Photo by Greer Ross-McLennan.

This Tiny Box of French Menthol Is the Secret to Surviving Social Isolation Stress

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My moods of late have typically been running the gamut from anxious to super-anxious—pandemics have a funny way of doing that.

And while many of us are still working through what feels like the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—I’m not there yet.

Week 1 was full-on denial (“We’ll hunker down in Hawaii for spring break, honey!”), which moved to anger (“I’m still going to Kits Beach, goddammit!”). Then came the bargaining phase (“Starbucks is still safe, right?”), followed by depression (see the three-ish extra pounds on the scale). But this week, I’m moving into acceptance.

For many of us lucky enough to have been able to keep our jobs, we’re adapting to the new reality of working from home. There are a host of articles on how to properly prep your desk (declutter!), what makeup to wear on Zoom work calls (red lipstick does wonders!), and how to organize your closet/photo album despite relentless distractions (memes, TikTok, and memes).

Yet, for me, one tiny little tool has done more than two weeks’ worth of Netflix binge-watching and wine delivery combined (well, those have helped too).

The real hero in this journey toward acceptance is a tiny purchase I made while visiting a pre-pandemic French pharmacy last month. French pharmacies—renowned for their effortless savoir faire and simple beauty tools that translate to revolutionary, cult-fave secrets this side of the pond—are ground zero for basic beauty innovation. Somehow, what French women take as everyday maintenance manages to seem otherworldly elsewhere.

To wit: this tiny 100 per cent–natural menthol, in its elegant little wood box, has been both balm and salve for all of my mental and physical anguish since the crisis engulfed us.

Think of it as an elevated Vicks VapoRub in solid form.

Simply twist off the lid, rub the fresh crystal on your temple or sore joints (every half-hour I compulsively go for sore scapulas since I sit at a desk, but it’s most commonly used for headache relief), and soon the pungent scent of menthol permeates.

Then, like Vicks VapoRub, you immediately feel a cooling sensation, which blocks the calcium current along the nerves responsible for detecting skin temperature. The powerful scent takes you and your tight muscles to another place—a place that’s cool and carefree.

For now, this seven-gram Cooper Salva Menthol Freshness Macaroon is sold out on Amazon.ca, but it’s still available on Amazon.com, and, of course, in pharmacies the next time you visit France. Let’s hope that’s soon.


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April 3, 2020