the official sS guide to constipation and acne

throughout my twenties, i was in a band that toured the country often. i had persistent acne that would not relent despite my efforts to “eat clean” and to pare down my skincare regimen. during this period of my life, i noticed that every time i left town to go on tour, my digestive functions would, without fail, shut down. i found myself going 6, 7, 8 days without…dropping the kids off at the pool. now several years later, i recognize this as extreme constipation in response to the stress of travel, alcohol consumption, disrupted sleep and altered dietary routines. at the time, i couldn’t make sense of it all. i mostly just laughed it off as a quirk, not fully comprehending the gravity of constipation as a health condition.

but what exactly is constipation and why am i talking about it on an acne blog? as we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, digestion plays a crucial role in skin health. if your digestive system is not functioning like a well-oiled machine, other organs, like the skin, usually take up the slack. for those with acne-prone skin, keeping things moving is an essential step on the skin-healing journey.

constipation affects 20% of the american adult population.1 it’s a condition that results in a person having “fewer than three bowel movements a week, or hard, dry and small bowel movements that are painful or difficult to pass.”2 though we should aim to eliminate 1 to 3 times each day, modern lifestyle factors like stress, poor fiber intake and dehydration can slow down our body processes. healthy bowel transit time should rest anywhere between 12 and 24 hours. an easy way to test for this is to swallow 2 tablespoons of whole white sesame seeds with a meal, record the time and observe when they appear in your stool afterwards.

have you ever taken a moment to really examine the stuff that ends up in the toilet? if not, you’re not alone! we are encouraged from an early age to avoid this taboo subject, to replace direct language with euphemisms and flat-out denials, to dance around the doo-doo. many of us are afraid to even admit that we undergo this natural and perfectly healthy daily routine altogether.

here at skinSALVATION, we are not afraid to get right to it. if you’re a client, you are probably already familiar with the digestion-acne connection. the main purpose of defecation is to swiftly remove toxins and excess estrogens from the body. when people suffer from constipation, these toxins and hormones get held up at the border and if they are stopped up for too long, they make their way back into the bloodstream. the body then finds alternate ways of pushing them out and the skin becomes the next exit point. the influx of estrogen back into the bloodstream has an additionally negative impact on hormonal balance, which in turn, can contribute to acne.

so how do you know where you stand on the poop spectrum? in the late 90s in bristol, england, some medical researchers generated a genius poo-determination tool called the bristol stool chart. while other healing modalities like chinese medicine and ayurveda had been examining poop characteristics as a means of determining illness in patients for centuries, the bristol stool chart was the first standardized poop test in the west and it has been important in the diagnosis of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (ibs) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (sibo).

how does your poop match up? if types 1 or 2 seem all too familiar, it might be time for a re-evaluation. here are some of our favorite tips to combat constipation:

drink more water. this is an easy one. aim to consume at least half your body weight in ounces each day. so if you weigh 160 lbs, try to get at least 80 ounces of water into that beautiful bod to hydrate your cells and to loosen up your stools. carry a large glass or stainless steel water bottle with you and sip from it all day. add tasty accessories to your water to make it more palatable – citrus, cucumber, spearmint and sage work wonders to spruce up some plain old water.

drink herbal tea (these can count toward your total water goal for the day). try drinking teas with digestive herbs after eating in order to lend a helping hand to your overworked digestive organs. look for teas with black pepper, licorice, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and fennel, all of which beat the bloat while helping to move things along. if your constipation is dire, senna tea can be a temporary solution, but avoid relying on this herb, as it is more of a bandaid that doesn’t tackle the root of the problem.eat enough fiber – both soluble and insoluble. soluble fiber is the soft stuff that hastens our bowel movements – bananas, the inside of a sweet potato, and the fleshy parts of root vegetables. insoluble fiber consists of fruit and vegetable skins and stalks – all of the roughage that we don’t digest and which contributes bulk to our stools. we would be lost without both of these important types of fiber and we should all aim to consume 25-40 grams in total each day.

avoid processed food, dairy and fried foods. these foods can contribute to major backups and often have a dehydrating effect on the body.

take a magnesium supplement like natural calm before bed. not only does magnesium help you drift off into a blissful night’s sleep, it is also a crucial mineral for skin health and acts as a mild muscle relaxer. most americans are deficient in this mineral and it is not easily absorbed from food, so taking at least 400 mg each night is advised.3 taking an epsom salt bath is another great way to absorb this precious mineral through the skin. a quality cod liver oil supplement can also help move things along. we like nordic naturals.

keep your stress in check. is there any physical ailment that does not include stress management as a treatment? no! as i parlayed in my story above, the gut-brain connection has a huge impact on our bodily functions. our digestive systems shut down during times of stress as the body funnels its energy to our fight or flight response. eating in a calm environment and practicing stress management techniques daily is essential for keeping constipation at bay. the better we manage stress, the more energy our bodies have to devote to digesting and eliminating our food.

consume prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes. prebiotics are particular foods (artichoke, asparagus, green bananas and plantains, onions, garlic) that are consumed and digested by our good gut flora, while probiotics re-populate our guts with new bacteria. since our stools mostly consist of bacteria, having balanced gut flora is essential. additionally, taking an enzyme before each meal can help our bodies break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats, allowing us to absorb more nutrients from our food. for those suffering from sibo or ibs, be careful with pre and probiotics and talk to your doctor for recommendations.

get into proper squat position when you’re ready to release. using a squatty potty or a footstool can make all the difference. it’s important to create good bathroom habits – don’t rush, always try to relax and try to eliminate at the same times each day.

express yourself. get those emotions out, either by going to therapy, talking to friends or by starting a daily journaling practice. your body’s physical need to hold onto matter within its walls often reflects a psychological need to hold onto habits or emotions that no longer serve you. instead of bottling up your emotions, let them out in positive and healthy ways. this release can be illuminating in more ways than one!

move and stretch. yoga and gentle exercise are fantastic ways to get things moving downtown. try wind-relieving pose, child’s pose, downward dog, supine twist and forward fold – these twisty yoga poses can all help relieve constipation and encourage movement.

constipation is a serious issue. it means that something is out of balance internally, either with digestion, stress or hormones. so if you find yourself unable to eliminate for several days in a row, seek professional medical advice.

footnotes

1. pinto sanchez, m.i., bercik, p. (2011) epidemiology and burden of chronic constipation. canadian journal of gastroenterology. v.25(suppl b).
2. national institute of diabetes and digestive and kidney diseases
3. kresser, c. (2011) 9 steps to perfect health – #4: supplement wisely. posted february 2011.

product replacement alert: new face sunscreen!

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 frontdesk@skinsalvationsf.com. thanks for your patience while we determine our next steps with our products!

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

helping our friends of friends of albania

each month skinSALVATION gives to a cause personally close to a team member’s heart. this month we were able to help an organization that has been a huge part of my brother’s life. in 2009, my older brother (who i always thought was a super human) joined the peace corps and started his 27 month assignment in albania. he came back speaking a hybrid of albanian and english, hand-in-hand with his now fiance and bragging about being named “personazh i viti” (person of the year) by the mayor. a piece of his heart was left an ocean away and he wanted to find a way to stay involved. that was when they both found Friends of Albania, a non-profit organization that connects previous peace corps volunteers to current volunteers to support small, community-driven projects.

both have been active members for over five years now and have since taken on leadership roles. alex, my brother’s fiance is president and my brother, brett is treasurer. it wasn’t until recently that i really understood how impactful these projects were to the albanian community. the nation is still adjusting post-communism and this organization encourages community, equality and positive growth.
the most recent grant was used to rehabilitate two community parks to create safe, clean and fun public spaces for the village youth to hang out. not only did this project create a playground for a local kindergarten where more than 80 kids play every day, but nearly 200 members of the community came together to create the space.
the project before that was a youth radio exchange designed to encourage youth involvement with digital media and inspire the creation of diverse creative content. many local tv/radio stations have been running since the 80’s when the country was still under communism and content was heavily monitored and regulated. this opened the conversation of past and present media and got participants excited to create new, quality content.
for information on how you can get involved, feel free to contact me or visit www.friendsofalbania.net.

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!