fragrance: a clogger by any other name…

more news on the sneaky, sneaky pore-cloggers front:

at sS, we warn clients to look out for fragrances in products because “fragrance” is an umbrella term that masks a host of ingredients, some which are pore-clogging.

these mystery “fragrance” ingredients can appear in all kinds of products that come in contact with your skin: from perfumes to makeup, from cleansers and moisturizers to clothing detergents and fabric softeners. and just think of all the sunscreens and serums with delicious aromas too!

you may be wondering how many ingredients are hidden under the term “fragrance”? well we just found a list of 3,059 ingredients! yowzer!

and much to our dismay, just as suspected, there are tons of insidious, comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients on this list.

right off the bat we spotted isopropyl myristate and corn oil, and further perusal revealed 43 additional cloggy ingredients masquerading as fragrance. the full list of comedogenic ingredients (that we know of) that can simply be labeled as “fragrance” includes:

  • Acetylated Lanolin
  • Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
  • Avocado Oil
  • Black Kelp
  • Butyl Stearate
  • Cetyl Acetate
  • Coconut Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Cotton Seed Oil
  • Ethoxylated Lanolin
  • Fucus vesiculousus
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
  • Irish Moss
  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Kelp
  • Knotted Kelp
  • Lamimaria ochroleuca extract
  • Laminaria digitata
  • Laminaria longicruris
  • Laminaria saccharine
  • Lanolic Acid
  • Lanolin
  • Lanolin Alcohol
  • Lauric Acid
  • Lauryl Alcohol
  • Linseed Oil
  • Mineral Oil
  • Myristic Acid
  • Octyldodecanol
  • Oleic Acid
  • Olive Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • PEG 16 Lanolin
  • Petroleum
  • Propylene Glycol Monostearate
  • Seaweed
  • Sesame Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Stearic Acid TEA
  • Tocopherol
  • Xylene

so what’s an acne sufferer to do? well, apart from avoiding all delightfully-smelling products, your best bet is to either stick to sS-vetted products or contact the manufacturer of any product you are interested in, and get a complete list of the ingredients used in the product’s fragrance and run it against skinSALVATION’s complete list of known comedogenic ingredients.  another alternative, if you choose to take it, is to carefully test one suspicious product at a time (while being acne-safe with everything else!) to be able to isolate any new breakouts to the new ‘fragranced’ product you are using.

at sS, you know we’ve tested our products long term for ensure they aren’t pore-clogging, so no need to worry about your tried and true sS favorites!

kicking the coffee habit for clear skin

coffee substitutes
for most of us, getting and maintaining clear skin requires a lifestyle change – and one of the most difficult acne-aggravating habits to quit is drinking coffee. delicious as it is, coffee can affect the skin in many ways: it contains organic acids that spike blood sugar and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels – increasing systemic inflammation (including in the skin!) and increasing oil production. coffee-drinking (and the over-consumption of any caffeinated beverages) can also disrupt sleep – and we all know how important beauty rest is for resetting our hormones and allowing our bodies to heal efficiently.

cutting out coffee doesn’t have to be painful.  really!  so we’ve compiled a list of coffee substitutes – both caffeinated and caffeine-free – to help make the transition a yummy adventure!

let’s start with the CAFFEINATED options:

chai (aka chai latte)
chai is blend of indian spices (cardamom, clove, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper), black tea, and is traditionally brewed with sugar and cow’s milk (but we opt for more skin-safe dairy substitutes like almond or hemp milk and sweeteners like stevia).
depending on how much effort you’re down for, you can buy pre-brewed chai blends that you add your milk substitute to or brew the chai yourself at home.

you can also try oregon chai’s “slightly sweet” chai blend, mixed with unsweetened almond milk. the economy of this particular pairing is remarkable – for less than the cost of two starbucks “chai lattes,” you have a healthier, less sugary, skin-safe chai to last a whole week!

i like to cook chai at home on the stove. my favorite loose-leaf chai blend is from rishi tea. i just follow the instructions on the container and use hemp milk (which i find is the creamiest dairy-substitute). rishi has a bunch of chai blends, including caffeine-free and green-tea based ones.

one of our clients loves david rio’s dairy-free power chai – which you just mix with your favorite dairy substitute (she uses califia farms almond milk – so good!)

yerba mate
if you need the mega-energy boost of coffee, yerba mate will do the trick!  yerba mate is made from the leaves and twigs of a nutrient-rich plant indigenous to south america. traditionally, mate is drunk from a hollowed-out gourd using a silver filtering straw called a bombilla, but you can brew it gringo-style in a cup and sip it sans straw.

mate has a somewhat bitter, cereal or grainy flavor that is definitely unique, but the steady alertness you get from drinking it can’t be beat. there are many good sources for yerba mate,- one i brand i like is: guayaki.

good ole’ tea has always been my favorite source of caffeine.  if you think that you don’t like tea, it might be because you just haven’t tried good, quality tea or found the right kind for you.

there are so many types of tea (white, green, oolong, black, pu-erh, powdered, bagged, loose-leaf, flavored) and different production methods (like japanese steamed green teas vs chinese pan-fired greens).  it might take some exploration to discover which tea charms your palate most!  and you can always pick my brain about tea – many of you know i have a long history studying it (for real!)

remember, green tea is anti-inflammatory (so if inflammation is an issue with your skin, green tea would be a great daily addition to your diet) and black tea has the highest caffeine content.

i have a couple favorite sources for quality loose-leaf tea:
rishi tea (out of milwaukee) and red blossom in SF right on grant street are both sources of exceptional tea.

and bagged tea:
itoen (from japan) and the bay area’s mighty leaf, numi, and david rio all have good bagged selections.

99% caffeine-free:

IMG_7459crio bru: is made from roasted and ground cocoa beans and is brewed just like traditional coffee. it has a rich flavor and aroma to trick your brain into thinking that you are drinking coffee with the added bonus of making your house smell like chocolate.. and you get to use a french press to make it!  yes please. find this at rainbow or online at

caffeine-free coffee substitutes:
for those of us who like the flavor and warmth of coffee, but don’t necessarily need the caffeine, there are always barlely and chicory drinks like:

dandyblenddandy blend: is an herbal blend that seriously tastes like coffee. over the holidays liesse accidentally picked up her step dad’s cup (thinking it was her tea) and almost had a heart attack when she tasted coffee (she hasn’t had any coffee since starting her journey to clear skin). he laughed and said, “don’t worry, it’s dandy blend!” it tasted so good that liesse was definitely fooled. p.s. she didn’t break out after 😉 *pro tip from sS’er DR: put your dandy blend in a tupperware container in the fridge to keep it from clumping.

inka: is a blend of rye, barley, chicory and beet sugar that was developed in poland during the 1960’s communist rule (when coffee was hard to come by). it’s a personal favorite of mine – very dark and smooth, definitely-coffee-esque.  i sweeten mine with yacon syrup, a sweetening agent extracted from the tuberous roots of the yacón plant indigenous to the andes mountains.  you can buy inka in the bulk section of rainbow grocery.

roastaroma: is actually made by celestial seasonings, so you can find it anywhere (even safeway!).  a blend of roasted barley, roasted chicory, roasted carob, cinnamon, allspice and chinese star anise.  it smells divine and has a full bodied flavor; it’s one of kim’s favorites.

teechino touts itself as the being the “america’s #1 coffee alternative” and offers all manner of herbal blends.

rainbow grocery and co-op on folsom and 13th street is a great place to explore all of these new and “weird” things, by way of their bulk section.  you can take just a scoop or two of these newfangled blends and try them out, without being committed to an entire package.  this helps to make it easier, and less scary, to try all these new things 🙂

…. and last but not least: cafes that serve non-soy, non- dairy milk alternatives.

since we don’t always have time (or the equipment!) to make our hot beverages at work or at home, it’s good idea to start a list of places you can go that you know offer non-dairy and non-soy milk alternatives. we’ve started a little list here, but please leave a comment or let us know if you’ve found a cafe that offers soy and animal milk alternatives and we’ll add it to the list!

  • whole foods market cafes serve pretty much any type of milk: almond, hemp, whatever.
  • muddy waters at 16th and 24th on valencia offers almond milk.
  • coffee to the people on masonic (near haight) offers hemp and almond milk.
  • progressive grounds cafe on bryant and 21st offers almond milk.
  • some pete’s coffees are starting to carry almond milk. if your local one doesn’t, just let them know you want it and they’ll likely get it for you!
  • and the almighty starbucks actually has coconut milk now as an option for fruit smoothies and teas

cheers to you and your acne-safe morning cup!

more acne-safe toothpastes!

sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate (the infamous SLSs!) are not the only pore clogging culprits to sneak into toothpaste and make them unsafe for acne prone skin –  look out for carrageenan too!

carrageenan (aka irish moss) is an extract from red algae (and as we know, algae extracts are pore clogging). it’s added to toothpaste as a stabilizer, thickener and to make the paste texture smoother. basically, it gives the toothpaste structure and stops it from breaking down.

but when you are brushing your teeth, working up that cleansing froth, when that foam escapes your mouth and reaches the surrounding skin,  the carrageenan (and cloggy SLSs) are able to slip into the pores and start the formation of micro-comedones that eventually lead to breakouts. sneaky!

in the past we’ve recommended the trader joe’s brand of toothpaste, but on a recent revisit of the ingredients list, we spotted carrageenan! oh no! so even though the trader joe’s toothpastes are SLS- free, they are still pore-clogging.

so here are some more acne-safe toothpastes for you to choose from (in addition to the still-safe ones we recommended before).

here’s to your dental (and dermal) health!

vitacare makes three skin-safe toothpastes that retail for $5.99

nature’s gate makes four gel toothpastes that are skin safe and retail from $5.49-7.29

kiss my face makes eight skin-safe toothpastes that retail for $5.95. we love it (& you may have seen it on the shelf at sS!)







an algae by any other name… is still cloggy!

pore clogging algae!

keeping up with cloggy ingredients is tricky when so many new ingredients are added to skin care product formulations all the time. but there is one family of ingredients that reliably clog our clients’ pores: algae extracts!

algae extracts are commonly found in acne products because they can reduce redness and purportedly normalize oil production and speed healing. in toothpastes, cloggy algae, carrageenan shows up as a thickening ingredient (see our post on how toothpaste can trigger acne).

in other body-care products, algae extracts are added as effective antioxidants, emollients, thickening agents, and water-binding agents.

algae are also touted for their abilities to firm, smooth, and re-texture skin and reduce inflammation, wrinkles, and cellulite. with such claims and utility, no wonder they appear in so many skin care products! but beware the hype, in addition to being cloggy (which sS has found to be true time and time again on our real life clients), notes that some of the numerous properties attributed to algae extracts are unfounded.

algae extracts are comedogenic because they penetrate the pore and accelerate the growth of micro-comedones. algae are also high in iodides, which can irritate the pore, triggering inflammation and the formation of pustules. over the last couple years, i have guinea-pigged (ie tested on my own skin) several products that had only one suspicious ingredient – an algae extract.  each time, regardless of the kind of algae in the test product  (plankton, laminaria, chlorella, etc.), within a few months, comedones had formed in my skin and i broke out. and we see the same time and again with clients who are using any of the variety of body products formulated with algae. in other words, in our experience… algae = breakout!

so we put on our acne detective hats and hunted down all the sea plants that are sneaking their way into our toothpastes, shampoos, conditioners, makeup, cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and sunscreens.

be on the look out for these otherwise benign sounding culprits!

Ahnfeltia concinna
Alaria esculenta
Algae Extract
Ascophyllum nodosum (aka rockweed, Norwegian kelp, knotted kelp)
Black Kelp
Blue Algae
Blue Green Algae
Brown Algae
Chondrus crispus (aka Irish moss or carrageen moss)
Crithmum maritimum
Dilsea carnosa
Ecklonia (all 9 species of it)
Enteromorpha compressa
Fucus vesiculosus (aka bladderwrack)
Green Algae
Haslea ostrearia
Himanthalia elongate
Irish Moss
Lola implexa (aka Hydrolyzed Lola implexa)
Laminaria digitata
Laminaria longicruris
Laminaria saccharine
Lithothamnium Calcareum
Mastocarpus stellatus
Marine Algae
Padina pavonica
Palmaria palmata
Phytessence Wakame
Porphyridium Cruentum
Red Algae
Sea Whip
Ulva lactuca

goodness! that’s a long list – and i wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to grow.

so definitely do as we at sS do when we check product ingredients:  if you don’t recognize a plant-sounding name, “search engine” it to make sure that it’s not a sneaky, pore-clogging algae! and if it is (you already know) don’t use the product!