the ins and outs of pcos and acne

pcos, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is complicated. it’s an endocrine condition that affects 8-20% of women of reproductive age worldwide1 and it is characterized by at least two of the following three symptoms: cysts on the ovaries, elevated male sex hormones and/or absent or irregular periods. pcos is a highly misunderstood condition whose symptoms manifest differently among women. many women with pcos gain weight while others have thin body types, some have acne and regular periods while other haven’t menstruated in months. because almost all women with pcos test high in androgens (male sex hormones), many symptoms include infertility, male-pattern hair loss, oily skin and acne along the jawline, and facial hair growth. these symptoms can be frustrating to deal with because they are persistent and can often make women feel like they have no control over their bodies. but these symptoms appear for a reason. and usually that reason is that our bodies are chronically stressed and something about our lifestyles needs to change. women with pcos are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism and cardiovascular disease, so acknowledging these signals from our bodies is key to keeping ourselves healthy for a lifetime. 

 

what causes pcos? 

  • genetics – while pcos is not a genetic condition, per se, predisposition to pcos can be passed down through generations. those who are exposed to higher androgens by their mothers while in the womb are also at greater risk of contracting pcos later in life.

  • stress – both physical and emotional stressors can contribute to pcos. some examples of physical stressors include over-exercising, eating foods you are intolerant to, not eating enough and constant blood sugar issues. many women who suffer from pcos are stressed to the max in their everyday lives – they take on extra work at their jobs, juggle familial responsibilities, endure harrowing breakups and family stress and then often criticize themselves for not working or trying hard enough.

  • blood sugar imbalances – this is one of the most common root causes of pcos and often stems from excessive intake of refined sugars and carbs, or the standard american diet. it often leads to weight gain and involves chronically elevated blood sugar. these blood sugar imbalances cause systemic inflammation in the body and directly influence the production of testosterone, which then inhibits ovulation and fertility.

  • over-exercising and under-eating – our society places a tremendous amount of pressure on women to look a certain way. many women internalize the pressure to be thin and spend years of their lives under-eating while engaging in excessive (usually cardio) exercise. high-intensity exercise always causes testosterone spikes, but they are usually temporary, subsiding when we refuel our bodies with calories. but when women exercise for too long without replenishing their energy stores, their hormone balance starts to suffer.

dealing with facial hair growth and acne

if you struggle with facial hair growth, you are not alone. this can be particularly frustrating if it accompanies hormonal acne – they often show up in exactly the same places along the jawline and chin. because of the cultural expectation that women maintain hairless faces, this type of hair growth can be embarrassing – but there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, there is no reason to feel shame, and there is no reason for you to change in order to appease the people in your life. having pcos is hard enough without having to navigate gendered cultural expectations.

if you are a client here at sS and you to decide to undergo laser hair removal or electrolysis, we just ask that you wait at least two weeks between those treatments and our acne face treatments – we don’t want to stress your skin out too much! if you have hair on your face that you want to remove by shaving, try the tinkle razor, which we sell in the clinic. these razors are more gentle than conventional razors. as for waxing, we don’t recommend it! the heat can be irritating to the skin and who knows what kinds of comedogenic ingredients are lurking in those waxes! 

if your doctor diagnoses you with pcos, they will most likely send you home with a prescription for one or both of two medications: metformin for insulin regulation and spironolactone for decreasing testosterone levels. it is entirely up to you whether you decide to take these medications or not, and whatever your decision, here are a few herbal, dietary and lifestyle changes to implement to keep pcos symptoms under control (and, as always, ask your doctor before making any major changes to your health plan):

  • two cups of spearmint tea each day has been shown to reduce free testosterone levels in women with pcos and has resulted in reduced hirsutism with none of the side effects of pharmaceutical-grade drugs.2 

  • 400mg of saw palmetto, a plant native to the americas, has been found to inhibit the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. the inhibition of this enzyme helps reduce the conversion of testosterone to dht, which is the male sex hormone that leads to oily skin, hair loss, acne and facial hair growth.3

  • balance out your blood sugar by reducing your consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates – ditch the morning cereals for eggs and greens; instead of a sandwich at lunch, try a salad with tuna or grilled chicken. and pasta for dinner? no way! zucchini noodles will do the trick. eat plenty of good fats and protein and aim for three square meals a day to get your blood sugar on track and to give your digestion a break.4 and supplementing with chromium picolinate has been shown to decrease insulin resistance in women with pcos.5

  • dial in your digestion. take a test to determine any foods you might not tolerate or try an elimination diet to get to the bottom of any digestive woes. this is hugely important because digestive distress is another physical stressor on the body that can ultimately contribute to elevated cortisol and testosterone levels. similarly, make sure your elimination is on track – we flush excess hormones out of the body through our stool, so eat your fiber!

  • practice stress management. this is absolutely huge. take up meditation, improve your time-management skills, see a therapist to work through emotional stress, start a gratitude journal – do what you can to reduce chronic stress in your life as this is often the root cause of pcos.

  • cut the coffee. this is a double whammy – not only does coffee contribute to acne, but it also elevates cortisol levels and contributes to systemic inflammation. instead, try green tea, which has a healing effect on the skin due to its high anti-oxidant polyphenol content.

  • ease up on the exercise. instead of intensive cardio like running or hiit several days a week, switch these out for yoga, walking or light swimming. this will give your adrenal glands a break and will allow your body to more readily recover from stress. 

  • sleep. give your body a chance to do its healing work by getting a solid eight hours of restful and uninterrupted sleep each night. try to make this a priority – this can have a huge impact on the health of our hormones!

  • find a support group near you to work through your emotions around pcos. it’s a tough condition to deal with so finding support in different areas of your life can be a huge relief. 

 further reference:

8 steps to reverse your pcos by fiona mcculloch

paleo for women

pcos diva

pcos awareness association

soul cysters

footnotes

1. sirmans, s. m., pate, k. a. (2014). epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. clinical epidemiology. 6, 1–13.

2. grant, p. & ramasamy, s. (2012) an update on plant derived anti-androgens. international journal of endocrinology metabolism. 2012 Spring; 10(2): 497–502.
3. hudson, t. (2008) polycystic ovarian syndrome (pcos). dec 8, 2008.
4. liepa, g.u., sengupta, a & karsies, d. (2008) polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos) and other androgen excess-related conditions: can changes in dietary intake make a difference? nutrition in clinical practice. 2008 Feb; 23(1):63-71.
5. rabinovitz, h., et al. (2004) effect of chromium supplementation on blood glucose and lipid levels in type 2 diabetes mellitus elderly patients. international journal for vitamin and nutrition research. 2004 May; 74(3):178-82.

clear skin: back to school edition

september is right around the corner and we all know what that means. at the first signs of brisk mornings and fallen leaves crunching beneath our feet, we know it’s time to pick up some last-minute supplies and head off to school once again. we have a ton of clients who attend high school or college, or who take night classes here in the bay area as a step towards a new career. whatever your educational status, we’ve got some tips for staying acne-safe while hitting the books. 

first things first: schedule your face treatments. if you are moving away for the school year, get yourself into the clinic for a treatment asap! our estheticians are popular and their schedules book up fast, so try to make your appointment for a face treatment sooner rather than later. if you’re sticking around the bay area, but you know it’s going to be increasingly difficult to make the trek to the clinic because of rigorous school deadlines, try to book your appointments in advance and away from more hectic times like finals and midterms. coming home for the holidays? think ahead and make an appointment as soon as you buy your plane ticket. that a way, you don’t have to worry about booking an appointment at the last minute when you’re already in town. 

okay, what about caffeine? caffeine is okay in moderation, but our number one rule is: no coffee. not only can the particular acids in coffee (including decaf) contribute to acne, coffee causes cortisol spikes that can throw your hormonal and adrenal functions off kilter. i know it’s tempting to chug some fortified espresso beverage just to push through that 3am essay-writing frenzy, but there are so many other caffeinated options out there! matcha is nearly ubiquitous these days, so try to find a cafe that offers this delicious brain booster. chai tea lattes with almond milk are another great option. i know that it can be difficult to abstain from coffee while studying to be the world’s next best lawyer/philosopher/doctor, but you can do it! i stopped drinking coffee cold turkey smack dab in the middle of my graduate program, and it wasn’t easy at first. but after the adjustment phase, i found that my energy sustained much more evenly throughout the day while consuming only green tea. after a while, i didn’t need any stimulants and i could focus on my work much more intently. try it out!

if you don’t have a hot plate for boiling water, invest in an inexpensive electric kettle. make your morning matcha, stow it away in a hydro flask and skip to class with boundless energy! in the evening, sip on some tea with calming herbs like lemon balm and chamomile to bring your cortisol levels down.

how about food? i bet you are wondering how to cook an acne-safe meal in your dorm room when you only have a microwave, maybe a hot plate. this is where trader joe’s comes in. if you lack the space and tools to prep veggies, grab a pack of tj’s mini carrots, some pre-spiralized sweet potato or zucchini, saute them in some ghee or pop them in the microwave with some tj’s chicken thighs and you’ve got yourself an acne-safe meal in minutes. grab a handful of trail mix to snack on throughout the day or become a cheese-less sandwich master. if you have a freezer in your dorm room, stock up on their inexpensive organic frozen vegetables. pair their frozen riced cauliflower with a dairy-free vegetable curry or steam some frozen spinach in the microwave to serve over brown rice pasta with tomato sauce. get creative! their packaged frozen meals can be helpful in a pinch, but watch out for hidden dairy and soy in the ingredients. you can also save some extra cash by heading to your local natural grocer and hitting the bulk bin section. stock up on snacks, granola for breakfast (with almond milk, of course), rice, dried fruit, etc. 

just remember: when you live in a dorm, canned food is your friend. if you’ve got the space, keep some essentials on hand for when you are too busy to cook a huge meal. if you have access to a dining hall, use it! most colleges offer fresh vegetables and grilled meat, tacos, even dairy-free pizza – tons of acne-safe options if you look for ’em! but if you prefer to cook for yourself, you might need a couple of gadgets to get the job done. scour amazon for a magic bullet if you are a smoothie person, invest in a hot plate if you prefer sautéing your veggies to microwaving, or better yet, get an instant pot, which allows you to do everything from sauté to steam to slow cook!

but school is stressful! yes, school can be a deeply stressful environment. it’s quite romantic to dream of the academic atmosphere steeped in late nights, bottomless espresso drinks and strict deadlines. but this high-strung lifestyle is anything but acne-safe. managing your time and practicing self-care are essential for maintaining both your sanity and your calm. why is stress management so important? because stress, like coffee, causes our adrenals to churn out more cortisol than we need floating around our bloodstreams. this creates an inflammatory state in the body while elevating male sex hormones, like dht, which contributes to oily skin and acne. so check your stress at the dorm door! if you are getting ready to endure a particularly stressful time, take some zyflamend (the herbal supplement we love that combats systemic inflammation). find the time to take up a relaxation practice – look into free or sliding-scale yoga and meditation classes on campus and try to get rid of those nasty procrastination habits. waiting until the last minute to complete papers and to study for exams can lead to unhealthy behaviors that are not great for the skin, like skimping on sleep, relying on caffeine to stay awake and eating foods with dairy. schedule extra time for essays and projects so that you don’t run into these stressors. 

exercise and community are also important for stress-reduction. join a club or a sports team to get some extra social time in if you are feeling overwhelmed. combining socializing and movement in one go can be a huge time-saver – take a yoga class with a friend or go on a hike with some classmates to talk about midterms. and if you go to the gym, remember to pack travel sizes of your sS products for your gym bag so you can rinse off after working out. school is stressful, so always contact student mental health services to chat with a counselor for some help wading through the difficulties of student life. check out this post for more stress-relief tips!

 

how do i take care of my skin? stocking up on skin products before you leave for school is always a good idea. but if you forget, or if you just don’t have time to make it into the clinic, remember that you can always order products online through our website and have us ship them to you. so easy! if you are moving to a colder, drier climate for school, stock up on extra moisture – hydrating cream and safeguard spf40 will do wonders to keep your skin glowing throughout the darkest months. and if you’re lucky enough to be heading to a warm place with lots of sun, try a lighter sunscreen like tizo2 or tizo3 – these products will help soak up any extra moisture on your skin leftover from hot and humid climates.

questions while you’re away? if you find that you need some extra help from your esthetician while you’re gone, never hesitate to email her – we are always happy to answer skin questions and troubleshoot issues from afar. we love the virtual popzit appointment! and remember to always check back on our blog and instagram for new info related to clear skin and tips for leading an acne-safe lifestyle. it’s a great resource – if you’ve got a question about acne, chances are, we’ve written about it! 

stay healthy, stay clear and enjoy the school year! 

wild night? tips for overcoming a hangover the acne-safe way

have too much to drink last night? we’ve all been there. while we recommend drinking in moderation, leading an acne-safe lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to skimp on socialising and forego the nightlife altogether. and while we definitely do not aim to encourage an overzealous participation in nightlife until 6am every weekend, we know that we all stumble upon a wild night from time to time…and with a wild night often comes the dreaded hangover – the headaches, fatigue, nausea, poor sleep, disturbed digestion1 and the total inability to be around other humans.

unfortunately, the hangover is your body’s way of letting you know that you took it a bit too far last night and that it needs some recovery time. the positive sides of eating a well balanced and acne-safe diet far outweigh the one negative, which is that you might end up feeling a bit more sensitive to alcohol’s effects than you did when you were loading up on mac & cheese, frozen pizza and cheeseburgers before you realized that the standard american diet was actually hindering your journey towards clear skin. generally, the “cleaner” our bodies are, the more sensitive they can be to stimulation. but they are also much more capable of handling stress, fighting infection and keeping us well. so here are some acne-safe tips for helping keep the hangover in check, and better yet, for preventing it in the first place!

hydrate
we’ve all heard this one before: drink plenty of water before, during and after your big night out. alcohol’s diuretic effects take an extraordinarily dehydrating toll on the body as we flush essential electrolytes out via our urine. ever wake up with a splitting headache that makes you want to spend the day on the couch with the real housewives of new jersey? or do you wake up completely lacking the energy to even move from the bed to the couch? or are you afraid to leave the toilet’s side because of that gnarly nausea? these are signs that your electrolytes have left the building, so boosting and replenishing their stores throughout the night and the next morning are huge steps in the fight against the hangover. not only should you drink AT LEAST one (large) glass of water for every 1oz of alcohol, we also recommend sipping on beverages with naturally-occurring electrolytes like coconut water (no added sugar) and mineral water (with magnesium, potassium, sodium, etc). drink these luscious libations all throughout the night between your cocktails – you won’t even remember that they’re alcohol-free and you’ll be doing your head a favor.

be beverage-smart
what about alcohol? what should you drink to stay acne-safe and to avoid a debilitating hangover the next day? well, white russians are out for obvious reasons. we are huge advocates of any low-sugar clear liquor and recommend avoiding anything with added sweeteners, colors or strange chemicals. wine and cider are okay, but they are full of natural (and sometimes added) sugars, so be careful about ingesting too many of these. if you really gotta have your apples, there are more and more low and sugar-free ciders on the market these days, like the probiotic ones by 101 cider house.

if you find yourself at a swank cocktail bar, you might be lured in by their infused simple syrups, but if you have the option, try to go for natural fruit sweeteners instead. tequila packs a natural sweetness so it can be enjoyed with a simple combination of tonic water and lime. add citrus, add bitters (and ease your digestion in the process), and get creative! order a gin and tonic and add a splash of coconut water or an herbal elixir of elderberry that you had the foresight to stash in your bag before leaving the house. the bottom lineKISS (keep it simple, stupid!)

slow down
no need to pound 5 drinks over the course of one happy hour. pace yourself and take a break between drinks by going for a walk around the block, walking to grab a bite or a coconut water, or just by getting outside for a breath of fresh air. plus, the more slowly you drink, the less money you will spend and the better you will feel in the morning, both physically and financially.

eat all the food
because we absorb alcohol through our stomachs, and because alcohol can upset both the stomach lining and gut microbiome, eating a substantial dinner before running out to the bar is essential. get your vitamin b6 from a dinner featuring poultry or beef and stock up on vitamin c in the form of bell peppers, citrus, dark green vegetables, and tomatoes. these vitamins can help detox the alcohol from your body, so try to plan your meals throughout the night and the next day around these star nutrients. if you really don’t have time to eat a full meal, pack some snacks, preferably ones with tons of fat and/or protein to balance out your blood sugar and to prevent your insulin from running haywire – things like epic jerky bars, justin’s packets of almond butter, an avocado, or even a handful of trail mix. drinking caffeine the next morning can also help to reduce the size of those pumping blood vessels in your brain and can bring your headache down. but stay away from the coffee! the bottom line: don’t skip meals when you know you will be drinking. eating well-balanced meals for dinner and breakfast the next day will help prevent and ease any signs of a hangover.

address your inflammation
at some point during the night, take a zyflammend to keep your inflammation in check. alcohol has an acidifying effect on the body as it zaps hydration from our cells, causes our hormones to fluctuate and generally stresses the body out. if you’ve ever woken up from a night of drinking with no appetite or with an inability to recall your conversation with that fly bartender, your inflammatory response was most likely on red alert. do what you can to mitigate these inflammatory effects by eating alkalizing foods like green vegetables and avocado, and by calming your body’s stress response with some soothing herbal tea before bed (if you remember, that is). the bottom line: alcohol is highly inflammatory – take this into consideration if you deal with inflamed acne and either avoid alcohol for a while or cut back.

never leave the house without charcoal
while drinking alcohol, pop 1-2 activated charcoal pills. charcoal is a powerful tool for detoxing the body and can be a great sidekick to the liver, which already has to work double time in the presence of alcohol. charcoal binds to toxins in the stomach and helps remove them from the body before we have a chance to absorb them through our blood streams.2 in previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of detoxing excess hormones, like estrogen, from the body, but this task becomes herculean when alcohol is involved. just one drink of alcohol can elevate estrogen levels in women by 10-15%, which puts an extra strain on the liver as it frantically attempts to process and detox the extra hormones.3 so give your liver a break by drinking slowly over the course of the night and by consuming some charcoal alongside your alcohol. it will bind to both the alcohol and to any other nasty ingredients that may have crept into your cocktail, and it will help flush them out of your system. bonus: charcoal is great at expelling gas and decreasing the bloating that can often accompany a night of drinking. just don’t consume charcoal within an hour of any other supplements or nutritious foods.

take magnesium
we love this potent miracle mineral! magnesium is an essential electrolyte that is involved in over 300 bodily processes, so it’s extra important to stock up when you’ve had a night of raging at the bar. you can either take it before bed in supplement-form to help you get to sleep (it’s also a muscle-relaxant), or you can eat tons of magnesium-rich foods throughout the night and for breakfast the next day. if you didn’t already run to the store and buy a grip of coconut water after tip #1, do it now! and then make a breakfast with a huge bunch of leafy greens, a handful of almonds and pumpkin seeds, a banana, some avocado and…dark chocolate (watch out for added soy lecithin, of course).4

magnesium is also important to take after a night of drinking because it helps synthesize tryptophan into serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that elevates our moods and staves off depression. alcohol can cause temporary boosts in serotonin but ultimately has a dampening effect on the neurotransmitter, causing it to drop to a level lower than before drinking.5 so taking magnesium at the end of a party night can help protect against those hangover blues. bonus: magnesium aids in digestion by activating the enzymes that help break down food and it sends you into a deep, tranquil sleep.6

sleep it off
ever wonder why you wake up so painfully early after a night of drinking, when you need the extra sleep the most? alcohol can be extremely disruptive of sleep, especially rem, which is the deep, dreamy restorative sleep cycle, as well as, the later stages of sleep.7 this is known as the rebound effect and it occurs because the sedative qualities of alcohol wear off as the alcohol becomes metabolized by the liver.8 because of this, for every drink you consume, you should wait that number of hours before trying to fall asleep. so if you have three drinks by 8pm, you would (in a perfect world) wait until 11pm to get to bed in order to give your body a chance to adjust and re-balance itself.9

move your body
if a wild night of drinking left you feeling out of sorts, lethargic and totally bummed out, get up and move your body. i know it’s so tempting to lie around in bed all day, nursing your hangover with self-pity and pedialyte, but your endorphins are begging to be activated after being depressed by hours of alcohol consumption. endorphins, like serotonin, help us feel good. they are released after physical activity – but don’t take it too far. a simple 20-minute yoga session or a brisk walk around the neighborhood can do the trick. just remember to hydrate!

what about going out if you don’t drink alcohol? you can still party with the best of us! just reach for a sparkling water or kombucha, or better yet, find a bar in your area that serves kombucha on tap. sip on some tonic water with lime and bitters or bring your own herbal syrup to make a luxurious alcohol-free cocktail that will tempt even the most hardline mixologists. we love bringing our local bay area syrups by taproot to the bar and pouring a couple spoonfuls into a glass of seltzer. so refreshing and healing!

if you do have a wild night out, have fun and don’t stress. worrying about how much you are drinking while you are drinking will only increase your cortisol and lead to elevated systemic inflammation. so have a good time, drink wisely and in moderation, and take care of yourself the next day!

what are your favorite hangover cures?

footnotes

1. mayo foundation for medical education and research. diseases and conditions: hangovers. accessed august 2017.
2. hultén, b.a., et al. (1986) does alcohol absorb to activated charcoal? human toxicology. 1986 may; 5(3):211-2.
3. balanced bites podcast (2017) self-love & adrenals, stress & alcohol, hormones & birth control with dr. jolene brighten. episode #302; june 29, 2017.
4. dr. axe. (2017) top 10 magnesium-rich foods plus proven benefits.
accessed august 2017.

5. pietraszek, m.h., et al. (1991) alcohol-induced depression: involvement of serotonin. alcohol and alcoholism. 1991; 26(2):155-9.
6. abassi, b., et al. (2012) the effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. journal of research in medical sciences. 2012 dec; 17(12):1161-9.
7. roehrs, t. and roth, t. sleep, sleepiness and alcohol use. national institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism. accessed august 2017.
8. mann, j. (2017) 8 ways that booze messes with your sleep. sleep junkies. accessed august 2017.
9. wolf, r. (2017) wired to eat: turn off cravings, rewire your appetite for weight loss, and determine the foods that work for you. harmony: new york.

how to be a happy acne-safe camper (plus tips for burning man)

so you wanna be an acne-safe camper, eh? you’ve come to the right place! camping season is well under way here in the bay area. with burning man just around the corner, it’s time for an updated guide to experiencing the wilderness in an acne-safe fashion. i just got back from a week-long camping and backpacking adventure in the glorious yosemite backcountry, where i didn’t let my acne-safe lifestyle ruin my fun. experiencing the bountiful nature that california has to offer is one of the many privileges of living in the bay area, but there’s no need to derail all of the hard work you’ve put into achieving clear skin just for a few days off the grid. here are some essential acne-safe camping tips from a pro backpacker!

camping in the summer heat is a perfect excuse to ice your face. it’s cool, it’s refreshing and once others see how much fun you’re having, they’ll want to join right in. since it’s not always practical to travel with your sS ice pop, we recommend bringing plenty of clean ziplock bags, putting fresh ice directly inside and then placing them in your cooler. when you’re ready to ice, pop out some clean ice cubes and go to town, inflammation be damned!

plan your meals. seriously. just do it. here is a sample meal plan from my last camping trip. planning your meals ahead of time ensures that you bring exactly enough food for the number of days you’ll be camping so you won’t go hungry and you won’t have an excuse to eat a ton of dairy and soy. bring acne-safe packaged foods that don’t need a ton of preparation – epic bars for protein, trail mix for good fat, hard boiled eggs, low-sugar fruit and cans of sardines (truly). and yes, you can enjoy some soy-free smores around the campfire at night, too.

greet the day with some fresh herbal or black tea. revel in your body’s chance to reset its circadian rhythms to match the cycles of the sun and moon.

bathe in the refreshing waters of nearby lakes and streams. this is a great way to reset if you’re feeling like your hygiene game is suffering. you can rinse away any dirt or dust and follow up your dip with a swipe of some sS hydrating toner and sunscreen.

and don’t forgot your product essentials. pick ’em up from the sS clinic before you begin your camping adventures:

  1. for sun protection, along with layers and a hat, we recommend amping up your spf by using sS safeguard spf40 for your face and goddess garden sunscreen for your body. their sport line is water resistant up to 80 minutes and is completely biodegradable so you can splash around in some cool alpine lakes with nary a worry. don’t forget to protect those luscious lips with our lip balm and reapply as needed. always seek shade when possible and get yourself a good pair of sunglasses.
  2. if you’ve been out hiking all day and anticipate sore muscles the next morning, pop a magnesium pill or two before bed. this will ease any bodily tension and help you sleep peacefully.
  3. if you’re worried about mosquitoes, grab some greener ways bug spray, an organic and safe alternative to deet and picaridin.
  4. if you won’t have access to clean water for bathing, bring along our hydrating or sterilizing toners and some toner pads to freshen up throughout the day. if you’re on the road and don’t have access to these products, yes to cucumbers face wipes will work in a pinch.
  5. feeling like your hair is melting into a colossal oil slick? bring along a homemade arrowroot starch dry shampoo in a small jar to apply as often as necessary. combine 1/4 cup arrowroot starch with 5 drops of essential oil of your choice (lavender, cedarwood, etc) and store in an airtight jar for the duration of your trip. for dark hair, combine 2 tablespoons arrowroot plus 2 tablespoons cacao powder with the essential oils. experiment and find what works for you!1

 

but what about burning man? the dusty environment of “la playa” is an entirely different ballpark from heading out onto the foggy, fragrant trails of marin with a few friends. so here are some burning man-specific tips and tricks to stay acne safe.

  1. stay hydrated internally and externally. bring at least a gallon of water per person per day and hydrate your skin frequently with sS hydrating cream to combat the dusty dry landscape. bring along some rosewater hydrosol and spritz your face all throughout the day. and don’t forget to ice your face!
  2. stay sun-safe. bring several hats – you don’t want to be caught in the desert without one! reapply safeguard spf40 sunscreen and sS lip balm often and bring some acne-safe aloe just in case you burn.
  3. deal with the dust. bring sunflower oil in a tiny jar to dab in your nostrils and to moisturize your feet at night – you can avoid “playa foot” by keeping all nooks and crannies of your skin moisturized constantly. wear gloves and goggles to avoid getting too dusty and dirty, and bring a few bandanas as protection when the wind picks up.
  4. stay clean. since you probably won’t have access to a shower (unless you have a very kind neighbor with a solar shower), bring an extra tub to fill with water for makeshift “showers” and foot baths. bring some sS hydrating toner with toner pads to freshen up throughout the day.
  5. plan out your meals ahead of time so you only bring what you need. bring snacks and food that need little preparation and pack your cooler full of acne-safe food so you aren’t tempted to snag a bite of your friend’s dairy-filled lunch.
  6. sleep well. if you’re a light sleeper, pack some ear plugs to drown out the rowdy campers. pack extra pillow cases to switch out over the course of the week and bring layers for the nighttime temperature drop
  7. most importantly, relax, enjoy the festivities, and have a good time! plan to come in for a treatment 7-10 days after you get back so your skin has a chance to heal from the sun exposure.

how do you enjoy nature while staying acne-safe? 

footnotes

1. dry shampoo recipe adapted from mommypotamus

soy and acne: why we avoid this food for clear skin

here at skinSALVATION, we encourage our clients to adopt several healthy dietary changes, one of the most important being the avoidance of soy products. i know, i know – isn’t soy supposed to be a healthy wonder food, a complete protein dream? as all skinSALVATION clients learn, soy may not be as healthy for clear skin as we’ve always thought. this seemingly harmless legume may be reeking havoc on your endocrine, digestive and detox systems, contributing to painful acne in the process.

from an sS perspective, here are the top three reasons to avoid soy, especially if you are acne-prone:

1. soy can alter hormonal balance

soy contains phytoestrogens, or plant constituents that are structurally similar to the estrogen that we produce in our bodies.1 phytoestrogenic plants can affect our own hormones by altering the levels of estrogen in our bodies relative to other sex hormones.2 these phytoestrogens replace our biologically-produced estrogen in our cell receptors, disrupting the body’s hormonal balance and often resulting in a decrease in estrogen production and an increase in androgens.3 elevated androgens, specifically dht, can greatly impact the formation of acne by causing our glands to produce more oil. but let’s step back for one moment and talk about the liver. we all know that the liver’s primary function in the body is detoxification. our livers constantly work to remove not only toxins from our bloodstreams, but also excess hormones. estrogen happens to be the primary hormone that needs to be detoxed from our bodies, partially due to the nearly ubiquitous presence of xenoestrogens (also known as endocrine disrupters) in plastics, beauty products and in harsh household cleaners.4 if we bombard our bodies with this extra estrogen from plants and from our environments, our livers become taxed and are unable to perform their daily detox duties. and if the liver cannot perform its detoxing duties, it relies on other organs, like the skin, to pick up the slack. this can result in hormonal acne breakouts. additionally, these phytoestrogen-induced hormonal fluctuations can be especially detrimental for women dealing with pcos, infertility and other endocrine issues.5,6

2. soy inhibits the absorption of vitamins, minerals and protein

another major contributor to acne is inadequate nutrient absorption, either due to a poor diet or due to an impaired ability to absorb nutrients from foods as they move through the digestive tract. soy is a member of the legume family, along with other beans, chickpeas and peanuts. legumes, like nuts and seeds, are designed to survive the digestive systems of whichever creatures consume them so that they can reproduce successfully.7 in order to ensure their survival, legumes emit protective substances called lectins, which are associated with increased intestinal permeability and with inflammation of the gut.8,9 soybeans also contain phytic acid, which binds to vitamins and minerals like calcium and zinc, actively preventing their absorption.10 zinc, in particular, is crucial for keeping acne at bay because it helps reduce systemic inflammation and it can help lower dht levels.11 and even though soy is technically a complete protein, it is rife with protease inhibitors, which interfere with the digestion of protein.12 so put down that soy cappuccino – we all know about the anti-nutrient powers of coffee, after all – and start sipping a coconut milk matcha latte instead!

3. soy can be inflammatory

while it may be tempting to argue that cultures all over the world have been consuming soy for centuries to no detriment, we must keep in mind the ways in which soy crops have changed over time and in alignment with a western agricultural model. in traditional japanese cultures, soy was used only in small amounts at meals and was often fermented before consumption, allowing for easier digestion and for fewer hormonal impacts.13 soy is now rarely fermented and constitutes a relatively large percentage of western diets in the form of fillers in processed foods (soy lecithin, soybean oil, soy protein, etc). jumping from 8% gmo in 1997 to 94% gmo in 2014, soy is the most frequently genetically-modified crop in the united states today and it usually comes packed with a host of endocrine-disrupting pesticides.14 additionally, soybean oil is one of the most inflammatory omega-6 oils – the oil is extracted from the soybean using hexane, a solvent that has been characterized by the CDC as a neurotoxin.15 these chemicals, along with the indigestibility of legumes, elevate our internal inflammation levels, exacerbating acne breakouts.

looking for some alternatives to soy? here are some essential sS tips:

  • choose other legumes or green peas over soybeans or edamame
  • switch out that soy sauce (yes, including bragg’s) for coconut aminos by coconut secretbig tree farms or trader joe’s.
  • ditch the soy milk and start experimenting with rice, oat or nut milks. they’re delicious and creamy and you can even save money by making your own! califia farms and new barn are great options.
  • opt for products that use sunflower lecithin over soy lecithin – become a master label-reader!
  • if you’re vegetarian and need the protein, try pea protein, cheeses made from nuts, and black bean burgers with quinoa for the protein boost. check out kite hill nut cheese in the refrigerator section of your local natural foods store.

footnotes

1. ieh. (2000) phytoestrogens in the human diet (web report w3), leicester, uk, institute for environment and health. posted october 2000.
2. davis, s.r., et al. (1999) phytoestrogens in health and disease. recent progress in hormone research. 54:185-211.
3. nagata, c., et al. (1998) effect of soymilk consumption on serum estrogen concentrations in premenopausal japanese women. journal of the national cancer institute. 1998; 90:1830–1835.
4. mccormick, k. (2017) the liver’s role in hormone balance. connections: an educational resource of women’s international pharmacy.
5. patisaul, h.b., et al. (2014) soy but not bisphenol a (bpa) induces hallmarks of polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos) and related metabolic co-morbidities in rats. reproductive toxicology. 2014 nov; 49:209-18.
6. chandrareddy, a., et al. (2008) adverse effects of phytoestrogens on reproductive health: a report of three cases. complementary therapies in clinical practice. 2008; 14:132–135.
7. franco, l. & genovese, m.i. (2002) nutritional significance of lectins and enzyme inhibitors from legumes. journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 50 (22): 6592–6598.
8. puszatai, a. (1988) biological effects of dietary lectins. recent advances of research of antinutritional factors of legume seeds. 17-29.
9. chen, a. & donovan, s. (2004) genistein at a concentration present in soy infant formula inhibits caco-2bbe cell proliferation by causing g2/m cell cycle arrest. the journal of nutrition. 134 (6): 1303-1308.
10. 
sandberg, a.s. (2002) bioavailability of minerals in legumes. british journal of nutrition. 2002 cec; 88 suppl 3:s281-5.
11. stamatiadis, d., et al. (1988) inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase activity in human skin by zinc and azelaic acid. british journal of dermatology. 1988 nov; 119(5):627-32.
12. american nutrition association. (2015) review: the whole soy story. 38(2).
13. kresser, c. (2011) 9 steps to perfect health – #1: don’t eat toxins. posted 28 january 2011.
14. usda. (2016) recent trends in ge adoption. economic research service. 
15. centers for disease control and prevention. (2017) organic solvents. national institute for occupational safety and health.