a helpful candida link i recently found!

photo from hey paul studios

if you google ‘candida cleanse’, you will get a million and one ways on how to do this cleanse.  most all of them have parts of the way we believe the cleanse should be done, but most have some deal breakers (dairy and fruit are allowed by other approaches, but not with ours).  at sS, we take a conservative approach in how we deal with rebalancing the system, because we also need to make sure the cleansing process is acne-safe too.

i found a great article for candida which is, for the most part, in alignment with the way we look at and approach this imbalance.

this article pretty thoroughly explains all things candida:

  • how people get candida
  • what symptoms are associated with it (there are many, including super stubborn, acne-safe lifestyle-resistant acne!)
  • what causes the candida strain of yeast to grow out of control
  • an easy at-home test you can do to see if you have it (a good first step before diving into more involved and $$$ stool testing, etc.)
  • and finally, the multi-pronged approach to how to get the candida yeast levels under control:
    • starving the candida
    • building up the immune system
    • killing off the problematic excess yeast
    • replenishing the digestive tract with healthy bacteria
    • and manage the healing process (so that all your hard work and discipline doesn’t go to waste!)

we have had clients very successfully use can-sol, the herbal supplement to assist in the cleansing process.  it’s a formula that was specifically created for the treatment of yeast infections and was recommended to us by dr. thomas anstett, naturopathic doctor and teacher for CNHP (certified natural health practitioners).


protect your beach bod!

photographed by xavier donate

great body sunscreens have been difficult for us to find, because they either are comedogenic, unpleasantly greasy, highly fragranced, or leave the skin very white (due to mineral particles present in physical-spf formulations).  keep in mind that we prefer physical sunscreens (vs. chemical – click here to read sunscreen 101) for their more stable protective qualities.  look below for the few body sunscreens we’ve found that look safe, that we’ve just started testing.  until we find and start carrying our favorites, you should be able to find these in your local stores.

keep in mind that, like with any and all of our recommendations, ensure you are buying the exact same brand & model of product we specify, and double check the ingredient listings to make sure you are getting the same acne-safe product we’re talking about.  often times manufacturers will have several ‘models’ of the same product with very similar packaging and names, and/or will have the same product name + label, but will have a different ingredient list.

i personally am a fan of spray sunscreens, which allow for the easiest and fastest application.  not to mention, they are refreshingly cool upon application which is nice when you’re someplace hot! and the good news is, so long as aerosol cans are completely empty, they are recyclable.  however, if these cans are partially full, you’ll have to treat them as garbage – so use up every bit and recycle them!  also keep in mind that if traveling on a plane, you will likely have to check your bag if you have a pressurized can such as these, but i’ve successfully carried a travel-sized aerosol can of hair styling mousse with no problem several times.  it just depends on how fussy your TSA agent is, i suppose.

we’ve also included a few non-aerosol spf’s that we’ve tried, along with a few promising (but not yet tested by us) options at the bottom of this post.

ready?  let’s go!

kiss my face all natural kid's defense spf30

brand: kiss my face
product name: all natural kids defense mineral spf 30 continuous spray lotion
type of sunscreen: physical
ingredient listing: active ingredients: titanium dioxide 7.8% (sunscreen)
inactive ingredients: actinidia chinensis fruit extract (kiwi), aloe barbadensis leaf juice, alumina, bentonite, butyloctyl salicylate, caprylhydroxamic acid, caprylyl glycol, carthamus tinctorius seed oil (safflower), cetearyl alcohol, ethylhexylglycerin, coco glucoside, fragrance (natural), garcinia mangostana fruit extract (mangosteen), glycerin, helianthus annuus seed oil (sunflower), heptyl undecylenate, lycium barbarum extract (goji berry), methyl dihydrabietate, punica granatum extract (pomegranate), silica, tocopherol (vitamin e), water
average cost: $15-20
review: on a trip to palm springs, i brought this to test out on myself, but also a family with a 3 year old child.  we all agreed the application was really nice (refreshing cooling sensation) and quick (great for toddlers).

it did spray on white (as expected), but i found that even after immediately rubbing it in, it would still leave a ghastly cast on the skin.  so, for optimal cosmetic purposes, you’d want to spray one body part at a time, then rub it in thoroughly and quickly, before moving onto the next body part.  if you left it on the skin too long without rubbing it in, it’d be really hard to massage in and you’d have SPF splotches all over.

the whitish cast rubbed off onto my bathing suit, so i don’t think this formula would be good for vain sunbathers.  it also was very difficult to wash off, even in the shower with soap.  you’ll definitely need a washcloth to scrub this stuff off!  so, shopping at the outlets afterwards kind of sucked; i couldn’t try on anything black or colored, without leaving this SPF residue on the clothing.

granted, this stubborn whitish cast + residue could be a good thing because you’d know the SPF is still on and protecting you, during active sports (like swimming, or sweating).

pros: easy to find (any store that stocks kiss my face, from walgreens to whole foods), because it’s really hard to wash off you know it’s still on your skin protecting you, and it’s more obvious to see if you need to reapply
cons: after it dried it was still kind of sticky, even after rubbing it on quickly it still left a white cast, and because it’s really hard to wash off your skin can still look ashy or the residue can rub off onto your clothing

verdict: it’s ok.  does the job, but not the most elegant or my favorite.  but it didn’t seem to break me out, so that’s good!


garden goddess everyday spray mineral spf30

brand: garden goddess
product name: everyday natural continuous spray (spf 30)
type of sunscreen: physical
ingredient listing: active: titanium dioxide 6.4%, zinc oxide 6.0% inactive: aloe vera*, camellia sinensis (green tea), caprylic/capric triglyceride (derived from coconut oil), caprylyl/capryl glucoside, glycerin*, glyceryl caprylate, glyceryl stearate citrate, glyceryl undecylenate, helianthus annus (sunflower) oil*, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, lecithin (sunflower), polyhydroxystearic acid, radish root ferment filtrate, rubus idaeus (red raspberry) seed oil, stearic acid, tocopherol (vitamin e), xanthan gum (*certified organic)
average cost: $20
review: same great, quick and refreshingly cool spray application like all aerosol spray SPF’s, but this one seemed to massage into the skin much better than the kiss my face one.

disclaimer: i’ve only tried this on my arms and legs, i haven’t “officially” tried it poolside, with a swimsuit on.  but, i didn’t seem to have so much of a hard time with it rubbing off onto my clothing like i did with the kiss my face one.  maybe because i just sprayed on less, or because it truly does spread across the skin more easily?  i will update this post as soon as i can get myself somewhere next to a pool to properly test this out 😉

pros: seemed to massage in way better than the kiss my face brand, smells like lavender
cons: may be a bit harder to find.  i found this at real foods on stanyan, but their website says it’s available at REI, scarlet sage (on valencia), rainbow grocery, and whole foods.

verdict: it’s a winner!

goddess garden sport spray spf

brand: garden goddess
product name: sport natural continuous spray (spf 30)
type of sunscreen: physical
ingredient listing: active: titanium dioxide 6.4%, zinc oxide 6.0% inactive: aloe vera*, camellia sinensis (green tea), caprylic/capric triglyceride (derived from coconut oil), caprylyl/capryl glucoside, glycerin*, glyceryl caprylate, glyceryl stearate citrate, glyceryl undecylenate, helianthus annus (sunflower) oil*, lecithin (sunflower), polyhydroxystearic acid, radish root ferment filtrate, rubus idaeus (red raspberry) seed oil, stearic acid, tocopherol (vitamin e), xanthan gum (*certified organic)
average cost: $18 for 3.4 oz, $20 for 6oz
review: same review as the ‘everyday’ formula, but this one seemed a bit stickier upon application, and even after letting it dry.  it’s probably this way, because it’s more waterproof than the ‘everyday’ formula.

disclaimer: i’ve only tried this on my arms and legs, i haven’t “officially” tried it poolside, with a swimsuit on.  but, i didn’t seem to have so much of a hard time with it rubbing off onto my clothing like i did with the kiss my face one.  maybe because i just sprayed on less, or because it truly does spread across the skin more easily?  i will update this post as soon as i can get myself somewhere next to a pool to properly test this out 😉

pros: seemed to massage in way better than the kiss my face brand, smells like lavender
cons: may be a bit harder to find.  i found this at real foods on stanyan, but their website says it’s available at REI, scarlet sage (on valencia), rainbow grocery, and whole foods.

verdict: it’s a winner!  the slightly more stickiness of this formula versus the ‘everyday’ isn’t enough to deter me.

sawyer stay put spf 30sawyer stay put spf 50

product name: stay put sunscreen (spf 30 and spf 50)
type of sunscreen: SPF 30: chemical, SPF 50: chemical & physical
SPF 30 ingredient listing:
active ingredients: homosalate 10.0%, octinoxate 7.5%, octisalate 5.0%, oxybenzone 4.0% inactive ingredients: acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, carbomer, cetyl alcohol, dea-cetyl phosphate, dmdm hydantoin (and) iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, hydrogenated polyisobutene, stearic acid, triethanolamine, water.
SPF 50 ingredient listing:
active ingredients: octinoxate 7.5%, octisalate 5.0%, oxybenzone 6.0%, titanium dioxide 2.6%  inactive ingredients: aloe barbadensis leaf juice, dicaprylyl maleate, neopentyl glycol diethylhexanoate (and) neopentyl glycol diisostearate, octyldodecyl neopentanoate, peg-30 dipolyhydroxystearate, phenoxyethanol (and) methyl paraben (and) ethylparaben (and) butylparaben (and) propyl paraben (and) isobutylparaben, poly ethylene, poly quaternium 37 (and) propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate (and) ppg-1 trideceth-6, water
average cost: $12 for 8oz
review: this brand advertises that one application is all you need, but i didn’t trust it.  so, i applied only twice during a day on the river a couple of years ago, and i didn’t get burned, or break out.

a few weeks ago, i sent sS’er EGA on vacation with a tube of this SPF.  her skin is pretty acne-prone, so it’ll be interesting to see what she says about it when she gets back from vacation.  we’ll update this post when she updates us!

pros: very affordable, available at REI and cabela’s by mail order, applies invisibly leaving no residue on the skin, or clothing
cons: it’s got chemical SPF in it, which isn’t terrible (depending on how EPA-ish you are) but it’s also not the best (since we prefer physical SPF’s).

verdict: for those that don’t mind chemical SPF, this is a great option.  it’s definitely better than not wearing any SPF at all!  and the price point is awesome, so you can share it with all your friends and be their vanguard against sunburns.

sS spf's

and of course, our very own tried and tested SPF’s we sell in house.  we recommend these to clients all the time for their faces, necks and chests.  they can also work really well for the body, in only in a pinch in case you forgot to get some while on vacation.



here are two other sunscreens by kiss my face that look safe, but we haven’t yet tried.  they are very similar to a version we used to carry, that has since been reformulated.  we have yet to try these two new formulas:

KMF sport spf50

kiss my face
product name:
sunspray lotion spf50
type of sunscreen: chemical and physical
ingredient listing: 
active ingredients:
octinoxate 7.50%, homosalate 5.00%, octisalate 5.00%, avobenzone 4.00%, zinc oxide 1.70% other ingredients: acrylates copolymer, aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) oleosomes, cetearyl alcohol, cetearyl olivate, daucus carota sativa (carrot) root extract, dimethicone, ethylhexylglycerin, eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus) leaf oil, glycerin, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, lecithin, phenoxyethanol, polysorbate 20, sorbitan olivate, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), water, zemea (corn) propanediol

KMF sun spray lotion spf 30

brand: kiss my face
product name:
 sunspray lotion spf50
type of sunscreen: chemical and physical
ingredient listing: 
active ingredients: octinoxate 7.50%, homosalate 5.00%, octisalate 5.00%, avobenzone 4.00%, zinc oxide 1.70%  other ingredients: acrylates copolymer, aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) oleosomes, cetearyl alcohol, cetearyl olivate, daucus carota sativa (carrot) root extract, dimethicone, ethylhexylglycerin, eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus) leaf oil, glycerin, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, lecithin, phenoxyethanol, polysorbate 20, sorbitan olivate, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), water, zemea (corn) propanediol


please let us know if you’ve found an acne-safe body SPF that you like, we’d love to share it with other sS’ers if you’ve got a favorite!

sunscreen 101

updated july 2019.

so many sunscreens out there that can make things confusing – and can break you out. it’s important to know some sunscreen basics to understand what choices you have, and which types are the better choice!

what does SPF mean, anyway?  it’s an acronym for ‘sun protection factor.’  it’s a mathematical formula which helps determine how long you can be in direct sunlight before you start turning red.  so, say jane can stay in the direct sunlight WITHOUT sun protection for a maximum of 10 minutes before she starts turning red. so, this means that if she wears a sunscreen lotion with an SPF of 15, theoretically, with a proper application of said lotion, jane can stay out in the sun for (10 minutes times 15 =) 150 minutes.  however, if she gets wet (sweats, or swims), or somehow rubs the sunscreen off, she should reapply immediately.

there is some truth that the darker the skin is, the slower it is to burn, but the chances of inherent damage are not necessarily rarer; for instance, darker skins also have a higher tendency to get hyperpigmented.

there are 2 different sunscreen types – physical and chemical.  the difference between the two in a nutshell:

  • physical sunscreens consist of 2 ingredients: zinc and titanium dioxide.  because they are organic minerals, they are also called ‘mineral sunscreens’, and are present in most mineral makeups, and mineral sunscreen powders.  they will actually REFLECT sunlight off the skin, as well as the heat from those sun rays – so this would be a better choice for those who easily hyper pigment.  (sunspots can not only are created from sun exposure, but heat as well.)  physical sunscreens are stable, and because of this, are less likely to irritate sensitive skins.  however, because they are essentially very finely ground down minerals, they can often leave a whitish cast on the skin if not rubbed in thoroughly, or formulated elegantly.  they can also be difficult to wash off (which can be a good thing, you know it will stay on your skin to protect you, but can take extra diligence in washing off).from an acne standpoint, the problem with most physical sunscreens on the market are that they’re often are in a comedogenic base: either coconut oil, soybean oil, are combined with cloggyseaweed (which apparently also has sun protective qualities, and is what happened with the formerly acne-safe coola formulation).
  • chemical sunscreens are all other ingredients, with popular ones being avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate, and they ABSORB sunlight and heat.  they are synthetic and not as stable as physical sunscreens, and tend to be more irritating for sensitive skins.  but, they are invisible, so there is no chalkiness upon application with these SPF’s.  also, there are studies done by health research groups that suggest that chemical sunscreens are toxic, and mimic hormones, are carcinogenic, etc etc.

both types are also often suspended in dimethicone. dimethicone is not necessarily a comedogenic ingredient for most, but for those who have particularly sensitive and acne-prone skin, it may be best to avoid it. if that’s the case, you may want to look into a mineral powder sunscreen then; la bella donna’s formulation looks safe, but we definitely know that colorescience’s sunforgettables (sadly) has seaweed in them, which will break you out.  and just so you know, all of 4 of sS’s sunscreens at this time, contain dimethicone.

what exactly are you being protected from?  UVA’s are the aging rays, and UVB’s are the burning rays, of the sun.  so, when you get a sunscreen that says, ‘broad spectrum protection’, ‘multi spectrum’ or ‘uva/uvb’ on it, you know you’ll be getting protection from both.  as the ozone layer is depleted, we will likely be more exposed to UVC’s, which would be the more directly cancerous rays of the sun.  however, genetic propensity, cumulative sun exposure to UVA/UVB’s and immune health can still join forces and cause skin cancers of the skin, even without direct UVC exposure.

spf 15 vs spf 30 v spf 100?  according to the skin cancer foundation, spf 15’s protect you from 93% of the UVB’s, spf 30’s protect you from 97% and spf 50’s protect you from 98%.  however, the protection you would get going up from spf30 or 50 is very slight; it starts to increase only by a fraction of a percentage.

the skin cancer foundation site does not seem to differentiate the difference in sun protection in chemical versus physical sunscreens, but in the professional skincare industry, physical sunscreen is heralded as the better, more efficacious choice.

sunhat photographed by chris booth

other important factors to consider include:

  • proper application is important.  the skin cancer foundation says that we should apply a teaspoon of SPF to our faces a day, and 1oz (about a shot-glass’ worth) to our entire bodies.  yes, this is a ton of product to be rubbing on, but more importantly, we just want you to get your sunscreen EVERYWHERE.  this means, your neck and chest, the back of your neck, your ears (my mom got her ears fried once while on vacation – it seriously looked oven roasted!) and for the shaved head fellas, your scalps!
  • reapplication is key to continuous protection.  you should be reapplying every 2 hours, and even more frequently if you are sweating, rubbing or wiping off your skin, getting wet (like with swimming), or are extra sun sensitive (usually really fair skinned, and light- or red-haired). this is true even for sunscreens that are SPF95 (not a real thing, btw – read on) and claim to be ‘water-proof’ or ‘water-resistant’ (some will stay on longer than others, but in the end it’s really all marketing).
  • just because you have sunscreen on, doesn’t mean you don’t need to seek shade.  minimizing your exposure will also minimize your chances of sun damage – including wrinkles, spots, and cancer.
    • shade = cooler temperatures, which can help reduce not only sun but also heat-induced rosacea and hyperpigmentation!
    • shade options include trees, buildings, standing behind a very tall/wide person, umbrellas, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and even clothing – including long sleeved + long pants that are dark and tightly woven, but also ones that have SPF built into them (uniqlo, solumbra, and rei are just a few retailers who sell them, but there are still skeptics about this new-ish technology). wearing large framed sunglasses are great for protecting the eyeballs themselves from the sun, the skin around the eye area and squinting (that can cause crow’s feet wrinkles over time).
  • avoiding the sun at it’s strongest, between the hours of 10am – 4pm (depending on your timezone & location, obviously) can also help keep you sun safe.
  • sun exposure is also not always obvious.  people who drive, or work indoors next to a window are still exposed to sun.  foggy days can also still expose you to sunlight, which in some cases, is actually magnified by the water content of the atmosphere.  in fact, those who drive in the US get more skin cancers on their left side, and those who drive in opposite-driving countries get them more on their right sides.

skinSALVATION’s sunscreen offerings

ok, so we got all the sunscreen basics down.  now, here are the tools that we can offer you!  we’ve got 3 basic sunscreens plus a bonus DRY powder SPF brush, which is great for fuss-free reapplication throughout the day (so you don’t have to reapply your makeup!).  we generally recommend SPF’s to clients based on moisture levels, but also take into consideration each clients’ nuance: will they be wearing mineral makeup?  do they have a history of skin cancer?  etc etc.

in order of least to most moisturizing, here are our SPF’s:

  • TIZO 2 + 3 (not moisturizing at all, good for oily skins or for those who wear makeup as it leaves a velvety, makeup-prep-like texture on the skin; i find this to stay on the skin the best in hot / wet environments)

  • beyond complexion daily facial moisturizer spf 30 (light moisture, good for normal to oily, or normal to dry skins – great for everyday use where you’re not going to get wet or sweaty)

  • safeguard spf 40 (our thickest SPF, good for normal to dry to drier skins, or those who need ‘sport’ protection, it’s splash-resistant up to 80 minutes)

  • the la bella donna spf 50 powder brush is a favorite of mine that i have trouble holding onto; i keep a brush in my bag but inevitably end up giving it girlfriends who have spf brush envy when i pull it out to use, lol. i love this for hot weather reapplications; i don’t have to fuss with washing my hands to reapply sunscreen lotion to my face, and i get the strong protection of the 100% mineral spf 50. some application tips:
    • make sure to prime the brush on the back of your hand (to ensure the powder is flowing out through the brush onto your face; you should see a puff of powder come off the tip when it’s ready to use)
    • always use a lotion sunscreen first to create a strong sun protection base to build protection upon (you can put makeup on, then use this brush after or throughout the day)
    • generously apply this all over your face for sufficient coverage (i do 3 good rounds all over my face) and afterwards i will
    • pack the minerals onto my face by pressing the powder into my face with clean hands to ensure powder stays on my face (and doesn’t blow off because, powder). you can also pull the brush sleeve halfway up the bristles to create a stiffer brush and use this to pack the powder into your skin, much like this foundation buffer brush.

a note about any skincare thing that’s mineral-based: because minerals are inherently porous and absorbent, you may find that mineral makeup and mineral SPF can be a bit drying.  this is normal and to be expected.  it can be desirable for our oily skinned clients, but drier skinned clients may need to layer our hydrating gel or hydrating cream underneath your SPF to make sure you don’t get too dried out.

beyond complexion’s daily facial moisturizer with spf 30 is chemical-sunscreen based, offers acne-safe moisture + sun protection suitable for everyday (read: non-sweaty or water sports) use.

the other sunscreens we carry include TIZO 2 & 3.  they are in fact the same formula, except that #2 is untinted, and #3 is.  i have personally put both on either side of my face at the same time, and when applied properly (not too much, and massaged in thoroughly), shows no obvious difference on my complexion (i am an illuminare liquid foundation fair and a youngblood toffee).  this will vary of course, if you are lighter or darker than i!  this formula is a favorite of medical esthetic clinics and plastic surgeons to use post-procedure, and everyday. it stays on well for wet and sweaty activities.

lastly, our safeguard SPF 40 is our richest SPF, without being greasy.  i use this alone most days, though in the winter, i sometimes have to layer hydrating cream on my nose first, then this sunscreen on top.  this is my favorite one to use on the body, and so long as you massage it in thoroughly, it leaves no white cast!  (it’s also rated to be waterproof for 80 minutes and after testing so many of high and low-end acne-safe sunscreens, honestly prefer this one for it’s texture and effectiveness).

click here to read our post for information about body SPF.


controlling inflammation

by kerry watson

inflammation and inflamed acne is something that we talk about a lot here at sS. we’ve all experienced it at one time or another. you sprain your ankle or knee, and your joint gets swollen and painful. maybe when you are starting to feel under the weather, your lymph nodes start to swell. or, if you are reading this in the interest of skin, you wake up in the morning and something hurts on your face. you look in the mirror and there it is: a swollen, red, angry pimple. pain, redness (aka erythema) or imbalance, usually means that inflammation is present.

why does this happen to us? unfortunately, acne is (usually) genetic.  but along with the tendency to have acne in the first place, our inflammatory ‘style’ is also largely genetic; which is further aggravated with certain triggers.

in a nut shell, acne is a disorder of the pores where an excess amount of skin cells are shed inside the pore. they clump together within the pore, underneath the skin, and cause breakouts. although the tendency for acne to become inflamed can largely be responsible by genetics, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have any control over it.


listed below are the main triggers that activate some level of inflammation in everyone. these things will turn on the inflammatory response more quickly and profoundly in people with the inherited tendency to develop inflamed acne.

– stress (all of it’s forms)

– lack of sleep

– certain foods and beverages

– hormonal fluctuations



stress is something pretty much everyone is familiar with. chronic stress is very common in this day and age but it should not be accepted as something normal or natural. our bodies need time to reset, rest and relax to stay healthy and well balanced.

it’s important to understand that there are different types of stress and that all stress, both chronic and acute, have the same inflammatory effect on the body. emotional stress is the most obvious. when we experience this type of stress we feel it, we know what’s happening and we know that we need to do something about it.

physical stress is less obvious. traveling is an example of physical stress. the dehydration and pure physics of being on an airplane (traveling hundreds of miles a minute), adjusting to a new climate, a new time zone, different (and probably likely unhealthy) food puts extra demands on our body. all of which translate to stress and inflammation.

we may not always have control over the things that cause us stress but there are measures that we can take to help us better cope with the stress of our daily lives. read a book, take a bath, meditate, go for a walk in nature. our blog post on stress management and our pinterest page will give you some other ideas.



getting 8-10 hours of sound, quality (not just quantity) sleep every night and waking up feeling refreshed and reenergized is one of the best ways to keep inflammation at bay. when we sleep, our hormones reset, our skin cells are regenerated, organs are cleansed and toxins are released for elimination. if you aren’t getting quality sleep you need to take action now.  enforce a tech-curfew: put away the smart phone and computer and don’t watch tv for at least an hour before bed. read a paper back book for an hour, take a bath or do some relaxing yoga. you’ll also want to make sure your bedroom is completely dark to encourage the release of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body that it’s time for sleep. for more ideas, check out our “sleep better” blog post.

inflammatory foods

the foods we eat have an enormous effect on our body’s inflammatory response. when it comes to foods that contribute to inflammation, dairy, soy, sugar, coffee, top the list, with gluten, night shades, refined grains and other carbohydrates following close behind.  these foods can have a particularly inflammatory effect if your digestive system is already compromised, which is often the case for those who have taken prescription medications for their acne over extended periods of time.



both dairy and soy have the potential to disrupt hormonal balance and anytime hormones are even very slightly thrown off inflammation can be the result.

thankfully, the practice of injecting cows with a genetically engineered growth hormone called rBGH to increase milk production is in decline. however, even without this hormone, cows, goats and sheep – like all mammals – have to be pregnant to produce milk.  in turn, this milk, laden with hormones, naturally contain growth factors that help the baby calf triple its weight in a short amount of time. it is these same substances which can disrupt the human endocrine system and contribute to inflammation and the development of acne impactions. (you are what you eat + drink)

a common problem seen at dairy farms is mastitis, an inflammatory condition of the udders, which happens as a result of over-milking. mastitis is treated with courses of antibiotics. these drugs make their way our into finished dairy products. as a result, humans are ingesting antibiotics on almost a daily basis. among other things, this is contributing to the rise of anti-biotic resistant bacteria and the destruction of the bacterial balance in the human digestive tract.  (according to the NRDC, 80% of US antibiotics are used for livestock and poultry!  all the more reason to buy local + grass fed, pastured products).



a common misconception amongst the health conscious population is that soy is a health promoting food. this couldn’t be further from the truth. not only does it mimic human hormones, soybeans are also a cover crop for corn. this means that soy is planted next to corn fields to soak up all of the pesticides and chemical run off that is used in the production of corn, 99% of which ends up in cattle feed lots. when we eat soy loaded with pesticide residues it can throw our entire endocrine system out of whack.

the soy of today is much different from even just 20 years ago. nearly all the soy grown in the US and China is genetically modified. this means that the plant’s DNA has been synthetically altered to be pest resistant and produce higher yields. unfortunately, the long term effects of consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not well researched. in fact, most countries have banned GMOs because of safety concerns.

soy also contains naturally occurring estrogen-mimicking hormones called phytoestrogens. these plant estrogens can interact with estrogen receptor-sites in the human body causing changes to our own, naturally circulating estrogen levels. because androgens like testosterone are responsible for the development of acne, one would think that actions on estrogen levels would either have no effect or be beneficial in preventing acne. this is not always the case. any disruption to natural hormone cycles can contribute to the formation of acne impactions and/or inflame existing acne seeds. (this is why even the copper-iud, which does not release any hormones, can still cause acne; it’s placement is disrupting your body’s natural hormonal rhythms).

for safer sources of vegetarian protein, look to beans, protein rich quinoa, pea protein powders and vegan nut and seed milks, or check out our pinterest page for recipe ideas like this chickpea ‘tofu’.



first, the bad news….unfortunately, that delicious cup of joe you look forward to every morning (and sometimes several times throughout the day) is keeping you broken out. coffee contributes to the development of acne seeds and inflammation in several ways.

to start, coffee magnifies the body’s stress response, essentially doubling the amount cortisol and epinephrine released by the adrenal glands. this, in turn, causes a spike in insulin which makes the skin to produce more oil and increases the number of skin cells shedding inside the pore. both of which start the acne seed formation process. insulin spikes also increase systemic inflammation and this causes tiny non-inflamed acne seeds to explode into big, red, swollen breakouts. these actions are caused by an acid found in coffee called chlorogenic acid. during the roasting process chlorogenic acid breaks down into quinic and caffetic acids. copious amounts of caffeine certainly don’t help the situation but these acids are the true acbe triggering ring leaders.

the acids found in coffee can also cause imbalances in the digestive flora. when the bad bacteria over take the good, the digestive system is no longer able maintain optimal function. b vitamins are no longer produced and important minerals and nutrients are not effectively absorbed or utilized. b vitamins are also depleted when stress is present in the body.  deficiencies of all types can result. inflammation is commonly seen in the digestive tract when the health of the flora becomes compromised. this can lead to a condition called leaky-gut which causes low-level chronic systemic inflammation that also effects the skin. taking probiotic supplements would be an excellent way to start to heal this condition. keep in mind that so long as coffee is also part of the picture the probiotics can’t do their job effectively.

additionally, mycotoxins are molds that grow on coffee plants (and peanuts) – and the lower quality the coffee bean, the higher the mold content. this means that decaf coffe is the absolute worst. these mycotoxins have an estrogenic effect on the body that can mess with normal sex hormone balance, worsening acne. these toxic molds also weaken the immune system, potentially leading to an overgrowth of p.acnes bacteria inside the pores, promoting more inflamed acne lesions.

i already know your next question…. no caffeine? at all? what about tea? well, here’s the good news, tea contains less caffeine, more antioxidants and none of the troublesome acids found in coffee. of all the different teas, white and green tea (including mate) are the best. they have the highest anti-inflammatory activity and the highest anti-oxidant content and the lowest caffeine content. black tea is also a suitable alternative with less caffeine than coffee and no acids. there are also several acne-safe coffee alternatives. personally, i really like these yerba mate drinks from guayaki.


sugar & refined carbs

dairy, refined carbohydrates and sugar all stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that controls how our cells use glucose for energy. chronically high levels of insulin in the body can cause cells to become resistant to it’s messages which can have a devastating effect on many of the body’s systems creating, among other things, a state of chronic systemic inflammation.

the refined sugars and carbs you’ll want to avoid are pretty much anything white – white sugar, white flour, white breads, white pasta.  generally, for grain-based products, the darker, the better (as in, whole grains vs ‘enriched’ wheat products – for more information, read here and here).  however, ‘brown sugar’ or agave are just as bad as refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup – you can find out more here.

in other words, look for ‘whole grain’ or ‘sprouted’ grains, check the ingredient listings to make sure ‘enriched flour’ is not listed, and choose stevia, monk fruit or, in small amounts, natural sweeteners like dates or honey.


gluten & other processed grains

prolamins are specific types of proteins that are found in all grains. the one that most people are familiar with is gluten, however, gluten is not the only pro-inflammatory compound found in grains. prolamins are troublesome because our digestive enzymes are not able to properly breakdown these proteins into amino acids. this causes inflammation to the lining of the small intestine which prevents it’s ability to accurately monitor what passes into the blood stream. larger undigested food particles end up in the blood stream and because the body is unfamiliar with these particles it mistakes them for foreign invaders. inflammatory compounds are released by the immune system leading to chronic systemic inflammation so long as the prolamin containing foods are consumed.

grains (even whole grains) contain phytates which bind to minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron in the digestive tract blocking their absorption into the cell. this is another reason why reducing or eliminating grains is often recommended for those who struggle with inflammation. it’s important to eat enough carbohydrate containing foods to maintain a healthy metabolism.

starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips and winter squash are great sources of healthy carbohydrates that don’t contain phytates or prolamines. low glycemic fruits like berries, melons and apples are also excellent alternatives.


night shades

night shades are vegetables that contain pro-inflammatory alkaloids which increase inflammation in the body. in some cases of stubborn inflammation avoiding these vegetables is recommended. the most common night shades are potatoes (white), tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. many people who are sensitive to night shades notice other signs of inflammation after eating these vegetables like joint pain or even headaches.

the acne-safe diet that we promote at sS is designed to control inflammation internally. not only does it prevent the inflammation and development of new acne seeds, it helps to prevent other imbalances and conditions brought about by chronic inflammation and poor dietary choices. check out our pinterest page for a listing of acne-safe recipes.

reproductive hormones

we already know that any disruption to our natural reproductive hormonal cycles presents a risk for inflammation. even normal hormonal cycles will kick up an inflammatory response during certain phases. for example, many women see acne flare-ups right before the onset of their period when progesterone spikes or during ovulation. this can happen month after month like clockwork. these breakouts aren’t new seeds forming, they are old seeds that are being brought back to the surface by inflammation. if we can get the inflammation under control and extract the seeds, the hormonal flare-ups will eventually decrease and even stop happening.

eating a low inflammatory diet as outlined above will help keep hormones in balance and inflammation at bay. other things that can control hormonal imbalances include taking birth control pills at the exact same time each day and getting regular acupuncture treatments to correct any hormonal irregularities (like irregular, long or heavy cycles).

and for both sexes, some may benefit further from a naturopathic approach by having your hormones actually tested by a lab, to determine a more precise, scientific approach to rebalancing.

additional measures

other important measures that we can take to keep inflammation down include:

  • treating the skin gently and avoiding abrasive ingredients and scrubbing the skin (either with your hands, a towel, clarisonic brushes, or products that contain abrasive particles)
  • the topical application of benzoyl peroxide
  • taking anti-inflammatory supplements like fish oil and cod liver oil, opti-zinc and/or zyflamend
  • and, of course, icing.


as dr. fulton says, ‘don’t forget the ice!  it’s the poor man’s antibiotic.’ icing is the best way to control inflammation topically. just as we would ice a sprained ankled or broken arm, we can ice the face to bring down and prevent inflammation. inflamed acne can quickly be reduced by icing at least twice a day for up to 30 minutes at a time. in addition to it’s anti-inflammatory action, icing the skin creates temporary micro fissures, that allow the active ingredients in skin care products to penetrate deeper into the pore where acne starts to form.

benzoyl peroxide

benzoyl peroxide (bp), which was stabilized for the treatment of acne by dr. fulton, is a cornerstone in the treatment of inflamed acne. by pushing an oxygen molecule into the pore it neutralizes the p. acnes bacteria that can overgrow in inflamed acne lesions. this specific type of bacteria is present on all skin but can over grow in and around areas that have a build up of sebum (the skin’s oil). the irritating waste products of these bacteria are what causes inflammation. in addition, bp causes exfoliation inside the pore which helps to loosen impactions.


zyflamend is a popular anti-inflammatory supplement developed by new chapter, a great company based in brattleboro, vermont. it is mostly used for treating joint and muscle pain. however, we have found it to be very useful in calming the inflammation of acne. in most cases, a significant decrease in visible inflammation is seen within two weeks of use. the recommended dosage is two capsules a day taken on an empty stomach if tolerated (taking with food is ok too). you can increase the dose to up to 5 caps a day slowly as needed. the ingredients consist of a blend of anti-inflammatory herbs including turmeric, rosemary, green tea and holy basil. however, this supplement is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. as with all supplements, speak to your doctor before taking zyflamend, especially if you are on other medications.

zinc monomethione

zinc has been shown to reduce the inflammatory response of acne in the more severe cases. this particular form is a highly absorbable form of zinc, as researched by dr. fulton. it is commonly sold as opti-zinc and it contains copper as well as zinc because these two minerals compete for the same receptor-sites. supplemental copper is needed when taking zinc to prevent a copper deficiency . dr james fulton recommends taking 100mg a day for up to four months at a time. it can take a month or longer to see a reduction in the inflammatory response with zinc. this supplement should always be taken with a full meal to prevent stomach upset. we recommend that clients start with one tablet a day and work up to the max dose slowly and only as tolerated. then, when inflammation is under control (and as the acne starts to clear), reduce your intake. zinc levels should be monitored by a qualified health practitioner to ensure they stay in the normal range.

essential fatty acids (EFAs)

EFAs are “good” fats that the body needs for proper hormone synthesis and health prostaglandin formation. healthy hormone synthesis is important in hormonal balance which is vital in keeping inflammation levels low. prostaglandins are lipids that have hormone-like actions with the ability to turn on or off inflammatory messages in the body. quality sources of cod liver oil contain significant amounts of vitamins a and d.  these vitamins are converted to their active forms retinoic acid (vitamin a) and calcitrol (vitamin d) in the body. both are precursors to active hormones that regulate gene expression.

nordic naturals cod liver oil is a superior product that we recommend over others. we also love their pro omega 2000 and pro EPA with GLA products.

in conclusion

inflammation triggers are specific to individuals and this is why we have new clients eliminate all possible triggers and reintroduce them one at a time once their skin is clear. if you have already gone through this process with us you may already know what some of your triggers are. identifying and avoiding triggers is an ongoing process, so whether you are learning about this for the first time or the tenth time, we all need reminders, support and new information to keep us on the path to clear skin.

just remember that the power to control inflammation is in your hands. by following our anti-inflammatory guidelines you’ll able to keep your skin and body looking and feeling it’s best.