Heat Exhaustion Signs to Know Because, Wow, It’s Freaking Hot Outside

Listen, I like summer as much as the next girl, but there is such a thing as being too hot. Not only does it suck as a feeling, but your chances of winding up with heat exhaustion can rise as the temperature creeps higher, too. So, how can you tell the difference between simply craving the sweet, sweet embrace of an air-conditioned room and getting into potentially dangerous territory with heat exhaustion? Here’s what to know to stay safe.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a temperature-related illness that happens when your body’s usual cooling mechanisms just aren’t cutting it, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, you become way too hot, which can eventually be harmful if you don’t take steps to cool down quickly.

In order to keep your core temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, your body has a few different mechanisms to cool you down or heat you up when necessary, the Mayo Clinic explains. In extreme heat, especially for long periods of time or while exerting yourself, your body can wind up taking in more heat than it’s able to expel through these mechanisms.

The most noticeable way your body responds to heat and exertion is sweating, Lawrence Phillips, M.D., a cardiologist at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. Sweat moistens the surface of your body and cools you down as it evaporates, which helps to regulate your temperature, according to the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Pretty freaking handy. But if your body is churning out a ton of sweat in an attempt to cool you down, you can become dehydrated, meaning you lose so much fluid your body can’t function normally.

Another way your body dissipates excess heat is by sending blood out to your arms and legs where blood vessels are closer to the skin, which allows your blood to cool faster than it would in your body’s core, Michael Millin, M.D., associate professor of Emergency Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tells SELF. The problem is that this means there’s less blood returning to and pumping out of your heart, Dr. Millin explains.

Between the dehydration and blood flow issues, you might start to experience symptoms of heat-related illnesses. You might brush off some of these reactions as normal responses to a hot day, but a lot of them definitely don’t happen every time you’re feeling a little warmer than usual.

A few symptoms set heat exhaustion apart from just feeling really hot.

The thing about heat exhaustion is that its symptoms don’t just strike out of nowhere. Heat exhaustion actually exists on a spectrum of heat-related illnesses, with heat cramps preceding it. If you treat heat cramps in time, you can avoid getting heat exhaustion entirely, so it’s worth going over those symptoms first:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Thirst

If you get heat exhaustion, your body basically piles onto the symptoms of heat cramps. In addition to those, you might experience:

  • Cool, moist skin with goosebumps even though it’s hot out
  • Feeling faint
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • A fast, weak pulse
  • Feeling lightheaded when you stand up
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache

If you don’t treat heat exhaustion in time, you might wind up with these additional symptoms, which can signal heatstroke:

  • Flushed skin that can either feel dry or moist
  • Confusion, trouble speaking, or other signs of a scrambled mental state
  • A temperature over 104 degrees Fahrenheit

Heatstroke can be life-threatening, so, clearly, it’s best to avoid even setting down a path of heat-related illnesses. Instead of splitting hairs over the question, “Am I just really hot or is something else going on?” focus on tending to your symptoms. That brings us to our next point.

What to do if you think you have heat exhaustion (or are just way too hot)

The good news is that you can often take care of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or just being super hot by getting someplace cooler and rehydrating.

You might be tempted to chug a ton of water as soon as you can, but remember that rehydrating also means replenishing the electrolytes you lose while sweating, says Dr. Millin. These minerals—primarily sodium, potassium, calcium, chlorine, magnesium, and phosphates—help to make sure your nerves, muscles, heart, and brain all work the way they should, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Because the primary electrolyte you lose through sweat is sodium, eating a salty snack as you drink water can help make up for what you’ve lost, as SELF previously reported.

Of course, there’s also the option of downing a sports drink. Drinking these on a regular basis might not be ideal for you because of how sugary they are (though that really depends on your nutritional habits at large), but if it’s what you have available when you feel like you’re overheating, a sports drink is more than fine, says Dr. Phillips.

You can also cool off by putting water on your skin. It’s best to do this somewhere out of the sun, like by going inside and wetting your skin, then fanning it off. This mimics the cooling reaction of sweating, says Dr. Millin. If you’re really hot and unable to go someplace cooler, try to shield yourself without adding to the heat, like by going under a beach umbrella and draping yourself with a wet towel.

If you’re not feeling better after an hour or your symptoms are getting worse, the Mayo Clinic recommends seeking immediate medical attention. You should do the same if you’re unable to hydrate due to vomiting, really feel like you’re going to pass out, or do actually lose consciousness, Dr. Millin says.

How to avoid heat exhaustion

You probably get by now that good hydration is a key preemptive strike against heat exhaustion (seriously, if you’re going to be in the heat, drink plenty of water!), but there’s other stuff you can do, too:

Watch your alcohol intake.
As someone who just spent a weekend drinking margaritas on the beach, I know this isn’t the most enticing suggestion. But according to Dr. Phillips, alcohol and heat don’t mix. Alcohol can be dehydrating, which we already know can contribute to heat-related illnesses. It might also make you less aware of the symptoms of something like heat exhaustion. Because you know what else makes you dizzy, nauseated, flushed, and tired? Oh, right. Drinking.

I’m not saying you can’t drink in the heat, but if you’re going to, make sure you’re taking the right precautions, like keeping your water-to-alcohol ratio even, eating enough, and maybe going for drinks that are lower in alcohol, like beer and spiked seltzer over mixed cocktails.

Plan ahead.
People who aren’t used to extreme heat are a lot more likely to run into trouble with heat-related illness, says Dr. Millin. Like, if you’re on vacation somewhere a lot hotter than home and jump right into an adventurous hike. Give yourself time to acclimate.

Another instance where you can plan ahead: If you know you’re going to spend a lot of time exerting yourself outside this summer. If so, you might want to consider getting some oral rehydration powder or tablets in case of emergency, says Dr. Millin. You can mix them into water to get the electrolytes you need, and some people might find them easier to keep handy or prefer them to a salty snack or sugary drink.

Protect against sunburn.
If you get a sunburn, you’re more at risk of developing heat exhaustion. Sunburn itself is a form of heat illness and affects your body’s ability to cool down. The Mayo Clinic suggests wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 when outdoors. Don’t forget to reapply as directed.

Make a plan for extra bad days.
If a heat wave is on the horizon and you don’t live somewhere with air conditioning, scout out where you might be able to spend free time. Libraries and malls are great.

Talk to your doctor if you take certain medications.
According to the Mayo Clinic, certain medications can screw with your body’s ability to stay hydrated, like diuretics, antihistamines, and antidepressants. If you’re on medication that you think might be affecting your odds of staying cool in the heat, talk to your doctor for some tips on how to deal.

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Preterm babies are less likely to form romantic relationships in adulthood

Adults who were born pre-term (under 37 weeks gestation) are less likely to have a romantic relationship, a sexual partner and experience parenthood than those born full term. The meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Warwick with data from up to 4.4 million adult participants showed that those born preterm are 28% less likely to ever be in a romantic relationship.

A meta-analysis conducted by researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick has published ‘Association of Preterm Birth/Low Birth Weight with Romantic Partnership, Sexual Intercourse and Parenthood in Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’ in JAMA Network Open today, 12th of July. They have found that adults who were born pre-term are less likely to form romantic relationships than full-term peers.

In the analysis 4.4 million adult participants those born preterm were 28% less likely to form romantic relationships and 22% less likely to become parents, when compared to those born full term.

Those studies that looked at sexual relations of pre-term children found that they were 2.3 times less likely to ever have a sexual partner when compared to full terms.

Those adults who were born very (<32 weeks gestation) or extremely preterm <28 weeks gestation) had even lower chances of experiencing sexual relationships, finding a romantic partner or having children at the same age as those born full term, with the extremely pre-term born adults being 3.2 times less likely to ever having sexual relations.

Close and intimate relationships have been shown to increase happiness and well-being both physically and mentally. However, studies also show that forming those relationships is harder for pre-term born adults, as they are usually timid, socially withdrawn and low in risk-taking and fun seeking.

Despite having fewer close relationships, this meta-analysis also revealed that when preterm born adults had friends or a partner, the quality of these relationships was at least as good in preterms compared to full term born adults.

First author of the paper, Dr Marina Goulart de Mendonça from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick comments:

“The finding that adults who were born pre-term are less likely to have a partner, to have sex and become parents does not appear to be explained by a higher rate of disability. Rather preterm born children have been previously found to have poorer social interactions in childhood that make it harder for them to master social transitions such as finding a partner, which in turn is proven to boost your wellbeing.”

The senior author, Professor Dieter Wolke, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick adds:

“Those caring for preterm children including parent’s health professionals and teachers should be more aware of the important role of social development and social integration for pre-term children. As preterm children tend to be more timid and shy, supporting them making friends and be integrated in their peer group will help them to find romantic partners, have sexual relationships and to become parents. All of which enhances wellbeing.”

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Materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Seeing greenery linked to less intense and frequent unhealthy cravings

Being able to see green spaces from your home is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and harmful foods, new research has shown.

The study, led by the University of Plymouth, is the first to demonstrate that passive exposure to nearby greenspace is linked to both lower frequencies and strengths of craving.

It builds on previous research suggesting exercising in nature can reduce cravings, by demonstrating the same may be true irrespective of physical activity.

Researchers say the findings add to evidence that points to the need to protect and invest in green spaces within towns and cities, in order to maximise the public health benefits they may afford. They also suggest the causality of this link needs to be investigated further.

The study, published in the journal Health & Place, is the first to investigate the relationship between exposure to natural environments, craving for a range of appetitive substances and the experiencing of negative emotions or feelings.

It involved academics from the University’s School of Psychology, with support from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter.

Leanne Martin, who led the research as part of her Master’s degree in Plymouth, said: “It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s wellbeing. But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future.”

For the research, participants completed an online survey that explored the relationships between various aspects of nature exposure, craving and negative a?ect.

Among other things, it measured the proportion of greenspace in an individual’s residential neighbourhood, the presence of green views from their home, their access to a garden or allotment; and their frequency of use of public greenspaces.

The results showed that having access to a garden or allotment was associated with both lower craving strength and frequency, while residential views incorporating more than 25% greenspace evoked similar responses.

The study also measured physical activity undertaken within the same time frame that cravings were assessed, showing the reduced craving occurred irrespective of physical activity level.

Dr Sabine Pahl, Associate Professor (Reader) in Psychology, added: “Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviours such as smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating. In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity and diabetes. Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step. Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future.”

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Materials provided by University of Plymouth. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Why Is Added Fiber in Literally Everything?

The idea of padding your fiber intake with a little something more isn’t new—Americans have been stirring scoopfuls of Metamucil powder into water since the 1930s. What’s different now is finding extra fiber added into cookies, cereals, yogurt, granola bars, protein bars…pretty much any packaged snack you can think of.

First of all: Why? Second of all: Is this added stuff on par with the real deal? Here’s everything you need to know about added fiber.

Why added fiber is showing up in everything

Fiber is a type of indigestible carb found in plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes. It’s made of a bunch of sugar molecules bound together in a way that makes it hard for our bodies to break it down, the FDA explains. And it’s an important part of a healthy diet.

There are actually two main kinds of fiber, slightly different but equally awesome. Soluble fiber regulates the absorption of sugar and cholesterol into the bloodstream by slowing down digestion, according to the FDA. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable and LDL levels low, which could explain why fiber intake is linked to a reduced risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to our stool and speeds up digestion, making it great for combating constipation and promoting intestinal regularity, per the FDA.

Despite its well-demonstrated health benefits, most of us are way underdoing it on the fiber front. The Dietary Guidelines advise aiming for about 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories in your diet, so the exact number varies with your recommended caloric intake. While those guidelines are rough and ideal intake varies from person to person (with factors like your activity level and digestive health playing into it, too), there’s no escaping the fact that the average American isn’t getting anywhere near enough fiber—just 16 grams a day, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Fun fact: that’s about the amount a girl aged 4 to 8 should eat, according to the Dietary Guidelines.) Given that low fiber intake is associated with poor health outcomes, it’s been designated a “nutrient of public health concern” by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA).

While Americans have been turning to straight-up fiber supplements (i.e. functional fiber) for decades to help them close that fiber gap and treat or prevent constipation, adding extra fiber to everyday snack products “is a newer trend in food manufacturing,” Colleen Tewksbury, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a senior research investigator and bariatric program manager at Penn Medicine and president-elect of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF.

Basically, food companies know that as the “eat more fiber” message percolates, more shoppers are scanning nutrition labels for fiber amounts (or at least more likely to be enticed by claims about high fiber content on the front). And food scientists have developed new types of supplemental fibers that can be added to foods without really impacting their taste or texture, Tewksbury says. So it makes perfect sense that companies are packing products from chips to ice cream with added fiber.

What added fiber actually is

When we say added fiber (sometimes called isolated fiber), we’re talking about a whole bunch of different types of fibers that are incorporated into food products during manufacturing. “They are not naturally occurring in foods, they are added in to boost the fiber content,” Tewksbury says. Oftentimes, if it’s not called out on the packaging, you may only know there is added fiber in a food by reading the ingredients list (more on what words to look out for in a minute).

Added fibers can be naturally derived—so, extracted from foods that contain fiber, like fruit or chicory roots—or synthetically made by combining different compounds in a lab. And they all have slightly different structures and properties. (That’s the case with naturally occurring fibers, too, by the way).

With all these different, unfamiliar types of added fibers popping up in our food supply over the past few years, the FDA realized they needed to standardize their definition of dietary fiber so that consumers, food manufacturers, and regulators could all be on the same page.

In 2016, the FDA asked food manufacturers to make their best cases for various added fibers to be counted as dietary fiber on nutrition labels. Their task was to show the FDA enough evidence to convince them that the fiber has at least one “beneficial physiological effect to human health,” the agency explains—such as lowering blood glucose, lowering cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, increasing the frequency of bowel movements, increasing mineral absorption in the intestinal tract, or reducing caloric intake.

In 2018, after conducting a comprehensive review of the evidence, the FDA ruled on which ingredients met that burden of proof. Eight that made the cut: beta-glucan soluble fiber, psyllium husk (the stuff found in Metamucil), cellulose, guar gum, pectin, locust bean gum, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, and cross linked phosphorylated RS4. The FDA also plans to add a number of other added fibers to that list, and is allowing manufacturers to include them in their dietary fiber count for now until the rules are finalized. These include mixed plant cell wall fibers (like sugar cane fiber and apple fiber) and inulin, which may be the most common added fiber you see right now, Tewksbury says. “It’s cheap, you can’t taste it, and it doesn’t clump, so it results in better final products,” she explains. You might notice it listed on ingredient labels as inulin, chicory root extract, chicory root, chicory root fiber, oligofructose, or other names, per the FDA.

Now, if you look at nutrition facts labels, the number of grams of dietary fiber listed may include naturally occurring fibers and any of those particular added fibers. For example, if a granola bar has 2 grams of naturally occurring fiber from oats and 1 gram of added fiber from psyllium husk, you’ll simply see 3 grams of fiber on the label.

How it stacks up against the real thing

On a cellular level, added fibers looks pretty similar to intrinsic fibers, so our bodies process—or, rather, don’t process—them in largely the same way, Tewksbury says. Whether they are found naturally in a food or added to it, our small intestines can’t break fibers down, so they get passed along to the large intestine, where some soluble fiber does get broken down by bacteria, per the FDA.

The real differences can be seen when we zoom out a little and look at the overall composition of many added-fiber foods. Typically, these are foods that don’t have a lot of other nutritional pros, says Tewksbury, so eating them instead of naturally fiber-rich foods (like fruit and whole grains) will leave you missing out on other important vitamins and nutrients.

That doesn’t make the addition of fiber pointless, of course. If you were going to have a tasty treat anyway and you choose one that tastes exactly the same and packs an extra fiber punch, you’re getting a two-for-one deal. And certainly, “If your diet does not include sufficient fiber, then added fiber in the form of functional fiber can help you reach the target,” Donald Ford, M.D., an internist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF.

This also brings us to the tricky business of discerning the health impacts over the long term of added-fiber foods. Many if not most of the studies in the FDA review (great beach read material, if you’re interested) are relatively small and short-term double-blind trials comparing an added fiber supplement or food containing that added fiber with a placebo or control group. A number of studies demonstrate that these fibers do, indeed, help improve health outcomes.

But when it comes to population-level health impacts over time, foods packed with naturally occurring fibers generally just have a longer track record, Tewksbury explains. We’ve been looking at correlations between fiber intake and health outcomes for decades across huge populations, and have accrued a meaty body of observational evidence. The foundational link this research has established is between good health and intrinsic fiber, i.e. fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans—not fiber in isolation. The plant foods that naturally contain fiber happen to be exceptionally healthy in general, so it’s hard to suss out what exact benefits can be chocked up to fiber specifically (as opposed to, say, the protein in whole grain products or the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables).

“Where we’re getting that fiber recommendation is not just from fiber itself—it’s based off consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains,” Tewksbury explains. That’s why the Dietary Guidelines specifically state that low fiber intake is due to low intakes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and encourage people to eat more of them to increase their fiber intake—not more cookies and bars containing added fiber. Plus, plant foods almost always have a mix of both kinds of fiber, while added fiber products typically contain just one (usually soluble fiber), Dr. Ford notes. That’s not necessarily bad, but it does mean you’re not getting the benefits of both types, especially the digestive health benefits that seem to be most strongly associated with insoluble fiber.

One more uncomfortable truth about added fiber

If you’ve found that eating fiber-enriched cereals or cookies makes you especially gassy and bloated, you’re not alone. That’s one other potential issue with added fibers: the large amount of fiber that some of these products contain. Loading up on any kind of fiber, naturally occurring or added, can cause gas, bloating, and cramping, Dr. Ford says, especially if you’re rapidly upping your intake or not drinking enough water, per the Mayo Clinic. And while technically you could overdo it on the fiber by chomping on oats and apples, the concentration of fiber in foods that contain it naturally is generally lower—whereas some of these added fiber snacks pack in 10, 15, or more grams per serving, making it easy to overwhelming your GI system in just three or four bites. And if you reach for a second (or third) brownie or cookie, that’s just… a lot of fiber. That’s why you might notice you’re particularly gassy or bloated after eating a high-fiber protein bar but not a bowl of oatmeal. (If you do notice a high-fiber food bothers your stomach, maybe try something with a little less fiber, introducing it more slowly to your diet, and drinking more water with it, Dr. Ford says.)

The good news is that stomach distress is probably the worst thing that will happen to you (unless you have a GI condition and have been told to avoid excessive fiber, of course). It’s pretty impossible to “overdose” on fiber, Dr. Ford says, since it doesn’t get absorbed into your bloodstream. In fact, there is no “Tolerable Upper Limit” for fiber, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), meaning research hasn’t revealed a level of fiber that is shown to have significant negative health effects on either mineral levels or GI functioning.

The bottom line on added fiber

It’s pretty freaking cool that we can get a fiber boost from something that tastes like dessert, but you probably shouldn’t be relying on fiber-enriched processed foods for the majority of your daily intake. If you’re looking to incorporate a little extra fiber in your diet—to help with constipation or simply up your overall intake—and you feel better reaching for the fiber-fortified version, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with using those foods to supplement your fiber intake (or just because you like them). “They’re great options to enjoy as a treat or dessert that has some additional nutritional value,” Tewksbury says.

Just keep in mind that as tasty and welcome as these foods are in your diet, if you’re trying to eat more fiber to improve the overall nutritional quality of your diet, it’s best to primarily rely on whole foods to help you get there, Dr. Ford says. In other words, don’t assume a food high in fiber is always the more healthful choice—and probably don’t start swapping out all your fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans for added-fiber brownies.


A Beginner’s Guide to Vegan and Cruelty-Free Makeup and Skin Care

My venture into veganism began, like most people’s does, with food. In addition to the ethical and environmental incentives for eating fewer animal products—recent research suggests the production of animal products generates up to 78 percent of total agricultural greenhouse gas emissions—I was noticing that the less meat and dairy I ate, the better I felt. As I started reaping the physical and ethical benefits of a predominantly plant-based diet, I wanted to explore vegan alternatives in other aspects of my life. In for a penny, and all that.

Since I first proudly wore my “Against Animal Testing” Body Shop T-shirt at every available opportunity (circa 1992), cruelty-free makeup and skin care has been a must for me. You’d think, in 2019, that wouldn’t be a difficult box to tick, but sadly, most of the biggest brands still can’t be classed as genuinely cruelty-free label because they’re sold in China, where animal testing has historically been mandatory for imported cosmetics. (I can still remember my painful breakup with my beloved MAC Face and Body Foundation when I first learned that “against animal testing” often came with a “but” because MAC products are sold in China.)

While many brands are making the move to cruelty-free, one global brand recently made a controversial move in the opposite direction: NARS, once reliably cruelty-free, updated their animal testing policy in 2017 to reflect their decision to make their products available in China. Kudos to Covergirl, however, which pulled out of China in November 2018 to join the internationally recognized Leaping Bunny program, launched in the 1990s by a coalition of animal protection organizations.

While a brand can be cruelty-free without it, Leaping Bunny certification is the industry gold standard—with no loopholes for testing anywhere “required by law,” be it China or elsewhere. Having a Leaping Bunny certification is an ongoing obligation to maintain a cruelty-free supply chain, Kim Paschen, program manager at Leaping Bunny, tells SELF.

In order to get a Leaping Bunny certification, Paschen says, companies must choose a fixed date after which they will not conduct any new animal testing, and they also have to collect individual declarations from their ingredient suppliers and manufacturers, stating they also don’t conduct animal testing. “The company must also recommit to the program every year and provide any updated information on new suppliers and/or manufacturers, ” Paschen says. Additionally, companies who want to get or keep their certification must also comply with any third-party audits Leaping Bunny mandates.

But just because a product has a cruelty-free seal (from Leaping Bunny or elsewhere) it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is free of animal products—only that it, and the ingredients it contains, haven’t been tested on animals. “Because ingredients are required by law to be on labels, Leaping Bunny concentrates its efforts on making sure companies are 100 percent free of animal testing,” Paschen explained. In other words, if you want your body wash or foundation to be vegan, you have to start reading the ingredients list.

Companies can apply to The Vegan Society for the Vegan Trademark—the international standard for authentic vegan products. The founding members coined the term “vegan” in 1944 and today, over 30,000 products across the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, India and other countries display the trademark. However, in the same way that a company can be cruelty-free without being certified by Leaping Bunny, a product can be vegan without having the little sunflower logo on its packaging. So yeah—read the ingredient list.

For instance, common cosmetic ingredients such as lanolin (derived from sheep’s wool), gelatin (often derived from animal bones), and glycerin (which may be derived from animal fat) are not vegan, but sometimes may be created from plant sources. Beeswax and honey, both natural animal byproducts, are also not considered vegan by the The Vegan Society.

The expansion of Leaping Bunny might just be a testament to the fact that just as consumers want our makeup and skin-care products to be effective and affordable, many of us want them to be ethically made, too. “We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” Paschen says. “When I started at the company in 2010, we had less than 400 companies certified and the program had already been 15 years old. We now have almost 1,500 companies certified.”

So, will the beauty industry adapt to meet the demands of increasingly aware, environmentally-focused consumers? “Cruelty-free” and “vegan” may once have been labels attached to only small indie brands, but the larger players have taken notice, Virginia Bonofiglio, associate chairperson at the Fashion Institute and Technology’s cosmetics and fragrance marketing program, tells SELF.

“Animal testing could become a thing of the past if we continue to discover new and efficacious methods for the safety testing of products, especially those that are used in and around the eyes,” Bonofiglio says. “All countries need to come on board, and safety testing processes should be harmonized across the world.”

As for vegan products, Bonofiglio points out that biochemists continue to find ways to create new molecules from vegan sources, like using glycerin and squalane oil derived from plant and vegetable sources rather than animal sources. Whether the industry will be able to replace every ingredient it currently uses is simply one of many much larger questions. “What will be the new rules of beauty and how will we define it? Will climate change force a totally new way of producing products?” she asked. “This is where the discussions of the future need to begin.”

In the meantime, there are already lots of brilliant products out there that are genuinely cruelty-free and/or vegan. Here are a few of my faves.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What If You Don’t Feel Like Yourself Without Your Anxiety?

As a psychiatrist at a university, nothing brings me greater joy than when a patient who used to have terrible anxiety tells me they’re now able to make friends, give a presentation in class, or do anything else that previously felt off limits. But I also know that getting better when you have anxiety (or any mental health issue) is not only hard to do—for some people, it can actually be pretty terrifying.

If anxiety is a huge part of how you define yourself, what does it mean when those symptoms start to recede? Maybe this experience has thrown you for a loop, or maybe the fear of it is stopping you from seeking help for your anxiety.

Either way, I understand that not knowing where you end and where your anxiety begins can be disorienting. I promise it’s possible to work through the emotions that can come with treating your anxiety, get to know your new self, and get much closer to living a life that your anxiety may have made seem impossible. I know because I’ve seen it.

Why some of us feel defined by our anxiety

Take my patient Jake*, for example. When he first came to see me, he was struggling with day-to-day anxiety so badly that he had trouble focusing in class and couldn’t sleep. Of course, his grades were dropping. As a result, Jake stopped socializing. He was so worried that if he took time away from studying, he would do even worse in school.

I started Jake on a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, a type of antidepressant that is generally the first-line medication for anxiety. A beautiful thing happened: He started to get better. He could concentrate, he could sleep, and most importantly for Jake, he could get back to doing well in school and hanging out with his friends.

But feeling better came with unsettling aspects, too. Now that Jake was less worried about how he came off to people, he revealed his true, more sarcastic personality more often. He didn’t take as much time getting ready before he went to a party or asking as many questions before he dove into an assignment. Jake was in unfamiliar territory.

While he certainly liked his new ability to function without anxiety, Jake told me he felt like he was having an existential crisis of sorts. He didn’t know who he was anymore, wasn’t sure if others would like his “new” self, and wondered if he should stay on his medication.

Jake’s situation is unique but not entirely uncommon, and it doesn’t only happen due to medication, either. Even without medication, working on your anxiety in therapy can play out in a similar way: You might feel a little uncertain or scared about leaving behind anxious behaviors that have benefited you in the past. After years of living with anxiety, it can start to feel normal or even necessary for your success. If medication or therapy then reduces these symptoms or makes them go away entirely, it can absolutely raise questions about your identity.

Maybe you feel like your anxiety fuels your success at work, or you outwardly revel in being an introvert when you really stay home because of social anxiety. No matter the case, when you address the anxiety that propels certain behaviors, there can be some concern that you’ll lose the parts of your identity that seem so enmeshed with it.

Mental health stigma can also rear its ugly head here, making you feel ashamed that you need medication or therapy sessions to tame your anxiety. But anxiety is an illness like any other. Can you imagine someone with diabetes saying, “Even though insulin stabilizes my blood sugar, I don’t want to take it anymore because I feel more myself without it?”

The important thing to know is that this unmoored feeling of being someone new without your anxiety isn’t weird. It can be a completely normal stage of getting better, and someone like your psychiatrist or therapist can help you move past it or even delight in it.

How to talk about your concerns

In my experience, this conversation is actually most likely to come up before a patient even begins their anxiety medication. When I bring up the prospect, patients often ask me if it will change who they are or if, without anxiety as a driving force, they’ll stop caring about important things like studying.

I usually tell my patients that with proper treatment, you can expect day-to-day anxiety to go down but not go away entirely. Remember, anxiety has an evolutionary purpose. It’s meant to help you survive by motivating you to act in the face of a threat, whether that’s a bear outside your campsite or a looming deadline at work. That drive will not just disappear with anxiety treatment like medication and therapy.

If you feel unsure about navigating reality with lowered anxiety, tell someone like your doctor or therapist. As great as they might be, they can’t read minds! Please do bring up anything like this if it is affecting you.

Whoever you talk to will likely ask what exactly feels different about who you are with lowered anxiety (or what you’re nervous will feel different). If you’ve started on anxiety medication, that can help them make sure you’re not actually experiencing unwanted side effects, which could indicate that a different one might be better for you. If that’s not an issue, they can help you understand how you might have grown to attribute anxiety behaviors to who you are as a person, how those behaviors have helped you in the past, and what your worries are about not having them now. This discussion will be personal and may be difficult at times, but it’s one worth having.

You shouldn’t stop any mental health medication on your own without guidance from someone like a psychiatrist. That’s especially true with antidepressants, like the type you might have been prescribed for anxiety. Coming off them too suddenly can cause what’s known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, a cluster of negative symptoms like insomnia, dizziness, irritability, and even suicidal thoughts. This doesn’t mean you can never come off of a medication that isn’t good for you, just that you should talk to a medical professional about tapering off of it as safely as possible.

Your prescribing doctor or your therapist can help you weigh the pros and cons of staying on your medication. While I can understand concerns about feeling somewhat different as a result of medication, I also know how beneficial treatment can be for someone with debilitating, life-interfering anxiety. However, I would never tell someone what the “right” choice is for them.

How to navigate and appreciate your new normal

The goal of treatment is to be able to enjoy life more without anxiety symptoms like constant worrying, a racing heart, poor concentration, and insomnia. That’s what happened for Jake, who decided to stay on his medication and eventually settled into his new, improved, and much less anxious life. He even laughed about his initial feelings, telling me he realized he wasn’t really living his most full life before he started treatment.

Whether you’re on medication for anxiety, are addressing your anxiety through therapy, or both, know that it’s possible to get through the discomfort and relish being on the other side, like Jake.

Also, hey, if you’re worried your friends or family members won’t like this less-anxious version of you, you can always outright ask them. Chances are they’ll be thrilled that you’re feeling better overall and will be happy to offer some positive reinforcement. Hearing from them might help you feel a bit better. So might realizing how refreshing it is not to worry about a test for days and nights on end or being able to enjoy a party you’d otherwise skip out of fear. Eventually, as you adjust to your new reality, you’ll hopefully be able to worry less about feeling different and instead celebrate feeling better.

*“Jake” represents a composite of patients I’ve treated.

Jessica A. Gold, M.D., M.S., is an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University in St Louis. Find her on Twitter @drjessigold.


The brain’s pathways to imagination may hold the key to altruistic behavior

In those split seconds when people witness others in distress, neural pathways in the brain support the drive to help through facets of imagination that allow people to see the episode as it unfolds and envision how to aid those in need, according to a team of Boston College researchers.

The underlying process at work is referred to as episodic simulation, essentially the ability of individuals to re-organize memories from the past into a newly-imagined event simulated in the mind.

Neuroimaging helped the researchers identify multiple neural pathways that explain the relationship between imagination and the willingness to help others, researchers from Boston College and the University of Albany, SUNY, reported recently in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

The team explored two separate brain regions with different functions: the right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ), a key brain region thought to be involved in representing the minds of other people, also known as “perspective-taking”; and the medial temporal lobe (MTL) subsystem, a set of brain regions that support the simulation of imagined scenes.

The study discovered evidence for the direct impact of scene imagery on willingness to help, according to Boston College Associate Professor of Psychology Liane Young, a co-author and the principal investigator on the project. While study participants imagined helping scenes, neural activity in MTL predicted overall willingness to help the person in need, according to the article, “A role for the medial temporal lobe subsystem in guiding prosociality: the effect of episodic processes on willingness to help others,” which was published in the journal’s April 14 edition.

“If we are able to vividly imagine helping someone, then we think we’re more likely to actually do it,” said Young, director of the Morality Lab at BC. “Imagining the scenery surrounding the situation can also prompt people to take the perspective of the people in the situation who need help, which in turn prompts prosocial action.”

This may be because of a phenomenon known as imagination inflation, where humans use the vividness of their imagination as a kind of cue to estimate the likelihood of an event, according to the co-authors, which also included former BC postdoctoral researcher Brendan Gaesser, now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Albany, SUNY, research assistants Joshua Hirschfeld-Kroen and Emily A. Wasserman, and undergraduate research assistant Mary Horn.

The team set out to learn how the capacity to simulate imagined and remembered scenes of helping motivate individuals to form more altruistic intentions. The goal was to uncover the cognitive and neural mechanisms that explain the relationship between episodic simulation and the enhanced willingness to help those in need.

In the first experiment, which allowed the team to look at both brain regions, the researchers collected functional brain images as people imagined and remembered helping others in hypothetical scenarios. In the second experiment, while people were imagining helping another person, the team used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt activity in their right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ), a key brain region thought to be involved in representing the minds of other people.

Neuroimaging revealed that the willingness to help was also predicted by activity in the RTPJ, a critical node that’s involved in taking the perspective of other people, according to the researchers. However, in the second experiment, when the team used TMS to temporarily inhibit activity in the RTPJ, they found that the altruistic effect of vividly imagining helping remained significant, suggesting that this effect doesn’t depend exclusively on perspective-taking.

“We had initially expected that higher neural activity in the medial temporal lobe subsystem would be associated with a greater willingness to help,” the team reported. “Surprisingly, we found the opposite: the more activity a person had in their MTL subsystem while they were imagining helping scenes, the less willing they were to help the person in need.”

This contradiction may be explained by lower MTL activity reflecting greater ease of imagining episodes, and that ease of imagination means that participants are more willing to help. Consistent with this account, the team found that when participants reported finding it easier to imagine or remember helping episodes, they also tended to report being more willing to help the person in need.

Young and Gaesser recently found in a separate study, led by BC postdoctoral researcher Jaclyn Ford and Professor Elizabeth Kensinger, that vividly remembering helping was associated with making more generous donations in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Next steps in the research will further connect the lab’s neuroimaging approach with measures of real-world altruistic behavior.

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Materials provided by Boston College. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

How to Use a Cock Ring, Just in Case You Were Wondering

Cock rings. Pleasure rings. C-rings. Penis rings. Whatever you call these devices (I’m partial to “cock ring” myself), I view them as the unsung heroes of many a sexual escapade. They deserve their day in the sun, and I’m here to deliver it. (Yes, my job as a sex educator and coach is pretty delightful.)

A cock ring is exactly what it sounds like: A ring-shaped sex toy that goes around a penis or dildo to squeeze the shaft or shaft and balls. Learning this might inspire a very valid question: Why the hell would someone want that?!?!

Well, this restriction can feel highly pleasurable for some people. It can also help make erections feel harder. Erections happen when arteries leading into the penis dilate, making the penis bigger than usual, while veins leading away from the penis constrict, trapping as much blood as possible in there. By adding another mode of constriction on top of that vein action, cock rings can help even more blood collect in the penis, resulting in more intense hard-ons. (All of this helps explain why people with erectile dysfunction sometimes use cock rings, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, although anyone in that situation should talk to their doctor before trying this out.)

If you’re intrigued and wondering how to actually use a cock ring, here are a few tips to help you out.

1. Start with a simple cock ring made of something stretchy like silicone.

Silicone cock rings are flexible, easy to remove, and simple to clean, making them great for beginners. Some cock rings are made of stainless steel or metal, but I only recommend those for people who are more advanced when it comes to these toys.

There are lots of simple silicone cock rings out there, like this one from Pleasure Chest. But I actually most like adjustable rings if you’re just getting started, because they allow you or your partner to control how tight the ring gets. I’m a fan of this one from Doc Johnson.

Some cock rings come with pretty fun bonuses. Both of my favorite ones—the Pivot from We-Vibe and the Tenga SVR—vibrate and have raised heads, which can be great for vulva-owning penis-riders. (New feminist superheroine name?)

2. Lube up.

My recommendation is to always, always, always use lube with sex toys, including cock rings. Before putting on a cock ring, spread a few drops of lube around the inner part. This will help it slide down a penis or dildo more easily.

My go-to lube recommendation for cock rings is Sustain Natural’s water-based option. Since I’m all about those silicone rings, I’ve got a duty to remind you to avoid using silicone lube with a silicone cock ring. It can corrode the toy and cause damage. Whether your sex toys are pricey or you’d just like to avoid the hassle of replacing them, this is a rule worth following.

Then there’s the fact that oil-based lubricants can damage latex, so if you’re using condoms, that’s a no-go. Choosing a water-based lube makes things easier all around.

3. Place the ring on a flaccid or semi-erect penis.

If you and your partner are experimenting with using a cock ring on a dildo, this is a non-issue. Otherwise, don’t try to pop a cock ring on an erect penis. Even with lube, that might be too uncomfortable and difficult, depending on how tight the ring is. Placing the ring over the head of the penis and sliding it down the shaft will typically be easier if the organ is flaccid or semi-erect. You may have to experiment a bit to figure out what works best.

After that, there’s the question of where exactly to position the cock ring, since many of them can either go at the base of the penis or surround the shaft and balls. I recommend that beginners stick with the base of the penis. It’s the easiest way to put the ring on and cuts down on the prospect of hurting those sensitive testicles. On the flip side, if you’re using a condom, placing a cock ring over the shaft and balls means it’ll have a bit of distance from the rim of the rubber, which means the ring can be less likely to slide around and push it up. (I still encourage condom use when necessary no matter which cock ring placement you’re into!)

If you’re leveling up and placing a cock ring over someone’s balls in addition to their shaft, do so with care. Once the ring is all the way down their shaft, stretch it as far as it can go without snapping, then gently—gently—place each testicle through the ring one at a time. Adjustable rings are great for this type of placement as you can make them bigger for the testicles to pass through. Either way, it might be easier for the person wearing the ring to do this part themselves.

Ultimately, the ring should feel pleasantly tight without feeling uncomfortable. Pain, numbness, or skin that’s dramatically changing color (like becoming bright red or deep purple) indicates that the ring is probably way too tight. Encourage your partner to be open with you about how they are feeling and remove the ring immediately if anything feels too uncomfortable. This is not the time for them to take one for the team.

4. Don’t leave a cock ring on a penis for too long.

The general industry recommendation is to keep a cock ring on for no more than 20 to 30 minutes. The blood flow restriction is usually safe in short bursts, but much like when you wear a tight rubber band on a finger, it can become painful after a prolonged period. Theoretically, cutting off fresh blood circulation to the penis for too long could cause tissue damage, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, but people using cock rings shouldn’t have to worry about that as long as they follow the instructions and listen to their bodies.

When removing a cock ring, again, gentleness is key. You can even apply more lube if necessary to help it slide off more easily. As with placing the ring, it might be easier for the person wearing the ring to handle this part.

When testing out cock rings, the most important thing of all is to enjoy yourself! Just kidding, it’s safety, although enjoying yourself is a very close second. Be careful, pay attention to how everyone is feeling, and, yes, have fun as you figure out if cock rings can make your sex life even better.

Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, educator, and writer living in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Outdoor Voices Summer Sale 2019: Leggings, Tops, and Pullovers

We love Outdoor Voices as much as the next person, so we’ve practically been counting down the days to the brand’s mega 50 percent off sale—it’s only the biggest OV sale of the year (no big deal). Below, we rounded up some of the best deals, including the brand’s signature colorblocked leggings, wrap skirts and tops for summer, plus some airy tanks. The sale runs from now through July 16, but Outdoor Voices apparel is rarely this cheap, so sizes will move quickly. Keep in mind that everything’s final sale, too, so be sure to double check your sizing before closing out.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

16 Cute, Office-Appropriate Layers For When It’s Offensively Cold at Work

Summer (and by that I mean, warm weather clothing season), is by far my favorite time of year. But one thing that always gets me is the cold office AC. Now if you’re one of the lucky few who tends to run warm, stop reading. This isn’t for you. I on the other hand, am perennially cold. In fact, the thought of freezing at work for eight hours straight makes getting dressed in the morning far more challenging than I’d like. OK, yes, granted, I also spend way too long trying to figure out which jacket or sweater will be light enough to carry but will also look good with my outfit of the day.

My solution? Keeping a warm layer, like a sweatshirt or wrap, in one of the drawers by my desk to cover up when the AC is literally giving me goosebumps. Having this extra layer is so convenient because it means I’ll have one less thing to carry home at night or bring back to work the next day—and because we’re at SELF, it also means I can take it to and from the studio for a post-work yoga class. To save you the trouble of scrolling through thousands of activewear pieces, I’ve rounded up 16 stylish yet versatile sweatshirts, wraps, and shawls that’ll keep you toasty no matter what your office dress code is like.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.