We’re increasingly looking beyond the beauty stash to prioritise having wellbeing handbag essentials to hand – here’s what you really need and why, by Anna Lao Kaim
A capsule make-up collection, phone and house keys – the holy trinity of handbag must-haves for most of us, but the current global pandemic has led many to reassess the ‘critical’ kit that we cart around. From hand sanitiser to vital packets of tissues to catch sniffles, our handbag staples have evolved of late from simply a standby nude lipstick plus keep-cup combo. Health fundamentals have often been overlooked in favour of more glamorous accessories but now that staying well is particularly at the forefront of our minds, what should we carry on the daily? Here’s your wellbeing starter for ten…
The hygiene heroes
Pharmacist Thorrun Govind stresses that hand sanitiser supplies should be primarily reserved for healthcare workers – if you quite literally can’t get your hands on any, don’t panic. Govind emphasises that “Hand sanitiser is no substitute for properly washing your hands with regular soap and water” (you know the “happy birthday” drill). Essentially, it’s an added extra and many people that are using it aren’t getting the full benefits according to Govind:
“Hand sanitiser can help to limit the spread of germs and viruses to some degree but just dabbing it onto your hands will make no difference – you need to really rub it in (between fingers and around the nail bed) for it to be in any way effective.”
Additionally, hand sanitiser needs to have an alcohol content of at least 60% to guard against the spread of bacteria and viruses so a homemade vodka cocktail for your hands simply isn’t feasible. Look for the highest alcohol content available and tuck an emollient rich hand cream in your bag too to combat chapping – alcohol has a dehydrating effect on skin from the outside as well as the inside.
One important ‘healthy handbag’ factor to consider is how often you actually clean it. Govind recommends giving your bag a thorough sluice with antibacterial spray or wipes and lifting out any artificial compartments in bags to give them a good wash. Clearly if your bag is a Birkin you may not wish to give it a Dettol bath – specialist handbag cleaning services such as The Handbag Spa and The Restory can do the dirty work for you.
The doctor’s bag
While a moveable pharmacy isn’t necessary, Govind highlights that there are a few key items we should ideally have in stock.
Paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen are the big hitters. In terms of treating coronavirus symptoms, Govind states that pharmacists are currently being advised to recommend paracetamol over non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen as a precautionary measure. Some evidence links ibuprofen to more severe respiratory illness symptoms but this association is yet to be verified – NHS advice advocates taking paracetamol to reduce pain and bring down a fever until we know more. That said, it’s important not to stop taking ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory painkillers if you’ve been prescribed them by your doctor.
Keeping an antihistamine in your bag isn’t just handy as we go into hayfever season – a tablet can help to reduce the effects of everything from pet allergies to reactions caused by allergens in alcoholic drinks (wine flu really is a thing). Antihistamine creams on the other hand can bring down external reactions, although Govind notes that oral antihistamines are usually the most effective option.
Also on the ‘good to have’ list are oral rehydration salts to speed recovery if you’ve had episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting (in which case keep yourself and your handbag at home until you’ve fully recovered), an eyewash solution to rinse away grit, pollen and dust and an antiseptic cream to soothe, heal and disinfect everything from grazes to wounds to unwelcome spots.
Tools of the trade
On Govind’s handbag hitlist are a small thermometer, clean tweezers and plasters (depending on your ‘new shoe’ status, blister plasters may prove useful too).
The period products
With the tampon tax finally being scrapped in the UK in 2021 (we’re still waiting on 33 states to do the same in the US) the world is slowly coming around to the fact that period products are in fact not luxury items – they’re handbag essentials for a large number of us. With that in mind, for those that can afford to, it makes sense to opt for the most eco-friendly period products on the market.
Regular tampons and pads typically have a 90% plastic content but the sustainable period product market has seen a boom in compostable, reusable and organic innovations that not only meet your monthly needs but are also made for women, by women. Groundbreakers include Hey Girls, a UK company producing 100% organic tampons with biodegradable applicators made from sugar cane. For every period product purchased, the founders give a box to a girl or woman from a low-income family. Seventh Generation runs a similar initiative in the US by quite literally absorbing tampon tax for every packet sold and donating it to period care non-profits. Other bright, bold, non-body shaming and environmentally friendly brands to bookmark include Flo (available in the US and the UK) Ohne in the UK and L. in the US, all of which include a social enterprise benefit whenever you buy. In short, from hereon you’ll be brandishing a tampon from your purse with pride – this stuff has stayed hidden in there for far too long.
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Main image credits: Smythson Portobello Notebook, and the Gigi Cross-Body Bag from aurora-london.com
Rosemary Ferguson is a model, author and nutritional therapist. Here, she talks us through how she manages life on the go.
PRO TRAVEL TIPS
What luggage do you travel with?
“I use an Eastpak holdall and a vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase. It’s a mix of functionality and being chic(ish)”
What do you use for hand luggage?
“I use either a Nike rucksack or my Smythson tote bag. I can fit everything in there – travel documents, liquids, blanket, socks, you name it!”
What’s in your carry-on/ hand luggage that you never leave home without?
“I can’t leave without my wide range of tinctures, face oils, serums and bag of hydrating beauty. Some of which include a lovely Contour Lift Effect, Dewy Glow Botanical Oil by Orveda $225.00. I also love Penny Frances Apothecary who has a lovely Rose Geranium and Hibiscus flower Botanical mist $29 which is perfect for instant hydration. I am also a big fan of Augustinus Bader‘s The Rich Cream.”
What’s your approach to eating on travel day?
“Depending on the time of travel, I make sure food leading up to my flight is hydrating, full of fibre to keep things moving and rich in protein, fats and vegetables as opposed to carbs. I think this is really important as travelling is quite sedentary.”
What’s your approach to skincare when travelling and flying?
“HYDRATE. Drink plenty of water throughout the flight. I always take a hydrating serum and face oil especially on long haul and apply that to keep my skin hydrated and feeling fresh, before I land.”
How do you approach your wardrobe on the road?
“I’m not the sort of person who has new outfits every day. I always plan what I’m going to wear but make sure that shoes can be worn with a few outfits, and that also goes for jumpers, vests and T-shirts. I always take jewellery to accessorize.”
What do you wear to travel?
“I tend to always wear a good pair of jeans and a classic black t-shirt or vest and some black ballet pumps. I also always take some silk pyjama bottoms or cashmere joggers on the plane and change.”
Do you have any in-flight routines?
“I always change into pyjamas when flying long haul and I also take a massage ball to roll with my feet whilst seated to promote blood flow. I also try to stick with the time zone I’m going to, so if it’s night time where I’m heading, then I’ll try and sleep or I’ll read and rest. This game plan doesn’t always work but it does help at the other end.”
Plane food or own-food?
“I eat plane food but always opt for a gluten free vegan meal as it’s less irritating to the gut.”
Do you carry snacks with you when travelling and if so what?
“I always take my own snacks like nuts, seeds, protein balls, crudité and hummus so I have something healthy at hand.”
What do you read, listen to and/or watch in flight?
“I love podcasts, which changes depending on what the theme is that month. I’m a big fan of Dr Mark Hyman ‘The Doctor’s Farmacy’ which I’ll usually download before a flight. I also like a good series on the plane or a comedy like The Big Bang Theory.”
What is your seat preference and why?
“Window seat always as it feels like I have more room.”
Do you have any safety measures when travelling?
“Not really. I just like to ensure there is always enough time to reduce any possible stress.”
If you are a nervous flier, how do you cope?
“Through all the years of travelling with modelling I’ve never been a nervous flier. However Rescue Remedy $11.37 is a great thing to have on hand if you are. Another would be CBD oil.”
Is there anything you take onboard to feel ready on touch-down?
“I always change back into my jeans and I feel naked without perfume. A spritz of Penhaligons Malabah or Dior Rose Gipsy $220 and I’m good to go.”
KEEPING UP WITH LIFE ON THE GO
What is the best experience you have had travelling for work and where was it?
“It’s really hard to pick one. I’ve been super lucky and been to some amazing places – The Bolivian salt planes were pretty amazing. More recently I went to Elsewhere in Goa, where I did a yoga retreat at Ashiyana and learnt about Ayurvedic methods. It left me feeling amazing and so inspired.”
What was a terrible travel experience that wasn’t funny then, but is now?
“Driving from London to Deia in Majorca. To sum up, there were forest fires everywhere, all the main highways were closed and we opted for a cross country route which resulted in a completely shredded tyre on top of a deserted mountain at night time. Then we missed the ferry. Oh and we had 3 kids and 3 dogs in the back of the car.”
What do you do before a trip to ensure life at home runs smoothly whilst you are away?
“I make a thousand lists and make sure everything is scheduled and completed before I go. I also have a little team that run things whilst I’m gone. “
How do you keep connected to loved ones whilst on the road?
“Facetime, Whatsapp groups, emails…”
What situations related to travel do you find hard?
“Delayed flights are never good as you plan everything around reaching your destination at a certain time”
How do you make your hotel room feel like home?
“I love to have all my skincare products out in the bathroom with my straighteners laid out by the mirror. Also I make sure I have great lounge wear to put on if I’m ever in the room relaxing.”
How do you manage your wellbeing when away?
“When I’m away I always try to meditate in the morning for about 5 minutes and do some form of exercise whether that’s a run, walk, hike, dog walk, or yoga. I also always take my supplements wherever I go to which keeps me feeling well.”
Do you have any do’s and don’ts about nutrition and food when travelling?
“Eat plenty of fibre, good fats, hydrate a lot and take in as much green veg as and when you can. Avoid processed food and sugar as they will only make you feel worse and irritate the balance in your gut.”
How do you manage your mindset if you feel overwhelmed when away from home?
“I’ll make a call home, talk to my kids, husband and our little sausage dog. Or I arrange to do something nice like a massage, go for lunch or take a Yoga class.”
Is there any outsourcing that you do to ease the burden?
“I have the most amazing team and a sensational PA and they help with a lot of planning and logistics.”
What are your tips for combating jet lag physically, mentally and facially?
“Hydration – it’s so simple but so crucial. Next , take a probiotic to help your gut plus a fibre supplement to get things moving and maybe 4000mg of vitamin C to keep your immune system up. Make sure you get as much natural sunlight as possible after travelling to help reset your body clock.
Facially I would say always have a great hydrating sheet mask to hand… I like the Decorte and Verso ones.”