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! 

FOUND! acne-safe cooking fats

exiting news for anyone who has ever had anything prepared in animal fat – you know how incredibly delicious it is (duck fat fries anyone?). not only is cooking with animal fat tasty, it is completely acne-safe and full of nutrients.

it can seem a bit strange to make your own animal cooking fat, (instructions here), especially for people on the go, or who are strangers to the kitchen. the company epic has bottled up some super high quality stuff, including:

  • 100% beef tallow
  • pork lard
  • duck fat (our personal favorite!)

animal fats

i found these bad boys at my local whole foods market, and am very excited to prepare my morning eggs in duck fat.

there are some awesome nutritional benefits of cooking with animal fats.

  • great source of healthy fat, which our brains AND hearts need.
  • great source of omega fatty acids, and saturated fat which contrary to outdated nutrition ideas of the 80’s and 90’s is essential for the function of many of our organs. these fats act as a vehicle for fat-soluble vitamins, and countless natural processes inside our bodies. this is a great article about the need for saturated fats in our diet.
  • we have found it to be one of the safest oils to cook with, for more cooking oil information see an older blogpost here.


this post is by allyson!

acne-safe pizza!

by kerry watson
kerry & her pizza!
i’m so excited to share one of my very favorite recipes with all of you sS’ers out there. i make this grain-free/soy-free/dairy-free pizza at least once a month and it’s always a crowd pleaser. it’s super tasty and filling and it’s also very easy to make!
for the crust you’ll need almond flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder, dried oregano, eggs, plain unsweetened almond milk, black pepper and sea salt (or any other non-iodized salt). here are the directions for making it here:

Pizza Crust (Grain-free)

2 cups almond flour
1 cup arrowroot powder (or tapioca flour)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup homemade almond milk (or milk of choice–we now use unsweetened coconut milk)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a round pizza pan (no holes) or cookie sheet. (I use a 15″ round baking stone.)
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk to blend together.
3. Add eggs and almond milk to the dry ingredients. Mix well. (The batter may be runny–not like typical pizza dough.)
4. Use a spatula to spread batter onto greased pan.
5. Bake crust in preheated oven 8-12 minutes.
6. Remove crust from oven and top with sauce and desired toppings.
7. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

here’s what the crust looks like after baking:
the crust takes about 20 minutes to make and pre-bake. the next step is adding the toppings and then it goes back in the oven for about 15 minutes more. here are some of my favorite toppings:
– pizza sauce from a jar like this one: (i reuse the jars for melting oils and waxes for making lotions and lip balms at home)
– sliced green peppers
– organic pepperoni
– sliced black olives
– thinly sliced red onion
– chopped fresh herbs like basil and cilantro (add these after all the baking is complete)
daiya cheeses happen to contain a little coconut oil – which is not the best – but we think, in moderation, is a hands-down much better choice than real dairy cheese.  after all, nothing in life is perfect 🙂
alternatively, you can also check our pinterest page for some acne-safe cheese recipe ideas – namely this page.  here’s a mozzarella recipe that looks awesome!
here is a listing of the ingredients in the daiya mozzarella shreds:
Filtered water, tapioca and/or arrowroot flours, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and /or non-GMO expeller pressed safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, vegan natural flavors, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, citric acid (for flavor), titanium dioxide (a naturally occurring mineral).
organicville pizza sauce only contains 3 grams of sugar per serving which is low when compared with most brands that contain 8 grams per serving. the ingredients are as follows:
organic tomato puree, organic tomatoes, organic agave nectar, organic extra virgin olive oil, salt, organic garlic, organic oregano, organic parsley
here’s what the pizza looks like cooked with diaya cheese and pepperoni – yum!
photo (1)
i like this recipe because it doesn’t have dairy or soy, which we all know causes inflammation and acne seeds. i also like it because it doesn’t contain any grains or white flour products. to some folks grains (even whole grains) can be inflammatory. i am one of these “lucky” people who just does better on a diet that’s very low in grains. one of the reasons that grains can be problematic is that they contain phytic acid which blocks the absorption of many essential minerals like zinc and calcium.
i do eat grains on occasion (couple times a month) but they are not a staple for me. also, i stick to the gluten free grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat. i also supplement the starches in my diet with starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and winter squash.
something that i find interesting is that grains have only been cultivated and eaten for the last 10,000 years but humans have been around for a couple hundred thousand years and we were doing very well before grains ever came into the picture. also, when we started cultivating grains they were not harvested right away, they were left in the field for a while which allowed them to be exposed to the elements. this started the sprouting process which breaks down the phytic acid and increases the nutrient content of the grain.
regardless as to whether you eat loads of grains or none at all this recipe is sure to please your taste buds and your conscience because it is delicious and acne-safe!


gelatin: an amazing superfood reinvented!


not the kind of gelatin we’re talking about. well kind of, but without the artificial colors, condensed milk or booze.


by kerry watson

when most people think of eating gelatin, images of bright green jello come to mind. i tend to think of the ghastly tomato aspic that my grandmother would always bring to our holiday parties growing up. but, gelatin wasn’t always relegated to the bottom shelf of the dessert aisle, in between the food coloring and the frosting in a tube. in fact, it was once a staple of healthy traditional diets around the world.

powdered gelatin products, these days, are usually derived from pigskins or cowhides.  but, when it comes from a healthy grass-fed animal source, it has a multitude of healing properties. this type of gelatin is a great substitute for labor-intensive bone broth which is fast becoming the new superfood of 2015.  most people don’t have the time or energy to make their own bone broth which involves sourcing pasture-raised, grass-feed beef (or free-range chicken, duck or organic pork) bones, roasting them in the oven (for richer flavor, but is an optional-but-totally-worth-it step) and then slow cooking them in a crockpot for a few days (or overnight).

tomato aspic

gelatin is essentially bone broth that has been dehydrated and powdered. it’s chock full of collagen, cartilage, minerals and protein; however, it’s important to note that all gelatin sources are not the same. i’m a fan of “great lakes beef gelatin” which is a kosher and grass-fed product (and available on amazon). this is the one i like to use for all my gelatin recipes.

as i’ve mentioned above, gelatin has a long list of health benefits making it a wonderful addition to any healthy diet. some of these include:

  • skin, hair, nail health and anti-aging: gelatin is an abundant source of collagen. the amino acid profile and protein make-up of collagen is what builds and maintains skin elasticity and tone. it also promotes cellular regeneration in all connective tissue. collagen is not absorbed into the dermis topically but taking it internally enables the body to utilize it in the extracellular matrix which contains tightly packed collagen fibers. the density and strength of these fibers are what prevent lines and wrinkles and it’s what keeps the skin looking youthful and rejuvenated. collagen also helps in wound repair making it an excellent food ingredient to eat before and after a sS signature facial.
  • liver cleansing: glycine is an amino acid that is found in very high amounts in gelatin. our bodies need an enormous amount of glycine to transform toxic chemicals from our environment into benign substances so that they can be eliminated as waste from the body. glycine, along with other amino acids converts to a super anti-oxidant amino acid called glutathione. this amino acid happens to be a very important component in the liver’s ability to remove toxic elements from the body.
  • intestinal health: studies have shown that gelatin has the ability to heal damage and inflammation in the small and large intestine (aka, leaky gut – which a lot of our acne-prone clients seem to have). it has a very high and bioavailable mineral content. this makes it a great source of nourishment to anyone with an impaired ability to absorb nutrients.
  • healthy hormones: glycine, helps to regulate insulin production and prevent blood sugar imbalance. it is converted by the body to glutathione which plays an important role in the removal of excess estrogen which can build up in the body from from environmental toxins or dietary sources like soy and from taking birth control pills. an elevation of estrogen is a risk factor for hormonal acne break outs and for more serious conditions like estrogen-dependent cancers.
  • joint health:  high in glycine and proline, both highly anti-inflammatory amino acids which (together with vitamin c) help strengthen cartilage fibers and are incredibly wound healing (thus being able to help repair leaky guts).
  • added protein: for those who crave nutritious, on-the-go breakfasts (or meal replacements/supplements), gelatin is a great source of protein – 6 grams per tablespoon! – that can be easily added to smoothies and shakes (some gelatins may be fussy about temperature, so you may have to experiment).  it helps build lean muscle, is easily digestible, helps keep you full, boosts metabolism, and is soy and dairy free!  you can try adding it to any smoothie, but this is the first recipe we’ve seen with it in it: dairy-free pumpkin nog smoothie!

there are many delicious ways to add more healthy gelatin to your diet. for further information, you can check out weston price’s stance on it here.  i’m playing with recipes all the time. below is a recipe that i modified from one that i found here.



1/4 cup grass-fed beef gelatin
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries


Place lemon juice and strawberries in a blender and blend on high until completely mixed.



Pour into a saucepan.

Add the honey and slowly add gelatin while whisking or mixing with a hand held mixer.  Turn the heat on low, and continue to whisk the mixture for 5-10 minutes, until it becomes thin and everything is incorporated. Take off the heat.  (You’ll want to use low and slow heat to be sure that the gelatin is completely melted and incorporated, so that you don’t end up with hard-to-chew bits of gelatin in the finished product).

Pour into silicone molds or a small baking dish.


Set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up.

If you used a small baking dish as a receptacle, cut into bite-size squares. Otherwise, remove gummies from their molds and enjoy!


acne AND candida safe soy sauce cooking alternatives

so a lot of our asian clients cook with a lot of soy sauce and when they cut down, they clear up.  we realize though how challenging it can be to substitute this in the kitchen – so here are some safe alternatives!

coconut secret coconut aminos

– coconut secret’s coconut aminos is a great soy sauce substitute.  it’s many times more nutritious than soy sauce, and is very rich in amino acids.  it takes almost like a spiked teriyaki soy vinegar.  **candida safe

ginger & green onion sauce!

– chinese steamed chicken with ginger and green onion is one of my most favorite foods.  i made a batch and found that the ginger/green onion sauce is delicious on EVERYTHING!  try steaming different foods and topping them with this sauce.  the recipe is: 2 whole bunches of green onions, a large knob of ginger, blended or chopped up in a bowl, then add about a 1/4 cup hot olive oil and some stock (if you have some around).  add salt to taste.  (shout out to SF’s mama for the recipe 🙂 )   **candida safe

spicely organic vindaloo curry powderthai kitchen organic coconut milk

– curries can be made easily and acne-safely with curry powder, coconut milk, and  bit of pink salt.  you can also add chopped up aromatics like anti-inflammatory turmeric, digestion enhancing ginger, or fragrant lemongrass (just beat it up a bit with the back of a knife to get the flavor out of it before simmering it with the sauce). **candida safe

herb chart from

-fresh herbs can add a lot of flavor to dishes – they may seem subtle at first but once you start working with them you’ll discover they pack a lot of punch!  rinse them well, dry and pick off the leaves to cook with/eat, you can compost the main stalk upon the tasty leaves grow.  **candida safe

pesto, image from

– any green pesto.  in a blender, combine 2 cups of packed greens (basil, kale, spinach, arugula, any kind of green!), 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup of nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but you can use any nut – roasting them first on a hot pan til fragrant definitely hooks it up with flavor) and a couple of squeezes of lemon juice.  blend it up and add salt and pepper to taste..  if you google recipes, you’ll find that they often include cheese – add this at your own risk!!  anyhow, you can eat this with pasta and or top your steak, fish or veggies with it!  ***candida safe if you use candida safe nuts and NO CHEESE!

olive tapenade from

– olive tapenade pesto – for a twist, you can also add some olives to the above mix, creating a sort of green tapenade.  or you can just do olives and omit the greens.  check out this site here for other great spread ideas (just watch out for the dairy!).  ***candida safe if you use olives that were NOT packed in vinegar!

garlic & lemon

– garlic and lemon are one of the most easiest combinations – i bet you have these 2 things in your kitchen right now.  one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon is to lay the salmon on a baking sheet, chop up some garlic cloves, slice some lemon, and get a few sprigs of rosemary and lay these aromatics underneath and on top of the fish..  then drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  roast at 400F for about 15-20 mins and voila!  ***candida safe