doing halloween the acne-safe way

it’s that time of year again, folks – time for pumpkins to adorn doorsteps, for witch memes to take up residence on our social media feeds, and time for a general frenzy among the holiday aisles of our local big box stores as we stitch together our last-minute halloween costumes. the air is a bit more crisp than usual, orange leaves dangle from the trees and everything seems perfectly pumpkin-spiced. halloween has arrived and it’s time to sink into this ghastly season with a few acne-safe survival tricks up your sleeve.

first, let’s talk halloween makeup. the costumes we choose, as the acne-afflicted, are often contingent upon the amount of makeup, goo and guache we are willing to cake onto our faces. if you’ve ever thought, “dang, i can’t be a zombie…there’s no acne-safe makeup out there for me,” you are not alone. but you’ve got more options than you think for making up a horrifically ghoulish acne-safe face.

  • makeup tip number one: your eyes and lips are your greatest assets. find a way to accentuate your eyes in interesting ways that compliment your costume so that you don’t have to go overboard with caking makeup onto the precious pores of your cheekbones. go with dramatic lip colors that make a spooky statement and fangs or creepy teeth!
  • makeup tip number two: work with what you’ve got. if you know that a particular brand’s foundation doesn’t cause breakouts for your skin, stick with it and find lighter and darker shades for contouring a coveted pale zombie look. use deep blushes and bronzers, pinks and browns to define a hair-raising style. we love youngblood foundation and alima blushes for these purposes, as we have tested them in house to be completely acne-safe.
  • makeup tip number three: choose your products wisely. cross-check your ingredients with our comedogenic ratings list, and if you have any questions about specific products, ask your esthetician for advice. most conventional halloween makeup is meant to stay on your skin through a night of running around and sweating beneath layers of costume, which means it is perfect for clogging your pores. right now we are digging fat and the moon’s lip paint and eye coals as face makeups for halloween. they are made with a sunflower oil base, so they may require touch-ups throughout the night or at least a good setting with some primer beforehand and youngblood mineral rice setting powder afterwards. you can paint your face the rainbow with their green, brown, black, blue, and red face makeups.
  • makeup tip number four: no matter how much you have to drink at your neighbor’s halloween party, remember to thoroughly remove your makeup before hitting the hay. use a couple rounds of your charcoal cleanser in order to ensure that all of your makeup has been extricated from your pores. you can even use some microfiber towels to really dig deep and remove any makeup that’s been hiding away for the night.

is candy gonna cause a breakout? we all know that sugar can be a major contributing factor to acne, as it causes blood sugar imbalances and stimulates a systemic inflammatory response. does that mean you can’t trick or treat yourself to a couple of orange-colored candies on all hallow’s eve? of course not! but we do recommend exercising some self control before diving into your kid’s trick-or-treating bounty after they go to sleep.

if you are concerned about your body’s potential inflammatory response to the sweetness of the holiday, take some omega 3-rich cod liver oil or some zyflamend for the week leading up to and following halloween (these are great supplements to take regularly, too). consuming anti-inflammatory food and drink can help your body adapt more readily to the onslaught of sugary toxins. so up your dose of greens: eat more kale and drink green tea, especially matcha, which is made from ground green tea leaves and contains more antioxidant properties to combat the sugar. always try to eat protein or fat with your sweets in order to curb blood sugar spikes.

 

if you do choose to indulge in halloween’s grand feast, certain candy is off-limits: anything smothered in peanut butter or dairy (the reese’s family, take five bars, any milk chocolates, peanut chews, candy bars with peanut chunks like snickers, butterfinger, etc). if you go the conventional candy route, opt for dark chocolate (preferably without soy products added) or fruit-flavored treats. better yet, choose organic candy like yum earth pops, equal exchange chocolates, unreal almond butter cups or annie’s fruit snacks.

looking for a candy-alternative to hand out to trick-or-treaters (so you don’t have the extra candy in the house)? try fake tattoos (always a hit), odd-shaped ugly fruit from imperfect produce, stickers, bubbles, snap bracelets or other small toys. it can be quite refreshing for kids to receive fun doo-dads instead of candy bar after candy bar after candy bar.

what about the highly anticipated pumpkin spice latte? even though this is a seasonal treat that many people dream about all year long, we recommend steering clear of conventional PSLs – it’s not worth derailing all of your hard work and skin journey progress just for a taste of spicy nutmeg atop a mountain of milky foam. plus, there are many alternatives out there to choose from. you can make your own at home – it just can’t contain coffee or dairy!

as for non-dairy pumpkin spice creamers, they are usually packed with sugars and gums and ingredients we don’t love, but two companies are doing it right. nutpods makes a delightful pumpkin spice creamer in addition to their original, vanilla and hazelnut flavors. because of their popularity, they can be difficult to find, but they are worth the search! vital proteins also has a brand new gingerbread spice powdered collagen creamer, which is fantastic in matcha lattes and morning black teas.

acne-safe pumpkin spice latte recipe
if you want to brave the kitchen and make your own, here is a recipe that we love. it’s creamy and delicious and will satisfy all of your naughty PSL cravings throughout the season!

ingredients
1 cup brewed base (strong dandelion root tea, roasted chaga tea, dandy blend, black/chai tea, matcha)
1/2 cup dairy-free milk (we like to do half coconut, half almond but you can use any nut, hemp or oat milk)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 T maple syrup to taste
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 T pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t ground ginger, 1/8 t nutmeg, 1/8 t ground cloves)

method
– whisk together all ingredients except for the base in a sauce pan over medium heat. once combined, pour milk mixture and brewed base into a blender and blend for one minute.
– if you’d rather use this recipe as a creamer to keep in the fridge, skip the heating step and blend all ingredients except for the base in a blender until creamy.

let us know what you think and happy halloween from the skinSALVATION crew!

the ins and outs of pcos and acne

pcos, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is complicated. it’s an endocrine condition that affects 8-20% of women of reproductive age worldwide1 and it is characterized by at least two of the following three symptoms: cysts on the ovaries, elevated male sex hormones and/or absent or irregular periods. pcos is a highly misunderstood condition whose symptoms manifest differently among women. many women with pcos gain weight while others have thin body types, some have acne and regular periods while other haven’t menstruated in months. because almost all women with pcos test high in androgens (male sex hormones), many symptoms include infertility, male-pattern hair loss, oily skin and acne along the jawline, and facial hair growth. these symptoms can be frustrating to deal with because they are persistent and can often make women feel like they have no control over their bodies. but these symptoms appear for a reason. and usually that reason is that our bodies are chronically stressed and something about our lifestyles needs to change. women with pcos are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism and cardiovascular disease, so acknowledging these signals from our bodies is key to keeping ourselves healthy for a lifetime. 

 

what causes pcos? 

  • genetics – while pcos is not a genetic condition, per se, predisposition to pcos can be passed down through generations. those who are exposed to higher androgens by their mothers while in the womb are also at greater risk of contracting pcos later in life.

  • stress – both physical and emotional stressors can contribute to pcos. some examples of physical stressors include over-exercising, eating foods you are intolerant to, not eating enough and constant blood sugar issues. many women who suffer from pcos are stressed to the max in their everyday lives – they take on extra work at their jobs, juggle familial responsibilities, endure harrowing breakups and family stress and then often criticize themselves for not working or trying hard enough.

  • blood sugar imbalances – this is one of the most common root causes of pcos and often stems from excessive intake of refined sugars and carbs, or the standard american diet. it often leads to weight gain and involves chronically elevated blood sugar. these blood sugar imbalances cause systemic inflammation in the body and directly influence the production of testosterone, which then inhibits ovulation and fertility.

  • over-exercising and under-eating – our society places a tremendous amount of pressure on women to look a certain way. many women internalize the pressure to be thin and spend years of their lives under-eating while engaging in excessive (usually cardio) exercise. high-intensity exercise always causes testosterone spikes, but they are usually temporary, subsiding when we refuel our bodies with calories. but when women exercise for too long without replenishing their energy stores, their hormone balance starts to suffer.

dealing with facial hair growth and acne

if you struggle with facial hair growth, you are not alone. this can be particularly frustrating if it accompanies hormonal acne – they often show up in exactly the same places along the jawline and chin. because of the cultural expectation that women maintain hairless faces, this type of hair growth can be embarrassing – but there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, there is no reason to feel shame, and there is no reason for you to change in order to appease the people in your life. having pcos is hard enough without having to navigate gendered cultural expectations.

if you are a client here at sS and you to decide to undergo laser hair removal or electrolysis, we just ask that you wait at least two weeks between those treatments and our acne face treatments – we don’t want to stress your skin out too much! if you have hair on your face that you want to remove by shaving, try the tinkle razor, which we sell in the clinic. these razors are more gentle than conventional razors. as for waxing, we don’t recommend it! the heat can be irritating to the skin and who knows what kinds of comedogenic ingredients are lurking in those waxes! 

if your doctor diagnoses you with pcos, they will most likely send you home with a prescription for one or both of two medications: metformin for insulin regulation and spironolactone for decreasing testosterone levels. it is entirely up to you whether you decide to take these medications or not, and whatever your decision, here are a few herbal, dietary and lifestyle changes to implement to keep pcos symptoms under control (and, as always, ask your doctor before making any major changes to your health plan):

  • two cups of spearmint tea each day has been shown to reduce free testosterone levels in women with pcos and has resulted in reduced hirsutism with none of the side effects of pharmaceutical-grade drugs.2 

  • 400mg of saw palmetto, a plant native to the americas, has been found to inhibit the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. the inhibition of this enzyme helps reduce the conversion of testosterone to dht, which is the male sex hormone that leads to oily skin, hair loss, acne and facial hair growth.3

  • balance out your blood sugar by reducing your consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates – ditch the morning cereals for eggs and greens; instead of a sandwich at lunch, try a salad with tuna or grilled chicken. and pasta for dinner? no way! zucchini noodles will do the trick. eat plenty of good fats and protein and aim for three square meals a day to get your blood sugar on track and to give your digestion a break.4 and supplementing with chromium picolinate has been shown to decrease insulin resistance in women with pcos.5

  • dial in your digestion. take a test to determine any foods you might not tolerate or try an elimination diet to get to the bottom of any digestive woes. this is hugely important because digestive distress is another physical stressor on the body that can ultimately contribute to elevated cortisol and testosterone levels. similarly, make sure your elimination is on track – we flush excess hormones out of the body through our stool, so eat your fiber!

  • practice stress management. this is absolutely huge. take up meditation, improve your time-management skills, see a therapist to work through emotional stress, start a gratitude journal – do what you can to reduce chronic stress in your life as this is often the root cause of pcos.

  • cut the coffee. this is a double whammy – not only does coffee contribute to acne, but it also elevates cortisol levels and contributes to systemic inflammation. instead, try green tea, which has a healing effect on the skin due to its high anti-oxidant polyphenol content.

  • ease up on the exercise. instead of intensive cardio like running or hiit several days a week, switch these out for yoga, walking or light swimming. this will give your adrenal glands a break and will allow your body to more readily recover from stress. 

  • sleep. give your body a chance to do its healing work by getting a solid eight hours of restful and uninterrupted sleep each night. try to make this a priority – this can have a huge impact on the health of our hormones!

  • find a support group near you to work through your emotions around pcos. it’s a tough condition to deal with so finding support in different areas of your life can be a huge relief. 

 further reference:

8 steps to reverse your pcos by fiona mcculloch

paleo for women

pcos diva

pcos awareness association

soul cysters

footnotes

1. sirmans, s. m., pate, k. a. (2014). epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. clinical epidemiology. 6, 1–13.

2. grant, p. & ramasamy, s. (2012) an update on plant derived anti-androgens. international journal of endocrinology metabolism. 2012 Spring; 10(2): 497–502.
3. hudson, t. (2008) polycystic ovarian syndrome (pcos). dec 8, 2008.
4. liepa, g.u., sengupta, a & karsies, d. (2008) polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos) and other androgen excess-related conditions: can changes in dietary intake make a difference? nutrition in clinical practice. 2008 Feb; 23(1):63-71.
5. rabinovitz, h., et al. (2004) effect of chromium supplementation on blood glucose and lipid levels in type 2 diabetes mellitus elderly patients. international journal for vitamin and nutrition research. 2004 May; 74(3):178-82.

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! 

acne-safe ice cream!

what’s the scoop on acne-safe ice cream?

summer is right around the corner, and with the hot weather comes the siren song of the ice cream truck! it tempts our collective sweet tooth with soft-serve and ice cream bars. if you’re worried that you might not survive an acne-safe summer without frozen treats, we’ve got you covered! back in february, ben & jerry’s added three new flavors to their acclaimed dairy-free almond milk ice cream line. this left us all wondering: are they acne-safe? can we finally eat a bowl of cherry garcia on a hot summer night without fearing an impending breakout? at skinSALVATION, we take frozen dessert pretty seriously! we read some labels and put ben & jerry’s almond milk ice creams through our rigorous ingredient-auditing. while the creative and iconic vermont flavors still shine in the new ben & jerry’s dairy-free ice creams, they all contain a few acne-triggering ingredients. here are the culprits:

soy lecithin (in all flavors) – while we encourage our clients to avoid soy as much as possible, we’ve found that soy lecithin in small amounts does not aggravate most acne-prone skin.

soybean oil (in coconut seven-layer bar and chocolate fudge brownie) – soybean oil is highly inflammatory, so we recommend steering clear of these two flavors as much as possible.

coconut oil (in all flavors) – it’s not the end of the world if you consume coconut oil, but try not to let it come in contact with the skin around your mouth.

carrageenan (in caramel-almond, coffee caramel fudge, cherry garcia and coconut seven-layer bar) – this is an iodine-heavy thickener derived from seaweed and the body flushes excess iodides out through the skin. for that reason, we suggest limiting your consumption of these four flavors.

and if you’re sensitive to gluten, stick with chunky monkey and cherry garcia – these are the gluten-free options!
before you run to the nearest corner store to nab your favorite frozen pint, we’ve got one more caveat: the sugar content of these ben & jerry’s products is a little high. even though an ice cream flavor named after a beloved hippie rockstar sounds irresistible, cherry garcia and the rest of these flavors contain higher amounts of sugar than other non-dairy ice cream products on the market (25g per half cup vs. 13g in coconut bliss, 12g in almond dream and 5g in jöne’s gelato). sugar and soy can negatively impact acne-prone skin (more on soy in a new blog post coming soon). we recommend treating these ben & jerry’s products as occasional indulgences and seeking soy-free options for your regular ice cream cravings instead. if you can’t resist, the winner of the most acne-safe b&j’s flavor award is chunky monkey – so choose your vermont’s finest flavor wisely!

if you’re feeling adventurous and want to branch out into the decadent world of acne-safe ice cream just in time for summer, here is a list of some of our favorite brands that pass the sS test:

– coconut bliss – the house favorite! a dreamy, creamy coconut base that surrounds fun flavors like cinnamon chocolate fusion and ginger cookie caramel (check it out here)

– so delicious – a carrageenan-free product line! watch out for coconut oil and soy lecithin in some flavors and then bask in this super sweet and texturally-authentic ice cream (check it out here)

– jöne’s paleo – this smooth and squeaky-clean paleo gelato can be found all over the sf bay area and in whole foods stores across california (check it out here)

– mr. dewie’s – an oakland-based mom & pop ice cream company that shies away from soy and gluten and opts instead to amp up the protein content of its creations with creamy cashews (check it out here)

– almond dream – these products also contain small amounts of carrageenan for thickening purposes, but they are delicious! watch for soy lecithin in the chocolate chips! (check it out here)

– make your own! the internet is full of dairy-free ice cream recipes featuring homemade nut milks, coconut milk and even hemp milk! use our pinterest page to guide your courageous culinary endeavors.

(if you want to link to actual recipes, here are a couple – i’ve never made them but i trust these people)
this post was created for you by diane.

celebrate skinSALVATION’s 9th birthday with us!

skinSALVATION is celebrating 9 years of helping empower people with the tools that they need to get, and keep, clear skin FOR LIFE. we would love for you to join us in our celebration on march 25th from 3pm – 6pm. we will have cocktails, an acne-safe and soy-free noodle bar from mau vietnamese restaurant, and hundreds of dollars of gifts from skinSALVATION, kabuki spa, mateo’s taqueria and more. come hang out with kim and the entire skinSALVATION crew and let’s have a great time!