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

Finally, FINALLY, it’s here: beach season. Let’s face it, a sun-soaked summer is anything but guaranteed in the UK, so the second we get the opportunity to hit the beach, we’re all over it. Sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, sandcastles! (Does everything you do at the beach begin with an ‘S’?) A day in the sand feels like escaping real life for a bit and living in an alternative, way more glamorous universe.

It’s also a prime location for some serious people watching. It has universal appeal, so you’re never short on people to peek at over the top of your sunglasses as you give them names and make up their whole life story. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to Blackpool or Barbados; these are the people you’ll see at every beach, without fail:

The Dad in Speedos

No easing you in here. We’re diving straight in with the inevitable dad in Speedos. He bought those Speedos in 1981 and brings them back out every summer, almost ceremonially, alongside an annual declaration that he still has the waistline of a 20-year-old (he doesn’t). It’s extremely likely that Speedo Dad has a wetsuit’s worth of body hair, so he might not be identifiable until he’s very close by but once seen, he cannot be unseen. If in doubt, look for his kids, desperately edging their towels away from him as they google ‘can you divorce your parents?’

The Instagrammer

The Instagrammer isn’t here to have fun. They are strictly here for the likes and they view everything in squares. They are most commonly found looking wistfully out to sea while their slightly flustered looking boyfriend/girlfriend/Mum/Dad/best friend takes 80 ‘candid’ shots. You may also see them setting out their book, towel and sunglasses in a pleasing arrangement, flexing, scrawling messages in the sand and taking pictures of their legs (or are they hot dogs?).

The girl who was born at the beach

I mean, literally, she might have actually been born here. She is at one with the sea and sand. She has that alluring ‘healthy glow’, she looks like she’s never worn anything but a bikini and she emerges gracefully from the sea like a vintage Bond girl. And you just know she can surf with zero effort. You could be jealous but really you want to be her best friend and learn her secrets.

The panicked parents

They dreamt of a lazy day on the beach, reading books while their angelic children made sandcastles within their immediate field of vision. What they got was three kids running in completely different directions down the beach and into the path of varying degrees of danger. They’re loaded up with what looks like five weeks’ worth of supplies and the whole day is a cycle of sun cream reapplication to tiny, wriggling limbs. Oh and they definitely have one of those half tents that take 45 minutes and three arguments to put up.

The semi-naked lady

There are two types of semi-naked lady but they are both over 60 and both brimming with confidence. The first is the one who goes topless on a very definitely not-topless beach and the second is the one who gets changed right there in the middle of the beach with precisely zero dramas. They don’t care who’s looking, they don’t care whether they block out the sun with their huge boobs and they definitely don’t care that the lifeguard is giving them stink eye. The semi-naked lady is kind of a hero.

The sun cream fiend

The sun cream fiend emerges from the shadows and squints at the sun with fear in their eyes. Having established that the sun is a definite threat to their ghostly white skin, they spend the next 20 minutes covering every single millimetre of themselves in sun cream. And not just a normal layer of sun cream – it’s like they’re buttering bread. Sun and fun don’t really go in the same sentence for this person but they’re trying anyway, so full marks for effort. P.S. This is me, come and say hello!

The red lobster

This person has thrown caution (and sun cream) to the wind. They got burnt on day one of their holiday after some overzealous tanning oil application and a badly timed sun lounger nap. But did they let it ruin their holiday? No they did not. There they are, sprawled out, ignoring all sensible advice, slowly turning a deeper shade of lobster. They wear their painfully pink skin like a suit of armour with an air of “well, it can’t get any worse!” defiance. You kiiiind of respect their temerity but at the same time, you don’t want to be there when the peeling starts. No one wants to be there when the peeling starts.

Image: Southern Comfort

Growing up in front of an audience throws up a lot of challenges. One of the biggest is feeling the pressure to share only the best, most photo-worthy moments and to live the perfect life to match. Great grades, flawless make-up, a beautifully curated Instagram – it’s easy to feel the heavy weight of expectation when it seems like all eyes are on you.

The pressure ramps up further when there’s an endless stream of perfection out there to compare yourself to, whether it’s the girl who goes to the gym five times a week or the food blogger who cooks meals that look way too beautiful to eat. All this makes it pretty difficult to deal with the reality that we can’t be absolutely amazing at everything in life.

But, I’m here with good news! Being bad at stuff is actually kind of…great. And I’m going to prove it with yoga. Well, a story about yoga anyway.

Earlier this year, I decided that I was going to start doing yoga every weekday morning; my imagination buzzing with images of me upside down, contorted in impossible looking angles, probably wearing some kind of amazing leopard print yoga gear that would show off my enviably defined abs. But then I did my first session and those visions were quickly melted away by the reality that my spine seems to be made out of solid steel.

Still, I’d made a promise to myself, so I carried on each day and here I am two months later with my legs over my shoulders. Oh wait, no, I can barely touch my toes. But the thing is, I don’t care even the slightest bit. I don’t care because I committed to doing something for myself and I stuck to it. No pressure, no Instagram posts, no comparisons, just me and my mat for half an hour every day.

Each morning, I watch as the woman on my app swoops into position. She bends from the hip, gracefully and effortlessly folding in half like origami. Meanwhile, I resemble a handful of broken twigs; all odd angles and jutting limbs. While she rests her head by her ankles, my arms dangle in the general direction of my toes.

I creak into half moon pose, ease into something that looks a bit like downward-facing dog and let out involuntary squeaks as I try and hold the plank. I am definitively un-graceful and what I do can certainly not be described as a ‘flow’ but I’m there doing it and I feel transformed afterwards: clear headed and ready for the day.

Every now and then I’ll notice a little improvement; I get an inch further into a stretch, or I hold a pose for longer without wobbling. It’s encouraging and there’s no doubt that it feels like a huge reward for my consistency but make no mistake, I’m still really bad at yoga.

I’ve been bad at plenty of stuff before – gymnastics, running, shot put – and it’s always made me want to quit. “What’s the point in carrying on if I’m not immediately brilliant? Gold medals or nothing, mate”, I’d think. But this time it’s different because I’ve taken perfection out of the equation. I’ve relieved myself of that pressure and given myself the headspace to just do something with absolutely zero expectations – and I think you should do it too.

It doesn’t matter if your portrait of Adele looks more like Tom Cruise or if your signature dish is slightly-too-hard pasta in a questionable sauce. It doesn’t matter if you knit wonky scarves or belly flop into the pool. All that matters is that you love it and you’re doing it.

And whether you decide to share it or not is completely up to you. Not everything you do needs to be for public consumption. It’s totally fine to sew skirts with wonky hems or paint blurry landscapes without ever showing a single soul. Give yourself permission to tuck yourself away and spend a few hours doing your thing without the pressure of wondering how many likes you might get or what other people might think.

On the flipside, never – and I mean never – be afraid to share the fruits of your labour if that’s what you want to do. Be proud of the fact that you’re doing something for no other reason than you love doing it. In my experience, when I’ve talked about my absent yoga skills, I’ve received nothing but words of encouragement from people who understand that it’s about the practice, the dedication to myself and ultimately, the enjoyment.

So grab your paints, lace up your trainers or hit the mat because life’s not about perfection, it’s about having fun.

Image: Sisters

You’ve been counting down to your fortnight in Florida for weeks. Your jazziest bikinis are packed and you’ve primed your mum in the art of taking a good Instagram photo. So why, oh why, does your period have to come just as you’re about to jet off?

While you’d rather be surfing any wave other than the crimson one, rest assured it’s happened to us all at some point, and these are all the things you know if you’ve had your period on holiday…

It always arrives unexpectedly

You weren’t supposed to come on for another eight days, but somehow that little sadist decided to arrive early, landing on exactly the morning you’re getting on a flight to paradise. This was not part of the plan.

Your handbag full of tampons being searched is the most cringe thing ever

It’s like airport security want to embarrass you in front of all the fit groups of boys.

Plane paranoia is real

A nine-hour flight = how many tampon changes?! And there’s nothing like the fear of falling asleep only to wake up having bled through your trousers, and onto the seat, then having to work out how to get to the bathroom without everyone seeing the big red stain on your bum. It’s never actually happened to you, but y’know, it could.

White swimwear is a no-go

You bought it to enhance your tan and had visions of yourself running down the beach like a Victoria’s Secret Angel. However, the minute your period arrives, that white bikini is banished to the bottom of your suitcase. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Tampon strings are the enemy

Sure, you’re forever grateful to the inventor of tampons for enabling you to hit the pool on your period, but why do the strings have such a habit of popping out the side of your swimsuit? And then there was that time you decided to trim it with scissors and almost ended up in A&E. Never again.

You’re fearful of diving and cannonballs

Ever since your friend told you about their cousin’s tampon shooting out when they jumped into a swimming pool, you’ve always used the ladder, as boring as that may be.

Cramps are somehow always worse in the heat

“WHO IS USING MY UTERUS AS A STRESS BALL?!”

But holidays do seem to make your period go away faster

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Image: Amber Griffin

It is a little-known fact that along with periods, boobs, body hair and mood swings, an important part of puberty is thinking “I might get a fringe.”

One day you’ll be fine with your hairstyle; it’s healthy, it looks ok, it behaves when you straighten it OR curl it (you lucky thing, you) – but then… suddenly… BAM. “I MIGHT GET A FRINGE.”

And that’s great! Change is good! Fringes are nice! But with a fringe comes great responsibility. Some people get hamsters to learn about being a responsible human being; other people get a fringe. And I, personally, would argue that looking after a fringe is way more complicated and stressful and educational than looking after a hamster.

The difference between looking after a hamster and looking after a fringe is that you can’t grow out a hamster, more’s the pity. You can, however, grow out a fringe.

Said to the hairdresser that you loved it but really wanted to punch the mirror in the face? No problem. Can’t deal with it growing so fast and blinding you? No problem. Spend your evenings scraping it back with an old alice band you found in the back of your wardrobe so you can slather your forehead with various creams and gels to kill all the spots your greasy fringe has given you as a present? No problem. Grow it out! It’s like your fringe never existed. Easy. Right?

I had a fringe once.  Multiple times, actually. Sadly, there is currently no cure for the condition of forgetting how much you hated your fringe and getting one cut in again and again and again.

When I finally hit the growing-out stage of my first fringe saga, at 13 years old, I had to experience the trauma of trying out different ways to tame it as I killed it off. I scraped it back, half-heartedly turned it into a side fringe (with lots of hairspray), and even tried having a middle parting to turn my fringe into curtains. Middle partings were super uncool in those days, but my choices were limited.

I stuck to the side fringe, but some bits were flyaway and awkward, and one evening I finally snapped. I grabbed the nail scissors from my mum’s wardrobe and took a deep breath.

Snip… snip… *stare*… snip… snipsnipsnip. There! Gone. That’s better. I fluffed my hair about until the slight bald patch I’d now created had been covered. It was only a small round bit in the middle of my hairline in the middle of my forehead. No problem!

Except. You know when you grow grass? Or cress, in primary school? You plant the little seeds and then the grass grows slowly and is fluffy and quite cute? Well, can you now imagine that in the middle of your head, please? Yes, smack bang in the middle. A 10p’s worth of sticky-up, fresh, fluffy grass.

THAT WAS MY HEAD.

BECAUSE, LITTLE LOUISE, HAIR GROWS BACK. YOU FOOL.

It was a nightmare. I slowly began my transformation into one of those troll dolls from the 90s, and there was nothing I could do about it. Because, as I preached just a few paragraphs ago, you’ve just gotta grow it out.

At first it wasn’t too bad. I could shift my hair about and cover it up, just as I did with the bald patch in the first place.

“Louise, you’ve moved your parting right over.”

“Yes. Yes I have. I now have a severe side parting.”

“It’s a bit extreme, most of your hair is now over your fa-“

“GOD, MUM, JUST LET ME LIVE.”

When that was no longer of any use, when the hair-grass started growing further and further upwards with horrendous pride and confidence, I had to take drastic measures.

I pulled. And pulled. And yanked on my little troll fringe as hard as I could, and slapped it backwards in place with a clip. Not a subtle hairgrip, but a MASSIVE PROPER CLIP. It may as well have had a sign saying, “LOOK AT ME, THE INFAMOUS TROLL FRINGE,” complete with a musical fanfare.

I wish there was a good ending to this story. I wish I found a secret trick or a silver lining to cutting a chunk of your hair out. Alas, no. All I have is a simple lesson. Ahem: DON’T CUT YOUR OWN FRINGE. EVER. IN EVER OF ALL EVERS EVER.

The troll fringe grew out, of course. I worked that fanfare clip with all the dignity I had left. Eventually the clip worked its way back along my head and the troll fringe evolved into a troll quiff.

So yes, sometimes in life you do silly things, and sometimes you are full of regret… but all of those times come with lessons and (hair) growth. And that’s never, ever a bad thing.

@louisejonesetc

Image: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

At 5ft 10, I am the same height as Taylor Swift. I like this fact because it’s surely some sort of sign that my dream of duetting All Too Well with her live on stage is going to come true. It also makes me feel a bit better about being ‘the tall girl’ in my friendship group.

Taylor’s not the only talented, successful, fierce as hell long-limbed lioness either. Tennis champion Serena Williams is 6ft 1 and Game of Thrones Brienne of Tarth (IRL name, Gwendoline Christie) is a tremendous 6ft 3.

But the reality of being a tall girl at school or college is a different story to commanding Wembley stage, Wimbledon centre court or the battlefields of Westeros.

I felt clumsy and clunky walking through the corridors, like a discombobulated giraffe wobbling down the catwalk behind a squad of cute, nimble meerkats. It was even worse with my friendship group at home, I swear none of them grew over 5ft 5 while I continued to shoot up like Jack’s troublesome beanstalk.

If you’re in the Tall Club, you might recognise some of the same experiences that I had:

Shoe shopping is an absolute nightmare

Chances are, you have some big old feet at the end of those powerful, endless limbs. The problem is, ballet pumps and strappy sandals don’t look so dainty in size 8 or 9. Rather than asking ‘do I like these shoes?’ when out shopping, the real question is ‘do they look like Sideshow Bob’s clodhoppers?’. Oh well, androgynous styles are much cooler anyway.

All jeans are ‘ankle grazers’

I used to be too scared to wander into the Tall section with the older giraffe herd. Up until the point when I realised that this was absolutely ridiculous of me, I was relegated to regular leg lengths. Flared, skinny, bootcut, straight – none of them ever made it past my cold ankles. It’s quite lucky then, that Kate Moss is a total advocate for the ankle grazer (and she’s only 5ft 7!).

Shorter friends complain about being petite

My much shorter best friend once demanded we leave a party early because she felt too small. Did she not realise how often I feel like a telephone pole standing out like an eyesore in a field of pretty poppies, or a dog-bitten Barbie in a toy box of Polly Pockets? But at least I learnt that short girls have their problems too.

‘You’re the same height as a top model!’ is not a compliment

Oh, really? Does Gigi Hadid also have this warm layer of puppy fat, relentlessly shiny forehead and man hands? Does Gigi feel the need to hunch over like Quasimodo when she’s around her friends just to fit in? I might be tall but I’m not blind. Anyway, I’d much rather be compared to a rocket scientist or a sports champion thank you very much.

Borrowing and sharing clothes is out of the question

Your friends swap clothes more times than Kanye and Kim swap saliva (eww, sorry!). But there’s no way that you’re going to fit into that cute floral jumpsuit that your BFF bought in the Topshop Petite section. It’s just the same old wardrobe for tall gals, while everyone else has the lolz and bantz of clothes swapping fun. Oh well, at least there won’t be any arguments about unexplained stains or rips.

Group photos are a painful experience

Usually, I use every trick in the tall girl’s book to try not to stick out like a sore thumb in photos: bending the knee, tilting the head, sitting down, wishing to be invisible. At least by pulling a silly pose, it can actually make you look like the most fun person in the photo.

Other tall girls make the best allies

Luckily, I ended up befriending two equally tall girls during my time at school. We borrowed each other’s clothes, walked around in a group without bending our knees or heads and shared tips on where to buy skirts that actually reached the knee. It was a blessing, and the first wide-stride step towards accepting my tall girl credentials.

Now in my twenties, I love being tall. I admit, I still have my off-days where I just want to blend it – but don’t we all? Even Taylor probably has body hang-ups but that’s not enough to stop her from being one of the biggest (and tallest) popstars on the planet.

It’s all about just owning it: having a snazzy sock collection to decorate ostentatious ankles with; not being scared to wear the highest of heels that will intimidate any badly-behaved guy; and strutting like a proud flamingo.

Those size 8 boots were made for walking, so do it with your head held high and everyone looking up at you.

@hlouiser89

Image: Getty

First thing’s first, despite the title of this article there’s absolutely no need to do anything to your pubic hair unless you want to. There are zero health benefits to removing your lady fuzz – it simply comes down to personal preference. Some girls get rid of all of it, some give theirs a little trim now and then, and some let theirs grow wild and free. It’s entirely up to you, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

But if you do decide to do some landscape gardening, there are some things you need to know. Your pubic hair is usually coarser than your leg and underarm hair, and the area is likely to get hotter and sweatier than other parts of your body – all of which can affect which hair-removal method is right for you. Here are your options…

Shaving

Shaving is a cheap, fuss-free way of tidying up your lady garden, but to do the job right you’ll need a good set of tools including scissors, a decent razor and shaving gel or cream. If you’ve got sensitive skin you might want to invest in a post-shave balm, too.

Pros: Quick, easy and cheap.

Cons: Hair grows back in a couple of days, regrowth can be itchy as hell, razor rash isn’t pretty.

Pro-tip: Trim the public hair so it’s around 1-2mm long, then gently exfoliate the area before shaving to remove the top layer of dead skin cells. Apply a good layer of shaving cream then shave along with your body’s natural curves – a razor with a pivoting head is good for this. Change the blade after a few uses to keep bacteria at bay and ensure your shaves are as smooth as possible.

Depilatories

Depilatory creams work by breaking down the keratin structure of each hair, essentially dissolving the base of the hairs until they’re weak enough to be broken off when they’re wiped away. Apply the cream, wait, then rinse. Voila!

Pros: Easy to use and the results can last up to two weeks.

Cons: Usually quite smelly, sometimes a bit pricey and not everyone gets long-lasting results.

Pro-tip: Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully. You’re basically putting a whole heap of chemicals on your skin, and while they’ve obviously been safety-tested it’s always possible you might have a reaction. Also, if you’re getting rid of everything (and we mean everything), choose a cream specially formulated for the bikini area – not all creams are suitable for your most sensitive bits.

Epilators

An epilator is a handheld device that looks like an electric razor, but definitely isn’t. Instead of cutting the hair at the root, dozens of electronic tweezers on the device pluck each individual hair clean out of the skin.

Pros: Long-lasting results, if you’ve got your own it’s easy to do touch-ups whenever it suits you.

Cons: Painful, epilators can be expensive.

Pro-tip: We’re not going to beat around the bush (ha, bush), epilating your bikini line can be super painful and can result in quite a lot of irritation, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. We wouldn’t recommend buying one without trying epilating first, so you might want to borrow one from a mate or family member to start with (make sure you sanitise it before using it). Numb the area with ice before you start (freezer blocks work a treat) and pull the skin taught as you go. And take deep breaths!

Waxing

Everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Kim Kardashian advocates the virtues of waxing, mainly because of its long-lasting results. It works like epilating, by removing the hair from the root. The main difference is that it’s a lot quicker – a few rips and you’re done. Plus, repeated waxing means the hair thins down over time, so it becomes more comfortable. There are a few options:

1. Specially-formulated waxing strips, which you simply apply to the area then remove.
2. Hot wax, which is applied in a thin layer over the area then pulled off with a strip of cloth.
3. Hot wax which is applied to the area and then pulled off directly once it’s cooled.

Pros: Long-lasting results, not too expensive, all over quickly if you get it done by a pro.

Cons: Can be painful, you’ll have to wait for regrowth before waxing again, messy if you’re doing it yourself.

Pro-tip: If you’re a first time waxer, definitely go to a salon. You don’t want to end up sitting in your bathroom with a crotch covered in wax, unable to finish the job yourself! If you’ve got a bit of waxing experience (maybe you’ve done your legs before), start off with ready-prepared waxing strips specially formulated for the bikini zone – they’re usually pretty failsafe. Whether you go to a salon or try DIY, pop an ibuprofen half an hour before waxing to help keep the discomfort to a minimum.

Laser hair removal

Laser is a newish type of hair removal that uses a strong beam of light to penetrate the skin to destroy the hair follicle. It sounds a bit terrifying but it’s relatively painless – it feels a bit like having a rubber band gently pinged against your skin. It works best on darker, coarse hair, and it takes a few sessions to properly kill the hair off (usually around six, depending on the amount of hair you want removed). Once it’s dead, though, it’s probably never coming back.

Pros: Almost permanent results.

Cons: Very pricey, not suitable for everyone.

Pro-tip: Before you commit to anything, go for a consultation with a reputable clinic – they’ll be able to tell you whether you’re a good candidate for laser. And remember, the results are usually permanent so think carefully before opting for a completely stripped-back Hollywood. You never know what bikini hair trends will make a comeback, so you might want to leave something to play with in the future.

Image: Kate Borrill

1. Did I just…?

2. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

3. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. Unlike it immediately!

5. Oh my god! I re-liked it! HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!

6. My life is officially over.

7. Will they still get a notification that I liked the photo?

8. Will it say which photo I liked?!

9. WHY, OH WHY, DID IT HAVE TO BE THE PHOTO WITH THEIR EX?! Do the internet gods have no mercy?

10. I should text Jo and tell her to like and then unlike one of my photos and see what happens.

11. Why won’t Jo text me back?!

12. Urgh and because we don’t even follow each other on Instagram they’ll know I stalked them.

13. And that I trawled through the bazillion Alex Joneses and found the Alex Jones (by the way, thanks for having such a generic name) and that I then proceeded to go through SEVENTY EIGHT WEEKS of Instagram posts.

14. Is it possible they’ll find it flattering?

15. No. Probably not.

16. Maybe I should delete my Instagram account.

17. ORRRR I could move to Latvia! No one knows me in Latvia.

18. I wonder how much flights to Latvia are?

19. What’s the capital of Latvia…

20. Riga? Huh, I wouldn’t have guessed that.

21. I should move to Riga.

22. But then I’d never see Alex again and we would never fall in love.

23. Maybe I’ll just have another look.

Ergh, blushing. That dreaded phrase “You’ve gone red!” litters so many people’s teenage years and then some (sorry guys, it’s not going to stop after you’ve nailed puberty). It’s the most annoying song on the adolescence album, even including the “No, you’re not old enough” and “Can I see some ID please?” party (pooper) anthems.

As the old, slightly sinister, saying goes; Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer – so that’s what we’re going to do right now.

Let’s find out what blushing actually is, why we do it and whether or not there’s any way we can take back some control next time it turns up to the party, like a bully, and tells everyone who you fancy.

So, what actually is blushing?

Here’s what the NHS website tells us: ‘…blushing occurs when a strong emotional trigger stimulates the nervous system, resulting in the widening of the blood vessels in the face. This increases the flow of blood into the blood vessels just underneath the skin, causing your face to turn red.’ The website also states that blushing doesn’t just occur in the face, but can also make your neck, upper chest and ears scarlet.

Cool. So, essentially, blushing occurs because  ‘strong emotional triggers’ just happen to widen blood vessels, which happen to increase the flow of blood to our faces (right where our eyes are, so people can really see it – again, cool), and blood happens to be red. Not see-through, or even a very subtle pastel shade. Red. So it just happens to be very obvious when we blush, particularly for people with pale skin.

What the experts say…

So what counts as a ‘strong emotional trigger’, and is there any way we can stop them?

The short answer is no. Of course we can’t. Although we can pretend to the outside world that everything’s fine, trying to make our nervous system believe that we’re feeling chilled when we’re not just isn’t possible.

However, there is hope. You know how sometimes you’re blushing a little, then someone points it out and somehow that makes it worse? Well, a 2009 study suggests that a fear of blushing exists, which makes us all have an even worse time when it happens. But findings from the same study also showed that, although the person blushing is having a negative reaction to it, people generally do not react with negative judgement when they see someone blush.

So in other words, the only person that really cares when you’re blushing is you.

Another study from 2014 showed that ‘children reported more fear of blushing than adults’. Which tells us that, although we may not grow out of blushing, something clearly happens as we get older to stop us caring so much. Maybe it’s the fact that being a teenager is incredibly difficult, and there are way more opportunities for blushing to attack.

How to deal

Now we know what blushing is, why we do it and what other people are thinking when it happens, let’s make it all a little less painful. We may not be able to stop it happening completely but, like macaroni cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a bad period day, there’s always a way we can relieve the stress a little.

Number one; remember the research. The majority of people are not judging you when you blush – because who would? Who takes pleasure out of someone else’s social discomfort? No one whose judgement we care to accept. Next!

Beat blush at its own game

It may seem like a silly tip, but if you can convince yourself that people can’t see you blush it may help the situation pass by a little quicker. One way to do this is to, ironically, wear blusher. At least, this worked for me and a bunch of friends at college, who all noticed a difference in the number of people noticing our blushing because our cheeks were already flush with Bourjois Rose D’Or.

Own it

Remember all the great women whose embarrassing moments – and their unapologetic honesty in those times – have made people absolutely adore them; Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, your friends, you. Try to embrace it. It’ll happen anyway. When you think about it, embarrassing moments are actually amazing. They make for hilarious stories and memorable life experiences.

In his famous book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin describes blushing as ‘the most peculiar and most human of all expressions’. But really, it’s the most human of all expressions.

We blush because we’re human, and to be human is to feel a load of things; embarrassment, attraction, awkwardness, guilt, panic. It’s not easy, but it is normal and we all do it. To blush is to feel emotion in its truest, no-hiding-it sense. So just try to ride the wave – and think of all the great anecdotes.

Image: Laura Callaghan

There’s a strange, unofficial law of puberty that says all the big, life-changing, gross-out experiences have to happen to you on holiday.

Sometimes on Guides camp, during sports day or at the incredibly posh wedding of a distant relative – but mainly, usually, on holiday. Because hey, even the sneaky gremlins of adolescence love a day at the beach! It’s just a shame they have to gatecrash your jolly hols rather than packing off on their own.

Picture the scene: I am 12, and on holiday with my family. In Belgium. Normally this would be enough trauma to be going on with, but because the universe is sometimes the actual worst, I also had my period.

Not my first period – that had arrived in a dramatic mudslide of brown goo one day at school, followed by a sticky five hours walking around concerned I had pooed myself without realising – but an early one Before they had settled into a reliable routine; when my period was still turning up unannounced, like a neighbour who won’t take the hint and then stays and eats all your best biscuits.

Up till now I had been welcoming. I had rolled out sanitary pads like a red carpet each time my uterus lining decided to drop by. But now – now, I was on holiday and I didn’t want a period, thanks. I wanted to go swimming. And I couldn’t do it with a big white lilo in my pants.

So there were two options: either give up and mooch about by the pool all week like a sad, bleeding fun sponge – or find another type of sanitary soaker-upper. As MC Hammer might have said while breakdancing on my achey uterus, STOP! Tampon time.

My mum was a long-time tampon fan, and only too happy to hand over a box for me to have a go. They were non-applicator, because that was the type she’d always used, and so it was that I found myself, quite literally, in at the deep end. Squatting, as per the box instructions, in the holiday chalet bathroom, boldly going to parts of my body that no finger had ever gone before.

First I unwrapped a tampon, gave the string a cautious yank. It looked like a make-up applicator, or a tiny friendly mouse puppet. I took a deep breath, did my very best full plié (if all those years of ballet classes hadn’t turned me into a modern day Anna Pavlova, they could at least give me the thigh strength to ram a tampon in successfully), and prodded it in the vague direction of the blood. In went the tip. Easy! Like plugging a leak. Or that song, about the guy with the hole in his bucket.  

I stood up, triumphant. I was a tampon-wearer! I was a vaginal victor! I was… nope, I was in pain.

Ow. I moved around, testing things out. OW. Owwowwoww. I sat down. OWW. Was this… right? Surely not. How was I meant to swim if I could barely walk? The leaflet said I shouldn’t feel it at all. My mum never said it would hurt. All those carefree ladies on the adverts leaping through meadows and riding horses while wearing white trousers didn’t look like they were wincing every time they took a step. Were they grinning through gritted teeth? Were ALL women? WOULD I BE FOREVER CONFINED TO A LIFE OF FANNY PAIN?

No, my mum confirmed when she found me whimpering in my swimsuit, drowning my sorrows in a packet of Belgium’s finest paprika snack nuts. It was not supposed to hurt.

It was, though, supposed to be inside my vagina – properly inside, rather than the place I had lodged it, hanging halfway out as though my labia was smoking a little white cigar. For that tampon to do its best tamponing, she explained cheerfully through the bathroom door, it needed to be completely hidden where the sun didn’t shine.  

I had to boldly go further. I yanked it out by the string, unwrapped a fresh one and took another deep breath.

With two more attempts and a lot of what can only be described as ‘tampon yoga’, I discovered with wonder what so many girls had discovered before me: that your vagina, like the TARDIS, is far bigger on the inside than it appears. It goes all the way back! And up! My first tampon had been sat in the doorway when there was a whole… corridor to conquer!

Finally, it was in. Actually in. And once that third-attempt tampon settled into its proper home, I realised that it wasn’t a lie – I couldn’t feel it. At all. Nothing to see here, folks, just a girl totally in control of her menstrual fluids!

Not even going headfirst down the flume with a swimsuit wedgie could diminish my aura of physical achievement. It might not have made the photo album or the ‘What I did on my holiday’ essay, but it was a golden memory nonetheless. I was a tampon-wearer! A vaginal victor! Yes.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I am about to break a silence that has lasted some eighteen years. I am about to tell you something I have never told my best friends. I have never told my mother. I have never told a doctor.

Are we all ready?

When I was a teenager, for a while I had a bad thing happening in my nipular area. I don’t know how long it lasted, all I remember is that it felt like years.

Here are the basic details:

I have had eczema all my life. When I was a kid, it only ever showed up in my elbows and behind my knees and the doctor told me I’d probably grow out of it. Oh, doctor. You sweet, naive fool, if only you had been right. I think of that alternate-universe Janina, from time to time. The Janina who can buy moisturiser freely and without fear, experimenting with joy instead of sticking with that one brand that seems to work consistently most of the time (Aveeno, by the way). She must be so happy.

While the rashy patches on my legs and arms did fade, they were replaced by weirder, more painful, less predictable rashes literally everywhere else. When the weather is hot, for example, I get pompholyx on my hands and the soles of my feet. This particular brand of eczema consists of tiny, itchy blisters that recently saw me tear my shoes off mid-exercise and clutch my feet in agony. My shoulders, neck and back are popular sites also, which can make wearing a bra downright painful.

But nothing has ever been so bad as the Year of the Nip.

It started slowly. A weeping crack here, a weeping crack there. First the left nipple, then the right. Eventually, the peaks atop my boobs were more weeping crack than nipple. Literally a pair of open sores on my chest.

It was unpleasant.

They would dry onto the fabric of my clothes and I’d rip them open every time I got changed. So I put plasters on them, obviously. But friends, my nipples were too much for your common-or-garden plaster. I had to find an upgrade.

It is at this point that a doctor might have been able to help me. Doctors are good at helping with this kind of thing. But I was young and embarrassed and I couldn’t figure out how I would tell anyone what was happening in the secret confines of my underwire.

So I MacGyvered a solution. I chopped a sanitary pad in half, and put a half in each cup. I slathered them in emollient cream and prayed for salvation. It wasn’t perfect. They would slide around sometimes. I would find one making an escape towards my cleavage, and be flooded with fear that someone had seen it poking out from my t-shirt.

The thing here is, that it was happening elsewhere as well. Specifically, to my lips. I’d had to take a full two weeks off school, because my face had basically exploded – I had conjunctivitis, a cold sore that made my jaw swell to three times its size, and lip-eczema that had left my lips so raw they had – brace yourselves – scabbed themselves shut.

You would think that, given all the highly visible grossness that was happening one floor up, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to say, ‘oh, hey, also my boobs are revolting right now!’ But sometimes it’s difficult to talk about boobs, in that kind of way.

We can talk about cleavage and cup size, of course, we can talk about plunge and balcony and lace and underwire, and how few people wear the right size bra. We can talk about how to feel for lumps – in theory, at least. But talking about things being really wrong in that area is scary. Or if it’s not scary it’s shameful.

There is one thing every teenage girl knows to be true: boobs are important. Apparently. They mean you’re growing up, they are the most obvious thing that might make you desirable – if something goes wrong with them, does that mean you no longer are?

Added to that is the fact that we only hear about things going wrong with boobs if it’s really serious, so when you think about boob health, the first, terrifying, thing you think of is cancer. But little things can go wrong too. No one talks about the infected ingrown hair they once had on their left breast, or all the other small problems that might seem huge at the time.

The happy ending here is that, eventually, my disgusting nipples healed. I am still scared they’ll come back, of course, but if they do I think I might just be brave enough to go to the doctor about it.

And for a silver lining, after all that, periodically plucking out long black nipple hairs doesn’t seem like that big a deal at all.

@j9andlf

It all started with a cake. More specifically, a period cake. When we first saw BuzzFeed’s story about about the treat that 12-year-old Brooke Lee received to mark her first period, there were, er, mixed reactions.

“Brilliant,” piped Lauren. “Eurgggggh,” cringed Lily. And so the battle lines were drawn. With Lauren standing firmly in the ‘this is lovely camp’ and Lily committed to the idea that the whole thing is just plain weird.

Here are our best arguments for and against period cake. Let the best woman win.

Lauren says… period positivity? It’s a piece of cake! 

I’ll be honest – when I saw Brooke Lee’s viral period cake, my first thought was “mm, cake.”

I love cake. I do not love periods, but there’s very little you could ice in sugar on a nice hunk of carbs that wouldn’t have me reaching for knife and a napkin. So I am ultimately pro-cake, for almost any occasion, including the very first time your uterine lining decides to make a grand entrance.

yes-cake

But once you scratch the buttercreamy surface and look at the idea beneath Brooke’s mom’s menses party buffet, I kind of love it even more. Sure, a period cake is a squirmingly public gesture that not everybody would be comfortable with – but isn’t that just because society still tells us periods are something to be whispered about behind closed bathroom doors rather than talked about at family parties? You have to wonder: if period cakes and period parties became a regular, run-of-the-mill thing, how long would it be before that stigma disappeared and we also felt more confident talking about our cycles, carrying tampons to the bathroom instead of stuffing them up our sleeves, and looking after ourselves when PMS hits instead of forcing ourselves to carry on as normal and then ending up a tired, mopey heap?

And it’s not just girls’ confidence levels. I also love, LOVE, the idea that period cakes and parties might encourage boys and men to get comfy talking about menstruation too, right from the off. We could even withhold their piece of the red velvet until they’re able to discuss the topic without cringing or wincing. “No fatherly advice, no slice!” – that could be the motto.

Some might think that the ‘hoorah!’ element of the period party is weird. You could argue that for something that affects 50% of the population, something that millions of women are just casually getting on with at any given time, making a big song and dance about it is patronising, or missing the whole point – it’s natural, not novel. And I get that, I do. But even if the balloons-out approach isn’t right for every girl or every family, we can’t deny it’s refreshingly positive. At betty, we’re all about find ways to make your period nicer. It’s our whole thing. So why not make a first period a lovely, exciting moment rather than a death sentence for your days of clean pants and stress-free swimming sessions? Wouldn’t we all feel a little less anxious about puberty if our parents’ reaction was celebration, not commiseration?

Besides, maybe if we embraced period parties for a few years, we might get to a point where everyone was so positive about periods that we didn’t feel we needed them anymore. It’s a personal choice – but a little fun and joy can’t hurt, right? Because when it comes to feeling confident about our bodies, we should be able to have our cake and eat it too.

Lily says… it’s not a party, it’s just a part of life 

On the surface, I should LOVE this idea. I love cake; I love chocolate cake and carrot cake and if it’s all that’s going, I’ll even take a bite of a fruit cake. And I love celebrations; I can get excited for almost any occasion, cat birthdays, regular human birthdays, 4- month anniversaries, you name it, I’m there in a party hat.

But I draw my line at a period cake. Not a cake made of actual period blood (though let’s be real, it’s probably a matter of time until that happens), but a cake designed exclusively to celebrate a girl’s first period. This is partly because of intelligent, well-reasoned arguments, and partly based on my own personal taste.

no-cake

Periods are a totally natural part of life. Like cutting your toenails or getting a pimple. These aren’t things that I love, but nor are they things I feel embarrassed to talk about – which, in my opinion, is all that periods need to be.

My period utopia world would simply be a place where women don’t slip tampons up their sleeves or men don’t clam up or say ‘that’s gross’ when someone mentions the word period. I want a world where tampons aren’t taxed as a luxury good and everyone has access to sanitary products. Where my brother is just as comfortable as I am buying tampons at the supermarket and my dad doesn’t use the phrase ‘women’s problems’. Periods are a totally natural and normal part of being a woman, so I think they should be treated with the same sort of semi-fascinated interest with which we treat our first pimple. This isn’t a party, it’s just a part of life. And I don’t think that requires cake.

Those are my sensible reasons. But, just a heads up, my argument is about to veer into “just because” territory. The first thing I thought when I saw the cake was: “If my mother invited my friends around for a party and had a cake made with ‘Congrats on your period’ written on it in red icing (!) I would have disowned her.”

I get that it’s thoughtful and sweet but your first period is a personal thing. I liked telling my friends when I was ready. I liked being able to get used to the concept that I now bled once a month in my own time, without everyone already knowing about it. I liked that my mum didn’t make a big deal of it, but rather handed me a tampon and reassured me that it was nothing to be afraid of.

By turning your first period to a party, I think you’re setting young women up to think that this is going to be a fun experience. But it’s not. In reality periods are a 2-9 day event where you often ruin a pair of your pants and you want to eat your body weight in chocolate. And that’s fine. That’s natural. And isn’t that what this whole thing is about?

What do YOU think? Period cakes, yay or noooo? Tweet us at @bettycollective, tell us on Facebook or comment on Instagram!  

Image: Twitter:@autumn1shea