kim’s bug bite (and heat rash) hack

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:

SLAP IT
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:

ICE!
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.

MUSCLE RUB
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!

TRUTHPASTE
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!

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

the acne safe guide to burning man & desert camping

flash back to that foggy february morning when you woke up way too early to get in the cyber queue for burning man tickets. you called in sick and stayed in your pjs all morning, too afraid to miss your thousandth screen refresh, leaving your laptop only to run to the freezer so that you could ice your face while you were waiting. six hours later… you finally get your tickets and are now dancing around your apartment with joy thinking of how awesome you’re going to look in your costumes with clear skin!

you’ve put in the work – you’re icing every day, using all of your sS products, coming in for regular treatments and you haven’t had a cheeseburger in months. you are awesome. now that you’ve seen how easy and rewarding it is to lead an acne safe lifestyle, we want to help you maintain it even when you’re 4,000 feet above sea level in a desert full of sand and sequins.

being from new mexico, i know a thing or two about the high desert, and what it can do to your skin and body. here are the most important things to remember during travel and your week at burning man, as told by me and burningman.org.

burning man

1. coming from the bay area, you are going to gain 4,000 feet in elevation. many people experience elevation sickness characterized by headaches, fatigue, and nausea (also you are more sensitive to alcohol and need much less to feel buzzed or beyond.)

  • how to kick elevation sickness’ booty: drink your water! the official burning man website recommends 1.5 gallons per person per day.

2. the temperature in the desert fluctuates a lot between day and night. your face will probably be sweating from 10am-8pm when it’s 100+ degrees out and then you’ll be freezing at night when it drops to 40 degrees.

  • how to keep your face and body fresh: wash your face by generously spraying rose water on your skin, dry with clean 4×4’s (cotton wipes, or a clean dry towel) and reapply sunscreen when you wake up, as well as any other time you’ve had a solid sweat stream for more than an hour. sweat can induce AND irritate acne, and also make it inflamed and sensitive.

3. the desert is dry and sunny. (just in case you didn’t know that one.)

  • how to keep your skin from cracking, flaking or burning: use your safeguard spf 40 to moisturize and protect your skin throughout the day. remember to cleanse with rosewater and reapply spf if your face gets wet or sweaty. if you feel particularly dry you can layer hydrating cream under your spf. at night cleanse and moisturize with hydrating cream.  (tip: throughout the day, you can spritz your skin with the rosewater spray anytime!  just make sure your sunscreen doesn’t start to drip off).
  • for your lips: to prevent cracking and chapping, pick up an sS lip balm with spf. staying hydrated and eating healthy fats like avocados and almonds will also help maintain moisture in your lips.
  • for your body: we just started carrying an awesome line of body sunscreens called goddess garden, which comes in a sport formula to stay on through sweat and sand. i guarantee after a day in the sun and sand, your skin will be parched. quench it with a layer of raw organic shea butter. you can pick this up in a travel friendly jar (big enough to share) at whole foods, or any other hippy dippy shop along the way.

4. accessories that will help keep your skin happy and healthy:

  • a hat will keep the sun off of your face. if you can, get one that has a tie or strap for wind storms. keep the strap tight enough to keep your hat from flying away, but loose enough that it doesn’t aggravate your skin and cause inflammation.
  • a dust mask will keep sand particles out of your face, nose and mouth. again, make  sure it isn’t too tight. a bandana or a silk scarf tied around your face can also work well.
  • hand sanitizer is essential for a place where there is no running water and you’re in contact with tens of thousands of people. we like clean & well. make sure to lather your hands up (and rinse them, if you can) before touching your face!
  • don’t forget the ice! you can purchase ice at arctica throughout your stay. icing will not only feel amazing on your face in the desert heat, it will also keep inflammation at bay.

5. words of wisdom

  • have fun! the burning man experience is all about love, discovery and adventure. embrace it and it will be good to you.
  • sleep. there will be people up at 3 am having fun. you can join them or you can get your full 9 hours of sleep and feel awesome all week long. burning man is a lot of physical stress on your body, so it’s important to give yourself to to rebuild and reset. at the very least take (or add) a midday nap. it will be really hot around 3pm and a siesta under the shade of your tent will feel awesome.
  • stick to your acne safe diet. if there’s any place that it is easy to avoid dairy, soy and coffee, it is the middle of the desert where there are no restaurants. just be sure to pack nutritious snacks and avoid the processed foods as much as possible. some good options are: krave jerkyegg white protein powder, fresh grapefruit, apples, raw almonds, steel cut oatmeal, whole grain crackers or organic corn/veggie chips.
  • come in to sS for a treatment 10-7 days before you leave to make sure that your skin is completely healed and done peeling and/or 7-10 days after you get back to let us do a thorough cleaning and get you back on track! we recommend waiting at least a week to give your body time to rest and rebuild after vacation so that your skin properly extracts and heals after treatment.

you can email me here: liesse@skinsalvationsf.com with any questions or check out the official burning man survival guide here.

stay healthy, safe and clear! we can’t wait to hear all about your adventures!

a camper’s guide to keeping clear

bugspraysummer may not officially start for another week, but it definitely feels like it’s already here, which means camping season has begun. for those of you who like to spend warm weekends under the stars, we know that maintaining your sS regimen can be challenging. but don’t worry, if you just follow these simple tips, a few nights in the woods won’t undo your progress.

washing your face

when we’re back in civilization we have easy access to clean and warm water, but campground sinks aren’t always the most appealing places to stick your face. so what’s an sS’er to do?

  • use a mild cleanser, like green tea cleanser or charcoal cleanser: when you’re spending so much time outside, you want to go for a cleanser that won’t dry out your skin or make it more sensitive to the sun. this is especially true if you’re at altitude.
  • use a washcloth: to avoid having to put your face in a nasty campground sink (or if you’re really roughing it, using all your water), wet a washcloth and use that before and after cleansing, instead of splashing your face with water. (the makeup removing washcloths we sell at sS are great for this.)

icing!

if you have a cooler (and it’s not too dirty) you can always just sneak an ice cube out of there and ice your face as normal. if you don’t have a cooler, one, you should probably get one because beer tastes better cold, but two, you can always just use your washcloth and cold water to imitate icing. remember though, real ice, like cold beer, is always preferable.

toning

if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the sun while you’re roughing it, you should be using a more mild toner. if you have sensitive and/or dry skin, using the rose water toner is the way to go. if your skin is a little more resilient, the sterilizing toner is your best bet.

benzoyl peroxide, salicylic serum, glycolic serum, retinols (dermagel, exfola, exfola-forte, bleaching lotion forte)

like with your toner, you want to be careful with BP and serums if you’re going to be out in the sun more than normal. it’s better to skip a night while you’re camping than to risk being out in the sun when your skin is extra sensitive from your products.

moisture and spf

as always, it’s important to make sure your skin stays hydrated and protected throughout the day, so don’t skimp on your moisturizer and spf while away. if you’re feeling dry throughout the day you can always top up your spf or use a little hydrating gel.

look out for hidden cloggers

when we’re at home it’s easy (well, easier) to be diligent about using non-cloggy products. but, when you’re out in the wild it’s a little more difficult. watch out for these offenders when camping:

  • bug spray: nearly all bug sprays are made with soybean oil, which is super cloggy. luckily we’ve found a truly non-comedogenic bug spray that we sell here at sS: greenerways organic bug spray
  • body sunscreen: sun protection for your body is, of course, important, but make sure whatever sunscreen you’re using on your body isn’t cloggy. even if you don’t tend to break out on your body, when you touch your skin throughout the day, the sunscreen will get on your hands, and will then almost certainly end up on your face.
  • campfire food: we all know better than to mess with soy and dairy, so make sure you steer clear of them even while camping. check ingredients on any canned or processed foods you plan on bringing – you’ll find that a lot them have some form of sneaky soy.
  • a dirty pillow: just like at home, make sure whatever pillow you’re using is nice and clean.

if you do your best to follow these tips then you should be able to enjoy your camping trips without stressing about your skin. and, if you need to pick up any products before you head out, you can always drop into sS during business hours or just order online. (existing clients can order through our client store, everyone else can order through our public store.)