TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 30, 2022

A Beginner’s Guide to Birth Control: What Contraceptive Pill is Right for Me?

The truth is, there’s no such thing as the perfect birth-control method, but there are certainly differences between the two types of pill that can make your experience a whole lot easier once you understand.

Conflicting medical advice, ever-advancing research and the personal experiences of those taking it mean conversations surrounding the contraceptive pill can feel like a minefield of information to sift through. Overwhelming though it may seem, the contraceptive pill (developed in the 1950s, FYI) has changed the lives, freedom and health of women globally, empowering them to make their own decisions about pregnancy and sex, whilst also aiding in other health concerns, be it painful menstrual cycles, acne or heavy monthly bleeding. But how do you know where to start in picking a pill that’s right for you? The truth is, there’s no such thing as the perfect birth-control method, but there are certainly differences between the two types of pill that can make your experience a whole lot easier once you understand. Let’s break it down…

Although we commonly talk about ‘the pill’, it’s important to note that there are two types of contraceptive pill: the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill, and within those there are different active ingredients, strengths and brands available too says Pharmacist and advisor to progestogen-only pill, Hana, Deborah Evans. Both the progestogen-only pill and combined pill must be prescribed by a doctor, however you can now also purchase a desogestrel progestogen-only pill in pharmacies without a prescription, following a consultation with a pharmacist.

The Combined Pill

The combined pill contains synthetic versions of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen (ordinarily produced in the ovaries) and works by preventing ovulation from occuring. It is 99.7 percent effective, if taken correctly (more on this later) making it a great option for those looking to enjoy sex with a minimal risk of pregnancy. This type of pill is generally taken every day for 21 days of your cycle, followed by a 7 day break during which you might experience a withdrawal bleed- spoiler, contrary to popular belief this is not a normal period!

Although having this 7 day break was deemed ‘necessary’ for a long time, in recent years doctors have shared that this is in fact not essential when taking the combined pill, and that should someone wish, they can skip the break altogether!

“The seven day break makes the pill more ‘natural’ and acceptable for some women,” says Consultant Gynaecologist Narendra Pisal.  “A lot of women prefer to have a regular monthly period, as they feel reassured by it for various reasons (such as they feel it is more physiological to ‘have the blood come out’ and also a period means there is no pregnancy). Taking a break does not make the adverse effects any worse or more common (such as headaches, sleep issues).”

As it turns out, there are no health benefits from taking the 7 day break once advised by doctors, and patients can take back to back doses without worry. There is no buildup of menstrual blood if you do not take a break, and the withdrawal bleed experienced when someone does follow the 21 days on, 7 days off cycle is not an indication that someone isn’t pregnant.

The pill can become less effective if you take it more than 24 hours apart, vomit within 2 hours of a dose or have severe diarrhoea that lasts for more than 24 hours, which is important to remember!

Advantages:

  • Skin conditions such as acne can improve.
  • Improvement or absence of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) which can cause uncomfortable symptoms and mood changes in the days before your period starts.
  • It’s one of the most non-invasive methods of contraception currently available, and natural fertility is restored once someone discontinues use of the pill, which can be done at any time.
  • It can lead to lighter ‘periods’ aka withdrawal bleeds if the 7 day break is taken, which can be more comfortable and convenient.

Disadvantages:

  • Those suffering with migraines are advised to use another method of contraception because of the higher risk of blood clots.
  • The combined pill has been linked to changes in libido and sexual desire.
  • The combined pill has been linked to increased feelings of depression, however this varies from person-to-person and is something that should be discussed with a doctor should you feel concerned.
  • It is not suitable for those over the age of 35 who smoke.

Worth Noting!

You may also not be protected from pregnancy if you:

  • Are taking the pill for the first time and you haven’t yet taken seven hormone pills in a row.
  • Are taking another medicine that may affect the pill absorption, e.g. some anti-epilepsy medications.

The Progestogen-Only Pill

Next up: the progestogen-only pill. Also known as the mini-pill or POP, it contains a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone which alters cervical mucus to make it harder for sperm to travel to meet an egg. Some progestogen-only pills also contain desogestrel, which works to prevent ovulation, meaning no egg is released for sperm to fertilise.

Similarly to the combined pill, the mini-pill should be taken at the same time every day and is designed with no break between pills to be its most effective.

The POP is often a popular choice for people who might find it hard to remember to stop and restart taking medication, says Hussain Abdeh, Clinical Director and Superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct. Similarly if you cannot use contraception containing oestrogen, this is also a useful alternative. The POP is suitable for people of all ages, including if you are over 35 years old and smoke. However, it must be taken at the same time each day; taking it later than 3 hours after your scheduled time may mean it is ineffective. Most people who take the POP find their periods stop altogether which can be a huge advantage to those who experience painful periods or other difficult symptoms when menstruating and simply make things like sexual spontaneity, swimming and wearing whatever you like to feel more attainable.

Advantages:

  • The mini pill can be taken whilst breastfeeding.
  • It can be taken by those over the age of 35 who smoke.
  • You can start taking the mini-pill straight after childbirth, abortion or miscarriage.
  • There are less risks of developing blood clots unlike the combined pill which is associated with higher risk.
  • If taken correctly, it’s more than 99% effective. This means fewer than 1 in 100 who use the progestogen-only pill as contraception will get pregnant in 1 year.  With “typical use” of the progestogen-only pill (the way it’s taken by a lot of women in real life), it’s only about 91% effective.

Disadvantages:

  • Some users develop more frequent or irregular bleeding while taking the mini pill.
  • Some users may experience headaches, breast tenderness and acne, but these symptoms generally get better within the first few months of using the pill.
  • Women who have had breast cancer, or who currently have it, are also not advised to take the progestogen-only pill. Similarly, if you have arterial disease, heart disease, or have had a stroke, it is not advisable to use the POP.

So, what’s with the different names?

Now we’ve broken down the two types of pill, you might be wondering why you and everyone you know end up taking one with a different name? It can be confusing, but the different names given to contraceptive pills still fall into the categories of combined and POP, but simply have different brand names. Pills under different brand names contain the same hormones and the same dose of hormones, they have simply been produced by a different manufacturer and given a different brand name. Simple!

How to know which pill is right for you:

Landing on an effective method of contraception for you can be something that happens with ease, or for others take time and trial and error to find what works best- be it the pill, the coil, implant, condoms or other forms of contraception. It’s important to remember that whilst contraceptives like the pill work to prevent pregnancy, they do not protect you from the spread of STIs, and so a barrier method such as a condom is always advisable. Safe sex is fun sex!

When deciding between the two types of contraceptive pill, it’s important to discuss with your doctor any ongoing health conditions you are currently experiencing, or any you have experienced in the past, as this will undoubtedly impact which is safe for you to take. Other factors when deciding between the combined pill and POP include: if you’re someone who likes structure and routine and is able to remember to take a pill at the same time every day, if you’re a smoker, if you are somebody who cannot take oestrogen, or if you prefer to experience ‘periods’ (aka withdrawal bleeds). It’s a hugely personal decision but the benefits of the pill being something you ingest daily means you can stop taking it at any time- something that may help you feel more in control of your health and symptoms, in comparison to alternatives like the coil which must be removed by a professional.

How to make taking the pill work for you:

“Forgetting pills, losing the pack, not refilling your prescription on time — these are the main reasons why people might get pregnant when they use the pill” say the team at Planned Parenthood. “It’s good to plan ahead and think about the best way for you to use the pill correctly.” Here are some ways to help you remember to take your pills every day:

  • Use the Planned Parenthood birth control reminder app or set an alarm on your phone.
  • Keep your pill pack next to something you use every day (like your toothbrush or phone charger).
  • Keep your pills in your bag so they’re always with you.

Knowledge is power…

It’s worth knowing that both hormonal pills are linked to a small but significant increased risk of breast and cervical cancer, says Dr Jessica Braid of online health platform, Adio. “The combined oral contraceptive can also affect our gut health and has been shown to negatively affect the gut wall increasing the risk of ‘leaky gut’ and also have an impact on our gut microbiome increasing the risk of inflammation.

As a hospital doctor with a placement working in gynaecology, I saw widespread use of hormonal contraception and little information on non-hormonal options. Since then, I have worked in a natural medicine practice for 15 years, and believe that in 90% of cases it’s about educating patients on body awareness and hormone balance.

Dr Jessica Braid

Contraception is an incredibly personal choice, and whilst the pill carries risk, so does that of many other contraceptive alternatives. If you’re concerned about side effects or struggling to make a call about which option is best for you, speak to a GP or healthcare professional, and know that what works for others may not be best for your body. Empowerment = having the power to decide for yourself.

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 29, 2022

Spotlight on High Functioning Anxiety (Because The Struggle is Very Real)

It can be difficult to determine exactly what you’re feeling when it doesn’t meet the standard criteria of what an anxiety disorder looks like, or when so much of what you’re dealing with on a daily basis begins to feel ‘normal’ to you.

Between a global pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the rising cost of living, many of us will have experienced restlessness, burn out, heightened anxiety and overwhelm over the last two years, perhaps even accepting this as part of our everyday lives.

It can be difficult to determine exactly what you’re feeling when it doesn’t meet the standard criteria of what an anxiety disorder looks like, or when so much of what you’re dealing with on a daily basis begins to feel ‘normal’ to you. But there’s a huge difference between thriving and just getting by. 

Although not officially recognised as a distinct anxiety disorder, people with High Functioning Anxiety wrestle with the very same symptoms but hide it well, presenting a calm and confident exterior with no outward signs of anxiety, regardless of how mentally and physically exhausted they may feel. 

The anxiety can oftentimes play a motivating role in their lives, driving them to overachieve in the workplace, rather than holding them back and affecting their day-to-day life in subtle but damaging ways. Needless to say, this quest for perfectionism coupled with the propensity to go the extra mile and the inability to switch off (all whilst enduring these symptoms) is the recipe for overwhelm. 

You won’t find High Functioning Anxiety in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) but just because it doesn’t fall neatly into a mental health category doesn’t make it any less real for those dealing with it. This oversight is precisely one of the reasons so few people seek professional help, believing that their symptoms are ‘not bad enough’ to warrant a conversation with a GP. 

Here’s your reminder that you don’t need to wait for your anxiety to become all-consuming before seeking help.

Here’s your reminder that you don’t need to wait for your anxiety to become all-consuming before seeking help. While society might be quick to glorify your ability to take on more than the average person, you don’t have to keep it together all the time or wait for it to get to a point where it’s dysfunctional enough to be taken seriously. If you identify with any of the signs of High Functioning Anxiety, there are ways to reduce stress and restore emotional balance in your life once you know how to recognise and name it. 

From typical characteristics and how to spot the ways it can show up in your life, to causes and coping strategies, we spoke to Dr Michaela Dunbar to find out more about this often overlooked anxiety condition…

What are the characteristics of High Functioning Anxiety? 

High Functioning Anxiety is when someone experiences high levels of anxiety and the physical symptoms that come with it, but at the same time seemingly functions well in their day-to-day life. Doctors cannot diagnose High Functioning Anxiety because it is not a recognised disorder YET, making it difficult to get the appropriate treatment but the symptoms are VERY real.

Pictured: Dr Michaela Dunbar

How does it manifest and how can you spot it?

Key symptoms of HFA include:

  • Worry, fear, and anxiety
  • Irritability and frustration
  • An inability to relax
  • A need for perfectionism
  • Overachieving
  • Fear of failure or judgement
  • A desire to keep busy all the time
  • Overthinking and overanalysing
  • Anxiety before events
  • Elevated heart rate and faster breathing
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Digestive issues

Experts don’t fully understand the causes of anxiety disorders, but they most likely occur due to a combination of factors, such as:

Genetics: People with a family history of anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions are more likely than others to develop anxiety.

Personality: Childhood traits of shyness or nervousness in new situations, for example, increase the risk of having an anxiety disorder.

Long term exposure to stress or trauma at any point can trigger chronic anxiety.

Underlying physical health concerns, such as a thyroid disorder or heart problems can trigger or worsen anxiety symptoms and having another mental health disorder is also a risk factor for an anxiety disorder.

Misuse of drugs or alcohol can trigger anxiety, as can withdrawal from these substances.

How can anxious thoughts hold us back and interfere with our quality of life?

Having anxious thoughts is like having an overprotective parent in your mind telling you all the reasons why you shouldn’t do something and all the things that will go wrong if you do it. It’s likely that these thoughts, although intended to keep you safe (that’s what our brains do all day, try to keep us safe), cause you to overprotect yourself by avoiding or withdrawing from things that you are worried about.

When we avoid something we feel relief, but that feeling of relief is bad for you in the long run, because you start to associate that good feeling of relief with avoidance, so you continue to avoid.Dr Michaela Dunbar

Avoidance is fuel to the flame of anxiety because when you avoid something you just don’t get the opportunity to see that a) the scary story you pictured in your mind was just a scary story and b) that whatever happens, you can handle it. Essentially, we massively overestimate the threat and massively underestimate our ability to cope with it. When we avoid something we feel relief, but that feeling of relief is bad for you in the long run, because you start to associate that good feeling of relief with avoidance, so you continue to avoid. This avoidance of things you are worried about can spread to other areas of your life if you don’t manage it. This is a vicious cycle and can feel very lonely, but you can find your way out of it with the right information and the right support. Whether that’s blogs, books, podcasts, or therapy.  

In your debut book You’ve Got This, you provide a practical toolkit to reframe anxious thoughts. How can cognitive reframing help manage High Functioning Anxiety and challenge the anxious brain?

We have thousands of thoughts every day, some negative, some positive, some fiction, some fact. However, depending on our experiences our thoughts can end up a little biased towards negativity.  For example, if you were bullied when you were 14 that might have left you thinking that you were unlikable, and those thoughts can stick with you well into your older years. However, just because you were bullied at 14 doesn’t mean that you are unlikeable by any means.

So, we have to take that ‘I’m unlikeable’ thought to trial, especially if it’s affecting our behaviour today.  When you take a thought to trial you look for tangible, objective, evidence for and against your negative thoughts, and then use that evidence to decide if it’s true. It’s usually not. You might still ‘feel’ as though your negative thoughts are true, but that doesn’t matter too much, as long as your behaviour is in line with the new belief you want to have, ‘I am a likeable person’. By changing your behaviour in this way you will start to see a shift in how you feel about yourself, and how others see you. 

What causes overthinking tendencies?

A number of things, but overthinking is really common in people who have experienced trauma at any point in their lives. This could be getting bullied at school as I mentioned before, or a car accident, or even having an emotionally unavailable parent. Essentially, if we have had difficult experiences that were hard for us to process at the time, our brains and our bodies hold onto the memories in an effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If your past experiences were interpreted by you as negative, and you haven’t had the opportunity to process them, that could be informing how you think, feel, and behave today. Dr Michaela Dunbar

So we think and think and think about all the things that could go wrong so we can prepare for it. Our brains act like a time machine in these cases, where we will think back to past experiences, propel ourselves into potential outcomes in the future, and pair it with the current situation, all in an effort to assess risk and what we should do about it. However, if your past experiences were interpreted by you as negative, and you haven’t had the opportunity to process them, that could be informing how you think, feel, and behave today. 

How are High Functioning Anxiety and imposter syndrome connected?

Self-doubt is a huge theme for people with HFA and imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is the overwhelming feeling that you just don’t deserve your success. By anyone’s standards you are successful, conscientious, and ambitious but you have become convinced that you’re not as intelligent, creative or talented as you may seem. If anyone comments on your achievements you just tell them that it’s all down to luck, good timing, or just being “in the right place at the right time”.

Like High Functioning Anxiety, imposter syndrome isn’t an official diagnosis, but psychologists and other experts acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt characterised by:

Feeling Inadequate

Having Perfectionist Tendencies

Fearing Judgement and ‘Discovery’

Denying Your Own Success

And Like HFA this impairs professional performance and contributes to burnout.

What is the first step to overcoming or diminishing anxious thoughts and feelings? How can you break the pattern of spiralling ‘what ifs’ and ‘shoulds’?

Mindfulness is amazing for overthinking tendencies. It helps to stop the time machine and focus only on the present moment. Allowing you to fully engage with what’s important and valued to you right now, rather than rehashing the past or worrying about the future. It takes practice, as it is essentially training your attention, but it’s free and you can start with just 1 or 2 minutes a day, then build the time up. You need to remember that you can’t stop thoughts coming into your mind, our brains are literally designed to think, but you can choose which thoughts you give your attention to. Mindfulness also helps you to notice your triggers sooner, giving you more time to respond in a helpful way.  

What role does fear play in High Functioning Anxiety?

Everything. Fear equals threat response in all humans.  An activated threat response triggers physical symptoms, and often a change in our behaviour. Ultimately, we all just want to stay alive, we naturally try to protect ourselves, and some of us end up over protecting ourselves by procrastinating for example, because we fear failure. If you procrastinate it’s likely that you will have to rush the work so you get it in by the deadline, increasing the chances that you won’t do as well with the project. That age-old self-fulfilling prophecy occurs. Keeping the fear cycle alive in the same way I mentioned earlier. 

How can we use the fear of failure to our advantage rather than our detriment?

Feel the fear and do it anyway, use it to hone in on what’s important to you.

How does HFA differ from GAD and other forms of anxiety?

HFA is much more likely to be ignored because, on the outside, the person is functioning seemingly well in their life – usually better than the average person. The same mechanisms of anxiety occur across all anxiety disorders (HFA is not yet a recognised disorder). We all have a threat response, and a nervous system that can get dysregulated. Essentially it all works the same way, but the internal and external symptoms or experiences of the anxiety may vary. 

When does HFA become problematic? At what point should someone consider seeking help?

As soon as it starts interfering with your everyday life. For example, you wake up many mornings feeling anxious, you start avoiding plans, or the physical symptoms interrupt you. Or as soon as you want to!

Those living with HFA tend to live in their heads in a perpetual cycle of overthinking. How can they reconnect with their body and channel that anxious energy in a positive way?

A little anxiety isn’t a bad thing, we need it to stay alive and we can use it to keep us motivated. For example if you’re in an exam. However, this is better in small doses and becomes a problem when it is disrupting our quality of life. If you’re anxious about something it just means you care about it, it doesn’t mean there is a reason to be anxious. Remember thoughts aren’t facts, so, lean into that. 

when your threat response is activated, it often feels really uncomfortable in our bodies, you might get butterflies or shallow breathing, get a stomach ache or become really sweaty.Dr Michaela Dunbar

If you’re anxious, your threat response has been activated, when your threat response is activated, it often feels really uncomfortable in our bodies, you might get butterflies or shallow breathing, get a stomach ache or become really sweaty. The list goes on, and it’s important to know that everything that happens in your body when your threat response is activated is designed to keep you safe. However, because it feels bad we start thinking up strategies to distract ourselves, or try to escape how it feels in our bodies. This just keeps us scared of our own physical symptoms, and more fear equals more anxiety. The key is to reconnect with your body with things like body scans, mindfulness, or yoga so you can get reacquainted with it and take anxiety off the pedestal. 

One of the most powerful places to be is knowing that you can have any thought and any feeling and still do what you need to do. 

What wellbeing techniques / hacks can be employed to manage HFA on a day-to-day basis?

  • Two minutes of mindfulness
  • Deep breathing, this helps to deactivate your threat response and activates your rest and digest response.
  • Set strong boundaries with your managers and co-workers. Sometimes the stress and overthinking is magnified when your to-do list is too long. Take some things off your plate. 
  • Check-ins, conduct a body scan from head to toe and notice where in your body you feel discomfort and breathe through it. Do this every hour. 
  • Journalling – get your thoughts down onto paper and problem solve them if they need to be, instead of keeping them in your mind taking up space.
  • Move your body to get a quick happy hormone hit such as endorphins and dopamine
  • Get in the sun, vitamin D has huge positive benefits for our mood

What are the treatments and therapy available for HFA? 

As HFA is not an official diagnosis, the interventions (and clinicians that are aware of HFA) are slim but with my clients, I use a mix of cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). These therapeutic models cover a good mix of mindset, actions, and body work. Somatic therapy is also really good for managing trauma held within the body. 

For more advice and tips, follow Dr Michaela Dunbar @myeasytherapy on Instagram and order her new book You’ve Got This: Seven Steps to a Life You Love

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 28, 2022

In Defence of The Simple Life: 50 Small Joys Worth Celebrating 

As we look to the smaller moments within our day with gratitude and a newfound perspective on the importance of the seemingly forgettable things that bring us peace, here are 50 tiny joys worth remembering when building a life that recognises happiness in all its forms.

In a world of ever deafening noise and the pressure to constantly strive for more, peace is a feeling that feels continually difficult to come by. Two years since the dreaded panini began and life came to a full halt, it can feel even more difficult to now strike the balance of a fun and busy life, with peace and contentment too. But the truth is: sometimes being busy is a coping mechanism, and jumping back into ‘normal life’ becomes the excuse.

 “A boring life is usually a peaceful life but if you’ve experienced chaos, it will not feel like that,” says lifestyle and family blogger, Grace Victory. “⁣We often chase the high, the excitement, the big moments, because the every day feels far too mundane to us, but as I heal parts of my disjointed self I realise that that’s where the magic is. A normal and somewhat boring life means no drama, no fuss, no disorder and that’s exactly where I’d like to be. Centred. Grounded. Rooted. At peace with the small and intimate opportunities.⁣” Hear, hear!

As we look to the smaller moments within our day with gratitude and a newfound perspective on the importance of the seemingly forgettable things that bring us peace, here are 50 tiny joys worth remembering when building a life that recognises happiness in all its forms:

  • Someone asking if you want a cuppa just as the craving hits
  • Your favourite song coming on the radio when you get into the car
  • Someone telling you they loved a book you recommended 
  • When your hair is greasy AF and you remember it’s hair wash day 
  • Waking up before your alarm goes off and knowing you still have time left to sleep
  • Reduced supermarket flowers when your current bunch are on their way out
  • Stepping into a hot bath at the end of a long day
  • Walking barefoot in the grass on a summer’s day
  • Fresh bedding on a Sunday night
  • A weekend afternoon nap, just because
  • Whiling away an afternoon people-watching in a coffee shop 
  • Catching an unexpectedly beautiful sunset
  • Finally finishing a job you’ve been procrastinating
  • When you buy a loaf of bread or croissant that’s still warm 
  • The first sip of cool wine on a Friday evening
  • Finding an underappreciated gem in a charity shop
  • Having the time to make a good breakfast
  • Finishing your to-do list earlier than expected
  • The first bare leg day of the season 
  • Coming home to a tidy house after a long trip away
  • A houseplant growing a new leaf
  • When something you were going to buy anyway goes on sale
  • Spotting the first flower of Spring poking through the morning frost
  • Holding hands with your love
  • An empty email inbox
  • Receiving a handwritten card
  • A cool shower after a hard workout
  • The day a new season of your favourite show drops
  • Realising your hard work has paid off
  • Bumping into a friend unexpectedly 
  • A stormy evening when you’re warm in bed
  • An unexpected message of appreciation from a loved one 
  • Checking your bank account and realising you have more money than you thought
  • Getting the last remaining BLT with your Tesco meal deal  
  • Closing the cover of a great book 
  • Belly laughing with your best pals 
  • A Bank Holiday that slipped your mind
  • Your favourite artist performing your favourite song live
  • Sunshine on your skin after a dip in the sea  
  • When your car has more petrol than you thought
  • The smell of rain on a summer’s day 
  • A day dedicated to cleaning the house top to bottom
  • Showering after a day at the beach and devouring a bag of Lays on your hotel bed whilst on holiday 
  • Craving a really specific food and finally getting to eat it 
  • The mini head massage you get when your hairdresser washes your hair 
  • Screaming a throwback song with your besties when you should be winding down at the end of a night out
  • The smell of the first BBQ of the year 
  • Getting Worlde in under 4 attempts 
  • A Fanta Lemon on a hot day
  • Being the first one up in the house on a weekend 
TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 27, 2022

Investing for Beginners: 6 Steps to Grow Your Money & Manifest your Millions

If you think investing is only for a) men b) the rich, then you’ve landed in the right place. 

This article is part of a paid partnership with Female Invest. 

If you think investing is only for a) men b) the rich, then you’ve landed in the right place. It’s no secret that women around the world are falling financially behind compared to men, and one of the reasons for this is that women are investing less. 

Research suggests that when we do invest, we actually outperform men.

Typically speaking, we tend to save more, preserving what we already have rather than growing our money. We err on the side of caution when it comes to making mad financial moves but that’s not to say we’re not good at investing – research suggests that when we do invest, we actually outperform men (Fidelity) – we just lack the confidence to do so. 

Imposter syndrome 1, Women 0. 

Starting your investment journey can be intimidating but contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a stock market expert to get started. Everyone can invest, you just need to know the basics and that’s where Female Invest comes in.

The social e-learning platform makes personal finance and investment easy to understand and more inclusive by providing women with a dedicated space to learn, grow and connect with like-minded women. 

Created by women, for women, Female Invest is on a mission to close the financial gender gap by empowering women with the tools, guidance, and community to achieve financial success and get to where they want to be. 

They’re committed to educating women in the A-Z of money matters, so that we can enjoy the same financial freedom as men and cash in on the equal opportunities to build wealth. Finally, someone’s talking about money and including us in the conversation. We love to see it!

In a male-dominated industry with disproportionately few female advisers, Female Invest empowers women to not only get savvy with their money but *grow* it too. With 25+ e-learning videos including in-depth articles, quizzes and downloadable materials, and live webinars covering everything you need to know about investing, you’ll be well on your way to setting yourself up for a blossoming financial future. 

Whether you want to master personal finances, plan for retirement, improve your negotiation skills for your next promotion or kickstart your investment journey (stocks don’t have to be scary), you can have an incredible catalogue of resources right at your fingertips. 

So, if ‘get better at finances’ was firmly on your vision board for 2022 then allow Female Invest to manifest it into being, use code: ZOELLA40 to get 40% off the Female Invest annual Membership!

Why women should consider investing more

According to a study by Merrill Lynch, women are still reluctant investors compared to men, with 41% of women citing not investing more as their biggest financial regret, whilst 7 in 10 (69%) women wished they had started investing their money sooner.  

In the face of issues like career breaks / parental leave, state pension disparity (to the tune of £29,000 apparently. We feel violently ill) and the gender pay gap – full-time female employees are currently paid 7.9% less than full-time male employees (ONS) – it’s even more important that women take action and invest in their future in order to accumulate the same amount of long-term wealth as men. 

Whilst putting away a respectable portion of your paycheck each month to fall back on is a great habit to get into for short-term goals, you could be doing yourself a disservice by leaving longer-term cash in savings thanks to historically low-interest rates and inflation. Of course, holding onto cash for emergencies is always a good idea but when it comes to long-term savings, investing can make your money work as hard as you do.  

There’s also a common misconception that you need to be earning vast amounts of money before you can invest but starting small with £25-£50 a month could grow into a sizeable sum over time. You don’t have to be loaded to start but you do have to understand the potential risks and get comfortable with the concept of investing. 

There’s a lot to learn – and unlearn (society, that’s on you) – but with the help of Female Invest, you can keep your financial wellbeing in check and achieve better, long-term financial outcomes. 

Not sure where to begin? Here’s a few tips to get started with investment and ensure you never have to miss out on potential earnings ever again. 

How to start investing

1. Let go of ‘the fear’

If the appetite for knowledge is there, it’s half the battle. Sure, investment might not be the sexiest of topics but it’s just a case of getting started, educating yourself and getting comfortable with the lingo. The biggest barrier to financial investment is fear – the fear of not knowing how to invest but klaxon: you can always learn.

2. Do your homework.

Learn about stocks, risk & time and mutual funds. When you have learned the basics of the stock market, you are ready to take the leap and begin investing. Here’s your 101 guide:

  • Stocks are bought and sold on the stock exchange. 
  • Companies raise money to build their business by issuing stocks. 
  • You get access to trade stocks through an online trading platform.
  • Simply put, stocks are a way to build wealth. They are an investment which means you own a share in the company that issued the stocks. By buying stocks, ordinary people can invest in some of the most successful companies in the world. For companies, stocks are a way to raise money to fund growth, products, and other initiatives.
  • But the main reason investors buy stocks is to earn a return, which generally comes in two forms:  The stock’s price appreciates, which means it goes up. The stock pays dividends. 
  • Over the long-term, the average annual stock market return is around 8%. That means £1,000 invested in stocks 30 years ago would be worth upwards of £10,000 today, due to compound interest.
  • Risk and time horizon. Every investment involves some degree of risk and it’s commonly said that risk and return go hand in hand. This means that low-risk investments tend to give smaller and more stable returns, while high-risk investments generally have larger fluctuations and higher returns. 
  • Consider your risk profile: never invest more than you can afford to lose. Invest your way – we all have different long-term goals and needs. Make sure that whatever you’re investing in is right for you, your objectives, and your risk tolerance. 
  • Consider your time horizon: when do you need your money?
  • Diversify your portfolio: invest across countries, regions and industries. 
  • Mutual Funds – when a group of investors join forces and make mutual investments, it’s called a mutual fund. In this way, money collected from many investors is used to purchase securities like stocks or bonds. In this way, the value of the mutual fund depends on the performance of the securities it buys. 

3. Create a trading account.

In order to invest, you need to create a trading account. Therefore, choosing a trading platform is the first step to your investment journey. Different countries have different dominating trading platforms, which makes it difficult to compare platforms across borders. However, the three things you need to consider are: 

  • Fees: how expensive is it to trade? Do you pay to create an account? 
  • User-Friendliness: How easy is it to navigate the platform? 
  • Access: How many markets and products can you access? 

4. Transfer money

How much money should you invest? The answer is ‘it depends’. It depends on the trading fees, your strategy, and your financial situation. It is commonly said that you can get started for a few hundred pounds, depending on the fees of the platform.

 5. Invest!

You are now ready to make your first investment! It goes like this: 

  • Type the name of the stock or mutual fund you wish to purchase in the search bar.
  • Click ‘trade’ 
  • State ‘amount’ and ‘price’ 
  •  Amount: How many stocks you wish to purchase. 
  • Price: The price you are willing to pay. 
  • Once you press ‘buy’ your order is in the market and it will be completed once someone decides to sell. Large-cap stocks usually have many buyers and sellers, and it typically takes seconds or minutes for a trade to go through. On the contrary, small-cap stocks often have fewer investors, and it therefore might take longer for the trade to go through. The stock will appear in your account as soon as the trade is complete.  

6. Join the conversation.

Join the Female Invest community and seek help from their large community to speak with other members about your investment journey. Attend the Female Invest free webinar Introduction to Investing on May 1 and they will walk you through everything you need to begin your investment journey! Use code: ZOELLA40 to get 40% off the Female Invest annual Membership bringing you one step closer to financial freedom. Huzzah!

This article is part of a paid partnership with Female Invest. 

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 26, 2022

A Guide to Choosing The Best Sex Toy For YOU

Choosing a toy is naturally a very personal decision, and what works for one person, whether in shape, size, feel or even colour, may not work for the next...

New to the world of rampant rabbits and vibrating everything? We got you. Whether you’re delving into the world of sex toys for the first time or simply have never found anything that’s quite hit the spot (if you know what we mean), you need not despair. From single, taken to ‘it’s complicated’, there are a plethora of toys out there to suit your every desire and kink, and we’re here to help you narrow down the process of finding The One. 

Choosing a toy is naturally a very personal decision, and what works for one person, whether in shape, size, feel or even colour, may not work for the next, says Renee Denyer of Sh!– an inclusive website for those of all sexualities to explore their unique relationship to sex and pleasure and purchase toys; pressure-free, hype-free and stereotype-free. 

First of all, take some time to think about what you’d like your toy to do for you. This may seem obvious (an orgasm!), but try digging a little deeper. What erogenous zones do you want to explore? Are you curious about clitoral stimulation, internal pleasure or perhaps both? Once you’ve decided on what kind of pleasure you’d like your toy to provide, you need to consider some practicalities next. Do you want it to feel soft and squishy, or do you think firm and sleek is the way to go? Do you think an intense buzz or something gentler will work better for you? Is size important? 

It can be difficult, especially, if you don’t have any experience with sex toys- how do you know what you like? The best way is to think about the type of manual stimulation you prefer. Do you need a soft, gentle touch to orgasm, or do you need firm and intense stimulation?

Still need some guidance? Screenshot this handy checklist and take note before making a purchase

Stay Simple: A toy with complicated controls may put you off. Try starting with an easy-on, easy-off vibe.

Sensations: Choosing a sex toy with more than one pleasure mode gives you more options to explore. 

Sound: If you live with flatmates or family, you will probably want a toy that is as quiet as possible.

Width: A toy that is too girthy for you will feel uncomfortable. If you’re unsure, trying a slimmer vibe is wise.

Length: You can always control how deep a penetrative toy goes, so the length is usually less of an issue.

Anal play: Any toy destined for the butt must have a flared base or handle to avoid getting sucked up into the rectum. Trust us on this. 

Price: It’s probably worth opting for something inexpensive for your first toy- once you know more about what you like in terms of intensity and size, you can upgrade to an all-singing, all-dancing version! Having said that, sometimes you do get what you pay for, and if you want the full, luxurious experience, take your time to research your options and make an investment. After all, can you really put a price on pleasure?

Also, lube is your best friend! Lube enhances sensations and makes play sexy, comfortable and pain-free: Shop here!

Toys to explore as a newbie

Toys to Explore In a Relationship

Currently taken? Toys can enhance your sex life x100 and add a sense of excitement and newness if you’ve been with your partner for a while, but approaching the subject is something that should be handled with care. 

“Before diving into the deep end of the sex toy pool, you need to find out if your partner is on the same page.” says Renee. “Think about what kind of sex toys turns you on. Find out what your love would like to try. Keep it light and romance over what kind of pleasure you’d like to explore together. The most important thing is to go gently because hurt feelings or bruised egos are real passion killers. Your partner mustn’t be made to feel inadequate, insecure or threatened by the idea of a sex toy. Rather than using “I want to try” say something like “I’d like to explore XYZ with you – how do you feel about that?”  Use language that makes it clear it’s a toy for you to enjoy together.”

Toys to use with your lover

Experiencing painful sex? Toys aren’t off limits!

There are many reasons as to why someone may experience pain with intercourse, and as a result be worried about introducing toys, but the good news is they’re not off limits! One common reason is Vaginismus- a term used to describe recurrent or persistent involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted, with symptoms including burning or stinging pain upon penetration, which can lead to fear or loss of desire when penetration is attempted. It’s always advisable to speak with a GP or pelvic health specialist if you suspect you may have Vaginismus, but know that there are plenty of options for pleasure and joy both in relationships or solo- do not despair! External stimulation can be one way to make pleasure more accessible, as well as using silicone dilators to relax tense nerve-endings and build confidence with penetration if that’s your ultimate aim. The clitoris has over 8,000 nerve endings and as a result is one of the most sensitive erogenous zones, making pleasure solely from this area very possible… 

Knowing where to invest

Toys can be expensive, but do you really get what you pay for? Let’s just say if you work it out per orgasm, a luxury vibrator is worth saving up for. A more expensive toy will typically be made from a body-safe, hypoallergenic and non-porous material like silicone, says Renee from Sh!, which feels sensual to touch, warms up to body temperature during use and is easy to keep clean- divine! The motors tend to be stronger, last longer and be whisper-quiet. You will have several modes to choose from, often with an option to increase or decrease the intensity of the pleasure modes- yes please. Luxe toys are also usually 100% waterproof, giving you the option of playing in the shower or bathtub (oh la la), and an expensive toy may even come with extras, such as free lube or a storage bag. If you don’t know what sensations or style of toy you’re looking for it’s best not to drop £100 at the first instant, but in the long run investing in your pleasure isn’t a purchase you’ll regret. 

Caring For Your Toys

So you’ve made your first sex toy purchase, now it’s time to make sure it lasts. Turns out it’s pretty simple, and cleaning your toys can be done with a specific sex toy cleaner (simply spritz on and rinse off), or washed with antibacterial hand wash and warm water before leaving to air dry. It may sound obvious, but don’t forget to remove any batteries before you wash your toys, and store your batteries separately. Even when not in use, sex toys can still suck up battery juice, leaving your favourite bedroom bae out of power when you need it…

In contrast, sex toys made from porous and semi-porous materials need extra care as the teeny-tiny pores mean that lube and bodily fluids will sink in even if you clean them really well. The team at Sh! recommend using condoms to help keep your porous and semi-porous toys cleaner and prolong their life. FYI: silicone, stainless steel and glass toys are non-porous and the easiest to keep clean! Store your toys in groups of material, so silicone toys with silicone toys and so on. Cheaper materials like jelly can negatively affect your silicone toys, which you’ll know by the silicone toy suddenly looking “dusty” and as if the material is disintegrating. 

*All products on this page have been picked by our editorial team but some are ad-affiliate links

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 25, 2022

Makeup That Acts Like Skincare: We Tried the Viral NARS Light Reflecting Foundation

Already a TikTok fave, the new Light Reflecting Foundation is the brand’s newest launch and aims to combine the best of makeup and skincare into one glow-giving formula. Major green flag.

If anyone gets foundations right, it’s Nars. Known for their complexion-brightening formulas and glowy coverage, you simply know your face is in good hands with them.

Already a TikTok fave, the new Light Reflecting Foundation is the brand’s newest launch and aims to combine the best of makeup and skincare into one glow-giving formula. Major green flag.

Powered with 70% skincare ingredients, this innovative hybrid keeps skin health at the fore whilst boosting luminosity with its light reflecting ‘photochromic’ technology (fancy speak for: adjusts to whatever light you’re in).

Breathable but with medium coverage, it conceals blemishes, redness and dark spots and smooths texture. As for ingredients, it contains Japanese Lilyturf (great for maintaining moisture), biomimetic oats for boosting hydration and reducing inflammation, protective cacao peptides and milk thistle to help reduce the negative effects of environmental stressors.

Lightweight on the skin, dewy and buildable, it lets skin be skin whilst enhancing it with natural radiance aplenty. Kris Jenner works hard but Nars works harder.

After six weeks of daily use, it’s said to visibly improve the skin’s clarity, even after makeup is removed. Long-term skincare benefits? Suddenly we want to wear foundation every day.

But here’s the million-dollar question: can it compete with ya holy grail Sheer Glow? Keep reading to see the team’s reviews!

Lareese says…

Foundation that acts like skincare? Sign me up. I’m a massive fan of lightweight foundations that look like your skin but better and the NARS light-reflecting foundation definitely fits the brief. Texture wise, it definitely feels thinner and more serum-like than other foundations, making application a luxurious treat! I tried it with my brush and my hands and preferred going in with hands in the end, it just seemed to work better with the texture IMO. I tried the shade Yukon and it was a great base for me, offering a medium yet buildable coverage that doesn’t sit in my fine lines.

I went in with two light layers, mixed in with a blob of my Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Filter in Light/Medium, just to warm everything up a touch for this time of year. The sheer finish gives skin a generous injection of radiance which I’m always grateful for, especially as my skin tends to be on the drier side now since hitting my 30s. The joys! Apparently it improves skin clarity after 6 weeks of use due to the skin-loving ingredients, but whilst I can’t claim it’s utterly transformed my skin yet having only used it for a few weeks, I can certainly see how combining makeup with skincare could benefit your complexion over time. For any avid users of Sheer Glow, this glowy newcomer might just turn your head.

Danielle says…

Unlike Lareese I am all about a full coverage foundation. I have no issues with the texture and tone of my skin but I do suffer from a lot of redness I usually like to cover up so tinted moisturisers and light coverage foundations have no place in my makeup collection. I currently wear (read: worship) Nars Radiant Longwear Foundation so you could say I’m already on the Nars hype train when it comes to my base. I was super excited to try the Light Refelcting Foundation as my skin has been consistently improving recently and now I’m going into the office 3 days a week I was ready to try something light, bright and breathable!

The LRF is quite liquidy which means it applies really nicely and feels great over my combination skin, it gives you the opportunity to powder over where you need to whilst keeping the highs of your cheekbones dewier. Although the look was a little less dense than my usual base but I could definitely feel the “light-reflecting” vibe and gave me that glass skin look I’m obsessed with. I popped on some concealer under my eyes to brighten them, then powdered over the whole look was good to go.

I was keen to see how the LRF wore throughout the day as one thing you can guarantee with a fuller coverage is a long-lasting base that you don’t really have to touch up. I definitely noticed it getting a bit patchy around my oilier areas but it was nothing a bit of powder couldn’t fix, and I have to say I was super impressed with how it looked after running in and out of meetings for 8 hours!

I won’t be giving up my Radiant Longwear any time soon when it comes to nights out/events and big weekends but I am definitely converted to the Light Reflecting Foundation for casual workdays, light makeup days and probably evenings on holiday, it’s so light and breathable with the most gorgeous finish!

Darcey says….

Love, love, love this foundation! Nars Sheer Glow is my usual go-to anyway and has been for about 5 years now I think, I much prefer a sheer foundation which you can build up as it makes it way more versatile. Foundation with built-in skincare though? Genius! I used the shade Vallauris and although it is slightly too dark for me (definitely a shade to wear in the Summer/when I’ve self tanned), it blended really seamlessly because it’s so sheer. I’d like to add though that although it is sheer, I couldn’t believe how great the coverage over my dark spots was, my skin looked flawless!

I used a Fenty Beauty concealer in my usual colour which helped highlight and lighten the foundation and actually it was pretty spot on in the end shade wise. I applied the foundation using my trusty foundation brush and found it applied really well, but you could definitely just use your hands too, I often use my fingers for concealer anyway as I think it blends better under the heat of your hands. This foundation lasted reallyyyyy well, I actually used this the whole time I was in Egypt on Holiday and as you can imagine it was hot there, the foundation stayed firmly in place and didn’t crack at all or go super shiny from sweat. So if you are looking for a lightweight holiday foundation, I’d say give this one a go!

Charlotte says…

I am a NARS foundation girl through and through and never normally venture from my daily Sheer Glow so I was a little dubious about trying something new I have to say. My immediate first impressions were that the formula is definitely more liquid-y than Sheer Glow and other foundations I’ve used in the past, making me think the coverage was going to be a lot more lightweight but I was really pleased with how buildable it was as a full coverage gal! I applied it with a Real Techniques sponge which is my go-to for foundation application and love how immediately glowy it is on the skin when using a damp sponge. I also find other products blend really seamlessly over the top, especially cream blush and bronzer, which makes doing a 10-minute face so easy as you can literally throw on your products and know it’s going to blend out and look super natural in the end. I sometimes did find my Sheer Glow would look a bit cakey at times if I was layering/building up product or reapplying to go from day to night, but I can honestly say the Light Reflecting Foundation lasts from AM to PM without any issues and on the times I’ve added a bit more product to see me through the night it has blended like a dream.

I’ve worn this foundation to gigs, full days in the office and sat in the heat of the Spring sun on the beach and never had to worry about how it wears or lasts, and have even found myself reaching for it over my Sheer Glow- something I was not expecting! Overall I’ll definitely be repurchasing to have in my collection for days when I don’t need full coverage as a number one priority, and can confidently say NARS are the GOAT when it comes to foundation.

*This article contains gifted product and ad-affiliate links

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 24, 2022

Dopamine Décor To Inject Happiness Into Your Home

Gone are the days of minimal, neutral interiors; colour is seriously having its moment in the spotlight, and to that we say, hooray! 

Alexa, play Happy by Pharrell Williams. Colour and joy filled design is sweeping the world of fashion and interiors in 2022, adding a well needed pep into our step and an injection of pizazz on the days when life is feeling less than smiley. Gone are the days of minimal, neutral interiors; colour is seriously having its moment in the spotlight, and to that we say, hooray! 

There is in fact a science behind bright colours and their positive impact on mood, meaning a dopamine decor filled homeware haul is likely to get those endorphins flowing.

Whilst colourful design and print of course aren’t an antidote to all woes, there is in fact a science behind bright colours and their positive impact on mood, meaning a dopamine decor filled homeware haul is likely to get those endorphins flowing. Happy colours tend to include bright and warm shades like yellow, orange, pink and red, in addition to pastel colours like peach, light pink or lilac also being said to have an uplifting effect on ones mood. For an ultimate dopamine hit, consider combining multiple primary and secondary colours together to trigger the most positive feelings in your home sanctuary. 

If you’re feeling stuck when switching up your interiors with positivity in mind, consider the phrase more-is-more to be your sign post to success with this trend. Be it patterned wallpaper, shelves dressed with colourful books and vases or going all out with a statement pastel fridge, lean in to the idea that maximalism embraces clashing and eclectic styles, and hit ‘checkout’ on the items that seriously spark joy within you. The Dr called, and his prescription is a dose of dopamine via Oliver Bonas.

*This post contains ad-affiliate links

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 23, 2022

The Internet Reacts: Every Hilarious Tweet We Related to When Watching The Kardashians

After a year off air and moving from their home for 20 seasons on E!, KUWTK became simply The Kardashians and if the first episode is anything to go by, we are in for a seriously wild ride.

The Kardashians dropped like it was hot last week on Hulu and Disney+ and just like that everything was well in the world once more. After a year off air and moving from their home for 20 seasons on E!, KUWTK became simply The Kardashians and if the first episode is anything to go by, we are in for a seriously wild ride.

From the cool AF drone footage intro to a new Kim cry face meme all within the first 45 minute episode, the new format has been well-received by avid fans and new watchers alike who are loving this more candid look into the lives of the women who have been entertaining us for decades. Twitter went into meltdown after the series kicked off last week with users sharing their minute by minute thoughts of everything that went down between Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall, Kylie, Kris and their nearest and dearest, and we were following avidly while retweeting it all…

Some things in this life are simply priceless

Consider this our personality trait for the foreseeable. 

Sometimes it do be like that and we ain’t in the position to judge. 

Big up Kris’ hard work coming into fruition and appreciation for the most successful family in the biz 🙌

Patience may be a virtue but it is not a skill we claim to have…

Meanwhile we’re wondering if we can justify the difference between supermarket own brand and Heinz beans the week before pay day. 

From personal experience, there is a market for this…

When we say relationship goals, this is what we mean:

*Ahem* Still waiting on this @ Royal Mail. 

Manifesting a trip to Rodeo Drive ASAP. 

Anyone else taking any opportunity to discuss every minute detail? Because same. 

It’s been one episode and we have a headache.

Personally, we can definitely see Kendall frolicking through a meadow 

… And we’d subscribe in an instant!

The bin > this man. 

Guess who’s going to be ‘working from home’ tomorrow. Their name starts with S and ends in A.

PREACH.

Redeeming the reputation of men everywhere, we give you, Travis Barker.

That’s it, that’s the tweet.

Us when we say we’re not refilling our plate again at the all you can eat buffet.

The bromance we didn’t know we needed. 

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 22, 2022

Meet the World’s First Sex Toys Made from Ocean-Bound Plastic (We’re not Lying this Time, Promise)

The ohhcean collection includes three rechargeable products including a Magic Wand, G-Spot Vibrator and Body Vibrator, all coated with a thin layer of silky soft silicone and available in pleasing aquatic shades and subtle designs. That’s a whole new level of feel-good!

Did someone say planet-friendly pleasure? We’re in there like swimwear!

The sex toy industry has been notoriously linked to plastic waste for countless years but now the tides are changing, with many sex toy brands starting to ‘green up’ their credentials and take sustainability seriously. 

Enter: ohhcean by Sinful, the world’s first range of sex toys made fully from recycled ocean-bound plastic. That’s right, that plastic lid washed up on the beach has been collected by local fishermen and been put to, ahem, better use. 

The ohhcean collection includes three rechargeable products including a Magic Wand, G-Spot Vibrator and Body Vibrator, all coated with a thin layer of silky soft silicone and available in pleasing aquatic shades and subtle designs. That’s a whole new level of feel-good!

To mark what is the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day – a day observed every April by millions of people around the world to show support for the environment – we spoke to Mathilde Mackowski, the mastermind behind the ohhcean brand and Co-Founder of Danish brand Sinful, Scandinavia’s largest online sex toy business.

At just 36 years of age, Mathilde is already regarded as a trailblazer in the industry. Her passion for helping people explore their playful side, coupled with her natural inclination towards innovation, was the catalyst needed to bring the ohhcean collection to life. 

Reducing the impact of her products on the planet became an obsession, but it also proved to be a long and complex journey met with many challenges, but consideration for the environment was always at the forefront of her mission, informing every single step of the development of the ohhcean by Sinful products. 

Being in a position to create change, she acknowledged her role in this problem and identified how she could become a part of the solution. The ocean plastics emergency has never been so widely reported, and rethinking plastic production within the sex toy industry had to happen sooner or later. At that moment, the idea of the world’s first sex toy made from recycled plastic was born.

Here we chat to Mathilde to find out all about why planet-approved pleasure is making waves and why there’s still so much further to go…

What inspired you to create the ohhcean range?

More than a “why”, the idea came from a “why not”? Being in an industry that has the potential to make changes seemed like the perfect way to combine my passion for the environment with our passion for inspiring a more playful sex life for everyone. The fact that we could actually play a small part in helping clean up the ocean was just amazing. ohhcean is a tribute to fun and playfulness and the possibility of making a change. It’s a small step but a great beginning.

What does ohhcean as a brand stand for? What are the core values?

ohhcean is made with the ocean in mind and everything it represents. Fluidity, transformation, the wild, the calm, the ever-changing shapes – the ocean holds it all. Our goal has always been for everyone to have a playful sex life. ohhcean is the representation of something we haven’t seen before, something new and embracing, bringing playfulness, pleasure, and intimacy to any kind of relation in a gorgeous wrapping. 

You’ve become quite the trailblazer where planet-friendly pleasure is concerned (high five for that!). Why did you feel it was important to create an eco-friendly range and when did you identify a gap in the market?

There was this kind of magical moment where I realised that my passion for helping people add more playfulness to their sex lives could actually be combined with my love for the environment. ohhcean is the intersection between our mission of a playful sex life for everyone and the innate reflex to identify problems and use the power we have to help change them. It’s the desire to do things in a different way. This is just the beginning. A small step in the right direction. But we’ve begun. 

How did you make it happen? Creating an environmentally friendly sex toy from scratch must have been quite the voyage!

It’s been a long journey! The process has been a lot more complicated compared to our normal. First, spending time to find the best collaborators possible, which fortunately we found in #tide. Then learning about the material. The ocean-bound plastic that is collected in and around the ocean reacts differently than virgin plastic when melted and put into moulds. It took a lot more testing and time to find the perfect fit and to learn how the material reacted. It wasn’t an easy process and we were tested on our patience. But that also makes it feel so good to finally have made it here.  

Where does the plastic used to make the ohhcean range come from?

The ocean-bound plastic is collected from in and around the ocean in South East Asia. 

How did you partner with #tide – one of the world’s leading organisations in the field of upcycling and recycling of ocean-bound plastics – to create the ohhcean line? 

We had been researching for a long time. When we finally found #tide, it was just a perfect match. Being one of the world’s leading organisations in upcycling and recycling ocean-bound plastic, we quickly found out they could match our expectations and enthusiasm for the project. They’re an incredible partner in helping close the circle of plastic production. It’s quite amazing knowing that it’s a small contribution to cleaner oceans. #tide oversees the entire process of material gathering and processing.

What’s the process once the plastic has been collected from the ocean and nearby areas?

Once the material is collected by local fishermen, it is registered, washed and shredded in a social enterprise. From there, the plastic is upcycled into a versatile granular material all powered by renewable energy. This means #tide is recycling the ocean-bound plastic waste and transforming it into a premium raw material that we can use for our new products, giving plastic waste a wonderful new life. See more here

How long approx. does it take to make one ohhcean sex toy? 

The thing that has been time-consuming with ohhcean has been creating the brand, getting to know the material and how it reacts and making sure the design was of the best quality and as beautiful as it could possibly be. Then, of course, there’s the element of time spent collecting the material from in and around the ocean, cleaning it and turning it into the granulate that we use. There are several steps in this process that do take an extra amount of time. 

“From Plastic Waste to Pleasure Waves”

What does it take to build a sustainable brand?

It depends on your goal. We didn’t start out with the idea of sustainability as an image. We started out because of this pressing feeling concerning the issue of plastic polluting the oceans. When we discovered that we could combine it with our mission of a playful sex life for everyone, it just made sense. It felt right. We did it the way we always do – based on a gut feeling.

What’s been your proudest moment so far whilst working on the ohhcean project?

The experience of seeing so many people react with a ‘wow’-feeling. The appreciation of this project makes my heart warm. The small victories throughout the entire project that has been going on for so many years really mean a lot. There’s a pride in cracking that code that feels amazing. Reaching a goal as a team after conquering so many challenges and being the first ones to do so fills me with joy and pride. 

Can you tell us a bit about the range of sex toys, is there something for everyone?

The ohhcean products so far are a reinterpretation of the bestsellers from the past 15 years. The magic wand and the body vibrator can be used on any external spot on the body, which makes them pretty great to add to both your partnered and solo fun. They are great in terms of adding extra stimulation to both your penetrative activities and to the fun of discovering each other’s bodies. The G-spot vibrator is great, too, if you know and love stimulation for your G-spot. But it is also a nice option for the ones who are looking to discover their G-spot, so it’s not exclusive to the pros.    

For anyone new to the world of sex toys, what would you recommend from the range?

If you are completely new to sex toys, the body vibrator is a really lovely choice to start exploring. Because it is petite in size, it is really easy to control and target a concentrated area. This can help you discover exactly where and what feels best for you. 

What is the future of the sex toy industry when it comes to sustainability? What further changes would you like to see happen?

This goes beyond just our industry. I think it’s important to take into account the impact of everything that is produced, not just sex toys. Once you produce, you think about the impact. Or at least I do. But we see change starting to happen in so many industries, and it’s so exciting. I love that there’s a common consciousness arising around this. The steps might be small in the beginning, but we have started and it’s only going forward from here.

The theme for Earth Day 2022 is #InvestInOurPlanet – How much further would you like to take the ohhcean mission/vision? We have a feeling this is just the beginning!

We have just started out on our journey. We’re learning that there is an interest which is amazing. We will never produce just to produce – it’s incredibly important that what we make is something people enjoy. All of the products we work with are products people have for years on end. Sex toys don’t go out of style and transcend the changes in trends. We are assessing everything we’ve learned with ohhcean so far and moving forward from here.

What’s next on the horizon for ohhcean? What are your hopes and dreams for the brand?

We have launched the first collection with 3 products so we could learn about people’s interest in this genre. We already feel the enthusiasm from all over the world and we have embarked on the next level concerning new products. 

Ready to dive in? You can shop the ohhcean collection here.

TEAM ZOELLA APRIL 21, 2022

Swimwear Options To Serve Bad B*tch Energy This Summer

Keep scrolling to see Team Zoella's top swimwear picks and the bikinis we'll be rocking around the pier this summer...

‘Tis the damn season people- the dreaded annual swimwear update. On par with doing your electricity meter reading and charging your sex toys, it’s a job that if we could, would be left to someone else because it’s truly that unenjoyable. Despite this, there are a few steps you can take to make the process less painful, helping you find swimwear that makes you feel and look your best- because the Spring and Summer seasons are too sweet not to celebrate!

1) Choose a style that’s comfortable- no bikini is worth a summer of thrush. Wearing wet swimwear in the heat is a prime breeding ground for bacteria, and let’s just say thrush in the sun ain’t it. If you’re reluctant to size up in your swimsuit because of an internalised belief that gaining weight = failure, let us interrupt that thought immediately. Your comfort is a priority, period, and the number on a scale or the label on your clothes is never a representation of your worth. Choose swimwear that makes you feel good, but most importantly is comfortable for you. If you can’t quite embrace your body as it currently is, at least go into this summer believing you deserve to not berate yourself over how you look whilst enjoying the sun.

2) If stripping down to a glorified pair of undies for the whole world to see feels unachievable, consider the options in your power to make the experience a little more comfortable: high-waisted bottoms, cover-up shirts and oversized tees. A beach or swimming experience is what you make of it, and you don’t need to compete with those around you or the influencers on your feed that make you feel less than. Unfollow, curate your space and throw on a sarong, girl!

3) Don’t rush the shopping experience- take your time in trying things on, as laborious as it feels, and don’t settle until you’ve found ‘the one’. Start shopping early in the summer season and bag yourself a two-piece or swimsuit that ticks all the boxes- be it a supportive bra style top or full coverage bottom- before your faves end up out of stock. You won’t regret it!

Keep scrolling to see Team Zoella’s top swimwear picks and the bikinis we’ll be rocking around the pier this summer…

Charlotte’s picks

Jeans and swimwear = my two shopping nemeses. I hate the yearly quest to find bikinis that I feel confident in and after gaining some weight in lockdown (no biggie just adjusting to a new body type) I am struggling even more to find swimsuits I feel good in.

If there’s one shop I’ve gravitated more towards in recent years for swimwear it’s Weekday, and this year is no different. They have so many different styles and prints that feel a bit different than those available in the usual spots, and I love them for that! I had never heard of SAMSØE Φ SAMSØE on The Outnet but I love this classic swimwear silhouette and the really thin spaghetti straps feel super feminine and pretty which I love. The leaf/sage green colourway is also super in right now and I feel like would look so beautiful with a tan- it’s a yes from me! Finally, can you ever go wrong with ASOS? The answer is no! This cute two-piece from Pieces is v girly and fun and perfect for throwing on in hurry during heatwave season when a lunch break sunbathe in the garden is calling your name.

Danielle’s picks

I’m going to Marbella at the end of May on my first proper sunny holiday since you know what and let me tell you, finding swimwear as a lady with a “fuller bust” has been a long old slog! I’ve managed to pick up a few things I’m super excited to throw on, the first being this pinstripe style bikini from H&M. The fabric is thick and textured and the design is minimal and cool. A lot of the “fuller bust” options I come across can sometimes be VERY feminine and frilly/ruffly which isn’t my style. Secondly, a swimsuit in beautiful cobalt which I think many would agree is the colour of the season. I can wear both of these with an oversized Linen shirt (always needed for my pink shoulders) and this gorgeous modern straw bag I can’t wait to be filled with sand!

Lareese’s picks

Mentally, I’m packing for a holiday I’ve yet to book and crochet bikinis have me in a chokehold. This set from Mango is giving Coachella vibes and feels like a good Faithful the Brand dupe. I can see it styled with a black sarong, a bucket hat / bandana and sunnies for beach clubs and pool days. As my five year old niece loves to remind me, I’ve got “very small boobies” so soft triangular sets work for me.

Darcey’s picks

Why is swimwear actually always so hard to buy?! I have the opposite problem to Danielle, being that I have a small chest but I’m a size 16/18, so swimwear very often is just wayyyy to big for my tatas. I’ve actually just been on my holidays to Egypt and I picked up some swimwear from South Beach which is always super good quality, I think you can’t go wrong with a simple black set for the beach. George Asda also have amazing swimwear at the moment and it’s so affordable, this blue set with the crinkle effect looks way more expensive than it is! Net bags are also a must for any beach holiday, a bag that can’t get full of sand cause it falls through the holes? Genius I tell you.

*All products on this page have been picked by our editorial team but some are ad-affiliate links

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