5 Period Myths You Probably Believe

The thing about periods is that you never hear anyone say how much she adores her flow or how she looks forward to her cycle. Some of girls’ most common fears about menstruation are rooted in, well, stuff that just isn’t quite true about odor, activity levels, harsh PMS and more. Don’t know what to believe? We break it down for you right here:

Period Myth No. 1: Just before and during your period, you’ll always be bloated, cramping, sleepless and a serious B to everyone.

Symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) are not guaranteed. “Periods are so individual, and some girls hardly have any symptoms at all,” says Hannah Wright, a physician assistant in San Francisco. “Girls expect their periods are going to be extremely painful at some point, and that may never be your experience. If you do have super-heavy bleeding, big mood swings or painful cramping, see your medical provider. You do not have to live with PMS symptoms.”

Period Myth No. 2: Period blood is stinky and dirty, and if you don’t shower during your period people can smell you.

Menstrual blood has an odor, true -- but it’s not extreme and it’s not wafting from your nether regions to the guy standing next to you at the coffee shop. “Odor is part of being human,” Hannah assures us. “Your body has different smells, and some girls believe they have to clean out the vagina with feminine washes, especially after a period. This isn’t true. The vagina is a very clean environment that maintains itself with a delicate Ph balance that prevents yeast or bacteria from overgrowing.” Change your tampon or pad regularly, and shower daily as usual. There is one exception: If the odor becomes extreme, you may have an infection. Time to see your doctor.

Period Myth No. 3: If you go swimming you’ll bleed in the pool, and when school starts back up you should be able to sit out during gym since physical activity is bad.

Your period blood is mostly uterine lining gently shedding itself, so it’s not like you’ve got some massive amount of blood swishing around. Unless your tampon is full and your flow is extra heavy, you’re not going to bleed in the pool. You can swim on your period! “You don’t have to treat your period like you’re sick,” insists Hannah. “Exercise is often a great way to alleviate PMS symptoms. You should be able to have a normal, healthy lifestyle, and your period shouldn’t interrupt those activities.” Simply keep a stash of tampons in your tote bag or gym locker, and go do what you do!

Period Myth No. 4: You shouldn’t use tampons if you’re a virgin.

Some girls believe they need to be sexually active before they can insert a tampon. So not true! Virgins, you are tampon-approved, promise. “There are cultures or religions where they don’t use tampons until marriage because they believe nothing should be in the vagina before intercourse,” explains Hannah. “But using tampons has nothing to do with sexuality, and there is no medical reason why a girl shouldn’t use a tampon at any age or stage in her reproductive health. Tampons are especially important if you’re involved in sports or have a super-heavy flow and need the protection.”

Period Myth No. 5: If you use the wrong-size tampon, it will get stuck and you’ll get toxic shock syndrome.

Vaginas are all different, but they are not measured in slender, regular or super plus. “The size of the tampon is not about your vagina size,” says Hannah. “Tampon size should be selected depending on the heaviness of the blood flow. If a tampon is painful, you’re probably not inserting it correctly.” As for toxic shock? “I don’t know the statistics, but I’ve never seen a case -- very low. It is not possible for a tampon to get ‘lost’ in the body. We remove a lot of retained tampons -- some in a patient’s vagina for weeks -- and it’s the odor that brings the patient in. If you think you forgot [to remove] a tampon, don’t worry, but definitely see your medical provider.”

Look Your Absolute Summer Best -- No Sweat!

Hello, summer! It’s time to sweat, but that doesn’t have to mean runny makeup or bad hair. From face tanner to turquoise toenails, feeling fine in summer is as cool as our collection of no-sweat strategies for those hot, steamy days when you find yourself really working up a serious ... glow.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Like Zits
The science of a simple blemish is basic: a clogged pore. Finding a sunscreen that doesn’t break you out is no different from finding a moisturizer that works for you. Choose a product that’s designed for faces only, and apply it to clean skin when your hands are clean. (Forget foundation, which clogs your pores when it’s hot!)

After you’ve been in the sun all day, wash your face with a mild cleanser and cool water to temper inflammation before you go to bed. If you do get a zit, put an ice cube in a paper towel and hold it on the blemish to dry and cool it. Oh, and drink lots of water to keep your skin detoxed.

Your Period, 90 Degrees and Shorts
Summer lasts three months, so that’s three periods. If you haven’t been keeping track of your cycle on your phone calendar, start now! When it’s close, wear a panty liner so you’re prepared. When it comes, put away the shorts! Dresses and jumpers are amazing for hiding bloat and staying cool.

A tampon will take care of business if you want to swim; just tuck the string up so it doesn’t accidentally poke out of your swimsuit. Tip: Always keep a good supply of tampons and liners in your bag, just in case!

What to Do About Tee Stains
Why does sweat stain? Most sweat stains are the result of aluminum salts in antiperspirants. The salts don’t completely dissolve, and the sweat stain on your clothes is usually yellow or greenish. Eeeew.

This works: Wash clothes in the hottest temperature and use a minimum amount of detergent. Then, choose a deodorant that doesn’t have aluminum salts. You can also try a gel or non-powder spray, but remember to let it totally dry before you dress.

Your Guide to Goof-proof Self-tanning
Baking out in the sun is a huge no-no, but sometimes a girl still wants a little glow! When you find a self-tanner that works with your natural skin tone, it’s like discovering beauty in a bottle.

Your best bet is to always apply tanner on totally dry skin after you shower. We banish foams to beauty detention for their nearly guaranteed streaking. Tanning moisturizers, on the other hand, give all-over coverage and nourish the skin. Next, try a spray product over your tan moisturizer for a double hit of color. Hold the can at least 6 inches from your skin and lightly apply the spray, like a mist. When you’re done, wash your hands in warm water and soap.

From Bedhead to Wet Head
If you’re all about your hair, summer isn’t always cooperative. To deal with post-swim tress mess, keep a small comb or brush in your bag and, when you get out of the pool, run it through your hair. (If there’s a shower or hose, rinse out the salt water or chlorine before brushing.)

If you like your hair wavy, tousle it with your fingers and let it sun-dry. But if it’s a humid day, your hair may dry frizzy or flat, so pull into a slick low pony. Otherwise, get under a cute straw fedora!

Quiz: What’s Your Summer Style Signature?

Yay, summer! No more school uniforms or silly dress codes. Um, seriously, khakis and [insert school color here] every day of the week?

Find out your summer style vibe right here, and then get inspired to make it uniquely yours.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/brutskiy

How to Eat Your Veggies -- and Make ’em Yummy!

When you’re lookin’ for chow, we doubt you start with that pile of leftover peas in the fridge. But don’t be so quick to turn your nose up when it comes to snacking on vegetables.

We’ve rounded up the best-ever dee-lish after-school snacks featuring veggies as the main ingredients. So good you’ll totally forget it’s broccoli!

Dip It!
We’re not talkin’ about those not-so-healthful creamy dips for chips. Instead, go for something exotic, like baba ghanoush or hummus. Huh-wha … ? Baba ghanoush (dig that name, right?) is made from mashed roasted eggplant, and hummus is pureed chickpeas. These savory dips come in different varieties -- such as spicy chipotle or sweet red pepper -- to suit any palette. They taste awesome with crunchy raw veggies, like celery sticks or strips of green pepper. Seriously, don’t knock ’em till you try ’em.

Hot Stuff
Soup is good food, especially when you’re craving a nice cup of comfort! The best soups allow the veggies to take center stage -- tomato, mushroom, French onion and, of course, vegetable soup. (Duh!) But don’t be afraid to try other, less garden-variety (get it?) soups, like butternut squash or black bean. These meals are as fulfilling as they are tasty.

Steam Boat
Broccoli, cauliflower and squash are good not only raw, but also steamed. Don’t have a steamer? The microwave does the job! Just put cut-up veggies in a microwave-safe bowl, add a bit of water, cover with plastic wrap, and cook on high in one-minute intervals until tender. For extra oomph, toss in a pinch of salt, a pat of butter and a handful of shredded cheddar, and you’re golden!

Rainbow Bright
Ever stop to appreciate the brilliant colors in veggies? Thank you, Mother Nature! Next time you’re hosting a group study sesh, ask Mom to stock up on the essentials for a rainbow veggie platter. The trick here is to use an array of colors. The bell pepper family is a good place to start with red, orange, green and yellow. Then add some staples like grape tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower. Put some ranch dressing or honey mustard on the side for dunking. Take it to the next level by adding a handful of black and green olives. Hmm. … Let the debate begin: Are olives fruits or veggies?

Stuff It!
Tired of the ho-hum ham-and-cheese sammie? Practically any veggie can help plump up your sandwich bread or flour tortilla wrap. Avocadoes and spinach are nutritional powerhouses, and alfalfa sprouts add depth and flavor. Lettuce and tomatoes are the old standbys, but why not try something different, like sliced cucumber or shredded carrot? Or get really fancy and add marinated portabella mushrooms or artichokes. Oh, and instead of mayo, try a smear of hummus.

First Period Prep!

Getting your period can be exciting, nerve-rattling or even an all-out nightmare. That’s why we sat down with real girls who were cool enough to share their first-time experiences with “Aunt Flo.” Happy, scary or totally confuzzled, it’s all here for you to relate, learn or laugh:

“I was only 8 when I got my first period. I felt like such a freak.”

A lot of early bloomers get a case of the freak-outs. “My mother didn’t expect me to get it so early, so we hadn’t had the talk yet,” says Janet*, now 16. “And, of course, none of my friends was menstruating yet, so I felt all alone.” Even though most girls begin their periods between the ages of 11 and 14, it’s totally normal for girls to start menstruating as early as age 8. Whew!

“I hid my period from my mom and sister for months. I don’t know why, but I was so scared to tell anyone.”

Shy about sharing the news of getting your period? Don’t be. This is an exciting stage of girlhood, but it can also be really confusing and scary if you feel alone or uninformed. Remember, your mom (or sister or aunt) is a girl just like you and had her first period once upon a time too. Never feel worried or uneasy about asking questions or keeping Mom in the know. She’ll have tons of wisdom to share, we promise.

“I went through a whole box of my sister’s panty liners when I got my first period. I didn’t understand the concept of using pads on heavy days and liners on light days.”

For a first-timer, matching pads, liners and tampons with your flow can be mind-boggling. A cycle is heavy, regular or light, and it varies from girl to girl. Most periods last from three to five days, but can be as little as two days or as long as a week. Usually your period will be heavier at the start of your cycle, and then progressively get lighter as you near the end. But no girl’s rotation is the same. Have a variety of stock on hand to pair the thickness of your pad with your flow. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of what you feel comfortable using.

“I was totally unprepared when I got my first period. I had to use toilet paper until I got home from school.”

Every girl has to do the makeshift toilet-paper pad at least a few times in her life when her period catches her off guard. Although you might not need a huge stash before you get your period, you should still be prepared. Keeping a pad handy in your purse can nix any period surprises. Also, you can go to the school nurse, public bathrooms and your friends if your period unexpectedly pops up.

*Name was changed to protect privacy