Irene Forte On Better Ageing And The Power of Mother Nature

It’s safe to say that when it comes to a woman who wears many hats, Irene Forte is up there. Not only is she the founder of luxury sustainable skincare brand Irene Forte Skincare, but she’s also the wellness consultant for Rocco Forte Hotels, an advisory Board Member of the Global Wellness Summit, and she’s now a mum after welcoming her daughter earlier this year. 

Her eponymous beauty brand is brimming with mother nature’s finest, with ingredients grown on the brand’s sweeping Sicilian farm using traditional standards and zero chemicals. With a strong focus on sustainability, ‘clean’ formulations, and science-backed products, it’s all about a healthy, natural, and realistic approach to beauty, skin and ageing. 

Sitting down with Hip & Healthy, Forte shared her thoughts on ageing gracefully, natural ways to keep skin looking its best, and the importance of a healthy body and mind when it comes to turning back time. Listen in. 

What’s your approach to ageing?
Ageing is inevitable, but my approach is all about well-ageing or ageing well. It’s all about natural, healthy and sustainable ageing. For me, every year gets better. Ageing is about getting wiser (life experiences that help us make better decisions), a better understanding of oneself and what you want to spend time doing/not doing, having more confidence, etc. 

Do you think it’s possible to age gracefully, without the need for Botox etc?
I do think it’s possible to age gracefully without the need for Botox. Indeed, Botox doesn’t actually improve the quality of your skin; it may get rid of wrinkles temporarily, but it doesn’t improve hydration, skin texture, etc. Therefore, I feel like you probably age more gracefully without Botox if you truly take care of yourself. 

How have you dealt with the pressures of ageing?
I don’t really feel the pressure. I firmly believe that if you look after yourself and are happy, you will age well. I also feel like every year gets better. 

Are there natural ingredients that really can help us keep skin looking younger?
Yes, 100%! There are natural ingredients that can even ‘reverse’ ageing! Some of my favourites that we use in our products are the following: 

Myoxinol™: An oligopeptide complex from hibiscus esculentus seed extract that combats both the biological and mechanical formation of wrinkles through botulinum toxin-like activity and by protecting the skin against free radicals. This novel active combats wrinkles in a similar way to Botox, as it inhibits the mechanical factors responsible for expression line formation on the face. It’s also a proven antioxidant, protecting against free radicals and preventing the breakdown of collagen and the formation of wrinkles. It activates the cell’s natural defences to prevent oxidative damage, thus biologically delaying the ageing of cells. 

Green Pea Polypeptides: Pisum sativum extract is a potent fraction extracted from green pea seeds. It contains a high concentration of active polypeptides that work to improve skin firmness and elasticity. These botanical peptides work to enhance important elasticity factors and signals to maintain and improve the structure of the skin. They also protect against degrading enzymes that break down structural proteins, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin. Even at small concentrations, they’re proven to increase collagen and elastin synthesis, as well as improve and maintain surface hydration. 

Prickly Pear Polysaccharides: Derived from Sicilian prickly pears, opuntia ficus-indica stem extract contains polysaccharides that work to increase the skin’s antioxidant capacity, helping reduce inflammation, moisturise, and prevent irritation. In vitro tests show they also help protect the skin from oxidative stress and inhibit the production of a pro-inflammatory messenger, interleukins, therefore helping reduce redness and inflammation. Like hyaluronic acid, prickly pear polysaccharides hydrate and protect the skin. In vivo tests revealed improved skin moisturisation over time and calmed, less irritated skin.

At what age should we start using ‘anti-ageing’ products?
I think if the products are non-aggressive, you can start at any age. The best way to do this is with gentle products that are performance-proven. It’s always important to look out for clinically proven products – does a product have decent anti-wrinkle, hydration, or elasticity results, for example? I also think it’s important to have a complete routine – cleanser, toner, serum, eye cream, face cream. 

What about from a holistic perspective? 
I think self-care is vital in order to age well. For me, this means sleep (good sleep is essential for our wellbeing); eating well (having a healthy and balanced diet is vital for both mind and body); exercise (this is vital for good health, assisting with internal movement of blood, nutrients, oxygen and cellular energy); meditation (there are amazing scientific studies showing the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on the mind); and of course – looking after your skin with regular facials, at-home rituals, great products, etc.

As a new mum, how have your perceptions of ageing and beauty changed?
It definitely puts things into perspective. My perceptions of ageing/beauty haven’t necessarily changed, but my daughter and her wellbeing trumps everything for me. 

Do you worry about the pressures your daughter will face?
To be honest, not really. I just hope she’ll continue to be healthy and happy! 

Complete the sentence: To me, ageing means…
Getting wiser and understanding what you want better.

Why Peptides Are A Beauty Buzzword To Know

Peptides have been garnering a lot of attention of late – searches have risen (and by 5,000%, according to Google), TikTok videos multiplied and a new raft of formulas cropping up with this skin buzzword front and centre… but why? Hailed as the latest ingredient to add to your skincare lexicon, these small chains of amino acids are touted to have myriad benefits for your skin, from boosting collagen to improving the skin barrier. Here, we speak to a host of dermatologists and experts to understand just what they can do for your dermis and unpick the latest formulas worthy of your beauty wishlist. 

So what exactly are peptides? 

“Peptides are molecules built from amino acids,” says Dr Tina Meder, dermatologist and founder of Meder Beauty. “They are messenger molecules used as signalling substances by our body cells.” 

Where your complexion is concerned, they act as building blocks for certain proteins needed by the skin, such as collagen, elastin and keratin. “When applied topically, they act as little messengers, encouraging skin cells to perform specific functions better to build collagen and elastin so that skin feels and looks more youthful,” adds Fresh’s Brand Expert, Caglar Odabai. 

Which peptides are best for your skin?

Dr Meder explains that each peptide is different as it can be built from different amino acids in different combinations, with each one used as a “specific signal”. There are, she says, 4 types used in skincare or topical formulas, which include: carrier peptides, signal peptides, neurotransmitter-inhibitor peptides and enzyme-inhibitor peptides.

Copper peptides are the most commonly used when it comes to skincare. “Their use has grown in recent years due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and moisture-retentive effects,” adds Dr Meder. 

Meanwhile, signal peptides can be used in skincare that targets fine lines and sun damage. “these can stimulate dermis and epidermis cells for increased biological activity such as synthesis of collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid or other essential substances of skin structure,” she says. Skin translation: a plumper, more hydrated complexion. Given that we lose 1% of collagen (the protein responsible for plump, glowing skin) from the age of 20, these play a crucial role in boosting its production and keeping skin looking glowy from the inside out.

What are the benefits of using peptides in your skincare routine? 

It turns out, a lot. Among them are hydrating benefits, collagen-boosting effects, rejuvenation and even soothing and calming down inflammation. In fact, some peptides can even alleviate symptoms or rosacea and eczema. “The antioxidant properties of some can help to neutralise free radicals and protect the skin from UV damage, or even out skin tone in some cases of UV-induced hyperpigmentation,” adds Molecular Biochemist and founder of ABG Lab, Dr Elina Tester. 

They can also enhance the skin barrier – the outermost layer of skin that helps retain moisture. “It protects the skin from damage and dryness as well as being responsible for rejuvenating the skin at a cellular level to reduce wrinkles, fine lines, sagging, and loss of elasticity,” says Tester. 

Even better, explains Dr Meder, peptides are hypoallergenic and are able to penetrate into the skin without damaging the skin barrier. “They are incredibly selective and targeted, well understood and backed by science,” she adds. “Peptides’ interaction with cells is clever and much better tuned compared with previous generations of ingredients such as hydroxy acids or retinol.”

Discover skincare’s latest cutting-edge formulas to bookmark, below.

Medik8 Liquid Peptides, £49

A potent and effective serum made up of 10 different peptides, this hardworking formula from Medik8 helps stimulate the production of collagen and elastin for healthier-looking and smoother skin.

Soho Skin Renewal Serum, £76

This IG-friendly bottle is as aesthetically pleasing as they come. Better yet, it works hard to reduce the appearance of pores, calm down inflammation and protect against free radical damage.

Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster, £51

Has your complexion lost its luminosity? Turn to the new Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster to restore radiance and add hydration, all thanks to a powerful complex of peptides and amino acids.

Fresh Black Tea Firming Peptide Serum, £92

Featuring a clever peptide that helps lift, contour and firm the complexion, this daily serum helps boost skin’s elasticity and firmness. Consider this a facial massage in a bottle.

Strivectin Peptide Plump Line Filling Bounce Serum, £69

If you’re wondering what sets Strivectin’s latest serum apart, it’s AI technology. Specifically, it uses tech to precisely deliver peptides that target three key proteins in the skin.

words by Amelia Bell

Seasonal Splendour: Adapting Your Home and Garden for Every Season

As the wheel of the year turns, each season brings with it a unique blend of colours, temperatures, and energies. Adapting your home and garden to these natural rhythms can not only enhance your living spaces but also create a harmonious ambience that resonates with the changing times. From the warm hues of autumn to the vibrant blossoms of spring, every change in season provides an opportunity to refresh and revitalise your home and garden. The journey of transition from one seasonal splendour to the next is a blend of preparation and celebration, as we bid adieu to the passing moments and welcome the new with hopeful anticipation.

Embracing Change: Transitioning from Summer to Autumn

The transition from the warm, lively days of summer to the cool, serene evenings of autumn is one of mixed emotions. On one hand, we bid farewell to the bustling outdoor activities, while on the other, we welcome the cosy, indoor retreats. Preparing your garden for the cooler temperatures is essential to ensure the longevity of your plants and to maintain a beautiful, inviting outdoor space. Similarly, introducing warm textures and colours within your interiors can transform your home into a cosy haven that complements the autumnal atmosphere outside.

With the leaves turning golden and the air growing crisp, it’s the perfect time to introduce some autumnal decor into your home. Seasonal decorations like pumpkins, gourds, and autumn leaves can create a festive atmosphere, while warm-toned cushions and throws add a touch of cosiness. Outdoors, consider planting autumn-blooming flowers and investing in hardy shrubs that will thrive in cooler temperatures, ensuring your garden remains vibrant and appealing as the season unfolds.

Winter Wonderland: Keeping Cosy and Green

Winter brings with it a unique set of challenges and opportunities. As temperatures plummet, creating a warm and inviting interior becomes paramount. One essential aspect of this is choosing the right flooring solutions. Investing in good quality carpets paired with suitable underlay for carpet can significantly enhance the warmth and comfort of your home. The right carpet underlay, like Duralay underlay, can provide excellent insulation, reducing heat loss and saving on energy costs. Additionally, a trusted retailer like Simple Underlay offers a range of underlay options that cater to various needs, ensuring your home remains cosy throughout the chilly season.

Outdoors, protecting your plants from frost is crucial. Utilising mulches, frost cloths, or even temporary greenhouses can provide the necessary shelter for your green companions. Meanwhile, energy-efficient home improvements such as double-glazing windows or adding weather stripping can further aid in keeping the cold out and the warmth in. Integrating these adjustments not only promises a cosy winter indoors but also a green and thriving garden to enjoy on those rare sunny winter days.

Spring Awakening: Renewal Inside and Out

The gentle warmth of spring signals a time of renewal and growth, both within our homes and in the gardens that surround them. As nature bursts forth in a riot of colour and new life, it inspires a fresh start indoors too. Spring cleaning is more than a tradition; it’s an opportunity to clear out the old and make way for the new. The act of decluttering and cleaning not only rejuvenates the space but also our spirits, creating a welcoming environment for the promising year ahead.

In the garden, the thawing earth beckons a promise of growth. Preparing your garden for this period of blossoming is crucial. Tending to the soil, planting new seeds, and pruning existing plants are tasks that set the stage for a lush, vibrant garden. Incorporating new plant varieties or perhaps setting up a cosy outdoor seating area can enhance the garden experience, making it a haven of peace and natural beauty as the days grow longer.

Sun-Soaked Spaces: Prepping for Summer

Summer is synonymous with bright, airy spaces and the joy of outdoor living. As the days lengthen and temperatures rise, adapting your indoor and outdoor spaces for the sunny season is essential. Indoors, consider swapping heavy drapes for lighter curtains, and introducing more vibrant colours and patterns to capture the essence of summer. It’s also a great time to think about ventilation and ensuring your living spaces remain cool and comfortable. Additionally, ensuring your garden and outdoor areas are prepped for summer is crucial. It’s the season to enjoy the outdoors to the fullest, be it through barbecues, garden parties, or simply lounging under the sun.

Maximising your outdoor living spaces can significantly enhance your summer experience. Investing in comfortable outdoor furniture, creating shaded areas, and maybe even setting up an outdoor kitchen can transform your garden into a summer retreat. A well-maintained lawn, blooming flowers, and a variety of potted plants can add to the aesthetic appeal, making your home and garden the perfect oasis for making the most of the sun-soaked days ahead.

Concluding Thoughts

Adapting your home and garden to the changing seasons not only enhances the aesthetics and comfort of your living spaces but also allows you to harmonise with nature’s rhythm. Each season brings its unique charm and challenges, yet with thoughtful preparations and adaptations, you can create a welcoming and enjoyable ambience all year round. The journey through the seasons is a beautiful reminder of the ever-evolving nature of life, urging us to embrace change and celebrate the beauty inherent in each moment.

Beauty & Wellness Level-Up: Lou Shares Her Better Ageing Essentials

As I near my 40th birthday… which in all honesty is the birthday I have felt the most anxious about (I know most people worry around their 30th birthday in terms of ageing and fertility etc) but by 40 I feel a need to pivot my priorities. Since having my gorgeous little boy 2 years ago.. everything has been about him and I most definitely have forgotten to think about my needs. I think this is partly due to the 4 years of fertility treatments, a high-risk pregnancy followed by a premature birth, my son just felt so incredibly precious and fragile. I poured myself into his whole existence and forgot about me. Don’t get me wrong, I know that despite all I have been through, I am one of the lucky ones, because I got him in the end. But now as we start to come out the other side (we are still in nappies so we aren’t totally on the other side yet ..and we are in the midst of the terrible twos… help!) and as I am about to turn 40, I am readdressing my better ageing “feel good” non-negotiables and starting to put myself first a little more.

For me feeling and looking my best go hand in hand, so these are some of my better ageing essentials, which will continue to help me hopefully look, feel, and live my best as I approach another decade.


Starting with my newest non-negotiable, and probably the most controversial… Botox! This is something I honestly never thought I would do. Working at Hip and Healthy and with natural beauty being at the forefront of my mind, it never felt right for me. Until now. I never wanted to look frozen and always prided myself on using ultra-natural skincare, but as I started to approach my 40s the wrinkles on my forehead (despite having always been told what amazing skin I had) were making me feel so insecure. It was the only thing I saw in the mirror! So, I decided to give Botox a go. I was apprehensive…….but Wow! I loved it! Dr Nicola at Skin Studio London is genuinely a magician and extremley knowledgeable. Priding herself on ensuring you look as natural as possible, she listened to my every concern and made me feel totally at ease. The process was completely pain-free and the before and after photos are remarkable. For me, it has brought back so much confidence in myself and my skin. Possibly as a result of waiting to have it done in my late 30s, no one (not even my best friends) thought I had Botox, but just commented that my skin is looking incredible, and I can honestly say, I agree! So at nearly 40, botox has now become my better ageing, non-negotiable and given me the confidence boost that felt right for me personally, at this stage of my life.

Vitamin A

As a huge Sarah Chapman fan I recently learnt of the power of Vitamin A as the ultimate better ageing ingredient during one of my facials. Not only are their facials my all time favourite for instantly glowing skin but I also leave with a fountain of knowledge.

Apparently, as we get older, we need to look for more advanced actives in our skincare as collagen production starts to drop in our mid-to-late 20s and by our 40s (here I come), collagen drops dramatically so formulas rich in collagen-boosting peptides and antioxidants help to repair damage at a cellular level. Vitamin A is an essential ingredient as it is a proven rejuvenator. This powerful active minimises the appearance of wrinkles by boosting the thickness and elasticity of the skin and slows down the breakdown of collagen. It also accelerates the life cycle of skin cells, allowing for new cell growth underneath the surface. I was advised to introduce Vitamin A slowly into my beauty routine with the Overnight Facial Elixir which instantly became a staple in my bedtime routine (waking up to glowing skin is the ultimate confidence booster) but since upgrading to their most potent cosmetic-grade form of vitamin A in their Icon Day moisturiser I am obsessed. The difference in my skin tone is honestly revolutionary, it feels smooth and plump and bright.. but I am not sure why I am surprised as everything Sarah Chapman does gets a big YES from me. 


Supplements are a key part of maintaining our health and one of my favourites is collagen. Both for my skin, but it also helps with my joints ( arthritis runs in the family). With all supplements consistency is key and JS Health is definitely the authority on supplements. The Vitality x Collagen Powder tastes amazing, so I look forward to taking it in the morning and I really do see and feel the difference. From Skin elasticity and firmness, hair strength and fewer wrinkles to more supple joints ( which without this elixir, I honestly cannot make the gym in the morning, due to pain) and a boost in immunity this powder is essential to keep me going, but also looking and feeling as good as I possibly can. 

Skincare Tool 

Skincare Tools have always been one of my all-time favourite things! I don’t think there is a tool I haven’t tried in my many years of better ageing. But the one that has stood the test of time, is my trusted and much-loved LED mask from Currentbody. It is part of my bedtime ritual, nearly every single day and I never go on holiday without it. The immediate effects of the long-term benefits are incredible. Currentbody really is the pioneer in skincare technology and their LED mask is the cult favourite. If you have seen Emily In Paris you will recall in the opening scene of Season 2 “Emily’s LED mask” moment, as a big nod to modern skincare – even supermodels have been spotted with this specific LED tech and you just have to look to Kate Moss for inspiration. If it’s good enough for Emily and Kate, it’s definitely good enough for me.


5 Powerful Ways Sober October Positively Impacts Your Health

Whatever your reason for cutting down your alcohol intake may be – whether it’s to improve your sleeping pattern, help heal your mental wellbeing or boost your bank balance – Sober October is a great initiative to get involved in.

While taking a ‘dry month’ like Sober October may seem daunting for some, it can give your mind and body a much-needed rest after a summer of over-socialising. 

Still, debating whether or not to take part? Martin Preston, Addiction Specialist at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere has revealed the benefits of taking part in Sober October and how regularly taking breaks from booze, can help you reassess your reasons for drinking.

  1.  Sleep patterns improve

Alcohol is often used as a sleeping aid to help you drift off, but despite helping to relax you, drinking in excess can affect the quality and pattern of your sleep due to headaches, dehydration and the increased need to urinate.

When you give up alcohol during Sober October, you will often find that your quality of sleep will be better, without frequent interruptions. This in turn will mean you have more energy to spend on other activities instead of waking up feeling groggy after heavy drinking the night before.

  1. Blood Pressure reduces to healthier levels 

Drinking in excess for a prolonged period of time, whether that’s been over the summer period or you drink heavily regularly, can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels that could lead to more complicated health problems down the line.

Giving up the booze even just for a month will help lower those blood pressure levels to a much healthier level and could even help reduce the risk of other health issues that are associated with high blood pressure and alcohol consumption.

  1. Skin starts to look better

A minor benefit to cutting your alcohol intake is the look of your skin. Alcohol causes your body to become dehydrated more quickly which can lead to dry and scaly skin when drunk in excess. Not only that but consumption of sugary drinks like cocktails can also lead to outbreaks due to increased hormone levels.

By taking a break from alcohol during October, you might notice spots or dry skin patches that you have been struggling to keep under control over the past few months start to clear up while you reduce the amount you drink. 

  1. You may lose weight 

One major issue that comes with drinking alcohol, is the number of calories it contains. Drinks such as beer and wine are particularly calorific, meaning that you are likely to gain weight by drinking them too regularly.

If you decide to take part in Sober October this year, in just four weeks you might find that you begin to shed the pounds you put on over the summer or when you consumed too much alcohol. Losing weight by cutting the calories from drinks may also lead to other health benefits including the reduction of high blood pressure.

  1. You’ll feel generally better

Drinking in excess can often lead to feeling groggy, lethargic and generally unwell the next day because it interferes with the day-to-day functioning of the body.

When taking a break this month, you may find that you have more energy to do things that you normally wouldn’t like being more active or spending more time out of the house with friends. So if you find yourself craving an alcoholic beverage sometime this month, think about how much better it might feel to wake up having slept well and no hangover. 

Martin Preston Founder and CEO at Delamere says:  While Sober October only lasts a month, breaking the cycle of drinking on a regular basis can be a great way to reset your body and mind, away from alcohol as well as lowering the tolerance that you have become accustomed to. 

“Those who have a drink regularly might also find that during those breaks, they are in a better mood than they were previously. This is because alcohol is a known depressant that can leave you feeling deflated when consumed regularly.

“Breaks throughout the year from drinking are therefore a great way to establish new habits and really assess the reasons we drink and whether we actually need to. Most people will find that the more they do it, the less time they think about or slip into drinking a little bit more than they should.” 

READ MORE: 12 Non-Alcoholic Drinks To See You Through Sober October

Non-Alcoholic Drinks To See You Through Sober October

Autumn Weekend Getaway: Ellenborough Park Is A Cotswold Gem

The Cotswolds is known for both its postcard-perfect gardens and its spa retreats – but rarely are they seen in combination. However, the newly unveiled Spa Garden Retreat at the area’s only 5-star hotel, Ellenborough Park, is changing that.

A secret hideaway within the 15th-century manor house’s walled garden, the luxury new facilities build on the existing state-of-the-art spa, which includes both indoor and outdoor facilities. But unlike most gardens, this one can be enjoyed whatever the weather – meaning that a dip in the jacuzzi can be accompanied with Pimm’s in the summer, mulled wine under the stars in the winter, or a cup of tea under the retractable roof on rainy days. If only all gardens looked like this…

The destination

Ellenborough Park Hotel is best known for its unrivalled location overlooking the Cheltenham Racecourse, with a multi-year waiting list for rooms during the famous Gold Cup horse race that takes place every March.

Our tip is to avoid the crowds and book a visit in the straddling seasons: in the winter months, cosy up by a roaring log fire with afternoon tea or don a pair of Dubarry boots (complimentary for guests to borrow) and head out on a long country walk before returning for a hearty roast lunch in the wood-panelled restaurant. Or come summer, experience nearby town Cheltenham Spa’s buzzing cultural scene with its Music and Literature Festivals that host world-famous artists in stunning Regency venues.

The spa

With indoor treatment rooms, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi, plus an outdoor heated pool and even a dedicated Paw Spa for pampered pooches, the new Spa Garden Retreat really is the jewel in the crown of a multitude of spa facilities available at the hotel.

What sets this apart is its secluded setting in a flower-filled walled garden, making it perfect for a romantic escape or to indulge as a group of girlfriends.

To top off the experience, pair a visit to the Spa Garden with a treatment – if the 55-minute De-stress Body Ritual isn’t enough to melt away any tension, floating into the private jacuzzi afterwards with on-demand champagne and grazing boards should sort it.

The accommodation

Rooms at Ellenborough Park have a distinct country house hideaway feel and are befitting of a spa escape – think inviting four-poster beds with crisp white linens, pretty patterned wallpaper, huge marble bathrooms with freestanding bathtubs, and even private gardens for some.

Even a modestly named ‘Classic Room’ is substantially larger than my entire London flat – and has the added benefit of having nothing but chirping birds to wake me up in the morning instead of the usual rush hour traffic. Bliss.

The food

Although such serenity lends itself to sleeping in, breakfast is worth getting up for – a divine spread of fresh fruit and pastries alongside made-to-order classics done properly – think local eggs and bacon and thick-cut smoked salmon on sourdough toast.

Dinner is served either in the laid-back Horse Box Brasserie or the grand wood-panelled Restaurant, where stained-glass windows overlook the racecourse further afield. Despite the grandeur of the setting, both have an unpretentious feel, serving good British grub done well – think fish and chips and steaks alongside delicate fish dishes. Desserts are a particular highlight: Nutella lovers should save room for the Paris Brest, a gooey, chocolatey, nutty delight that will leave you thankful for the ability to flop into a four-poster bed moments after finishing.

Getting there

Ellenborough Park Hotel is located approximately 15 minutes from Cheltenham town centre and 20 minutes from Cheltenham Spa station, a 2-hour train journey from London Paddington. There is ample car parking available at the hotel, and 6 EV charging ports.

How to book

Spa Garden Retreat Packages start from £140 per person, please visit the Spa Garden Retreat website for more information here. Nightly rates at Ellenborough Park start from £299 inclusive of VAT and breakfast based on a Traditional Bedroom sleeping two people.

words by Rosie Sargeant

Pelvic Floor 101: It’s Not JUST For Post-Partem Mums & Seniors!

The human body is a marvel of intricate systems and interconnected functions. While some parts may garner more attention than others, there are some essential structures that often go unnoticed until they start causing problems. One such hidden hero is the pelvic floor. Often overlooked, it plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health, especially for women. In this article, we will explore its function, its importance throughout a woman’s life, and why training it is vital for preventing problems later down the line.

What is the Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that form a supportive hammock-like structure at the base of the pelvis. It functions like a trampoline, providing support to the organs in the pelvic region, including the bladder, uterus (or prostate in men), and rectum. This intricate network of muscles also plays a pivotal role in controlling bowel and bladder movements, maintaining sexual function, and ensuring overall pelvic stability.

Believe it or not, it all starts with potty training… that’s right, as early as toddlerhood you start to learn how to utilise your pelvic muscles. Clare Bourne, a leading pelvic health physiotherapist and author of Strong Foundations, Why Pelvic Health Matters says…

“In the same approach to taking care of our teeth, we brush our teeth to prevent problems, not once we have had multiple fillings, we should take care of our pelvic health with a more preventative approach. Our journey to gaining continence and learning how to control our pelvic floor begins as a child and can really shape our early pelvic health.

This journey is different for everyone, depending on how our parents support us. I like to think of it like a more gradual process of learning, in a similar way we observe our children learning to walk, rather than the pressure to ‘crack it in 3 days’.”

What is the role of the pelvic floor?

  1. Support: One of the primary functions is to support the pelvic organs. It prevents them from descending and causing issues like prolapse, where the organs shift from their natural positions.
  2. Sphincteric Function: The pelvic floor muscles help maintain continence by providing voluntary control over the bladder and rectum. These muscles allow us to start and stop urine flow and hold in gas or bowel movements.
  3. Sexual Function: The pelvic floor is closely linked to sexual health. It plays a role in arousal and orgasm, contributing to sexual satisfaction.
  4. Core Stability: These muscles are an essential part of the body’s core, working in coordination with the abdominal and back muscles to provide stability and support for various activities.
  5. Childbirth: During childbirth, the pelvic floor stretches and accommodates the baby’s passage through the birth canal. Maintaining pelvic floor health is crucial for a smoother childbirth and postpartum recovery.

The importance of pelvic floor health throughout life

While many people associate pelvic floor health primarily with pregnancy and ageing, it’s essential to recognize that it plays a role throughout a woman’s life. Here’s why:

  1. Youth and Preventive Care: Problems can begin at a young age due to factors like obesity, chronic constipation, heavy lifting, and high-impact exercises. Being proactive in strengthening these muscles early can prevent future issues.
  2. Pregnancy and Postpartum: Pregnancy places significant strain on the pelvic floor. Strengthening these muscles during pregnancy and rehabilitating them postpartum can aid in a quicker recovery and reduce the risk of incontinence or prolapse.
  3. Menopause: Hormonal changes during menopause can affect the pelvic floor, leading to problems like urinary incontinence. Strengthening these muscles can help manage and prevent these issues.
  4. Active Lifestyle: Women who engage in high-impact sports or heavy lifting should pay special attention to their pelvic floor. Weakness in this area can lead to stress incontinence and discomfort during physical activities.

Why is it important to train the pelvic floor?

Just like any other muscle group, pelvic muscles benefits from regular exercise and maintenance. Pelvic floor training, often referred to as Kegel exercises, can help strengthen these muscles. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Identify the Muscles: Begin by locating your pelvic floor muscles. The easiest way to do this is to stop the flow of urine midstream. The muscles you engage to do this are your pelvic floor muscles.
  2. Regular Exercises: Perform Kegel exercises regularly, squeezing and lifting these muscles for a count of 5 to 10 seconds, then relaxing for the same duration. Aim for 10-15 repetitions, 2-3 times a day.
  3. Variation: Incorporate different variations, like quick contractions or holding the muscles for longer periods, to target different aspects of pelvic floor strength.
  4. Consult a Professional: If you’re unsure about the exercises or suspect any issues with your pelvic floor, consult a healthcare provider or a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health.

The pelvic floor is an often overlooked but incredibly important part of a woman’s body. It plays a role in supporting organs, maintaining continence, ensuring sexual function, and providing core stability. To prevent problems in the future, it’s crucial to start caring for it early in life, not just after childbirth or as you age. Regular exercises can help women maintain their health and quality of life throughout their lifetime, making it a practice that should be embraced by all.

READ MORE: 5 Hormones Every Woman Should Know About According To Fitness Expert

​​6 Autumn Ayurvedic Rituals to Relax, Revive & Restore

Designed to help you achieve a sense of calm, even in chaos by reconnecting with your inner self, these Ayurveda self-care remedies teach you to stop, slow down and become more aware of what’s going on in your life – perfect for resetting this Autumn. Some of these ancient rituals and practices may seem a little unusual, but as you dive deeper into Ayurveda you discover that they are the base of an incredible mind-body natural medicine. 

Maeve O’Sullivan, Ayurvedic practitioner and co-founder of Escapda says “Eastern medicines recognise that different types of constitutions need to be looked after in different ways, from one’s general lifestyle and diet as well as herbal medicine and acupuncture formula when the body is out of balance. There is so much you can do to support your body for greater health and wellbeing and these morning Ayurvedic Rituals are just the start.”


If you are feeling low a morning of self-love might be all that your body & mind need to feel renewed again. Massages, baths and skincare rituals are all acts of self-love as they are times when you are truly focusing on yourself and nothing else. In addition to the amazing skincare benefits of Gua Sha, this gentle massage technique is exceptionally calming and soothing for our nervous system. When we relax the face through Gua Sha massage and release tension and tissue adhesions, we can smooth out these lines and release the emotions and tension behind them.
Tip: Our favourite tool to use is the Hayo’u Clear Quartz Gua Sha tool as it has a high silica dioxide content which is an important mineral for skin health and is known as the master healer. 


Oil pulling is an age-old remedy rooted in Ayurvedic medicine that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it may be beneficial for gum health and that certain oils may help fight harmful bacteria in the mouth! There are hundreds of different types of bacteria in your mouth. While many of them are friendly, others are not. The bacteria in your mouth create a biofilm on your teeth, a thin layer known as plaque. Having some plaque on your teeth is perfectly normal, but if it gets out of hand, it can cause various problems, including bad breath, gum inflammation, gingivitis and cavities.
Tip: In order to oil pull, you put a tablespoon of oil in your mouth, then swish it around for 10–20 minutes. Oil pulling should work with pretty much any oil, but we recommend coconut oil due to its pleasant taste.


Tongue scraping, or jihwa prakshalana, is a traditional part of Ayurvedic self-care and also a great way to check in with your body each morning. Overnight, as the body processes everything that was ingested that day, toxins (called ama in Ayurveda) begin to form and are visible as a coating on the tongue. It is advised to scrape your tongue once a day, making it part of your normal morning cleansing routine along with brushing your teeth. Research has shown that a tongue scraper is more effective in removing all debris than a toothbrush. Brushing will loosen and move debris around, but it may not remove the bacteria. The scraping action of a tongue scraper collects the tongue coating where our oral bacteria live.
Tip: Standing in front of a mirror, you scrape your tongue by simply holding the two ends of the scraper in both hands, sticking out your tongue, and placing the scraper as far back on your tongue as possible. With firm but gentle pressure, scrape the surface of your tongue in one long stroke. Rinse the scraper and repeat until your tongue feels clean and is free of coating (usually 5 to 10 times).


Abhyanga (pronounced Abhy-ang- ga) is an Ayurveda self-massage technique using warm oil (usually infused with herbs) which deeply nourishes the body hydrating dry skin, calms the mind and leaves you feeling grounded and re-energised whilst skin feels revitalised, radiant and nourished. This can also be done with your partner as part of a bonding exercise.
Tip: Ideally Abhyanga should be done every day before you shower but if you can add this to your daily routine at least 3-4 times a week it will make a huge difference to you. Done regularly, it boosts immunity and improves circulation, is beneficial for maintaining health and has been used therapeutically for years to help aid disorders.


Bhramari Pranayama is a safe, easy-to-learn practice, that has tremendous therapeutic potential. Like other pranayamas, its power comes partly from its effects on the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Lengthening the exhalation relative to the inhalation activates the calming parasympathetic branch of the ANS. For those who suffer from anxiety or anxious (rajasic) depression, the practice can begin to quiet the mind within a few breaths.
Tip: Sit comfortably and allow your eyes to close. Take a breath or two to settle in and notice the state of your mind. When you’re ready, inhale and then, for the entire length of your exhalation, make a low- to medium-pitched humming sound in the throat. Notice how the sound waves gently vibrate your tongue, teeth, and sinuses. Imagine the sound is vibrating your entire brain (it really is). Do this practice for six rounds of breathing and then, keeping your eyes closed, return to your normal breathing. Notice if anything has changed.


The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara (SOOR-yuh nah-muh-SKAR-uh), is a series of poses performed in a sequence to create a flow of movement. Each pose coordinates with your breathing: Inhale to extend, and exhale to bend. Traditionally, it is performed at dawn, facing the rising sun. In time, each of the twelve positions came to have its own mantra, each celebrating an aspect of the sun’s divinity. The Sun Salutation is a graceful sequence of twelve positions performed as one continuous exercise. Each position counteracts the one before, stretching the body in a different way and alternately expanding and contracting the chest to regulate breathing. Practised daily, it brings great flexibility to the spine and joints and keeps the waist trim. It limbers up the whole body in preparation for the asanas (postures) or as a stand-alone practice.
Tip: If you want to start yoga at home but don’t know where to start! Sun Salutations is the perfect place to start. It is an easy and quick routine that you can fit in, even on your busiest day to wake up, stretch and revitalise the body and mind.


words by Maeve O’Sullivan, Escapada Co-Founder & TCM Practitioner

Seaweed & Shiitake Mushroom Stir-Fry

This Seaweed and Mushroom Stir-Fry is one of my all-time favourite super-speedy suppers. Even though it’s incredibly quick to make, it’s absolutely packed full of rich umami flavours and complex nutrition to give you the ultimate turbo-boost of goodness. Shiitake mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms that in Chinese medicine are believed to help you live longer. Seaweed provides so many vital nutrients that are often missing from our diets, and it also adds a deliciously salty tang.


1 tbsp toasted sesame oil 

350g shiitake mushrooms (fresh, or 150g dried, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes then drained)

4 spring onions

2½cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

100g kale, finely sliced 

1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari

300g noodles (any noodles, I like udon) 

2 tbsp seaweed flakes 

sesame seeds, to serve 


In a wok or large frying pan, add the sesame oil and then fry the mushrooms, spring onions, ginger and kale. When softened, add the tamari and cooked noodles and stir until the noodles are coated.

Stir through the seaweed and serve immediately. Season with extra soy sauce and sesame seeds.

This tastes just as delicious if you substitute the noodles for cooked brown rice.

Extracted from The Healing Cookbook by Gemma Ogston (Vermilion, £16.99) Photography by Xavier Buendia

Helpful Tips to Make Chronic Illness Easier to Handle

When you have a chronic illness, it can make everything in life just a little bit more difficult, even if you’re doing everything right to manage the illness. These illnesses can be incredibly frustrating to live with, not to mention completely exhausting. 

All of which is why this article aims to offer you some tips and tricks to help you make those chronic conditions just a little bit easier and hopefully give you a little break from them at the same time.

Tip 1: Get Your Medications Delivered

When you have a chronic condition, that tends to mean you have to take medication on a pretty regular basis. That itself isn’t an issue, but going out to get that medication on a regular basis can be a hassle, particularly if your condition makes it difficult to get around or to remember to collect your medicine.

Fortunately, services such as make it possible for you to get your prescription medications sent directly to you. This can help to save you so much hassle not only in going out to get your medications but also in helping to prevent the issues that come when you forget to fetch your medication and have to go without it until you can get hold of it again.

In short, these remote prescription services can be a complete game-changer in making your medications more accessible.

Tip 2: Do the Job Badly

There is a common saying – “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well” – and while the sentiment behind it is admirable, it unfortunately implies that doing anything less than perfectly is somehow less worthy.

However, when you are living with chronic illnesses, it is often impossible to do everything that you need to do perfectly. So, if you aren’t careful, that kind of “motivational” message can become demoralizing instead. In fact, it is better to take the sentiment of that saying and turn it on its head. 

As G.K. Chesterton said: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

That sentence might seem strange at first, but consider the implication. If you have something that you need to do, it is far better that you do a bad job of it than not do it at all. Eating a ready meal, for example, might not be as good for you as eating a homemade one, but it’s still better than eating nothing. 

With chronic illness, sometimes all you can do is the bare minimum, and if that is all you can do, then that is fine. If it is worth doing, then it is worth doing badly. What you are capable of is enough.

Tip 3: Be Kind to Yourself

Speaking of which, one of the most difficult things to deal with as someone with a chronic medical condition is the feeling that you shouldn’t be struggling or that you should be able to do something you are struggling to do. That sense of shame and inadequacy is one of the worst feelings in the world, and you in no way deserve to feel it.

Chronic illnesses are hard to live with, and every day, you have to get up and get on with it. It is important to remind yourself occasionally that your everyday life is genuinely harder than most people have to deal with and to remember that you do so much.

Be kind to yourself. Cut yourself a break, and remember that it is okay for things to be hard. You’ve got this.

Psychologist Shares 10 Positive Intentions To Set For Better Mental Resilience

In life, it’s often not the major decisions that define our path, but rather the daily choices we make. Simple questions like, ‘Should I hit the snooze button or go for a run?’ or ‘Do I dwell on worries or address them directly?’ can have a profound impact. Sometimes, it’s about saying ‘yes’ when we have neither the time nor the energy. In the following list, psychologist Dr. Audrey Tang presents ten positive habits and intentions to consider adopting this autumn, aiming to enhance your mental resilience and overall happiness.

1. Don’t make resolutions.
Although the “back to school” feeling may inspire us to restart those habits we meant to get on board with in January…don’t make resolutions, but try this instead:

– Write down an overall goal  

– Identify the steps you need to achieve it (make sure they are steps that are palatable and easy for you to achieve where possible…those are often the habits that will stick!)

– Every day make sure your little choices and decisions move you in the right direction.  

Bonus tip: If you get stuck ask yourself – is what I’m about to do going to move me towards my ideal life or away from it!?

2. Schedule in “me time”. 
If you look after yourself, you have more for everyone else – so timetable yourself in every day – making that commitment to yourself is as important as your commitments to others.  Whether you use that time to meditate, take a class, read, or simply have a cup of tea (while it’s still hot) – clearing some headspace will also help you be more effective when you release the pause button.

3. Take an attitude of gratitude. 
The best thing about being annoyed with work, is having work.  It has been a tough year, so certainly – if you are looking for a fresh start, then see tip 1, but otherwise, try regular gratitude practice.

Gratitude magnifies positive emotions which can energise us to be motivated to act:  Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness – but after a while it wears off. But gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something.

Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness. This makes sense: You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time.  (So if you free up some of the space that envy takes up, you have more left to do whatever it is you need to do for you!)

Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. Once you start to recognize the contributions that other people have made to your life and in turn realize that other people have seen the value in you to make those contributions—you can transform the way you see yourself…again your are more likely to be motivated to do something for yourself if you love yourself!

4. Speak kindly to yourself 
When you plant a seed, you don’t say things like “I’ll give you 10 minutes and you’d better grow”, so although you might want something, treat that desire like a seed – plant it, do all the things to nurture it, and be patient. (…and don’t forget, sometimes, you might grow more than you thought!!)   A challenge I give my students is for every negative statement they have about themselves or someone else – they need to give 2 positives

5. Practice setting boundaries (You’ve had space this year – make sure you fill it with what you NEED).
Do you need other people’s psychodramas?  Do you need to stay late every night?  Do you need to please the PTA and the Hobby Group and the Sunday Club?  Identify what you NEED in your life, and make sure there’s room for that first, before booking anything else in! If you continually people please the one person who will not be pleased…and in fact gets exhausted and resentful is YOU, and how pleasant or pleasing is that in the long run for others!?  We need to remember that “No.” is a complete sentence and doesn’t need a qualification.  If someone keeps trying to persuade you – you need to ask, is this for their benefit or for yours, and if the former, ask yourself if you really owe them that favour.

However, if you are struggling with this try “buying time” statements such as “I don’t have my diary/time to check right now…but I’ll tell you later” as this gives you time to consider if you really want to do it, and to offer an excuse. Alternatively, try practicing the following:

– Time Limit: Of course I can help but I can only do it at/by X time or I only have 5 minutes, and I must get on with X

– Delay: Can I let you know at the end of the day/tomorrow?  (This gives you time to decide if you really want to do it…and find an excuse!) 

– Signpost: I’m really sorry I can’t – but xx might be able to…

– Ask directly:  How would you like me to help you/What do you think is best for me to do/What would be of most help to you at this time? (This allows the other person to take more responsibility for their request)

6. Get effective with your self-care choices

– Recognise when you are enjoying something. 

– Decide if that activity energises or relaxes you. 

– Decide which you need when you need it – and pick from the list of things you know you enjoy.  

Habitually you may hear “self-care” and think “spa day” or “meditate”.  But whatever energises or relaxes you best (at the time you need it) is going to be the most effective for you.  Remember that if we are anxious, then something relaxing may be most effective, and if we are feeling down, then an energiser may be best.  Being consciously aware of what you need, means you get there faster.  Work this out now, and as your commitments grow, you’ll know what will give you the energy – or the calm – in order to embrace them and even thrive.

7. Do one thing to make someone else smile
While engaging in things that WE enjoy definitely raises our positivity, research shows that even just seeing the act of kindness towards others makes us feel even better. It doesn’t have to be expensive – just dropping a text, or sharing something funny – even stroking your pet can make them feel good – and you’ll feel great too!

8. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Yes, there’s a big decision to be made if you’re going to buy one house over another, BUT if you’re trying to decide between having Indian or Chinese takeout tonight and both places are great, why waste time on the choice…ask yourself instead – if (select one) were the only choice, would I be happy with that? And then go spend your time and energy on something more important!!

9. Remember it’s ok to edit your life
Look carefully at your current relationships. Ask yourself:

– Which ones are reciprocal?

– Which ones bring me joy?

– Which ones encourage honesty?

– Which ones can I rely on? 

– Which ones are with people I respect for their own values and actions? (Which ones does I actively want to choose?)

Then contact those people – you might even do it now!!

10. Boost your happiness naturally
You can do this alone or with friends.  Humans are biophilic meaning that we have an affinity with nature and things that are “natural”…so simply go outside and embrace the fresh air. Sunlight naturally stimulates the production of vitamin D revitalising our immune system, and exercising in the sun produces serotonin (which helps regulates our sleep and appetite) and dopamine (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter), and can help produce endorphins (our body’s natural pain relievers).  Do this with a friend and you’ll also boost oxytocin.  Topping up your energy tank makes the moments that drain your energy far more bearable.

How long does it take to adopt these new habits?
Change is hard – especially when it is a change in habits of a lifetime that, even if they haven’t served us well.  Further, Our brains evolved to keep us safe, our bodies to perform vital tasks efficiently…as such we do recognise fear more easily than happiness, and, physically we tend to do things that keep us comfortable. The irony of the latter is that after a while it can become too uncomfortable to make any change at all – even when you recognise staying the same is no longer what you want.

So one way to work to beat that rut now is to look at change as having three zones, the first is the “comfort zone” (the place where we spend the most time), the next is the “stretch zone” and the third is the “panic zone”. Understandably neither our brain nor our body wishes to get into the panic zone, BUT stretching – well, stretching can actually feel quite nice.  Therefore, we can do something – anything at all – that pushes you a little into the stretch zone every day. Perhaps one day you might lift a slightly heavier weight, you might walk a little further, you might take the first steps to learn a new skill. When you get used to the stretch, you’ll find that becomes comfortable, and suddenly your old “panic zone” has moved to become the new “stretch zone”. 

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist, mental health & wellness expert and author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience, Pearson, £14.99

30 New-In Activewear Pieces For Your Autumn Wardrobe

The seasons are changing and it’s time to reset your activewear wardrobe for the autumn. We’ve browsed our favourite brands to find the best new-in pieces to get you set for colder days, from lightweight jackets to layering sweaters. Leggings and sports bras are always necessary whatever the weather, and we’ve included the coolest pieces that are both functional and stylish from the likes of Lululemon, Varley and Alo.