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.)

Oh, spots. You enigmas.

We can squeeze you, prod you and ignore you – but we just wish we could understand you. If we could only sit down for a good heart-to-heart, here are a few of the burning questions we might ask.

1. “Why?”

The first word that springs to mind the moment you catch sight of the monster staring belligerently at you in the mirror. Just why, you ask desperately – and for a while, this bleak three-lettered word is really all you can think. Facts about sebaceous glands, stress and hormones can’t reason with it.

But eventually the blind panic subsides into more nuanced questions like…

2. “Why me?”

It’s hard to answer. Spots are caused by all sorts of complex reasons – see above – but if there’s one thing we can assure you of, it is not because the universe hates you. It seems that way right now, but this has everything to do with chemicals that everyone has – and nothing whatsoever to do with you personally.

Pimples (a slightly more technical term for the little terrors) appear when oil-producing glands become clogged and infected. This could be hormones causing you to produce more oil; it could because your fingers or a hat or scarf you’ve been wearing has been irritating your face. It’s unlikely to be a product – most are tested for that these days – and probably not your diet either, whatever certain people in your family and friendship circles might tell you.

3. “Why now?”

Because, hormones. They’ve the starring roles in the film Period – and if you’re feeling them, chances are it’s heading to a cinema near you shortly. Testosterone levels are generally higher in puberty, and as that’s believed to increase oil production, it means you could get spots any time. Rest assured this has nothing to do with the fact you’ve a date tomorrow night, and it doesn’t mean said date is automatically doomed either.

4. “Are you as obvious to other people as you are in my head?”

Is Vesuvius erupting on your forehead? Is there real lava and people running away you screaming? Then no, he (spots are always he) isn’t.

Other people probably haven’t even noticed it. But that won’t stop you capturing every conceivable angle another human could see your face at in the mirror and on your phone camera, and begging friends, “but what about the south south west-facing aspect of my chin??”, of course.

volcano

5. “When will you make for good pick?”

Officially, of course, the answer to this is ‘never’. But we know that no sooner has the offending spot appeared than you are assessing his fitness for picking: prodding and stroking, dreaming of past victories, and comparing their colour and feel. Weirdly – grossly –  it’s actually a very similar process to that of feeling if a fruit is ripe: you will know innately when the moment comes. The challenge is holding off until it then. Strike too soon, and you’ll blow your chances of great picking for good.

6. “Why did you pretend to be ready when you weren’t?”

He looked so promising and pickable! Now he’s just a messy, painful blob. Ow. Liar.

7. “Can I hide you?”

The sensible seventh question one can only arrive at having wailed one’s way through the first six – to which the answer is that it varies according to the spot you have. If you leave him bare, he will heal quicker – but provided the spot is not, in the least gross possible way, leaking, then if you want to cover up with some concealer (or a big scarf) go for it. Just ensure you choose your product wisely…

scarf

8. “Why the hell won’t you just stay covered?” 

In short, not all concealers are born equal. Indeed, some are so ineffective they succeed in creating more of a blemish than the one they’re supposed to be concealing: all too vividly do I remember one teacher telling me that I had “a splodge of mud, dear, on the centre of your chin.”

So do your research: ask friends, family, magazines, the woman at the make up counter, what they recommend for your blemishes. You’ll cut not just the amount of time you have a spot, but the amount you spend checking, and thinking about checking, and – after you have checked – obsessing about the way the spot is blooming though your cloudy concealer like a full moon.

9. “How long are you here for?”

You beg to know, every single time you meet it in the mirror. There is no clear answer, but one’s thing for certain: the longer you pick, prod and fill him with rubbish concealer, the longer you’ll be having this conversation. Like so many bullies, the best way to deal with a spot is to not engage.

10. “Is this it for the rest of my life?”

Now for the good news. Though you will probably run into the odd one from time to time, once puberty’s done and dusted the most offending spots will plague your younger siblings (who’s laughing now, brother?) and leave your skin in peace.

peace

See ya, tiny pal. So glad we had this chat.

@finney_clare

Breasts can be mysterious creatures. Like supporting characters from Alice in Wonderland, one day they can feel tiny, the next they feel huge. One day they look like twins, the next they barely feel like friends. Sometimes they’re like your own personal set of cushions – and sometimes, they hurt.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Why is this happening?

A lot of people find that their boobs are a bit sore, achy or tender in the lead up to their period. It can be a warm-up act before the main event, like the other symptoms of PMS.

While the exact cause is unknown (helpful, science) it’s thought be due to the changing levels of your hormones at that point in your cycle. Just before your period, your progesterone production peaks and your breast lobules (milk ducts, although ‘lobules’ is much more fun to say) might expand. As they swell, your nerves may have to stretch themselves a bit longer than normal, which could make your breasts feel a little on the tender side.

If you haven’t started your period yet, don’t panic if you have a tingling sensation or an aching in your chest, this is probably just your breast buds developing. Woo-hoo!

How long will it last?

Most women find that their breasts start feeling a little sore one to three days before their period starts, and generally go back to normal by the time they finish riding the crimson wave.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Breathe, it’s actually super common. More common than perfectly symmetrical breasts, in fact.
  • During puberty, it’s likely that one will develop faster than the other. They’ll probably continue to grow at different speeds throughout your teenage years, and most adult women still have one that is bigger than the other.
  • This shouldn’t affect your life in any way other than making bras shopping a bit more of a puzzle. But always buy the size that fits your bigger side, as a general rule of thumb. Or boob.

Is there anything I can do to ease the ache?

Some people find that cutting back on salt, sugar, caffeine and dairy helps, so you could give that a go if your boobs are being a real pain in the… er, chest. Comfort-wise, you may find that wearing a good supportive bra, such as a sports bra, helps to minimise the aching, and it will stop things jiggling about any more than is strictly necessary.

Lots of women say that regular exercise helps to fight their menstrual aches and pains. If you find running is a sore-boob nightmare (bounce factor), why not try cycling or walking? After all, you’re already wearing a sports bra.

If your boobs are super painful and playing on your mind, don’t panic. But do step away from Google. Over-the-counter painkillers might help (ask an adult and always follow the packet instructions), or just try giving your boobs a few days while your period finishes.

If they’re still feeling really sore, or if you just want to check what’s what, maybe head to your GP for a chat.

So I’m not dying?

Almost definitely not. You’re just going through the rabbit-hole of puberty. But hey, at least there’s cake.

 

I’m not a crier. I mean, sure I cry, I’m not a complete robot. But I’m not one of those people who cries every day. I probably cry, on average, once every two to three weeks.

I’m quite a specific crier: I don’t cry from pain, I don’t cry in movies that I’m supposed to (honestly, I’ve remained resolutely dry-eyed in The Notebook like, 10 times but I did openly weep in Cinderella) and I absolutely loathe crying in front of people.

Because of this, I’m quite good at delaying my crying. I know from experience that I can feel a cry coming on, sit in the tube for half an hour, walk the twenty minutes home, open the front door, shout hello to my housemates, scramble upstairs and the minute I cross over the threshold into my room – that’s when the tears will come.

This tactic means that I can generally stave off my tears until I’m in one of my trusty crying places:

In the shower

This is a practical option because a) no one can hear me, b) I don’t have to wash my face afterwards and c) for some reason, when I cry, I sweat a lot too. It’s like my sweat glands feel left out and want to get in on the action, so in addition to being snotty and teary, I also have the added benefit of looking like I’ve just been on a harder than average jog. The shower fixes all that in one.

In the bath

The reasons are all the same, but the bath has the added benefit of bubbles and candles and a John Mayer album if I want a nice romantic cry.

In my bed

Once every six months, when I can’t fall asleep I will let my imagination roam so far into the deep recesses of my brain that I will imagine how it would feel if someone in my family died. I know it’s morbid, but if I let my mind wander at night without any leash, this is where it ends up. The crying makes my eyes sleepy and the next day I’m always extra nice to my family. So, I guess that’s a silver lining?

To my dog, Bella

Bella is a 13-year-old border collie who has gone grey around her nose and her muzzle. She has arthritis so she can’t jump up on my bed like she used to, but I don’t mind sitting on the floor to talk to her because she’s still the best listener in the world. Bellsie is the most loyal of dogs, who only gets mildly annoyed when I throw my arms around her and tell her how much I love her.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-15-53-23

(This is Bella)

In the cinema

As previously mentioned, I don’t like crying in front of people, but I don’t mind crying near them so long as we are in a completely dark room and no one is looking at me. I cry in films all the time, sometimes for reasons I can’t explain. I am an expert at the discreet eye-dab, the subtle wiping of nose on the sleeve, the silent sort of weeping where your eyes just won’t stop leaking. Plus, the cinema always involves excellent snacks, so they’ll cheer you right up.

On the floor

I once knew a girl that would only talk about her feelings if she was sitting under the dining room table. This is kind of how I feel about crying. In my opinion, crying is best done on the floor, where you can wail and weep and be in the foetal position or child’s pose (the two best crying positions) in a matter of milliseconds.

To my mum

My mum is the only person in the world who has the ability to make me burst into tears by just saying ‘Hi darling, how are you?’ I am a terrible liar. I can’t lie to my dentist about how often I floss or even to street fundraisers (once I ended up actually cancelling my credit card rather than just coming up with a reason why I couldn’t donate to Greenpeace). But I especially can’t lie to my mum. She smells my lies. I’m be part way through saying, ‘Oh, things are fi-” and my voice will wobble involuntarily and before I know it I am sitting on the floor blubbering.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with have a good cry, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or has never seen any of the John Lewis Christmas ads. Embrace your cry.

After all, it’s what Weepy Girls’ Corner was made for.  

Image: Manjit Thapp

Kylie Jenner has been making headlines this week.

Or, her chest has. A few curious fans wondered if Kylie’s boobs were looking bigger than normal

Within the hour, some tabloids were asking the same question – with their traditional class and sensitivity…

But when Kylie took to Twitter to dispel the rumours, her explanation had girls across the world nodding in solidarity.

Nope, she didn’t spend thousands of dollars on a boob job – she was just on her period, folks. Jog on, nothing to see here! You might say ‘TMI’ Kyles, but we say Just The Right Amount of Information. JTRAOI. Ok, that’ll never catch on.

This isn’t the first time that Kylie has had to talk about her boobs either. In September 2015 Kylie shot down more rumours that she’d had cosmtic surgery. “No, people – I haven’t gotten breast implants!” she wrote on her website. “Everyone is obsessed with that. Truth is, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained 15 pounds and my body has changed; I’ve definitely filled out.”

Truth is, girls’ bodies do change. Jeans that are loose one week can be impossibly tight the next. Bras that fit perfectly in the shop can struggle to contain your nipples when your period comes a-callin’.

Bodies aren’t static, like Barbie dolls or Donald Drumpf’s hair. They change. A lot. And it’s perfectly natural when they do.

So cheers Kylie, for letting girls everywhere know that even the Jenners have to deal with periods. And best of luck riding the crimson wave!

Holler if you want to borrow a hot water bottle, k?

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds