how to stay acne-safe with all the holiday meals to come!

 

check out this quick guide to navigating your holiday meals to stay on track and fresh faced during the holiday season!

remember that there are two different types of acne, inflamed and non-inflamed and either or both can be triggered by acne promoting foods. these start out the same way a tiny microscopic plug in the skin. we call this plug an acne seed. these little guys can quickly get inflamed and turn into the red spots that can sometimes be sore and almost look like a mosquito bite. these can pop up a few days after eating an offending food. non-inflamed acne takes 1-3 months to show up on the surface of the skin. this is the time it takes for that little seed to grow into a bump that hangs out under the skin or turns in to a blackhead. this means that the pumpkin pie that you eat on thanksgiving may not show up as acne until new years eve. what a bummer! so to ensure clear skin up to and through the new year, choose these acne safe alternatives during this fun and festive time of year.

 

TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY FOODS THAT CONTAIN DAIRY

 

pies contain butter in their crust and can contain sweetened condensed milk + heavy cream in their fillings (especially in pumpkin and pecan pies).

pie

instead ask if you can bring desert as your contribution to the meal! check out these paleo pumpkin pie and clean eating pecan pie recipes.

or just need a quick bite of something sweet? try to find a dried piece of fruit on a cheese tray, or fresh fruit or a square of dark chocolate instead. easy!

if you absolutely have to have something with dairy we think whipped cream is the safest option and here’s why; yes it’s cows’ milk but mostly air, so not as much dairy you’d consume if you were, say eating ice cream or cheesecake. still not recommended if you want your best chance for your clearest skin though.


mashed potatoes are traditionally made with lots of butter and heavy cream.

dairy free mashed potatoes

instead ask your host ahead of time to take some of the boiled potatoes out of the pan before adding butter and cream. add a little salt and pepper and mash your own bowl sans dairy! or how about roasted potatoes, a nice grainy bread or rice? or my personal favorites: roasted turnips (sub ghee for the butter) or roasted radishes – super yum!

or bring your own acne safe mashed cauliflower and turn your friends and family on to this delicious low carb dish.


green bean casserole can be made with butter, cream, and sometimes canned soups (like cream of mushroom) that contain dairy and soy.

green beans

instead skip the cassarole or ask your host to set aside some cooked green beans before they casserole them. you can also offer to bring a delicious paleo version that will be sure to please all of the foodies at the table.


gravy can contain cream, butter and white flour.

instead skip it or ask your host to set aside some turkey drippings for you before they add the thickeners. this recipe uses coconut milk and potato starch to make the worlds best paleo gravy.

our very own emily raves about this one which she made last year when her husband was still vegan. she says it was BOMB, even better than regular gravy if that’s possible.


bread usually contains dairy when made from scratch and can also contain soy if store bought.

dairy-free and soy-free bread

instead offer to bake the dinner rolls using this amazing dairy free recipe, this paleo recipe, or pick up a loaf at a local bakery where they can tell you which varieties are dairy free.

or impress everyone with these low carb keto buns. switch out the butter for ghee which is butter with the milk solids removed. ghee is a very anti-inflammatory fat and a step up from butter in acne safetyness.


salad dressing can contain dairy in the form of cream and cheese or soy as soy bean oil or soy lecithin.

make your own salad dressing

instead enjoy your salad without the dressing or make a simple vinaigrette like any of these.

so what if you can’t avoid eating these foods? your host is persistent that you try their lovingly prepared holiday offerings and you are absolutely starving and there are no alternatives in sight…(pause, deep breath, big sigh)….then OK, you can just have a literal bite. try sharing a non-safe food with someone if you really can’t avoid it altogether. or try eating around the obvious acne foes and discreetly throw the leftover cheese, sauce or tofurkey away.

what are some of your favorite holiday recipes? share them with us on instagram @skinsalvationacneclinic

exercise and acne: move your body for clear skin

whether you are a yoga mat-toting cyclist or a gym rat with a penchant for the elliptical, working out is an important ritual for many of us – it’s our way of shedding daily stress while doing something positive for our physical bodies. daily movement of some kind, be it taking a walk during your lunch break, choosing the stairs over the escalator, going on a robust run or attending a barre class, has been linked to better digestion, better moods and more vibrant heart health. and if you struggle with persistent acne, finding the right balance of exercise and movement is crucial for maintaining healthy skin.

how exercise benefits the skin, the body and the mind

if improved overall health isn’t enough to get you off the couch and into some jumping jacks, here are a few more tantalising reasons to regularly move your body. 

  1. exercise eases stress and helps regulate mood. exercise releases the chemical norepinephrine, which helps the brain adapt to all types of stress. physical movement also releases endorphins, our happiness chemicals, and dopamine, our reward chemical. ever hear of runner’s high? it’s just the endorphins kicking in after intense energy expenditure. some studies have shown that exercise can be as effective an anti-depressant as prescription medication for some people.1 and since stress is linked to the development of acne, reducing stress by taking up some physical activity is a great step on your journey to clear skin. so get moving!
  2. exercise helps us stay sharp as a tack. not only has regular exercise been linked to an increased longevity of brain cells, it is now a common recommendation by doctors as an important step in staving off alzheimer’s. how does it work? exercising boosts the chemicals in the brain that help keep the hippocampus, our memory center, running as a well-oiled machine. exercise has also been linked to neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells, which primes us for a lifetime of learning and an enviable quick-wittedness.2
  3. confidence and self-worth skyrocket. this one is fairly obvious, but exercising can help boost self-esteem and self-image. because we know that movement is good for our physical bodies, this often translates to feeling better about ourselves overall. the more you move, the better you feel!
  4. exercise can help create vivacious skin. a recent study shows that regular exercise can help slow signs of aging by increasing circulation and oxygen flow to the skin around the face and by contributing to the growth of collagen.3 regular light exercise in combination with an anti-inflammatory diet and a non-comedogenic skin regimen can have powerful effects on skin health.
  5. exercise improves sleep quality. consistent exercise over long periods of time has been shown to benefit quality and length of sleep.4 daytime physical activity promotes longer periods of slow-wave sleep, which is the deep restful shut-eye we all crave. the quality of our sleep shows in our skin – when we skimp on sleep, our skin doesn’t have the time and resources to heal itself.5  so move your body and drift peacefully into dreamland.
  6. the more we move, the more energy we have. regular exercise can have an astounding impact on our ability to sustain vibrant energy levels throughout the day. those who engage in regular physical activity generally report feeling more awake in the mornings and better able to maintain a stable energy level over the course of the day.6 say goodbye to that afternoon slump! 
  7. movement keeps things moving. if you ever feel a bit…backed up, try some yoga or a gentle jog around the block. physical activity helps move things along internally, acting as a sort of massage for the internal organs. light exercise also helps us absorb nutrients from our foods more readily.7 beware of digestive issues – sedentarism has been linked to the onset of many gastrointestinal diseases. smooth digestion is hugely important for skin health, so make sure you move your body to keep things moving.

exercising your way to clear skin

now that we know why we should exercise, let’s talk about how. exercise is a form of temporary stress on the body that ultimately leads to a greater good – it’s also known as a hormetic stressor. even though exercise temporarily activates the release of cortisol, our stress hormone, from our adrenal glands, low levels of exercise with plenty of rest in between are very beneficial to our overall health and help make us stronger. 

but for many of us, especially us women, exercising can easily spin out of control because of the societal pressures we face to look a certain way, to attain perfect beach bodies and six-pack abs. overexercising can be downright dangerous for women because of the specific ways in which women’s bodies respond to stress, and despite the benefits of movement, an overzealous approach to exercise can contribute to, rather than heal, acne. because exercise is a physical stressor on the body, it’s important to not go overboard and send the body into a state of chronic stress without recovery. chronic stress causes our adrenal glands to release higher levels of male sex hormones like dhea-s, which is later converted into testosterone, often setting the stage for acne along the jawline, oily skin, menstrual irregularities and hair growth.

so how do you know if you are overexercising? feeling sore and totally drained after a workout and into the next day is a sign that you are working out too hard. if you experience any of the above symptoms of hormonal imbalance in combination with the symptoms of overexercising, try scaling things back. try less intensive types of exercise like swimming, tennis, walking, and yoga, or reduce the number of days each week that you engage in taxing workouts. if you are used to running ten miles a day, try swapping out a day or two for a moderately strenuous hike. if high intensity interval training is your movement of choice, try dialing it back and alternating with yoga. listen to your body’s needs each day and honor them by finding activities that you enjoy that also work your body – tennis, hiking, or group sports like soccer or basketball always do the trick. and always make time to allow the body to rest and recuperate after workouts. remember to refuel your glycogen stores afterwards by eating plenty of carbohydrates and protein8 – fasting creates an added stress on the body and leaves you utterly deprived of precious energy. so don’t skimp on the nourishing food and remember to take plenty of rest days!

rather than stressing about incorporating 30 minutes of exercise into my daily routine, i try to get other forms of movement in where i can. i take the stairs whenever possible. if i drive to a grocery store, i park far from the entrance to get a few more steps in. i take breaks at work to do a few sets of squats, lunges or jumping jacks. i stretch often and i coordinate walking meetings at work, rather than meetings around the conference table. think outside the box to add little bits of movement to your routine rather than attempting to force a strict exercise regimen into an already hectic day.

packing your acne-safe gym bag

if you choose to get your kicks at the gym, here are a few tips for staying acne-safe in the process. if you have access to a shower, try to rinse off using your sS cleanser immediately following a sweaty workout. the last thing you want is a build-up of sweat and dead skin cells collecting to clog your precious pores. if you can’t get to a shower, try to at least rinse your face at the bathroom sink and follow up with some sS sterilizing toner on some toner pads. if you exercise in the evening, clean any makeup off your face beforehand in order to avoid any makeup creeping into your open pores while you’re getting your groove on on the treadmill. tie your hair up and away from your face and always wear breathable, loose-fitting clothing. and remember to keep your hands off your face during your workout – you never know where that kettlebell has been!

when building your acne-safe gym bag, be sure to include the following items:

  1. cleanser – use sS charcoal or hydrating cleanser immediately after a workout to wash away any lingering sweat.
  2. hydrating toner or sterilizing toner  – use either of these directly after cleansing to close those pores and to ensure that the bacteria from your sweat doesn’t spread.
  3. toner pads – keep plenty of these on hand to apply your toner either as part of your regimen or as a face wipe when you can’t access running water.
  4. sunscreen – whether you’re heading out into the sun or not, pop some sun protection onto your face before AND after working out.
  5. travel-size acne-safe shampoo, conditioner and body wash – these are important pieces of every gym bag that often go overlooked. this is especially important if you are prone to body acne.
  6. acne-safe makeup and clean brushes – if you wear makeup, check those ingredients and make sure nothing is gonna clog your pores! clean your brushes at least once a week with sS charcoal cleanser.
  7. clean towels and fresh clothes. make sure you are not reusing the same grimy gym towel over and over, day after day. just like changing out your pillowcases, swap out your towel for a fresh one every single day to avoid spreading bacteria.

let us know your favorite ways to add movement into your day along with the contents of your acne-safe gym bag!

footnotes

1. american psychological association. stress and exercise.
2. disalvo, d. (2013) how exercise makes your brain grow. forbes magazine. oct 13 2013.
3. safdar, a., et al. (2011) endurance exercise rescues progeroid aging and induces systemic mitochondrial rejuvenation in mtDNA mutator mice. pnas. 2011 mar; 108(10):4135–4140.
4. breus, m. (2013) better sleep found by exercising on a regular basis. psychology today. sep 6 2013.
5. kubota, y., et al. (2010) community-based epidemiological study of psychosocial effects of acne in japanese adolescents. journal of dermatology. 2010 jul;37(7):617-22.
6. fahmy, s. (2008) low-intensity exercise reduces fatigue symptoms by 65 percent, study finds. university of georgia today. feb 28 2008.
7. tauseef, a., et al. (2013) sleep, immunity and inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders. world journal of gastroenterology. 2013 dec 28; 19(48): 9231–9239.
8. chandler, r.m., et al. (1994) dietary supplements affect the anabolic hormones after weight-training exercise. journal of applied physiology. 1994 feb; 76(2):839-45.