Tampon wars: the battle to overthrow the Tampax empire

The long read: For decades, one company has ruled the world of tampons. But a new wave of brands has emerged, selling themselves as more ethical, more feminist and more ecological

The Queen of Tampons, one of several nicknames, is a jubilant woman called Melissa Suk. Four years on the throne as the associate brand director of Tampax, Suk holds court at the head office of the multinational consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) in Cincinnati, Ohio. From there, she oversees an empire spanning 70 countries, filling bathroom cupboards in cities, towns and villages across the globe. When it comes to tampons, Tampax is the undisputed overlord, with a 29% global market share. (P&Gs nearest rival in the sector, Johnson & Johnson, still has less than 20%.) Last year, more than 4.5bn boxes of Tampax were bought worldwide. And yet, somehow, there are still corners of the earth untouched by Tampax. If your potential territory is all of the worlds bleeding vaginas, there is always opportunity for further conquest.

On a recent chilly afternoon, I met Suk, beamed in from Ohio on to a giant screen in a meeting room in P&Gs European headquarters in Geneva. The multinational occupies a vast white block with blue glass windows, a design best described as hospital chic. Perhaps because the conglomerate owns so many cleaning-product brands, every surface had an antibacterial gleam and every staffer appeared to have just passed through a delicates cycle, shining with corporate hygiene.

In the gamut of P&G meeting rooms, ranging from mountain-view to bleak, we sat in one in the death-zone category, a basement chamber that contained the ghostly echoes of dial-in codes gone wrong. One wall was plastered with a mural-style photograph of the P&G dream: a woman holding a baby wearing a P&G Pampers nappy, while doing the laundry using P&G Ariel washing powder, next to a sink on which sits P&G Fairy washing-up liquid. Now that its been done by Sport England in a recent This Girl Can advert, they could also include a tell-tale Tampax string descending between the womans legs. Altogether, it is the ultimate commercial vision: a life in which brands are so braided into our existence, and that of our mothers before us, that their presence is as invisible and unquestioned as love.

Though it was dawn in Cincinnati, Suk was undimmed. She held a pink breakfast milkshake, her blond bob was immaculate and she spoke of her millions of customers her subjects in the very brightest of voices: We have a commitment to let her live a life without limits, whether shes on her period or not. And: Weve really played a role to teach her what is a tampon, how she should use it and why she should use Tampax. From a day of listening to Tampax staffers and watching their presentations PowerPoint is P&Gs love language it was clear that the Tampax-buyer is never a consumer or a client or a user. Shes she. Like a friend, just one whose name you dont know but whose menstrual cycle you are deeply familiar with.

The Tampax team know her intimately. Like all big brands, they run a rolling programme of focus groups, talking to hundreds of women every month. They want to know how she feels about her tampon, whether shes using it right, what would make it more comfortable, more convenient. They are led, always and exclusively, they like to say, by her needs and desires. What they dont say, but is implicit, is that they are also led by the need and desire to sell more tampons.

For Tampax, like any longstanding empire, has inherent weaknesses. Over the past few years, according to market researchers Euromonitor, the global consumption of tampons has been in steady decline from a high of 17bn boxes in 2007, down to 15.9bn in 2018. Back in the meeting room, Suk rattled off five contributing factors to this drop-off in a way that suggested this list was a feature of many panicky Cincinnati brainstorms:

1) Period cessation.

2) Abundance of options.

3) Education of the form. (In other words, women having misconceptions about tampons.)

4) Concern over ingredients.

5) Concern over sustainability. (Probably the lowest, noted Suk.)

Never mind about 3, 4 and 5 for the moment. In No 1, Tampax is facing perhaps its greatest existential threat the growing number of women choosing not to have periods at all. Last year, the faculty of sexual and reproductive healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued an updated guideline, stating that there was no health benefit to taking a week-long break from the pill to have a sort of faux-period. Women simply no longer need to shed blood if they dont want to.

In threat No 2 abundance of options Tampax is reckoning with the possible fate of any long-time ruler: the rising howl of revolution, a potential coup. Over the past few years, an array of new tampon brands and period products have appeared on the market. Obeying some unwritten law, they all seem to have cute, single-word names Lola, Cora, Callaly, Ohne, Freda, Flo, Thinx, Modibodi, Flex, Flux, Dame, Daye. And they all want to topple Tampax, offering women what they see as more ethical and ecological options to replace Tampaxs single-use plastic applicators and a marketing strategy that often emphasises discretion, as though a period should be something to hide. Its ripe for the taking, said Celia Pool, co-founder of Dame, about Tampaxs hegemonic grip on the market. A brand like Tampax has dominated for so long with such hideous messaging and hideous products in such a personal area of a womans life which they use every month.

So far, the startups strategy seems to be working. People are leaving the big brands, Roshida Khanom, category director of beauty and personal care at the market research company Mintel, told me. Women are switching their loyalties and trying these new disruptors. The disruptors, meanwhile, have their eye on a vast consumer base about 2 billion people, if you calculate that around 26% of the global population is of reproductive age and therefore likely to be menstruating. Periods, seen afresh, present a seductive retail opportunity: a naturally occurring regular event that requires a monthly purchase and continues for approximately 40 years. Get a customer signed up early and then for life and shes locked in for about 480 periods, 8,640 tampons, at least 1,500.

No wonder much of Tampaxs communication is geared towards pubescent first-timers. On its UK website, next to first tampon stories and a tampon quiz, theres a teen chatbot called Alya who has a 90s-Disney, skater-girl vibe and a long wave of jaunty red hair.

Hey Girl, shall we chat? asked Alya. Im Alya, here to answer your body and puberty questions.

Alya, I replied, Tampax has dominated the menstrual market for years: can it hold on?

To be fair to Alya, it was not in her programmed brief to answer such a question, but she gave it a go anyway: Did you mean: What are TAMPAX made from / Can a tampon fall out / Can I skip this puberty thing / None of the above.

None of the above, Alya, none of the above. But thank you for trying. Well find out for ourselves.

Many girls dont use tampons straight out of the gates. For the average 12-year-old, fresh to the questionable joy of periods and yet to have sex, there is a certain caution around inserting an object into your vagina. Some never use tampons at all, particularly in countries where they are considered taboo. This includes much of Asia and many religious societies. Like many, I started with pads, which in the early 90s were a very different class of item to the winged, body-contoured products of today. I recall waddling to assembly convinced that the squeak of the quasi-nappy I had stuffed in my pants was audible to the entire school. At some point, my older sister suggested there might be a better way. And so it begins: a marriage-length relationship with a rolled wad of cotton and rayon that you put inside yourself, with a string attached so you can yank it out again.

The tampon, a late chapter in the story of menstruation, is a significant upgrade after centuries of women making do with homemade efforts old rags, sheepskin, cheesecloth sacks stuffed with cotton, pieces of fabric pinned into pants. In parts of the world, including the UK, where many women cant afford menstrual products, makeshift options are still used. Bespoke period products came into existence shortly after the first world war, when nurses realised that the cellulose-based bandages they were using to dress wounds were better than cotton at absorbing blood. Kotex introduced the first mass-market sanitary pad in 1921; it had to be held in place by a belt. Ten years later, Earle Haas, a Colorado-based doctor, invented and patented the first cardboard applicator tampon. (For those unfamiliar with the form, an applicator is the telescopic-tube mechanism that inserts the tampon into the vagina. Non-applicator tampons, or digital tampons, are pushed in by hand. Oddly, depending on which brand reached a territory first, most countries have an in-built preference for one or another so the vast majority of US consumers use applicators, while most German users dont.)

Haas, possibly to his eternal regret, sold his patent in 1933 to a Denver businesswoman, Gertrude Tendrich, for $32,000. P&G adore Tendrich, the original #girlboss, who started Tampax the same year, and was the companys first president. P&G only acquired the brand in 1997, but have internalised the backstory with the zeal of the convert and an eye to the Insta-buzz around female founders. Were extremely proud, Suk told me.

A Tampax magazine advert from 1942. Photograph: John Frost Newspapers/Alamy Stock Photo

New tampon brands often say dismissively that the tampon has barely changed since Tendrichs day, and that Tampax has failed to substantially improve the form in nearly a century an accusation that provokes polite fury in Tampaxs global director of research and development, Amy Krajewski: I dispute that, yes! she told me. I spend all day every day of my life specifically on Tampax. Hundreds of people do! Krajewski pointed to the brands official timeline as proof of their efforts: there was the dramatic switch from cardboard to plastic applicators in the 90s, the introduction of a pocket form and the more recent addition of a LeakGuard braid to the tampon string, intended to prevent a saturated tampon from staining your underwear.

Despite these improvements, viewed internally as epoch-defining gamechangers, a century of Tampax is more a story of shifting marketing tropes than major product innovation, the same humble tampon packaged up in a cornucopia of ways: Tampax Radiant, Tampax Pure, Tampax Pearl, Tampax Compak, Tampax Pearl Compak. There are the different absorbencies, strictly regulated and coded by colour: Lite (purple), Regular (yellow), Super (green), Super Plus (orange) colours so familiar to anyone who uses them that you reach for a box without thinking, a commercial allegiance at work that is likely inherited. (Many women I spoke to use the same product as their mother or sister, a particular brand passing through families like an antique clock.)

Like any decades-old company, Tampax has had to change the story it tells about itself to suit the era. Welcome this new day for womanhood, read one of its first adverts, from a July 1936 edition of The American Weekly: This summer you can experience a comfort and assurance of daintiness you have never known before. Daintiness went out of fashion pretty fast, and from the 60s onwards menstruating women were, according to print advertising, happily engaging in all manner of period-unfriendly physical activities, including waterskiing, fencing, horseback-riding and wearing tight white on the beach. Until 1972, TV adverts for menstrual products were banned in the US (and as late as 1993, agony aunt Claire Rayners advert for Vespre Silhouette sanitary towels was removed from UK television after hundreds of complaints). But in 1985, a defining moment in Tampaxs history occurred when a pre-Monica Courteney Cox became the first person to say period in a US commercial. Shes in an extremely tight leotard working out, said Suk, after delightedly showing me the video. And basically would not be able to do that in a pad.

Over the decades, Tampaxs promotion of the discretion of its products seemed to give corporate endorsement to the idea that a period was best kept secret. Youll love the Quiet Easy Reseal Wrapper, goes the current marketing blurb for Tampax Radiant. As a narrative, it seems increasingly at odds with the times. Why should we hide tampons up our sleeves on the way to the bathroom, or worry that someone might hear us unwrap one once were there? (In a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, Phoebe Waller Bridge riffed on all the possible items a copy of Mein Kampf, a neatly folded Confederate flag, a dog shit within which you could more acceptably conceal a tampon and its associated deep shame.) For years, major period brands, including P&Gs sanitary towel Always, have advertised absorbency by using a bright blue liquid, as if to deflect us from what would actually be soaking a pad. Blood, it seemed, could openly seep from grazed knees and shaving cuts, but not from a womans bits.

In the annals of menstruation, 2015 was a very big year. Early on, two viral events took place: a woman called Kiran Gandhi free-bled as she ran the London Marathon, and Instagram had to apologise after briefly removing a photo, posted by the poet Rupi Kaur, of a sleeping girl bleeding through tracksuit bottoms. Mounting political energy consolidated into various campaigning groups: in 2016, Gabby Edlin founded Bloody Good Period to help refugee women access period products, and in early 2017, the Red Box Project launched its campaign for free period products in schools. (It won: as of 20 January this year, the government will provide menstrual products to all schools and colleges across the country.) Protests against sales taxes on period products spread rapidly Australia and Germany, among others, have either reduced or eliminated the tax. (The UK still adds 5% in VAT, but set up a tampon tax fund in 2015 with the pledge that the raised money would be spent on womens charities. So far, beneficiaries have included an anti-abortion charity, eliciting a new wave of protest.) In a final symbolic flourish, late last year, a period emoji in the form of a crimson droplet was finally added to the iPhone menu.

In the midst of this newly charged menstrual atmosphere, period startups multiplied, selling products ranging from organic cotton tampons (Lola, Cora, Flo) to absorbent pants (Thinx, Modibodi) to a reusable applicator (Dame). All proclaim their high ethical standards. Flo gives 5% of its profits to womens charities, Freda partners with Bloody Good Period, and Dame says it is the only period brand to be climate positive, offsetting twice the carbon it produces. The founders do these things for their own sake, but also because theyve read the research: consumers, especially younger ones, increasingly want to buy brands that come with a side of values, a wrapping of morality.

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Tampax has had to play catch-up. In such moments, multinationals can resemble the Im-your-mate teacher with a tone-deaf enthusiasm for trends to which they are fatally late. (Womens empowerment and period pride are in, you say? Well see you there, just after weve intensely focus-grouped the issue and come up with a hashtag.) Always had already launched its #LikeAGirl advertising campaign in 2014, which revealed that girls can, in fact, do everything. And in 2019, P&G launched a period poverty campaign which involved them donating a single product that is, one tampon or pad for every pack bought within a set time bracket. (The most uncharitable thing Ive ever encountered, according to Edlin of Bloody Good Period.)

Tampax updated its products too, launching, in 2019, its first organic cotton tampon and, in the US only, its first menstrual cup in 2018. At Tampax we didnt invent the menstrual cup, we just want to perfect it, was the marketing line, in cute acknowledgement of its lateness to the party, given that cups were first invented in the 1930s. Finally, to cover any ethical gaps still left exposed by their own brands, P&G acquired an American purpose-driven period startup called This is L.

Is it so bad that P&G jumps on the bandwagon if the bandwagon involves more sustainable products and allows women greater choice? None of the startups and campaigners I spoke to were convinced. They co-opt activism, said Affi Parvizi-Wayne, the founder of Freda. Edlin suggested a full boycott of P&Gs products. They move to protect themselves, rather than to change, said Celia Pool from Dame. These big brands might dominate for now, but thats not to say theyre going to dominate forever. It was a David and Goliath situation, Pool added. And we all know who won that one.

For a startup to successfully dismantle the Tampax empire, it needs an industry-changing idea. Daye, founded in 2018, believes it has it. Its innovation, freshly launched, is a pain-relieving, CBD-infused, biodegradable cotton tampon, a phrase that could have sprung from some kind of Silicon Valley word association game. Daye is like a startup created in a lab, a model of contemporary entrepreneurialism. There is a young female founder, the dynamic 24-year-old Valentina Milanova, who has the wide smile and unwavering stare of someone who, rather than disposing of their early 20s in cheap bars and toxic romance, raised $5.5m in funding from big-name investors including Index Ventures, Kindred Capital and Khosla Ventures. There is an office in a converted biscuit factory in Bermondsey. (Biscuits becoming CBD tampons is a fairly succinct summary of the history of British business.) And there is a highly ambitious growth strategy. Daye currently has about 15,000 customers. Within the next five years we hope to be servicing 1 million customers per month, Milanova told me. A lot of women have period pain.

The startup founders backstory is the modern-day fairytale. Milanovas is powerful: she grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, started menstruating at nine, thought she was dying, kept her periods secret for years, suffered terrible menstrual pain and began researching the subject. After learning about the properties of industrial hemp, she created various products at home, before hitting on the idea of coating tampons in CBD oil. (Will you get high? a male friend asked me, fascinated, when I said I was trying it out. No, is the short answer, but according to Dayes initial trials with more than 200 people, the pain relief provided by a CBD tampon kicks in within 20 minutes, compared to the 40 minutes it takes for painkiller pills to work.)

One recent sunny morning, I visited Daye in their biscuit factory and Milanova showed me round the open-plan room of 19 young staffers who had the keen-eyed look of people doing jobs their parents dont fully understand. Along the corridor was the designated clean room, where a man in a white hazmat suit was inching around a hunk of machinery that coated the tampons in oozing brown CBD oil.

Back in 2018, when she was pitching to investors, Milanova encountered attitudes ranging from awkward to stunningly ignorant. One wondered why she was putting 18 tampons in a subscription box, given that he had never known a woman have a period for 18 days. Milanova had originally wanted to attract an all-female investor base, but quickly realised this was unlikely. Even though femtech, the uncomfortable term for any business that relates to the health or well-being of half the population, is now fashionable, startups in this space can still struggle to attract funding, as more than 90% of the decision-makers in venture capital firms are male. Its really important that those decision-makers, who will still be [predominantly] male for quite a long time to come, open their minds to the fact that femtech is not a niche, said Leila Rastegar Zegna, founding partner of Kindred Capital and one of Dayes early backers, with commendable diplomacy.

Milanova doesnt just want to make a new kind of tampon, she wants to change the whole culture around menstruation. Like many of the other new brands, much work has gone into Dayes tone, which is humorous and blunt where Tampax is euphemistic and prudish. (Yes, period poo is real, is the title of a recent blog post on Dayes website.) Many of the brands share this kind of forthright language bleed red, think green is Dames tagline; no more shoving tampons up our sleeves, proclaims Freda. In an article on its website, the period-tracking app Clue questions why we associate periods with a specific gender, arguing that it would be more accurate to talk about people who menstruate, or menstruators rather than women.

What the new tampon startups also have in common, but dont talk about quite so openly, is the fact that beneath the reusable applicator or CBD coating, their fundamental products the tampons themselves are extremely similar. While Tampax has its own tampon factories and machinery, the vast majority of Europes new-brand tampons are made in one of a handful of factories. (The two leading ones, I was told in hushed tones, are in Slovenia and Spain.) The secrecy is not unusual all companies protect manufacturing information. But many of the brands didnt seem to realise that within these factories, their tampons were most likely being made on the same machines. A Swiss manufacturing firm called Ruggli has a near-monopoly on tampon-making machines, so almost every new-brand tampon, whatever its particular design or added feature, is a Ruggli tampon. We all try and make it sound like theres something proprietary, Parvizi-Waynethe of Freda told me. But ultimately, its like a white T-shirt. Its the same product. We cant fool ourselves that this is something different.

The Ruggli factory sits on the edge of Koblenz, a small Swiss town on the banks of the Rhine. Swiss precision is one of its taglines, looping tampons in with the other prides of Switzerland, watches and private banking. More than 40 people work in the white-block facility adjoining a field which, on a recent afternoon, stank of manure. In the lobby, there was a sunken rhombus-shaped pit brimming with tens of thousands of tampons. Our tampon pool! said Valon Maliqi, head of sales and marketing, with a proud smile. The equivalent of a menstrual ball pit is not the only surprising interior decor decision at Ruggli. On the walls hang a series of pictures of naked torsos made up of green and yellow dots, with the pice de rsistance a large pair of exposed breasts saved for the boardroom.

Maliqi is the kind of tampon-engineering enthusiast who, ahead of my arrival, had neatly laid out a long row of tampons next to the sandwiches on the boardroom table. He was keen to showcase the full suite of tampons that Ruggli machines can make, and kept leaping to his feet to draw on a whiteboard the minor variations they create for different brands: tampons with holes in the head, tampons with wavy grooves (to draw the blood down the tampon), tampons with blue lines. When I asked him what the blue lines were for, he adopted an expression that suggested there was not a great deal he could say on behalf of their utility. There is, after all, only so much you can do with a wad of cotton and rayon.

On a tour of the factory, Maliqi kept half-closing doors, anxious of the highly proprietary nature of Rugglis machinery. I tried to reassure him that it was unlikely I would be able to sketch in my notebook the design secrets of a mechanism that takes a team of engineers six to 10 months to build and costs up to 2m Swiss francs (1.58m) to buy, but if you are in possession of a near-monopoly, you cant be too careful. A Ruggli machine will last for many years, a resilient piece of hardware that is the opposite of the disposable, mass-volume product it makes. The company sells fewer than 40 machines a year to about 30 tampon manufacturers worldwide, but that equates to roughly 50% of the worlds tampons being made by Ruggli machines. Its clients include multinationals who own multiple machines that run 24 hours a day and shoot out 120 tampons a minute. They never stop them! said Maliqi with some excitement.

On the factory floor, I was introduced to a finished tampon machine, in the process of being tested. It was a fabulous beast, a vast L-shape of gleaming steel, the size of an outrageous sofa or a studio apartment in an overpriced city, an inventors fantasy of visible interlocking cogs and pistons, tubes and belts, all working in rapid synchrony. At one end, a ribbon of white fabric and a spool of string were being fed into the machine, while at the other end, fully fledged, plastic-wrapped, applicator-fitted tampons were popping out and being closely inspected by a serious man wearing a black Vans T-shirt, black jeans and heavy boots.

A 1970s Tampax advertisement. Photograph: Hera Vintage Ads/Alamy

Everyone on the factory floor, I realised, was a man. Ha ha, yes! said Maliqi. In the engineering department we have some women. He paused. Most of the time in that meeting room, its men sitting there and talking about tampons. Which we never use! Neither of us were sure what to make of this. But in marketing, its a lot of women. They have huge power.

It is the marketing department, after all, that promote the wavy grooves, the holes in the head, the blue lines, the reason to buy one thing on a shelf over another thing. In the end we are not very interested in these products, we just do the machines, said Maliqi, when I asked him for a little too much detail on the thinking behind the wavy grooves. (The grooves and the holes in the head, it turns out, are essentially pointless, because blood soaks the tampon from all directions, not neatly from top to bottom.) But Maliqi did have a more concerted interest in some of the wider trends around tampon usage that might affect his business the fall in consumption, the rise in alternatives and the deep and growing mistrust of tampon ingredients.

The main ingredient of a tampon that is not 100% cotton is rayon, or viscose, made from dissolved wood pulp regenerated as cellulose fibres, a process that involves chemical treatment. It is these chemicals that tend to worry consumers, and newer tampon brands play on this fear: Most tampons contain synthetics treated with chemicals and cotton sprayed with pesticides, reads a statement on Dames website. Women use 12,000 tampons in a lifetime and the vagina is highly absorbent. You do the maths. (There currently is no maths, or science, that proves rayon tampons are harmful, although the late-90s scare around the presence of dioxin, a likely carcinogen, in tampons still lingers.)

Sinister mentions of chemicals and pesticides is the kind of talk that drives P&G wild. I take it personally sometimes. I have to remind myself, they dont know me, said an agitated Amy Krajewski, head of R&D for Tampax. She told me about the millions of dollars P&G spends on testing and monitoring its products, resources that small startups dont have. We hold ourselves to a very high standard. Wed never intentionally put anyone in harms way.

Except for when they unintentionally did. In 1975, P&G made a super-absorbent tampon called Rely that had to be removed from the market five years later due to its association with multiple cases of toxic shock syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by bacterial infection. Yes, there was that debacle, said Cheri McMaster, a brand communications manager at P&G. But as a result, she argued, P&G is now one of the leading experts in TSS. They fund scientific studies and publish data. As another P&G comms manager, Ania Bielecka, said with a casual brutality: We have a team of toxicologists that will be testing for a year, and within the same year there will be an Instagram company that will appear and disappear.

Back at Ruggli, Maliqi made the point that cotton isnt the spotless substance we might like to imagine. To make cotton seductively white and free of all the things you might find in a field bugs, dirt it needs to be treated in some way. And, as Maliqi said, You need to ask yourself: where is this cotton coming from? India and Pakistan are two of the largest cotton producers in the world, and many reports have revealed the extent to which their cotton industries rely heavily on child labour. Not only that, for every 1kg of cotton, you need 10,000 litres of water, all to help make a product that comes enclosed in a non-recyclable plastic applicator.

Still, if people are willing to pay more for organic cotton tampons (between 4 and 10 a box, compared to 2 or 2.45 for 18 Tampax Compak), then brands will make them, and Tampax will make them, too. Upgraded versions of a basic product are a quick route to profit, and most founders I spoke to had major financial goals. Flos founder, Tara Chandra, told me she hoped to become a 100m company in five to 10 years; Milanova has her eye on those 1 million customers. Most of all, they all wanted to see Tampax fall. At the heart of all startups you have big lofty ambitions, said Dame co-founder, Celia Pool. And your big lofty ambition is to take a slice of that persons pie.

Almost every founder mentioned, longingly, the berserk trajectory of Californian startup Dollar Shave Club, launched in 2011 to sell razors and shaving products through monthly subscriptions. After attracting multiple backers during four rounds of investment, the company expanded rapidly. It was a business model that seemed perfectly translatable to period products: facial hair growth, like a period, is an unavoidable bodily function that requires regular purchases. But then, in 2016, Dollar Shave Club was bought by Unilever for a reported $1bn. It was a financial win for the founders, but if the original dream was to take a slice of the pie, perhaps the more realistic vision is the one where the pie simply eats you alive, and pays you handsomely for the pleasure.

The fate of most of these period startups, closely aligned to the fate of most startups in general, will be to disappear. A lot of dollars will be burned, Rastegar Zegna, Dayes investor, warned. Or gained, if it is bought out by Tampax. In the meantime, Tampax will continue its imperial march, armed with the knowledge that new markets are often found in places previously inhabited by fear. It is called education of the form: part of its duty as the world-leading brand is to show consumers, and potential consumers, the benefits of using its product.

Suk pointed to market research that suggested African American and Hispanic women were less likely to use tampons, partly because of a notion, she said, that a tampon could break a womans hymen. You are statistically more likely if you are an ethnic woman in the US, said Suk in language that landed somewhat awkwardly, to try a tampon five or six years later than your Caucasian counterpart. Never mind the delay for the woman, thats six years of lost sales.

In response, Tampax launched its #LiveRadiant roadshow campaign, curated for black women by black women, which visits historically black colleges in the US, such as Texas Southern and Clark Atlanta. Tampax staffers turn up with a menstrual advocate, Cece Jones-Davis, and an obstetrician, Dr Kiarra King, who answer students questions while they distribute free samples of Tampax Radiant, the brand specifically created for black women (which boasts a softer, quieter quilted wrapper that can be re-purposed as an absorbent pocket for your used tampon). A television advert tagline Anything But Basic shows a young black woman hurling her little plastic envelope into a bin from the far end of a bright white sofa.

Your average startup doesnt have the resources to run a roadshow or a TV commercial, but they do have an ability to switch tack faster than a giant multinational. In the future, most intend to broaden their offering beyond tampons. Many were coy about sharing their plans, but some Flo and Freda for starters are already making the logical sidestep into incontinence products. The difference between a sanitary towel and a pad that absorbs wayward urine is zero, and yet, historically, the latter market has been dominated by the unappetising Tena brand, which you assume is only bought by ailing ladies in support stockings until you realise, having had kids, that you can be legitimately young and healthy and still have significant issues with your pelvic floor.

Many of the new brands look to the future of their customers, too, and the fact that they will not always have periods. The menopause approaches, another area of womens health previously shrink-wrapped in shame but now becoming commercially ripe. Following the menstrual example, the menopause is now undergoing its own cultural rebranding. Multiple books have been written (The Good Menopause Guide, Confessions of a Menopausal Woman, Making Friends With the Menopause, and so on); Mariella Frostrup made a BBC documentary; Gwyneth Paltrow made a Goop video. I dont think we have in our society a great example of an aspirational menopausal woman, said Paltrow, presumably nominating herself, the high priestess of expensive aspiration, for the job.

For a tampon brand, it is only logical that you would want to cover the whole hormonal journey, as one founder put it to me. Why stop selling when the bleeding stops? The menopause offers ongoing and diverse opportunity. From a business point of view, its amazing, said Parvizi-Wayne, founder of Freda. A menopausal woman is likely to have more money to spend and more time to spend it. The symptoms insomnia, anxiety, loss of libido, headaches, hot flushes are numerous and, as Parvizi-Wayne put it, every single symptom in its own right is an unaddressed market.

If you see the world as a set of addressed or yet-to-be-addressed markets, it changes things a little. I started to wonder what was left to address. Death? No, thats been done: there are a host of nifty death startups, offering cheaper funeral services and probate advice. Your mind? Done, too and Im paying for it already (along with more than 1 million other subscribers, I have the Headspace app on my phone). Disconnection our only hope has long been monetised, and again, Im shelling out for the privilege (the Freedom app, which disables the internet, is probably my most-used software). It makes sense that the only markets left are the ones weve been historically reluctant to talk about. Lets face it, an investor once told Parvizi-Wayne at a meeting, taboos have become sexy. A taboo, seen another way, is just a market still invitingly unsaturated.

This article was amended on 11 February 2020. An earlier version mistakenly stated that Gillette was owned by Unilever. In fact it is owned by Procter & Gamble.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/feb/11/tampon-wars-the-battle-to-overthrow-the-tampax-empire

Amy Dunne on her lonely, harrowing abortion fight: ‘I was told I would be done for murder’

At 17, Dunne was pregnant with a child who had a deadly problem. She was provided a pseudonym and ended up being the focus of a landmark Irish legal case and now she is recovering her story

T he week Amy Dunne turned 17, she was a number of months pregnant and made 2 discoveries– one ravaging and the other incomprehensible. A medical facility scan revealed something terribly incorrect in her womb. The fetus had anencephaly, a deadly problem. Medical professionals stated the child, a woman, would pass away right after birth.

Although she was residing in foster care and still a kid herself, Dunne had actually anticipated ending up being a mom and constructing a brand-new life with her sweetheart. Distraught, she shared the news with her social employees and stated she required to take a trip to Britain from Ireland for an abortion. When Dunne found something terribly incorrect in her nation, that’s.

One social employee stated she might not leave, Dunne remembers. “He informed me that if I did leave the nation to have an abortion and go that I would be provided for murder. Which anybody else who accompanied me would be done as an accomplice for murder.” This was April 2007 and the danger was genuine. Abortion was prohibited therefore, it appeared, was any effort to acquire an abortion abroad. The social employee notified cops and the passport workplace to obstruct Dunne’s departure.

Thus started a landmark legal case that pitted the right to take a trip versus the right to life of the coming– a mentally charged fight that triggered counter-protests and demonstrations. Dunne won — a success filled in sorrow– and had the ability to take a trip to Britain to end the pregnancy. This and other questionable cases loosened up the Catholic church’s sway over popular opinion, leading the way for a social transformation that brought abortion rights to Ireland in 2015 .

But couple of individuals understood Dunne. For her own defense, her name was scrubbed from procedures and changed with a pseudonym: Miss D. The professional photographers and tv teams who were camped outside the court throughout her case blurred her functions. She was a cipher.

Twelve years later on, Dunne, now aged 29 and the mom of a young boy, is back in the spotlight and revealing her name and face to recover her story. It is a chronicle of loss, strength and defiance. “I do not wish to be specified as the character Miss D,” states Dunne. “What I desire drawn from it are my strengths.”

She speaks from her little, clean house in Drogheda, a town north of Dublin, on a grey, drizzly early morning. A picture of a pensive-looking angel holds on the wall. Dunne works as an advertising design. She is direct and affable, with little filter. “Nobody or absolutely nothing frightens me in any scenario, since of the scenario that I’ve handled,” she states.

 Celebrations in belfast at the modifications to the law on abortion “src=”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/02ab83227d904335b00bed9f4d30900da643fefe/88_266_3314_1988/master/3314.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=c44296827c9f6159deb85eb80d22ca9c”/> Celebrations in Belfast at the modifications to the law in Northern Ireland on abortion and same-sex marital relationship. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA

To have actually been thrust into an abortion rights crucible in the middle of a distressing pregnancy has actually provided Dunne a distinct point of view– and voice– on political fights over reproductive rights inside and outside Ireland. In the 1973 United States claim Roe v Wade, the late Norma McCorvey, much better understood by the legal pseudonym Jane Roe, played an essential function in broadening abortion rights in the United States, just to later on repent and sign up with an anti-abortion motion that is now suppressing abortion gain access to in states throughout the United States.

Dunne’s journey has actually ended with her staking a position in direct contrast to that of McCorvey. Dunne is ardently pro-choice. And she does rule out herself a Catholic. The swing in the United States– where conservatives in states such as Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia have transferred to limit gain access to — horrifies her.

“If a female has actually picked to have an abortion, she’s not made that choice gently,” states Dunne. “Putting the regret on her that she’s a killer or that it’s unlawful or that she’ll be penalized for it– it’s ridiculous. It’s either for her psychological health or physical health and wellbeing and she need to be permitted to do so if a female picks to have an abortion. It’s absurd that anybody else might believe that they must manage another individual’s body.”

Dunne invites the current extension of abortion rights to Northern Ireland, lining up the area with the remainder of the UK and the Republic. “I’m pleased. It was insane that they weren’t enabled.”

Since sharing her story last month with the documentary hair Finn on TG4, and after that on other Irish media outlets, Dunne has actually ended up being an informal misery auntie for individuals with pregnancy problems. Males and female approach her in stores, on the street and by means of social networks looking for assistance or simply a friendly ear. “People do not freely discuss abortion that much, however I’m having a great deal of individuals talk honestly to me,” she states. “I do not understand if it’s an excellent or a bad thing. Now that I’m over my part, I remain in a position to offer guidance, really thoroughly.”

As a teen, Dunne was not one for listening. Her mom, reeling from a break up, moved Dunne and her brother or sisters to Drogheda, where they understood nobody. Dunne rebelled. “I’m exemplary and extremely persistent and began doing what I desired at the age of 14. I began being a devil and not getting back and getting up to mischief.” She got in short-term foster care at the age of 16. She was happy when she ended up being pregnant. Her sweetheart of 2 years shared her interest at beginning a household. “I ‘d absolutely nothing else at that time, I was so alone.”

The subsequent medical diagnosis of her infant’s anencephaly, a condition that impacts the skull and brain, set off fear, she states. “I was scared bring her within me. I didn’t wish to go through that distress. I wished to get her out. She had no opportunity of survival.”

In 2007, Ireland had intricate laws on the right to life of the coming. An abortion restriction accorded the mom and coming child an equivalent right to life. Succeeding referendums had actually loosened up limitations. If there was a significant hazard to the mom’s life, terminations were allowed. Self-destructive sensations might be premises for abortion. Dunne’s social employees revealed no disposition for subtlety and incorrectly declared there was a court order disallowing her departure to Britain, the conventional location for Irish ladies desiring abortions.

The teen called a lawyer and within days remained in the high court in Dublin, surrounded by individuals in wigs and dress, attempting to understand the maelstrom. Legal representatives spoke legalese she discovered impenetrable. Protesters lining a bank of the River Liffey waved banners and shouted while TELEVISION reporters shared information of her life and her body to the country. “It was frightening and extremely challenging,” she states now. “There was no regard for my health or psychological health and wellbeing. I didn’t understand who was for or versus me. A man with a Bible and a cross approached me one day while I was out on a break. He was hoping over me and called me wicked.”

u-responsive-ratio”> Amy drogheda “src=”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e1703eaa413ad2311cc92e9c58a454b21286f9fb/0_146_6750_4050/master/6750.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=7a53b02dffa53da37b1950e0c0c4712d”/> ‘This opened my eyes to comprehend how strong I truly am.’ Picture: Liam Murphy/The Guardian

Dunne did not comprehend why she remained in court. “I felt in one’s bones that I had an ill infant who required to be secured. She was weakening inside me as the case was going on. “Welcomed to state herself self-destructive, Dunne declined. “I was not self-destructive. My kid was ill. I understood what required to take place.”

After 3 weeks the judge ruled that Miss D, by now 19 weeks pregnant, might leave the nation. He applauded her maturity and sincerity, and stated the Irish Health Service Executive had actually failed her.

The judgment was another turning point on the course to the 2018 referendum that legalised abortion, resulting in the rollout of services this year. For Dunne, the instant consequences required a challenging see to Liverpool.

During the trial she had actually investigated terminations and enjoyed graphic videos on anti-abortion websites that turned her versus abortion. Dunne decided for a caused birth. She declined discomfort relief for nearly all the 16 hours of labour to offer her infant, called Jasmine, the very best opportunity at life, nevertheless short lived. “I was ignorant and thought that she may breathe,” she remembers. Jasmine passed away in the womb.

Dunne’s eyes shine as she remembers how she was wheeled into a space to see the body. “Her toes and fingers, they were best.” A blanket covered the face. Alerted that the problem may distress her, Dunne did not raise the blanket nor hold the child, choices that torture her to this day. “If I had actually been permitted to do this in Ireland, I might have returned. I was in a rush to capture a flight. I was shrieking leaving the medical facility, leaving her behind. I needed to leave her in a health center on her own, in a nation on her own.” When Dunne’s voice breaks, it is the only time in the interview. She buried Jasmine in a Drogheda cemetery.

Ashamed and uneasy, Dunne left of school. “I keep in mind standing in women and lines were whispering: ‘That’s Miss D.’ It’s a village.” She promptly conceived once again and brought to life a healthy kid, Adam, who is now aged 11. “A true blessing. I had somebody to concentrate on and I wished to offer him a much better life than the one I was living,” she states.

In 2010, Dunne outed herself as Miss D in an interview with RTE. It was, she states now, most likely prematurely, her sensations still too raw. She consequently pulled away from public view, however attempted once again in the 2018 referendum and spoke with the BBC. “I wished to be a huge part of it. The ‘pro-life’ posters were all over and I could not deal with it. I was extremely upset. I needed to go back.”

Her current look on TG4 , followed by other media looks, appeared to mark a turning point. Made up and significant, she has actually reclaimed ownership of her story. Audiences reacted warmly. One media organisation has actually mooted employing her as a speaker.

At last, Dunne accepts that she is not a castaway. “I’m extremely pleased with myself now,” she states. “This opened my eyes to comprehend how strong I truly am. I didn’t understand that what I had actually done was so favorable for other ladies. I didn’t understand there was a lot assistance.” She glances at the angel picture on her wall and smiles. “My stress and anxiety has actually soothed itself. I have actually ended up being a lot more comfy in myself as an individual. If I had a bag of rubbish on my back and I’ve discarded it, I feel as. It’s gone. It’s like a trick that I was bring, and it’s not a secret anymore. Now I seem like an excellent individual.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/dec/05/amy-dunne-miss-d-abortion-told-would-be-done-for

An MRI scan reveals what I thought was a migraine to be something darker

My signs of lightheadedness, headaches, lightheadedness and confusion, which I have actually constantly thought about part of my migraines, are a sign of something more threatening, states Eva Wiseman

T he method to make a scary movie frightening is to keep the beast concealed, and this is how I’ve begun to feel about my brain. Considering that I was a teen my migraines have actually started in the very same method, with a white mark on my vision, as if I’ve looked too long at the sun. The mark grows up until I can hardly see, and after that the headache comes, and after that, well. In June, I woke with the familiar blind area, however that afternoon it had not altered, nor had it vanished a week later on, or a month. Ultimately I had an MRI. Prior to I cruised into the area tube, I selected the Beach Boys to play through the earphones; as I closed my eyes to prevent the claustrophobia, the opening notes of In My Room, the noise of an ancient broadband connection simply behind it. The next day I got a call from the neurologist. Instead of a migraine, he stated, with unknown graveness, I ‘d had a series of mini-strokes. When whatever feels alright, #peeee

It’s odd to be revealed proof that something’s incorrect with you. The sensation advised me of a comparable unlikeliness 5 years earlier– when all proof stated I was pregnant, however up until the kid really showed up in blood and drama, the medical diagnosis stayed to me a kindly theory. This time the oddness is a various shape to that growing bump– ghostly, uncertain. I’m composing this with one eye shut, as the blind area stays, exposed now to be where the capillary to the eye has actually been completely harmed. I am seeing the scar of a stroke, its stain. A tired dribbling moose if I focus I can make out its shape. Because very first telephone call I asked the medical professional, if I had not understood I ‘d had these strokes, how would I understand if I was having another? Well, he stated, you may feel … and after that he calmly rattled a list of signs– lightheadedness, headaches, lightheadedness, confusion– which all explained the information of my every day life and a number of the qualities that keep me charming.

So my daily has actually ended up being a BBC drama, where every episode is weighted with the possibility of murder, however there is no body. And though the skyrocketing shots of cliffs and sea appear threatening, it’s simply landscape and weather condition– if you turn the colour up it might be a postcard from the past, and if you had not check out the sneak peek in the paper, you would not understand there was any death at all. My cliffhangers are the weekly medical facility tests to find why something like this is taking place to somebody like me, in order to avoid another stroke that may be less small, and every one features its own kindly physician and a brand-new understanding of a part of my body I ‘d considered approved.

My heart, for instance, which I’ve primarily trusted for pounding and love, has actually collected ominous brand-new significance. In a dark space a cardiologist spoons me and, together in a type of love, we see his screen to see if the organ consists of holes. My brain, previously a helpful and benign good friend, a mate, seems like a slipping existence. It provided the blind area like a ransom note in the post, a hazard and a tip of the power it wields. What could it shut off next? My capability to smell urine from a hundred rates? My choice for a dark chocolate biscuit? A discomfort that will alter me?

It’s tough to exercise how to process this news, both for me and my pals. It’s bad, isn’t it, however okay bad. It’s like I’ve been shot, however someplace ridiculous, like in the earlobe or little toe. It would be simpler for them if there was an apparent injury, a cast they might sign. It would be simpler if it was something that was taking place today, present tense, instead of something that has actually occurred, past, just selecting to expose itself now. If I, it would be much easier. felt something. I have headaches, however I constantly have headaches. I am exhausted, however I’m constantly tired. All of a sudden I am being dealt with the method I was born to be dealt with– my partner provides a dressing dress to me on the stroke of 7, putting a cool hand on my head. At a current health center visit he raised me on to the bed when I passed out, and later on at my demand did an impression of the method my face went right before. As I approach completion of my 30s, I discover my last vice is severe compassion.

My concerns about what takes place next are less technical more existential, as I think about a future of never ever rather understanding. Like a moms and dad that moves their household out of the city after bingeing on stories of stabbings, am I predestined for a bubble-like life, where every headache sends me spiralling into the web? As somebody who has actually constantly taken care to acknowledge, for worry of falling under those ancient holes of diet plans and remorse, that we ought to live quietly inside our altering bodies, I am now struck daily by the detach. In between what my brain informs me and what it actually indicates. In between what I see and what I can’t, and in between the method I feel and the method I am.

Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/nov/03/an-mri-scan-reveals-what-i-thought-was-a-migraine-to-be-something-darker

‘CBD lubricant is a bestseller’: cannabis oil products are booming but does the science stack up?

Its been hailed as a wonder ingredient, added to everything from ice-cream to hummus. But is CBD more than just a wellness trend?

Last month, Lisa Jenkins went for a walk alone around her local park for an hour, the first time she had done so unaided for 13 months. Jenkins was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of three. Now 46, she struggles with vertigo and dizziness, as well as muscle spasms and poor mobility. An Access to Work grant means that she can get a taxi to and from her job in advertising, but for the last three months she hasnt needed one. The difference? She believes, a few drops of grassy-tasting oil under the tongue each morning.

I have been using a 5% CBD oil for six months, she says. I previously took Duloxetine [an antidepressant medication also used to treat nerve pain] which was initially helpful, but my muscle-freezing episodes came back and I stopped taking it. I was also prescribed Valium, but you cant take that during the working day. A friend suggested she try the legal cannabis derivative. She has since been taking it every morning before work, using more during the day if her muscles become tight. Within an hour of taking those first three drops, my muscles relax, she says. The stress in my head calms down. The longer I take it, the better things seem to be.

Jenkins is one of an estimated 1.3 million UK consumers who spend a total of 300m a year on cannabidiol (CBD) products. The oil contains one of the non-psychoactive chemicals found in the hemp plant not the illegal mind-altering THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that gets you high and has been on the shelves of specialist health food shops and hemp dispensaries since 1998. Its 21 years since the British government first issued a licence for a cannabis extract to be developed for use in clinical trials.

But in the last few years, it has leapt into the mainstream, acquiring the ubiquity of vitamin C and the social status of something much sexier. Most commonly consumed as an oil dropped under the tongue, CBD is also available as gummy sweets, capsules, body salves and e-liquids to vape. A CBD gold rush has led to an explosion of infused products, everything from soft drinks, tea and coffee to ice-cream, toothpaste and shampoo. You can get vaginal suppositories containing CBD (weed tampons) that are said to help with pelvic pain; CBD-infused deodorants and sexual lubricant (said to promote relaxation and increase blood flow); even CBD hummus, perhaps to snack on after your lubricated endeavours.

For CBD evangelists, it seems there is no health problem it cant help from chronic pain, depression, anxiety and skin conditions to insomnia. Many report that CBD improves concentration, memory and general mood, as well as reducing stress levels. But the products cant legally make such claims; in the UK, CBD can be sold and advertised only as a generic food supplement. We never use any medical terminology, says Johan Obel, director of popular online CBD retailer the Drug Store, standing in front of a huge, gold-framed artwork of a nerve cell in its central London store. If people come in asking for advice on a specific issue, we tell them to do their own research. (He adds that their sexual lubricant is by far one of our bestsellers.)

The boom in CBD-infused products on the high street is reminiscent of short-lived fads of recent years, such as our brief fixation with chia seeds, turmeric (rendering lattes highlighter-yellow) or spirulina. Only, CBD does not seem to be going anywhere. On a recent walk through London I visited a cafe serving camomile and CBD lattes, passed a yoga studio advertising CBD classes, and a bar serving CBD-infused cocktails. The CBD acronym, with its suggestion of something illicit, is catnip to anxious consumers in need of something they cant quite put their finger on.

Most years there is a golden product a Holy cow, can you believe how much of this were selling? thing, says Al Overton, buying director at Planet Organic. There was the year of quinoa, the year of manuka honey, the year of the goji berry. Now its CBD. We have been selling CBD products in our supplement section for just over two years, and its been our fastest-growing product in that time. The majority of interested customers are female especially those who feel that conventional pharmaceuticals arent working for them. He thinks its too soon to tell how much of a fixture infused foods and drinks will become. We see oils and capsules as more of a sophisticated and long-lasting trend, but it is early days with the edibles.

I have been using CBD oil on and off for two years myself, finances permitting. Its expensive: a bottle of 1,000mg (10%) CBD oil from Love Hemp, costing 49.99, lasts three weeks on average. I started because I wanted something to help with crippling period pain and associated symptoms, including anxiety. I love the taste; a bitter, herbaceous blast, like a joint dipped in strong extra-virgin olive oil. More importantly, when I take CBD regularly I notice that, when the dreaded week of cramping and gut chaos arrives, my perception of the pain shifts; I am aware of the sensations and their cause, but am less agitated by them. It feels as if the message of pain is being delivered in a different language. But does the science back me up?


Between 2002 and 2012 there were nine published studies on the use of CBD for the treatment of pain. By 2017, there had been 30. Almost all have shown potential benefits. However, with their small participant numbers, along with the fact that those participants are mostly rats, it is hard to make reliable claims about the human response. Very few of the claims for CBDs effects have actually been, or are being, tested, says Dr Sagnik Bhattacharyya, of Kings College Londons (KCL) psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience unit. Scientists there have been investigating whether large doses of CBD could help treat severe mental health problems. We have carried out a couple of studies where we show that a single 600mg dose of cannabidiol can normalise brain function in key regions we know are abnormal in people with psychosis, he says. KCL now has funding to carry out a large-scale trial to test whether CBD could be useful in treating young people at high risk for developing psychosis. If successful, its new trial will provide definitive proof of CBDs efficacy as an antipsychotic treatment, and pave the way for clinical use.

There is currently no evidence to show what regular low doses, like 30 or 40mg a day, are doing. Photograph: Ilka & Franz/The Guardian

Meanwhile, Great Ormond Street hospital (GOSH) has published research showing that CBD has potential as a treatment for epilepsy, particularly for children with the severe, drug-resistant form known as Dravet syndrome. The study showed that CBD reduced seizures by nearly 40% for the 120 children who took part in the trial. Prof Helen Cross, consultant in paediatric neurology at GOSH, said: The results of this study are significant, and provide us with firm evidence of the effectiveness of cannabidiol. This drug could make a considerable difference to children who are living with Dravet syndrome and endure debilitating seizures.

CBD has also been shown to be helpful for decreasing the myriad symptoms of anxiety. In 2011, scientists from Brazil conducted a trial with people with social anxiety disorder. Participants were split into two groups; one received a single 600mg dose of CBD, the other a placebo. All subjects completed a simulated public-speaking test which involved choosing a topic from a pre-selected list on which to deliver a speech, directed at a television camera as if addressing a large audience. Those who received the CBD dose before the task experienced considerably reduced anxiety levels compared with the placebo group. Preliminary evidence from another trial, completed this year by scientists at the University of Colorado, also suggests that CBD may be helpful to those who struggle with anxiety-related sleep disturbances.

But there is currently little robust evidence to support the claims CBD users make for the oils, coffees and hummus available on the high street. So, if over a million people are finding these work, are we witnessing a global placebo effect?


The doses used in clinical trials tend to be much higher than you can buy commercially. Its usually between 600-1500mg, either as a one-off or repeated dose, says Dr Chandni Hindocha, a research fellow with University College Londons clinical psychopharmacology unit, and part of a team researching whether CBD can help treat nicotine and other addictions (the results are promising so far). Hindocha emphasises the need for more research into dosing ranges. There are no observational studies about the lower-dose products people are taking right now. We have no idea how much theyre taking and why theyre taking it.

In the clinical trials Hindocha has worked on, most participants cannot differentiate between a 100mg dose of CBD and a placebo. If most people are getting something like 50mg of CBD in a bottle, we need to think about what is going on, she says. In her opinion one-off doses of CBD in popular edibles are unlikely to have any effect. We know that the beneficial effects of CBD usually come from building up levels of it in the body, she explains, but this is with the high trial doses. There is currently no evidence to show what regular low doses, like 30 or 40mg a day, are doing.

But what about the vast amount of anecdotal evidence for its efficacy, particularly in helping with chronic pain? Dee Montague, a press officer from Newport, Wales, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2018, 18 years after first going to the doctor. The impact on her life has been striking. I played roller derby for eight years but had to quit due to the pain and fatigue. I am completely exhausted by the time I get home from work and can barely function.

The majority of interested customers are female especially those who feel that conventional pharmaceuticals arent working for them. Photograph: Ilka & Franz/The Guardian

She finds that CBD helps. In 2018,she began to experiment with an oil. It took a week of regular doses to make any difference, she says, but she was pleasantly surprised. I found my cramps were far less intense. My sleep improved slightly, which made a real difference to my quality of life. She then switched to a skin balm, because the guidance is to avoid taking CBD oils within two hours of other prescribed medication and she relies on daily medication for asthma. Montague has now been using a CBD-rich skin balm for a year, applying it to her stomach and pain spots on her legs every morning and night. The 100g jar she buys contains 1,000mg of CBD; Montague admits it is hard to know exactly how much CBD she is using each time, and does not view it as a cure or painkiller, as such. But the side-effects are nonexistent compared with opiates, she says. I feel far more in control of my pain and day-to-day life.

CBD works by affecting the function of our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Made up of neurons (nerve cells), endocannabinoids (cannabis-like substances the body makes naturally) and cannabinoid receptors, the ECS is responsible for regulating the bodys systems to maintain homeostasis: keeping our internal temperature, blood sugar and pH levels balanced, along with the amount of water in the body. It tells the body when to start sweating (to cool down) and when to stop. Everything from chronic pain to migraines and epileptic seizures have been linked to ECS deficiency.

It is thought that when we introduce a new cannabinoid into the body, such as CBD, it binds with these receptors and, like a molecular power-up, increases the amount of natural cannabinoids in the body. CBD has also been shown to bind with receptors for serotonin (our feelgood molecule) and GABA (the molecule that calms the nervous system), increasing the amount available to the body offering a potential explanation for CBDs reported calming effects.

I asked Hindocha whether stories such as Montagues suggest that such small doses could be having an impact? It is very interesting, she says, because there is an argument that low doses of CBD could potentially affect inflammation in the body. One complicating factor is metabolism. When someone takes CBD oil, much of it will be broken down by the liver, Hindocha explains. Without knowing about their metabolism, we have no idea how much CBD theyre really absorbing.


Before you can consider how much youre absorbing, you need to know how much youre taking in the first place: this year a major study by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis found that 38% of CBD oils contain less than half the amount of CBD stated on the label. Almost half (45%) of the products contained more than 0.2% of THC (the Home Offices legal threshold) and, therefore, were technically illegal in the UK.

Browse the CBD shelf in your local health shop and youll find a huge variation of strengths on offer; but a higher CBD content means a higher price. Holland & Barrett sells a 10ml bottle of oil by Jacob Hooy containing 5% CBD for 29.99; Boots stocks 10ml bottles by Dragonfly containing 11.1% CBD for 70. One of the strongest products available is by Love Hemp: a 10ml bottle with 40% CBD, for 259.99. Love Hemp suggests a maximum daily dose of 200mg; while it is thought impossible to overdose on CBD, most producers offer guidance on dosing. I notice that none of the infused products carry warnings about maximum doses, age limits, or driving.

Hemp can be legally grown in the UK with a government licence, but is an incredibly small sector. It is estimated that only 810 hectares (2,000 acres) of hemp are currently cultivated in the UKs 42m acres of agricultural land. When I visited a couple of rough-and-ready CBD outlets in London which, as well as oils, sold whole hemp flowers in clear plastic bags, it made me nervous about where it came from. I was routinely assured the flowers contained less than the legal 0.2% of THC. But how can a layperson, without access to a lab and a scientist to test it, really know?

The nice man running one of my local CBD shops a modest outfit selling oils, e-liquids, balms and bongs offered me tea and lots of convincing chat, but agreed that dosing essentially comes down to experimenting. The smell of his shop instantly, rather thrillingly, transported me to the top of the multistorey car park in Bishops Stortford, the locus of my teenage experimentation with marijuana. Perhaps that whiff of transgression contributes to CBDs seductiveness? Even if we know it wont get us high, its wellness with an edge.

The Drug Stores Obel tells me that nearly all the CBD products in the UK originate from the same wholesalers; the extraction equipment is too expensive for smaller companies. It takes a long time to figure out how to do it properly only a few people actually have the knowledge, he explains. In most cases, producers simply add the extract to their carrier oil of choice and put a new label on it.

Obel says the majority of his customers are women aged 40 and above. The audience for a recent in-store event, a panel discussion on the impact of stress, was 80% female. From what we have seen, women want to self-educate and be responsible for their own health. They want to seek more options than those offered by traditional medicine, he says. He does not believe the boom in CBD-infused high-street products like chocolate, tea and hummus will last: We believe everyday products with CBD added will fade away. Products in which CBD is the actual active ingredient, or where CBD serves a specific purpose in supplements or cosmetics those will most likely remain.


That we currently have no idea of CBDs full potential is at once incredibly exciting and frustrating. Without more dedicated research, the commercial market will remain something of a wild west. Meanwhile, people will continue to inform themselves, spending their money on products with, it seems, woolly efficacy. The costs will remain prohibitive to many. Meanwhile brands will continue merrily infusing their teas and ice-creams with nominal amounts of CBD, knowing that people will pay extra for the buzz cannabis brings.

I am now thinking more carefully about my own experimentation. Unless I pay close to 300 on a regular basis, for the highest strength of CBD oils commercially available the only products that come close to what is being clinically tested it strikes me that I may be experiencing a placebo effect. Then again, with the research in its infancy, I might not. So I will finish the bottle I have. Beyond that, the question is: how much am I willing to pay for a maybe?

A touch of grass: high-street CBD, taste-tested

Buddha Teas CBD Matcha Green Tea Blend (18 bags), 16.99


They say Our innovative process ensures that the CBD in our tea bags actually ends up in your tea.

CBD count 5mg per bag

Our verdict The taste is very subtle and the bags can rip, but I was surprised at how easily I fell (and stayed) asleep Im normally a very light sleeper.

Themptation Hemp Chocolate Spreadables CBD vanilla spread, 165g, 5.05


They say More seeds than sugar, more hemp than any other ingredient, packed with 10mg of organic CBD oil and vanilla.

CBD count 10mg

Our verdict This is so delicious and wholesome-tasting, its hard to separate that feelgood factor from any CBD effect. Definitely moreish; keep away from kids.

Aussie calm the frizz Shampoo, 300ml, 3.99


They say Our miraculous formula, with Australian hemp seed extract, will tame your mane in next to no time.

CBD count Some cannabis sativa seed extract.

Our verdict Foamy and minimally scented, this resulted in noticeably softer, smoother hair. Was that the hemp? I liked it more than other Aussie shampoos.

Wunder Workshop turmeric x CBD Raw Chocolate Bliss bar , 40g, 6.99


They say With cacao from Peru; turmeric from Sri Lanka; and boosted with CBD.

CBD count 16mg

Our verdict I liked the taste definitely got the turmeric but no obvious relaxing effect.

Nooro raw, vegan oat CBD bar in Cacao & Coconut, 45g, 2.95


They say Our CBD is sourced from a small independent UK grower.

CBD count 25mg

Our verdict Pleasant initially, but followed by a soapy aftertaste. Quite sickly.

BumbleZest ginger, turmeric and CBD shot, 60ml, 3.15


They say A natural fiery drink with a lemon base, designed to be taken as a health shot on the go.

CBD count 2.5mg

Our verdict One tester found it very acidic, quite unpleasant, made me sneeze. Another loved the fieriness: I felt energised and set up for the day. Or it could have been my morning swim.

The Marshmallowist limited edition marshmallows, 15 for a box of six


They say Crafted from organic CBD-infused mallow whipped to create a super-light texture. Do not exceed two marshmallows per day.

CBD count 10mg per marshmallow

Our verdict Great flavours (choose from cocoa, blood orange or grapefruit), very fluffy, not too sweet, these started life on a market stall and still have that premium feel.

Drink 420 CBD infused elderflower & lime or wild berry drink; 250ml, 2.29

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/sep/14/cbd-lubricant-bestseller-cannabis-oil-products-booming

My breast reduction: why I had the surgery that helped Simona Halep win at Wimbledon

The operation released me from persistent headaches, and back and neck discomfort. Absolutely nothing about the procedure was simple

T hree days prior to Christmas 2015, when I was 19, I had my breasts decreased in size. Sitting alone in my flat after the operation at Ross Hall health center in Glasgow, I challenged my scars for the very first time, and I sobbed.

It was not the very first time that I had actually sobbed over my body, however these were not the tears of an unpleasant, disappointed teen. If I had actually been through a fight and had actually emerged triumphant, I felt as. Holding those stitched-up breasts, a workable 32E below a 34GG, I was lastly, gloriously me.

After Simona Halep was crowned the 2019 Wimbledon champ, I questioned if she had actually felt the very same after her surgical treatment 10 years earlier. Halep, then a 17-year-old increasing star, had actually felt that her chest was impacting her video game, and chose to have her breasts decreased from a 34DD to a 34C. “It’s the weight that difficulties me,” she stated at the time . “My capability to respond rapidly– my breasts make me unpleasant when I play.”

Although she informed Sports Illustrated in 2015 that her breast-reduction surgical treatment had actually been her “greatest sacrifice” for the sport, Halep has actually stated she has actually never ever been sorry for the choice. “I didn’t like them [her breasts] in my daily life either. I would have opted for surgical treatment even if I had not been a sportswoman.”

Today, as a 23-year-old reporter, I still feel the magnitude of my choice, and its effect not simply on my body, however on my psychological health and every other element of my life. I no longer require to conceal my body under layers of clothes or sleep in a specific position to prevent stress. I can stay up directly without bring in stares, or allegations of being attention-seeking. Many liberating of all, the operation released me from persistent headaches, and back and neck discomfort that had actually led me to take pain relievers every day.

Breast-reduction surgical treatment is performed under basic anaesthetic, usually by surgeons in personal practice. The operation normally includes eliminating excess fat, glandular tissue and skin, and improving the staying breast tissue. The nipple is moved, developing a scar that, for many females, runs vertically and throughout the breast crease in an anchor shape.

u-responsive-ratio”> Simona Simona Halep … states she never ever regretted her choice. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/AFP/Getty Images

The operation can eliminate as much as a kg from each breast, and takes in between 90 minutes and 4 hours, depending upon the degree of the decrease; a two-night health center stay is suggested. It is likewise costly: about 6,500, according to the NHS , omitting any assessments or follow-up care.

Despite all this, the variety of individuals having the treatment is on the increase. In 2018, 4,409 females had their decreases spent for by NHS England, up from 4,354 in 2017, 4,188 in 2016 and 3,959 in 2015. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons’yearly audit in May discovered that it was the second-most-popular treatment for females (after breast enhancement), with 4,014 females in the UK having actually paid to have their breasts minimized in the previous year, a boost of 7%in between 2017 and 2018.

That many ladies are prepared to carry the expense themselves is testimony to the life-altering capacity of the treatment. A 2010 research study by Georgetown University Hospital discovered that numerous breast decrease clients reported an enhancement in their persistent headaches and migraines following decrease surgical treatment.

Patient fulfillment is high: in 2012, a 10-year retrospective analysis of 600 successive clients at a single organization in the United States discovered that more than 95% of them would decide to have the surgical treatment once again. It concluded that there was a verifiable enhancement in the client’s lifestyle, despite their weight and size or just how much breast tissue was gotten rid of.

“I do not even think about a breast decrease to be a cosmetic treatment– it’s an extremely useful operation,” states Chris Hall, an expert cosmetic surgeon in Belfast and a member of the British Association of Plastic Aesthetic and reconstructive Surgeons (Bapras). “The physical advantages, how clients feel emotionally later on and the enhancement of their lifestyle are all well-documented. The eligibility requirements set, which has actually been significantly tightened up over the years, makes it nearly difficult to get the treatment on the NHS .”

The NHS requirements are supported by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, that includes the Royal College of Surgeons and the independent assessors the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. A client needs to have had a constant BMI of less than 27; their breasts need to be of “huge disproportion to body habitus”; they might or need to have “intractable intertrigo” (swelling brought on by skin-to-skin friction), “asymmetry higher than one cup size” and “substantial mental distress”.

But numerous females who have actually looked for to have their surgical treatment covered have actually suffered disparities and absence of openness over how to certify. Amy Hill, a 23-year-old individual fitness instructor, was at first declined for a breast decrease in spite of a bra size of 28KK. “I disliked my breasts– they were a consistent stress on me,” she states.

Getting a bra was difficult. When she went to Bravissimo, an expert store with the motto “motivating big-boobed women to feel fantastic”, they informed her that they didn’t make them in her size. “I sobbed in the altering spaces.”

For the finest part of a year, she used a swimsuit top. “It was all that would fit me. I would constantly draw in undesirable attention: individuals believed they were phony. You might constantly see them. They were huge.”

When Hill was informed that she did not satisfy the requirements for a decrease– “they informed me they didn’t impact me psychologically sufficient”– she blacked out, she states. “I was so desperate for it. For somebody to reverse and inform me ‘no’– it ravaged me.”

But she kept pressing. “The entire procedure was stressful and so long. I would wait 3 months for a consultation for them to then inform me something they might have informed me on the phone. I was going to quit, however my mum had actually had [the operation] And informed me that I required to simply keep attempting when she was my age. She stated that it wasn’t as difficult for her as it was for me.”

Hill ultimately had a breast decrease on the NHS in 2016, when she was 21. In healthcare facility, after her operation, a nurse didn’t think that her breasts had actually formerly been as big as she stated. “She made me leave the bed to determine them,” states Hill. “Everyone else in the ward was commenting that I could not have actually perhaps been the size I stated I was; that it was difficult.

“I was so ashamed, I sobbed. I felt a bit shamed by individuals for disliking my breasts, and wishing to eliminate them.”

But Hill has actually not been sorry for the operation for a minute. “Before, when I went to the health club, I needed to use 3 bras. Now, within a year of starting training as an individual fitness instructor, I’m opening a health club of my own. I was extremely fortunate to get the treatment.”

The eligibility requirements vary in every sector of the NHS, implying that females looking for the surgical treatment are practically at the grace of a postcode lotto, states Russell Bramhall, an expert at the Canniesburn cosmetic surgery system in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. “I can not keep in mind the last time I did a breast decrease on the NHS. Whatever has actually got tighter and tighter; we operate in an inadequately moneyed state system.” The recommendation procedure and long waiting times can likewise be a barrier.

In my case, I was best to compare my journey to a fight. I campaigned for my operation to be carried out by the NHS for 4 years. NHS Scotland acknowledges breast decreases under its remarkable recommendation procedure for treatments that are not dealing with an underlying illness procedure, and thus just offers them on extremely unusual celebrations. Clients should be described a scientific psychologist after evaluation and go through the choice of a medical commissioning group.

I was anticipated to strip and stand at every assessment, prodded and poked by male medical professionals, trainee medical professionals and nurses. I felt I had no option– it was as if by choosing to have the surgical treatment, I had actually quit my right to personal privacy.

At one consultation, a young GP printed off NHS recommendations on breast decreases after Googling it. At my psychiatric assessment, a female medical psychologist asked me: “When you state you believe individuals are gazing at you on the street– are you not looking at them initially?”

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Amy Hill … had a breast decrease on the NHS. Photo: Amy Hill

After a stressful, invasive and embarrassing battle with my GP and NHS Scotland, I wound up spending for the operation myself. The system successfully presses females looking for breast decreases into the economic sector, state Bramhall and Hall.

Ann(not her genuine name ), a 22-year-old trainee living in Scotland, desires a decrease operation for her 36FF breasts, however can’t pay for to go personal. “I wish to like the method my breasts look, however I truly do not, despite the fact that all my sexual partners like them. There have actually been times when I have actually felt so disappointed, I have actually thought of the physical and mental relief of simply slicing them directly off my body. They do not make me feel more womanly, so I do not believe I ‘d feel less of a female without them.”

Ann discovers that clothing never ever fit appropriately, and bras cost far more than those in basic sizes. Many of all, she states, “my back injures– however not enough for the NHS”.

Bramhall states that along with the physical issues connected with big breasts– “pain in the back, shoulder discomfort, infections, bra straps cutting, impetigo-like thrush under the breast”– the effect on individuals’s psychological health and lifestyle is typically ruled out. “A typical psychological sign in my clients is low self-confidence and bad body image. They do not have self-confidence socially, and when they run out their clothes with their partners. I get females all the time who explain not feeling comfy in swimsuit or summertime clothes– the quantity of enjoyment they get in summertime is decreased. Individuals use loose clothes all the time to camouflage their look. It’s not taken into consideration at all.”

Those who can’t manage personal surgical treatment might be lured by less expensive choices that are not constantly safe or well-regulated. Bapras members report seeing clients who had post-op issues after cosmetic treatments outside the UK, where eligibility requirements are frequently more lax or perhaps nonexistent. In a lot of cases, having unmanageably big breasts is related to health problems such as weight problems, due to the failure to workout, and stress and anxiety and anxiety, due to low self-confidence and self-image (which can change into body dysmorphic conditions).

Hall states the NHS requirements can reject surgical treatment to those who require it most. “A great deal of the requirements are based upon bad proof: for instance, it is really difficult to preserve a BMI of listed below 27 for 2 years with big breasts. You can’t work out. They look larger if you are slim. If you are a size M, your breasts can weigh the equivalent of 2lb of sugar on both sides.”

Both specialists acknowledge the pressure that the NHS is under, leading it to prioritise injury and cancer cases. “The NHS does not have an endless pit of loan,” states Hall, “however what Bapras would like is openness and harmony. We would like the exact same eligibility requirements throughout the nation so it corresponds, no matter where you live. If the NHS chooses that nobody is getting a decrease, then it ought to inform us that there is no cash, which it isn’t going to money it.”

It speaks with a broader concern in females’s health concerns not being taken seriously that every year, countless ladies are spending for a treatment that certainly enhances their health and lifestyle. I had actually had problem with the choice to look for surgical treatment, questioning if it was anti-feminist to wish to alter my body– however my decrease ended up being the most empowering choice I had actually ever made. It was not practically making my breasts smaller sized– it was a course to a life of self-confidence, devoid of pain.I got autonomy over my body, however I needed to defend it.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/15/my-breast-reduction-why-i-had-the-surgery-that-helped-simona-halep-win-at-wimbledon

Is there such a thing as vegan loo roll?: how to have a cruelty-free home

From plant-based paint to ethical furnishings, developing a vegan house is less complex, and expensive, than you might believe

W ith vegan food, style and makeup strongly developed in the mainstream, increasingly more individuals are trying to find methods to have an ethical, cruelty-free house, too. You might not have offered much idea to what animal-based items appear in your home, however there are lots of: materials, from silk to wool to sheepskin, are an apparent example– however is your bed mattress vegan? What enters into your cleansing items, or your energy supplier? And exists such a thing as vegan bathroom roll?

The reality is, you can take a vegan technique to selecting practically anything for your house– and it need not be made complex or pricey. Next time you need to change a product or remodel a space, look around for vegan choices– you’ll be amazed at what’s readily available.

Many individuals select to go cruelty-free in the house for caring factors, however there’s an engaging environmental argument, too. The ecological footprint of vegan items is drastically smaller sized than that of those originated from animals; they likewise tend to utilize far less chemicals in their production. (The leather utilized to make a couch has to be greatly treated with preservatives and resins. With a plant-based option, you’ll prevent direct exposure to these kinds of compounds.)

Some huge sellers stock vegan homewares, consisting of John Lewis, Habitat and Ikea. Soft home furnishings are a simple location to begin. Manmade variations of animal-derived materials are frequently more economical than the genuine thing, and carry out well, too. There are vegan materials made from recycled bottles (attempt weavergreen.com ), leathers made from pineapple fiber (shot parkinfabrics.co.uk ), and acrylics or other synthetics, linen, PVC, cotton and satin (choose natural cotton, however, as its production is far less harmful to the environment).

Paints are harder: they typically consist of animal derivatives and the majority of have actually been checked on animals, so you’ll need to pay a little bit more for plant-based, vegan options. Fortunately is that these are typically VOC-free, emitting none of the undesirable chemicals that can activate health issue . Lakeland paints are vegan, and Auro uses a vegan variety, too.

If you’re selecting wood furnishings, think of how the wood is sourced. Trees offer environments for countless various types and the climate-altering results of logging are popular, however we do not constantly consider this when buying a brand-new chair or table. Try to find FSC-certified products or those made from recovered wood. Or think about bamboo: it grows quickly and utilizes little water in its production. To make certain your brand-new purchase hasn’t been varnished or glued with animal-derived items, you’ll require to try to find accredited vegan products: have a look at peta.org.uk , treehugger.com , or online vegan outlet store wearthlondon.com for concepts.

Another sound eco choice is to pick classic pieces, that might otherwise be predestined for garbage dump. A benefit of this is that you will not need to fret a lot about “off-gassing” (brand-new products are typically treated with a heady mixed drink of chemicals that seep out after production, which you might choose to prevent sitting or breathing in on). Stainless-steel furnishings is an alternative to wood: it’s long lasting, recyclable and vegan in regards to products; steel does not require to be covered with preservatives. It’s environmentally friendly, too: ditch metal is the market’s main source of basic material, and the majority of products will be made up of 60% to 80% recycled steel.

Cleaning items are a little bit of a minefield, with product-testing a concern and animal derivatives in lots of products; however there are lots of choices out there. If the idea of scrolling through lists of components sounds as fascinating as enjoying your plant-based paint dry, do not misery: try to find items that bring the Vegan Society or Leaping Bunny logo designs, or go to veganwomble.co.uk for lists of homecare items.

While you’re reconsidering daily purchases, preventing plastics is an apparent action that will have an influence on the wellness of numerous types: how about buying some great old-fashioned scarfs rather of plastic-wrapped tissues? Reevaluating your option of individual care items (from razors and prophylactics to hygienic products) can make a substantial distinction, and there are vegan variations of all of these.

What about other products we require? A significant expense for the majority of us is our energy expense: is it possible to make a vegan option when it pertains to our company? Remarkably, yes. Green energy is an action in the ideal instructions, however even if a provider utilizes renewable resource, it does not make it vegan. One energy source utilized by numerous business is anaerobic food digestion (ADVERTISEMENT), an environment-friendly procedure in which micro-organisms are utilized to break down waste, consisting of animal, and produce biogas. It’s a green procedure that lowers our toll on land fill and the quantity of methane launched into the environment, however it’s not a vegan one ( octopus.energy has a more in-depth description). This year, Ecotricity introduced as the UK’s very first accredited vegan energy supplier , ensuring that there’s no trace of animal spin-offs utilized in its production.

Vegan living is basic. It’s about making notified choices whenever we purchase something, and about sending out a message to manufacturers at the very same time: that we do not require animals to suffer so we can fill our pillows or tidy our meals. By making thoughtful and ethical options, we can still delight in a stunning house, while doing all we can to secure the location where all of us live– our world.

A vegan guide, space by space

Living space

Visit peta.org.uk for vegan couches; or attempt Anthropologie’s Angelina couch , which is made from “dolly wool”, a hard-wearing vegan material ( 1,998, anthropologie.com). Select acrylic carpets instead of woollen ones, and for vegan carpets, attempt jute, cotton, synthetic fur, synthetic sheepskin, or recycled products: the Andalucia Paloma carpet is made from recycled plastic bottles (from 130, weavergreen.com) or H&M’s patterned cotton carpet ( 15, hm.com) has actually simply won finest wool-free carpet at P eta’s 3rd vegan homeware awards (peta.org.uk).

Try artificial tosses (Zara Home’s multicoloured plain weave blanket is 100% acrylic, 49.99, zarahome.com); burn soy instead of beeswax candle lights (attempt Le Labo’s vegan soy wax candle light , 52, libertylondon.com); and utilize microfibre instead of down-filled cushions ( dunelm.com stocks a budget friendly variety, or attempt Yonder Living’s “cactus silk” cushion , woven from a natural veggie fiber discovered in the agave cacti; 52, yonderliving.com). Go to vinterior.co , pamono.co.uk or newbie ceraudo.com for trendy vintage furnishings, or attempt charity stores, such as British Heart Foundation’s ebay shop .


From wadding to glue, bed mattress can consist of all sorts of animal-derived active ingredients, however vegan bed mattress are formally A Thing (shot cottonsafenaturalmattress.co.uk ). For bed linen, attempt Habitat’s down-free Ultrawashable duvet, with its cotton cover and polyester filling (from 50 for a single duvet , habitat.co.uk). If you can’t quit silk sheets, attempt The White Company’s Camborne cotton bedlinen , which won Peta’s finest silk-free sheet award at its 2018 vegan homeware awards (from 30 for a pillowcase, thewhitecompany.com). Take a look at compassionatecloset.com for a guide to vegan materials.


If you’re revamping your floor covering, choose sustainable cork ( colourflooring.co.uk is introducing a carbon unfavorable cork flooring in early July), lino tiles, or recovered wood ( vegandesign.org and veganhaven.co.uk are terrific cruelty-free resources). Usage recycled glass, stainless-steel or bamboo storage containers, instead of plastic– these do not require to be high-end purchases: believe Argos, Amazon and Robert Dyas.

Use vegan-friendly cleansing brand names such as Dr Bronner’s, Astonish, Bio-D, and Method. Some grocery store own-brands are vegan, too– inspect their sites, or blend your own cleansing service with gewurztraminer vinegar. Swap beeswax covers or clingfilm for vegan food covers (from thewisehouse.co.uk ). For tableware, attempt the Uma recycled glass tumbler and carafe from thegiftedfew.com .


Cork and lino floor covering aren’t so great here as they’re not water resistant– though Colour Flooring’s brand-new cork (see above) is waterproof. Natural textured stone is an option, or choose recovered or recycled tiles ( wallsandfloors.co.uk stocks a variety). For walls, tiles made from recycled glass are simple and appealing to locate: attempt toppstiles.co.uk or the Crush recycled variety at naturaltile.co.uk.

With toilet tissue, a lot of huge brand names can’t ensure that the chemicals included throughout manufacture aren’t animal-derived. Who Gives A Crap’s recycled bathroom roll declares to be vegan; it utilizes environment-friendly product packaging and contributes to charity, too (whogivesacrap.org). Usage bamboo tooth brushes (attempt andkeep.com ) and vegan soap rather of plastic-bottled liquid soap (shot friendlysoap.co.uk ).

This short article includes affiliate links, which implies we might make a little commission if a reader clicks through and purchases. All our journalism is independent and remains in no chance affected by any marketer or business effort. By clicking an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More info .

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/29/is-there-such-a-thing-as-vegan-loo-roll-how-to-have-a-cruelty-free-home

Breast v bottle? Motherhood is messy enough without picking sides | Hadley Freeman

Its among lifes paradoxes that this dispute will rave most loudly when a female is at her most susceptible

M y experience with breastfeeding was as unwinded as it was totally irregular. I had a C-section, which suggested I remained in medical facility a couple of nights to recuperate, which indicated in turn I was familiar with among the night nurses. Every night, she made the effort to teach me the essentials of breastfeeding, assuring me that I was doing simply marvellously.

When I got house, a pal who, like me, had twins, informed me that if I wished to maintain my peace of mind I ought to get some assistance a number of nights a week (our subject for today is feeding, however synchronising the sleep patterns of newborn twins will one day be my magnum opus). I was fortunate sufficient to be able to manage this, which suggested that somebody routinely pertained to my house and, once again, assisted me breastfeed. She unhesitatingly revealed me how to make formula when I informed her I desired to do blended feeding– breast milk and formula– since my body required a break. As an outcome, I experienced none of the anguished feelings I ‘d seen a lot of pals go through about feeding. This is since I was blessed with luck (conference the nurse) and advantage (having the ability to manage aid), neither of which ought to be the identifying aspects about how a female feeds her infant.

Last week it emerged that the National Childbirth Trust’s (NCT) president, Sena Talbot, has actually resigned, irritated that the organisation initially referred to as the Natural Childbirth Trust is openly supporting moms and dads who utilize formula. “The proof is truly clear that breast milk is much better for infants than formula milk,” she informed the Guardian . “We need to utilize that details to make certain that females are completely notified when pregnant, so that they can then choose what option is ideal for them.”

This stimulated a multitude of commentary about the “war” in between breast- and bottle feeding moms and dads, a framing that is false and unhelpful. A lot of moms will attempt both. The polarised language with which such options are typically talked about– the lactivists versus the formula feeders! the natural birth evangelists versus the C-sections!– does not show most ladies’s truth. Motherhood is untidy and withstands remaining within the lines of one’s own expectations, not to mention more comprehensive ideological arguments.

But this does not stop supporters on both sides recommending otherwise, and it’s one of life’s more regrettable paradoxes that it is when a lady is at her most tired and susceptible that these arguments will rave around her most loudly. No doubt, formula business have actually utilized doubtful marketing techniques , however breastfeeding advocates can likewise be guilty of exaggeration and psychological blackmail.

Talbot’s remark is a classic of the category: not informing ladies breast is finest is avoiding them from making the right (“notified”) option. This relies on worldwide population data as opposed to private requirement. Yes, breast milk has some advantages over formula– however are they actually worth a mom ending up being desperate as her child drops weight since she can’t feed him with her broken and bleeding nipples? Plainly not, and the much-vaunted benefits of breastfeeding are specifically minimal when we’re speaking about moms who can pay for the NCT’s antenatal classes, moms who will most likely have access to tidy water and a steriliser. Supporters talk passionately about how females who are unsupported stopped breastfeeding earlier than they ‘d like, which this threats postnatal anxiety. They do not appear to think about that possibly this has less to do with breastfeeding itself, and more to do with it being energetically offered to ladies as the maternal perfect.

I never ever went to an NCT class since pals’ stories recommended that the organisation’s assistance of brand-new moms frequently blurred into advocacy of so-called “natural parenting”. (When one buddy asked an NCT group leader about discomfort relief throughout giving birth she was recommended to “attempt noise”, an idea that would have led to me making the noise of hysterical laughter.) If the NCT is now giving up ideology for a more sensible technique that is plainly a good idea, due to the fact that investing maternal options with a frightening however unclear ethical measurement is harming to infants and ladies.

The reality is, ladies in this nation aren’t offered enough breastfeeding assistance, thanks not least to austerity: over the last few years, a minimum of 44% of regional authority locations in England have actually been impacted by closures or cuts to breastfeeding services . Those who desire to offer it– or get it– feel under hazard and dig their heels in more difficult. When my sis had her very first child in Switzerland, the regional council scheduled her to meet a feeding specialist weekly. In Britain, who can moms rely on for routine, complimentary, non-ideological guidance?

When I had my infants, I seemed like Alice toppling into Wonderland, beleaguered on all sides by mystifying and frequently inconsistent recommendations. I was lucky to discover 2 females who taught me to trust myself and ignore the rest, who understood that females ought to invest less time attempting to determine up to the expectations of others, and more time asking themselves what they in fact require. This is the least we ought to offer all moms, and the only escape of the bunny hole.

Comments on this piece are premoderated to guarantee the conversation stays on the subjects raised by the post. Please understand that there might be a brief hold-up in remarks appearing on the website.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/commentisfree/2019/may/04/breastfeeding-v-bottle-motherhood-hadley-freeman

Dont tell women to shut up about childbirth. Sharing stories saves lives | Suzanne Moore

Giving birth is bloody uncomfortable. Why reject it? Its likewise the experience of a life time, states Guardian writer Suzanne Moore

Mumsnet may be accountable for a lot of doubtful things– penis beaker , anybody?– however will it in fact end the mankind? Will it stop us recreating? This appears a little extreme however obviously by sharing stories about giving birth there, ladies are terrifying other females into “a pathological horror of giving birth”, states a professional. Catriona Jones is a speaker in midwifery at the University of Hull who studies “tocophopbia”. She recommends social networks is partially to blame for this fear-with-no-name (which, obviously, now has one).

Let’s break this down, shall we? Women worry giving birth since pressing out another human being through a little opening in your body is to be divided asunder. They fear the discomfort that preceedings it: labour. They fear the discomfort throughout the real pushing-it-out bit, and frequently have little concept about the discomfort that follows. We “feel the worry and do it anyhow”– simply as that dumb mantra informs us to.

The worry is logical. This is not a workout in fiction when ladies inform each other birth scary stories nowadays. They are informing the fact.

My mom explained giving birth to me therefore: “I was sitting beside your nana on the sofa. I felt a twinge, and she stated, ‘It’s time to pop upstairs’– and you were born.” She likewise stated there was no have to “make any sound”. That expression returned to me when, off my skull on pethidine, I was bring to life my 2nd kid, I believed I remained in a field of huge cows mooing; then I understood these deep, groaning sounds were really originating from me.

For my sins, I have had one natural birth, one on screens (with stated beautiful pethidine), and a caesarean. My experience is that I recuperated far more rapidly from vaginal shipments than caesarean ones. Anecdote is not information, however, and basically I feel females need to have the option.

Choice can not be made in a vacuum. And this is why females talk with each other. You may get the odd sadist who gets a kick out of explaining torn perinea, infection, the destruction of their whole “undercarriage” (!). You likewise find out. In theory everybody desires a low-lit birth swimming pool. In truth, when the shit strikes the fan– or often the birth “partner”– one is eliminated that hi-tech, medicalised births are to be had.

The feminist discourse around birth looks for just a smidgen of control. Ladies need to not need to plead for discomfort relief or caesareans, anymore than they must need to ask to keep whatever as natural as possible. Severe discomfort makes us feel out of control– everyone. To get ready for that, it is needed to understand exactly what alternatives are readily available.

This is not sharing “scary stories”. While children might be stunning, let’s not pretend birth is. It is full-body scary. Why reject it? Who understood that once the infant comes out you still need to provide exactly what appears like a huge internal organ– the placenta? Who really wishes to be sewn up in the most delicate part of your body, while being informed you do not feel it, although you do?

The ecstasy might soothe, however this does not imply you will not be sent out house in discomfort, greatly bleeding– whichever method you have actually delivered. All the squidgy toys and soft infant blankets and consumable cuteness is a big rejection of the blood-and-guts experience of birth. It is informing that numerous female obstetricians choose optional caesareans.

They state you forget the discomfort of giving birth. Yes and no. You primarily question how you survived it. Exactly what I remember is the discomfort after giving birth, which in fact is exactly what much discussion on Mumsnet has to do with. Females feel harmed, aching, cut, fretted about ever making love once again. They fear incontinence and the loss of the capability ever to feel satisfaction once again, along with absolutely deserted by medics. They are implied to be pleased, however their bodies feel broken. They feel that nobody informed them it would be in this manner, and they hesitate.

This does not sustain worry: it fuels action. How else would the scandal of vaginal mesh have been made popular? The truth of an NHS extended to it restricts is: inadequate midwives, too couple of anaesthetists on call, and ante- and postnatal care lowered to six-minute slots. In this context, then, worry of giving birth is not ungrounded, or to be treated with a little CBT.

I would state to any ladies: yes, it bloody injures, however it’s normally just a day approximately from your life. If it does not go as prepared, do not blame yourself. The very best strategy is the one where both you and the kid live at the end of it. It is the experience of a life time. Please do keep talking if you feel psychologically and physically traumatised. You are not spreading out worry. Since females sharing their facts, nevertheless bloody untidy these are, is in fact how we alter things.

Suzanne Moore is a Guardian writer

  • Comments on this piece are premoderated to guarantee the conversation stays on the subjects raised by the author.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/13/women-childbirth-stories-giving-birth-painful

What does childbirth feel like? You asked Google heres the answer | Nell Frizzell

Every day countless individuals ask Google lifes most tough concerns. Our authors address a few of the commonest inquiries

T wenty-4 hours into my labour I might be discovered using a set of XXL hi-vis pants– the kind used by obese building employees as they repave freeways– pacing a little, rat-scuttled stretch of the River Lea, rubbing my nipples like kindling and murmuring to my partner in the stable, driving rain.

Six hours into my labour I was consuming a chicken bagel on a bouncing birth ball, seeing Dr No with my cousin; 48 hours into my labour, I got up, damp and light-headed, my waters broken; 51 hours into my labour, I was kneeling in a birth swimming pool in Homerton medical facility, holding a gorgeous, howling prune in my arms.

Like cheese sandwiches, the Milibands and snowflakes, no 2 labours are ever the exact same . The very same mom with the very same daddy in the very same space will have entirely various experiences with each kid, not to mention the distinctions from lady to lady. You might have a caesarean, you might have an epidural, you might provide in the restroom, you might be sent out house from the healthcare facility; you might tear, you might take no discomfort relief, you might be caused, you might provide early, you might require interventions; you might error the early indications, you might not.

But remember this: any labour that leads to a healthy child and a healthy mom is an excellent labour. Any lady who goes through any kind of giving birth is a hero. The blood, the guts, the self-sacrifice, the endurance, the body-shuddering pressure, the worry, the gore: no surprise guys needed to create war to relieve their sensational sense of insufficiency. Giving birth is an act of bravery, strength and endurance no guy will ever understand.

When I was pregnant, individuals appeared excited to inform me scary stories about the ladies they ‘d understood who had actually suffered significantly. Those experiences are legitimate and genuine and come from the females who experienced them. If you are pregnant, or thinking of getting pregnant while reading this, might I merely state: it isn’t really constantly like that. It can be extremely various.

Let us start with contractions, for that is most likely how things will begin. My buddy, the author Amy Liptrot, explained contractions as “an earthquake going through your body”. It is, for me, an ideal description. I was anticipating nuclear duration discomforts– exactly what I got, as my mom did prior to me, was a sensation like an HGV reversing into my lower back. They were seriously heavy weather condition and I keep in mind believing, 2 days in, as I held on to the windowsill, in the dark, my partner rubbing my back, my face versus the glass, “I am never ever doing this ever once again.”

They were unrelenting– a near-total block on idea, a thick black sound filling every inch of my body, an unshareable weight, a main focus for all the gravity in deep space. They weren’t precisely uncomfortable– stressful and simply frustrating. Due to the fact that they kept coming.

alt=”Mother” with kid “src=”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/94a8761f31a48b839c8bd91dcec7c3b2cce79f6a/321_346_4999_2999/master/4999.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=28e2eb3d0754676b63755151e4b8e966″/> ‘Anyone who births a kid, by whatever implies, deserves our appreciation and our assistance.’Photo: Sarah Lee for the

Of course, individuals do experience amazing discomfort and if you are caused, your contractions will feel completely various. I discuss my own just to explain that contractions, like all aspects of labour, might not be exactly what you’re anticipating. If you perhaps can, do not withstand them, for they are efficient, essential and they do pass. I discovered this balloon metaphor rather handy .

My waters lastly broke after 2 days and 2 nights of contractions. I felt all of a sudden light, glowing, made from something like glass– whatever was sharp and brilliant however likewise shining. As I strolled through the health center I felt each breath entering like something white and icy.

I had actually been sent out house two times that previous night, hunkered over like an animal, a towel over my go to shut out the world, heaving, groaning, sweating, impatient, pulsating. I had actually withstood contractions pushing a bed, under a shrieking fluorescent bulb, 2 screen belts throughout my stubborn belly. I was not prepared. I needed to go house. I have actually never ever been so dissatisfied.

When I returned that early morning, light-headed, my pyjamas damp, not able to sit, strolling like sand, the midwife analyzed me to find that I was completely dilated. I have actually never ever felt such relief.

“Nell, can you feel anything in your bottom?” the gorgeous, clear-faced midwife asked me as I lay naked on a bed mattress next to the window. Did she suggest the contractions? This pulsating heaving pressure in my lower back? “Do you indicate my pooing bottom?” I asked, bleary-eyed. She did. I felt absolutely nothing till, dragging my method into the toilet for a wee, I all of a sudden felt the desire. I went out of the toilet, into my birth space, naked, sweat-soaked, eyes half closed. “My bottom,” I revealed, “is now included.”

Pushing out an infant, the last, was– and please think me when I state this– terrific. After 2 days of contractions– a sensation that I was getting no place, the nearly intolerable wait stressed by the relentless crashing waves of pressure– to understand that I was lastly going to leave was dazzling. Unexpectedly, I didn’t care where I was, who was with me, exactly what occurred. I might have pressed that infant out in the middle of a Lidl parking lot.

As I knelt in the swimming pool, grasping my partner by the fists, following the breathing directed by the midwife, I understood in some way exactly what it took. This pressing recognized, inherent. Not unlike a shit, obviously, however in some way sensational in its scale. I might really feel the limbs, the corners, the structure of my infant moving down through my body.

My limbs were simply ribbons hanging off this giant, pulsating tube. I was a volcano, a kid, a stiff blank in the centre of a moving world. I felt an appear my vulva. I felt with grim approval that I had actually torn my vaginal area into a doily; I had actually been too excited and ripped it apart. “That was simply the seal around the infant’s head,” my angel midwife stated, from someplace behind my arse.

I pressed. I felt a head then it escaped. If the child was out, I asked my partner. He handled, in some way, to keep a straight face. It was not. Lastly, out it came, in 2 massive heaves that turned my face puce: a Francis Bacon painting of hot purple contortion so furious I had to dip it in the water around my body for relief.

Childbirth seems like whatever to everybody. Wolves gnawing at your entrails, blue medical hairnets, a rumbling ocean, white sound, sandwiches in plastic packages, teeth-chattering nerves, the ripping apart of your hips like tectonic plates, the leak and click of equipment, lightning down your spinal column, the pale blank hum of a medical facility light, the onion sweat of animals, panic, darkness, fatigue, a mist that ends up being hail, leaving your body, thinking in your body, a beleaguered body, a body pulled from your body.

There is no bad labour and no excellent labour. Anybody who births a kid, by whatever implies, deserves our appreciation and our assistance. They need to feel happy; that’s exactly what giving birth must seem like. Pride.

Nell Frizzell is an independent reporter for the Guardian, Vice, Buzzfeed, the Independent, Vogue, i-D and Time Out

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/18/what-does-childbirth-feel-like-google

Unlucky or deluded? One mans attempt to swim the Atlantic

Ben Hoopers plan to swim 2,000 miles from Senegal to Brazil complete with sharks, storms and deadly jellyfish didnt work out. Alex Moshakis meets him to find out why

One sunny morning last November, Ben Hooper, a 38-year-old former policeman, waded into the Atlantic Ocean from a beach in Dakar, Senegal, and plunged right in. In film of the moment, Hooper appears thick set, almost podgy. Hed spent the past year bulking up and now layers of fat concealed muscle beneath. He wore a sports watch, black goggles provided by a sponsor and a pair of tight blue shorts. The sun had risen early, and by 10.33am, when Hooper entered the water, the ocean temperature had reached 30C, a lukewarm bath. A group of reporters gawked from the shallows. Most of them squinted in the bright light.

Hooper had been in Dakar for six weeks, preparing to swim to Natal, northeast Brazil, 1,879 miles away. If successful, he would become the first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean 12 miles a day for over 140 days straight an unfathomable feat. As he swam away from the beach, Hooper began to feel tears in his eyes. A mile later he cried like a baby. The launch represented the culmination of three years planning, and the relief was overwhelming. Later that day, as the adrenaline wore off and the magnitude of the task began to sink in, he swam against currents that made it difficult to achieve significant mileage. Later, while he recovered on the support boat, a 37-year-old catamaran, he wrote the first in a series of blog posts hed publish during the attempt. Spent the night drifting under sea anchor, it read, 4.5 miles closer to making history.

Hoopers posts were being uploaded to Facebook, and very quickly became difficult to read. On day two, Hoopers crew lost contact with a second support boat, whose captain had returned to Dakar, refusing to continue with the expedition. A couple of days later, Hooper again faced unusually strong currents, limiting his mileage. Soon, clouds stretched across the vast horizon, sometimes bringing rain, and the ocean became dark and choppy. Hooper began to spend more and more time on the boat, waiting for moments of calm. By day seven he was down on his targets. Fatigue mounted. Low moments became commonplace. Think of swimming in a washing machine on a heavily soiled cycle, he wrote of ocean conditions in one post. I am being thrown around all over the place.

On Facebook, in part to sustain crew morale, Hooper appeared bright and positive, especially after sessions in which he was able to chalk up substantial distance. But his body was under attack. Small jellyfish stings were regular and sapped energy. While swimming through seaweed, lice nipped at his torso. When the ocean was choppy, waves battered his back, arms and legs, pushing him under, exacerbating exhaustion. In poor conditions, Hooper was in danger of injuring himself getting on and off the boat, and every now and then he would take a hit from a kayak that glided alongside him for support. During the morning session of day 17, he was sick, twice. On day 18, he began to complain of neuralgia.

Hooper had chosen a November launch date for favourable conditions, but the weather turned against him. Now a fierce wind drove across the water and at times the swell rose so high Hooper lost sight of his boat.

On day 21, Hooper swam blindly into the half-eaten remains of a Portuguese-man-of-war, a jellyfish whose venom paralyses its victims. Hooper began to writhe in pain, unaware of the cause. When he was retrieved from the water, the crew discovered stings up and down the right side of his body. A section of tentacle was still attached to his shoulder and had to be removed. Every now and then his eyes would roll into the back of his head and, as his speech began to slur and his blood pressure plummeted, he struggled to remain conscious. Hooper later told me that, at one point, he was on my way out, and that the ships medic, Pamela Mackie, brought me back to life. For hours, Hooper remained in significant danger. Pain coursed through his body like an electric current. For support, Mackie reached a British trauma surgeon by satellite, who told her that renal failure was an acute possibility. If his kidney packed up, Hooper would not survive.

Beach boy: Hooper in Dakar, plump and strong, in the moments before he set off. He was hoping to cover up to 12 miles a day for at least 20 weeks. Photograph: Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images

Hooper spent the next four days on the boat, recuperating. On day 26, he re-entered the water and swam two miles, still sore from the attack. Three days later, in stormy seas, a steering cable snapped and required repair. The storm built. Waves rose to 30ft, crashing around the crew like ironic applause. Now clouds covered the sky and everything appeared eerie. The rain poured. The wind grew in speed and force. The catamaran, perhaps betraying its age, creaked and groaned.

Finally, on 15 December, Hooper put out a press release, announcing the expeditions end. Overnight, a storm had reared up, and damage to the boat had been deemed severe enough to warrant a reappraisal of the attempt. Further damage, the boats captain, Nigel Taylor-Schofield told me, would have compromised my ability to get him out of the water, which might have been fatal. Whereas Hoopers blog posts could be playful, here his tone was defiant. We have NOT failed, he wrote. We have achieved and gained the knowledge to succeed in the future. Later, in a separate message, Hooper added: I have never doubted my ability to swim across an ocean. My family have never doubted me. I believe this incredible challenge to be possible. Hed spent 33 days at sea. Of the expeditions scheduled 1,879 miles, he had swum 86 4.5% of the journey and lost 2st. He signed off, curiously upbeat: Christmas is coming, Im no longer fat. Im on my way to Natal with my Santa hat.

One day in May, I met Hooper in Cirencester, near his Gloucestershire home. We sat on a park bench discussing the details of his attempt what went well, what didnt. Hooper had returned to the UK in March and now he appeared deep in a state of reflection. One question bugged him: should he plan a new attempt?

Hooper made the decision to swim the Atlantic in the winter of 2013. For a year he developed the foundations of an expedition, often spending hours and hours and hours alone online, searching for relevant information. He worked out that strong east-to-west trade winds would create favourable crossing conditions over the winter period, and that the water at that time of year would be warm and inviting. He also saw that Dakar to Natal would represent the shortest crossing, but that the route would be shared by migrating sharks. He began to amass a long list of other potential dangers, including hypothermia, hyperthermia, exposure, mass calorie deficit, the great white shark, the oceanic whitecap shark, the Portuguese-man-of-war and another jellyfish, the Atlantic sea nettle.

Still, Hooper persevered. For three years he didnt work, concentrating instead on being a full-time athlete and running the expedition. (He relied heavily on donations to survive.) By 2015 he felt physically ready. He had swum 12 million metres in training, he told me, mostly in a local pool but sometimes in ocean conditions in Florida and the Mediterranean. With investor funds he bought a boat. Later he purchased supplies and a communications system. Tentatively, he lined up a crew. In August 2016, the catamaran sailed to Dakar, ready for launch. Hooper followed a month later.

When we met, I asked him why he decided to swim across the Atlantic, and why he might try again. He answered that, in completing such a monumental feat, he could inspire others, including his eight-year-old daughter, Georgie, and raise money for charity. But, later in our conversation, a more complicated motivation emerged. In 2006, a car crash that brought to a halt his police career sparked a period of depression, and in 2013, following a series of personal setbacks that would result in an affair and the breakdown of a long-term relationship, the illness returned. Suddenly, his personal life was a mess. He was finding it difficult to sleep. Eating became an effort. I wasnt happy, he said. I felt like I was failing in every angle of my life.

Surface tension: a Portuguese-man-of-war similar to the one Hooper encountered after three weeks, its poison almost killing him. Photograph: Stephen Frink/Alamy Stock Photo

Recognising the decline, Hooper sought an activity through which he could renew his focus and, recalling an early childhood ambition to swim across an ocean, he landed on the idea of a transatlantic expedition. Not to say that there was ego at play would be a lie, he said. I wanted to push myself, see how far I could go. Am I capable of achieving more and not killing myself? Because a lot of things Ive tried in life havent worked out I saw it as an opportunity to try and redeem myself.

Transatlantic swimming has a colourful history. In 1995 a 42-year-old Frenchman, Guy Delage, washed up on a beach in Barbados, claiming to be the first person to have done the crossing. Delage had spent 55 days at sea and covered 2,335 miles. At one point, reported the New York Times, he had given a shark a sharp kick in the nose before dashing to the safety of his raft. Later, perhaps feigning modesty, he told a reporter at the French paper Libration that I did nothing superhuman or extraordinary, before saying he would never swim again. Three years later, another French-born swimmer, Benot Lecomte, swam from Hyannis in the US to Quiberon in France, covering 3,716 miles in 73 days. He, too, was tracked by a shark this time for five days and he too declared himself the first person to cross the Atlantic.

Both swims were celebrated around the world. But after each attempt, questions began to surface about their credibility. In the aftermath of the Delage swim, experts noted that the raft on to which the Frenchman clung must have been equipped with a kind of sail, thus making it impossible to know exactly how much of the trip was human-powered. Following the Lecomte swim, reporters noted that because he ate and slept onboard a support boat, which drifted with favourable currents overnight, it was equally difficult to work out exactly how much of the distance he had actually swum.

When an athlete claims to have accomplished something they havent, public reaction can turn nasty. Lecomte mostly escaped criticism. In making the crossing, he raised significant sums for charity. (He is now planning to swim across the Pacific.) But in Delages case, reaction turned sour. Before setting out for Barbados from the Cape Verde Islands, the swimmer had signed an exclusivity agreement with a TV channel, guaranteeing an important windfall. Delage, it turned out, was broke. His motivation had not been human achievement, as many people believed, but money, and when the information was revealed by the press he was roundly ridiculed. You have to understand that when I left I was saddled with debts, he told reporters. I had no choice.

While Hooper was out in the Atlantic, questions about the legitimacy of his attempt began to surface on a popular marathon swimming forum. Prior to Hoopers swim, the sport had been rocked by a number of controversies, mostly fraudulent claims of completion, and the community had begun to ramp up efforts to lay bare any kind of scam. Hoping to satisfy potential naysayers, Hooper had promised total expedition transparency. But as the attempt wore on, onlookers began to bemoan the lack of hard data being shared with the public. Hoopers blog posts were mostly trivial and contained few facts; he would post co-ordinates, but only on rare occasions, making it tricky for spectators to discern his whereabouts. The inconsistency of information raised eyebrows.

Before long, forum members began to investigate Hoopers past, prompting further questions, mostly to do with training. As a rule, ocean swimmers cut their teeth crossing channels, but prior to the Atlantic effort Hooper had never swum a large body of water. Jennifer Figge, who has completed an Atlantic crossing (although she, too, has had her efforts questioned, not least by Hooper), swum close to 20 different swims before attempting an ocean crossing, she told me, including the Gibraltar Strait. But Hooper had foregone the challenge. When I asked him why hed never completed a significant but shorter swim that might help establish integrity, such as crossing the English Channel, he said, Ive always steered away from the Channel Its cold. I dont do cold water. And its dirty. End of.

I thought I was on my way out: Hooper is towed back to the support boat after being stung by a deadly Portuguese man-of-war. Photograph: Chief Productions

By the end of the expedition, most onlookers had come to a collective conclusion: the attempt had been recognised as valid Hooper was not a fraud, as some had suggested but it was also labelled incredibly naive. Hooper, no matter how well-intentioned, had somehow remained ignorant of the extent of the challenge, and hed paid the price. In the words of Dan Simonelli, an open-water swimmer who had helped early on in the expedition and had once been signed on to become its official observer: Ben really didnt have the experience.

One evening in June, I had another conversation with Hooper over the phone. Id called to ask about his plans for a second attempt. In May, when Hooper had mentioned another expedition I dont think I could live with someone else turning up and doing it he had been careful not to commit publicly to timings. He still hasnt made any further announcements. Were very much at that very early stage, he says now. Just chewing it over.

Hooper has a list of things hed require to increase the probability of success. The items are mostly pragmatic: a bigger boat and a more effective communications package, among other things. But a new attempt would also demand a significant number of new sponsors, which are difficult to secure. When I asked Simonelli whether he thought Hooper could manage a second expedition, he said: I think it would be hard for him logistically to muster the attempt again. That has nothing to do with the swim. But it will be difficult for him to get the sponsorship, the money. Hooper puts an estimated figure at 700,000, double what he raised for his first expedition.

Partway through our conversation he told me hed begun to train, but that training was secondary to other things going on in his life. He wanted to spend time with his daughter. He also wanted to secure meaningful employment. Hed previously described his personal financial situation as dire he owes 75,000 to expedition investors alone. Finding regular work is essential, he told me, not just to repay debts, or to plan a second expedition, but to survive.

For the first time he seemed hesitant about a second expedition. Weve learned a hell of a lot, he said. Thats the thing we can shout about. But the second attempt doesnt seem to be his priority. Were all trying to work and restabilise our lives, he said. Im obviously trying to dig myself out of a hole. He paused, then said quietly, And have a life.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/nov/19/unlucky-or-deluded-ben-hooper-attempt-to-swim-the-atlantic