating spaghetti then you might as well look cute doing it. If things are a little skimpy, add some warmth with a long boot or thigh high and for an extra dose of romance double up on your pinks, reds and purples for a super feminine moment guaranteed to see your partner drooling after you as well as the truffle garlic bread.

Zara, DRAPED CAMISOLE DRESS, £27.99 

*Public Desire, IRIS WHITE POINTED TOE STILETTO HEEL KNEE HIGH BOOTS, £89.99 

*Ego, THOMPSON ASYMMETRIC PADLOCK DETAIL GRAB BAG IN PINK CROC PRINT FAUX LEATHER, £19.99 

For The Low-Key Latte and Walk:

Maybe you’re only a few dates in, or perhaps your quality time looks like walking the dog and having a natter, either way a lowkey daytime date involving coffee, a pastry or two and a pretty view is guaranteed to see you enjoy a wholesome AF time. Go simple with a well cut jean and trainers for warmth and practicality, and inject some personality with matching accessories or colour blocked items too. Outdoor dates in February might feel somewhat lockdown-esque, but there’s something to be said for enjoying the little things in life with company that makes your heart sing.

*ASOS, Waven elsa mom jean in washed indigo, £68 

*Pangaia, 365 Hoodie, £120 

*Monki, Cropped puffer jacket, £55 

*New Balance, 452 Women’s, £60 

*Trouva, Label Beanie – Lavender Designed by Plain Bear, £15 

For The Long Lie-In…

For the days when you go from the bed to the shower and back again, you need not worry about buying an outfit at all- affordable and arguably the most fun! Valentine’s lingerie can feel somewhat of a cliche, but there’s few things in life that increase your confidence like a matching set and a spritz of your favourite scent. Stock up on massage oil, bubble bath and a new toy or two to really get things going and enjoy a day of pure bliss without leaving the house.

*Boohoo, Plus Mesh Heart Bra and Knickers Set, £18 

*Look Fantastic, Neal’s Yard Remedies Aromatic Massage Oil, £12.50 

*Simply Be, Figleaves Curve Romance Satin Gown, £47 

*Look Fantastic, Maison Margiela Replica Springtime in a Park Eau de Toilette – 30ml, £49 

For The Intimate At-Home Dinner:

For the married couples, the long term lovers or the self proclaimed homebodies, sometimes a night in with your feet up, a new Netflix must-watch and a Deliveroo en route is just about as good as it gets. If you want to feel a little sexier than rocking your regular trackies, may we suggest a knitted maxi dress or co-ord for ultimate ease, maximum room for extra Wahaca tacos and effortless lounging ability on the sofa too? Finish with a slick of Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk and date night is ready to roll! 

*Topshop, Topshop cut and sew midaxi dress in stone, £33

Skinny Dip, Teddy Bear Borg Slippers, £18 

*Cult Beauty, CHARLOTTE TILBURY MATTE REVOLUTION, £25 

*This post contains ad-affiliate links 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 29, 2022

Between You And Me 2022: It’s Back!

This month, we’ll be discussing whether Paris really is always a good idea when it comes to upping sticks and moving there to study, meddling mother-in-laws who just love to shut down all your wedding ideas, dipping your pen in the company ink, premature proposals, and what to wear to a new job. Decisions, decisions.

The Between You And Me series is back for 2022 and it’s had a bit of a makeover for the occasion.

It’s still the same candid problem page you knew and loved before only this time, we’ve made it easier for you to get in touch by taking the conversation over to Instagram. Because we like our tea instant and piping hot. Simply submit your dilemma via the monthly BYAM question box on the Zoella Stories and the team will come back to you with some sage advice. From the light-hearted to the downright ludicrous, we’ll be on hand to style outfits, share our beauty recs and rip your gaslighting boss a new one.

This month, we’ll be discussing whether Paris really is always a good idea when it comes to upping sticks and moving there to study, meddling mother-in-laws who just love to shut down all your wedding ideas, dipping your pen in the company ink, premature proposals, and what to wear to a new job. Decisions, decisions.

Follow us on Instagram to get involved with the BYAM discussions and take a vote on what you would do if you were in their shoes!

Maddie’s Advice:

As Audrey Hepburn said, Paris is always a good idea.” Worst case scenario you’re living in a beautiful city, famous for romance, fashion and culture with some of the best food and wine in the world. You can feel lonely anywhere so if you’re not happy where you are then why not take the leap? At least when you do there will be irresistible croissant on every corner.

Danielle’s Advice:

Oof I’m a little worried you’re running away from your problems at Uni. If you’re already feeling lonely here I think it would even more lonely in a different country. I’d decide first whether Uni is for you (it’s certainly not for everyone) but I’d focus on building your confidence here whether working or at Uni. Paris will always be there, and you want to feel super confident when you eventually go!

Lareese’s Advice

Gaslighting much? I’d ask him for a catch-up, nip it in the bud and move on. If you’ve got to work with him for the foreseeable future you don’t want that gnarly energy hanging about. He’s the one in the position of power, don’t let him take advantage of you or make you feel like you’re imagining things. Bottom line. If you think it’s deep enough and he’s not exactly forthcoming, don’t hesitate to make HR aware of the situation.

Darcey’s Advice

If you are asking what you should do I’m slightly inclined to think you might be interested in him… If that’s the case I reckon just see what happens over the next few weeks. Maybe he hasn’t said anything because you haven’t. Definitely wouldn’t make it a physical relationship yet, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with seeing what could happen, even just start flirting a bit and gauge his reaction to see how he feels!

Charlotte’s Advice

I totally get why this would feel intense and overwhelming! Can you drop some hints that you’re not ready for this level of commitment before he pops the question? Or even an open conversation where you express your needs and that you’re 100% invested in the relationship but don’t feel like you need a ring on your finger to prove that. Often the secret to longevity in relationships is communication and honesty, so I don’t think you can go far wrong in expressing how you feel, with some added reassurance so your partner still feels seen and heard.

Maddie’s Advice

Wedding preparations can bring out the best and worst in people. The pressure of hosting and wanting everything to be just right can often cloud the real reason it’s all happening in the first place. Not to mention the politics that come when multiple parties chip in leading to a sense of ownership over the decisions. Now is not the time to burn bridges, be the cool, calm and collected bride no one expects you to be. They say there is a true art to “winning friends and influencing people” and now is the time to exercise it.

Danielle’s Advice

Now is a really good time to make sure your partner has your back. Whether MIL is chipping in or not, I would get your partner to have a word and say thanks for being involved, but you’re being a little negative. It’s not your day it’s ours, so back off, or we’ll stop including you in the planning!

Lareese’s Advice

I’d play it safe until you can read the room haha. Stick to the wardrobe classics you’ll get the wear out of both in the office and out. You can’t go far wrong with a blazer, tailored trousers / black jeans, a turtle neck and boots. Or if you do want something more trend-focused, go for leather trousers and loafers.

Charlotte’s Advice

It depends if you’re heading somewhere quite corporate or to an environment where things can be a little more fun, but I feel like making sure your personality is still shining through is the key to feel confident at work! Maybe add some colour to exude some confidence too…

Danielle’s Advice

When it comes to hyaluronic acid I don’t think you can go wrong with The Ordinary, the thing with skincare is being consistent so having something you can use every day and night without breaking the budget is best! This Lumene glow boost essence is also lovely for the days you want to feel a little boujie!

*This post contains ad-affiliate links 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 28, 2022

We *Reluctantly* Tried the 5am Club So You Don’t Have To

Just how transformative can this early-rising habit be for our physical, intellectual and emotional wellbeing? The Zoella team begrudgingly set about finding out. 

The concept of the 5am Club is a simple one to get your head around. You rise at the ungodly hour of 5am whilst the rest of your household is sound asleep, all in the name of productivity and distraction-free self-development. During this time, you follow the 20/20/20 rule of twenty minutes exercise, twenty minutes planning or journaling and twenty minutes of study, supposedly setting you up for a smashing day ahead. 

If that sounds a lot like violence to you, then we hear you. The very idea of getting up at the crack of dawn voluntarily for anything other than an airport Wetherspoons and a flight to Mykonos seems preposterous, alas a We Tried Getting Pissed at Gatwick probably wouldn’t take off. 

One of the world’s top leadership experts Robin Sharma introduced the 5am Club concept over 20 years ago, based on a revolutionary morning routine that helped his clients maximise their productivity, activate their best health and bulletproof their serenity in this age of overwhelming complexity. After publishing his book in 2018, many people have pondered whether they too could elevate their lives and channel the success of world-famous entrepreneurs simply by rising with the rooster. 

We get it, achieving your goals, prioritising YOU and forming healthier habits before the rest of the world is even out of bed is a sure-fire way to feel good about yourself, especially when you use that time to help causes like Move for Mind (Mind’s 30 day exercise and fundraising challenge). 

But just how transformative can this early-rising habit be for our physical, intellectual and emotional wellbeing? The Zoella team begrudgingly set about finding out. 

It seemed like a great idea in the summer of ‘21… 

Lareese says…

Day one was a novelty. It had that early morning airport energy mixed with ‘Twas the night before Christmas solitude. I pottered about quietly bemused – and not so quietly smug – that I was awake before the rest of the world. The irony of course being that even if I wanted to stick something up on Instagram to say, ‘hey, look at me, look how carpe fucking diem I am’, no self-respecting person would be awake to congratulate me or call me a dick for showing off. Because they’d be in bed, in a warm pit of REM sleep and morning breath. As they should be.

So there I am in my sloth slippers, reading Wahala. It’s too early for coffee and if I put the big light on my elderly neighbour opposite will likely call 999.Lareese

So there I am in my sloth slippers, reading Wahala. It’s too early for coffee and if I put the big light on my elderly neighbour opposite will likely call 999. Lights don’t often get turned on in this house prior to 9am. I settle on candlelight and a bit of Dickens cosplay. The floor lamp goes on eventually because it’s still too dark to actually see my book. Well, this is nice. It’s quiet and I LOVE quiet. I’m constantly trying to seek out quiet but in Brighton, you’re never more than 6ft away from a screeching moped or a seagull.

After about an hour of reading, I find myself clock watching a little bit. I’m basically the opposite of a Sanderson sister waiting for the sun to rise so I can live and thrive like the involuntary early bird that I am rather than turn to dust on the sofa. At approximately 7.43am, I head out for a morning walk, Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place wedged between my ears. The weather is chef’s kiss which makes it hard to decipher whether it’s the buzz of the 5am Club or unprecedented January sunshine that’s responsible for making me walk like this: I appear to be bouncing on the balls of my feet and I say hello to strangers and mean it.

I’m back home for 9am having walked just shy of 8,000 steps and ready to thaw out in front of another candle. Dickens would never, not when they’re Diptyque.

Getting through the day is easier than I thought. I don’t begrudge the strangers dicking about in the sun so much because hahahah, been there done that at the crack of dawn lads. I predict I’ll feel absolutely crud around the 3pm mark but when it comes, it’s a bearable slump. An earlier bedtime would help, I think to myself. I’m a simp for my Bear/Wolf chronotype and if I’m to keep up this morning lark malarky (try saying that at 5am), then I need to stop fannying around on my phone and get to bed before midnight. I compromise with 11pm and wake up a little on the cranky side.

On day 2, I start the 5am club in much the same way as I did on Monday: Wahala, sloth slippers, blanket over the knees, only with significantly less festive spirit in my tank this time round. I fall back into one of those disgusting naps resembling a hangover and wake up thinking I’m late for my English language exam and I’ve forgotten to put knickers on. What have I become? The heating’s blaring, my tongue feels like I’ve made out with a moth, alas I’m awake for the second time at 5.45am. I think about ordering a McDonald’s breakfast but a) that’s not very Robin Sharma of me and b) lol. Of course it’s not open yet.

Once I get over myself, I recover fairly quickly with a pint of water, kill an hour by journaling and embark on the daily march before work. This time I’ve got happy hits between my ears and I’m charging towards the seaside like a blackbird towards a mealworm. I can confirm, Rusted Root Send Me On My Way always makes me overbearingly chipper.

I wonder when the novelty will wear off but annoyingly, it doesn’t. On the remaining days of the working week, I feel like I’ve found my way with this weird association – a gentle 20 minutes of Yoga with Adriene first thing, journaling, reading my book, and then off I go for the mad march before work. That, was my modus operandi.

And just like that, I stopped waking up at 5am…

Lareese

But I have carried on waking up earlier, just not 5am early.

I completely understand how claiming that ‘me time’ and showing that level of commitment to yourself would be transformative. I’m constantly starting the day in a chaotic funk, switching between emails, Whatsapp messages, DMs, voicemails and every other form of communication, and the 5am Club offers respite from that toxic rush. It’s a pretty magic time to be awake.

It was great to dip my toes into the club and I’m keen to reunite with the concept in Spring – someone mentioned it takes 66 days for your body to recalibrate which sounds about right. As for January, it’s hard enough to seize the day without getting up at an ungodly hour to be your best productive self so I’m officially freezing my membership for a few months. Come back to me in March when it’s light at 6am and Robin might have found a new recruit.

It’s worth saying you don’t need to follow the exact routine Sharma has laid out in his book to make the 5am Club work for you. After all, what good is a routine that makes you begrudge getting out of bed to do it? Very few people would want to jump out of the sack and straight on a treadmill, so my advice for anyone keen to join the club would be to ease yourself in with some journaling and meditating. Modify the 20/20/20 rule to work for you, and then do the exercise part when you’re actually present and awake. You’re running the club – you may as well make it a nice place to be!

If you’ve got a goal you’d like to achieve this year (learn a language, write that novel, become a yoga teacher, or fundraise for the Move for Mind campaign) but seemingly no spare time to do it, then the 5am Club is a great way to make sh*t happen!

Charlotte says…

So. In theory I love this idea. I (as well as probably every adult out there) always feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to work, socialise, meal prep and relax at the end of it all, and so being able to carve out a couple of extra hours when the rest of the world is snoozing certainly sounds appealing. Before the pandemic I was very much a morning person but I have to say 5am is a bit of a stretch in terms of my normal wake-up comfort zone, and since 2020 I definitely find myself feeling more fatigued and in need of rest with so much going on in the world! As well as this mental fog, I’ve also had Covid twice in the past 6 months and my oh my I am always tired. Me of 2019 would have thrown myself into this challenge without a second thought, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit sceptical about how my already mentally and physically weary body (god I sound about 80 years old) would cope with this new way of living.

January has been spent entirely working from home, and I think not having anywhere to be or get ready for made it even harder to be motivated for a 5am start because it just didn’t feel all that necessary! Charlotte

I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, I lasted 3 days of the 5am club, and on one of those days I ended up back in bed at 7am to catch some more Zzz because I was falling asleep reading my book. January has been spent entirely working from home, and I think not having anywhere to be or get ready for made it even harder to be motivated for a 5am start because it just didn’t feel all that necessary! The snooze button became even more tempting, and I found I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my extra time that wouldn’t involve waking up my other housemates too. Putting a wash on, doing a workout or cleaning all felt like I was at risk of annoying them, and the quieter, relaxing activities like reading or some morning yoga just made my body more tired. How can I do a morning meditation and not drift back off when my eyes are closed?! I sometimes struggle with switching off and getting to sleep in the evenings, but I think perhaps if I nailed down the fundamentals of when I get my sleep and altering my routine to accommodate this then a 5am start would feel like less of a killer. Unfortunately I found I wasn’t able to get into bed much earlier than for my normal 8am wake up call, and I definitely felt that 3 hour difference both mentally and physically.

I also think the 5am club doesn’t exactly best represent the realities of living with mental or physical health problems that mean rest is such a priority. I struggle with chronic pain and sleeping is such a respite for me, meaning I actually felt anxious about getting up earlier and potentially spending more time feeling unwell or drained. I find more than ever I am practicing lenience in listening to my body, and committing to a 5am start every day just didn’t fit in with this intuitive way of giving in to what my body needs. Perhaps it’s because I went in with a preconception that everyone getting up at 5am is fitting in 5k runs and working on their side hustles whilst drinking a green juice, but I definitely felt pressure to make this time productive and not just do sometime nice for myself. Old perfectionist habits die hard!

The winter months are definitely not my favourite either, and the dark, cold mornings are hard enough regardless of time for me! Giving the 5am club another bash in the height of summer certainly isn’t off the cards, when I know mentally I’ll be feeling brighter, and a 6am sea swim and smoothie before work does in fact sound great…

Overall I can totally see the benefits and appeal of these precious morning hours in maximising productivity and feeling like you have more time for the things you’re passionate about doing daily, but I’ll be honest, the time in my duvet cannot currently be beaten.

Charlotte

Darcey Says…

From the offset I was pretty convinced I would hate everything about getting up at 5am as a self-confessed night owl. So I set my alarm for 5am rather reluctantly but also intrigued to see how I would actually feel waking up at that sort of time. Luckily I own a Lumie alarm clock so I can be woken up to some sort of light, which I believe made a real difference. So I wake up at 5am (snooze till 5:30am whoops) and I actually feel quite energetic at this time? Weird. Not what I was expecting. I decided to loosely use the 20/20/20 rule and found I quickly got into a routine of doing 10 mins of journaling, 10 mins of meditation, 40 mins of reading and then a 40 min walk. Being able to read and go on a nice walk before work felt like a real novelty and I enjoyed the extra time this new sleep schedule gave me. First day I hit a slump around 2pm, but that was nothing that caffeine couldn’t fix, but I must admit I felt way more productive throughout the day.

I just don’t ever have the motivation that early on to sweat it out at the gym or at home, my peak gym time is around 6-7pm and even the 5am routine couldn’t change that.Darcey

The second day was pretty easy again too, this day I added a short 15 min yoga to my routine and enjoyed it, but yoga is about as far as I’ll go in terms of exercise in the morning. I just don’t ever have the motivation that early on to sweat it out at the gym or at home, my peak gym time is around 6-7pm and even the 5am routine couldn’t change that. I also thoroughly enjoyed getting washing on and hung before I started work, that felt like the epitome of productivity! Again I hit a slump at 2pm, but I always hit a slump at around 4pm when I was waking up at 8am, so really it’s no difference just slightly earlier. Coffee sorted that out again of course.

Getting to sleep earlier bizarrely wasn’t too difficult too, I usually go to sleep about midnight, so being asleep for 9-10pm was a big change for me but my body seemed to welcome it. The third day was the hardest and also when I realised that 5am was potentially too early for me. We start work at 9:30am and with no commute due to WFH, 4 and a half hours is a lot of time to fill. Because of this I started to get up at 6am instead, this still gave me enough time to do everything I wanted, it just meant I had to do it a bit quicker which was more than okay with me.

Day 4 and 5 didn’t feel like a chore, it felt like a natural routine for me being up at 6am, journaling and meditating, reading for a while and then going for a stroll. I actually quite enjoy being up when it’s dark out still too, something about it feels very peaceful, I think really it’s the same comfort I get from being up late too. I do however think as the mornings get lighter I will be able to use my time more wisely, having to wait until 7:30-8am to go for a walk now is quite annoying, but in all honesty it doesn’t feel safe as a woman to be out while it’s dark alone. This affects me a lot in the winter with my steps because once work has finished, it’s dark again and I then don’t feel safe walking on my own then too. But moving is so great for mental health and so getting those steps in before work feels really good. For anyone struggling with steps motivation too, the Move for Mind challenge is a great way to encourage yourself while fund-raising too!

Overall I really felt the benefits of waking up at 6am and this will definitely continue to be part of my routine, 5am was just slightly to early for me and my work schedule. I’ve just had bunion surgery (potentially an overshare) so my sleep pattern has been out of whack having a cast on my foot and being uncomfortable majority of the time, however once this cast if off 6am starts will resume.

If you are thinking of trying this out definitely go for it, this is something you can adjust to suit you as dreading waking up for a morning routine is no way to live, but you might be surprised how those extra few hours in the morning can benefit you and increase overall productivity.

Danielle says…

So I’ll let you know up top that I FAILED quite miserably at the 5am club. Quite frankly I have enough hours in the day to do what I’m productive enough to get done so an extra 2 hours of being awake in the pitch-black dark, tiptoeing around my house wasn’t particularly useful. However, I did have some positive learnings, so I’ll take you through my feeble attempt anyway!

On day one my alarm went off at 5am and it honestly felt like the MIDDLE of the night except I wasn’t going on holiday or doing anything remotely fun.Danielle

On day one my alarm went off at 5am and it honestly felt like the MIDDLE of the night except I wasn’t going on holiday or doing anything remotely fun. I opened my phone and finally got out of bed at 5:30, my body cannot wake up and get up immediately it physically won’t do it! I decided I’d use this time wisely and go to the gym where I attempted a gruelling “lower body blast” (please read: left me incapable of walking for the next two days). I then had a swim, came home and walked the dog and I STILL had ample time before I started work. I actually felt pretty normal for the rest of the day and didn’t feel a massive slump, nor was I out like a light by 8pm.

I realised on a trip to the loo in the night that the previous day’s workout had rendered me in a severe amount of pain and I realised I wouldn’t be getting to the gym the following morning! As my alarm went off at 5am I immediately stopped it and changed it to 6am without any kind of guilt or shame whatsoever. At six I woke up sat on my phone for a bit and eventually hobbled out of bed to do my morning routine. I walked the dog on a particularly long route and realised how nice it was to be out without any kind of morning time limit. When I got back I cleaned my kitchen and my office before starting work and once again I didn’t really have any kind of slump, in fact, the moments when I felt the most tired was ironically when my alarm would go off at 5am.

On day three after not getting the best night’s sleep when my alarm went off at 5am it was incredibly easy to make the decision that sleep was simply more important than ANYTHING I could of done this morning and it was on day 3 I realised that having a schedule and routine is great but sometimes you just have to listen to your body, which often requires rest.

Waking up at 6am means I never have to rush or panic about getting to my desk on time and I can do some of my boring adult chores meaning I get to enjoy my evenings a little more.Danielle

It took just 3 days for me to realise the 5am club would not be for me especially when I was working from home, but I have started getting up at 6am most days which feels a lot less abrasive despite it only being an hour later. Waking up at 6am means I never have to rush or panic about getting to my desk on time and I can do some of my boring adult chores meaning I get to enjoy my evenings a little more, I’ve always been more productive in the morning and now it finally feels like I’m taking advantage of that, I’ve cracked the code! I think if you’re struggling with time in the day and you’re a natural early riser you should give the ol’ 5am wake up a go, but maybe wait to start until the sun rises earlier to take the plunge!

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 27, 2022

10 of the Best Celebrity Booze Brands Worth Breaking Dry Jan For

From vodka to tequila, rosé to prosecco, there’s something for everyone when it comes to exploring this unique industry.

The celebrity alcohol industry has boomed over the past decade, with everyone from Dwayne Johnson to Kylie Minogue hustling to ensure their bottle is front and centre of supermarket aisles and bar displays everywhere. From vodka to tequila, rosé to prosecco, there’s something for everyone when it comes to exploring this unique industry and the varying levels of involvement stars have within the process of creating, bottling and promoting their chosen beverages.

So if you’re feeling like this month is lasting 10x longer than the whole of 2021 combined and you’d rather don some low rise jeans than complete Dry Jan, look no further than the below alcohol brands for your fix of relaxation in a bottle…

1. 818 Tequila- Kendall Jenner

Starting with arguably the most notable celebrity alcohol brand launch of the past decade, we have 818 Tequila from ultimate cool girl, Ms Kendall Jenner. Named after the zip code of her home in Calabasas, California, 818 was crafted for years before being released in 2021, and anonymously won major tasting competitions- including the World Tequila Awards and the Ultimate Spirits Challenge- for a variety of categories such as Best Reposado Tequila and Best Añejo Tequila. 818 is also home to the agaves grown for the tequila and production of the bottles it’s sold in, with “sustainability and transparency of our supply chain” being a core focus.

There will be no weird post-shot faces or rushing to suck on a lime with 818 on your bar cart, as the sweet agave flavours mingle with notes of vanilla and tropical fruits, finishing with hints of almonds, lime pie and toasted coconut for the perfect Friday night tipple. 818 agaves are left to mature for 7 years to reach peak maturity, before being cooked for 40 hours and finally crushed and their juices extracted using large stone Tahonas as part of a traditional technique.

At a cool £54.99 a 75cl bottle, it’s certainly not a budget beverage, but can you put a price on being the ultimate cool girl? We think not. 

Where to get it: VIP Bottles

£54.99 for a 75cl bottle.

2. Della Vite Magnum Prosecco- Chloe, Poppy and Cara Delevingne

Celebrations in order? Chances are you’ll be raising a glass of Prosecco, and Della Vite (meaning ‘from the vine’) from the uber cool Delevigne sisters is one you’ll absolutely want on ice and ready to pop at a moment’s notice. Inspired by the sisters’ love for socialising accompanied by a glass of bubbles, be it “sunshine brunches and long garden lunches to cocktail hours and festival days”, Prosecco is an integral part of their relationship, and thus Della Vite was born. Made in a solar-powered winery with 100% vegan processes, Della Vite uses “innovative methods and homemade natural ingredients to push the boundaries of winemaking”. The brand currently offers two Proseccos, the Superiore (rich and extra-dry ) and the Treviso (clean and bright with a mix of gooseberry and date notes), both capturing the feeling of sun drenched days and the warmth of good company.  

Where to get it: Della Vite

Superiore £25.95 | Treviso £19.95

3. Invivo X, SJP Sarah Jessica Parker Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Did someone say Sauvignon in the city? Elegant, aromatic and deeply tropical, Invivo X SJP is made up of notes of lemon curd, matcha and ripe peach and offers “terrific intensity and fruit purity” to finish. Anyone else sold already? Created in collaboration with Invivo wines, winners of over 250 international wine medals (including best Sauvignon Blanc), Sarah Jessica Parker has created a New Zealand wine that will transport you right to a Manhattan rooftop with your girlfriends, and is perfectly paired with sushi or an Asian inspired salad. With two vintage Invivo X, SJP Sauvignon Blancs released previously, their third vintage in 2021was awarded 92 points by the Wine Spectator magazine. 

For those who live for the finer details, SJP designed the label herself with the X and comma directly after it referencing her signature email and Instagram-post sign-off: “X, SJ.” And just like that, we’re adding 3 bottles to basket…

Where to get it: Wine Delivered

£12 for a 75cl bottle.

4. Aviation American Gin- Ryan Reynolds 

G&Ts all round? Originally founded by Christian Krogstad and Ryan Magarian in 2006, Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds became the brand’s co-owner after acquiring a stake of Davos Brands in 2018.  Despite then selling his stakes in the brand in 2020, Ryan will remain the public face of the brand for the next 10 years, which is just as well seeing as his famously dry humour has become synonymous with Aviation’s social media and tone of voice. Aviation American Gin offers a softer and smoother taste in comparison to London Gins which are typically sharper in comparison, and has been said to have been one reason for gin’s increase in popularity in the U.S. Its blend of botanicals- including cardamom, coriander, French lavender, anise seed, sarsaparilla, juniper, and two kinds of orange peel- creates a more subtle juniper flavour, making it perfect on the rocks or as part of a floral gin cocktail on a summer’s evening too. 

Where to get it: The Bottle Club

£29.99 70cl bottle 

5. Quatre Vin wines- Oliver Proudlock, Emma-Louise Proudlock, Elliot Awin, and Paula Anton.

Red wine lovers rejoice, Made In Chelsea’s Oliver Proudlock, model Emma-Louise Proudlock and friends Elliot Awin and Paula Anton (Director of Cultural Influence) have created an organically farmed red that oozes sophistication at an affordable price. Described as being packed with “super crunchy red cherry fruit, vibrant pomegranate, and a touch of spicy sophistication”, it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser for winter dinner parties with friends, or the perfect gift to accompany meeting the in-laws. The QV team are soon releasing the dream Rose in Spring of 2022, featuring freeze dried strawberries and a light floral touch that brings Provence to your glass! Emma-Louise, the brand’s resident food aficionado, recommends pairing the wine with charcuterie, cheeses, oily fish, white fish and lamb- we’ll take a case please.  

Where to get it: QV Wine

Quatre Vin Rouge 2020: £16.99, 75cl bottle

6. SelvaRey Rum- Bruno Mars

With a tagline as smooth as Mr Mars’ voice itself (‘Tropical Luxury, Wherever You Are’, oof), there’s no holding back when it comes to falling head over heels for the variety of rum flavours on offer from SelvaRey Rum. Created on a single estate in the jungles of Panama, SelvaRey claims to control and perfect every stage of the process from harvesting to fermenting, ageing to bottling for the best and smoothest rum in the biz! Following the brand’s launch in 2014, Bruno stepped on board as co-owner and creative visionary behind the brand, and everything from their Instagram feed to packaging oozes a 70s summertime dream. From White Rum (perfect for mojitos and daiquiris), Chocolate Rum, Coconut Rum and Owner’s Reserve (A Blend Of Rums Aged Between 15 And 25 Years), there’s something for everyone looking for a slice of Panama spirit and tropical paradise. 

According to Mars, “Anyone holding a good rum cocktail is exactly where they want to be”, and if that doesn’t sell it we don’t know what will.

Where to get it: SelvaRey

Although currently not available to ship to the U.K, it’s one to keep on your radar for travels to the U.S and parts of Asia! Prices range from $70-£149

7. Haig Club- David Beckham

Smooth, light and fronted by dream man Mr David Beckham, Haig Club has cemented itself as a go-to brand for whisky lovers worldwide, both with its iconic blue bottle and delicious taste. Named after John Haig, the founder of Cameronbridge distillery (where the whisky is made), Haig Club is perfect for both regular whisky lovers and newbies branching out alike, with its sweet flavour helping it go down a dream over ice or in an Old Fashioned, enjoyed fireside in a wintery pub. In addition to their classic whisky, in 2021 Haig Club introduced their Haig Club Mediterranean Orange spirit drink, bringing a slice of the Med to homes and glasses everywhere. Add some Fever Tree lemonade, a wedge of orange and ice and prepare to be transported to sunnier times after one sip.


Where to buy: Most major supermarkets and bars and the official Haig Club site

Classic Whisky: £24.99, 70cl bottle.

8. Avaline- Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power

Branded as “just clean, delicious wine”, Avaline Wine by Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power combines everything you want from a beautiful bottle of vegan goodness that screams chic, fresh and beautifully aesthetic. One look at the brand’s Instagram feed transports you to a bright and aspirational alternate universe in which drinking wine is the only agenda, and will have you searching for a reason to celebrate by opening a new bottle. Wednesday is the new Friday, right? Stocking red, white, rose and sparkling wines, Avaline is a one stop shop for delicious vegan wine that is kind to your body and the palate. Friends and now business partners Cameron and Katherine describe it as “wine at its purest, created with discerning drinkers (and friends) in mind, who embrace the pleasure of a whole life and a relaxed approach to wellbeing.”

Formed with organic grapes, guaranteed never to be farmed with harsh synthetic pesticides, Avaline is free from unwanted additives and made delicious by its carefully considered ingredients only. Complete with a grazing board, white table cloth and fresh flowers as a centrepiece and you’re living the Avaline life- it looks good on you!

Where to buy: Sign up to the Avaline newsletter to be the first to hear about worldwide shipping options!

White: $24, Rose: $24, Red: $26

9. Villa One- Nick Jonas

Tequila shots but make it classy, Villa One by Nick Jonas and John Varvatos sources 100% blue Weber agave from both the Highland and Lowland regions of Jalisco, Mexico, creating a sweeter, fruitier flavour that goes down like a dream. Their Tequila is created at their own  craft distillery, Fabrica de Tequilas Finos in Jalisco, guaranteeing the use of traditional techniques and pure, natural ingredients. Available in Silver, Reposado and Añejo flavours, each offering different notes for every occasion, Villa One seemingly has something for every Tequila lover’s palate. 

Where to buy: Uptown Spirits, available with worldwide shipping. 

10. Maison No. 9- Post Malone

Did you know Post Malone had his own Rosé wine? Us neither. Maison No. 9 was established with co-founders Dre London & James Morrissey in 2020, and was born from Malone’s love of the Mediterranean lifestyle and rosé, and a desire to deliver the best-in-class wine. Described as ​​”crisp, refreshing, and smooth, this dry, classic Rosé is wonderfully balanced and round with a texture that is mouthwatering and savoury. Very light, bright and clear with dominant orchard fruits like peaches, peach ring candies and sweet fruit salad”- we don’t know about you but it sounds quite frankly delicious. 

The soft peachy hue of this wine is what summer dreams are made of, and its accessible price point and beautiful design (influenced by Post’s favourite tarot card, FYI) is one your guests will certainly be wanting more of. Its sleek appearance and fully sustainable glass closure was designed to be kept and reused, with no detail spared in the creative process of bringing this rosé to life. 

Where to buy: Tesco

£19 for a 75cl bottle. 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 25, 2022

50 Budget-Friendly Date Night Ideas For New Beau to Long Term Lover

Spoiler alert: love need not be expensive! Some of the most touching, meaningful and romantic gestures come free of cost, because really all that matters on February 14th.

The month of lurve is nearly upon us, and getting your perfect date secured and in the diary with your new beau or long term lover is of top priority as we finally shake the January blues. And spoiler alert: love need not be expensive! Some of the most touching, meaningful and romantic gestures come free of cost, because really all that matters on February 14th and beyond is spending time with the person who makes you feel most ‘you’. Turn the heat up with a sensual life drawing class guaranteed to add some spice to your weekend, or keep things PG and wholesome with a first date to the art exhibition you’ve been wanting to see for ages. Whichever direction you choose, breaking the bank is not on the agenda here! 

And if you’re entering the new month single, there’s no need to aggressively exit this tab at the first mention of romance. February can also be the time to celebrate yourself and the things that you love about you most, as well as spending time with the platonic pals who make your heart sing- your ride or die besties who have your back through it all. In the words of Hugh Grant, “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” 

Keep reading for 50 of the best budget-friendly date ideas perfect to spark romance or guarantee an excellent time with your Galentine of choice. You’re welcome! 

  • Take a bottle of bubbly to the beach or park, pop it against a dreamy sunset backdrop and feel like a Pinterest cliche.
  • Write a heartfelt love letter together by candlelight.
  • Make pancakes for Sunday brunch complete with kitsch tablecloth, all the toppings and a deliriously happy weekend playlist. 
  • Build a blanket fort, featuring fresh bedding, cushion, fairy lights and the comfort film of your relationship.
  • Order from a new takeaway restaurant and pick out dishes for each other.
  • Head to a museum, enjoy a new exhibition and buy each other a present from the gift shop.
  • Head to a puppy or cat cafe together and feel your heart explode from the cuteness in every direction. New phone screensaver, secured. 
  • Pick up some canvases, paints and brushes and organise an evening of living room art therapy, a la Bob Ross.
  • Get your walking boots on and complete a local hike, ending with a well deserved pub lunch. Bonus points if you don’t argue whilst someone reads the map wrong.
  • Organise a wine and cheese night and imagine you’re holidaying in the South of France- we can dream, eh?
  • Head to a nearby drive-in cinema and smooch over some popcorn and pick n mix.
  • Drive out of town and stargaze under a blanket with no light pollution in sight.
  •  Find an affordable Airbnb within an hour from home, skip the stress of a long journey and enjoy the charms of your local area.
  • Take a dance class and feel the heat as you tango and give Rose and Giovanni a run for their money. 
  • Go wine tasting or for a brewery tour and feel giddy and loved up as soon as the tipsy feeling hits.
  • Find a local comedy show or improv night and laugh until your cheeks hurt.
  • Head to a nearby food market and grab a freshly cooked lunch from local sellers.
  • Make homemade face masks, pick up some massage oils and whack on some zen rain sounds and boom, at-home spa, completed it.
  • Organise a day out together and leave your phones at home, or switched off in your bag. Head for lunch, a walk and drinks and truly enjoy each other’s company sans distractions. 
  • Hire city bikes, pick a destination and finish your journey with a celebratory sweet treat!
  • Head to a second hand book store and pick out a new read for each other.
  • Recreate your favourite restaurant meal at home! Save on your bill and splurge on a delicious wine or M&S dessert.
  • While away an afternoon in a board game cafe.
  • Do some life drawing except you’re each other’s models. Oi oi *Adele voice*
  • Take on a pub quiz and combine your knowledge to thrash the competition…
  • … Or turn on each other and play a very competitive game of mini golf in which the winner gets to pick the plans for the rest of the day.
  • Grab some last minute theatre tickets and enjoy the magic of the stage, no matter how bad the seats are.
  • Attend a gig of an artist neither of you have heard of and dance the night away regardless. 
  • It may be February but it’s never too early for an ice cream date. A 99 on the beach or a knickerbocker glory at a nearby diner is wholesome date goals.
  • Watch Normal People and get approximately 30 minutes in before retreating to the bedroom…
  • Find an underground or secret bar and try a cocktail you’ve never had before.
  • Get a tarot reading and try not to freak out if it suggests a big life change is coming your way…
  • Head to your local roller skating arena or ice rink and spend the whole time holding each other up because it’s harder than it looks!
  •  If you’re feeling brave, get matching tiny tattoos with your long term lover and bask in the joy of a partner willing to commit.
  •  Binge watch Modern Love and feel all the gratitude for how lovely it is to be loved.
  • Eat breakfast in bed together and live out the ultimate wholesome couple goals.
  • Visit a planetarium and channel a love story as vibrant as Mia and Seb from La La Land.
  • Listen to both your favourite albums from start to finish and watch as the other person comes alive.
  • Eat *the* meatballs at IKEA and pretend you live in your favourite faux homes together.
  • Head to a ball pit bar and laugh until your stomach hurts.
  • Go to paint your own pottery and create a lasting memory (and ceramic item!) to keep forever.
  • Book a yoga class together and relax to the max.
  • Create a couples bucket list and vision board to manifest a dream 2022 together.
  • Bake something delicious and make use of the excess icing, if you know what we mean …
  • Kiss in the kitchen like it’s a dancefloor a la Harry Styles.
  • Head to a local football match and reignite the Euros 2021 flame because life has been downhill ever since. 
  • Make pasta from scratch and cheers to your accomplishment over a bottle of Italian wine.
  • Wakey wakey, is there anything more romantic than a dramatic sunrise and a thermos flask of hot chocolate? Grab your layers and start your day off feeling all the gratitude.
  • Active couple? Go for a run and rack up those endorphins babyyy.
  • Go for afternoon tea and live the Bridgerton dream. Reach for a spoon to take things up a notch. 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 24, 2022

The Sound of Pleasure – The Best Audio Porn to Listen to When You’re Horny as Hell 

From apps to podcasts and guided masturbation sessions, here’s a sensual selection of the best audio porn to listen to when you’re feeling horny as hell. 

In a world where you can have ethical porn and erotic audio, why would you ever need to associate with conventional porn ever again?

If visual porn’s just not your thing or you’re looking for ways to spice up your sex life and connect with your pleasure in newfangled ways, erotic audio offers a plethora of safe, convenient and consensual smut. In a space defined by and for the male gaze, this fresh breed of horny fables is music (and breathy sweet nothings) to our ears. 

90% of women use their imaginations or ‘mental framing’ to get aroused

According to research by sex education platform OMGYes and the Kinsey Institute, 90% of women use their imaginations – or ‘mental framing’ – to get aroused, running through narrative fantasies in their heads to get in the zone. Which explains the underrated allure of audio porn and makes a convincing case for using our ears rather than our eyes to get us off. Unlike feeling like a third wheel, audio porn feels like one step closer to the real deal, positioning the listener as a voyeur or participant and leaving more room for fantasy. 

From apps to podcasts and guided masturbation sessions, here’s a sensual selection of the best audio porn to listen to when you’re feeling horny as hell. 

Dipsea 

If palpable sexual tension and character-driven stories are your porn genre (pornre) of choice, Dipsea’s ever-growing library of sexy inclusive audio will certainly pique your interest. 

Designed to turn you on and tuck you in, it’s been dubbed the Headspace of erotica, blending sexual wellness with intimate storytelling in a calm, safe and consensual manner. You can access hundreds of carefully curated, sex-positive stories, cozy Sleep Scenes and wellness sessions, all of which will fire up your imagination and invite you to embrace your sexual fantasies without shame. 

Although Dipsea was designed with women in mind, the app is a safe space for all genders, with HER+HER, HER+HIM, and a growing selection of HIM+HIM and non-binary content. 

From flirtatious and romantic short-form stories to hookups, threesomes and BDSM, all the stories are clearly tagged so you won’t tune into something potentially triggering. Dipsea actively includes trans characters in its works and over 50% of their characters are voiced by people of colour. And ain’t that the way all good stories should be?

Co-Founders Gina Gutierrez and Faye Keegan recognised a gap in the market for real-life erotica, “We wanted to hear stories that felt like they were made for us, for our friends, and for all those women who felt like erotica didn’t really connect with their lives and experiences. So we made it our mission to build a narrative universe that cares about your needs, wants and fantasies – down to the smallest, most intimate details.

“Our stories are simply a door to your inner world, a way of illuminating the parts of yourself you’ve either lost touch with or have yet to discover.” 

Prepare for a binge-worthy listen. Discover the Dipseaverse here. 

SmileMakers 

Seeking something short and sweet? Something you can strategically sandwich between Zooms and lunch breaks? Smile Makers Clitastic Chronicles could be just the format you’re after. 

This erotica series focuses on real fantasies they’ve received, written by female authors. Featuring meet-cutes, late nights at the office, an encounter on the train and a tennis lesson that covers a little more than the basic strokes, this is a solid and wonderfully vanilla introduction into the world of audio erotica, making it ideal for newbies or anyone who’s short on time. At ten minutes and under, these kinky soundbites waste no time getting down to business. Because busy girls deserve their orgasms, too. 

Tune in here for free. 

Quinn 

Founded by Caroline Spiegal, sister of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegal, Quinn is an ethical space for both audio porn creators and listeners, designed for women to get their ‘O’s without the graphic burn-your-retina visuals mainstream porn depends on. Think less raunchy, more sensuous – no bells and whistles, just moans and accented voices. With categories from voyeurism, butt-stuff and non-binary voice, the Quinn library caters to all kinds of kinks, so you’re bound to discover something to get you going. We have it on good authority that “Harry Eats You Out” will make you see god. 

Sign up and discover your audio aura here. 

Emjoy

With 500+ wellbeing sessions to boost your body confidence, mindfulness journeys and sexy stories produced by the sexperts themselves, Emjoy offers a range of no-frills audio to fit any desire. More an audio wellbeing app geared towards female pleasure, Emjoy offers curious-minded cisgender women a fun and entertaining way to practise self love and expand their sexual wellbeing. 

Whether you want to increase libido, climax consistently, stay present during intimacy, or feel body positive, Emjoy’s audio collections invite you to embrace self-discovery and achieve sexual fulfilment by incorporating new habits into your self-care routine.

Fancy a listen? Explore the world of Emjoy here. 

SofiaSins

Each story is narrated from the perspective of both people involved, so you’re privy to all the sensations of both giving and receiving pleasure. Let your imagination run wild and safely explore your fantasies without reservation, from domination to romance, cunnilingus and beyond. Sack off the bedroom slow jams and hit play on this library of libido boosting tracks instead. You won’t regret it. 

Listen on the go, here 

Ferly 

Say hello to the audio guide to mindful sex you didn’t know you needed. Ferly is on a mission to empower women and folx with vulvas to have healthy, confident and pleasurable sex. As survivors of sexual assault and violence themselves, Founders Billie Quinlan and Anna Hushlak understand that enjoying sex is so much more than the physical. Through the app, you’ll explore what pleasure means to you using touch-based practices, build your sexual self-confidence with cognitive behaviour therapy practices and be present in your own body using guided mindfulness techniques.

If you want to let go of sexual shame, identify your sexual needs, connect with your body or heal from sexual trauma, Ferly’s the app for you! Alongside hands-on audio sessions, personalised programmes created by sexual wellness experts, body mapping and journaling, you’ll find 10-12 minute narrations of sensual stories to get you out of your head and into your body. 

Find out more about the Ferly memberships here. 

Girl on The Net

A blog dedicated to sexual liberation and challenging sex stigma – Here. For. It. From real life sex stories to fascinating fetishes, Girl on The Net has been flying the NSFW flag since 2011. Now one of the biggest sex blogs in the UK, you’ll find a wealth of wank material on here kindly converted from written erotica to audio porn for your listening pleasure. Consider this your one stop shop for every kind of explicit erotica out there and the fastest way to improve the dreaded commute. 

Listen for free here. 

&Jane

Told by real women in their own words, &Jane provides a multi-faceted collection of real and compelling confessional stories to be enjoyed by all. Ear candy indeed. 

Listeners can follow individual storytellers and find their new content every week or upload their own content to the platform while remaining anonymous. With every subscription, a contribution will be donated to the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the only national human rights organization that works full-time to affirm and protect sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.

Find out more here. 

Audio Desires

Audio Desires is an erotic audio platform created for women and couples looking for a more enjoyable alternative to visual mainstream porn. Relatable, guilt-free erotic audio stories with immersive ASMR sound effects – need we say more?

Thanks to their ‘spiciness’ rating system, you can easily identify what you’re in the mood for from flirtatious and sweet (🍑), passionate and exciting (🍑🍑) and hot and kinky (🍑🍑🍑). 

With new episodes out every Friday, this lot will ease you into the weekend mood nicely. TGIF!

Listen for free here. 

Tumblr

For those looking for unpolished user-submitted strangers with a mic clip, Tumblr is home to an exquisite feast of sexual sounds and blogs, though navigating the site takes significantly more effort and heed than sliding into an app or a podcast. 

Whether you’re into dirty talk, guided masturbation or straight to the point get those panties down steam, it’s all there for the taking on Tumblr. If an Irish accent (read: Connell) is up there at the top of your sexual fantasies, then we do advise that you complete the module named: AttractiveGeek. 

The Sounds Of Pleasure and Audio Orgasm also come highly recommended. 

Literotica

Best known for its written stories, Literotica also has a solid collection of audio sex stories for you to explore, ranging from Uber shags to sexy co-worker hookups and narrative-driven storytelling. Conventional porn not quite main character enough for you? These tracks put you right slap bang in the middle of all the hottest action. 

Listen for free here. 

Audible 

Listen, sometimes you don’t necessarily want straight up filth. Sometimes longing stares, character development and beautifully narrated audiobooks are better than porn and for that, there’s Audible. Case in point: Beth O’Leary’s Road Trip. Dylan and Addie’s villa sex? Top tier Provence porn right there. 

Find your genre of choice here. 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 23, 2022

The Most Recent Beauty Launches Worth Your Time

New year, new beauty routine, right?

New year, new beauty routine, right? 2022 might have got off to a slow and somewhat overcast start, but one thing that hasn’t been dampened by a certain global panna cotta is the new beauty and skincare launches dropping like they’re hot and spicing up the Boots aisle to no end. Whether you’re partial to a bargain or feel in the mood for a splurge (who doesn’t, eh?), everyone from drugstore faves Maybelline to bad and boujie Tata Harper have got something new and shiny to offer in the year of the Tiger and we’re ready to hand over our January paychecks on the spot. Adds money management to our 2023 resolutions.

Get your notes app at the ready people, there’s some real beauties to behold below!

CeraVe Micellar Cleansing Water with Niacinamide & Ceramides for All Skin Types, £10

CeraVe are the GOAT when it comes to gentle skincare, and their new Micellar Cleansing Water for all skin types is no different. Say goodbye to impurities, dirt, makeup and pollution with this effective cleansing water gentle enough to be used daily. At only £10 too it ticks all the boxes for new skincare essentials that won’t break the bank- we love!

Buy now

Boots Glow Banana Peel and Polish, £5 

100% vegan, cruelty free and delightfully affordable, the new Boots Banana Peel and Polish Mask helps exfoliate the skin without drying it out, thanks to banana extract and lactic acid that leave it soft to the touch. Simply apply to a dry face, leave for ten minutes, rinse and voila, your 2022 skincare routine just levelled up already.

Buy now

N°1 De Chanel Revitalizing Serum, £118

Spenny Chanel is here with brand new releases to start the year and my oh my are they worth the £££! Utilising the powers of the red camellia, a flower with revitalising anti ageing benefits, the serum works to diminish wrinkles, refine pores and restore skin’s elasticity, making your skin feel all the more comfortable. Alexa, play Forever Young by Alphaville.

Buy now

DOLCE & GABBANA Sheerlips Lipstick, £33

Anyone else dreaming of summer already? Dolce and Gabbanna have us covered. Their new Sheerlips lipsticks glide on thanks to their balm like texture, providing a hydrating wash of colour and leaving lips looking and feeling as soft as a petal! Their floral-inspired shade range contains delicate pigments that recreate the transparency and sheer hue of a flower, and we can’t get enough.

Buy now

Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder Lunar New Year Edition

Charlotte Tilbury has done it again, creating a base product so flawless your complexion will look like it had a serious upgrade in 2022, with packaging complete with red tiger print to celebrate the new year. We love you Ms Tilbury! Blur the appearance of fine lines and imperfections with this micro-fine finishing powder and watch as skin appears airbrushed, flawless and Insta ready at any moment! *Chefs kiss*

Buy now

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Cleanser, £9.99 

Hyaluronic queens make yourself known, this one’s for you! Gentle enough for both morning and night, this lightly foaming cleanser banishes makeup, SPF and daily grime from the skin and leaves it instantly hydrated and balanced. The combination of 1% inulin compound and 1% hyaluronic acid complex restores the skin’s natural barrier and drenches it in moisture for up to 48 hours- the dream!

Buy now

Maybelline Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara, £10.99 

Consider your date night fluttery lashes secured with the new Maybelline Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara, helping you woo your way to a free margarita in a flash. The intensely black formula and Memory-Curl technology works to provide up to 24-hour wear that resists clumping, smudging or flaking- what’s not to love?!

Buy now

Benefit Porefessional Lite Ultra Lightweight Pore Minimising Face Primer Exclusive, £29.50 

Their lightest formula yet, this undetectable, weightless primer has all the power of the original POREfessional but with a 73% water-based formula for gentle, cloudlike lightness. Non-comedogenic, gentle and fragrance-free, it’s everything your primer dreams are made of.

Buy now

Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation, £34 

Another from the wonderful world of Charlotte Tilbury, their brand new buildable medium coverage foundation has Spring skin written all over it, helping you create a healthy looking glow ready for brunch in the sunshine or a Parisian city break (a girl can dream). Brightening rose complex and hydrating hyaluronic acid work together to refine the look of skin with each wear, with coconut extract improving the skin’s ability to hold water too- hello plumper and more youthful looking skin!

Buy now

Doll Beauty She Fine Liner – Thank you, Next, £8.50 

With shade names ‘boy bye’ and ‘thank you, next’ in the new She Fine Lip Liner collection from Doll Beauty, it’s safe to say we’re sold on adding all of the above to basket immediately. Ultra creamy, blendable, and with a full-coverage finish that leaves lips hydrated too, consider your Valentine’s Day makeup sorted!

Buy now

Elemis Superfood Midnight Facial Nourishing Sleeping Cream, £40 

We’re familiar with probiotics from browsing the aisles of H&B, but ever heard of a prebiotic? Turns out they help promote the growth of good bacteria and properties that already exist in the body, and this sleep cream is packed with ‘em! Light enough for daily use yet decadent enough to feel like a treat, this bedtime essential improves overall skin tone and means you can roll out of bed safe in the knowledge your skin will be looking radiant AF, guaranteed. 

Buy now

Aveda Nutriplenish™ Masque Deep Moisture, £45.50 

Add some superfoods to your beauty routine as well as your morning smoothie with Aveda’s new hair mask, suitable for all hair types and promising 4x the hydration in comparison with untreated hair- big claims! Hair is promised to appear healthy-looking, soft and smooth to the touch- we’ll have the biggest tub you’ve got please!

Buy now

Tata Harper + Net Sustain Restorative Eye Crème, £113 

When the only fine line you want in your life is Harry Styles’ best album (facts only), banish under eye lines, shadows and puffiness with luxe brand Tata Harper’s restorative eye cream. If the price tag is slightly off putting, know that this magic-in-a-pot is produced every two weeks on demand, to guarantee the freshness, potency and efficacy of the bio-active formula- kinda cool, huh? 

Buy now

Keys Soulcare, Melting Body Balm With Macadamia Nut Oil, £30 

New release from mega babe Alicia Keys’ skincare line Keys Soulcare (which aims to care for the mind, body and spirit, FYI) their new Melting Body Balm transforms from balm to oil on contact with skin to soften, soothe, and hydrate in an instant.The scent of “sage and oat milk brings comfort, clarity, and balance”, and honestly we’re sold already.

Buy now

Sol de Janeiro Rio Deo Aluminum-Free Deodorant, £14 

Using the same scent as their iconic Brazilian Bum Bum Cream, this aluminium-free deodorant eliminates odour, soothes skin, and fights ingrown hairs (thanks to papaya enzyme) in one easy swipe. Its 98% naturally derived formula works with your body’s natural rhythms, lowering the skin’s pH and naturally preventing the bacteria that causes odour to be able to form. Your weekly Body Combat class is no match for this bad boy!

Buy now

Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Daily Brightening & Exfoliating Peel, £59 

Gentle enough to use daily, this lightweight liquid peel helps brighten, tighten and reduce the appearance of discolouration and dark spots over time, whilst Vitamin C Ester helps give the appearance of collagen-rich skin. Unlike traditional vitamin C, Vitamin C Ester is fat-soluble and easily absorbable for maximum antioxidant benefits. Sounds technical, results = worth the skincare lingo!

Buy now

Bondi Wash Body Wash Tasmanian Pepper & Lavender, £25 

If we can’t transport ourselves to Bondi Beach for a slice of sunshine, then this body wash might just be the next best thing.  Breathe in the scents of Australian botanicals for a beautifully fragrant shower or bath experience, plus with 99%+ plant-derived ingredients it’s perfect for those with sensitive skin too!

Buy now

Curél Deep Moisture Spray, £19.50 

Never heard of Curél? Say hello to Japan’s No.1 skincare brand for sensitive skin. Their new moisturising spray leaves skin feeling instantly revived, and can even be used on top of makeup for a dose of hydration whenever your skin is in need of a glowing pick-me-up. pH balanced, fragrance free, colourant free, alcohol free, sensitive skin gals rejoice!

Buy now

Fresh Floral Recovery Calming Mask, £59 

Let you skincare do the work whilst you catch some Zzz with the new Fresh Recovery Mask. Working whilst you sleep, the mask is powered by floral extracts – passionflower, cornflower, cherry blossom, and peony – to calm and reduce the look of redness on sensitive skin.  For immediate relief you can also apply during the day and leave on for 5-10 minutes. Gently massage in excess and watch as your skin transforms.

Buy now

Which items are you adding straight to your basket as soon as your January paycheck lands?

*This post contains ad-affiliate links 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 22, 2022

CBD Explained: From Skincare to Cocktails, Here’s Why Everyone Loves This Feel-Good Jack of All Trades

With claims such as helping manage menstrual pains, fighting skin ailments such as acne and psoriasis, alleviating insomnia and even aiding in chronic pain, it’s no surprise people are going wild for this seemingly heal-all ingredient. 

If you’ve been anywhere near a Holland and Barrett store in the past few years, Googled ‘ways to ease anxiety’, or even explored the ‘new-in’ section of your favourite skincare brand, chances are you may have come across the somewhat mystifying world of CBD. The industry is predicted to be worth an estimated $20 billion by 2024, and with claims such as helping manage menstrual pains, fighting skin ailments such as acne and psoriasis, alleviating insomnia and even aiding in chronic pain, it’s no surprise people are going wild for this seemingly heal-all ingredient. 

Let’s break it down. What actually is CBD? 

We spoke to Tom Bourlet, writer of the CBD Sloth, an award-winning blog providing impartial information and resources relating to CBD (with Tom himself having tested out somewhere North of 300 different CBD products, including oils, topical treatments, skincare products and gummies) to learn more.

“CBD is a cannabinoid found in cannabis. Both hemp and marijuana are forms of cannabis, the difference between the two is the quantity of THC, which is the cannabinoid that ‘gets you high’. If the plant contains below 0.3% THC then it is considered hemp. Brands, therefore, extract CBD from hemp to make CBD oil, which is low in THC, meaning it can’t get you high.

The most common reasons people take CBD oil is for stress and anxiety or to help deal with pain. CBD doesn’t work like a normal sleep medication, in that it doesn’t make you drowsy, however, CBD can help to ease anxiety which can make it easier to drift off.

Tom Bourlet

Brands cannot legally mention potential health benefits or make medicinal claims when selling CBD, as it is sold as a novel food supplement, meaning any claim they make could put them in hot water from a legal perspective. This is why CBD ads don’t directly talk about the benefits and focus on the price or the design.” says Tom

So whilst brands themselves can’t claim to be aiding in improved mental health or pain symptoms when selling their products, it’s clear so many swear by the benefits of this naturally occurring remedy. One area in which CBD has shown a lot of promise, is in reducing inflammation in the body, particularly within the nervous system and brain which can be of great benefit to individuals who experience chronic pain and have trouble sleeping. It’s often discussed that our mental and physical health are intrinsically linked, meaning those who struggle with long term conditions or chronic pain are more likely to experience low mood, anxiety, depression, insomnia and irritability. Although frustratingly CBD is never going to be a cure-all for pain of every variety, it can aid in improving the symptoms associated with pain, and help to create an environment in which healing is more possible and pain is reduced following a restful night’s sleep for example. 

Because CBD doesn’t contain THC (the component of Cannabis that causes the ‘high’ and euphoric feeling), it is completely legal to be sold and bought within the UK, be it in the form of oils, gummies or skincare. One of the biggest barriers in CBD becoming mainstream has been fighting the negative connotations around cannabis, as the knowledge the general public often have of CBD is largely intertwined with THC. But with endless developments and new learnings about cannabinoids appearing all the time, the positives to be found for so many are slowly breaking through the noise. 

So what’s the best way to consume CBD and feel its benefits? 

“There seem to be new ways to consume CBD on a daily basis, but I would strongly recommend sticking with CBD oil,” says Tom. “For CBD to be absorbed sufficiently, you should take it sublingually, meaning keeping the drops under your tongue and holding them there for a couple of minutes before swallowing the rest. This will help to increase the bioavailability, as much of it is wasted when swallowed. Despite this, you can also buy CBD in tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, gummies, chocolates, honey, peanut butter, tablets, capsules, mints, chewing gum, not to mention topical treatments.”

Where to start when buying CBD Oil:

“The first thing I would do is check to see that the brand has a lab report. You just want to double-check the product you’re getting contains the stated amount of CBD it says on the packaging. The lab report will show whether it does have the stated CBD, while it will also show that the CBD oil doesn’t contain any pesticides, heavy metals or residual solvents.

Focus on the price per mg of CBD. Many people opt for the cheaper option, getting a weak CBD oil, however this might not yield the results they’re afterTom Bourlet

If you can’t find the lab report on the brand’s website, send them an email and they should be more than happy to send it to you. If they refuse, do not go near this brand! “Another factor is not to look simply at the price, but instead to focus on the price per mg of CBD. Many people opt for the cheaper option, getting a weak CBD oil, however this might not yield the results they’re after and if they want 20mg per day, they will undoubtedly save money by focusing on the cost per MG and looking at the higher-priced options. There are also a number of trust signals that they can look out for.

I review a large number of CBD products on my website, but what people don’t see is the amount of brands and products I reject as I see them as inferior or they don’t meet the appropriate quality standards. So they can look through a website such as CBD Sloth. They could also look to see if they’ve won any awards at the World CBD Awards or TheCBDShow, who have a team of expert judges who will heavily test out the product and run their own lab tests to ensure quality.”

It seems the positives of CBD are overwhelming, but as with anything, it’s important to assess the other side of the coin too. “With anything you take, I would always recommend conducting your own research, especially around which brand you purchase something from. Hemp is highly porous, meaning it must be grown organically, as any pesticides or insecticides used on the hemp plant would pass through to the CBD oil in the extraction process. Fortunately, hemp often doesn’t require pesticides or insecticides like other plants do, but you want to be careful where it is grown. The EU is a good spot, as there are strict rules on growing hemp, whereas if the product came from China then there are much lower quality standards in place. The FSA also recommends not consuming over 70mg of CBD per day. This is a low limit, as when they conducted studies they found that a toxic dosage would be around 20,000mg of CBD in a day, so 70 won’t get you near, while people taking it for epilepsy are often taking around 1,000mg per day.” 

Whether you’re battling migraines, back pain, or want to minimise the monthly fear that comes when the spots break out, everything is annoying you and it’s clear *the time* has come, there’s a CBD product that can likely help As a bleeder, it’s expected that you’ll go through over 540 menstrual cycles in your lifetime, and if there’s even a small way in which to minimise the anxiety and uncomfortable symptoms that come hand in hand with menstruating, we’re keen to give it a try! FEWE, a female-founded and inclusive menstrual cycle care brand was established only recently (September 2021 to be exact), but has already created a range of skincare, vulva health and cramp relief products designed to help during every part of one’s cycle. 

“We launched FEWE in September after formulating the brand and products the year before. We sat in a meeting and I was talking about my sleep issues, having long suffered from insomnia,” says Fran Perace, Brand Director at FEWE.

“I mentioned that it only happened once a month for around 5 days, but that the break in my sleep cycle then meant I struggled to get it back on track and would often spend 3 weeks of every month with disturbed sleep. Someone asked me if I had ever considered whether it was hormone-related, which I hadn’t, so we all started tracking our cycle and realised how much our daily wellness was impacted by what was happening by our hormone fluctuations. We created FEWE to provide solutions for each of the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle and help impact health and wellbeing all month long, not just focus on when people are actually on their period.”

We provide product solutions for all 4 phases, focusing on 5 key areas of wellbeing that are affected by our cycle- Skincare, vulvacare, mood, comfort and sleep.Fran Perace

The market for period pain relief infused with CBD is booming, with brands now offering everything from CBD infused tampons, oils, pads, bath bombs and balms to soothe the mind and body. So what makes FEWE different? “Our main difference is that we provide product solutions for all 4 phases, focusing on 5 key areas of wellbeing that are affected by our cycle- Skincare, vulvacare, mood, comfort and sleep.” says Fran. “We have created a selection of holistic products that include CBD, adaptogens and wider active ingredients that can be used together or in isolation across your month to help you get in front of your cycle. We are huge fans of the incredible period brands both in the UK and the US using CBD to support easing symptoms of the period. We want to help create a world where the whole cycle is cared for.”

CBD and Skincare:

“CBD is an incredibly versatile plant-based ingredient which we use across our 4 phase skincare range, designed to help your skin throughout the changes it experiences during menstruation. One, it makes for an incredible hydrating moisturiser, which makes it perfect for our Hyaluronic ‘Thirst Trap’ Serum for use in week one of your cycle when your skin is at its driest as estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. CBD also contains anti-inflammatory properties which means it can help to soothe and lubricate your vulva which can get dry, itchy and painful the week before your period, which can also make sex uncomfortable. The rapid dip in estrogen just before the period causes this dryness but hasn’t (until now) been a focus in supporting period care. We use CBD in our Calm Balm to help ease cramping and tension, by using it topically on the skin to soothe. Probably a super common and recognised symptom of the period is the associated pain of cramps and sensitivity to pain whilst on your period so this is another incredible way to use CBD.”

Sold yet? Us too. If you still have questions or fancy delving deeper into the world of cannabinoids, head to Tom’s site www.cbdsloth.com and explore his extensive impartial research and information, or head to the FEWE website to shop their skin and period care!

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 21, 2022

Kind to You, Kind to Your Monzo Pots – 12 Spa Breaks That Won’t Break the Bank

From the rolling hills of the beautiful British countryside to hidden hideaways in the city and Georgian manor houses, here’s Zoella’s pick of the most relaxing and reasonably priced spa spots up and down the country.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, it’s still January, but if there’s one failsafe way to make the hardest month of the year a little easier, it’s a soul-soothing spa break. And just like that, you were swaddled in a fluffy robe and wearing complimentary slippers made exclusively for size 10 feet. Flip floppin’ around in ridiculous footwear is all part of le experience. 

After the last two years, the thought of escaping to a rooftop jacuzzi sounds even more appealing than usual. From the rolling hills of the beautiful British countryside to hidden hideaways in the city and Georgian manor houses, here’s Zoella’s pick of the most relaxing and reasonably priced spa spots up and down the country.

Plinky plonky playlists and cucumber-infused water at the ready, it’s time to hit the off button and familiarise yourself with a little concept the Italians like to call dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. 

1. Ragdale Hall Spa, Leicester 

*Martin Lewis voice* there are huge savings to be had when you book a midweek stay and when your annual leave looks this good, who cares if you’re dipping into your allowance in Jan? Take full advantage of the off-peak booking and hog the steam room for all its worth. 

Set within 13 acres of rural Victorian country house estate and boasting 6 pools (they had us at candle pool) 12 heat and water experiences, relaxation rooms and a state of the art fitness suite with daily classes from Pilates H20 to Candlelight Stretch Yoga, a spa-cation at Ragdale Hall is guaranteed to get you feeling ‘22. 

Check out their midweek 2-night taster break for the best value for money, or book in for a spa day/evening to enjoy all the pampering for a fraction of the price. 

Book in for a spot of R&R at Ragdale Hall here. 

2. Calcot Spa, Cotswolds

You know you’re onto a winner when you see Elemis on the menu. Set in the idyllic Cotswolds countryside amongst 220 acres of sprawling green meadowland, this is what every weekend should look like. Packed with character and traditional country house hotel charm, it’s the perfect spot to switch off and de-stress. ‘Me time’ never looked so good. 

Enjoy a full spa experience day including use of the facilities, tea or coffee on arrival, a two-course lunch in the spa and 85-minutes of the following treatments: Body polish and Elemis Tailored For You Massage With Facial (£215). Run, don’t walk!

Book your well-earned break here. 

3. The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Bath 

Originally built in the 1800s, the honey-hued Gainsborough Bath Spa occupies two Grade II listed buildings in the heart of the city, moments from the Roman Baths and the Royal Crescent. 

It’s the only hotel in Bath with direct access to the naturally heated thermal water from Bath’s underground springs. In-house guests can enjoy complimentary access to Bath House to enjoy the self-guided bathing circuit. It’s well worth booking a room for that perk alone! What better way to reconnect with the ancient practice of social bathing than by taking to the waters at the Spa Village Bath, set within a glass atrium within the hotel? Bring on the healing dips and lazy lie-ins complete with 5* room service.

(From £210 per night with book-direct benefits). 

Book your spa break here. 

4. The Spa at Rowton Hall Hotel, Cheshire 

Dubbed Cheshire’s best kept secret, Rowton Hall is a historic Georgian manor house set amidst 8 acres of tranquil gardens. Pull up a lounger and enjoy some wholesome R&R or enjoy doing your lengths with a 10/10 view from the indoor pool. However you choose to unwind, the secluded surroundings of Rowton Hall are guaranteed to provide an especially peaceful home from home. 

The winter spa package includes an overnight stay, 3 hours spa entry, 1 x 25 minute Elemis treatment per person and a full Cheshire breakfast. The perfect getaway for those looking for some much-needed downtime. 

(Mon-Thurs from £159 per night, Friday & Sunday £169 per night, Saturday from £179 per night). 

Visit the website for more info here. 

5. South Lodge, West Sussex 

A wild heated swimming pond complete with reeds, hydrotherapy pool and an indoor infinity pool? We make that a triple threat. Plonk yourself in the scented sauna, clear your mind in the jasmine herbal steam room, reap the benefits of an ice-cold bucket shower, or smash a workout in the state-of-the-art gym before putting your feet up for the rest of the day. 

Surrounded by breathtaking views of the Sussex Downs, this blissful haven in the hills should provide just the tonic to quell those pesky January blues. 

Book in for an overnight stay to enjoy breakfast or brunch and full use of the spa facilities (from £415). If it’s just a spa day you’re interested in, keep your eyes peeled for their next available packages landing in April 2022. 

Book your spa day here. 

6. Agua Spa at Sea Containers, London

Escape the hustle and bustle of the capital in one of the city’s most luxurious spa destinations. Why stick to shopping when you can slide into a massage-induced nap on a water bed? 

Located at the iconic Sea Containers building smack bang in the middle of London, this super chic sanctuary is as convenient as an urban spa break gets. Use of the spa lounge is available for 2 hours for all day-guests booked in for treatments, so if you’re looking for a place to ignore your emails for a while, you can indulge in a bit of R&R for the price of a treatment, which starts at £55 for a manicure/pedicure.

Centred around sustainability, the house made Hedgerow products used in the treatments have been blended on site using techniques drawn from herbalism and aromatherapy. Let Comfrey, St John’s Wort, Peppermint, Rosemary and Marigold-infused oils work their magic on your Zoom-hunched shoulders. You deserve it. 

Book your spa day here. 

7. Alexander House Spa, East Grinstead 

Boasting a bespoke outdoor barrel sauna and hot tub, the award-winning Utopia spa at Alexander House is the perfect spot to let the stresses of the day melt away. Spend the whole day horizontal soaking up the tranquility of the Grecian-inspired spa with the ‘Inner Peace’ package, which includes £200 spa credit, two course lunch or afternoon tea and full use of the spa facilities for 6 hours (from £260). Short on time? Go for the Morning/Afternoon Spa package which includes a 40 minute treatment, 2 course lunch or afternoon tea and full use of the spa for 4 hours (from £140). 

For a guaranteed mood booster, book up your spa day here. 

8. Bailiffscourt Spa at Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, West Sussex

A day at one of the most beautiful spas in the south of England is surely 10/10 writing material for the gratitude journal. Whether you’re after a spa day with an indulgent afternoon tea or a morning retreat followed by a delicious lunch, there’s a spa package with your name on. Enjoy a treatment of either a neck, back and shoulder massage or a facial, a glass of Sussex sparkling wine and a delicious spread (available Mon – Thurs, from £115). 

Treat yourself – book it up here. 

9. Coworth Park Spa, Ascot 

Well, if it’s good enough for Prince Harry! Recharge your batteries at the stunning Coworth Park, amongst the sweeping ancient woodland of Berkshire. With 250 acres to explore, world class polo grounds, a heated indoor pool with underwater music, experience showers and aromatic steam room, horse riding, cycling and mountain biking, it’s the ultimate place to both re-energise and relax. 

The ‘Afternoon Spa Retreat’ itinerary costs £195 (mon-thurs 2-7pm) and includes a 60 minute treatment, a seasonal afternoon tea served in The Spatisserie and use of the spa facilities. 

Book some allocated ‘me time’ here. 

10. The Pig, The New Forest 

Ok so technically speaking, it’s not a spa day per se but for anyone seeking that country house calm in bucolic surroundings without the faff of that post-swim hair wash (gladly @me), take your pick of any one of The Pig hotels and rest assured, you’ll return home full, well-rested and relaxed. Make a day of it with their 25-mile menu and treatments in the Potting Shed, followed by a soothing cuppa in the Drawing Room before you hit the road. Should you fancy the full Pig experience for a special occasion, you can stay in one of their cosy, beautifully designed bedrooms but bear in mind this will drive the price up considerably. 

Book your lunch & treatments here. All priced £115 for 60 minutes. 

11. Meadow Spa at Thyme, Cotswolds 

Like balm for the soul, Thyme is an award-winning country house hotel nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds. Tucked away behind the main country house is The Meadow Spa, an oasis of calm and heavenly treatments, providing an antidote for our fast-paced hectic lives. 

Bertioli Beauty bathing and breathing products are used to deliver treatments harnessing the healing power of breath and scent to nourish both mind and body, for a truly restorative experience. Meadow Spa has also partnered with cult skincare brand Aurelia London to curate a menu of bespoke treatments, designed to nurture and restore both the mind and body. 

Weather-permitting, you can take a dip in their spring water (chlorine- free) swimming pool for a pre-massage ritual and soak up the tranquility of the pastoral surroundings. Stay tuned for the Botanical Bothy – a new spa space dedicated to healing, breathing and reconnecting to nature. Coming soon! 

Book your bucolic bolthole in the Cotwolds here. 

(Rooms available from £320 per night, use of spa facilities included + cost of treatments, from £85. Treatments in the spa are also available for non-staying guests). 

12. Lush Spa, London 

If your idea of a spa day is more about the treatment itself than the fluffy bathrobes and hot tubs, then consider a Lush Spa massage on Oxford Street the official headquarters for otherworldly relaxation. On Oxford Street? Yep, you read that right. Nestled underneath the Lush store is a sanctuary of calm, complete with a treatment menu that really will quite literally knock your socks off. Praise be for the faceless Lush angels kneading your shoulders with their butter soft hands. 

Psss! If you’re a fan of the Calm Sleep Stories, we highly recommend The Bath Tales, which combines enchanting folklore with a side-lying massage. You’ll be asleep in 3 seconds flat. 

Book your treatment here and see what all the fuss is about (treatments from £40). 

Get it while it's hot!

Sign up to receive our email, delivering the latest stories straight to your inbox.