Blood Moon: We don’t want a heat pillow. We need sex!

 

“Bleeding is normal. We women are normal. Blood is who and what we are. Love a woman, then you must learn to love the bleeding too.”

Women bleed.

It sucks. You can dress it up however you like, and call it our “special sacred time”, and do ritual, and preach on about what a gift our bodies are.

But for me, and for many others, bleeding sucks.

I hate the way our periods are something shameful that we don’t talk about, and I hate the way I feel so godamn awful – sick and bloated and crampy.

Now I’m getting older, I also hate the way my cycle is becoming increasingly unpredictable. At present, my current thing seems to be that I bleed for a morning, then nothing for a few days, then it’s full on heavy heavy let’s turn the bathroom into a scene from “Criminal Minds” time for more than a week.

It’s tiring, it’s stressful, and I’m forever struggling to keep my iron levels up with copious amounts of vitamins and floradix. My doctor, to add insult to injury, has the indecency to call my cycle “normal…for a woman of my age.”

The worst thing of all, though, is the impact it’s having on my sex life. And how men just don’t understand.

Goddess_Venus____by_Villenueve

Yes, I’ve got a partner who thoughtfully gets me heat pillows for my aching back. He’ll even give me back rubs, when I ask for them. But sex during this thing that is rapidly turning into half my life?

No. Never.

I shouldn’t complain. I’ve been raised to never complain of course, because I’m female and god forbid we should ever complain about the lack of satisfaction in our relationships. We don’t complain: we just let it get worse, until we leave.

The rejection was even worse with my previous partner. I remember once when I bled on the sheets at night. He was horrified when he saw it: It was like I’d committed the most heinous crime. He wasn’t content until the sheets had been sterilised and I’d been given a top to toe shower. At 3 am in the morning.

Even then, when I returned to bed (feeling pretty bloody awful) he looked at me sideways. He didn’t want to touch me. He rolled over to the other side of the bed, as far away from me as he could get.

Hug me? Hell no. I was on my own.

That was probably the beginning of the end of our relationship: when I realised that my body and its normal functioning was abhorrent to him.

My current partner, as I said, is a bit better. A bit. He even went down on me – once – when I was bleeding. I was amazed by that.

But now that I seem to be bleeding more days than not, the sex is dwindling, and once again, I feel like a monster. An untouchable monster.

A female untouchable. Just like it’s always been.

What I want to say here, amongst all these reminiscences and all this very personal pain, is that bleeding is normal. We women are normal. Blood is who and what we are. Love a woman, then you must learn to love the bleeding too.

Our bodies are messy and wonderful and painful and we hurt. We feel pain and we suffer through this Goddess-given mess that is our femininity. It’s horrible, and lonely, and it is at this time of the month, above all other times, that we need to be told by those that profess to love us that we are beautiful.

It is at this time of the month, when we’re bleeding, that we need to know that we’re desirable, and sexy, and wanted. Because it’s at this point that we feel vulnerable, and weak, and sore, and in need of love and support.

Yet so often it is when we bleed that our men turn away. This is the time that we need them most, only to find they’re not there.

We don’t need a heat pillow. We need sex.

Men wax lyrical about our loveliness, but we need to know we’re desirable when we feel our ugliest. We need to know we’re wanted right at that point that society has deemed us most undesirable and untouchable.

This is something that I don’t think men, as a whole, will ever quite understand. But we women understand it very, very well.

When my partner gives me a heat pillow but refuses sex with me, he’s saying a lot about what he thinks of my body. He might not realise it, but he’s saying that I’m acceptable to him only when I’m neat and tidy in masculine, not feminine, terms.

He’s saying that he loves me only when he can have neat, porn-quality sex with me. But when I have my period, I’m dirty and unwanted and so it’s out with the heat pillow and on with his right hand instead.

I’ve told him I don’t feel like sex the first day I bleed heavily. And I don’t, mainly because it’s crime-scene central (I bleed really heavily). It’s so bad I don’t think he’d cope, and I wouldn’t enjoy it as a result.

But the rest of my period I get very horny. Yet by taking what I say about my first day and applying it to the rest of my bleed as an excuse not to have sex with me, he’s telling me that I’m not desirable when I bleed. At all. And that affects how I feel about our relationship the rest of the time, whether he realises it or not.

I don’t know what my body will do as I move into menopause. But it’s common for women at my age to bleed more days than not. Does this mean that I’ll be relegated to a “cuddle-only” partner?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: women bleed. That is what we are, what we do, what we will always do. Bleeding is the definition of what women are: it is our experience of life.

I just wish that experience could be a better one.

Lunar_eclipse_April_15_2014_Minneapolis_Tomruen2

When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

Strong-Woman-quote.-4jpg-300x300

Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

The hardest person in the world to love

I remember the first time I met J. I’ll call her J instead of her real first name, just in case by chance she is out there somehwre, reading this.

I couldn’t see any beauty in her at all. Short, dumpy and blonde, with a chin so minimal as to be non-existent, watery blue eyes, freckles. Nothing exciting.

We sat next to each other in our lecture, and as we were both new to Uni and didn’t know anyone, we started talking. She was so friendly and interesting. She was cool.

J told me about her plans (to be a pediatrician) and her background (a family of farmers with no education at all). Over the next few lectures I learned how proud her parents were that she was here at Uni, the first of her family. And I learned how she’d topped her school in, well, just about everything.

As time went on, I started to see J differently. I saw the character in her face, and the warmth and intelligence in her eyes, and the humour – and wickedness! – in her smile.

Over time, everything that had once been ordinary in my eyes disappeared.

She was beautiful. I couldn’t see her as anything other than beautiful.

The eye beholds…

Our eyes see what we want to see.

Once I began to know J, I saw everything that makes up the unique person that she is. I stopped seeing everything our society judges and criticises in women. Because she brought positive experiences into my life, everything I saw in her was positive.

I forgot how plain I’d thought her when we first met. Even now I can vaguely remember, but not well.

So it surprised me a couple of years ago when she confessed that she’d always struggled with the way she looks. She had difficulty accepting compliments. She found it hard to accept that a man could be attracted to her for anything other than short term sex. She – like me, and practically every other woman I know – compared herself to the images we see everywhere online and on TV and in the media, and she found herself lacking.

She thought her body freakish. And ugly. And bad. Anything but beautiful.

Mirror, mirror…

I’ve always found it odd that our friends and lovers can see the beauty in us that we cannot see in ourselves. They see us, as we are – all the good and bad. They see the whole human being, and they love the things that make us what we are, even if we don’t fit stereotypical beauty.

Like J, I find it hard to accept anyone could find me beautiful. Being dedicated to Aphrodite helps, because She is a Goddess who helps the beauty and power of all women shine forth. But it’s still hard.

Aphrodite empowers us.
Aphrodite empowers us.

I’m over 40, and all I see in the magazines is 20-somethings or very very airbrushed celebrities if they’re older than that. I see nothing that can make myself feel normal, feel beautiful by comparison. So I don’t look.

But it’s still there, that insecurity. It’s not just women, either. I told my boyfriend that he was beautiful the other day. He is. Yet he shrugged the words off awkwardly, disbelievingly. I think he thought I was saying so to make him feel good.

The thought that I could be saying the truth – impossible! How could he be beautiful! He’s not tall, dark and handsome. He’s actually kind of chubby and gingery and pale. But I happen to find him beautiful, because I see the person inside. I like what I see when I look at him.

Painful reflections

When I look in the mirror, all I see is flaws. I see the wrinkles around my eyes, and is that another grey hair? I see the lack of skinnyness, despite my hours and hours in the gym and watching what I eat. I see a very ordinary woman staring back at me. Nothing special. Tall, gangly, blue eyes, brown hair (going grey)…I’m no Scarlett Johannsen.

So many of us find ourselves the hardest person to love. We’re told we’re supposed to look like this or that, and of course we fail. Even the celebrities, chosen for their genetics, need to be airbrushed before they are perfect enough to be consumed by the masses. What chance does an ordinary human have?

Gwen Stefani is beautiful...but not beautiful enough, apparently :(
Gwen Stefani is beautiful…but not beautiful enough, apparently 😦

Maybe we need to look in the mirror less, and listen more. Maybe we should listen to those who see us, know us, love us, instead of comparing ourselves with a perfection that doesn’t exist.

Not only do real women – and men – come in all shapes and sizes, but different people find those different shapes and sizes attractive too. Brad Pitt is meant to be the most handsome man on the planet, but he does nothing for me. Everyone’s tastes are different.

I can *see* that he's handsome, but he does absolutely nothing for me. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
I can *see* that he’s handsome, but he does absolutely nothing for me. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Maybe when someone tells you they think you are beautiful, they’re telling the truth. They’re not saying that you look like Scarlett Johanssen or Angelina Jolie. They’re saying you are beautiful as yourself. Not even Scarlett or Angelina can manage to look like you.

Maybe the mirror lies. Maybe it’s a story-teller, weaving pretenses of what we think we should be, when we’re actually okay just as we are. Maybe the mirror is cruel, and untruthful.

mirror

And maybe we’re not hard to love after all.

Tell her she’s okay

I just read a post online. By a 24 year old girl. Her post was a manifesto of self-loathing.

She was talking matter-of-factly about how she’s a bit overweight, and she has extra tummy fat, and she doesn’t have a “thigh gap” and never did even at her leanest.

I felt like I wanted to cry reading her words.

Because I remember being age 13 and having a BMI of just over 20 (which is on the light end of things, and well within the normal, healthy range), and feeling fat. My father used to call me “buffalo butt” and laugh at me, so the dieting began.

I haven’t had a normal relationship with food ever since.

I remember my mother asking me “should you be having that?” when I wanted to have dessert along with my brother and dad, and I remember being hungry a lot of the time, but wanting to lose weight so badly. Because I didn’t look like the girls in the magazines. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much weight I lost, I still didn’t look like the girls in the magazines.

Ever since then, I’ve never been able to eat a meal without guilt – without either “watching it” or, if I ate normally, then compensating the next day for actually eating my fill. It wasn’t long after I turned 13 that I started binging on chocolate and chips, and being unable to control my portions in some types of food.

I’d restrict my eating for days at a time, then have a blowout and break the reins a few days later. I couldn’t hold it in, and I thought something was wrong with me, because I wasn’t strict enough with myself. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t good enough at denying myself the good things in life. I was a bad person. I was a failure at being a woman, because successful woman were thin, and you couldn’t be pretty and attractive if you weren’t thin.

When I talk to my friends about this, now we’re all grown women, I find that my experiences are really, really common. In fact, none of my friends seem to have what I would call a “normal” relationship with food. We see foods as “good” and “bad” – we associate eating with guilt and denial. We starve ourselves way too often, only to binge when we break the unattainable rules and goals we set ourselves later on. We all feel like failures, and we all hate our bodies.

When I think back on everything I’ve been through, and how disordered my relationship with food and my own body is, I can’t help thinking that we have severely damaged our femininity and sense of self with all of this. I don’t know why my dad thought it was appropriate to call his 13 year old daughter abusive names. Maybe he thought it was funny. Maybe he thought it would encourage me to diet and get skinny. But it stuck, and made me hate myself instead.

I looked at my body, and everything I saw was ugly. If my own father saw me as horrible and not worthy of love, what chance was there that any other man could ever find me appealing? Obviously I was truly horrible.

The truth, looking back on it, was I was a normal teenager. I wasn’t fat: I was lean and gangly, all arms and legs. I wasn’t hideous, although I felt that way.

But even if I had been fat, that’s exactly the time in my life that I would have needed support from my family, not words of abuse. I needed their love and acceptance when I couldn’t find it inside myself. Maybe I’d have felt different about myself my whole life if they’d treated me differently, and taught me a different relationship with food.

I don’t know, and it’s too late now.

But I’m a mother with a daughter of my own now. I have the power to change things. For her, there are no good foods or bad foods: there is just food. We don’t restrict food, and if she is hungry she can eat. We never force her to clear her plate. I tell her she is beautiful. And we believe it, all of us. She is beautiful. She’s amazing.

Getting back to the girl who posted, the 24 year old whose article I read, no wonder she hates her body. All she sees are photoshopped pictures of women who who are so manipulated by photoshop that they can’t physiologically exist.

This woman can't physiologically exist. Yay for photoshop!
This woman can’t physiologically exist. Yay for photoshop!

She sees images of models who are so skinny they literally risk death. Women who all fit just one mould, one shape, one age, one size. The women who she sees are so similar it’s hard to tell them apart. They’ve ceased to look real, and photoshop takes away any remaining humanity.

I don’t know the girl who posted in real life but I say she is beautiful. She is okay. We’re all okay. I’ve had enough of the one-size-alone-is-acceptable rubbish. I want moulds of a million different colours and shapes and heights and builds and musculatures. I want variety. I want to see role models for all of us. I want our young women to know that whether they’re a size zero or a size sixty, they’re okay.

If I could go back in time and talk to my 13 year old self, I would teach her so much. But most of all, I would tell her that she is beautiful, exactly as she is. She doesn’t have to look like a model to be beautiful. She just has to look like herself. And I’d tell her father to shut the fuck up. He has no right to call her names. No one has any right to call anyone names.

I never intended this to be a rant, but maybe we need more rants. There are too many women hurting here. Too many women who can’t eat a meal without feeling that they’ll need to diet the next day. Too many women who don’t want to look in the mirror because they hate what they see.

It all starts when we’re so young, and if we’re going to change our world, we need to start with our girls. Support them. Nurture them. Love them.

Tell them they’re beautiful. Tell them they’re okay.

They're all okay. Exactly as they are.
They’re all okay. Exactly as they are.

Being the object…

I remember the first few experiences that made me uncomfortable with being a woman.

They weren’t even anything to do with my body. Some women cite their first period (which was definitely embarrassing), or going bra shopping the first time (yes, definitely awkward!).

But for me, what made me uncomfortable was the realisation, for the first time, that the world wasn’t built for me. It was, instead, built for men. My place, as a woman, was to be the object.

“Out of bounds”

I must have been eleven or twelve when I garnered the attention of a local workman near the building I lived in, in Hong Kong. I was so naive, and I thought of him as my “friend”. I used to go down to the carparks in the basement below, and rollerskate there, and I’d often see him, working on construction.

He’d come on over, and despite his limited English and my even more limited Cantonese, we’d chat and he’d hold my hand while I skated. I never thought anything of it, until one day he started pressuring me for a kiss.

And then I got away as fast as I could, ashamed and guilty – although I’d done nothing wrong, and very red-faced, even though I’d said no and nothing had happened. But from then on I didn’t skate in the carparks any more. I got the feeling that they were an “out of bounds” place for me.

Avoidance strategies

That wasn’t the only “out of bounds” area. Not long after, I started avoiding a street I’d walk down to go to school, because of the catcalls from more building workers. They made me feel uncomfortable and helpless – powerless. I don’t know what their goal was in whistling to a pre-teen, but its effect was my discomfort.

I took a longer, different way to school from then on. My brother once asked me why, but I felt too awkward to tell him. Once again, I felt like I’d done something wrong, and like if I told him, I’d be admitting some type of weakness or defeat in myself for not having the strength to ignore the hecklers.

But I was only a kid.

You get 10%, they get 90%

There were countless other instances like this. When I moved back to school in Australia, I made the faux pas of going out on to the oval to play, and was immediately held in contempt by my new friends when I returned at lunch.

“We don’t play there,” I remember Kathryn telling me. “That’s for the guys. Girls stay on the asphalt. But only in the courtyards, and not near the transportables.”

I didn’t ask why the girls only played in about 10% of the school property, while the boys could go wherever they wanted. We had 10%, they had 90%. I was a young teenager, and you just didn’t ask questions like that: it was social suicide to do so, and even more suicidal to try to violate the unwritten rules.

Conform or die

My mother never got a straight answer when, on my second day at my new school in Australia, I took her dressmaking scissors to my yellow checked school uniform and hacked a full foot and half off the length of its skirt.

“What have you done that for!” she demanded in anger.

“It’s how we wear them,” I said snarkily, parading around in the dress whose skirt now barely covered my ass cheeks. “All the girls wear them like this. Nobody wears them long!”

And I was telling her the truth. But I never asked myself why.

I didn’t ask why. None of the girls did. We just wore our skirts as short as we could, and the shorter the better. Mum didn’t push it. Maybe she knew the unspoken reason better than I did.

Hypocrites and liars

All through my school years I used to sit with my friends and discuss boys and the soaps on TV, neither of which I was particularly interested in. But I had to keep the show up, and if I hadn’t at least pretended to be interested in the conversation, I’d have had no friends at all.

Everyone was talking about who had done what with whom. I hadn’t done anything – I’d kissed a few guys but that was it, but I lied and told outrageous stories of my sexploits with the best of them.

I don’t think anyone believed me but then, I didn’t really believe any of the stories my friends told me either. It was a bizarre competition of lies and one-upmanship, where the best bragging won the day. But at the same time, while we were sharing all our outrageous fabrications, we were slagging off the real “sluts” of the school who everyone just knew were really truly sexually active.

Because they were trash.

In other words, we were hypocrites and liars, and jealous ones at that, who hated the girls who were maybe actually doing what we secretly longed to do. Or longed to do, but were scared of doing. Or maybe were thinking about doing but weren’t ready for just yet.

Diets and magazines

Society makes objects of all women, and it certainly objectified me. I remember starting my first diet when I was in my early teens, even though I was underweight. My best friend ended up in hospital with bulimia – she got down to 27 kgs (59 pounds) and nearly died.

We were obsessed with looking like the girls in magazines, and distressed that we looked…well, like ourselves. Like normal young women.

Looking back, it wasn’t my body I was uncomfortable with, it was the objectifcation that came with being a woman. Being told I had to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way.

When you don’t fit

I didn’t fit the stereotype of small, delicate, weak, meek, quiet, gentle. No matter what I did or how I tried, I was big, tall, strong, powerful, intelligent, geeky, sporty, awkward…and the objectification that came with being a woman made me even more acutely aware that I didn’t fit the gender role I was supposed to submit to.

What it’s really about

I’m grown up now, and these things don’t affect me as much as they used to. But I still cringe when I get wolf-whistles – because that small, awkward girl inside of me remembers. They’re not a compliment. They never were a compliment.

They’re about control. And power.

And there are places in the city where I feel uncomfortable and unsafe, despite being nearly six feet tall and a weightlifter and probably well strong enough to defend myself. This is an experience common to all women – from the moment we learned that we can’t play on the playground any more, because “that’s where the boys play”, we’ve never felt like our world was our own any more.

An experience commonly shared…being the object. That’s what learning to be a woman is all about. That’s why strong girls grow up into awkward women, and take decades sometimes to reover themselves. Our society is cruel.

But I can’t help wondering, would I be a different person if I’d stood my ground, walked on past the hecklers, kept skating in the carpark despite the threat? And maybe we can teach our daughter to be strong too.

Just my thoughts. Because nobody should be forced to be an object.

Natural beauty and unnatural poisons…

I had a bad allergic reaction to some hair conditioner a couple of weeks ago.

beauty

At first I couldn’t figure out the problem. My eyes flared up, and I thought I had a mild case of conjunctivitis. Then I noticed my scalp getting itchy,and some bad rashes all down my back and over my body.

I tracked it down, over a matter of days and a lot of detective work, to a new hair conditioner I was using. The moment I stopped with the product I immediately felt better, and now things are returning to normal.

When I mentioned this on Facebook, and the fact that the reaction had been so bad that, at its worst, I’d looked like someone had poured acid on my skin, I was amazed at the number of my friends who piped up about similar reactions they’d had to various cosmetics. Not always as severe, but severe enough to cause discomfort and, in some cases, pain.

Have you ever had a bad reaction to a cosmetic?

Natural versus synthetic

It’s not just “natural” versus “synthetic” either. Some of the worst offending products have entirely natural ingredients in them. Common allergens include:

– lavender (a potent cytotoxin that causes skin cell death and should NEVER be used in any well-formulated cosmetic!),
– lemon oil (ever got lemon in a cut when cooking? Ouch!),
– menthol (a very common allergen),
– peppermint (try putting peppermint oil in a mucous membrane and see how it affects you!),
– citrus extracts generally (everything from grapefruit to oranges causes problems for most people with sensitive skin, and many who don’t have skin recognised as sensitive)
– tea tree oil (nice and natural maybe, but a potent skin irritant in over 90% of people who come in contact with it)

And the list goes on.

From my experience, as someone with sensitive skin, I’ve found that, for the most part, products labelled “natural” tend to be the worst offenders when it comes to causing skin reactions. They’re usually highly fragranced, almost all contain essential oils (great for our noses, but often terrible for our skin), and also often poorly formulated.

I love the idea of “natural”, but my skin doesn’t. And, in the end, no matter how nice the claims on a product might be, if it causes me to have bad reactions, I’m not going to buy it or advocate it.

naturalcosmetics

Problems with fragrance

Anything labelled “fragrance” is often problematic too. This was the case in the conditioner that left what looked like burns on my body, and my eyes so closed up and sore that I could hardly see.

What fragrance? What chemicals? According to law, the companies don’t have to tell us.

So we have no way of knowing what particular fragrance is causing any reaction we have, and can’t take care to avoid a particular fragrance ingredient. The only way to be absolutely safe is to avoid all products with fragrance in them.

The search for fragrance-free

As I found out, when I went to the chemist to try to find a conditioner that was fragrance-free, almost all products have fragrance in them. People like to smell like the cosmetics they’re using.

The chemist who helped me was surprised to find that, of all the lines he stocked in his store, only ONE was actually fragrance-free, despite all the “safe for skin” and “eczema-friendly” and ‘sensitive skin friendly” and “hypoallergenic” claims of the products on his shelf. He was amazed, and quite taken aback.

For the record, “hypoallergenic” means nothing. It’s a bogus claim that is not tracked or substantiated by any safety or health body. Don’t pay any attention to it.

In the end, my chemist found me a locally made conditioner that has no dyes or fragrance added, and seems to be good for my hair and skin, which has since calmed down. But it’s a sad state of affairs when there are literally NO hair care lines available in the supermarket that are fragrance free and safe for my skin.

It seems the beauty world is more intent on making products that smell nice than that are actually good for our skin and hair.

aphrodite4

The outcome – what I learned and what I’m doing now

I learned a lot from this. To take care of my skin and hair henceforth I’m using a line of hair care products that are fragrance and dye-free (Dermalabs NZ).

Cosmetics-wise, I’ve been using Paula’s Choice (by mail order from the USA) for a few years now, and have found nothing better. Her products are all fragrance and colour free.

For moisturising, I’m using plain olive oil and coconut oil, and occasionally sorbolene. All are better – and cheaper! – than any moisturisers available at the beauty store. Coconut oil is also great as a sleeking ointment for my frizzy, dry hair. And I use coconut oil on my heels as a heel balm to stop cracked heels in summer.

One of the best tips to avoid dry skin I’ve learned is to keep the water temperature during showers down. I know – hot water feels great! – but it’s death for dry skin. And the fewer showers the better.

Finally, taking my regular capsules of omega 3 oils, plus eating lots of fruit and veggies really pays off in the health of my skin. Plus drinking lots of water and green tea.

Beauty shouldn’t be this hard. But for we allergic, dry skin types, it can be if we use products that cause a reaction. The old adage First Do No Harm seems particularly important when your skin is sensitive.

I intend to do no harm to mine.

donoharm