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.

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.

i had an epiphany to give back!

when asked if there was a specific charity i know of and want to support, two places immediately came to mind: epiphany center and friendship house. many of my loved ones and close friends have recovered from an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. i know how hard it is to get sober! there have been times where i felt that without the support of my community, i would not have been able to start my walk on the path towards success. for example, i am not sure if i could have left my previous career to start the journey toward being an esthetician if i didn’t have my loved ones cheering for me along the way!

change is scary and deciding to address an addiction is not only making a commitment to change but also relearning how to interact in this world. for this reason, getting clean is much more than just putting down the alcohol or drugs – and these two programs focus on the human as a whole, versus solely the addiction.

epiphany center provides holistic care to those who are struggling by focusing on multiple types of growth: physical, social-emotional, intellectual and spiritual! they have a residential recovery program for women and their young children that provides everything from vocational training groups to auricular acupuncture. their goals, in their words, are simply: “to keep children safe, to strengthen parent-child relationships and to keep families together by reducing risk factors.” in doing so, they impact the future of our community.

 

friendship house association of american indians is “dedicated to stopping the cycle of dysfunction that has been passed down from one generation to the next”. they don’t see their clients as simply clients, but instead as family. they have an 80-bed residential facility that people can stay in for up to 6 months. during this time, they work to empower themselves through resume development, computer training, job training and housing assistance.

whether or not you or a loved one has struggled with addiction, it is evident that the goals these two companies have are commendable! the goal is to help treat the addiction to empower the human. interestingly enough, skinSALVATION has the same idea – help treat the skin to empower the human. a donation to these organizations expands their programs to reach a greater population in need.

if you would like to help, you can donate directly to the epiphany center or friendship house.

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 guide to natural skin care trends

– by kerry watson
with all the natural skin care trends that fill up our social media feeds each day how do we know which ones are safe for our acne-prone skin. here’s a quick list of do’s and don’t’s to help you navigate the world of fad fabulous DIY natural skin care.
DON’T
“natural” trends to avoid:
100% apple cider vinegar (ACV) or 100% lemon juice: these are both very acidic and can cause burning of sensitive acne-prone skin. there are safe natural ways to hydrate and tone the skin that won’t cause burning or breakouts and these are not them.
the oil cleansing method (OCM): unfortunately, most of the oils used in the OCM are cloggy. coconut oil is a super popular example. it happens to be highly comedogenic (pore clogging) so stay away.
essential oils on the skin: most essential oils have not been tested for comedogenicity (rate of clogging the pores, producing acne) so we suggest avoiding using these directly on areas that tend to breakout. also, essential oils are too concentrated to use neat or without diluting first and most of the oils used to dilute essential oils happen to be cloggy. safflower or sunflower oils are the only acne-safe ones that we have come across. so if you are using essential oils on your skin, dilute them first and only apply them to areas that don’t get acne. the one exception is tea tree oil which can be used undiluted as a careful spot treatment for inflamed acne breakouts. all you need is apply one drop on a q-tip and then dab the inflamed spot gently.
clay masks: these sound like a good idea for acne; they are drying, detoxifying and natural. unfortunately, they are way too drying and can cause too much blood flow to rush to the surface of the skin. this can increase inflammation and can damage the fragile capillaries that lay just beneath the skin’s surface. no clay mask until your skin is all cleared up and then only keep them on the skin for a couple minutes, never allowing the clay to completely dry out on the skin.
facial steams: another good sounding thing for acne-prone skin: opening up the pores, hydrating, detoxifying – nope, don’t do it! especially if you tend to suffer from inflamed acne breakouts. the heat from the steam will make the inflammation worse. think of putting a heating pad on a sprained ankle. it’s just going to make everything swell up. your esthetician might use steam during your professional acne treatment but only if your skin clearly indicates that it would be beneficial. nine times out of ten it’s not.
manual scrubs and brushes: when it comes to acne-prone skin, exfoliation is key but not all types of exfoliation are the same or even recommended for acneic skin. chemical exfoliation in the form of peel, active toners and serums can work wonders on acne prone skin. physical exfoliation in the form of scrubs and brushes, though fine for some, are not always a good idea for all. scrubbing sensitive inflamed skin with active inflamed breakouts is going to make the inflammation worse and can cause lesions to burst open spreading bacteria to other parts of the face.
not washing your face: if you are working on managing your acenic skin, you are going to have to use a mild acne-safe cleanser twice a day. not washing your face will allow dirt, sweat and oils to sit on your skin which may not cause issues for some folks but if you are acne prone you need a more attentive skin care regimen which will most definitely include cleansing.
DO:
“natural” trends that are safe:
manuka honey:  manuka honey or any nice raw honey is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. you can use it as a mask all over or just apply it to inflamed breakouts. leave it on or up to 30 minutes and then rinse off with warm water.
collagen powder: it’s a great daily food supplement for the skin. we wrote a whole post on it. check it out here.
rosewater: looking for a gentle hydrating toner for your sensitive acne prone skin? try rosewater or rose hydrosol. it smells delicious and it’s great for any skin type because it’s hydrating, calming and slightly astringent. if you are struggling to control or manage your acne you may need an active toner with exfoliating ingredients. rosewater is a safe bet for cleared up acne prone skin but it may not be the best choice for active acneic conditions.
icing: icing is the best way to control inflammation topically. just as we would ice a sprained ankled or broken arm, we can ice the face to bring down inflammation. inflamed acne can quickly be reduced by icing at least twice a day for up to 30 minutes at a time. in addition to it’s anti-inflammatory action, icing the skin creates micro fissures in the skin, that allow the active ingredients in skin care products to penetrate deeper into the pore where acne starts to form.