[Image: Clouds… “Hygiene and the Survivor: An Incomplete Guide”]

This is a hard topic to talk about, an even harder one to ask for advice on. No one wants to be that person who says ‘I haven’t been able to take a shower in a week’. 

At the end of the day, Hygiene- in one form or another, is often a problem for a lot of survivors.

So let’s get down to business.

General Advice:

  • If you know you are a person with a problem with these things, make reminders to do them. In your phone, on a sticky note, write it in your agenda, make a sticker chart if you need to. Do whatever it takes.
  • Self soothe before and after. Self care before and after.
  • Make it as stress free as possible-as soothing as possible. Do it in the dark with candles or pleasant smells if that helps you. Music or white noise might help. Don’t feel weird for having to go all out if it helps makes things easier. Put a robe/your new clothes/towel  in the dryer for a few minutes either right before you get in the shower or while you’re in there. That way it’s warm and self-soothing for afterwards.
  • Routine. Routine. Routine. Routine is your friend. Repeat the same actions in the same order at around the same time. Routine is your friend.
  • Divide and Conquer. Can’t handle doing everything at once? Break it into smaller parts. Allow yourself breaks. Don’t beat yourself up. Plenty of survivors struggle with this stuff for one reason or another. You aren’t broken or defective. 

Showering:

Potential Problem: Getting naked/Seeing own body

  • Bathing suits are an option. Just make sure you’re still washing under them. 
  • Bathing in the dark. Night lights are your friend.
  • Giant shirt for before and after. With a large enough shirt- it is 100% possible to change in and out of clothes, while still wearing the shirt. Have it be a thing just for shower time- that way you aren’t worrying about getting the shirt you’re about to wear wet.

Potential Problem: nope, can’t do it you can’t make me.

If showering is legitimately not an option- you can still get clean.

  • Baby wipes are your friend.
  • Wash cloths are you friend.
  • Alcohol is your friend. (the rubbing kind.) This is actually something I learned from a buddy who hikes. One of the things he was taught was to take cotton balls and clean areas with them dipped in alcohol.
  • Bird baths for your body. Focus on problem areas like genitals/ feet/armpits. You can clean your feet in a bin. You can take once a day to wash your armpits anywhere basically, and your genital area after you’ve been to the toilet.
  • If it’s a water/sensory issue- do ‘navy’ showers. (only have the water running when you’re actively rinsing)

Potential Problem: But my hair?

If showering is a problem for you,  minimizing the amount of time you spend in the shower can help. Doing your hair outside of the shower can help.

  • Keep a cup next to your sink, or if doing it kneeling by the tub isn’t anxiety inducing- you can do this there. But go ahead and wet your hair while you’re still clothed.
  • Shampoo+conditioner blends exist and are good for those who can manage to do it once- but can’t make themselves do it twice.
  • Leave in conditioners are also pretty cool things that you don’t have to rinse out.
  • Dry Shampoos are pretty cool. Baking soda is also an option. Make sure you brush it out though.
  • If you’re doing the ‘out of shower washing’ you can also rinse hair out with a wash cloth instead of running your head in water. That may be helpful for some of you.
  • Also you really don’t need to be washing your hair every day anyway. (Washing your hair every day can apparen
  • No Rinse Shower Caps are a bit expensive but could be good especially if you only struggle on traumaversaries, or to keep in a ‘in case of emergency kit’.

Brushing Your Teeth

  • This is a surround tooth brush. They’re meant for caretakers of people who can’t brush their own teeth. But basically they’re tooth brushes that basically have three heads. meaning they really cut down on brush time.
  • Waterpiks are pretty expensive but apparently pretty good at doing the job.
  • If the toothpaste is the problem- dentists say that dry brushing is still encouraged. Also Sea Salt is apparently an option, you just like.. dissolve it in water and then dip your brush in that. Coconut oil too? maybe?
  • That being said- if the tooth brush is the problem, and you can handle your own hand in your mouth. Finger tooth brushes are a thing.
  • If nothing else, mouth wash.
  • Or even better, mouth wash + flossing.
  • You can also clean your teeth with water + paper towel/rag. Do one tooth at a time like you would with a tooth brush. 
  • Oil Pulling. Swishing (gently) with about a tablespoon of pure oil (olive, coconut, and sesame oil seem to be pretty popular.) for 20 minutes. Though when you start out you can start with 5-10 minutes as you get used to it. (don’t spit it out in your sink though. trashcans work.)
  • Chewing Sticks can be used as an alternative to teeth brushing. 
  • Swishing with baking soda dissolved in warm water can help.

On Bertolt Brecht and hygiene: “He was physically repellent. He seldom washed and he smelled. He didn’t brush his teeth, and, consequently, many of his teeth decayed and fell out … Not surprisingly, he suffered halitosis—or rather, others suffered it. Brecht probably thought that, since imitation is the highest form of flattery, he was expressing his solidarity with the proletariat by being dirty. This, however, is insult rather than flattery … Brecht’s dirtiness was a form of condescension, the product of a lack of real interest in what poor people actually wanted.”

For more of this morning’s roundup, click here.

Like a Corporation

Something that’s blowing up on many social networking sites, tumblr most of all, is the “Like a Girl” video. At face value, it’s kind of amazing. I won’t lie, the first couple of times I watched it I got chills. The problem is it’s created by Always for the sole reason of getting more of your money. Always is not a good company. They make scented panty liners that are notoriously bad for your genitals. Not only do they profit on the just plain wrong assumption that vaginas are gross and smelly and you need to be insecure about that and fix that problem. When in reality having scents in your menstrual products can cause at the very least irritation or more of on odor and at the very most an infection. Like many similar companies they make “freshness wipes as well” which again at the very least is unnecessary and preying on insecurities that they are causing and at the very most can be harmful to your vagina. If you look at the companies that own Always it gets even more shady. Proctor and Gamble own Venus razors, again a product that is based on our society’s screwed up beauty norms. Not to mention that razors targeting women are usually at a lesser quality than razors targeting men and are more expensive. They also own Olay. Olay, like Dove, sells skin whitening creams that can be dangerous or at the very least reaffirm the racist concept that whiter is more beautiful. 

At this point you may be asking what a company like Always can do to be a better company. We’ll just stick to menstrual products at the moment, as tackling all of our messed up and oppressive beauty norms would take a much longer post. What I would like to see from menstrual companies is more of an effort to be body friendly. A lot of menstrual products aren’t very well monitored, I’d like to see more research into TSS and other problems that can be caused by menstrual products, as well as how to make them more eco friendly. Any disposable product isn’t eco-friendly but there are definitely reasons why someone may not want to use reusable products, especially if they’re squeemish around blood. They could work on finding a way to make menstrual cups and cloth pads more affordable and available. Also, they could work on more research into using menstrual sponges so they can become FDA approved. There are organic tampons and pads that aren’t bleached, don’t have harmful chemicals, and don’t use synthetic materials, This includes Seventh Generation, and Organic Essentials. As you can tell from the links, this option is hella expensive. Working on making disposable pads and tampons better and less expensive would be great. Also, creating more ways for people in need to get menstrual products for free is very necessary, and making sure they are a good body friendly product is important as well. It’s very common for those of a lower income not to get products of a good quality and that has to stop.

There’s definitely room for improvement from pad and tampon companies and it’d be great if they could be more empowering, but this is the wrong way to do it. They’re just looking at profit when they should be looking at how they can change their business model to be better for people’s bodies and self esteem.

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