Hey, you learn something new every day! Or at least, in the case of me and my uterus, every month.

Here are the most important lessons I have learned while getting to, um, grips with tampons…

1. Don’t use tampons for the first time when you’re in a hurry

1) giphy-1

Puberty arrived for me when I turned 12, right at the end of the summer holidays. I was the youngest in my class, and when I returned to school for the autumn term, it seemed that everyone was an old hand at this period lark whereas I was still very much a novice. So when I felt that familiar tickle in my abdomen during Double French, a month after I got my first period, I wasn’t prepared with sanitary towels, and had to scuttle off to the loos clutching a tampon my friend gave me instead.

I had never used a tampon – only pads – but I found myself shivering in the freezing Victorian toilet, looking at this weird cotton pen-like thing, thinking “well, how hard can it be?”

Thirty seconds later I discovered exactly how hard when (and I swear this is true), not being able to see what I was doing – or even knowing what it was supposed to feel like – almost inserted the tampon into my bottom.

I went back to class with a rolled-up wad of loo paper in my knickers instead, and a face red with embarrassment. Also I limped a bit.

2.  Always read the instructions

2) giphy-3

Even though I’d studied the diagrams of the reproductive system at school, I still sort of thought that the vagina was a straightforward hole-tunnel affair, and that putting a tampon in would be like popping a cork in a bottle.

But, as I stood there with one foot on the toilet seat and my tongue poking out of my mouth in concentration, I was really glad I’d taken the time to unfold the gigantic instruction sheet and pore over it like an Ikea instruction manual. Otherwise I might not have realised that you need to angle the tampon towards the small of my back, or to consciously relax, and I might have ended up with a tampon in the bum again.

3. Don’t get frustrated if it’s not comfortable

3) Brave-Frustrated

Sometimes your vagina isn’t lubricated (slippy) enough and the tampon feels too rough. Sometimes you haven’t put it in far enough and it leaves a weird, heavy weight inside you. Sometimes the string gets squashed against your flesh. Sometimes the stars just aren’t aligned right.

Don’t worry that you’re not doing it right, or that something scary is up – just take it out (slowly!), relax, and try again later.

4. Always match the tampon to your flow

4) giphy-9

Sometimes when you go to the dentist for a procedure they’ll ask you to take a mild painkiller beforehand, in case you need pain relief later. Do not take this approach with tampons – it doesn’t matter if your flow starts off light and then gets heavier, always use the lightest possible option for your type of flow – otherwise it can feel uncomfortable until you start producing a heavier menses, and puts you at risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Also, it’s no fun walking around with a grimace on your face all day. No fun at all.

5. Don’t panic if it gets stuck!

5)giphy-12

Ok, there have been times when I’ve gone to pull the string out and nothing’s happened. It’s like there’s a team of vagina-gnomes in there holding fast to the other end, just to mess with me.

Whenever this happens, images start flashing through my mind – me, going ashen-faced to the hospital A&E; me in stirrups while a team of doctors point between my legs and laugh; me, in the Guinness Book of Records as The Woman Who Had a Tampon Inside Her Her Entire Life.

Then I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that my vagina is basically a big muscle, and sometimes muscles just… contract. Sooner or later I relax, and then the tampon comes out.

6. Always take more than you need

6) giphy-32

My best friend is incredibly smooth with her period. She doesn’t get period pains and can switch her tampon quicker than I can blink. I am not like her.

Often, I am clumsy, which means that when I’m fishing around for a new tampon in my bag, three others fall into the toilet itself. Sometimes the one I insert comes straight out with the applicator when I take my hand away. Occasionally, because I pack my bag early in the morning when I’m still essentially asleep, I find that instead of a tampon, I have brought a banana.

My point is: always take extra tampons, because you might be an idiot like me.

7. There’s no shame in a pad

giphy-14

After all is said and done, tampons aren’t for everyone, and for a lot of people they don’t fit all situations. Often, at the beginning and ends of my period when my flow is light, I’m not lubricated enough (hiya) to use a tampon. Sometimes, you have bad cramps and your entire lower half feels inflamed and there is nothing you want to do less than introduce a tampon into the mix. Sometimes sanitary pads are simply a better option, so find some that you like and keep a stash around for when tampons don’t quite cut the mustard.

8. Don’t put them in sideways

You probably know this one already. And obviously I did! I mean, I never tried it! That would be stupid! Don’t listen to anyone who says that I did!

Ha ha ha!

Seriously though.

@orbyn

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Manjit Thapp

Next Tuesday!

Just kidding. If only things were that simple.

The truth is, your first period can be a bit like a surprise party. There are clues that something is going on… a few of your friends seem to know something you don’t… maybe your mum is being coy, you have a feeling deep in your stomach that you can’t identify, or you want to stuff your face with cake.

And there are times when you are 100% sure it’s about to happen… only to find no one is actually hiding behind the sofa at all.

Argh.

So if not next Tuesday, when?

The average age for your first period is between 11 and 13 – though some people get their period as young as eight, others will be more like 16. And either way, it’s all totally fine. It just depends on your body and how quickly it develops.

If you find you’re early to the party, don’t worry, it just gives you extra time to get the hang of things. And if you’re running a little behind, that’s not a big deal either. You’ve heard the term ‘fashionably late’, right?

So it’s not a race – it’s a waiting game?

Well, yes. But not everyone likes surprises, and helpfully there are signs to look out for that your period is on its way (no, not a text).

Usually your breasts will begin growing first. Those little bumps that might have formed under your nipples are breast buds, and periods generally show up around two years after those bad boys arrive on the scene

TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • The average age for your first period is between 11 and 13, but it could be as young as eight or as late as 16.
  • Clues that your period might be on its way include breasts growing, discharge in your pants and body hair – but everyone is different.
  • Starting a little later is no big drama, but you can chat to your GP if you are worried.

And about a year after your boobs begin to grow, you might find that you start producing discharge. This is your body’s way of letting you know that things in your uterus are kicking into gear, and most people find that their periods arrive between six months to a year after this.

During this time you might also notice armpit hair and pubic hair making an appearance – another little clue that periods are incoming. But remember, everybody’s body is different. Did we mention that already?

Is there anyone that can tell me?

You can try a psychic if that’s your thing… but it’s probably easier to talk to your mum (or sister or auntie) about when they got their period, if you can. It’s pretty likely you’ll get your period around the same time she got hers.

And apart from that…

Just try to be patient. If you get to 16 and you haven’t had your first period yet, it might be a good idea to chat to your GP about what might be holding things up. But whether you get your first period at eight or 18, it’s nothing to freak out about.

And like any other surprise party, we say there should probably be cake.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

The first time I ever fancied someone I was four years old.

Let’s be honest, that’s premature. And a bit weird. So you can imagine my surprise – and disappointment – when, first secondary school disco in full swing, I found myself in the girl’s toilets, totally consumed with fear at the thought of the night ending in my being someone’s girlfriend.

It wasn’t like Scar from The Lion King was even there (plot twist: I no longer fancy cartoon lions, but still love a black hair/ green eye combo). Or that anyone was showing the slightest whiff of interest in the glitter hair mascara fringe I was debuting that evening.

But, despite the sassy four-year-old inside me who was so desperate to be wifeyed back in 1994, the mere thought of anyone trying to snog, dance or really do anything beyond offering me their seat so I could rest my inexperienced platform-heeled feet was enough to make me fake illness and call my Dad to come take me home. Ah, home. I could eat Indian takeaway and watch Friends there, I could have a bubble bath, I could listen to The Killers and imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship without the scary reality of actually having to go through with it.

Needless to say, after that first school disco, it was obvious: casual intimacy intimidated me. And I ended up spending my entire teenage years single.

It wasn’t because I’d suddenly stopped fancying anyone – quite the contrary. I fancied everyone. At least it felt that way; but as I quickly learnt, my feelings were fickle. The second anyone paid any interested in me I was onto the next one, before they had a chance to fish out the alleged eyelash from my heavily kohl-lined socket.

On several occasions I was accused of being a tease or a flirt, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was interested in being in the relationships I formed in my mind – it’s just the reality brought so much pressure, and I was yet to meet anyone with the maturity and patience to match my timid curiosity. I wanted fun from a relationship and, from the looks of things, the real-life kind involved heartbreak, school gossip and the risk of everyone knowing the private things I only wanted special people to know.

It took me longer than I wish it had to realise that I wasn’t a tease, and I wasn’t frigid. I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with anyone who didn’t love me. It was as simple as that.

Of course I felt embarrassed about being what from the outside probably looked like a ‘late bloomer’. When you aren’t in love it always feels like everyone else is – but, honestly, this is just imagination talking. I have friends who lost their virginity aged 14 and friends who had their first kiss aged 22, there is no finish line when it comes to intimacy. There just isn’t. Adult life doesn’t begin with your first kiss. If you’re interested in that stuff then life will be littered with it, and you’ll have times when it’s happening a lot and times when it isn’t happening at all.

I’m a bit older now, and I’ve had a serious relationship. We made it work for three years, which doesn’t sound like long but considering the fact that we were broke, lazy students who wore the same Dominoes-stained joggers every day (him) and believed that jarred pesto counted as one of your 5 a day (me), it was a triumph against bad odds. That relationship had everything I’d thought up in my Killers bubble baths. He was loving and hilarious with a gorgeous face, and the first time we kissed I remember being surprised because I wasn’t thinking about when it would be over like all the regretful snogs before him.

It’s important to say here that I think prolific ‘relationship people’ – the types that seem to have loved a hundred times before they’re even legally allowed to drink – are sensational. In my experience they tend to be super open, to both rejection and love, because they come as a pair. Emotional gamblers, pursuing subtle flirtation with the conviction of some sort of intimacy gladiator. But, unless that comes naturally to you, you can’t force it.  As with everything in life, but especially your emotions, you’ve got to consider what you’re comfortable with.

A few days ago a friend asked when I was going to get round to dating someone seriously again and I felt that familiar pang of embarrassment – like FOMO with a sprinkling of shame. The truth is, I just really like being single. Not because I’m frigid, or want a different person every night, or have low self-esteem, or think I’m too good for that bloke who asked me out. I simply love being single because there is so much to love about it.

I don’t have to share anything; my money, my time, my bed, my pizza. I’ve got to know myself in incredible depth, because I’ve had to. I plan my weekends depending on what I want to do, I go to places I want to visit on holiday, I cook what I love for dinner every night. I know exactly what I’m lacking, and what a potential partner could give to make me a better person, but I also know that I’m enough. It’s a strong and sentimental statement, but it’s true. And I like to think this relationship with myself started during those relationship-less teenage years. I’m not scared of being single.

Ultimately relationships can be crazy, fun, sad, beautiful life experiences. But they’ve got to happen on your own terms. My advice would be: take the time to understand exactly what you feel comfortable with.

Because in the end, the only person you have to live with forever is yourself.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Easy A

Elijah, 26, was born in a biologically female body but identifies as a man. He began his physical transition just over two years ago.

I was 13 when I got my first period. Most people at school had already started and my mum had prepped me quite well, so I knew what was on the horizon, but that didn’t make it any easier. I hated them from the word go.

At the time, I was a long way off understanding myself like I do now. I was dressing as a tomboy and was struggling with my sexuality because I was finding myself attracted to girls, but I hadn’t yet realised I was transgender.

I remember my periods being a great source of great pain and distress, and looking back, I think that was linked to general feelings of being uncomfortable in my body. I now know that what I was probably experiencing was something called gender dysphoria [where a person experiences distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity] but I didn’t understand that at the time, or have the language to articulate it.

As I got older, the distress my periods caused me became more and more tied to my gender identity. And once I’d decided to transition, having periods became even more frustrating. I had to live as my ‘desired gender’ for a while before the doctors would give me the hormones I needed to start making my body change. So I was using male toilets and asking everyone to call me these new male pronouns like ‘he’ and ‘him’, but I wasn’t visibly changing. That was really tough and at that point having periods started to feel really hurtful. The best way I can describe it is that it was like a personal insult every month. I’d made these decisions and announcements but my body wasn’t keeping up with things. I was trying my best to change but they were undermining everything.

When I started hormone therapy, my periods stopped relatively quickly but I had to up my dose a couple of times because I was getting period pains and bloating and things like that. That was really hard because I felt like I was past having periods and then some of the feelings came back again.

There are a few things that helped me cope, and which might help you if you’re transgender and are struggling with your periods. The first is to try not to give your periods power. My dad used to say the same thing when I had panic attacks – if you give the anxiety power then you’re not in control. It’s the same with periods. Remember that it’s your body and you’re in control.

You can take back control by giving yourself time, space, love and care. If you know that your period is going make you feel extra rubbish (or maybe there are a couple of days of your period that are particularly bad) then take care of yourself all the more on those days. Eat ice cream, exercise if that helps you feel good (it’s always helped me), and just do what you need to do.

Try to be open as well. I think I would have had an easier time if I’d been more open about what I was experiencing. Once I’d learnt how to communicate about it a bit with my mum, I could say “I feel really bad because of my period” and I think that was one of the things that helped me to take the power away from it. Not talking about my periods and suffering in silence gave them all the power in the world.

The good news is that young trans people today are having a very different experience to the one I had. There’s so much more awareness then when I was young. And the internet has really helped, too. You can find information and support and other trans people to talk to.

And things have moved on medically, too. These days, lots of young people have the opportunity to put female puberty on hold so they can try testosterone as soon as they turn eighteen. You obviously have to see psychotherapists and other specialists and jump through various hoops but, generally speaking, it’s much easier nowadays to start some sort of treatment before puberty hits and your periods start.

But if you are having periods and hating them because you’re transgender, just know that it won’t be forever. Keep telling yourself that. If you decide to transition, your body will move past this tricky time eventually. You just have to give it time and be patient.

As told to @LucindaEverett.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Change is good. Change is natural. Change is a part of life.

Even Taylor Swift wrote a song about change.

Fine, it’s possible she’s not singing about changing your tampon, but someone really should. Without being able to see what’s going on or feel what’s happening, it can be hard to know exactly when you need to change it.

So here are some guidelines to help you learn the ropes (or strings).

How long are we going to be hanging out for?

Generally you should change your tampon every 4-8 hours. Even if you forget everything else in this article, remember the golden rule for tampons:

THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE A TAMPON IN FOR MORE THAN EIGHT HOURS.

If you leave it in for any longer than that, you could put yourself at risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), so always keep an eye on the time.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Never leave a tampon in for more than eight hours.Your tampon should be easy to remove. If it feels dry or ‘stuck’ it probably means it hasn’t been in for long enough or you need a lower absorbency.If you go to the loo and find that the tampon string is wet with menstrual fluid, you’re definitely ready for a change. If this happens a lot, try a higher absorbency tampon

Your tampon should be easy to remove. If it feels dry or ‘stuck’ it probably means it hasn’t been in for long enough and you can wait a bit longer before removing it. If you find that you’ve had it in for eight hours and this is still happening, you might want to try a lower absorbency tampon – particularly towards the end of your period when things tend to lighten up.

However, if you go to the loo and find that the tampon string is wet with delightful menstrual fluid, you’re definitely ready for a change. If you find that this keeps happening after only having your tampon in for a few hours, you might want to try a higher absorbency tampon.

Um… why am I leaking?

There are a few reasons you might still be experiencing leakage, even with a tampon in. Your tampon may have absorbed as much fluid as it can and is unable to carry any more menstrual blood. If this is happening frequently, you might want to try a more absorbent tampon.

Another option is that you haven’t inserted your tampon quite right. The technique can be tricky to get right when you first start using tampons (and on the odd occasion later in life too, tbh) – but don’t worry, you’ll be a pro in no time. Generally, if a tampon is inserted correctly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. If you feel any discomfort, it’s possible the angles are a bit wrong, so pull it out gently and insert a new tampon. Voila!

Everyone’s vagina is a different size and shape, so it’s possible that tampons won’t be able to absorb 100% of your period. If this is the case, you might want to wear a pantyliner as well, in order to save your knickers from pesky stains.

Basically, there is one golden rule when it comes to tampons. Repeat after us:

THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE A TAMPON IN FOR MORE THAN EIGHT HOURS.

It’s like T.Swift says:

(At least three times).

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

How many times have you felt like everything in your life/body was going spectacularly wrong, only to realise the next day that it was all down to your period? Cramps and mood swings we all know about, but there’s a whole list of little, strange and sometimes surprising symptoms that can signal your period is on its merry way…

Here are 14 of the most universal signs your period is coming. All aboard the PMS Express! Destination: Tampon Town.

1. Life becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet

Sorry, are they going to finish that? Because you only had three breakfasts this morning and there’s a long 45 minutes still to go until lunch… Calorie requirements in our body actually increase before our period, so that gnawing bottomless-pit feeling in your stomach is totally normal. Although dipping crisps in Nutella is all on you.

2. Owwww

If the two or three days before your period were a series of really bad disaster movies, this one would be called Attack of the Cramps. But instead of Vin Diesel leaping through a window, on fire, it’s just two hours of you straddling a hot water bottle, rubbing your belly and whimpering.

3. Your bettybox arrives

You need tampons but you cba to go to the shop. You want choc chip brownies but you don’t want to bake them, buy them or talk to anyone while you’re eating them. You want presents, but it’s not Christmas. Jeez. If only there was a magical box that delivered all this stuff to your house so you could be the hermit chocoholic you were destined to be *ahem*.

4. Everyone is the actual worst

Everyone. Your friends, your parents, your barista, the woman in front of you on the bus. The drawing of a man on your porridge box. Everyone.

5. Everything is the actual saddest

The song you listened to on the bus. Your biscuit breaking off in your tea. An uplifting advert for a bank. All perfectly legitimate reasons to be crying like a baby in the run up to rag week, we promise.

6. There’s a party in your pants

Discharge often increases in the days leading up to your period, and tends to get… creamier in consistency. Sorry to ruin that bagel.

7. You cba

Everything is suddenly effort. You’re so knackered it’s like you just climbed a mountain when all you did was walk to the fridge. You cba so much that you cba to even write ‘can’t be arsed’ out in full.

8. You’re suddenly incredibly aware of your boobs

Oh, hey guys. How’re you doing down there? Not so great, huh? Having a little tantrum in my bra, are we? Did somebody kick you when I wasn’t looking, or…? No sure, fine, just checking. Ok ok, there’s no need to be so SENSITIVE about it.

9. All your clothes look wrong

The dress you loved last week, the trousers that normally go with everything, your very best socks – suddenly wrong, ALL WRONG. Sure, flinging your entire wardrobe around the room while you stand in your pants going, ‘arrrrgggghh I hate them all, I am an undressable monster!’ isn’t the kind of symptom you can’t exactly take to your GP – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very real side effect of Aunt Flo’s journey down your uterine highway.

10. Your chin is zit city

Just like the arrival of Starbucks red cups or the town centre lights being switched on, a giant flashing pimple (or twelve) on your face is often a surefire sign that holidays are coming. Except in this case the ‘holidays’ mean 3-7 days of vaginal bleeding. Hoorah!

11. Every paving stone is a safety hazard

You’re usually pretty good at walking around, carrying objects, lifting a sandwich to your mouth without dropping the contents all down your top… but not today, sweet cheeks! Clumsiness is a far more common period symptom than you might realise – which might be handy to explain to the person you just threw a latte over.

12. Your brain is soft cheese

What’s Pythagoras’ theorem? Where did you leave your hockey kit? Which one is your house, again? All those simmering premenstrual hormones can create a kind of brain fog, which descends like one of those mists in an old horror movie and makes it harder to concentrate on even easy tasks. So give yourself a break – you’re not stupid, you’re just resting your faculties before battle commences in your pants. You warrior, you.

13. Your belly is a balloon

Less pleasant than a food baby but less terrifying than a baby-baby, having a swollen, gassy belly for a day or two is one of the most common signals that your crimson wave is about to crash. If ever there was an excuse not to eat a kale salad, this is it.

14. Miscellaneous other weird stuff

Puffy hands? Trouble sleeping? Low pain threshold? Weird poos? All could be down to the flight of the red unicorn, my friend. PMS affects every woman in a slightly different, unique way, so if you notice strange things happening in your body around the same time every month, chances are they’re part of your own personal pick ’n’ mix of periody symptoms.

And feeling absolutely nothing weird at all? That’s fine and normal too! You lucky duck.

@laurenbravo

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

During the years that you go through puberty, your body can change a whole lot. And that means sometimes waking up and spotting something in the mirror that you’re not so sure about. Ehh, is that supposed to look/smell/feel like that?

Thanks to social media there’s a TON of pressure for you and your body to look a certain way, but there’s no such thing as perfect.

Those things that you might see on yourself as weird or gross or wrong (and maybe too personal to ask a friend about) are actually completely normal, and you have nothing to worry about.

From wonky boobs to hairy bits and everything in between, here’s a few things that you probably thought were weird about your body, that actually aren’t weird in the slightest. We’ve all got ‘em.

Different sized boobs

For a lot of girls, puberty will include your boobs growing a cup size or two (or ten). A bit of healthy groping and ogling yourself in the mirror might lead you to notice that your boobs are different sizes to one another, but it’s really not something to panic about.

The majority of women have one boob bigger than the other, they’re almost ALWAYS different and sometimes it can be a pretty substantial difference. It’s thought that NO woman on the planet has completely identical boobs.

You really don’t need to stress about that – and you’ll probably find that by the end of puberty, things have levelled out a little bit anyway.

The way your labia looks

It’s super important to familiarise yourself with your sassy new shape, and that includes getting to know the way things look y’know… down there. Unfortunately, the way society dishes out strict instructions for the way girls ‘should’ look means that a huge percentage of gals worry that things aren’t quite right in the vagina department.

Hey, it kind of makes sense that you might be worried about the way things are looking – it’s not exactly a body part that you compare with your best mates. But let’s just get this cleared up. There is NO certain way that your labia minor and majora (the inner and outer lips of your vagina) should look. They come in ALL shapes, sizes, lengths and colours, and they’re all perfectly normal.

Plus, in the same way that it’s totally normal to have different-sized boobs, it’s the same with your labia. The only time you ever need to flag it is if it’s feeling irritated or painful down there.

A bit of B.O.

One of the less cute parts of puberty is the fact that err… well, it can make you a bit smelly sometimes. Androgens, the hormones that cause acne, are also responsible for body odour, so if you’re starting to see some typical changes going on then you can expect your smell to change, too.

It’s COMPLETELY normal to sweat and smell (the human body just needs to do it), and you can tackle any body odour by showering daily and following up with some deodorant. You could even chuck one in your bag to reapply throughout the day at school if you find that one spritz isn’t quite enough.

Ingrown hairs

Puberty can be a hella hairy experience. You might start growing the stuff on your legs, under your arms, on your top lip, around your pubic area… Basically you name a body part and it’s normal to grow hair there.

But if you decide to remove any of it by plucking/shaving/waxing, you’re probably also gonna have to tackle the never-ending curse of ingrown hairs. Spotted some little red bumps popping up? That’ll be where the hairs have grown back and curled round underneath the skin, causing irritation rather than growing through the pore.

Don’t stress about them – almost everyone will have to tackle ingrown hairs and they’re super common. You can minimise the appearance however by using a sharp, clean razor, or going for professional waxes. Try to leave them alone to disappear by themselves, or exfoliate and apply tea tree to reduce any irritation.

A moustache

HAIR AGAIN – this time on your lovely face. Tons of girls will find that more facial hair starts to appear through puberty, and the darker your natural hair colour, the more easily you might be able to spot it. It could appear as sideburns near your ears, along your chin or maybe as a kind of moustache.

Nothing to worry about obvs, and it’s totally up to you whether you want to do anything about removing it, but if it’s something that makes you feel self conscious, there’s loads of options. Waxing, threading or plucking are your best bet.

But as a quick side note, if the hair seems to be particularly thick, coarse or densely growing, mention it to your doctor to make sure there are no hormone imbalances.

Hairy nipples

We did warn you earlier that hair can sprout pretty much anywhere as you start growing up and yup, that includes your nips. Females are conditioned to see body hair as a bad thing that needs to stop ASAP,  it really couldn’t be more normal. Some girls will have more than others, but getting a few hairs around your nipples is actually pretty common.

It’s best to avoid shaving the area because the skin is super delicate and easily nicked. Very carefully trimming or tweezing is probably your best bet.

While it’s completely normal to spot a bit of hair appearing on your boobs, it might be worth chatting to your doctor if it’s any more than that – it’s sometimes a sign of a hormone imbalance that might need some more attention.

Bacne

Urgh, agh and double ergh. Why body, WHY? As if a spot or two on the face wasn’t enough to contend with, it’s also unfortunately as normal as it gets to be blessed with bacne, chest-ne, neck-ne… Anywhere that you have sebaceous glands, you can get spots, and luckily for all of us, humans have sebaceous glands everywhere but the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. OH GOOD.

Aside from your face, your back and your chest are actually the most common places for spots to pop up because the pores are bigger and deeper. So definitely don’t feel like a weirdo if you’re finding that the bacne struggle is real – just head over HERE (link) and check out all of the golden advice we’ve got to offer about tackling it.

Discharge

Spotted some white-ish, clear-ish discharge sitting in your knickers at the end of the day? Don’t freak out and don’t stuff all your undies at the bottom of the bin in horror. Again, TOTALLY normal, and just a sign of increasing oestrogen levels in your body.

It’ll normally start appearing about six to twelve months before your first period, and will probably keep showing itself after that. The amount of discharge and the way it looks will change depending on the point in your menstrual cycle.

The only time you need to take any notice of it is if you notice that it’s turned more of a greenish colour, picked up a bad smell, or comes with any itching, pain or rashes. You’ll need to tell your doctor about any of these signs.

See? Nothing to worry about. We’re all in this weird, slightly gross, super awkward stuff together.

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When you get through to the other side of puberty it’d be fair to assume that, in exchange for years of awkward moments and baffling body transformations, you could count on a peaceful future free from all the truly horrible side effects that have cursed your teens.

Unfortunately, these completely reasonable expectations are soon to be crumbling around you when you realise that um, not a whole lot changes after puberty tbh.

Hate to break it to you, but here are 12 problems that probably ain’t going anywhere. Oh man, LIFE IS SO CRUEL.

1. Spots

Had daydreams of silky smooth, blemish free skin to sail flawlessly into adulthood with? Unfortunately there’s this wonderful invention called adult acne, and it has the potential to creep up on you when you least expect it. Even Zoella’s admitted that she wasn’t struck by spots until she turned 25.

Pimples are never just a foggy memory from the past, they’ll always be around to ruin every social occasion where photos are guaranteed be taken. Soz.

2. Body hair

Puberty turns you into much more of a hairy beast than you were to begin with. You can expect to grow the stuff anywhere and everywhere, but mostly under your arms, on your legs and around your bikini line.

You’ll probably be suuuper pleased to hear that the fluffy stuff ain’t going anywhere, and as a grown up it’s up to you to decide whether you wanna go au naturale, or embark on a life of effort, removing it every few days to feel like a slippery dolphin.

3. Mood swings

Raging anger, inexplicable sadness and festering bad moods are going nowhere fast, unforch. Some days you’ll be up, some days you’ll be down, some days the sound of someone chewing their sandwich too loudly will make you want to chuck them out the window.

And when you’re an adult, you can’t even throw a tantrum about it. Luckily, you’ll probably still have friends to complain to and a bedroom door to slam, which always makes things better.

4. Being confused by your body

During the puberty years you can wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see that your body has changed even in the time since you went to bed the night before. There’s boobs growing, hairs sprouting, hips appearing and who knows what else happening.

Sure, your body shape might settle down a little bit but it’s still something that’s forever changing constantly. That’s why it’s important to make sure you learn to completely love it, whatever it looks like.

5. Period cramps

Hate to break it to you but losing your uterus lining every few weeks doesn’t improve much or get any easier with age. You’re stuck with that bad boy for quite some time.

The only minor plus to your period as you get older is that you start to come up with a few genius tricks for handling the cramps like a pro – and you’ll develop a very impressive collection of granny knickers to wear for the occasion.

6. Feeling awkward af

Oh gahd, why did I decide it was a good idea to try a new hairstyle today? I cannot pull this off. Why did I sit next to that group of girls who all look much, much cooler than I do? I bet they’re all talking about me. What do I do with my arms when I walk?

Are these the thoughts of a 13 year old girl, or the thoughts of the 26 year old woman writing this very article, proving that social awkwardness sticks around forever? Hmm, you decide (it’s me).

7. Boob ache

You might have once been pretty happy to imagine the possibility that, once your hormones have levelled out a bit, the times of waking up to boobs made of over-sensitive, tender bricks were long gone.

Nope, you can expect the magic of boob ache to turn up as an unwelcome monthly visitor along with your 50 years of future periods. So yeah, look forward to that one.

8. Getting sweaty

Sweating is just one more elegant, graceful, Disney Princess-esque part of puberty. When your body starts to change as a teenager, roughly 3 million sweat glands become more active, resulting in some very sweaty moments and the occasional bit of B.O.

But yep, you guessed it – the sweat patches are still totally real when you hit adulthood. Stock up on a good deodorant and you’ll be able to handle this one (most of the time).

9. Friendship drama

Thought the Mean Girls-inspired drama was over once you’d left school? Everyone grown up enough to handle things in a mature, adult way? Yeah, that would be pretty great.

Sorry, but we can confirm that everyone around you will still have absolutely no chill no matter what age you and your squad stick together until. Expect the same levels of drama even when you’re old and wrinkly.

 

10. Heartbreak

They say that your first brutal experience of genuine heartbreak is always the hardest and that’s definitely true – but it definitely doesn’t get any easier as you get older.

Your teen years are filled with the never-ending joy of having your heart turned into turkey mince by someone who doesn’t deserve you, and post-puberty will probably be exactly the same. Luckily, you’ll move on from each and every one one of ‘em and soon wonder what you saw in them anyway.

11. Fashion mistakes

It might be because Instagram makes some weird and wonderful trends seem like a REALLY good idea these days, or it might just be because you’ve been blessed with the fashion sense of a confused elephant, but every era of your wardrobe is destined to leave you wondering what on EARTH you were thinking.

Just look at the old, retro photos of your grandma, your mum and your older sisters. Fashion trends might come and go, but the proof that you wore it all will unfortunately last forever.

12. Getting stressed

That erratic anxiety is sticking with you no matter what, but post-puberty just turns it into worrying about looming debts, mortgages and whether you’ve got any milk to have a cup of tea. Just consider stress to be your life long, super fun BFF.

Yeah, in conclusion adulthood is basically even worse than you were expecting. So that’s good.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

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.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Although it can affect both girls and boys of any age, scoliosis is usually diagnosed around the time of puberty and is much more common in girls. It’s not rare, but despite this it might not be on your radar. How much do you actually know about the condition, huh?

Well first off, scoliosis isn’t a disease or something that can be caught. It’s when the spine curves into an “s”, “c” or “?” shape, rather than growing straight.

And there are a few different types of scoliosis. It can be there at birth, a curve can appear in young children at anytime between the ages of 0-10, or the growth spurt around the age of puberty can cause what’s called “adolescent idiopathic scoliosis” (AIS). The word “idiopathic” means there is no specific reason why this happens.

Other types of scoliosis can occur because of a condition like cerebral palsy, spina bifida and Scheuermann’s kyphosis.

So, what are the symptoms of scoliosis?

There are a few telltale signs of scoliosis. These include one shoulder blade sitting higher than the other, or sticking out more than the other, uneven hips, a rotating or twisted spine, clothes not fitting well, back pain and sometimes problems with breathing.

Is it common?

Yes actually, it’s waaay more common than you’d think. In fact there are plenty of celebs that have spoken out about their experience of scoliosis with the aim of throwing a spotlight on this condition and raising awareness. Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 12, Descendants and The Fault In Our Stars actress Shailene Woodley wore a back brace for two years to treat her scoliosis, and Victoria’s Secret model Martha Hunt uses her fame to talk openly about life with the condition, in a bid to help other girls.

The most surprising scoliosis sufferer though is the fastest man in the world – Usain Bolt. He’s certainly not let the scoliosis slow him down and has spoken out about the importance of exercising to develop a strong back and core when you have the condition. He said in an interview, “When I was younger it wasn’t really a problem. But you grow and it gets worse. My spine’s really curved bad but if I keep my core and back strong, the scoliosis doesn’t really bother me. So I don’t have to worry about it as long as I work hard.”

How is it diagnosed?

The Scoliosis Association (UK) say that along with recognising the above symptoms, your doctor might do the forward bend test if they think you have scoliosis. This is where you bend forward from the waist, keeping your legs and arms straight and the doctor takes a good look at the back and shoulder area from behind. If scoliosis is present, a clear bulge on one side of the back where the ribs are will be visible.

How is it treated?

If your doctor spots scoliosis, they’ll refer you to a scoliosis specialist for treatment. An X-ray will determine if the curve has developed for no reason or if there are other problems with the small bones that make up the spine.

The types of treatment offered can differ from teenager to teenager, depending on the severity of condition so far. A “watch and wait” approach might be taken, with close monitoring every six months to check the curve isn’t getting worse, or a brace might be used to correct the curve over time while the body is still growing. With this option a lightweight, plastic brace will be fitted to the body to be worn either full-time, or a specified amount of hours during the day.

If the condition develops quickly, surgery might be recommended to correct the curve. Surgery for AIS is called spinal fusion. The Scoliosis Association explains that, “spinal fusion uses metal implants (screws, wires, and/or hooks) that are attached to the vertebrae in your spine and then connected to a single rod or to two rods. During the operation bone graft is placed over the implants. These implants and rods are used to hold the spine in place until it can fuse itself. Over a period of about 12 months, this bone graft grows together with the existing bone in your spine and forms a solid column of bone in that area.” It sounds scary, but it’s a common operation and once recovered, you’re able to return to sport and activities as usual.

Where can I find out more about scoliosis?

The Scoliosis Association has tons of useful information on the condition. They can also offer support if you’ve just been diagnosed and put you in touch with other people in a similar situation to you.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Legally, if someone has given consent then it means that they agreed to do something by choice and that they had the freedom or the capacity to make that choice. For someone to give consent they have to be able to say “yes!” but it’s just as important that they are able to say “no”.

So, what does it all mean?

Usually people talk about consent when they’re talking about sex, but it actually applies to a lot of things – kissing, cuddling, touching, sharing or storing sexy photos and videos, the whole lot. Not everything, though. The law doesn’t care if you don’t consent to doing your homework or tidying your room. 

Right, that’s easy. It’s all about choice. Got it. I’m going to go back to watc…

Not so fast. It might seem simple, but in practice it can be a bit more complicated. For example, someone might say “yes” to doing something because they’re too scared of what will happen if they say “no” – it could be argued that they chose to say yes, but if they felt like they didn’t have a choice then it’s not really consent.

There are also complications when you add in things like alcohol and drugs. If someone is too drunk or stoned to be classed as being in their right mind, then they’re not in the position to make big decisions and so they can’t consent. There’s obviously a difference from being a little bit giggly (like Auntie Sheila on the sherry at Christmas) and being so drunk you’re unable to give consent, but knowing where that line is can be tricky. 

I know. Complicated, right? They never had to worry about stuff like this on Friends.

So what if consent isn’t there? 

If any of the things mentioned – kissing, cuddling, touching, sharing or storing sexy photos and videos and actually having sex – happen without the full and joyful consent of both parties, then it’s defined by the law as sexual assault or rape.

To protect yourself and the people you’re crushing on, it’s really important to make sure that before you do any of this you make sure that you, and everyone involved, have full consent. 

How do I know if I’ve got consent?

Well, the best way is to just ask! Knowing that you have and giving consent is all about communication. Start with non-verbal communication, i.e. body language – is the person interested and going along with what you’re doing, or are they freezing up and pushing you away. But then body language can only take you so far, so ask questions like “Is this ok?” and “Do you like this?”.

And if it seems too embarrassing to ask a potential pash things like this? Sorry to get lecturey on you, but if you’re not comfortable enough to talk to someone about snogging then you probably shouldn’t be snogging them. 

So, when do I know if I have consent? If we’re in a relationship?

Even if you’re in a relationship, you/they don’t automatically have consent. Even if you’ve been dating someone for ten years, you don’t automatically get consent! And you’re are able to withdraw it at any time. Even mid-snog, if you want to. 

What about if they said ‘no’ initially, but I kept asking and then they said ‘yes’?

Nope. Think back to what we said earlier – feeling able to say “no” is just as important as saying “yes”. If someone has pressured you into saying yes, then you’re not really consenting of your own free will, are you?

Also, er, no one should do this. It’s not the basis for a healthy relationship and is generally not cool. Not cool at all.

When else do I not have automatic consent?

When someone is unconscious or asleep, even if they gave consent beforehand. When someone is being super super flirty – they may well give you consent, but flirting doesn’t guarantee it. Nor does revealing clothing, the fact you’re already kissing, the fact someone said “yes” initially but then changed their mind, or the fact that haven’t explicitly said “no”. A good rule of thumb is that if either party doesn’t seem into it, you should just stop. 

And don’t forget, if you’re under 16 you can’t consent even if you’re awake, happy and in your right mind – because the law considers you too young. Soz. 

So when do I or they have consent?

When you’re both in your right minds, both comfortable with each other, both saying “yes” to whatever you’re doing, both eager and happy to do it and would both feel safe to say “no” and ask the other person to stop at any time. 

We know it sounds complicated, but it’s really not scary and the best thing about it is that the same rules protect you too. It’s really important to remember that you don’t have to do anything that you’re not 100% happy and comfortable doing.

What should I do if I think I’ve had situations where I didn’t give my consent?

Firstly, whatever happened, it’s not your fault. Secondly, talk to someone. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to an adult, teacher or parent, you could always try a friend. If you don’t even feel comfortable talking about it with a friend yet, you can always talk to Childline for free confidential advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 


Are you feeling a little clumsier than usual? Finding yourself tripping over cracks in the pavement, doormats, your own stupid feet? Don’t worry, you haven’t just woken up one day with the coordination of a baby deer. It’s probably just because you’ve grown a few inches instead.

During adolescence, girls can grow at a rate of up to 8cm per year. That’s the length of an iPhone 6. Or a £20 note. Or Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix stacked on top of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Am I going to be a towering giantess?

It’s hard to say definitively how tall you’ll grow to be, but your height is largely decided by your parents. Your parents’ heights, that is – they didn’t get to fill out a request form. If you have tall parents, you might want to take up basketball. If your parents are on the shorter side, a glowing career as a gymnast or jockey might await you. Or not. Point is, there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ height – they all have their pros and cons.

If you’re on the smaller size of things, you will always have more legroom on planes, you will never hit your head on doorframes and you can shop in Topshop’s Petite section. If you’re on the taller side of things, you will always be able to reach the top shelf in the supermarket, you might be effortlessly good at the high jump in PE, and you can shop in Topshop’s Tall section. And medium height? Well, Topshop might sell out of 32″ jeans quicker, but at least you’ll never have to grit your teeth while aunties comment on your remarkable stature over Sunday dinner.

How does it work?

Your hands and feet are the first things to grow, so next time you feel your shoes pinching, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re going to have a growth spurt in the not-too-distant future.

Next come your arms and legs, and then your spine. Finally, your hips and pelvis widen, making you less likely to blow over in the wind.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Your height is closely linked to your parents' heights. But tall, short and everything in between is beautiful – so embrace it.
  • Often during your teenage years, growth spurts happen so quickly that your brain struggles to keep up. Hence the tripping over.
  • Growth spurts are often triggered during puberty as the levels of testosterone rise in both boys and girls.
  • Girls generally grow their fastest at 12-13 and tend to finish growing around 18, while boys grow their fastest between 14 and 15 and finish growing around 20.

Often during your teenage years growth spurts happen so quickly that your brain struggles to keep up. Hence the tripping. Your centre of gravity is changing so rapidly that your brain is having to calculate new rules for balancing, like, all the time.

Some people also experience growing pains, which can feel like an intense, cramp-like pain in your legs. Like owls, witches and vampires they generally only come out at night, and will have disappeared by the morning.  

Why now?

Growth spurts are often triggered during puberty as levels of the hormone testosterone rise in both boys and girls. This chemical also causes sexual organs (willies, vaginas, those guys) to develop, which is why these two things often happen at once. It’s kinda like a biological version of synchronised swimming. But not really.

When will it stop?

Girls generally grow at their fastest rate at 12-13 and tend to finish growing around 18. On average, boys grow their fastest between 14 and 15 and finish growing around 20.

So hold onto your hats ladies, we’ve got some growin’ (and tripping over inanimate objects) to do! But whatever height you end up, work it. Every inch of you is A++. 

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome.