i love camping and the outdoors, nature and grassy wooded areas. being bug bite prone though, is a surefire way for me to become a debbie downer. as a kid spending a summer in the philippines, i remember once that my legs were so eaten up and raw that my aunt took me to a dermatologist to check out my poor limbs; they gave me a cortisone cream, which didn’t do a damn thing. most conventional bug bite creams on the market are cortisone based which still don’t do a thing for me (and are toxic to boot). my skin is so sensitive to these bites that they usually quickly turn into huge bumps that make me look deformed (no joke), and are sooooo itchy that they distract me from enjoying myself in said nature, putting me in a cranky mood. 🙁
over the years, with extensive research and travel, i think i’ve figured out my magic combination of bug bite prevention and relief! and they are, for the most part, non-toxic. different bugs exist in different places, so these may not be as effective in one locale than another, depending on your own skin and where in the world you are. but if you have to use DEET, use it. it’s better to be safe and not get malaria than to try and be all hippy with your natural remedies, imo.
BEFORE YOU GET BIT – PREVENT
so you know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure bla bla bla. in this case, it’s totally true. i am not above putting on a hat with a bug net on it, and in most cases find that diligently applying and reapplying my anti-mosquito potions are enough for me.
KNOW THE BUGGERS’ TIME + PLACE
mosquitoes are notorious for being the most active at dawn, dusk, and around still water + swampy areas. they also like to get our ankles and feet while sitting at dining tables. being mindful of these times and locales have been helpful for me to know when i should stay on guard, inside or perhaps take the seat at the end of the table vs in the corner against a wall.
FOR THE LOWER BODY – PICARIDIN LOTION
i like the sawyer picaridin insect repellent lotion to put on my legs and find that once i put this on before going out for the day, i don’t need to reapply, so long as i don’t get wet. it’s important to speak on lotion vs spray because applying lotion with your hands ensures a more thorough application, thus making it stay on the skin better, last longer, and won’t easily sweat or rub off like a water-based spray (the same can be said about any other spray product, SPF included). picaridin is an ingredient that is synthesized in a lab (as most skincare ingredients are) that is modeled after an extract from the chrysanthemum flower, and also has been shown to be just as effective as DEET, without the toxicity or fragrance (check out the EWG’s stance on it here).
FOR THE UPPER BODY AND FACE – GREENERWAYS ORGANIC BUG SPRAY
i am not a fan of chemicals in general (toxicity, smell, general grossness and support of those industries), and will use chemicals only when i have to (like using the picaridin lotion above). i much prefer using natural products as much as possible and in the realm of bug spray, will stick to using a natural one on my upper body, to avoid inhaling or ingesting said toxins. if you eat with your fingers, are doing any smooching or are handling babies/kids, it’s best to be exposed to a natural bug spray than a toxic and bitter tasting one.
for years i have loved using the greenerways organic bug spray, the only one on the market i’ve found to be water-based AND organic. most natural ones on the market are in a base of cloggy ass soybean oil and are just oily, sticky and gross. plus, it’s a small family out of pennsylvania that makes this stuff, so all the more i am happy to support another small biz. i’ll decant this into a smaller spray bottle to take with me for reapplications, since natural products work best with repeated usage over time.
the way i apply this is to spray it onto my hands, and then rub it onto the areas affected. remember, actually massaging product into your skin is going to yield a much more effective and long lasting application.. as well as prevent the product from 1. being wasted, and 2. being sprayed onto surfaces other than your skin, including rivers, lakes and oceans. (i have seen people put on spray sunscreen while standing in freshwater lakes and it is disgusting how much ends up in the water.)
note: i find that their 4oz bottle is difficult to handle, so decanting the liquid into their smaller 1oz (or a different shaped spray bottle, muji and rainbow grocery has great ones) is necessary for me.
AFTER YOU GET BIT – TREAT
DON’T SCRATCH OR PICK AT IT (sound familiar?)
the key is to preventing more itching, scarring and swelling is to RESIST SCRATCHING. the less you scratch, the less annoying it will be, the less scarring will occur (from scratching the skin open, leaving you with scabs) and the faster it will heal, i promise! the same can be said for acne 🙂 here are some things you can do instead:
some hard, heavy slaps on the bumps as they appear may be enough to numb the nerve endings that make it start itching.. this is a quick fix until you can get access to the following:
just as you would to relieve inflammation for acne, icing is one of the best remedies to employ. it numbs the nerve endings and instantly relieves the itching – with relief lasting (for me, usually) at least a couple of hours afterward. also, if you are getting bug bites you’re probably in a hot place, so getting ice cubes – or just something cold at least – should (theoretically) be easy. i have no shame in digging an ice cube out of my water glass at a restaurant and icing the bumps on my legs, arms, etc for relief. i’ll just wrap it with a napkin to soak up the dripping water as best i can.
anything that’s got camphor or menthol or peppermint is going to have that cooling sensation that’s great for numbing down itching. when i was in thailand, every convenience store i went to had some kind of a tiger-balm thing, be it a salve in a jar or an oil in a roller stick. i am a big fan of the oil roller sticks because it makes for a mess-free application, and is multi-purpose. i used them to relieve headaches, shoulder pains, sore feet and legs from standing around for hours (like i did when mom and i were in bangkok for the late rama 9’s cremation ceremonies). know that it can take a few minutes for the itching to go away after applying these oils, so have patience to allow them to work their way into the skin, calming those itch nerves. this is why i like to ice first to quickly numb, then apply these oils to prolong the itch relief.
when i get heat rash, this also helps immensely with managing the itching associated with it, speeding up healing. for my own skin, i find washing the affected skin with an anti-bacterial soap, keeping the skin as dry as possible (no applying oils or lotions, even aloe gel!) and relieving the itching with a muscle oil rub stuck is the speediest way to recovery.
in the US, you can find saje’s peppermint halo. i LOVE this stuff and use it everyday. i roll it onto my head, temples, neck and shoulders to help keep me calm in a busy day of work, in traffic or when i’m bored. it has that minty effect to help calm down any itchiness from bites!
i went camping at the south yuba river a year or two ago and totally forgot all my bug bite stuff. and of course, our campsite was buzzing with skeeters and were having at it on my face. so i went on a hunt to a “natural” store in town and thought to look for a bug bite salve. one lady behind the counter suggested i mix up some clay and essential oils to apply, but the other lady remembered an all-natural toothpaste they had which was basically the same thing, just fancier (plus already mixed up and ready to use). i was skeptical but desperate so i bought the stuff and lo and behold it worked. so well in fact, that it’s actually changed my life.
preventing bug bites can be tough, but so long as you have the right tools to manage the itching, it’s not that bad at all. a little of this paste goes a long way, leaves no residue or stain, and is soooo effective. for me, just a dab of this pretty instantly calms down itching. i forget about the bite, and get on with enjoying my nature experience. it’s really been amazing how much quality of life enhancement and sense of relief this little product has given me. it comes in a glass 2oz jar, so i scoop some out into a smaller plastic jar to keep in my day bag and reapply as needed. one jar has literally lasted me years, and i freak out if i can’t find or forget it on my travels.
24 HOUR RULE (?)
so maybe i’m making this up, but it seems for me that most bites – so long as i don’t go crazy waking up those itch nerves by scratching them as soon as i get them – itch only once in a 12- or 24-hour cycle. i get bit, i employ any or all of the above post-bite tactics, and then i’m not bothered by them for another 12 or 24 hours. then after a few days, the itching subsides completely and the bites heal up and away. observing and knowing this has somehow calmed my nerves whenever i get into an itching frenzy.
THE AFTERMATH – PIGMENTATION
so hopefully you didn’t scratch the hell out of your skin, creating a wound and thus scarring. but if you did, you can still employ the tricks above and if you must, gently rub-and-not-quite-but-kinda-scratch around the bite/wound to relieve any itching as it heals. if there is pigmentation left behind, it will likely go away on its own, or you can use any of your active sS skin products (like your mandelic toner, skin brightener or vitamin a serum) to speed up the brightening of the spots left behind once the scab heals and falls off.
i hope these tips help you out and make natural outdoor time less miserable. these discoveries were a serious game changer for me and i hope it helps others too!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! as kim mentioned in an earlier blog post, we are switching things up in the realms of serums and sunscreens. we are working with a new manufacturer that is more aligned with our values as a small business and along with a few other items, we have replaced our superlight spf15 moving forward with a new sunscreen.
we are thrilled to announce that we will now be stocking a face sunscreen from the miami-based company, beyond complexion, whose owner, olga valencia, worked closely with our beloved dr. fulton (the author of the acne bible, acne rx). olga has done extensive research on comedogenicity and has closely monitored the efficacy of her products for years through direct client interaction at her miami skin clinic.
beyond complexion’s daily facial moisturizer with spf30 is wonderfully lightweight and it offers more protection for longer periods of time while keeping your skin moisturized and healthy. it’s also perfect for helping prevent and reduce hyperpigmentation and redness. the combination of aloe and plant botanicals in this formula help nourish the skin while protecting it from uva and uvb rays. plus, it’s got double the spf of superlight, which means tons more protection!
as always, we’d love to hear your feedback! let us know what you think about the new beyond complexion sunscreen by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. thanks for your patience while we determine our next steps with our products!