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Periods can be a lot of things — short, long, light, heavy. But with so many products to ease PMS symptoms on the market these days, one thing your period doesn’t have to be is unbearable.
Most people associate PMS symptoms with a warning sign they’re either about to get or are in the midst of their period. However, it’s normal to experience a range of PMS-like symptoms at any time throughout your menstrual cycle.
As double board-certified gynecologist Monica Grover, DO, head gynecologist at VSPOT in New York, tells Insider, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, abdominal bloating, increased fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping, breast tenderness, oily skin or hair, appetite changes, and decreased libido are all symptoms the hormonal changes throughout your month-long menstrual cycle can cause.
Luckily, there are dozens of period products available to ease the most frustrating of symptoms.
When I say “period products” I’m not referring to pads, tampons, menstrual cups, period underwear, or the like — though, these are all necessities anyone who menstruates is entitled to. I’m referring to the booming market of wearable patches, essential oil rollers, and snacks, among other innovative products, that make it possible for you to not only take control of that time of the month but to soothe and nourish your body in the unique way it requires care.
And you more than deserve these remedies. From your very first to your very last, those who menstruate will experience roughly 450 periods in their lifetime. The statistic forces you to face a hard truth: Like it or not, you’re going to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Mother Nature. Shouldn’t you get to decide how you spend it?
From pendulum mood swings to unarguable cravings and intense cramping, every menstrual cycle is different — but they all require some TLC. To help you get through your time of the month, I’ve rounded up the best period products to ease some of the most common symptoms below.
Pros: Extremely affordable price point for a natural remedy, acts as both heat and herbal therapy to ease menstrual pain, allows you to be active on your period, stays hot for hours
Cons: Doesn’t get extremely hot, no temperature settings, does not easily adhere to every underwear fabric type, can’t be put directly on your skin
Those who don’t menstruate won’t understand, but cramps are serious. They have a clinical term, dysmenorrhea, which is the insistent throbbing or painful cramping in the lower abdomen that happens before and during menstruation. For some, the pain is minimal and just kind of annoying. For others, it can be debilitating enough that you have to cancel plans and call in sick to work just to ease the discomfort.
I experience intense cramping as soon as my period arrives. I used to avoid making plans on or around my expected due date because I knew the pain (and my trusted heating pad) would tether me to the couch for hours.
That changed when I tried Rael’s Natural Heating Patch.
I’ve been using Rael’s Natural Heating Patches for 9 months now and recommend them to everyone who feels like they can’t function properly on their period. The patch acts as an on-the-go heat therapy solution, designed specifically to ease menstrual discomforts like cramps and lower back pain.
It helps because menstrual pains in the lower abdomen and back are caused by nerve compression from swelling and congestion, Grover explains. Applying heat to these areas loosens muscle tension and relaxes your abdominal muscles. “Heat also increases pelvic blood circulation,” Grover adds. “This helps to decrease local blood pooling and bloating, congestion, and swelling.”
Unlike traditional heating pads that warm with electricity and require you to camp out by the nearest outlet, the Rael Heating Patch adheres to the outside of your underwear, begins to warm up as soon as it’s applied, and stays warm for up to 6 hours. The cordless treatment isn’t bulky, so you can wear it under jeans, as well as leggings, and if you have plans you don’t want to break or responsibilities that can’t be ignored, you can ease your cramps while being active.
Beyond the heat, Rael’s Heating Patch is also infused with four herbal extracts: jasmine, dandelion root, rosehip, and lemon balm.
“In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion root has been used to treat many stomach conditions including indigestion and inflammation. Some scientific studies even report anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and diuretic activities of various parts of the dandelion plant,” an Atlanta-based OB-GYN and ambassador for The Hello Cup, Nicole Sparks, MD, tells Insider. “Lemon balm has shown to have anti-stress and anti-anxiety effects, [while rosehip] contains Vitamin C and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Jasmine may also help with stress reduction.”
Together, these natural herbs work synergistically with heat to ease stress, encourage healthy blood flow, and relax the muscles of the uterus.
Pros: Kicks in quickly, lasts for six hours, affordable medication, is made to treat menstrual symptoms specifically
Cons: Not a holistic remedy, may cause side effects such as dizziness and constipation
I try to limit my over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller intake as best I can, but sometimes my period cramps are so bad that I have to load up on them a few days a month. For a while, I was popping Tylenol Extra Strength. but even that wasn’t giving me full relief. I switched over to Midol, which is formulated specifically for menstrual cramps and needs, and it works so well I can take a lower dose and actually feel more of an effect.
The star ingredients of Midol caplets are acetaminophen, caffeine, and pyrilamine maleate. Acetaminophen is an active ingredient recognized for its pain-relieving qualities (Tylenol and Advil also contain acetaminophen) that treat ailments like cramps, headaches, and backaches. Caffeine is a stimulant, energy-booster, and a diuretic, Grover says. “It helps to reduce the water retention associated with bloating and can also help with fatigue experienced during PMS.”
Pyrilamine maleate is an antihistamine. “It targets histamine receptors,” Grover says, “and helps to reduce irritability, tension, and inflammation.” While this is most commonly associated with allergy medication, a 2016 study out of Mexico found pyrilamine maleate is one of a few drugs that can be used to help reduce dysmenorrheic pain,.
One dose is two caplets and should provide a full six hours of relief. That being said, you can take one dose every six hours, but shouldn’t exceed six caplets per day. Midol is available over the counter, but you should always talk to your doctor before taking any medication to make sure it’s right for you.
Pros: Affordable, one patch is effective for up to 12 hours, applies directly to the skin for fast absorption of plant-based ingredients, allows wearer to be active on their period, offers a hemp-derived CBD option, brand also sells patches that cater to more specific symptoms
Cons: The brand does not use gender-neutral language, it takes time to really notice a difference in how you feel, the sticker-like patch can leave a sticky residue where applied, depending on how you leave it on for
Patches seem to be a budding trend on the period market. Similar to my experience with the Rael Heating Patch, it was love at first wear when I applied my very first Cycle patch by The Good Patch.
The Cycle patch is a transdermal treatment that sends mood swings packing. It’s made with black cohosh, a perennial plant (a member of the buttercup family) that has long been used to treat a variety of ailments from muscle pain to menstrual symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and irritability; and menthol, a natural, cooling pain-reliever found in mint plants. Together, the ingredients work temporarily to relieve menstrual aches and pains which, in turn, reduces mental stress and stabilizes your mood.
Unlike the Rael Heating Patch, the Cycle is a translucent sticker of sorts that can be applied directly to the skin. It’s invisible upon application and provides relief for up to 12 hours.
The brainchild of accomplished hemp advocate, Betsy Scanlan, and spa owners Kelly Brock, and David Nicholson, the patch is crafted by a company whose sole focus is plant-based products that make you feel good. Cycle is part of the brand’s Plant Patches collection. The brand also has a CBD-infused Period Patch that’s made with the same ingredients as Cycle, plus CBD for an extra helping of stress-relief.
The only major caveat to the Cycle is it doesn’t start working immediately. And unlike Rael’s Heating Patch, these patches don’t give a clear signal that they’re working; you’ll start to feel the effects within a half hour or so.
Pros: Holistic remedy, works quickly, can be used outside your menstrual window, helps ease constipation and painful bowel movements, blend is formulated with pure organic essential oils, the product lasts a long time
Cons: Essential oils are not monitored or approved by the FDA, those with sensitive skin might have a reaction to the oil blend
Bowel movements can be especially troublesome around your period because prostaglandins, a group of lipid molecules that act like hormones, are doing double duty: “Prostaglandins help to contract the uterus to shed the uterine lining,” Grover explains. As the molecules are released, they also affect your gastrointestinal system, playing on intestinal movement and potentially causing digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas.
If you experience any degree of digestive discomfort around your menstrual cycle, I can’t recommend the Twig & Petal Digestive Ease Roller enough. It’s been my go-to for tummy troubles treatment for years.
Digestive Ease is a soothing blend of sweet fennel, orange, peppermint, roman chamomile, black pepper, and myrrh in jojoba oil — all of which are 100% pure and organic. Together, the oils work fast to help calm stomach upset and encourage relaxation. Apply the blend directly over the abdomen whenever you experience cramping, bloating, gas, and/or indigestion, and the gentle formula kicks in, in a matter of minutes.
I keep one in my bedside table drawer and another in my purse, just in case. The bottle is travel-friendly and contains 10 ml of the brand’s proprietary blend. A little goes a long way, and the roller lasts a long time.
Pros: Wholesome treats made to ease period-specific symptoms, decadent desserts that curb your cravings, variety of flavors and treats, affordable for artisan baked goods, woman-owned company
Cons: Timing the shipment of the treats around your period might be tricky for those with irregular cycles, the treats are fresh and only stay good for so long
Smart snacking is challenging when you’re wrestling ravenous PMS cravings. On the one hand, you know fruits and vegetables would benefit your body over a cheeseburger and fries. On the other, you’re not thinking with your brain, you’re thinking with your uterus, and your uterus wants greasy takeout.
“During PMS, we have a dip in estrogens and progesterone, and they can go to such low levels where now a woman feels stressed and fatigued,” Grover says. By satiating the limbic system, common cravings like chocolate, ice cream, and other sugar-based foods help alleviate your mood.
Let’s be clear: if you want the cheeseburger, eat the cheeseburger. Food doesn’t always have to be fuel. Sometimes your soul needs something indulgent and comforting.
But if you are looking for an alternative to the salty and sweet junk foods you find yourself reaching for, Moon Cycle Bakery‘s cycle-specific treats satisfy cravings, nourish the body, and ease other symptoms you might be experiencing.
Moon Cycle Bakery was created for women, by a woman, with the hope and intention to literally deliver baked goods that both nourish the body and satisfy cravings during your cycle. After years of taste-testing as many of MCB’s treats as I could get my hands on, I can vouch that the team has accomplished this.
Moon Cycle Bakery has every kind of PMS craving covered: There are currently seven already-made treats for purchase on the brand’s site, including Sweet Potato Brownies with Chocolate Chunks, Cinnamon Almond Butter Oatmeal Cookies, Chocolate, and Matcha Coconut Bites. If you like to bake, the brand just recently launched dry mixes you can store in your pantry and pull out when in need.
Each treat is made from wholesome ingredients and is meticulously formulated to not only curb cravings but to also support the body during this sensitive time. Star ingredients include foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like pumpkin seeds, pumpkin puree, and flax seeds to help reduce cramping; cacao which is rich in , turmeric, and ginger to reduce inflammation; and antioxidant-rich matcha.
All of Moon Cycle Bakery’s treats are gluten-free, dairy-free, and naturally sweetened. Some are vegan-friendly, others are raw.
Pros: Fast-acting formula, visibly reduces acne overnight, made with natural ingredients
Cons: Might be a drying formula for some skin types, works best with the moisturizer
Whoever said hormonal acne goes away once puberty ends, lied.
In addition to dietary choices around this time of the month, Grover says that thanks to a dip in estrogen and progesterone prior to menses, sebaceous glands produce more sebum. “This can then lead to clogged pores that trap in the bacteria which cause inflammation, and therefore acne or acne flareups.”
So while you can try your best to stay away from greasy takeout and sugar, if you experience breakouts during your menstrual cycle, you might consider adding an acne treatment to your skincare regimen. I’ve tried a handful of creams and serums, but none have worked as well as the Hanhoo DermaFix Blemish Toner.
The toner is formulated with calamine (the pink stuff you apply to and rashes) and witch hazel. Calamine reduces redness and inflammation and absorbs excess oil on the skin to help clear blemishes. Witch Hazel has a calming and clarifying effect that cleans the skin and reduces swelling.
Here’s how it works: After cleansing, shake up the toner bottle to activate the formula. Apply a few drops to a cotton ball and apply to the skin. I do this as part of my night routine and wake up with noticeably smaller pimples every time.
What I love about this formula is it’s a non-medicated product with an ingredients list that is 94% natural. It’s worth noting, however, that while the product is described as hydrating, my skin felt dry after applying the toner, so you may need to follow up with a moisturizer.
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