Da fuq is ‘hygiene poverty’, I hear you ask. I hadn’t heard that term, or even, ‘period poverty’ until last Spring where the term began popping up on my Twitter feed and on websites like The Pool. When I read about it, I suddenly realised that whilst I hadn’t heard the term before, I’d certainly experienced it.
As a primary school teacher, I was all too aware of girls who would miss school around their time of the month, and whilst at first, I put it down to embarrassment, upon further digging the families told me that they were too poor to buy sanitary products to send in to school. I was shocked that this was even something young girls had to deal with.
My next encounter with, ‘hygiene poverty’ was in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster. There were many families who had lost everything and for those who suddenly didn’t have the basics to brush their teeth or have a shower – I knew there was something I could do.
Upon hearing the news, I drove home to my old flat which I knew was full of old beauty samples that I would never use. So I packed bin bag upon bin bag with beauty products, bath stuff and other lovely bits and bobs and then I stopped by a local Sainsburys (to pick up basics and sanitary products) before making my drop off to the residents.
But really, neither of these instances were my first encounter with ‘hygiene poverty’, in-fact there had been a very brief period of my own life where I was too poor to buy the bits I needed to help my bleeds or to keep clean.
After leaving my ex and having to move into a new flat, every single penny I had went into my deposit and rent. My Mum was very ill at the time in a hospice, I was too proud to ask mates for help and my sister did what she can by doing an ‘essentials’ Ikea trip for me.
So I had to make sanitary towels last a lot longer than was, well, sanitary. I had to add water to my shower gel to make it last. Furthermore, I had to sell all of my unused make up so that I could do a Tesco shop for Supernoodles and bread.
It was during this time that my mental health took a huge hit – not only did I have a cheating ex, a terminally ill mother and no Netflix subscription – I also didn’t have the products around me that I could usually use to give myself a boost.
Obviously this is relatively minor to the traumas and poverty that others go through – but I can mildly relate.
Last year, I also began working alongside Refuge, the domestic violence charity, to raise awareness for fundraising and events they were running. In discussions with the founder of the charity, we identified that a lot of women who are forced into refuges across the UK, have to leave their toiletries and beauty products behind.
Sure, you (heartless bastards) might say that some toiletries and beauty products are not necessities – stop listening to the government who introduced a tampon tax – but actually, when you’re in a dire life situation, being able to look after your appearance or well-being can make a huge difference to your mental and physical health.
What Can We Do To Help?
If you’re a blogger, influencer or beauty junkie reading this post, there’s a ton you can do;
- Buy extra sanitary products and hand them out to the homeless on your way past.
- Instead of chucking out old clothes and products – package them up and take them to your local refuge.
- Or check out the ‘The Beauty Banks’ launch from Sali Hughes and Jo Jones…
They have launched The Beauty Bank because they (and I) believe that products such as moisturisers, spot creams, shampoos, lotions and other toiletries and cosmetics are fundamental in helping women get back on their feet when they are at rock bottom. Because being clean, feeling fresh and being empowered to go out and start to turn your life around is a human right that every woman should be afforded.
The way The Beauty Bank works is REALLY SIMPLE. Every sample or product you will never need or use can be boxed up, with the words ‘BEAUTY BANK’ written all over it and posted to:
c/o JO JONES
THE COMMUNICATIONS STORE
2 KENSINGTON SQUARE
LONDON W8 5EP
If that’s too much hassle (hmph) then you can make an order on Amazon, Boots, Superdrug etc and have the products sent to the above address.
For bloggers like myself, who are afforded luxuries and treats that we rarely need and sometimes hardly use, this is a really simple way to give back to those more in need.
I’ve just emptied the drawers above and am packaging bits up as I speak – can you do the same?
Follow The Beauty Banks on Instagram for more information and to show your support!