If you head over to TOTM’s Instagram, our wonderful Marketing Coordinator Lucy is answering some of TOTM’s most popular skincare questions, and for something a little different on the blog today, Alex has answered some of my questions about the brand, and the discussion on periods as a whole! So let’s get started by getting to know the TOTM brand a little more…
What encouraged the launch of TOTM?
Alex: TOTM launched online in 2016 to change how we manage periods for good. We’re on a mission to drive sustainable period care into the mainstream whilst changing the narrative around menstruation.
How do TOTM products differ from your standard sanitary products?
Alex: Our range is designed for comfort and to reduce waste. Conventional products can contain up to 90% plastic which ends up in oceans and landfill. Alongside the use of plastic in both the product and packaging, these conventional products use materials such a rayon and conventional cotton which also harm the planet.
We have the largest range of sustainable period care in the UK, offering both organic cotton disposables and zero-waste reusables to our customers. Unlike conventional period care, we never use fragrance, artificial absorbents, or chlorine bleach in our range.
Like Q+A, TOTM have a passion for both the environment and sustainable self-care. What’s not to love?
Can using sanitary products with plastic or chemicals really impact our bodies and hormones?
Alex: The link between plastic in period care and how this impacts hormones has never been fully studied. However, in 2014, Researchers for Women’s Voices of the Earth found a range of contaminants in tampons that could include dioxins, furans, and pesticide residue, as well as meltdown polymers, super absorbent shells and chemically stiffened fibres. There’s very little research on how this impacts our bodies over time considering these products are used on a regular basis for most of our adult lives.
What are your go-to items when your period kicks in?
Alex: TOTM period care (of course!) The light pads and medium apps are my favourite. I'm biased, but they are just SO comfortable. I always get really bad cramps on the first day of my period, so I start the day with a warm bath and add some magnesium flakes to it. Magnesium is always one of my go-to's, as it is very effective in relaxing the uterus muscles, which means less cramping pain! My other go-to items are: a hot water bottle (of course), peppermint tea and lots of snacks.
Although you may be tempted to hole up in a blanket with a stock of chocolate, your diet can also affect how well you manage this time! Leafy greens like iron-rich spinach, healthy fats, nuts and seeds can all go a long way to reduce inflammation and general discomfort, and they’re also great for your skin-health too.
How important do you think openly talking about our periods and the changes we experiences is?
Alex: It's SO important for us to talk openly about our periods. How will we ever know if what we are experiencing is 'normal' if we don't speak to people about it? There are lots of symptoms that can be linked to an underlying condition (e.g. extreme period pain) and people are suffering in silence instead of seeking help because they think it's just part of having a period. The more we talk about them, the less taboo they become.
How do you manage skin changes throughout your cycle?
Alex: I'll be honest, I'm quite lucky and don't tend to experience breakouts throughout my cycle. I have eczema though and am currently going through TSW (Topical Steroid Withdrawal) and it always flares up when I'm due on. When this happens I up my self-care game, limit the amount of products I put on my skin and have lots of oat baths to calm it (put some oats in a sock and hold it under the tap so the water goes milky).
Now, let’s talk about hormonal skin, and firstly, the skin changes you can expect. There are a couple different things that happen to your skin throughout your cycle, not just around the time you menstruate, depending on different levels of hormones. The three main hormones to think of are Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone.
When you have high levels of Estrogen, which starts as your menstruation ends and peaks mid-cycle as you release a new egg, your skin will likely be at its peak as well! Collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin are being synthesised, and you will generally feel more hydrated and healthier. Whilst there aren’t enough studies around the other effects of Estrogen, it appears to have an effect on minimising pore size and reducing sebum production, which is another reason your skin might be looking its best if you have an oily and blemish prone skin type. This is the time to use your chemical exfoliator, like our Apple AHA Exfoliating Gel, to help the turnover of healthy cells, and help boost hydration with your Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum and Hydrating Cleanser.
Unfortunately, once ovulation is over, our Estrogen levels take a dive… In comes Progesterone, which stimulates oil production. You might also feel like your skin is more sensitive, or inflamed. Be gentle with your skincare, with soothing ingredients like Aloe Vera and Chamomile, paired with a mask to help alleviate that oil build up, like our Activated Charcoal Face Mask.
At the end of your cycle, both Progesterone and Estrogen dip below your Testosterone levels, which is when you’ll be feeling those dreaded PMS symptoms! Your pores will open up, and with the combination of extra oiliness, this is the time hormonal acne takes the stage. Most commonly appearing around your chin and around your nose, even those with dry skin can experience this irritating side effect of fluctuating hormones. The best things you can look for are ingredients which are naturally anti-inflammatory, like Niacinamide, and help to balance oil levels and prevent bacteria build up, like Zinc PCA. Our Apple AHA Exfoliating Gel is also gentle enough to help clear away dead skin to keep your pores clear, without adding to the unavoidable skin sensitivity. Like Alex said, upping your skincare game can mean keeping it simple! Your skin isn’t at its most resilient, so be kind to it.
Then back to day one of your cycle, when menstruation starts, your hormones hit their lowest point. You may not feel as oily, just dealing with the aftermath of the most recent sprouting of spots, in fact it may be dryness and dullness that’s on your mind. Whilst we wait for that sweet Estrogen to come through, you can help boost brightness with Hyaluronic Acid, and encourage collagen production with Peptides. Something else does increase in production though, prostaglandins, which are a type of lipid that act like hormones, which usually help to control inflammation. I say usually, because when your hormones are off balance, they do sort of the opposite, increasing your pain sensitivity, and general reactiveness to pollutants and strong skincare. Now is absolutely the time to avoid any procedures like waxing, and make sure you’re regularly reapplying your sunscreen. Protective and calming moisturisers, like our Chamomile Night Cream or Collagen Face Cream, can be your best friend in keeping your skin happy.
Of course, we are all different! One of the best things you can do to help keep on top of your skincare throughout your cycle is keeping a good track of symptoms. Your period tracker app isn’t just for estimating when cramps are going to start, but keeping a record of all the other changes your body goes through from day one to day twenty-eight (or more!). Easily anticipate when your skin will feel oily, and check you’re stocked up on not just your favourite TOTM products, but your Zinc PCA Facial Serum and Niacinamide Daily Toner for when you’ll need it most!
Looking for that perfect bundle of products to tackle oiliness and blemishes? Our Blemish Buster Bundle is the perfect choice, everything you need to keep Progesterone and Testosterone's effects at bay. Or, if you're looking for a simple bundle that's got something for every phase of your cycle, check out our Beautiful Balancer Bundle!
Chances are, a symptom you experience is probably one a friend does too, and you can get some good tips on how they alleviate the pain and manage PMS. I personally will be buying some magnesium to try out Alex’s bath soak method! Do you have a specific change in your skin and wondering how Q+A could help? Ask away!
Want to pick up your TOTM period care and your Q+A skincare at one destination? You can find both Q+A and TOTM at Urban Outfitters online!
Plus, check out our Instagram feed from 4pm tomorrow, as we’ll be running a fab giveaway in partnership with the lovely TOTM team that you won’t want to miss out on!
Bye for now,
Amy @ Team Q+A
Online community coordinator at Q+A and big fan of the TOTM organic cotton pads