In Liverpool for the Curve Fashion Festival?

The Curve Fashion Festival is less than a month away, and I know that many lovely people I’m connected with via the Internet will be traveling to Liverpool to enjoy some plus size fashion. I’d originally planned to write a detailed, exhaustive, and organized post of all the different things to see, do, eat and drink in this city I’ve called my home for eight years. But I am neither detailed nor organized, and I’m more exhausted than exhaustive, so I thought it’d be more fun just to tell you about my favorite independent places in the city.

Word on the street (a.k.a TCFF Instagram stories) is that the Christmas markets will be in full swing outside of the festival venue which, excitingly, is St. George’s Hall this year, so I’m sure there will be loads of food stalls, sweets and mulled wine to choose from.

But if you’re looking to get away from the crowds or the cold for some food in the evening (or at lunchtime!), my number one recommendation, hands-down, is Maray.


Maray on Bold Street  •  91 Bold Street Liverpool L1 4HF  •

I love Maray so much that it might be the reason why I’ll never, ever leave Liverpool. My friends and I even have a standing monthly PayDayMaray date. The restaurant is small and cozy, the staff is awesome and hip (but in, like, a nice and attentive and friendly way), and the cocktails go down really easily. Serving small plates of middle eastern-inspired cuisine, Maray offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. (I’m gluten-free myself, and Maray is one of the few places where I don’t worry about accidentally being served the wrong things. But more on that in a bit.) The restaurant’s cauliflower is somewhat legendary here in Liverpool, but, for me, the tenderstem broccoli is where-it’s-at, pal. And it’s very walkable from St. George’s Hall. (According to Google, it’s 10 minutes. But if, like me, you’re the world’s slowest stroller, it might take a little longer. Also, make sure you go to the Bold Street location instead of Allerton Road. Otherwise, you’ll be walking for a very, very, very long time.)  


Bakchich, Williamson Square  • 3 Brythen St, Liverpool L1 1LG •

If you’d like something quick and easy a little closer to the festival venue, another option is Bakchich in Williamson Square, which offers delicious and affordable Lebanese Street Food. It’s only ‘round the corner from St. George’s Hall. The baba ghanoush is so, so good, and you can get a wrap for a fiver or less. (I also recommend checking out the range of juices on offer – they’re delicious!)

Lovelocks Coffee Shop  6 Old Haymarket, Liverpool L1 6ER •

In the mood for something a bit sweeter? Lovelocks Coffeeshop is less than a five minute walk from St. George’s Hall. Lovelocks is seriously ADORABLE. The décor is cute as heck, and the coffee is delicious, but it’s the baristas that make this place the best. It seems to be woman-owned and operated (though I might be wrong about this – don’t sue me!) They’re seriously lovely, and they play great music. There are veggie, vegan and gluten free options (on the food menu AND the cake menu…!), and I swear that every single time I’ve ever visited, I’ve had the opportunity to pet a random dog.


Ropes and Twines  70 Bold St, Liverpool L1 4HR  •

Another great place for coffee during the day is Ropes and Twines on Bold Street. It’s decorated like an Instagram-lover’s dream, and the staff is lovely and helpful. An added bonus is that it also serves a huge selection of gorgeous wines (without the side of snobbery that normally accompanies wine bars), and it’s a great little haven in the evenings if you like going out but prefer a quieter setting on a Friday or Saturday evening. (Because, let’s face it, the rest of Liverpool is pretty bumpin’ on a weekend night.)

Just a quick little note: If you have a food allergy, there are two places I would NOT recommend. The first is Down the Hatch. This place is really popular in Liverpool for vegetarians and vegans, but if you have specific dietary requirements – avoid, avoid, avoid!! The same with Greek Taverna on Bold Street. I’m sure both of these places are fantastic if you have no allergy issues (though the service is questionable), but I’ve had really awful experiences as a gluten intolerant customer on multiple occasions here (and was even fat-shamed at one of them, but that’s a story for another blog post).

Utility Design • 86 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY • 8 Paradise Place, Liverpool, L1 8BQ •

While I doubt you’ll be doing much shopping in town when a whole world of plus size fashion will be at your fingertips in St. George’s Hall, it might be worth checking out Utility Design if you’d like a little Liverpool trinket or even some ‘boutique, unique  or quirky gifts’ . Full disclosure: I worked at Utility for two years, and prior to that, I was a dedicated customer there. Stationery, chocolates, candles, cushions, jewelry – there’s loads of fun things, the staff is fantastic, and are several locations in the city centre. The greeting cards alone are worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a little giggle.

Mary Mary Florals / Root Houseplants • Bluecoat Chambers, L1 3BX

This shop has only recently opened at the Bluecoat, but if you love fauna and flora, it’s worth checking out the beautiful colors and creative ways the owners handle floral and botanical aesthetics. I’m borderline desperate to hire them to arrange flowers to brighten up every stage and mundane event of my entire life. (But at this point, I’ll probably have to wait for a special occasion instead.) But a bouquet of flowers or a house plant might be a lovely way to cheer up the journey when you eventually have to head out of Liverpool after the Curve Fashion Festival is over.


This is obviously not an exhaustive post. Liverpool is full of amazing places to check out. If you have any questions or want some further recommendations on places to visit or things to do (especially if they’re Beatle-related!!), feel free to drop me a line!

Kitty Fuller, The British Style Collective, Beautiful Is ___ and Some Other Things I Really Like

When I moved to Liverpool nearly seven years ago, I knew no one. Seriously. No one. So obviously I did exactly what I would have done if I were still living in Kentucky: I took my lonely self to Starbucks and drank coffee for several hours every single day. Eventually, the baristas took pity on me and brought me into their fold and made me feel like a real human again. And I’ll never forget their kindness. One of these baristas – with her amazing backcombed hair and perfect (seriously — PER.FECT.) winged eyeliner — was Sarah Fuller.

This blog post isn’t necessarily about the kindness of strangers, but I found it difficult to start a post about Sarah, her artwork, and her involvement with the British Style Collective that took place in Liverpool two weeks ago without first making it clear the type of person she is. I mean, she’s the reason I was able to attend the event in the first place. Several months ago, she started posting on Instagram about a body positive event she was spearheading at the British Style Collective along with a body confidence campaign called Beautiful Is_ ( which I’ll get to in a moment) where students could learn about positive body image and body diversity in fashion and would be shown techniques to create their own fashion illustrations. I emailed her to find out how to get tickets, and in typical Sarah fashion, she suggested that I get involved via my blog. (Which is what you’re reading right now, by the way, in case you haven’t put that together yet.)

Sarah – better known as Kitty Fuller in the art world — has long since hung up the green apron she was wearing when I met her, and she now lectures in fashion illustration and fashion photography at the Rare School of Fashion in here in Liverpool. (Fun fact: The Rare School of Fashion was co-founded by Shaun Kearney, Vice President of Fabletics.)

“The Rare School of Fashion is a two year course which specialises in all aspects of fashion, and the students graduate with a Btec Level 3, “ Kitty said. “So we basically educate them and prepare them for either university or industry. The whole course is run by industry professionals. None of us are trained teachers, we all just know, live and breathe our subject matter, and pass on our skills to the kids and students. I teach ages 16-24 and lecture in both Fashion Illustration and Fashion Photography. We also have a digital lecturer, who runs his classes side by side with mine, so if you are not too skilled at hand drawing, you may shine on a computer instead! I am the old dinosaur of the group — proper analogue — and I preach hand drawing for everything from primary sources!”

Kitty is indeed an industry professional, and her own artwork is beautiful, relatable, and sometimes overwhelming in the best way. I’ve always really loved her Crying Girl series, which is somewhat of an homage to Roy Lichtenstein’s “Drowning Girl,” (but in my opinion even better than the original in many ways!).

“The visual narrative in the painting was so dark, yet portrayed such a glamorous looking ill-fated girl; for me it represented a dramatic pastiche of a teary eyed 1940s Hollywood starlet. I loved the idea that she would rather meet her fate than be saved by Brad, the absent ‘hero’ of the scene,” Kitty said. “As a teenager and later an adult I conjured up stories of what I would shed a tear over – perhaps a pair of Manolo Blahniks or a beautiful Dolce & Gabbana A/W ’12 gold brocade dress. Such fantasies and ideas transpired into a wonderful aesthetic on paper and an idea was born.”

The series was chosen for exhibition during the British Style Collective, and the pieces looked AMAZING. Seriously. Just look at them:

The British Style Collective, which was held over three days on July 7-9 during its first run in Liverpool (it’s been previously held in Birmingham for the past 26 years), took place over a number of venues across the city centre, including a “Creative Hub” in the Baltic Area which housed an education-driven event where fashion educators and students could participate in interactive workshops, view fashion collections, and attend events like the Raw Catwalk – a fashion show spotlighting student fashion (and holy moly were there some incredible pieces in the show), but with a twist: it featured a perspex wall that allowed the audience to see what was going on behind the scenes – the models, the makeup artists, the hairdressers, and the logistical team.

The Creative Hub is also where I got to see the absolute highlight of the event — the live fashion illustration demo put together by Kitty Fuller and Beautiful Is_.

Beautiful Is_ runs a body confidence campaign aiming to challenge the perception of what “beautiful is,” and to inspire young people to feel confident in the bodies they have. They travel throughout the UK presenting body confidence workshops, host events in schools and universities, and offer free online training and workshops for people who want to get involved in the work they do. The live fashion illustration was part of their work, and they hosted several demonstrations throughout the day, some with over 200 students. The group I got to sit in on had about 60 students, a mix of boys and girls around the age of 15 or 16, who all seemed really excited to be there. Emma from Beautiful Is_ began the event by talking to students about the importance of body image in fashion and mainstream media, and then Kitty asked them to split off into pairs, designating one person as the illustrator and one person as the model. She walked them through the process of sketching a body, part by part. Head, torso, legs, arms, feet. I really loved that Kitty was so particular with her language, describing body parts simply as that – body parts. Not elevating one type of body over another, but allowing the kids to see what was there – lots of different bodies that deserved to be illustrated.

While there were definitely young boys at this event, the girls at the demonstration I attended were super into it . . .until they realised they had to “model.” Then they got squirmy. In fact, I overheard an adorable young girl sass at her friend, “If you don’t make my thighs look thinner, my waist look smaller, and my chest look bigger, I’m probably never speaking to you again. Also, I want a Kardashian bum.” I obviously can’t speak to her experience because I’m not her, but having once been a teenage girl myself (a long, long time ago), I could easily imagine myself having once said the same thing in an effort to make light of not only feeling uncomfortable with being the focus of someone’s attention, but also with having that attention focused on a body that I didn’t feel particularly confident inhabiting. As women, a lot of us are taught from a young age not that it’s not ladylike to enjoy the spotlight or to unashamedly take up space. We’re taught to make our body and our existence as small as possible, and this event was amazing because it put young girls in a situation where they were not only encouraged to be the centre of attention, but were also validated as worthy of being sketched for a fashion illustration.

I mean, I absolutely love that the point was to sketch actual, real people standing in front of each other. Actual, un-photoshopped bodies that (I’m assuming) wear clothes every single day. The fashion illustration demo that Kitty and Beautiful Is_ put together was effective because it was teaching students to create fashion illustrations that were actually representative of the people they see around them on a daily basis, rather than the same “high fashion” body types seen over and over again on the catwalk and in fashion magazines. To be clear, I am not saying there is anything wrong with high fashion body types, but I don’t believe that they are necessarily representative of the millions and millions of different body types that exist in our everyday experiences with other people. Teaching young people to draw fashion sketches of different bodies reinforces the idea that all bodies deserve to be represented in fashion, that no matter what you look like, you’re a worthy vehicle of fashion and you deserve to wear clothes that make you feel confident. I wish I’d been able to attend something like this when I was younger, because I spent a large part of my teenage years convinced that retailers didn’t make clothes in my size that I’d actually enjoy wearing because I didn’t have the “right” kind of body. That the problem was me and my body.  I loved this event because it cultivates the idea that the problem is actually with an industry that desperately needs to embrace body diversity, and the hundreds of fashion students who attended the British Style Collective are the future of that very industry. I’m hopeful that messages like the one Kitty Fuller and Beautiful Is_  were promoting to these students is how things start to change.

If you’re interested in learning more about Kitty Fuller or purchasing some of her art, you can find her here. If you’d like to get involved with Beautiful Is_, you can find them here.


The Blues are Still Blue

Just a little outfit quickie (like…really quickie!) featuring this gorgeous Who What Wear x Target blouse:


This isn’t normally the kind of top I’d wear, but I’m a sucker for asymmetry and I fell in love with the neckline. It also has gorgeous buttons up the side of one sleeve. Look!:


The patterned chambray has been perfect for the weather now that I’m back in England – I never know if its going to be warm or freezing outside, and this is a really good in-between material. I mentioned in a previous blog post that the Who What Wear range sizes up to a US 4X, but frustratingly this particular blouse is only available up to a size US XXL because it’s part of the womens range but not the women’s plus range. Womp womp. Still, though, I’m loving Who What Wear – I just don’t understand why all of its pieces aren’t available in plus sizes rather than just a few.


Blouse: Who What Wear x Target 

Jeans: Old Navy

Shoes: Blowfish

Sunglasses: Walmart (They were $5! Holy cow!)


This Note’s For You

I have this note that’s about six years old, and it’s been with me through four different house moves and about a million different purses. It looks like this:



It’s creased and crumpled because I’ve folded and unfolded it, read it and re-read it, loved it and loved it some more. That weird difference in color is probably from the time I accidentally spilled perfume on it when I had the note unfolded on the table while I was getting ready for a big interview. I doubt if the lovely woman who wrote it even knows that I still have it, but I’ve hung onto it for a million different reasons, not least of all her reminder that ‘you need no one else to make those things true about you (they just are).’

Before I can explain why this note is so important to me, I really need to make a confession: sometimes I hesitate before posting something on social media that has to do with feminism or with the importance of empowering other women or with accepting yourself because I swear – I swear! – I can almost hear all the women who knew me at a different stage in my life simultaneously rolling their eyes.

And I don’t blame them – I haven’t always acted like a feminist. Or tried to get along with other women. Or even accepted myself. And I actually find it pretty embarrassing when I think about the ways that I’ve interacted with and treated other women. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I’ve grown up overweight. While I now (mostly) see it as an immaterial aspect of who I am as a person, for a large part of my life I allowed it to define my self-perception. And (duh!) that effected the way I felt about other women. Growing up, I often felt threatened by women I perceived as more attractive (for me, this almost always meant thinner), more intelligent, more accomplished. Because not only did I feel the pressure to be thin, I also felt the pressure to compete with other women, and I felt this regardless of my size at any given point. I internalized the notion that the things that made another woman really cool somehow meant that the things I liked about myself weren’t so cool in comparison, and that my own worth was directly correlated with every other woman on Earth. If another girl was pretty, suddenly I wasn’t pretty anymore. If someone laughed at another girl’s jokes, suddenly I wasn’t funny. Honestly, it pains me to admit, but in social situations I’d often size up every girl around me. And, I mean, literally size them up: who was fatter than me? Who was thinner than me? I’d survey the room and then line them up in my mind from smallest to largest to determine where I fit into this ridiculously unhealthy hierarchy in my head.

Not always, obviously. I had healthy, functional, and amazing female friendships, but sometimes the things that affect your behavior or thoughts on a daily basis are so engrained that you barely notice them because they seem so normal. How many movies have you seen where two women fight over a man? How many TV shows depict women undermining each other for the upper hand in social situations? How many Regina Georges, Betty Rizzos, Blair Waldorfs, Chanels (and Chanel No. 1s and Chanel No. 2s and Chanel No. 3s and Chanel No. 4s…)?

You guys, I’m not trying to convince you that I have the world of female dynamics figured out. Trust me, I don’t. This meager blog post is way too brief to get into the nuances of feminism, what I’m describing is only a very rudimentary discussion of internalized misogyny, and there are tons of women I admire who understand it so much better and can explain it so much more eloquently than I ever could. The female experience comprises so many legitimate elements all at one time – race, class, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity (you don’t have to have a vagina to be a woman, y’all), and every woman has a unique story and perspective. And I think it’s incredibly important to discuss personal experiences on a very basic level, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for the times when we’ve come up short of who we’d like to be. Especially when it’s learned behavior. Especially when it makes your face turn red when you think about how you’ve acted in the past.

And, oh my gosh, does my face does turn red when I think of all the amazing women I could have gotten to know, who I could have learned from, whose presence and friendship I could have enjoyed instead of being unnecessarily cold and stand-offish, instead of being suspicious and catty, instead of being jealous and bitchy. And it seriously moves me. If you’re reading this and I’ve ever made you feel bad, I am so sorry that I deflected my own insecurities onto you. I hope you can forgive me.

Which brings me back to why I’ve kept that tattered note for so long. The girl who wrote this note to me was an acquaintance – I’d known her for several years through friends who all sang her praises, and the few times I’d been around her I understood why. She was hilarious and smart and the warm type of person who makes you feel like you are the reason that the world is a good place to live. She liked the Beatles and she had the coolest, most instinctive sense of style of anyone I’d ever met. In my mind, she was fearless for moving from Kentucky to a huge city up north. I’d heard rumors that she had dated the bass player I’d had a crush on throughout my entire early-twenties, and she was the kind of gorgeous that caused strangers to stop and gawk. So when I got an email from her several years later asking to meet up with me shortly after I’d moved to the UK, I was simultaneously excited and horrified. It would be the first time we’d spent one-on-one time together, and my insecurities FREAKED. THE. HECK. OUT. I had this gnawing worry that the things that I liked about myself, the things that I thought maybe set me apart from the crowd, were things that she was way better at doing.

But the day she arrived, I was so intimidated  – and then suddenly I wasn’t. She wouldn’t let me be intimidated. She didn’t need me to be intimidated. She was so full of genuine self-love that she absolutely radiated confidence and kindness and authenticity, and I bathed in it. My insecurities just kind of melted away, and I forgot to feel as though I didn’t measure up or that I needed to compete in some way, and it freed up my time to focus on things that were way more fun: wrapping up in a duvet and binge-watching 24, dancing to Beatles songs, getting dressed up and feeling like I could hug the whole dang world.

When she left, I found the note that I’ve held onto for so long. The things she wrote about me were so lovely, but what affected me more than what she wrote was the fact that she wrote it at all.

I have no idea if she remembers what she wrote or even leaving the note for me to find after she left. At the time, I was overwhelmed by her kindness, but it has only been recently, while looking back on the past several years, that I’ve been able to unpack the enormity of that little note and to understand the reasons why I’ve felt the need to hold onto it so long.

This girl – this brave, amazing, funny, talented, gorgeous girl who left me in awe of her whole existence – took the time to handwrite a note listing the things that she appreciated about me. In the world I lived in at the time, this was not the way things worked. It threw me. It spurred me to subconsciously question the way I perceived other women and how I saw myself in relationship to them. I’m not saying that this single note changed my perspective or my thoughts or my behaviors all at once. I mean, I definitely didn’t wake up the next morning spouting quotes from feminist literature or trying to braid the hair of the girl next door. But it put a huge crack in the weird how-women-are-supposed-to-act-towards-each-other box I’d trapped myself inside. And now, years later, knowing that I can step outside of that box, I can see that her kindness to me translated to kindness to myself and to other women. And slowly I’ve found that when I’m accepting of other women, I become more accepting of myself. And when I look for things to love and admire about the women I meet, I more easily find things to love and admire about myself. It’s all connected – feminism, self-acceptance, body positivity, empowerment.

What I’m trying to say is that, in a weird and beautiful contradiction typical of human interaction, I think sometimes we actually do need other people to remind us that we don’t need other people‘s validation to love ourselves. And I think it’s important for us as women to actively be those reminders for each other, to disarm each other’s insecurities. To build each other up instead of serving as human rubrics to hold each other against.

It’s okay for me to be all the things she said about me. Incredible. Amazing. Beautiful. Full of life. Precious. SO intelligent. And I don’t need other women to make them true. Not even her. I just am.

And you don’t need anyone to tell you that you are incredible. Amazing. Beautiful. Full of life. Precious. SO intelligent. Not even me. You just are.

But sometimes it can mean a lot to remind each other of that.

Shades of Gray

One of my very favorite things to do when I’m home is to hang out with my mom. And one of our very favourite things to do together is shop – especially when I haven’t been in an American store for over a year! We bought loads of fun stuff on sale this week, and I got this majorly cute outfit:



The trousers are from Lane Bryant, and they were $15 in the sale! (I’m sure they’re autumn/winter wear, but I obviously wasn’t going to wait until next year to wear them – I rolled those suckers up and paired them with some sandals.) I definitely would have paid significantly more for these – I mean, come on, they’re plaid…and polka dotted…at the same time! But the truth is, if they hadn’t been on sale, I never would have tried them on in the first place to discover how perfectly they fit. They’re from the “Lena” collection, which according to Lane Bryant is supposed to be flattering for the ‘moderately curvy, smaller in the waist and curvy through the hip and thigh.’ While I definitely wouldn’t consider myself smaller-waisted, I do have large hips and thighs (that I’ve learned over time to love). I also don’t consider these trousers to be especially flattering – but that’s exactly what I love about them. These are a size US 16, and I absolutely adore the way these trousers fit and the way they make me feel, and I expect I’ll get tons of wear out of them.

It got me thinking about how it’s been years since I’ve shopped in Lane Bryant – I’ve always associated it with fitting room mini-meltdowns from when I was middle and high school, when I was a younger fat girl who felt sad and frustrated that I couldn’t just wear the same clothes as other girls. (At the time, though, that was Abercrombie and Fitch, so maybe the style gods were actually helping me out by giving me thighs and a butt too big to fit into A&F clothing, and I just didn’t realize it yet.) Luckily, plus size clothing has come a long way since then – and so has my way of thinking about it (and about my own body). It’s funny, though, because when I was younger I assumed that anyone who wasn’t plus size had no trouble finding clothes to fit their bodies. As if bodies were naturally split into two categories – fat and thin, and – in my brain at the time – thin equated to trouble free. That’s the problem with dichotomous thinking – things are never black and white like that. There are so many different body types that finding clothes you feel comfortable in – clothes that make your heart go “Yay!”- can be hard for everyone regardless of size. I wish I’d realized this when I was younger. It’s all shades of gray, so even though I’m still a bit disheartened that there’s so much emphasis on ‘flattering’ clothing in the plus size industry, I find it really cool that companies are making clothes that pay attention to different body types rather than having a one size fits all approach. (Also, I’m pretty sure Lane Bryant has been doing these fits since at least 2013 – but bad memories clearly kept me away too long to notice.)

Besides that, though, I’m constantly amazed by the quality and choice in off-the-rack plus size clothing now compared to when I was having those fitting room meltdowns. In Target, for example, I discovered the Who What Wear range that goes up to a 4X. (Again, I’m late to the party with this one. This range has been out since January 2016. More like Who What Where-have-you-been-all-my-life?!) And there were actually 4X options in the store!  I absolutely adore Target enough as it is, and I bought loads of Who What Wear pieces that I’ll hopefully have on the blog soon. All the pieces I found were super chic, but also very wearable. This top is one of my favorites.

The ruffles make me feel like I’m going to float away!



Top: Who What Wear x Target

Trousers: Lane Bryant

Sandals: Kenneth Cole Reaction (I think these are quite old)

Necklace: Tatty Devine

Earrings: Top Shop

Happiness Is…

I’m back home stateside in Kentucky for a few weeks, and I’m so happy to be home! I’m living out of a suitcase, the weather has been a bit all over the place, and I’m not sure that I packed appropriately. But – despite all this – I promised myself I’d try to be better about posting “outfit quickies” this year, and since I have nothing more pressing to do right now than to drink iced tea (!!!) and and put ranch dressing on everything (!!!), here’s what I wore yesterday:


My favorite part of this outfit is (obviously!) the top half – can we just take a moment to appreciate this amazing necklace (a welcome home gift from my gorgeous momma) and the palm print on the dress?:




Monki never fails with amazing prints, and this necklace does its job – it makes a statement and it makes me feel happy. Another thing that makes me happy? The material of this dress means I never have to iron it. It’s a perfect, easy, fresh-from-the-suitcase outfit.



Jacket: Gap

Dress: Monki

Leggings: Primark

Boots: Primark (Possibly the best 13 pounds I’ve ever spent)

Necklace: Betsey Johnson


Maladies, Melodies, Allergies

I have never been the type of person to pay attention to what’s actually in the products I use. If I find a perfume or lotion that smells good, I practically bathe in it (probably to the point of choking people around me). If I find a foundation or concealer that covers my blemishes or hides the dark circles under my super deep-set eyes,  I slather on way more than the recommended amount. If I find a spray that cleans things AND smells good – you’d better believe I use it on every surface of my home whether it needs cleaning or not. And I’ve used so much hairspray in my lifetime that there’s probably a hole in the ozone layer that spells out my name.

Or, at least,  I used to do these things.

But now – unless I do a lot of prior research – I can’t wash my hands in public restrooms. I can’t wash dishes or use the cutlery at other people’s houses or restaurants.  I can’t try on makeup samples at Sephora, try out new perfumes in department stores, or burn candles in my home. I can’t wear sunscreen or use mouthwash. I can’t paint the walls of my flat or clean my bathroom with bottled cleaners. If I don’t do my research, I end up looking like this:

HORROR MOVIE EYES. That rash around my eyes looks scary, but it’s not so much scary as it is a huge pain in the ass. About a year ago, after a long battle with that horrible rash on my face and then extensive patch testing, I was diagnosed with an allergy to methylisothiazolinone. That word sounds scary  – but it’s just a fancy word for ‘huge pain in the ass.’ Just kidding. (Kind of.) (Not really.) Methylisothiazolinone/methylchloroisothiazolinone, or MI/MCI for short, is a chemical preservative found (mostly) in water based products including (but definitely not limited to):

  • Cosmetics
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Liquid soaps
  • Dish detergent/washing up liquid
  • Laundry detergent and softener
  • Adhesives
  • Paint
  • Sunscreen
  • Baby wipes/makeup wipes

I became sensitized to MI after using Neutrogena Skin-Clearing Foundation and St. Ives Apricot Face Scrub – products from two companies that I always considered reputable and skin-safe. I had no idea that you can become allergic to something through repeated use, but that’s what happened. And I’m not alone – allergies to isothiazolinones (the family of chemicals to which MI belongs) – is one of the fastest growing skin issues in dermatology. 

Because my allergy is a form of contact dermatitis, I react when any part of my skin comes into contact with MI from directly touching the chemical or even through fumes. While many sufferers experience reactions on the parts of their skin where the contact has occurred, others suffer from localized reactions on their hands, back, knees, arms, or legs. My reaction has always been contained to the skin around my eyes. In fact, in the early stages of my initial allergic reaction, I believed I was suffering from eczema because the corners of my upper eyelids became dry and flaky like this:

Or this:

When I tried to treat the eczema, the reaction got even worse because the cream I used contained MI, and I had no idea I was allergic to it! It got so bad that the skin around my eyes developed deep wrinkles and stayed red and sore, like this:

What are the odds that this will probably end up being the first photo that shows up any time someone googles my name for the rest of my life?  

I struggled for six months eliminating everything I could think of until one morning I woke up and my eyes had swollen completely shut. After I was patch tested and eliminated MI from my routine, my eyes cleared up immediately, but I’m still susceptible to outbreaks when I come into contact with it – because it’s EVERYWHERE.

One of the main reasons I’m writing about this is not to complain (although I absolutely excel at complaining) or to show off these incredibly sexy and attractive photos of myself. It’s to help bring awareness to other people who (like I was) might be suffering from an MI allergy without knowing what’s causing it.

If you think you might be suffering from an MI allergy – I urge you to get patch tested by a dermatologist. It’s really difficult to diagnose it on your own.  And it’s even harder to figure out what products are causing your reactions, mostly for two main reasons. First, it’s usually a delayed reaction. So that new foundation or lotion you try may not bother you when you put it on, but you might get a rash from it three days later. To make things even more complicated, that foundation or lotion might not have MI listed in the ingredients, but it could still contain it.

Wait, what?! Don’t manufacturers legally have to tell you what’s in their products? Well, yes…but also no. Did you know that when something has ‘perfume/parfum’ or ‘fragrance’ listed as an ingredient, this could be any combination of over 3000 chemicals – and companies don’t have to tell you what they are!? Which brings me to another reason  for this post. I’ve been dealing with this allergy for over a year, and in my experience, the largest number of products that contain MI/MCI are products marketed for sensitive skin, as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, or touted as hypoallergenic. Let me tell you something – the word ‘hypoallergenic’ is one of the most empty and harmful marketing buzz words in the beauty product business. No matter what the ingredient – natural or synthetic – it’s a safe bet that someone, somewhere is allergic to it. From that perspective, then,  ‘hypoallergenic’ means something different for every person alive, all depending on the unique needs of your own body and skin. 

That’s why its so infurating for myself and other sufferers of  skin allergies across the globe that ingredient transparency is not a priority for manufacturers and companies. Knowing the exact ingredients in the products you use gives you control of your allergy (and the knowledge and ability to avoid ingredients that cause these allergies in the first place). Until that happens, I suspect I’ll continue to have flare-ups and horror movies eyes even when I’m doing my absolute best to avoid MI.

Again, if you’re reading this because you think you might be allergic to MI/MCI, I encourage you to get patch tested! I’m a doctor of pop music, not dermatology – so you really should speak to an expert. If you’re not allergic, I urge you to pay more attention the ingredients in the products you use – I really wish I had!

If you’ve already been diagnosed with an MI/MCI allergy, give me a shout – we can commiserate and swap suggestions for products to use! In the meantime, The Body Shop has a blanket policy of avoiding MI/MCI in its ingredients, including the fragrance! It’s also worth checking out the  Methylisothiazolinone Victims Facebook group, which has been  an absolute lifesaver for me.