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PERIODS, SKINCARE & SELF-CARE

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I feel like all I ever talk about with my friends are bowel movements and periods (slight exaggeration but they are discussed a lot) so I don't know how I've never written a blog post on the topic (periods, not bowel movements...) Once a month, a large percentage of the population undergoes hormonal changes that impact on our mood and our skin, as well as causing us vary degrees of pain. Let's talk about periods...

- SKIN -

I personally do not have acneic skin, so if I wake up in the morning with a new spot and I wasn't out the night before (as I obviously never am these days!) I check my calendar and it's always like a 'ah, my period is due in 5 days'. How I treat this really depends on the type of spot; sometimes it's more general congestion or clusters of spots in a specific area. When I'm dealing with this, there are a few options. If it's quite mild then it will usually clear up after using a salicylic acid cleanser like the Skingredients Sally Cleanse | £23 | full review | for a couple of days. It's gentle because it's not sitting on the skin, and I like how this doesn't have much of a foaming action, so it's not stripping my dehydrated skin of moisture. If you don't know; salicylic acid is a BHA chemical exfoliant that can penetrate deep into the pores and clear out the debris that causes spots. When I'm feeling very dry and only want to use cream cleansers then I reach for the Sunday Riley UFO Ultra-Clarifying Treatment Face Oil* | £68 (or £34 for 15ml). This non-greasy oil is formulated with salicylic acid again but also moisturising, non-fragrant plant oils, and tea tree (for its antibacterial properties; it gets a bad rap these days but in a low concentration it's an effective treatment for breakouts). I really find this great for reducing that 'anger' in my skin; it kind of shrinks down the spots so even after one use, it feels like they're being moved along with that increased cell turnover. It reduces the redness and swelling without drying out my skin, which is great!

If I'm experiencing quite a few whiteheads and red spots across an area of my face (usually on my forehead and underneath cheekbone area), the Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum* | £68 | full review | is 'bringing out the big guns'! You get a blend of AHAs and BHAs like salicylic acid, mandelic acid, glycolic acid, willow bark and lactic acid, which are going to target active breakouts and also prevent them from scarring. This is an incredibly powerful product that I'll use in the evening and it just has this flushing-out effect on my skin, bringing the breakout to its conclusion as quickly as possible; any big, red, sore under-the-skin situations have shrunk significantly and any smaller spots have cleared up by the following morning.

For those single angry spot situations: the Inkey List Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment* | £6.99 | is the one! What I love about this is that it comes in a hydrating formula and it's been a revelation to me lately because spot treatments don't have to 'dry out' the spot to work; something like this with hyaluronic acid can be just as effective. Succinic and salicylic acids work in combination to increase cell turnover and overall reduce the time period for which you have an active spot, if that makes sense; it's speeding up the entire lifecycle. It doesn't dry out the area, so you don't need to worry about hyperpigmentation and the salicylic should help with any potential scarring. 

Redness and sensitivity can also happen for me and for many other people when the period actually comes (that sort of inflammation     when I touch my skin), which has been exacerbated recently by the cold weather. My go-to gentle cleanser on these days is usually the Kate Somerville DeliKate Soothing Cleanser* | £34. I'm on my second tube of this stuff because it's just the perfect emulsion-y non-foaming gentle cleanser. There's no fragrance or other obvious irritants, instead it contains hydrating peptides, ceramides to help promote a healthy skin barrier and moisturising oils like cucumber. I actually find that this does a great job of calming my skin, when cleansing can often be quite a stripping process. I use a face mist after cleansing and sometimes throughout the day at the moment to keep things nice and hydrated. My favourite recently has been the Allies of Skin Molecular Saviour Probiotics Treatment Mist | £57. This contains probiotics and niacinamide, to promote a healthy skin barrier as well as hydrating glycerin and aloe and lots of antioxidants to protect the skin against free radical damage. I personally find this hydrating, refreshing and calming on my skin when it's acting up.

Other products I enjoy for fortifying my skin include the Algenist Triple Algae Eye Renewal Balm* | £48 | and the Dr Dennis Gross B3Adaptive Superfoods Stress Rescue Serum* | £75 | full review. You only need the teensiest little bit of this eye treatment, but if I've been up during the night with cramps or whatever; this feels like a welcome relief. It's so nourishing but isn't too rich for my eye area. I've been using it day and night for the past few weeks and I've heard some people say it pills on them. I can't say I've had that experience but I've only worn it with makeup a few times, so I guess it depends on what products and textures you use. It definitely plumps my eye area, though I'll have to keep you posted on whether it helps the darkness around my eyes. Either way; I really enjoy this texture and how it feels on my eye area. The other product is my beloved niacinamide serum: it's very gentle and has a hydrating milky texture. There are a bunch of antioxidants in here and it just provides amazing relief to my skin when it's reactive. 

- CRAMPS & SICKNESS -

Honestly, I could write an entire post just on the injustice of period pains and how society treats them, as well as my own personal journey, but we'll keep it brief here, just to give some context on how much this has affected my life at times! This is obviously quite personal stuff, but I want to share it because society as a whole is so dismissive of period pains, when (for some of us) they can seriously impact on our quality of life. I honestly used to be in pure agony for a good 24-48 hours every single month, often vomiting and feeling generally awful in myself. I would miss school and later work when it got really intense and, honestly, I was never really taken that seriously by medical professionals when I came with these complaints. I was eventually prescribed co-codamol, which helped with the pain but caused me extreme nausea. The only thing that seemed to help me was the combined pill, but then I developed daily migraines with aura. Unfortunately it transpired that I'm one of the minority of people who get horrendous periods instead of no periods on the progesterone-only pill, so I came off that and went on a low-estrogen combined pill. That seemed to hit the sweet spot between controlling the pain of my period without bringing on the migraines (it's just often a battle when I need a top-up, because many nurses are trained that no one with a history of migraines - even though I've not had one in a decade - should ever be on any combined pill.) It's sad that this was the only option for me, because I know many people experience weight gain, mood swings and all sorts on the combined pill and I feel as though if cis men had periods, a lot more money and research would be going into providing non-hormonal pain relief options. I still feel that some of the migration of pain to other parts of my body is abnormal and, once we're out of this pandemic, I do want to get that looked into. If you experience something similar; it's worth seeing a doctor because it can be symptomatic of an underlying condition like endometriosis. 

These days, it's not comfortable and I wouldn't choose to have my period if I was going away or had big plans, but I can cope and it's not this thing I dread. For mild cramps, particularly at nighttime, I know a lot of people like to use a hot water bottle. I strongly advise you to instead invest in something like a Warmies | £13. One of my best friends recently sustained severe burns to her leg as a result of a hot water bottle. Technically, she wasn't using it 'correctly', but I'm not being funny: she's doing a PhD on nuclear materials at Oxford. If she can't use a hot water bottle, what hope is there for the rest of us?! Obviously, I'm being facetious; academic intelligence doesn't equate to common sense, but when she read out the steps you're apparently meant to take to 'correctly' use a hot water bottle (never using boiling water, never leaving water in it, not using it for more than two years etc.) none of us had any clue and none of us had been doing any of that. Personally, it's not worth the risk for me (this could've easily happened to any of us) and I'd rather pop this in the microwave and use that for pain relief. It doesn't stay hot for as long but it's a lot safer! 

The other thing I just decided to try on an experimental basis is CBD (cannabidiol). It's one of those things that still feels kind of anecdotal, but my attitude is that if it's helping you; go for it. Obviously, if you have a full-on condition like a tumour: please seek out a medical doctor! I'm talking about pain management. I wasn't quite comfortable with the amount of ibuprofen I was using; it does have side-effects like stomach ulcers, so you have to eat with it, which isn't always practical and no one likes feeling reliant on pain-killers. I decided to order CBD tampons and CBD drops (topical, not ingested, as I don't discuss ingestibles here on the blog). I'll get to the tampons when we talk about 'sanitary stuff' but I did also get the Ohne Holy Cramp 1% CBD Oil | £27 | to try in the days leading up to my period, when I can start to feel crampy. This isn't cheap for 10ml but I actually felt it helped me. I don't know if there's any element of placebo, but I didn't reach for the ibuprofen in the lead-up to my period once. I was just massaging a few drops of this into my lower stomach area and it seems like it's helped. Obviously, I can only speak on my own personal experience but I actually think that for me; CBD looks like it could be a game-changer.

- SANITARY CONTRAPTIONS -

That's a nice little segway into Daye | from £8 / month. I honestly felt like I was spending so much money on sanitary items and, with it being a pandemic and all, I liked the idea of an affordable option delivered to my door. You get this funky tin with your first order, as well as a handy drawstring bag and all of your top-ups come with this card that tells you about an amazing woman from history, which I think is pretty cool! You can choose how often you want your delivery and you have the option of CBD or standard tampons, as well as light, standard or heavy absorption. They do a little questionnaire with you so that you get the right total number, you can choose CBD ones for the first two days if that's when you get cramps, and if you're lighter towards the end of your period, you can opt for lighter tampons during that time. This was my introduction to CBD tampons and I think the directness of this delivery makes it really effective for me. I've used them a couple of months and only took ibuprofen once during each period, which is unheard of for me! I think the quality of the product is excellent, I love how personalised they are and I've really had a positive experience with CBD. Obviously the research is still in its infancy, so I can't produce a ton of studies saying this is a proven treatment for cramps; I can only say that I feel a lot better than I was.

There's a lot of eco-judgement when it comes to tampons, but I just think it's important to be mindful of pricing and accessibility before criticising others. Personally, I spent about £30 on a cup and had a terrifying experience that totally put me off trying it again. Some people find them impossible to use in the bathroom facilities available at their workplace. Other people love them! I think it's important that everyone finds a solution that is comfortable, stress-free and practical for their lifestyle. Women have enough to deal with; let's not **** on them for using tampons! I feel like it's always been positioned that girls use pads then graduate to tampons as they get older, but I actually know many women in their late 20s like me who prefer pads. They're also more practical overnight when you don't want to be waking up at 3am worrying that you're going to get Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you're looking for a more sustainable alternative in this respect then I can't recommend the Modibodi | from £14.50 | enough. The coverage is amazing; if you get even the medium version (there's also a heavy / overnight version) it'll last you the day with no worries. I don't know how the hell these work, but they do, with more comfort and longevity than a traditional pad. I won't lie; I accidentally ordered this colour (I guess this can be my emergency pair if I ever need them) and black is generally my jam for this. My only negative is that they're a tad awkward to clean and they can get expensive if you want to buy enough pairs to last your period (a 'heavy' pair will set you back £21-ish). They're great for lockdown, but I do think that when I'm out and about again, I'm more likely to use Daye and then these overnight. I really recommend giving these a go and seeing if they convert you. At checkout you can also donate towards ending period poverty, which I think is such a good idea, because a few pairs of these can take someone through for a really long time instead of spending £10-15 on tampons every month.

The only other thing I'll say is: please do not use feminine washes. They actually throw off the natural pH of this self-cleaning organ and fragrance can lead to thrush. Just leave it alone! Hormonal changes during your period might make you sweat a bit more, so shower twice a day if you're more comfortable feeling fresher, but stay away from these sorts of products. If you're persistently noticing an odd smell: you need a pharmacist, not a tropical-scented wash!

- REST & RELAXATION -

I think it's similar to the hot water bottle effect but there's something about having a bath that just gives you a rest from cramps and aches. I'm also a big fan of aromatherapy to help with some of the mood changes that can come alongside hormonal fluctuations throughout the month. At the moment I love the Tisserand Happy Vibes Bath & Shower Wash* | £11.95. This contains notes of bergamot, lemon, nutmeg and tea tree, and has a gentle, moisturising formula. It really does give me that subconscious mood lift that starts my day the right way. My skin is super dry around this time of year and the Elemental Herbology Harmony Bath & Body Oil* | £28 (15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY) | gives those aromatherapy benefits, is super nourishing and also works well for massage if you're feeling a little crampy. It belongs to the Earth collection and has notes of mandarin, cedarwood and lime.

It's not self care without a candle and a face mask, so let's finish on that! I really enjoy the Aromatherapy Associates Relax Candle | £48 | to really unwind with. It's pretty much my perfect spa scent, filling the room with the aroma of bay and myrrh. My relaxing face mask of choice when my skin needs some TLC is the I'm From Honey Mask | £35 (15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY). You can leave it on for any amount of time between 10 minutes and 1 hour and it just deeply nourishes and softens my skin. Honey also has antibacterial properties so is great to keep those breakouts at bay.

Do you struggle with your skin during your period? How do you relax and manage some of the side-effects?


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