Thursday, November 3, 2011

Closing this Blog

To anyone who actually read this, I'm going to be shutting this blog down and moving any relevant posts (and all future posts pertaining to health & beauty) over to my main blog:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why I Will ALWAYS Support Planned Parenthood

When I was in middle school and high school, Planned Parenthood visited my school to provide sex ed during my science and home ec classes. Aside from the glossing over of reproduction I got in Catholic elementary school and the "where do babies come from" picture book I had as a kid (which, honestly, was more confusing than anything), this was my first real introduction to sex ed.

I grew up in a poverty-stricken city, and went to a severely underfunded school. Planned Parenthood taught me* not only facts on reproduction, STIs, and contraception, but also respect for my body and the bodies of others. They taught me that no one had the right to pressure me into doing something I felt uncomfortable with. They taught me that sex had consequences, both physical and emotional. They taught me that any excuse a guy could come up with for not using a condom was a load of bullshit. They also taught me that if I was ever in trouble (physical, emotional, or otherwise), I had a place to turn to.

*The "me" in this paragraph also refers to a large group of young teens, many of whom were so poor they wouldn't have been able to eat were it not for the school's free breakfast and lunch programs.

14 years later, those lessons are still with me. I have never had an abortion, unplanned pregnancy, or STI. I didn't even lose my virginity until I was almost 20. When I did, it was with someone I trusted, in a smart, safe fashion with properly utilized condoms.

When I was 19, I got sick. I had just lost the coverage of my parents' health insurance, and even though I was working, my job did not offer health coverage. All of a sudden, my period wouldn't stop. I bled continuously for weeks. (Just so everybody's clear, a period is supposed to last 5-7 days max.) The same thing had happened to me when I was 13, and it didn't stop for 3 months. No one ever figured out what was actually wrong with me. (That story is another giant can of worms.) I couldn't even try to blame the issue on some kind of STI or sexual issue—I was still a virgin, remember? I didn't even know what to call such an illness, I just knew I was terrified. Imagine the kind of thoughts that run through your head when something like that happens: Do I have cancer? Does this mean I'm unable to have children (if I ever decided to)?

I asked my mom for help. She reminded me that I didn't have health insurance, but said she'd try to find someone who could help. A few days later, she got me an appointment with Planned Parenthood.

I had never been to Planned Parenthood, nor gotten any kind of reproductive exam before (virgin, in case you forgot), but they made me feel comfortable the second I got there. When I told the nurse that I had been bleeding for so long, she quickly allayed my worst fears. Apparently that can happen when ovulation is skipped, which is a relatively normal occurrence and no reason to freak out. They gave me my first pelvic exam, the nurse explaining everything as she went, checked my breasts, and taught me how to give myself breast exams. She also asked if I wanted my smear sample to also be screened for STIs, just in case. And if that wasn't enough, they gave me a Hepatitis B vaccine on my way out.

I was prescribed birth control to stop the bleeding and regulate my period. (Surprise! Birth control has other uses!) They didn't ask for a dime. Just like that, I went from a terrified mess to someone who had taken control of her health. I'll never stop being thankful for what Planned Parenthood has done for me, and what I know they will do for me in the future should I need them again.

To anyone who insists that Planned Parenthood does nothing but abortions, to anyone who doesn't believe that women should have control of their reproductive health, to anyone who doesn't give a shit that most of the time, being poor means constantly praying that you won't get sick: if you are against Planned Parenthood, you are an enemy to women, children, and basic human rights. EVERYONE has the right to domain over their own health. EVERYONE has the right to not have someone force them to act according to someone else's beliefs. EVERYONE has the right to see an unbiased doctor when they need to. Fuck anyone who says otherwise.

Sign your name to support Planned Parenthood now

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Top 5 Must-Have Health & Beauty Products

And here we go: a real post! This is a list of products that have, in one way or another, changed my life for the better (psoriasis or no psoriasis.) Each of these items have been personally used by me for at least a year, so rest assured that none of this is bs. :D

#5. Probiotics
Probiotics were one of those things that I heard about ages ago but never bothered to try until recently. Spurred by a few anecdotes about helping clear up one's skin (spoiler: they don't. Not noticeably, anyway), I finally decided to pick some up. Even though I never noticed any improvement in my psoriasis, I was really glad I did. The main major improvement I saw was in digestive system health; my stomach rarely hurts (even if I eat garbage) since I began taking probiotics. Having a healthy, problem-free digestive system can take a LOT of stress out of your life, which is always a good thing.

I use Culturelle because they have a dairy/gluten-free version (most probiotics contain dairy in one form or another.) Also because it seems to be perpetually on sale at

Tip: Keep them in the fridge. I usually take mine around lunchtime, but there doesn't seem to be any noticeable difference if you take them at the same time, or with food, or not.

#4. Menstrual Cups
Any males that happen to be reading this can go ahead and scroll to #3 (unless you are looking for the perfect gift for your girlfriend, in which case, read on!) This is yet another product I wish I had tried sooner. In fact, if I could go back in time, I would prevent my younger self from ever learning of the existence of pads or tampons, and let myself believe that menstrual cups were the only option.

Anyway, since there are tons of sites out there dedicated solely to these things, I'll keep this short: clean, comfortable (like, ACTUALLY comfortable), makes your period WAY more tolerable (I actually kind of look forward to mine now), extremely easy to use (after a few practise runs), wallet and eco-friendly. I personally opted for a Diva Cup, which I love. It's very soft and easy to insert. I did find the stem a bit annoying, so I cut it off, but it is still very easy to remove. There are plenty of other options on the market, so don't be shy about doing some research to find out which product will suit you best.

Tip: It took me about 2 periods before I was a pro at insertion/removal. Don't let that scare you off, seriously. If you can put in a tampon, you can put in a cup, and you will be so much happier; trust me. It might be a good idea to keep your nails clipped short until you've got the hang of it.

#3. MAC Cosmetics Strobe Cream
I think it's safe to say that if Jesus came back as face lotion, he would be MAC Strobe Cream. Use it after your moisturizer of choice, but before applying foundation. It has a very faint shimmer (not like glitter; more of a subtle iridescence) that will diffuse light and make your skin look flawless. Apparently it also has vitamins, green tea, and other skin-helping stuff in it. It seems expensive, I know, but it's well worth it, and a little goes a long way. (I'm only just now running out of the tube I bought 3 years ago.)

Tip: It is especially useful for photographs, and you don't have to limit it to your face. I use it on any exposed skin, or just apply it to highlight areas (collarbones, shoulders, bustline). See it in action here. (Note the glowing effect on my shoulder.)

#2. LUSH Cosmetics Solid Shampoo - Soak and Float
If you have psoriasis, you prooooobably have dandruff. You may also have icky red spots on your scalp (especially not fun when you shave part of your head.) LUSH's
Soak and Float Solid Shampoo
is the best dandruff cure EVER. Not only that, but as a solid shampoo it requires no packaging, and lasts a surprisingly long time (I've had a bar last over 9 months.)

This stuff works almost instantly. After just one use, itchiness was gone, flakes and redness were reduced. After 3-4 uses (about a week's worth), my scalp was normal. (Feeling normal in any way is a big deal when you have psoriasis. :D) It's great for your hair too; I got my boyfriend to use it (he has WAY more hair than I do—big, long, curly stuff), and his hair came out soft, shiny, and frizz-free (even after we went to the ocean!) I pair it with
Veganese Conditioner
, which leaves your hair soft, light, and very shiny, you should be able to use any conditioner you like and still experience the benefits of Soak and Float.

Don't have dandruff? You're a lucky bastard. But LUSH has a large selection of solid shampoos and conditioners, so you should be able to find something to suit your needs.

Tip: For the longest lasting bar, store it out of the shower (away from water) when you're not using it. Keep it in a self-draining soap dish, or use one of LUSH's custom made tins (after it dries.) Oh, and I neglected to mention the infamous smell of this honestly doesn't smell half as bad as some people say (people who, I imagine, are used to all their cosmetics smelling like artificial candy and sunshine). I rather like it; it's smoky and peaty, like Lapsang Souchong or a good scotch. Also, the smell doesn't linger in the slightest after use, so who cares? Besides, it smells at least 1,000 times better than coal tar or steroid scalp treatments!

image from WikiCommons user Wikimol
#1. Green Tea
Oh...any tea, really. It's all made from the same plant. But green tea is especially known for its health and beauty enhancing powers. I could (and probably will) dedicate an entire entry to the wonderful stuff, but for now I'll just do a quick overview.

There are tons of health claims regarding tea out there, but very few are actually confirmed by real scientific studies. That doesn't mean it isn't a great idea to drink lots and lots of it, but it does mean that you shouldn't expect it to magically cure all your diseases instantly. (As a side note, it won't make you lose any significant amount of weight—unless you're drinking tea instead of eating food.)

While tea (camellia sinensis, or "true tea") does contain caffeine, it doesn't give you the same jittery buzz that coffee and sodas do. This may be due to the compound theanine, which is both relaxing and stimulating. The result is that, after drinking tea, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and energized, but are less likely to experience a "crash" or other negative effects of coffee consumption.

If you still can't do caffeine (let's be honest, decaf tea is pretty pointless), go for tea-less herbal concoctions, but especially rooibos. Rooibos is not only tasty, but it is purported to have many of the same health effects as green tea. I have read some studies about using rooibos as an aid in reducing psoriasis symptoms, but haven't had much experience in testing that personally.

Tea is available just about everywhere, but you will really notice a difference if you drink high quality, loose tea. My favorite places to buy from are Lupicia and Red Blossom. Both have amazing quality teas; Lupicia also carries many of their teas in pyramid tea bags and also have a number of awesome flavored teas in addition to their unflavored traditional teas.

Tip: A lot of people ask which tea is the "healthiest". This question is best answered with, "The one you will drink often." Don't worry too much about whether white tea or gyokuro has slightly more health compounds; get a fruity flavored green tea if that's the taste you prefer. The key is to drink it everyday, so just buy whatever tastes best to you.*

*It should go without saying that I am referring to real tea that you brew yourself and don't add anything to, not canned or bottled teas, which (with a few exceptions) have about the same health properties as soda.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My story.

I haven't had psoriasis all my life. I may have had bad skin for quite a long time, but that was mostly limited to acne and catching on fire whenever I walked past a sunny window.

I first noticed splotches around my elbows in 2005, when I was 20, shortly after I moved away for college. They didn't really alarm me, I just figured I was stressed or allergic to something. By the end of that year it began to rapidly worsen, and I realised that there was something really wrong.

I was an unemployed student and had no health insurance, so there still wasn't much I could do. After a great deal of time spent researching any and all skin diseases, I determined that I had plaque psoriasis. Since I didn't have the option of just popping into a dermatologist's office and slapping down cash for some steroid injections, I sought out all the information on the disease that I could.

None of that information was particularly encouraging. From the very basics: "incurable, chronic disease of unknown origin", to treatment options: "steroid creams gradually atrophy the skin and increase the likelihood of cancer", to "advice": "wear long sleeves to avoid the hurtful comments of people who don't know how to mind their own fucking business".

Always resolute, I kept my head up and tried looking up some alternative ideas for reducing the symptoms. I tried pine tar soap (not bad, smells like rotting pine trees), a few OTC creams (to basically no effect), and salicylic acid treatments (bad idea—I should have realised this knowing that OTC acne treatments containing salicylic acid always made my acne worse.) Nothing was helping, and I was starting to get scared. The symptoms had exploded by this point, and I felt like I had completely lost control over my own health. I was having trouble getting to my classes, or even going outside. I was in serious physical pain and itched constantly. I could barely sleep. I was very close to having an emotional breakdown.

I first came across the idea of using diet to control psoriasis on a livejournal community. Someone made a post saying that their doctor made a few diet recommendations, even though they didn't really seem logical (it pointed to citrus fruit and IBproufen as triggers. Still not sure about that.) I decided to dig deeper, and eventually stumbled upon this book: Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative. Just reading the first review on gave me hope, and I decided to order it. While I waited for it to arrive, I took the advice set forth in that review. Once I read the book, I followed the diet for the most part, but didn't bother with much of the other stuff (going to a chiropractor, for example, or drinking weird teas.)

I'll make a long story short: I went from over 80% of my body being covered with psoriasis to completely clear in about a month. My skin still looked bruised where the scales had been, but they were no longer red, no longer flaking, and no longer painful or itchy. I had my life back.

After a couple years, I relaxed the diet a bit and still had mostly clear skin. As long as I kept my diet relatively healthy and free of most things that are toxic to me, I was happy; a few spots here and there don't really bug me. I discovered that my worst trigger was dairy products—any and all, skim or whatever—in effect, I have a milk allergy. This means I have to avoid a lot of foods, but it is important that I do so.

This past December, I was broke. Very broke. It was the holiday season, and everyone at work was bringing in cookies, pretty much every day. I couldn't afford groceries at the time, so I started eating as much free food as I could get. I stopped caring whether or not it had dairy in it. I am paying for it dearly now. My psoriasis exploded again after a month of eating garbage, and it is being very stubborn in making its exit. I am now used to the relaxed diet, so I'm not particularly eager to get back on the strict one.

Being scaly again has brought back a lot of the old negative feelings, and I've been getting more stares and comments than I have in a long time. Part of the reason I've created this blog is to help me through this (I'll post about my progress as I try to get back on track and heal), but I also want to be able to help other people who are in the same boat as me: young, beautiful, and struggling with self-confidence issues because of something that is largely out of their control.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pity me not.

There is a saying, a mantra, that you often see on websites to do with psoriasis: I have psoriasis, but it doesn't have me. I would like to propose a slight change to that: I have psoriasis, and it fucking sucks.

Yeah, positive affirmation (in other words, acting like everything is okay when it's really, really not), I get it. The thing is, psoriasis DOES have you. It seeps into every single second of every single day. You're at work, or school, or commuting, and there it is, constantly. A dusting of flakes in your lap. That fuzzy inner sweatshirt material abrading your skin. A stranger compliments your outfit and you smile and say thank you, but you're actually thinking, "They only said that because they feel sorry for me and are trying to make feel better because I'm so hideous."

Psoriasis isolates you. It prevents you from looking people in the eye. It eats away at your self esteem. It puts you in serious physical pain. It makes you have to vacuum a lot.

Almost every resource for dealing with psoriasis on the web is full of emotionally damaging trite bullshit. "Wear long sleeves all the time so you don't freak out the people around you." "If someone asks about your psoriasis, take the time to educate them about why you look like you have leprosy." "Carry a portable fire extinguisher for when the villagers come after you with pitchforks and torches."

The fact is, you have every right to wear whatever the fuck you want at any time, and if someone asks about your psoriasis, they are a fucking asshole. You don't owe anyone anything, and if someone has a problem with your skin, let it be their problem. Let's revise that mantra one more time: Psoriasis may have you, but you are still gorgeous, still awesome, and still capable of amazing things.
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