Picture the scene. You’ve woken up, headed over to the mirror to check out your fine self, and there’s a new best friend sitting on your face. It’s bright red, it’s practically waving at you, and it definitely wasn’t invited to the party.

There are all sorts of reasons why you’ve been blessed by a super-shiny spot because spots are actually your body’s way of trying to tell you something. Whether it’s a heads up that your period’s on the way, you’re using too much product or you’re neglecting your five-a-day, it’s basically a message in a bottle. But on your face.

The location that your spots most often pop up in can actually tell you a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Here are some handy hints to figure out what your skin is trying to tell you.

A spotty forehead

Are you rocking a heavy fringe at the moment? While they look all kinds of awesome, they do have a tendency to gather grease from styling products and sweat throughout the day, which will lead to a load of pesky pimples. Try pinning it back for a couple of weeks to see if things clear up.

If you’re fringeless, spots on your forehead can also be an indication that you haven’t been eating too healthily. No biggie, but too much red meat or saturated fat could be to blame, so up your intake of fresh veggies, herbal teas and water to combat the forehead spots with a mini detox.

Spotty cheeks

Gah, spots on your cheeks are no joke. It seriously hurts to prod and poke those bad boys, and there’s actual betrayal involved too. Your ultimate best friend – your PHONE – could be to blame.

Think about it – you’re forever touching the screen with your fingers without washing them first, and then pressing the screen against your face. Bleugh. The same goes for if you’re a serial face toucher, or if you have a habit of leaning on your hands while you’re concentrating. Try your best to keep your hands away from your face, and giving your phone a quick wipe every now and again definitely wouldn’t hurt.

Spots between your brows

Fed up of having lumps and bumps popping up between those lovely brows of yours? You probably just need to chill out, pal. Spots in the middle of or around your eyebrows are often related to stress. The worst part is that stress can leave you with an oily T-zone, which then leads to blocked pores, which then lead to more spots, which then probably lead to more spot-related stress. It’s the cirrrcle of liiife.

A spotty nose

And if you’re finding that the blemishes just won’t quit around your nose and T-zone then, similarly to your brows, it’s bound to be stress related. If you’re freaking out about your crazy workload, endless revision or something that’s kicked off in your friendship group, your body will be releasing adrenaline the whole time.

This affects your body by increasing oil production and then the spots are officially incoming. If you’re feeling stressed, make time for a pamper session to a) unwind to improve your mental health, and b) get the face masks and acne treatment onto your T-zone while chilling out.

Spots near your mouth

We relate to this one on a spiritual level, because spots around your mouth basically means that you just love food SO MUCH. Residue from acidic foods can irritate and inflame your skin, while any residue left from scoffing great greasy foods like pizza or chips (yum) will block your pores. Keeping a packet of facial cleansing wipes handy to remove any invisible traces around your mouth after meals could be the answer.

A spotty jawline

While they’re not quite as in-your-face as the rest, spots along your jaw are no less irritating and can easily become inflamed and sore. This one could be a result of what you’re putting into your body.

Weirdly, experts claim that spots on the jawline can actually be linked to an inflamed large intestine, which often comes into trouble if you’ve been eating heavily processed foods. That’s stuff like ready meals, crisps and biscuits which include a lot of complicated ingredients that don’t make much sense. Opting for simpler, more natural foods like fruits, veggies and nuts (yeah we know, snooze), might help to clear up your skin issues.

A spotty hairline

Finding that spots gather around your face and right up to your hairline? The products you’re using could definitely be behind ‘em. If you’re overloading your lovely locks with life savers like dry shampoo, hairspray or hair oil, and then sticking your fingers into your roots for the perfect tousled look, you’re only clogging up the pores around the hair.

Avoid applying products near your forehead altogether, and try to wash your hands after you apply heavy hair products. Include your hairline when you’re cleansing your face too (but use a soft touch), and follow up with a gentle daily toner for a bit of extra help.

A spotty chin

Pretty much everyone gets a spotty chin once a month and yep, you guessed it, they’re just the cherry on top of getting your period. Chin spots are very often hormone-related, so there’s not a whole lot you can do aside from get enough sleep and drink a ton of water.

The monthly treat from mother nature will often by cystic rather than satisfying spots that you can pop, but resist the urge to poke at those under-the-skin lumps. Rev up your spot fighting skincare the week before your period by using products with spot-fighting salicylic acid in the ingredients. And if your skin is persistently bad during your time of the month, you might wanna have a chat with the doctor – they can offer prescription treatments to level out your hormones and keep breakouts at bay.

A spotty chest or back

Bacne or chest-ne (is that a thing?) are absolutely no fun, and can really get you down in the summer when everyone’s wearing cute strappy clothes. Maybe you’re wearing the wrong bra or t-shirt. Cotton fabrics quickly absorb sweat and then keep it close to your skin all day – and acne-causing bacteria thrives in moist conditions. Make sure to wear proper sweat-absorbing gear when you’re exercising or hanging out in the heat.

Your shower routine could also be to blame. Stick to a simple pH balanced products. Shampoo residue is a particularly sneaky culprit, so wash your hair, condition it, rinse – then wrap it up in a shower cap and wash your body properly afterwards. You’ll limit the oils from your conditioner irritating your freshly washed skin.

But more importantly than all of this, remember if you’re struggling with your skin, EVERYONE gets spots all over the place. It’s totally normal – but the doctor is always there to have a chat to if you feel like they’re getting you down.

Ahhh hormones, they make the world go round, right? Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but they’re deffo responsible for rollercoaster emotions and the weird and wonderful things that happen to bods during puberty and beyond.

So are you clued up or totally clueless about the chemicals that make us fabulously female?

Let’s find out! (WARNING: This test is tricky).

1. Ok, so one of these ISN’T a legit hormone. Can you spot it?

2. What’s the name of the super-important hormone that kicks off your first period during puberty?

3. Aww, did you know the brain releases a ‘cuddle’ hormone that makes you feel all warm and loving. What’s it called?

4. What natural chemical in the bod causes those demon cramps when you’ve got your period?

5. Boys have oestrogen in their bodies too. True or False?

6. You feel pain less when oestrogen is at its highest (the week after your period finishes). Fact or fib?

7. The follicle-stimulating hormone sounds fancy. But what does it do?

8. Due to the blue light that devices let off, too much time on your phone late at night (yup, guilty), can meddle with the sleep-related hormone called…

9. Progesterone majorly peaks sometime during your monthly menstrual cycle, but do you know when?

10. What’s the name of the brain-chemical that makes you happy and fun? (When this dips you can feel super-sad too. Boo.)

For any gal who gets a period, choosing how to handle things is a pretty big decision. It’s almost as if the struggle of contorting yourself into a ball to combat cramps, fighting the urge to scoff six packets of chocolate biscuits in a row and trying to keep a lid on an explosion of ragey hormones wasn’t enough to deal with.

A lot of girls would call it a no-brainer when it comes down to what comes next, though. When that magical time of the month rolls around, you stick your hand in your bag and pull out either a pad or a tampon to prevent your favourite undies from being ruined. Right? Um, not necessarily.

Did you know that there’s actually a shedload of alternative options if you’re still not convinced by the two main players in the ‘feminine hygiene’ (eye roll) aisle? Here’s a few other genius ways of handling your period that you might not have heard about before.

Period pants

Alright, hands in the air if there’s a couple of pairs of particularly tragic looking undies in your drawer, that have been officially ruined by an unexpected period or two? Yep, that’s everyone then.

Luckily, there are now specially designed PERIOD PANTS out there to make sure that such knicker-related disasters never happen again. Some brilliant human has invented totally stain-resistant underwear called Thinx, which are absorbent enough to hold up to TWO tampons worth of fluid.

They totally eliminate the need for any extra bits and bobs each month, and all you have to do is pop them in the washing machine between uses. Even if you’re not quite confident enough to rock them through the day, they could just save your sheets through the night if you get particularly heavy periods.

Menstrual cup

Tempted by tampons but ever so slightly freaked out by the cottons, the fibres, the fact they cost a million pounds a box? You’re not alone, and that’s where THE CUP could be ready to change your life. A menstrual cup is a small, cute little silicone cup which basically just sits inside you and collects your flow as you go.

Attempting to use one can be a little tricky to begin with, but once you’ve cracked it, some say they’re way more comfortable to wear than tampons. Plus, a cup can hold a LOT of fluid, so it can be left to do its thang for up to 12 hours, and they’re as environmentally friendly as it gets. Some can last up to ten years if cared for properly. It’s kinda like your ride or die.

Importantly, a cup is the ultimate way to get to know how your body works (yup, emptying them into the loo is weirdly satisfying) and will teach you more than you ever knew about the whole process of your period from start to finish.

Sea sponge

Everyone wishes they were a mermaid, but using a sea sponge for your period surely takes things to the next level. Almost definitely favoured by Ariel, this non-toxic, all-natural little guy really does come from the sea, and basically transforms your ovaries into a coral reef. Kinda.

Sponges are obvs super-absorbent and soft when soaked in moisture, so it totally makes sense that they’d be handy for periods. A menstrual sponge/sea sponge/sponge tampon is literally just a piece of natural sponge that’s cut to the right shape and soaked before use.

It might sound kinda crazy, but hear us out. All you have to do is use it, take it out, rinse it and pop it straight back in – and they can last for up to a year which would save you a few quid. They’re comfy, sustainable and are even more absorbent than your average tampon. Okay, so it’s not your usual period accessory, but everyone HAS been going on about #mermaidgoals this year…

Free bleed

For the girl who owns a strong supply of black underwear and is on the ball when it comes to changing the sheets, free bleeding – as in, just letting your period come on down – is a perfectly valid option and it’s totally okay.

Grossed out by the idea? Well, think about it. You’re simply just letting your body do what it’s naturally born to do, without any hassle from a load of products getting involved. A lot of women opt for it for comfort, ease and even as a kickass feminist statement.

There’s all sorts of benefits that come with literally going with the flow. Tampons absorb more than just menstrual blood – they also take in vaginal and cervical fluids, so ditching them leaves your bits and pieces in their perfectly natural state. It’s better for the planet, it’s free and hey, the only thing you have to lose is your last pair of stain-free undies.

Resuable pads or tampons

Who knew that reusable tampons were a thing that existed? Washable versions of the trusty, traditional (but not always perfect) tampon can actually be knitted, sewn from cotton or even crocheted, which just brings a whole new meaning to arts and crafts.

You can easily find them online, and once you’re the proud owner of a reusable tampon or two, you’ll never have that horrible, sinking feeling of realising you used your last one this morning.

Reusable pads are also a solid choice that you might want to consider. They vary in absorption and comfort levels to perfectly suit your period, depending on the type of material that they’re made from. Often with a clever built-in waterproof back lining, reusable pads just need a wash between uses, and are often made from cute AF patterned fabrics.

So maybe it’s time to think outside the tampon box for your next cycle? Whatever you choose to opt for to tackle your time of the month, make sure it’s something that’ll leave you feeling totally confident and comfort. Period.

Every month or so, I start eating like an uncontrollable beast who has just awoken from 100 years in hibernation. 

I’m talking second breakfasts, constant inter-meal snacking and supersize dinners with all the trimmings (and by trimmings, I mean chips). And I can’t lie, I start to freak out. I worry that this ravenous hunger will never leave me and that if I continue to eat at this rate, I’m destined for a future as the world’s largest woman.

But then… then I get that pang; that little twitch in my lower abdomen giving me a head’s up that my period is on its way. And suddenly I remember that this always happens, that a few days before my period I am always hit with the most unquenchable hunger. Then I chill the hell out.

Me Want Food 30 Rock gif

You see we’ve all heard of pregnancy cravings (which seem to involve eating pickles with everything), but we rarely talk about period cravings – even though many women encounter them on a monthly basis. As well as just wanting to eat EV-ER-Y-THING for a time, I also get really seriously into cheese. And chocolate. Toasties, cheese on toast, thick chocolate milkshakes and really dense, sticky brownies are my go-to treats – things I usually eat as occasional treats suddenly become essential parts of my diet.

And it’s not just me. I asked around my friends, and everyone agreed that their eating habits changed around the time of their period. Unsurprisingly, chocolate featured pretty highly on a lot of people’s period craving charts, but some of the foods were a bit more leftfield. Not one but two people got back to me saying they craved all things tomato – from plain old tinned tomatoes to baked beans and even tomato & basil pasta sauce straight out the jar – while another friend said she became a crazed carnivore, always fancying loads of bacon, sausages, steak and, I quote, ‘ALL THE CHICKEN.’

But what do these cravings MEAN? Is there any rhyme or reason to them, or are they all just random? And are there any dietary dos or don’ts we should know about? To find out, I spoke to Gaynor Bussell, a dietician and registered nutritionist specialising in women’s health.

First up, Gaynor confirmed that period – or PMS – cravings are totally normal. She explained: ‘Cravings can be one of the symptoms of PMS, and due to changing hormone levels this can happen from two weeks before the period (known as the luteal phase) to the time when the period really gets underway (which could take a few days from when it first starts). Calorie requirements increase for many during this time of the month, and so there is an increase in hunger which may drive cravings.’ Phew.

Mindy Project McDonalds gif

So the hunger is normal, but what about our food choices? ‘Nobody really knows why certain foods are craved and cravings do vary, with some preferring savoury while some crave any carbs,’ Gaynor explained. But when it comes to chocolate, Gaynor told me it’s all about that feel-good feeling: ‘Chocolate has always been associated with comfort, regardless of PMS. This time of the month is associated with increased depression and anxiety so comfort food may be craved.’

Finally, I asked Gaynor for her period dietary tips. Unsurprisingly, seeing as she’s a nutritionist, chips and chocolate brownies didn’t feature too highly. Instead, she advised: ‘A healthy diet throughout the month has been associated with less PMS symptoms. Being generally active too can help reduce symptoms. It is also believed that having regular meals throughout the day that that are made up of low energy release carbs, such as pasta, seedy bread and oats, can help even out swings in blood sugars and hence avert cravings. And in general, you should avoid consuming too much junk food – especially foods and drinks that give you quick energy/sugar boosts which may be followed by crashing lows. These are known perpetrators of PMS.’

So, as ever, it seems that a healthy, active lifestyle with the odd treat is the way to go. I’ll try to remember that next time I’m dunking chips in a chocolate milkshake with a side of double-cheeseburger…

@MissSisiG

Image: Manjit Thapp

#BrowGameStrong. #BrowsOnFleek. The world (and Instagram) is obsessed with eyebrows, with the face-framers now more talked about than any other feature, and a new brow product popping up every week.

But what if you’re just getting into this brow-grooming malarkey, not yet an Anastasia Beverly Hills expert, and are starting with the traditional eyebrow wax?

Well, you’ll probably never look back, but your first brow wax does come with a whole host of emotions, like…

Acceptance

Sure, big brows are in, but your slugs are starting to drive you crazy and you want more of an arch. You book a wax at a random (cheap) salon on Treatwell before you can change your mind.

Fear

What if the salon’s gross and you end up with an infection on your face? What if it hurts? What if half of your skin comes with the hairs? Maybe you should just cancel and stay sluggy forever.

Excitement

Once your brows are in shape you can start buying all those products the Instagram models advertise! Like, they’re crazy expensive, but that’s what you’re meant to do right?

Pain

WHAT EVEN WAS THAT?! SERIOUSLY?!

Embarrassment

Why didn’t you think to have someone pick you up from the salon? Now you need to get the bus with a big red forehead and everyone is clearly staring. Sigh.

Uncertainty

Did she make them too thin? Are they even? Is this the shape du jour?

Pride

Actually, they look great. You can’t wait to show them off at school; most of your mates have only had a few ill-advised encounters with their big sisters’ tweezers. You feel like the grown-up one for a change.

Annoyance

Why do they grow back so quickly? This upkeep faff is time-consuming and expensive.

Obsession

But you do it, time after time, because who doesn’t want a strong brow game?

Image: Clueless

You know the saying knowledge is power? Well that’s soooo the case when we’re talking vaginas. Discovering all the wonderful, and let’s face it sometimes weird, things that goes on with our ladybits is fascinating, huh? More importantly though, learning what *really* happens between our legs can be the difference between thinking you’re freaky and knowing you’re totally normal. Trust us, you’re normal.

So how much do you know already about the inner and outer workings of your vag? A lot? A little? Nada? Take our test to find out…

1. How many holes do you have *down there* (bum included)?

2. Which moves us swiftly on, what the heck is the urethra?

3. The clitoris is the vagina’s super-sensitive feel-good button, but how many nerve endings does it have?

4. Vaginas are clever, but which one of these things CAN’T your vag do?

5. The outer lady bits – the labia, clitoris, urethra and the vaginal opening – are together called…

6. Which one of these ISN’T part of your vagina?

7. Their official name is the labia, but do you know the purpose of your lovely lady lips?

8. What is the hymen?

9. The cervix links up your uterus and your vagina, but do you know where it sits?

10. ONLY one of these discharge situs is totally normal. Can you spot it? (The others need checking out by a doc btw)

Image: Katie Edmunds

Cramps, clots and moods: we’re living in an era where people are more vocal and open about periods both among our friendship groups and in popular culture. We discuss the merits of a menstrual cup vs tampons, swap cramp cures and are just generally more comfortable chatting about that time of the month. This shift in how we talk about and manage our periods is amazing, but what about how they were dealt with in the past? How did people treat cramps in medieval times? What did people use before tampons?

Ancient attitudes

The root of the word ‘menstruation’ comes from the Latin word ‘mensis’ which means month. The word ‘moon’ also originates from this Latin root. Using the word ‘period’ is actually relatively modern, although it was in use from the early 15th century, it wasn’t used in the context we know it until the 1820s.

There was a major taboo around periods in ancient civilisations, and this means that there isn’t a lot of recorded information about what people used to deal with periods thousands of years ago. What we do know for sure is that both Ancient Greeks and Romans used makeshift ‘menstrual cloths’, a very basic version of the sanitary towels of today. A lot of these historical records were also written by men, so there’s not a lot of first-person accounts from people who actually had periods.

The medical knowledge we have today about periods means that a lot of the mystery that was there before has been debunked. Ancient civilisations were far more superstitious about periods and what they ‘really meant’.

The Ancient Greeks believed that if you didn’t get your period after the age of 14 the excess blood would cause a condition called ‘hysteria’, the main symptoms of which were headaches, depressive episodes and (gasp) swearing. Strips of linen were used and washed by Ancient Egyptians, who viewed the period as a time of ‘cleansing’. Ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder was pretty outlandish in his claims about menstrual blood. Calm down, mate:

“turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens dry up, the fruit falls off tress, steel edges blunt and the gleam of ivory is dulled, bees die in their hives, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.”

Medieval menstruation and beyond

Hygiene standards in the Middle Ages were less than perfect. In the era of the bubonic plague and open sewers, it can’t have been easy around the time of the month. Super-absorbent bog moss was used to stuff homemade menstrual pads, and petticoats were often red to disguise bleeding. Historians Karen Harris and Lori Caskey-Sigety wrote a book all about the subject and found that few medieval women actually got regular periods because of poor nutrition, and often menopause began earlier in light of the short life expectancy in general. Religious beliefs at this time also meant that periods were still seen as unclean and something not to be discussed.

The beliefs about periods varied from culture to culture. When Europe colonised America, they found that the indigenous Cherokee tribe avoided women during their periods, and the women stayed in special houses for the few days a month. Christian Europeans wrongly believed this was a result of the tribe thinking the women were unclean, when it was actually a case of them believing menstruating women were extremely powerful.

The hysterical Victorians

The Victorian era was extremely conservative and uptight, and any discussion of periods or female sexuality was usually silenced. People were more generally aware of having good hygiene standards, so tampons, if used at all, were made with linen and even had the string they come with today. A girdle-like contraption called a ‘sanitary apron’ was also used during this time. The idea of female hysteria from the Ancient Greeks became something Victorian doctors wrote about a lot, with symptoms like headaches, mood swings and even homicidal mania. These ideas would eventually evolve into what became known as PMS (pre-menstrual tension).

The first period products

The first disposable pads were called Lister’s Towels and were made by Johnson & Johnson from 1888. During World War One, nurses noticed that wood pulp bandages made excellent makeshift pads. Cellucotton were big suppliers of these bandages and in a stroke of genius decided to market them as Kotex. The first commercial tampons were invented a few years later in 1929 by Dr. Earle Haas. He later sold the patent to Gertrude Tendrich who made each tampon by hand with a sewing machine and air compressor. Her company is now known as Tampax.

The first pads with an adhesive strip were made in 1969 by Stayfree, which was just one of many design changes that made life easier for millions of people.

The first menstrual cup was patented all the way back in 1932. It was made of rubber, not like the modern silicone variety and wasn’t a commercial success, as people were still a little squeamish at the idea. The popularity of reusable cups has now skyrocketed, as a way to save money and also avoid creating waste.

Still a way to go

The stigma around periods is lifting, with companies finally realising that ads depicting a blue liquid being poured onto a pad just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Approaching periods in a realistic way means more of us are talking about them. We’re ending the shame, piece by piece, conversation by conversation.

Although many of us are lucky enough to be able to afford period products, there are many others who are not as fortunate. People who are made homeless or living in poverty don’t have access to the comfort and security of pads or cups, but there are ways you can help. Dignity Period are an organisation that provide pads and education to improve the lives of women and girls in Ethiopia. Closer to home, food banks accept donations for those they help, and your donation can really make a difference.

There comes a point in everyone’s life when they first encounter the idea of their body being a series of ‘problem areas’ or obstacles to overcome, fix and change.. For the first few years of life, most of us are lucky enough to see our bodies for what they do rather than what they look like. We climb trees, feel our arms slice through water as we swim, and eat when we’re hungry. That changes though. I remember reading the word cellulite in a magazine while I was waiting to see my GP when I was about twelve. ‘How To Get Rid Of Unsightly Cellulite’, the headline read in big black letters. ‘Unsightly’ was in bold.

As soon as I found out what cellulite was, I couldn’t stop noticing it. Roaring red circles around the thighs of celebrities on beaches that showed a hint of it, across three or four pages of a gossip magazine’s ‘summer body special’. These images of models and actresses with cellulite, taken without their permission as they tried to enjoy a holiday didn’t make me feel better about my body – but I couldn’t stop reading them.

I pinched the flesh on my thighs and felt disgusted at the sight of the soft dimples that appeared under my skin. I wouldn’t wear shorts, skirts or dresses without opaque tights and the thought of going swimming made fluttery waves of panic course through my body. The concept of going bare-legged anywhere was just a no-go.

Hours of research went into what food to eat and avoid, what body brushes to stimulate circulation to buy, and I compared myself to other girls whose legs remained smooth when they sat down. This went on for a few years, and so too did the hope that I would finally get rid of it and feel free to dress however I wanted.

The thing is though, cellulite isn’t a ‘problem’ that you can tackle for all eternity with expensive products, following a strict diet and drinking water 24/7. Instead, there are ways to stop caring about it, and I highly recommend you take that route instead.

So, what is cellulite exactly?

The connective tissue in your body that separates the fat cells from the skin is made up of a substance called collagen. This tissue has a honeycomb-like structure (yum), and sometimes the bands of collagen can be weaker in some areas – these are the areas you might see a dimpled effect. You’re more likely to see it around your hips and thighs, but some people get it on their stomach or arms too.

Why do some people have it while others don’t?

Let’s be real here. Countless advertisements from the beauty industry tell us that cellulite is a specialised condition that you need to spend lots of money on to get rid of. During the summer you’ll notice there will be a push to sell creams, lotions and treatments that apparently get rid of cellulite for good – you can’t possibly go to the beach with less-than-perfect thighs, apparently.

What they don’t say is that 90% of women have it or will develop it in their lifetimes. That’s nine out of ten women, of all shapes and size and all walks of life. Like stretch marks, it’s just your body changing and developing as you grow and live in the world. Some people are more genetically predisposed to it, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how much you weigh or whether you exercise often or not. It just happens!

Mythbusting time!

Many ‘cellulite-eliminating’ products do so apparently by getting rid of ‘toxins’ from the body. By taking the supplement or slathering on the lotion, these toxins that cause cellulite are apparently removed. This is a complete lie with ZERO scientific evidence to back it up.

Creams that contain caffeine are marketed as a way to achieve Barbie-smooth skin, but any effect they have is totally temporary until you stop using them. Be sceptical about workout gear that claims to reduce the appearance of cellulite. This marketing gimmick will just leave you out of money with only a pair of overpriced leggings to show for it.

Much like bogus detox diets, these products just play on your fears and insecurities in order to get you to fork out your hard-earned money.

Being kind to yourself

Now more than ever we can see a diverse range of bodies represented in the public eye. The power of social media means that people are now seeing themselves represented. Instead of discussing ways to minimise ‘imperfections’ and desperately trying to fit into one single acceptable standard of beauty, people are celebrating and redefining what beauty really is.

The only reason we see things like cellulite as a problem is because we’re sold the idea that it is. Companies have successfully marketed a perfectly normal and common genetic trait as a gross eyesore to be body-brushed and exfoliated away. Thoughts like this can make something as fun and carefree as a trip to the beach turn into a spiral of anxiety.

It’s important to remember that your body is the only one you’ll ever have, and you should look after it. Think about all the cool stuff you could do with the time you might have spent being angry at yourself for something you really can’t control. You could learn a language, make a Victoria sponge cake or finally perfect your winged liner. It’s a good idea to counteract negative thoughts about your body the best you can.

Ask yourself, ‘would I tell my best friend she shouldn’t wear that cute swimsuit because of how her body naturally stores fat?’ Whether it’s cellulite or thigh gaps, there will always be a new part of your body that you’ll be told to fix, smooth or scrub. None of it matters. Eat good meals when you’re hungry, drink lots of water and be kind to yourself.

Image: Katie Edmunds

Britney is a total sasspot. Seriously, if you haven’t seen her in concert (ok, we get it, it’s expensive and in Vegas but we can dream) or at least watched her goddess moves on YouTube over and over, please do. Not only is she an insane dancer, but she gets us. We can pretty much relate to every one of her bangers.

If you’re having relationship drama, Womanizer on repeat will help release your anger. If it’s love you’re feeling, Gimme More will have you head over heels before you can say, ‘It’s Britney, bitch’. And if you’re on your period, well, you could create a whole album… Does it drive you crazy? Make you stronger? Or do you become a total slave for it? Take our quiz to find out!

1. You come on your period at school, do you...

2. You’re two days into your period. It’s Wednesday. It’s raining. Do you...

3. You see a puppy in the park licking its owner and you...

4. You’ve got a sleepover tonight and you’re on your period, do you…

5. Periods = cravings. Always. Your go-to favourite food to binge on is…

6. You’ve got a party on Saturday night and your crush is going. But you’ve got a period spot. Do you…

7. You’ve vegging out in front of the TV eating snacks. But what’s loading up on your widescreen?

8. You’re sat round the lunch table chatting with your squad. Are they…

Whether you’ve been dreading it or totally desperate for it to arrive, your first period can feel like a leap into the great unknown.

Will it arrive drip by drip, or all at once in a river? Will I look different? WILL EVERYONE KNOW?

Unfortunately there’s no period crystal ball to tell you exactly when it will happen, or where you’ll be when it does (please not assembly). And like your first day of school or your first ever burrito, everyone’s first period will be memorable in a different way.

But here are some things you can expect.

Will I feel it?

Probably not. You might feel some wetness or stickiness in your pants, or maybe some slight cramps in your tummy – but there is no specific ‘bleeding feeling’ that announces your period is in town. Chances are you won’t notice at all until you next go to the loo.

What colour will it be?

This will be different for everyone too – but we can promise you this much: it won’t be blue.

Nobody really knows why olden days sanitary towel companies decided that bright blue liquid would be less scary than the real deal, but you can live safe in the knowledge that your monthly visitor won’t be a raspberry Slush Puppy.

More surprisingly, period blood doesn’t often look like the bright red blood you see when you fall over and cut your knee either. For some that first appearance will be a pink-ish colour, while many people’s first period is often closer to brown than red – which can come as a bit of a surprise. Fact: you will not be the first person to wonder if they pooed themselves without noticing.

Seriously.

Whatever the shade, don’t panic. Your reproductive system is just getting into the swing of things, and the colour will often become more red over time. But it will never, ever be blue.

How much blood will there be?

The amount will be different for everyone too. It could be a sticky discharge that only lasts a day or two, or ‘spotting’, which means bleeding lightly on and off for a few days. And some people’s first period might be quite heavy – but don’t panic, that doesn’t mean it will be heavy forever.

Your first few periods might be feel like a whole variety pack of changes, but things should settle down into a more predictable routine.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • At least at the beginning, period blood will probably be more brown than red – but everyone is different.
  • Some people will have a sticky discharge the first time, others will have light, on-off bleeding and some might bleed quite a lot.
  • Your first period can last from anywhere between one and 10 days, and might not arrive again for a while.
  • You can celebrate however you like (we recommend a dance party).

How long will it last?

Your first period can last from anywhere between one and 10 days, and it’s also pretty common to have your first period and then not bleed again for a few months. Helpful, we know.

For the first year or so your periods might be a bit all over the place while your body finds its natural rhythm, but things should settle down into a fairly predictable pattern.

Will everyone know?

Nope.

Promise?

Honestly. You might feel like you’re walking around with a neon flashing ‘PERIOD! PERIOD!’ arrow above your head, but the truth is you look exactly the same as you did the day before. Nobody will know unless you choose to tell them. Or send out party invites.

But if you’re ready, it is a good idea to talk to an adult you trust. They can help you to get all the supplies you need – whether it’s pads, tampons, cuddles or a really big burrito.

Image: Emma Block

We talk about boobs a lot here at betty, but we haven’t actually spoken about how to do one of the most important things: fondle your tits. (The more scientific phrase is obviously: how to examine your breasts, but that doesn’t sound as exciting.)

So, here’s the lowdown on how to check your boobs and why you need to do it. By the end of this, you’ll have monthly reminders on your phone. We bet you 50p.

I’m only a teenager, why do I need to check my boobs?!

Right?! We hear you. If you’re still a teenager, or even young adult, then what’s the point of checking your boobs for anything nasty?

The facts state that developing breast cancer in your teenage years is ‘extremely rare’ and it’s still even ‘uncommon’ when you’re in your 20s and 30s. The NHS doesn’t start sending ‘COME AND GET YOUR BOOBS CHECKED’ letters until you’re 50, which is the age (and above) at which most breast cancers are diagnosed.

BUT, nevertheless, it’s good to get the practice in. It’s easy, quick, and free, so why not start a routine of checking?

Also, you might not find anything cancer-related but you might just find something else. There are many different types of breast lumps and most of them aren’t malignant (cancer). Benign breast lumps are non-cancerous and come in many shapes and sizes, and many different ages.

One example is a fibroadenoma. They’re lumps that can grow thanks to your hormones (surprise surprise), can be quite common to find during puberty/as a young woman, and aren’t dangerous, but can hurt if they’re sizeable and can be removed. (Spoiler: I had two when I was 20!)

how to check your boobs

How do I check them properly?

Both the NHS and boob charity CoppaFeel say that there’s no one right way to check your boobs, so don’t feel nervous that you’re doing it wrong. Just bloody do it.

Some basic pointers are:

  • Check them in the shower! While you’re naked, get touchy feely too. Two birds (blue tits, obvs), one stone.
  • But if you do check in the shower then make sure you actually use your hands and not a scrunchie thing. You need those fingers to properly prod about.
  • For checking not-in-the-shower, you can start by standing front of a mirror with your hands on your hips, looking like a strong, empowering badass. Have a good ol’ gander at your boobs to see if anything’s changed since the last time you checked.
  •  Then, THROW YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR LIKE YOU JUST DON’T CARE and have another look. This is basically the natural way of grabbing your boobs and lifting them up to check from a different angle.
  • Have a nice lie down. Your boobs will flop like pancakes down on your chest. This is one of the best ways to check for actual lumps. Just give your boobs a gentle prod around using a couple of fingers.

Don’t panic if you DO feel some lumps and bumps. All boobs are lumpy (or ‘nodular’ to be scientific) with milk-making bits and fatty bits, but you’re looking for any differences, either between your two boobs or from the last time you checked. Keep a tit diary!

A #valentinesday message* from the Boob Team 💘

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What am I actually looking for when I’m checking?

You’re not checking for just lumps and bumps. Other signs of mischief can be:

  • Changes in texture. Look for any dimples, where the skin goes in a bit like a mini-crater.
  • Swelling. There might not be any actual lumps, but check for any general swelling or redness.
  • Pain. Some pain is normal, especially in the week of your period, but if you’re in pain all the damn time, or it’s getting worse, then there could be an issue.
  • Discharge. Are your nipples leaking? They shouldn’t be, so have a check.
  • Changes in shape and size. Not everyone’s boobs are identical and that’s totally fine, but if one boob has suddenly changed in shape or size so the other one is like ‘u ok hun’ then there could be something up.
  • Changes in nipples (inversion or direction). The same goes for your nipples. If one has suddenly dived headfirst into your boob then definitely question that.
  • Rashes or crusting. It sounds gross but please don’t ignore wild rashes or crusty nipples! Be brave and flop that boob out to your GP.

Remember, you’re always looking for differences. Checking your boobs from now on will make you more aware of what your normal boobage is, so you notice any differences better in the future.

I think I’ve found something weird, what do I do now?!

DO NOT GOOGLE. Ya hear? Don’t do it. Step away. Put the phone down. It’s not worth it.

The best thing to do is to see your doctor. No shockers there. Don’t be worried about what they might say – remember that in all likelihood, it’s fine. The stats are on your side. There are a load of reasons why your tits are titting about. Grab a family member or good friend and make that appointment.

You can always read our article on how to talk to your doctor about embarrassing stuff if you’re flapping!

Do you owe us 50p now?

 

Your skin is a lot of things, but one thing it isn’t is lazy. Your skin is constantly making new skin cells to replace the old ones. Not, like, three or four new cells; we’re talking 30,000 to 40,000 EVERY DAY. Your skin makes Beyonce look lazy.

But sometimes, despite all this epic effort, your skin just can’t keep up.

Enter: stretch marks.

Ok, what are they?

Stretch marks are little wiggly stripes or marks on your body that look like tiger stripes. We think they’re actually pretty cool. Often they start out red, pink or purplish in colour, before eventually fading to a silvery-pale colour not far off your natural skintone.

Stretch marks can pop up all over your body, but they’ll most likely make an appearance on the areas of your body where fat is stored – ie. the soft bits, such as your tummy, boobs, bum, upper arms and thighs.

Why is this happening? Whyyyy?

Stretch marks happen when your skin is pulled by rapid growth or (whaddya know) stretching.

Skin is normally super elastic, but when your body changes rapidly, it can struggle to churn out those new cells quick enough. Racing cars have go-faster stripes, and so does your body.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Stretch marks often start out red or purplish, before eventually fading to a silvery-pale colour that’s much less noticeable.
  • They can pop up all over your body, but they're most commonly on the softer areas of your body like your tummy, boobs, bum, upper arms and thighs.
  • Stretch marks aren’t harmful or anything to be embarrassed about. Most people find they fade over time and they don’t even notice them after a while. But keeping your skin soft with a nice body lotion is never a bad plan.

Stretch marks can happen in adulthood too. But puberty, while your body is undergoing a loooottttt of changes, is prime stretch mark time for many girls (and boys. #Equality). During this time your body expands in all sorts of places and directions; your hips widen, your boobs grow, you might have a growth spurt or two, and you might notice stretch marks appear.

But don’t panic, they’re perfectly natural – and tbh, about 300% less noticeable than you think they are.

What do I need to do about them?

Nothing! Stretch marks aren’t harmful – they’re just a reality of being a human person with skin. So embrace them, love them, buy them flowers and sing them long, slow ballads.

If you do feel self conscious about them, there are lots of lotions and potions out there designed to minimise stretch marks. They might not work the miracles they promise, but a good moisturiser never hurt anyone. And if bronzed limbs are your bag, some people swear by fake tan too.

But most people find that their stretch marks just fade on their own over time, and after a while they don’t even notice them. So relax.

And if you ever find yourself feeling anxious about stretch marks, just remember: you are a tiger, you earned your stripes. Own it.

Image: Amber Griffin