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Today is A Level results day, which makes it five years since I got mine.

I was eighteen years old and I'd just started to tick off teenage milestones like going out out for the first time, passing my driving test, and kissing an actual boy (I was a late bloomer in that respect). I also had no clue what to do next.

My original plan of undertaking further dance training of some kind came screeching to a halt when I realised my heart wasn't in it anymore. But at that point I only had two A Levels and didn't even know if I wanted to go to university, so I was clueless in that respect, too. And I had no idea what kind of job I would apply for if I was to go straight into the world of work.

I spent that night in our local snooker lounge, affectionately known as Pool Club, burbling about my lack of life plan and getting emotional about everyone leaving for university. (I also got chatted up by a cute blond guy who was staying put, so the night wasn't a total waste, but that's beside the point.)

In short, I was stuck, or at least I felt like I was stuck. For the last five years I've muddled through and while I'm not where I thought I would be, I'm not there because what I want has changed. Copywriting and marketing hadn't even crossed my mind at that point.

I'm not going to tell anyone what they should do with their life  two of the main messages from this post, I hope, are that everyone goes about things differently and it's okay if your route isn't the norm  but I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learnt since that day in 2012.

Eighteen
Me at eighteen. Yes, I know I look about twelve.


Lesson One: The world won't end if you don't get the grades you want/need/expect.

I was a good student so the possibility of failing anything hadn't even entered my head. When it happened (I failed Art) I was gutted and had no idea what my next steps were.

At my mum's suggestion I headed back to the school to ask them for advice, which is how I ended up doing a two-year course in half the time to get the extra grade I would need for uni if I ever decided to go. There were options and that Art A Level hasn't defined my future.

I wasn't as artistic as I'd first thought, but I was happy to fling myself head-first into studying Psychology and you can safely bet your life that I bought a new pencil case and highlighters for the occasion. I was lucky the school were so supportive  what would I have done without Mrs Morse, Mrs Lawson, and Miss Large? Babes <3

Lesson Two: You don't have to go down the traditional path.

There's nothing wrong with doing the whole sixth form → university → grad scheme thing. Likewise, there's nothing wrong with not doing that.

Although I did eventually go to university to study Creative Writing, my way of getting there wasn't particularly conventional, what with doing three years of sixth form and a Psychology crash course.

Once I was there, I noticed that the happiest, most motivated people I met were the ones who studied a subject they genuinely enjoyed, not the ones who were there because 'that's what you do' or because their parents wanted them to go.

Lesson Three: Some friendships last. Some don't.

Friendships change so much once you leave school. You don't see each other every day like you used to  you may not even be living in the same country  and sometimes people grow apart.

But sometimes people end up becoming even closer and it's pretty damn wonderful. You see each other less and less but when you do get together it just feels normal and right. In my experience, the friendships that last are the ones where people keep in touch and make time for each other, with effort from both sides. I'm finding the same thing for uni friendships, too.

Lesson Four: Sometimes it's better to let go.

Undoubtedly the most difficult lesson I've had to learn. Toxic frenemies? They aren't worth your time. The ex who makes your self-esteem plummet? Not good for you.

The people I want in my life are those who listen without judgement, lovingly take the piss, and make me feel like I can (and should) do anything I put my mind to, be it applying for the cool job that scares me or demolishing a whole pizza in one sitting.

Lesson Five: Things won't always work out the way you expect them to.

And that's okay! We're all winging it. Do what's right for you and remember that it's normal to not be sure what that is. The best experiences I've had have happened when I've kept an open mind, tried new things, and listened to my gut instincts. My life now is completely different to how I imagined it would be, but I'm happy.

If you're getting your results today then I wish you the very best of luck! And if you've long moved on from sixth form and are starting to wonder why everyone in the pub suddenly looks so young (*raises hand*), what have you learnt since your schooldays? Let me know in the comments!

The Last Five Years: Post-A-Level Life Lessons

Today is A Level results day, which makes it five years since I got mine.

I was eighteen years old and I'd just started to tick off teenage milestones like going out out for the first time, passing my driving test, and kissing an actual boy (I was a late bloomer in that respect). I also had no clue what to do next.

My original plan of undertaking further dance training of some kind came screeching to a halt when I realised my heart wasn't in it anymore. But at that point I only had two A Levels and didn't even know if I wanted to go to university, so I was clueless in that respect, too. And I had no idea what kind of job I would apply for if I was to go straight into the world of work.

I spent that night in our local snooker lounge, affectionately known as Pool Club, burbling about my lack of life plan and getting emotional about everyone leaving for university. (I also got chatted up by a cute blond guy who was staying put, so the night wasn't a total waste, but that's beside the point.)

In short, I was stuck, or at least I felt like I was stuck. For the last five years I've muddled through and while I'm not where I thought I would be, I'm not there because what I want has changed. Copywriting and marketing hadn't even crossed my mind at that point.

I'm not going to tell anyone what they should do with their life  two of the main messages from this post, I hope, are that everyone goes about things differently and it's okay if your route isn't the norm  but I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learnt since that day in 2012.

Eighteen
Me at eighteen. Yes, I know I look about twelve.


Lesson One: The world won't end if you don't get the grades you want/need/expect.

I was a good student so the possibility of failing anything hadn't even entered my head. When it happened (I failed Art) I was gutted and had no idea what my next steps were.

At my mum's suggestion I headed back to the school to ask them for advice, which is how I ended up doing a two-year course in half the time to get the extra grade I would need for uni if I ever decided to go. There were options and that Art A Level hasn't defined my future.

I wasn't as artistic as I'd first thought, but I was happy to fling myself head-first into studying Psychology and you can safely bet your life that I bought a new pencil case and highlighters for the occasion. I was lucky the school were so supportive  what would I have done without Mrs Morse, Mrs Lawson, and Miss Large? Babes <3

Lesson Two: You don't have to go down the traditional path.

There's nothing wrong with doing the whole sixth form → university → grad scheme thing. Likewise, there's nothing wrong with not doing that.

Although I did eventually go to university to study Creative Writing, my way of getting there wasn't particularly conventional, what with doing three years of sixth form and a Psychology crash course.

Once I was there, I noticed that the happiest, most motivated people I met were the ones who studied a subject they genuinely enjoyed, not the ones who were there because 'that's what you do' or because their parents wanted them to go.

Lesson Three: Some friendships last. Some don't.

Friendships change so much once you leave school. You don't see each other every day like you used to  you may not even be living in the same country  and sometimes people grow apart.

But sometimes people end up becoming even closer and it's pretty damn wonderful. You see each other less and less but when you do get together it just feels normal and right. In my experience, the friendships that last are the ones where people keep in touch and make time for each other, with effort from both sides. I'm finding the same thing for uni friendships, too.

Lesson Four: Sometimes it's better to let go.

Undoubtedly the most difficult lesson I've had to learn. Toxic frenemies? They aren't worth your time. The ex who makes your self-esteem plummet? Not good for you.

The people I want in my life are those who listen without judgement, lovingly take the piss, and make me feel like I can (and should) do anything I put my mind to, be it applying for the cool job that scares me or demolishing a whole pizza in one sitting.

Lesson Five: Things won't always work out the way you expect them to.

And that's okay! We're all winging it. Do what's right for you and remember that it's normal to not be sure what that is. The best experiences I've had have happened when I've kept an open mind, tried new things, and listened to my gut instincts. My life now is completely different to how I imagined it would be, but I'm happy.

If you're getting your results today then I wish you the very best of luck! And if you've long moved on from sixth form and are starting to wonder why everyone in the pub suddenly looks so young (*raises hand*), what have you learnt since your schooldays? Let me know in the comments!
I'm on a mission to use up as many products as possible.

I'd like to seriously cut down on the amount of products I own, but I also don't want anything to go to waste and I don't want to forget about something and then realise it's expired. I've been rotating the contents of my make-up bag so everything gets used (this also means I can weed out anything that I genuinely don't get on with) but nonetheless, favourites have emerged  some new, some not-so-new.

I may be happy going out without make-up these days but I do still enjoy using it  this post has ended up being a little longer than I expected! What can I say, I like to have options.


Base

These days it's unusual for me to apply foundation all over my skin because, quite frankly, I just can't be bothered. I use RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up in 000* underneath my eyes to brighten the skin and mask any dark circles. It's a dewy concealer/foundation hybrid, best used sparingly, and I find it works well when you want healthy, natural-looking skin.

On bad skin days I dot Pacifica Transcendent Concentrated Concealer in Light* (v) over redness and blemishes. I thought it would be too dark for me but it blends right out and stays put, plus the packaging is like nothing you've ever seen before in your life. I'll be writing a more in-depth post about Pacifica at some point, so keep an eye out!

I blend both of these products with the B. Blending Sponge* (v), which is a little less squishy that other sponges I've tried before, even when wet. I think I prefer this, especially for concealing  blemishes  it feels that bit more robust than your standard blending sponge (plus it's latex-free).


Eyes and Brows

If I only use one make-up product, it'll be NYX Tame & Frame Tinted Brow Pomade in Brunette. I bought it the day before my graduation, so this teeny pot is well over a year old now and I'm not even halfway through. You only need to apply a little bit on an angled brush, using short strokes to mimic the way the hairs lie and fill in any gaps. £5.50 well spent.

If I'm feeling sleepy and it's showing on my face (oh, who am I kidding, I always look tired) then Charlotte Tilbury Eyes to Mesmerise in Jean (v) often comes to my rescue. It's a cream eyeshadow in champagne gold and it's also the prettiest make-up product in the entire world. It's expensive but I'd buy it again  it's the kind of product that looks beautiful on everyone. It can sit in creases if you get carried away, so I use my finger to pat it on lightly and then it lasts all night.

When I've got the time to attempt eyeliner I start with NATOrigin Organic Pencil Eye Liner in Brown*, tracing the colour along the outer third of my lower and upper lashline for some subtle definition. These days I truly have thrown caution to the wind if I decide to break out the eyeliner wings and at the moment I prefer a gel liner in dark brown. I've been using one by NARS but obviously they're a no-go now, so I'll be replacing it with a cruelty-free option once it runs out.

GOSH very kindly sent me some products from their AW17 collection and the one I've been reaching for most is My Favourite Mascara in Black*. GOSH are always my first option when I want to buy a high street mascara  I've repurchased Growth Mascara and Rebel Eyes (v) multiple times  and this one is a welcome addition to my make-up bag. It's easy to layer and holds quite the curl.


Lips & Cheeks

The Body Shop Baked To Last Bronzer in Warm Glow* (v) is the first bronzing product I've ever wanted to wear on a regular basis, which should tell you something about how good it is! The shade Warm Glow makes you look healthy and sunkissed, the shimmer isn't too aggressive, and the colour doesn't look out of place on pale skin. (There's also a darker shade available.)

I tend to wear one of two looks at the moment  a combination of peachy, coral-y shades that scream summer, or lightly flushed cheeks and vampy lips.

Sleek Blush in Life's a Peach gives skin a healthy glow and is just the right shade (i.e. it's not too orange). When I want to brighten things up even further I grab the chunky crayon-like No7 Instant Radiance Highlighter. Swipe, blend, done  the lazy girl's option.

I either dab Fairypants Lip Paint in Dorothy (v) on my lips to create a sheer wash of pale, natural pink, or I use a lip brush to apply Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Sexy Sienna (v), a cool matte coral that strikes the balance between being moisturising and long-lasting.


Alternatively, I'll dot Pixi MultiBalm Cheek & Lip Colour in Wild Rose* onto my cheeks and lips straight from the stick. This shade is completely different to anything else I own  rosy with a lilac undertone  and while the colour payoff is noticeable, it's still quite subtle. Wearing the same shade on lips and cheeks instantly makes you look like you've got your shit together, too, and all with minimal effort.

Sometimes I apply a little of the Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Foxy Brown (v) over the top. I haven't really been using it as a lip liner, I've just been shading my lips in ever so slightly to get a sheer dark red colour. The Pixi balm tones it down somewhat, so it's a red/brown lip without the commitment. This combination has survived me eating food like vegetable lasagne and five-bean chilli burritos with only a little fading in the centre and no smudges, so I'm rather fond of it!

What are your go-to products at the moment? Have you rediscovered any old favourites? Let me know in the comments!

(v) = vegan

Products marked with an asterisk were sent to me for consideration of review. This post contains affiliate links.

In My Make-Up Bag: Old Faithfuls + New Favourites

I'm on a mission to use up as many products as possible.

I'd like to seriously cut down on the amount of products I own, but I also don't want anything to go to waste and I don't want to forget about something and then realise it's expired. I've been rotating the contents of my make-up bag so everything gets used (this also means I can weed out anything that I genuinely don't get on with) but nonetheless, favourites have emerged  some new, some not-so-new.

I may be happy going out without make-up these days but I do still enjoy using it  this post has ended up being a little longer than I expected! What can I say, I like to have options.


Base

These days it's unusual for me to apply foundation all over my skin because, quite frankly, I just can't be bothered. I use RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up in 000* underneath my eyes to brighten the skin and mask any dark circles. It's a dewy concealer/foundation hybrid, best used sparingly, and I find it works well when you want healthy, natural-looking skin.

On bad skin days I dot Pacifica Transcendent Concentrated Concealer in Light* (v) over redness and blemishes. I thought it would be too dark for me but it blends right out and stays put, plus the packaging is like nothing you've ever seen before in your life. I'll be writing a more in-depth post about Pacifica at some point, so keep an eye out!

I blend both of these products with the B. Blending Sponge* (v), which is a little less squishy that other sponges I've tried before, even when wet. I think I prefer this, especially for concealing  blemishes  it feels that bit more robust than your standard blending sponge (plus it's latex-free).


Eyes and Brows

If I only use one make-up product, it'll be NYX Tame & Frame Tinted Brow Pomade in Brunette. I bought it the day before my graduation, so this teeny pot is well over a year old now and I'm not even halfway through. You only need to apply a little bit on an angled brush, using short strokes to mimic the way the hairs lie and fill in any gaps. £5.50 well spent.

If I'm feeling sleepy and it's showing on my face (oh, who am I kidding, I always look tired) then Charlotte Tilbury Eyes to Mesmerise in Jean (v) often comes to my rescue. It's a cream eyeshadow in champagne gold and it's also the prettiest make-up product in the entire world. It's expensive but I'd buy it again  it's the kind of product that looks beautiful on everyone. It can sit in creases if you get carried away, so I use my finger to pat it on lightly and then it lasts all night.

When I've got the time to attempt eyeliner I start with NATOrigin Organic Pencil Eye Liner in Brown*, tracing the colour along the outer third of my lower and upper lashline for some subtle definition. These days I truly have thrown caution to the wind if I decide to break out the eyeliner wings and at the moment I prefer a gel liner in dark brown. I've been using one by NARS but obviously they're a no-go now, so I'll be replacing it with a cruelty-free option once it runs out.

GOSH very kindly sent me some products from their AW17 collection and the one I've been reaching for most is My Favourite Mascara in Black*. GOSH are always my first option when I want to buy a high street mascara  I've repurchased Growth Mascara and Rebel Eyes (v) multiple times  and this one is a welcome addition to my make-up bag. It's easy to layer and holds quite the curl.


Lips & Cheeks

The Body Shop Baked To Last Bronzer in Warm Glow* (v) is the first bronzing product I've ever wanted to wear on a regular basis, which should tell you something about how good it is! The shade Warm Glow makes you look healthy and sunkissed, the shimmer isn't too aggressive, and the colour doesn't look out of place on pale skin. (There's also a darker shade available.)

I tend to wear one of two looks at the moment  a combination of peachy, coral-y shades that scream summer, or lightly flushed cheeks and vampy lips.

Sleek Blush in Life's a Peach gives skin a healthy glow and is just the right shade (i.e. it's not too orange). When I want to brighten things up even further I grab the chunky crayon-like No7 Instant Radiance Highlighter. Swipe, blend, done  the lazy girl's option.

I either dab Fairypants Lip Paint in Dorothy (v) on my lips to create a sheer wash of pale, natural pink, or I use a lip brush to apply Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Sexy Sienna (v), a cool matte coral that strikes the balance between being moisturising and long-lasting.


Alternatively, I'll dot Pixi MultiBalm Cheek & Lip Colour in Wild Rose* onto my cheeks and lips straight from the stick. This shade is completely different to anything else I own  rosy with a lilac undertone  and while the colour payoff is noticeable, it's still quite subtle. Wearing the same shade on lips and cheeks instantly makes you look like you've got your shit together, too, and all with minimal effort.

Sometimes I apply a little of the Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Foxy Brown (v) over the top. I haven't really been using it as a lip liner, I've just been shading my lips in ever so slightly to get a sheer dark red colour. The Pixi balm tones it down somewhat, so it's a red/brown lip without the commitment. This combination has survived me eating food like vegetable lasagne and five-bean chilli burritos with only a little fading in the centre and no smudges, so I'm rather fond of it!

What are your go-to products at the moment? Have you rediscovered any old favourites? Let me know in the comments!

(v) = vegan

Products marked with an asterisk were sent to me for consideration of review. This post contains affiliate links.

Last weekend I took a trip up to North Wales to see some of my uni friends. I had to lug everything with me on the train so I needed to pack as little as possible, but here's where it gets tricky. As much as I'd love to be a complete and utter minimalist, I also feel much better when I'm prepared for every eventuality. I'm working on finding a balance between the two.

Luckily I'm pretty lazy when it comes to doing anything with my hair, so choosing what to take was easy. My hair gets oily at the roots fairly quickly and I knew I'd have to wash it while I was away (dry shampoo can only do so much). I threw in a mini shampoo and detangler duo from John Masters Organics and some styling spray by Ogario London, all of which I received in a LoveLula Beauty Box. One wooden comb later, and that was that.

John Masters Shampoo and Detangler

John Masters Organics Lavender Rosemary Shampoo for Normal Hair*, £5.50 for 60ml

This Lavender Rosemary Shampoo does its job, in that it leaves my hair feeling clean, although it doesn't prolong the length of time I can leave my hair between washes (it's perhaps a little too nourishing on my oily roots). You can really smell the lavender and rosemary  they balance each other out quite nicely  and the scent doesn't linger on hair, which could be a plus or a minus depending on how much you like the fragrance. Personally I'm not keen on lavender but I do like it when mixed with other ingredients.

As with most sulphate-free shampoos, this one doesn't lather up as much as you might like but this doesn't affect its ability to cleanse the hair and scalp, it just takes some getting used to if you're not familiar with it. I wouldn't buy the full-size product but it's a handy to have a mini shampoo at my disposal, plus I can save on waste by reusing the bottle for future trips once it's empty.

John Masters Organics Citrus & Neroli Detangler*, £5.50 for 60ml

I'm a sucker for citrus scents and the combination of citrus and neroli smells lovely. The formula is a little lighter than my regular conditioner but since I have very fine hair this isn't a problem! The Detangler provides much-needed moisture and makes combing through tangles much easier; those with thicker strands might like to use another conditioning product afterwards. I'm not sure if I could quite commit to buying the full-size version but I'd certainly buy another travel-size mini if I needed to.

Ogario Styling Mist

Ogario London Styling Mist*, £16 for 60ml

It's rare for me to find a styling product I can be bothered to use, so hats off to Ogario for managing it with their lemon zest and oats spray. The key, I think, is that this isn't much of a faff  you soak up excess water with a towel after washing your hair, shake the bottle, then spray 2-3 times above your head and let the mist settle. If, like me, you rarely heat-style your hair then you just leave it to do its thing and if you prefer a blow-dry then away you go. It's that simple.

The first time I used this someone said 'Your hair looks nice, have you done something different with it?' (As usual, I was incredibly awkward taking the compliment.) The Styling Mist does make a subtle difference, though, by enhancing my hair's waves and giving them more of a beachy, tousled texture. You only need a little bit, although even when I got carried away spritzing (as you do) my hair didn't really go crispy or dry out. It just looked healthy, which is all I want.

Using this trio on my trip meant I could wash and go, leaving more time to enjoy the stunning Welsh countryside and catch up with my friends.

I'd recommend buying the travel-size versions of the John Masters Organics products to see if they suit you before splashing out on the pricier full-size versions, which cost £17 per bottle. There's not a miniature version of the Ogario mist, however it more than fits the bill if you want tousled waves but don't want to use a drying salt spray.

What do you pack when you go on holiday? Do you struggle choosing what products to pack? Let me know in the comments!

Products were sent to me by LoveLula for consideration of review. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

A Travel Hair Routine

Last weekend I took a trip up to North Wales to see some of my uni friends. I had to lug everything with me on the train so I needed to pack as little as possible, but here's where it gets tricky. As much as I'd love to be a complete and utter minimalist, I also feel much better when I'm prepared for every eventuality. I'm working on finding a balance between the two.

Luckily I'm pretty lazy when it comes to doing anything with my hair, so choosing what to take was easy. My hair gets oily at the roots fairly quickly and I knew I'd have to wash it while I was away (dry shampoo can only do so much). I threw in a mini shampoo and detangler duo from John Masters Organics and some styling spray by Ogario London, all of which I received in a LoveLula Beauty Box. One wooden comb later, and that was that.

John Masters Shampoo and Detangler

John Masters Organics Lavender Rosemary Shampoo for Normal Hair*, £5.50 for 60ml

This Lavender Rosemary Shampoo does its job, in that it leaves my hair feeling clean, although it doesn't prolong the length of time I can leave my hair between washes (it's perhaps a little too nourishing on my oily roots). You can really smell the lavender and rosemary  they balance each other out quite nicely  and the scent doesn't linger on hair, which could be a plus or a minus depending on how much you like the fragrance. Personally I'm not keen on lavender but I do like it when mixed with other ingredients.

As with most sulphate-free shampoos, this one doesn't lather up as much as you might like but this doesn't affect its ability to cleanse the hair and scalp, it just takes some getting used to if you're not familiar with it. I wouldn't buy the full-size product but it's a handy to have a mini shampoo at my disposal, plus I can save on waste by reusing the bottle for future trips once it's empty.

John Masters Organics Citrus & Neroli Detangler*, £5.50 for 60ml

I'm a sucker for citrus scents and the combination of citrus and neroli smells lovely. The formula is a little lighter than my regular conditioner but since I have very fine hair this isn't a problem! The Detangler provides much-needed moisture and makes combing through tangles much easier; those with thicker strands might like to use another conditioning product afterwards. I'm not sure if I could quite commit to buying the full-size version but I'd certainly buy another travel-size mini if I needed to.

Ogario Styling Mist

Ogario London Styling Mist*, £16 for 60ml

It's rare for me to find a styling product I can be bothered to use, so hats off to Ogario for managing it with their lemon zest and oats spray. The key, I think, is that this isn't much of a faff  you soak up excess water with a towel after washing your hair, shake the bottle, then spray 2-3 times above your head and let the mist settle. If, like me, you rarely heat-style your hair then you just leave it to do its thing and if you prefer a blow-dry then away you go. It's that simple.

The first time I used this someone said 'Your hair looks nice, have you done something different with it?' (As usual, I was incredibly awkward taking the compliment.) The Styling Mist does make a subtle difference, though, by enhancing my hair's waves and giving them more of a beachy, tousled texture. You only need a little bit, although even when I got carried away spritzing (as you do) my hair didn't really go crispy or dry out. It just looked healthy, which is all I want.

Using this trio on my trip meant I could wash and go, leaving more time to enjoy the stunning Welsh countryside and catch up with my friends.

I'd recommend buying the travel-size versions of the John Masters Organics products to see if they suit you before splashing out on the pricier full-size versions, which cost £17 per bottle. There's not a miniature version of the Ogario mist, however it more than fits the bill if you want tousled waves but don't want to use a drying salt spray.

What do you pack when you go on holiday? Do you struggle choosing what products to pack? Let me know in the comments!

Products were sent to me by LoveLula for consideration of review. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

Shop My Favourites


Beth, 23, South East England. I'm a writer with a love of books, lipstick, and the Oxford comma. I love beauty and I also love animals, so I only buy, use, and feature products from cruelty-free brands. (Seriously though, I am the person who stops to fuss over every dog she sees.) You can also expect posts about vegan/vegetarian food, and plenty of musings about life as a 20-something. Want to get in touch? Email me at beth.toasty@gmail.com

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