As I laid on the cot preparing for the podiatrist to inject my big toes with numbing medication so he could rip my ingrown toenails from their embedded roots, I was thinking to myself:
Why didn’t anyone tell me?
Girls don’t know what they don’t know.
Maybe if someone told me to take care of my toenails when I was younger, I would not be going through this pain right now!
I'm sure my mom mentioned it to me at some point, but as a kid, who worries about their toes? Stuff like that only happens to old people. I had a lot of time to concern myself with that boring responsibility.
Now I realize I should have listened.
There are so many things in my life that I wish I could have done differently. Some of them vain, and some of them pretty important.
Some of them vain, and some of them pretty important.
So here is my list: My experience is either personal or a result of the many patients I have seen throughout the last 20 years as a nurse. I would tell you which ones apply to me personally, but I don’t think that is relevant at this point!
• Toenails: Yes, they are small, but they are important. If you want to continue wearing those cute sandals and heels when you are older, take care of your toes now. Don’t pull on your toenails. Learn how to cut them correctly. Toenail fungus is a real thing so pay attention to your toe hygiene. There is nothing worse that yellow, thick, ingrown toenails when your 40 years old.
• Feet: take care of your feet. I know the Abercrombie and American Eagle flip-flops are cute but don’t put them on and walk 10 miles in them every day of the summer. Your feet will pay for it later. Plantar fasciitis is a term you will hear thrown around amongst your friends later in your life, but hopefully, you will not have to deal with it because you took care of your feet!
• Wash Your Sheets: We shed 500 million dead skin cells a day. If that’s not enough to make you wash your sheets every 1-2 weeks, maybe knowing that our body’s temperature fluctuates during the night as our metabolism slows down-we sweat. Bacteria and fungus are found throughout our bed linens and live on our sheets for days. We excrete oils too causing our pillow cases to be drenched in oil, bacteria, dirt, and fungus. Wonder why you can’t get your acne to improve? Try changing your pillowcases and sheets more often!
• HPV Vaccine: It’s simple in my mind. If you are ever going to have sex, get the vaccine. I’ve been on both sides of the “vaccination war” is extreme ways. I will share the specifics in a later post. EVERYONE who has a pretty good chance of contracting some form of HPV. It’s a lottery that I wouldn’t recommend playing. It’s not like some of the other sexually transmitted diseases that only effect the “bad girls”. If the vaccine were around when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had to have a hysterectomy soon after I had my twin daughters. My reproductive choices were taken away from me and that is life changing to a woman. But, I am glad I caught it in time before I died from cervical cancer. I understand that parents don’t want to expose their kids to anything that might hurt them. But just like everything else in life, you weigh the consequences on both sides of every decision. If your parents didn’t have you vaccinated, you owe it to yourself to research the vaccine when you can make the decision for yourself. It needs to be your decision.
• Pap Smear: Getting a vaginal exam and a pap smear will never be on the top of your list of favorite things to do. But, don’t expect your mom or best friend to remind you that you need to get it done. It’s something that you will have to make a priority for your health. Make the appointments and go. It could keep you alive.
• Hair: We all have it...in many places. I know women like to deny it and men can’t even fathom it but it’s true. And the worst thing a girl can do is ignore it.
o Nose: Of course women have nose hair. God perfectly designed us and nose hair is part of that plan. It’s there to protect us from breathing things into our lungs that could harm us. It’s a filter. But all filters have to be cleaned and maintained. Periodically, check for strays that have poked through because they will.
o Bikini area: No matter how much money you invest or what crazy kinds of methods you attempt; bikini area hair is wicked. It would be so much easier if society would just embrace it, but I suppose that’s not going to happen soon. So, realize that you may have to engage in some trial and error to combat this particular problem. Everyone is different. We all have bacteria that live on our skin. It’s normal, but can be a concern if there is a break in our skin caused by a razor or by razor burn (bumps). The bacteria can enter our system through these areas and cause infections including staph and MRSA. These infections, if not treated appropriately, could cause widespread infection in your body. Don’t ignore any sores or changes on the skin in your bikini area.
o Eyebrows: Just as legwarmers and “mall bangs” came in and out of fashion during my prime years, so do fashion statements focusing on specific elements of the human body such as eyebrows. For some reason, God didn’t make eyebrows very forgiving. They may allow you to try a few things such as plucking, waxing, or shaving, but before long they will make the decision not to come back to play ever again. It would be so much more convenient for us if our leg hair acted in the same manner but it doesn’t. You can wax and shave those puppies every day for years straight and it will still grow back. But with one wild night of experimentation with your eyebrows, you may never see them normal again. It’s always worth the money to have a professional shape your eyebrows. And for goodness sake, don’t wait months’ in-between sessions. No one wants to have to see the wacky and stiff eyebrows hair that grow back sticking straight out at them as they are trying to have a conversation with you.
o Face: There is a reason they make men’s shaving cream. Women aren’t supposed to shave their face. Yeah, we all have hair on our face and some more than others. You can trim it with scissors, laser it, get electrolysis, and possibly wax parts of it if guided by a professional, so you don’t have regrets later, but never…ever…shave it.
• Dentist: Your parents didn’t take you to the dentist every six months so that you could dig into the treasure chest of cheap toys. They did it because they knew the importance of dental health not only on your appearance but your overall health. So, when you are on your own, don’t start making excuses about how you can’t possibly take the time to go to the dentist because you are too stressed. Make the appointment and go. You would be surprised at how quickly your dental health will go bad when you don’t go to the dentist on a regular basis; it will end up costing you a lot of time, pain, and money in the end. Plus, rotting teeth will reap havoc on your self-esteem and bank account later.
• Floss your teeth: Floss removes bacteria from your teeth that can cause cavities. If you floss from a young age, it can keep you looking much more youthful. Nasty and ugly teeth will age you. Also, flossing helps the bones that support your teeth remain strong and solid. If you don’t floss, those bones will become unhealthy and allow your jaw to sag making you look much older than you are.
• Tampons: I totally understand what a pain it is to have your period. It’s just not fair, but it’s reality (thanks a lot, Eve). We have it, and it serves a purpose—someday you may want to have your own little babies running around! But in the meantime, a period can be viewed as a total inconvenience and, for this reason, women tend to go to extremes to try and make their monthly periods almost disappear. Some try to take their birth control pills throughout the month so they never have a period. Others search for medications that they can take or have injected that will stop them from having their period altogether. And others use tampons from the first sign of their period to the very last second of their period. Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a condition that is real and has taken the lives of many women. Still, women prefer to ignore that fact or act like it is some old folklore. It’s not. Every woman has bacteria in her vagina. TSS can happen when tampons are left in for too long, too thick of a tampon is used, or when tampons are used excessively. The tampon becomes a breeding ground for this bacteria and can cause an infection that can cause severe illness and death.
• Wash your face: If you leave your makeup on at night and neglect to wash your face, you will age faster. The pores on your face will get bigger, and your skin will become dry. A consistently dry face will lead to premature aging and wrinkles. Your eyelashes will become brittle and fall out easier. You have an increased chance of developing small ulcers on your eyelids. Obviously, you will be sleeping on a dirty pillowcase which will contribute to acne or may even cause acne breakouts that you wouldn’t otherwise experience. Wash your face and maintain a consistent cleaning and moisturizing regimen. The smell of Ponds cold cream still brings me comfort because my mom used it every single day. She is always complimented on her looks and young appearance. You don’t have to spend a lot on skincare…just be consistent.
• Tanning: I can’t believe we are still talking about this. I remember when I was a teenager, I would lay in the tanning bed before a big dance or event, and pray to God that I wouldn’t get skin cancer. That was over 25 years ago. We KNEW BACK THEN what the consequences of the sun and tanning beds can be. I’m not even going to bore you with statistics at this point because you have heard them all. It can cause cancer, and you can die. Melanoma is often diagnosed long after the cancer cells have traveled to other organs in your body causing metastatic cancer. Chances of survival are scary at that point. Besides that, it will age you quickly. So while your smart girlfriends who didn’t abuse the sun at a young age are looking young and cute, you’re going to look like a wrinkly old woman. I know you may feel like you won’t even care when you are older, but you will. Until the day you leave this world, you will care what you look like to some degree. Use sunscreen and don’t use tanning beds. It’s that simple.
• Vitamin D: Now I’m going to tell you that you need the sun, in a roundabout kind of way. Our bodies are made up of many different vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D is one of them. However, many of our vitamin D levels are too low. I know this firsthand because after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I found out that my vitamin D level was very low. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to autoimmune diseases such as MS. And, research has been done that indicates that a low vitamin D level as a child and teenager could contribute to autoimmune diseases later in life. I will be posting an article specific to vitamin D soon, but I recommend that everyone talk to their doctor about having their vitamin D level checked so it can be supplemented if it’s too low. Vitamin D levels can be raised with a supplement taken every day. We also get vitamin D directly from the sun. So, some sunlight is good for us, too much can cause problems as explained above.
• Smoking: Just like tanning, this one is pretty self-explanatory. When I worked in the Emergency Room, I always understood much more the older adults who have smoked all of their lives. But, I had little tolerance for the teens, young adults, and adults who smoke. You have all heard the statistics. As a nurse, it is horrible to see someone suffer daily or die from lung disease or lung cancer. I’m not saying everyone with these conditions smoked, but a majority of them did. There is not one positive aspect of smoking. It will make you look really old quickly.
• E-cigs: There is always going to be the newest and best thing that will lure people in and make them addicted. And what is the reason? It’s so someone can make money. Of course, e-cigs aren’t good for you. Duh…you are inhaling a foreign substance into your lungs. I can’t believe people actually think this is okay and teenagers think it’s just a fun thing to do. It’s stupid. Twenty years from now, these teenagers sucking on their e-cigs will wish they had never started because research will show the detrimental effects by that time—just like cigarettes.
• Breast Exam: I know the subject seems weird. My grandma died of breast cancer when she was in her 80’s. I thought it only affected older women, but now I know differently. Even young women can and HAVE gotten breast cancer. Self-breast exams are important so you can identify changes in your breasts. Your breasts will change a little during your period, and that’s normal. But you need to be able to recognize abnormal changes in your breasts. Don’t wait until you are older and reach the age to start getting mammograms to think about your breast health. I still, to this day, have friends that don’t make the time to get a mammogram when they should. It's like they think if they don't get the mammogram, they won't have cancer. That's called denial.
• Bra: Bras are worn for several apparent reasons: support, comfort, and physical looks. Research has been done regarding women who wear their bra to bed. There may be some link to breast cancer, but so far, there are no definitive answers. If you wear a bra to bed, don’t wear one with underwire because it can cause skin and lymphatic drainage issues. Never wear a bra that doesn’t fit correctly or is too tight. And, if you have to wear a bra at night, wear one that is mostly made of cotton, so it’s breathable. Just like our body temperature fluctuates during the night, so does the temperature of our breasts. Cotton can allow these temperature changes without causing skin issues.
So, take it or leave it, these are the things that I think are very important for young women to know before it’s too late.
Hopefully, none of this was new to you.
But, if it was new, your luckier than a lot of us women who are drawing their eyebrows on every morning, making payments on our last root canal, and looking for the miracle cure to plantar fasciitis.
Comment below if you have any more suggestions you would like to share!
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