my acne journey

allyson is one of our most senior estheticians, who also trains our future skincare therapists. she is a perfect example of someone who’s suffered with adult acne, and eventually found her way to long-term clarity with personal experience, professional insight and growth at sS! –kim

clear skinned and feelin’ myself in mexico, 2017.

i just wanted to take some time and share my personal struggle with acne. although everyone’s struggle is different, clients always seem surprised when i tell them that i currently have acne. here is a little bit about my journey which i’m sure many of you can relate to!

my personal struggle with acne has led me down the same road that many of you have traveled. when i see the myriad of products that clients show me during consultations, it sparks memories (even very recent) of that desperate search for a miracle product that would make my skin normal again. i have tried everything, and I mean everything, on the market. folks who follow my instagram can vouch for my insanely stocked bathroom. yes, i am a bit of a junkie, but the search for the perfect products was just an attempt to control some aspect of what was happening to my face. my breakouts were a reflection of deeper things simmering beneath my epidermis, however it took years for me to truly understand what exactly was causing these eruptions on my face.

admittedly, i was blessed throughout my teens and early twenties. the typical around-my-cycle pimple would appear, and then vanish from whence it came. i even did horrible things like sleep in my makeup on regular occasions, but still my skin appeared healthy and balanced. in 2011 when i was 25, i moved quite spontaneously to the bay area from my native pennsylvania. after a few months in my new home, i began to experience some changes.

large painful pimples appeared all over my chin, nothing like i had ever experienced. this was very confusing and awkward for me, and my new boyfriend at the time was less than supportive, attributing my breakouts to the the junk (makeup) that i smeared on my face on a daily basis. this sparked my endless battle with topical skin obsessions, and i began trying different makeup such as bare minerals, which claimed to be safe and “non-comedogenic.” after it was clear that i needed to change more than just my makeup, i began seeking out products such as proactiv (which worked for a little bit, but then as soon as i stopped using it, the acne came flooding back), and even natural brands that claimed they were gentle yet effective at treating acne.

years later, still navigating through the ebbs and flows of clearing up and breaking out, i received my first facial. my sister, who is an herbalist, for many years suggested that my skin problems seemed to be connected to my liver or my colon based on the areas that i was breaking out. she introduced me to a fellow herbalist and esthetician. after having my first session with her, i was so astonished when she suggested some hormone regulating herbs for me to take. i had never thought about the fact that perhaps my body had become out of whack, starting with a huge move to a new and very different location, and a seemingly non-stop on the go lifestyle, compounded with tons of adrenal depleting coffee and other not so healthy foods and substances!

8236019397_f34be6be8f_o

chinese face mapping, linking breakout sites to internal imbalances 

the experience with my first facial and drawing parallels with my body and my skin was what led me to go to school to be an esthetician. i was so drawn to learn more about the skin, and the industry. i also began to note my personal triggers for acne. acne is genetic, so being that i do have the genetic propensity to break out, i am extremely sensitive to the foods i eat, stress, and products i am using. i noticed that while my friends could drink coffee all day and be unaffected, it would cause my acne to become inflamed and breakout. i decided to cut coffee and noticed a huge improvement in my skin. i also noticed a connection with my sugar consumption and my breakouts, another area that i decided to closely monitor and limit! the last piece that i could tell affected my skin (before the vast knowledge that i obtained working at sS) was stress. i would get flare ups in conjunction with stressful occasions, and reflecting back now with the knowledge i have of physical and sleep stress, i can see clearly that my on-the-go work and life schedule, as well as my lack of quality sleep (lots of late nights), could not have been good for my inflammation and skin!

now that i have the education and tools that are essential to get and remain clear, thanks to working at sS and self exploration, i am so grateful to have some kind of control over my body! the acne-safe lifestyle is so much more than  a key to getting clear skin, it’s a recipe for a healthy and happy body as well. so be good to yourselves and trust in the process! hopefully my little reflection sparks some connection, and know that you are not alone!

above: instagram photo proof of what a product junkie i was! 

how allyson handles stress

me taking a meditation break during my jam-packed 10 hour day at sS, prioritizing small stress reducing activities like meditation on busy days ensure i stay calm, energized and productive. 

dr. wayne dyer, a self-development coach and author of over 40 books says that “there is no such thing as stress, there are only people thinking stressful thoughts”. this is a powerful concept to reflect on, especially as extremely hard-working, urbanites, grinding to stay on top of extremely competitive industries, and pay our insanely high bay area rents. as an individual who is quite sensitive to even the most mundane stressors such as my daily commute on bart, this was something i had already been working on adjusting in my life, but hadn’t seen my stress so clear, until i read wayne’s words. i often speak to clients about how my meditation practice has transformed my lifestyle, and continues to bring me to a place of peace, urging people to start a practice themselves.

stress being such a huge factor in the acne-game, especially with those painful, deep inflamed lesions, it is important that our clients are doing all that they can to manage and minimize stress. this is where us estheticians come in at sS, acting as cheerleaders for our clients, often pulling from our personal resources, to inspire and motivate the life-changing art of stress management! while i am a huge advocate for self-care and that manifests in my life in various ways, meditation and positive affirmations have become one of the most important tools for taking control of stressful thoughts, feelings, and all of the manifestations that come from stress in my body (poor digestion, bad sleep, bad food choices, angry pimples).

one of the most common things i hear from clients when i suggest they begin a regular meditation practice, is “it’s too hard”, “i won’t be able to turn my mind off”. for beginners, meditation can seem like an impossibly daunting task. most call to mind a time of complete stillness where the goal is to eliminate all mental activity, instantaneously reaching a place of calm, still “nirvana”. i’d like to take this time to clear up this misconception about meditation, in hopes that it will remove some of the fear around starting a practice. personally my practice is all over the place, and that really depends on what i’m working with that day, week, month. some days when i sit and meditate, i really am able to focus my mind inward to a single point, such as my breath, how my body is feeling, or the point of contact with myself and whatever object is supporting me (my chair, bed, the floor). i feel euphoric and an overwhelming sense of joy, stillness, connectedness, and i can spread this energy throughout that day. other days i am unable to focus, i fidget, or can’t find my center. this is completely ok, because meditation for me is not about not thinking, or judging the process of meditation – meditation teaches you to be ok, to find an ease, or a compassion for all moments: both the peaceful and the difficult ones. this is why it is so impactful, because it can decrease that tension and judgement around not- so- pleasant moments of stress in our life. we can learn to be at ease with an extremely packed schedule, or a difficult coworker.

hopefully you are now inspired to combat some of your stress with the wonderful tradition of meditation, so here are some of my favorite resources, apps, meditation spaces, books, and teachers!

meditation apps:

  • calm calm is an awesome meditation app that also includes stress management tactics, adult bedtime stores, walking meditations (great place to start meditation if you are concerned about sitting still) as well as uber relaxing nature sounds, that can be a great touch on a jam-packed day at the office, nothing like hearing the flickering of a fire to instill a little inner peace! i recommend popping on an adult bedtime story if you have issues winding down at night, a much better alternative to popping on a tv show.
  • headspace seems to be a great app for those scientific types, who are looking to increase synaptic connections, focus, productivity, and calm their nervous systems. for those of you who really like evidence-based practices, headspace seems to provide that, as well as amazing guided visualizations, and walking meditation.
  • simple habit was made specifically for busy-on-the go types, and has some very short but sweet meditations, also includes longer meditations for when you get the hang of it, a personal favorite, is the commuting meditation.
  • insight timer is basically an enormous library and meditation community, tons of great guided meditations, sound healing, and binuaral beats!
  • youtube is another great resource for finding guided meditations, inspirational talks, by amazing guru’s like louise hay, gabby bernstein, or jack kornfield.

meditation spaces in sf bay area: amazing communities if you want to learn more about meditation, and sit with a community!

other resources:

being in balance– quick, easy read, that helps you to evaluate your thoughts and how they are impacting your life, i.e are my negative, stress-filled thoughts creating more stress in my life, or am i thinking positive, empowering thoughts that will ultimately lead to more happiness and less worry?

the universe has your back – another great, empowering read that changed my life personally and helped me realize how powerful my thoughts can be, both positive and negative!

10% happier– great, comical read for those cynics, a meditation  memoir written by a very high-profile business type about getting his life and stress together with meditation, check this out if meditation and self-help/new-age healing makes you cringe a bit, he also just came out with an app, 10% happier, subtitled “meditation for fidgety skeptics”.

when to meditate

  • first thing in the morning before i get out of bed is my personal favorite time to meditate, it really helps to set the tone of my day, and squash those early morning anxieties around what the upcoming day will bring. by starting my day with even a 5 minute meditation, i can begin centered, in control of my thoughts, fears, anxieties, practice gratitude, which will ultimately lead to more happiness and productivity.
  • setting an alarm to meditate at some point during your very busy work day is an amazing way to practice stress management. the mind is extremely clever, so just practicing meditation in your office space will increase positive warm thoughts that you will soon come to associate with your meditation space/office!
  • on your daily commute! this is a perfect time to meditate, instead of spending your bart or bus ride scrolling on the ‘gram, give one of the earlier mentioned apps a try next time, this can reduce commute-related stress (see also our amazing blog sS tips for a better commute).

acne-safe hand soap back in stock!

many of you have been awaiting our beloved aloe80 hand soap to return to the shop, and great news, it has arrived!

a few things to know:

  • it’s the same amazing formula from lily of the desert with new and improved packaging! you may not recognize it because the package used to say “aloe80”, now it just says “liquid soap”.

 

  • its aloe based so it won’t dry out your hands, (remember your hands and your neck tend to show signs of aging first!)
  • acne safe ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about cloggy residue transferring to your face or body after to clean your hands!
  • pick it up any day in the shop or our online store!

 

Emily long-time sS client turned front of house cutie showing off the new goods!

 

 

curly girl 101

curly hair can be a blessing and a curse. while those with straight locks seem to be envious of us curly girls, they may not understand how difficult it can be to tame hair that often has a mind of it’s own. to avoid using heavy hair products that break me out, i have come up with some curly hacks and personal favorite tricks to keep my hair bouncy and happy!  bonus: they work well without the use of any potentially cloggy products 🙂
14996451930_30e1599417_q
  1. silk pillow cases are a curly girl’s best friend, your curls will remain intact and the silk will keep your frizz at a minimum. just remember to change your pillow cases once or twice a week to remain acne-safe.
  2. i never use brushes! they damage and break fragile curls. instead i use my figures to comb through my wet hair in the shower. you will notice your curls will like this much better than a harsh brush. if your hair is knotty, work from the tip of the hair to detangle with your fingers, which will create the least damage to your hair.
  3. to revamp and reshape curls after a long day, try using a spray bottle of water with some lavender essential oil. it really helps to calm frizz and re-boost my hair. lavender is great for curls because it works on your hair the same way it does on your mind, calming down fly aways and frizzys!  wet curls down, flip your head over and scrunch! your hair will come back to life in no time.
  4. after i shower i use a micro fiber towel to scrunch my hair, removing excess liquids and helping to shape my curls. just flip your hair over in the shower and make sure you are scrunching from the tip of the hair to the root.
  5. to achieve lose beachy waves shower before bed,  part your wet hair, and create several medium size braids. simply go to bed,  wake up in the morning, carefully un-do braids and and enjoy beautiful flowing waves.
  6. for extra volume try using old school pin curl clips in your roots as your curls dry. divide your hair into 6 sections, lifting from the root as you insert the pin curls. this will create more volume and you can remove them when hair is semi dry or completely dry.
  7. diffusing is life! i diffuse my hair every time i wash it because i want maximum curl and volume. i insert my diffuser into the root of my hair working in sections around my head and drying each section one at a time. moving the hair dryer around constantly is what creates frizz. i like to cock my head to one side as i’m drying instead of flipping my head upside down.
  8. drink plenty of water and be good to yourself, i notice that when i am dehydrated or occasionally hungover, my hair is as well, looking tired and depleted! your hair and skin both see the effects of over working yourself and malnourishment will wreak havoc on your locks!

easy avocado pudding

IMG_7983

a few weeks ago, we had a quiet morning in the office, so we took it upon ourselves to make kim’s acne-safe avocado chocolate pudding for sally’s going away lunch! we at sS will greatly miss her so we wanted to make something to sweeten the day.  it’s a super easy recipe and only requires 10 minutes max. we used coconut sugar, but the recipe can be made with dates or a low glycemic sweetener of choice.  the avocados create a great creamy base and add some healthy fat! also, good to note: this is a paleo friendly recipe, but not whole 30 approved.

IMG_7982

 

here’s what you’ll need:

– 2 large avocados

– 1 can of full fat coconut milk (may not need the whole can)

– 4 heaping tbs cocoa powder

– a generous squirt of vanilla extract

– 6 large dates, pitted and chopped

         or

–  coconut sugar simple syrup (melt coconut sugar + hot water, 1:1)

– cocoa nibs (for garnish, we used earth circle’s cacao cashew clusters, yum!) 

 

materials needed:

– a quart mason jar is preferable but a large bowl works as well

– blender or immersion blender

 

instructions:

if using an immersion blender it is best to pour cocoa powder into a mason jar or bowl first, to avoid powder flying all over your kitchen.

 

1) dice avocados and add to bowl or mason jar with cocoa powder

 

2) add the coconut milk, but start with 1/3 of the can – you may not need all of it.  once you start blending in step 4, you can add more until consistency is creamy or to your liking.  

 

3) if using dates, add to mixture

or

use your coconut sugar simple syrup.  to make this, mix equal parts boiling water to coconut sugar and stir until dissolved.

 

4) combine all other ingredients to the bowl, and blend until you have a creamy consistency.

 

5) add more sweetener of choice as needed, serve and top with cocoa nibs for a crunchy topping!

IMG_7985

 

after trying the recipe out a few different ways, it is much sweeter when using dates as a sweetener, it just depends on your preference. also, we topped it with a hint of salt when we made it together, and it created a yummy savory+sweet dynamic!