Monday, September 10, 2012

Self Care: Ayurveda

One of the best parts of my job is that it demands that I experiment with my own health and wellness. For the past two months I have been working with the very excellent Ayurvedic practitioner, Malcolm McQuirter, on caffeine and sugar addiction, and calming a restless entrepreneurial Vata-Pitta mind.
 Malcolm shares our office space and our work together has been incredibly useful so far.

I appreciate Malcolm's friendly and approachable style. I like that he is compassionate and non-judgmental, and that he breaks down complicated eons-old concepts into simple steps I can work into a modern life that doesn't always allow hours of time for self-care. He is open to what I eat (a combination of Primal Blueprint and Nourishing Traditions, with the odd scone here and there. Working on sugar addiction, remember?). He is helping me incorporate the things I love with the things Ayurveda can bring to the table to improve my health. (My favorite tip so far? Add a bit of cardamom spice to my coffee in the morning. It neutralizes some of the jittery effect of the caffeine and tastes like the Swedish coffee cakes my grandma use to make.)

I am gearing up to kick off a month-long kicharee cleanse with him next week. If my skin has a period of looking funky or my energy without my trusty morning cup of Joe is different the next time I see you, you'll know why. See you on the other side!

Interview with Malcolm McQuirter, Samana Ayurveda

Kirsten: Who do you like to work with? or, What kinds of people do you find yourself working with, and what issues do you tend to work through with people?

Malcolm: I like to work with all sorts of people. I tend to work with urban professionals who suffer from stress related illnesses in one form or another. The key factor in any form of medicine Eastern or Western is getting people to take care of themselves. Without that component, there won't be much progress in improving any health condition. 

Kirsten: What do you love about your work?

Malcolm: When a patient actually rounds a corner on their condition.

Kirsten: What is a typical session with you like?

Malcolm: A typical session involves checking in on how a patient is doing with recommended changes and looking for creative solutions when resistance or difficulties arise. This can take many forms depending on the particular needs on the patient. 

Kirsten: Any rate or package information you want people to know?

Malcolm: I am running a special: $250 for 5 sessions: Initial Consultation to review medical history. Report of findings to provide insight into your unique Body/Mind Type & Optimal Lifestyle Program. Three Follow Up sessions to help get started making impactful lifestyle changes.

Kirsten: Your one takeaway tip for health and wellness?

Malcolm: Its not what you do every once in awhile that determines your level of wellness but your habits. 
 Malcolm is an Ayurvedic Health Educator and Meditation Teacher  living in San Francisco, California. He has spent the last 15 years studying and practicing the best of Eastern and Western meditation techniques to better understand the Mind's role in healing.  His introduction to Ayurveda began by seeking relief from chronic insomnia that eluded Western Medicine. In addition to finding relief to his sleep disturbance, Malcolm discovered a profound worldview that integrated all areas of life. His practice emphasizes preventative medicine through diet and lifestyle, healing through exploration of the mind body connection and stress management to cultivate a powerful sense of well being. He has been a guest speaker and Ayurvedic consultant for Gaya Yoga CPH and KPH Yoga in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is available for Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultations and personalized meditation instruction. 

Appointments and information are available here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Michele Benza: Are We Image Obsessed?

I got this piece in my email this week from the wonderful local image coach and pilates instructor Michele Benza. I agree that we are all image obsessed. But we can mitigate the damage caused by unattainable media ideals if we slow down, take stock of reality, and ignore the fiction. Michele's advice is great:

Make the mirror your friend! Accept your body for what it is, zoom in on what is good and make the most of it.

You can read the rest of her article here: Michele Benza: Are We Image Obsessed?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

On Skin Reactivity

On Thursday I got a facial treatment from a woman who works in the town where I live. She does great work and I always love my sessions with her. Most days I leave with my skin looking fantastic. But around every fifth session or so, I have some weird reaction. Sometimes it's acne, sometimes a rash, and one time it was itchy, swollen skin that lasted for over a week and resolved into acne breakouts!

We have tried every combination of products, from her entire suite of things to her very patiently putting up with me bringing my own. She is incredibly talented and skilled and she has worked at some of the best spas in the world. (If she weren't so attached to being self-employed I would want to hire her myself.)  Anyway, last week's session was one of the weird ones. I can tell you I am literally broken out from forehead to chest all this weekend. You might imagine what a liability this is when my face is my billboard for my practice. But I don't blame Valerie in the slightest.

Your skin may or may not be as testy and sensitive and weird as mine, but if you do experience sensitivity challenges I want to throw out the possibility that you may have unexpected reactions sometimes, even if you continue using the same products as a session from which you walked out looking fabulous just last month.

While an adverse reaction can sometimes stem from something like allergy or improper product removal, there are also those times that a combination of other factors (such as stress, diet, hormones, weather) will result in reactivity.

I will write further in a future post about things we can do to avoid this, and what we can do to minimize the effects and duration if sensitivity does occur, but for now I wanted to post while it was on my mind.

And now I am off to apply more 302 Remedy Rx. Miracle product and I love it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Meet the Therapists: Alina

Hey Everyone!
After years of working in an office and feeling like I was not giving back to society, I decided to go back to school and get my license in Massage Therapy.

Why Massage Therapy?
Well, I lived in NY and constantly noticed how everyone had horrible posture from sitting down all day and I also noticed how NYers do not take time out for themselves to relax and see all the beauty around them. It is is a fast paced city and I feel like Massage Therapy is a way to heal the mind, body and spirit. And it was a way for me to do the same. I am a graduate of the Swedish Institute in New York. I am fully trained in Swedish, Deep Tissue, Sports Massage, Shiatsu and Reflexology. I recently moved to San Francisco and I am excited to bring that sense of wellness into this side of the country.

Alina gives an amazing deep massage. Life-changing good stuff. Her usual days at Apotheca are Tuesday and Saturday, with some other times throughout the week. Click here to book your session with her today!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Be Your Own Apothecary: Non-Toxic Deodorant that Actually Works

Apotheca products have always been free of Parabens and synthetic chemicals and fragrances. Lately there has been a lot of well-deserved terrible press about just how bad these ingredients are. So lately a lot of my clients have been asking for my recommendations of natural products that don't contain toxic chemicals but that actually work. You see, many well-liked faux-natural lines (such as that airport favorite that looks like a twee apothecary and whose name rhymes with "Bhiel's") have gross ingredients like aluminum and artificial fragrance. And your usual health food store deodorant may not have parabens or aluminum in it, but it also leaves many lovely ladies and gentlemen feeling. . . not so fresh.

I'm sorry, Tom's. I'm looking at you.

Our own k23 skincare makes a fab-smelling, sweat-stopping, Earth-saving deodorant/antiperspirant with shea butter, French cosmetic clay, and a host of ridiculously good-smelling essential oils. A steal at $15.95, it's redolent of an enchanted valley and makes you feel like raising your hand all day long, even when you don't know the answer.

But it's dead easy to make a perfectly serviceable product yourself with stuff you probably already have on hand. So, BEHOLD- my recipe for a super-easy deodorant:

Supplies needed:


SOMETHING TO STIR WITH (I like cocktail swizzles, but use what you've got.)

Ingredients needed:



ESSENTIAL OILS in a scent you like (something like this would give you a fresh scent with great antibacterial action)

To Make:

1. Melt some coconut oil in a double-broiler
2. Pour it into a jar and add enough baking soda to make a paste
3. Add a couple drops of essential oils if you like
4. The end.

Oh, you thought cosmetic formulation should be a touch more complex? Okay- here are longer directions for you, but really you are just fine doing the above. This isn't rocket surgery.

To Make, Complicated:

1. Make a double broiler (or bain marie, if you're feeling French and/or fancy) by putting your mixing bowl atop a sauce pan that you have filled halfway with some water.

2. Bring the water to a boil and as you do so, scoop out some coconut oil into the bowl. Eyeball it- you're talking maybe five tablespoons, depending on the size of your jar.

3. Heat the coconut oil until it is just liquified.  (Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. If it's a hot day and you happen to be starting with liquified coconut oil then you may skip this whole melting step.)

4.  Pour liquified coconut oil into your jar and add approximately 1/2 cup of baking soda to the jar. Mix well.

5. Add 5-10 drops of essential oils of your choosing if you are inclined.

Optional, 6: If you are a sensitive sort or if you have just had hair removal, the baking soda may sting a bit. If this is you, try substituting part cornstarch for part of your baking soda.

Et voila, you're done and you smell darned fine.

don't you just want to stop by an author event and start asking some questions?

Want more recipes? Check out our sister blog, SF Slow Kitchen: The Home Cooking Project, for more stuff to eat and stuff to make, for healthy beauty inside and out.

Monday, April 2, 2012

How Bugs Make You Beautiful

Think microorganisms are yucky little germs? Think again! Good "bugs" like probiotics keep the bad microbes in check, and this is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and healthy skin. The human intestinal tract is lined with bacteria – both good and bad. There is no question that intestinal health IS overall health, and you can't have one without the other. There is also no question that unhealthy digestion comes out in the skin. When intestinal flora are out of balance, we not only get constipation, bloating, and allergies,but also acne, reactive skin, and overall inflammation. Not a pretty picture.

Too many of us eat diets rich in processed carbohydrates and sugars. And too often, we think we are doing right by our bodies when we reach all too quickly for the antibiotics. I can't tell you how angry I get when I have clients with treatment-resistant acne come to see me for the first time and their medical histories show they have been on round after round of antibiotics to treat their skin. Talk about ignoring the cause and just slapping a band-aid on the problem. Only in this case, the band-aid actually makes the problem far worse. I don't blame clients for this but their dermatologists should know better.

One easy, cheap, and delicious way of restoring the balance of good to bad bacteria in the body is to eat a diet rich in natural probiotics. Probiotics are great in a supplement form (and I highly recommend them to clients with chronically poor diets and/or a history of frequent antibiotic use). But even simpler, probiotics come in some of the tastiest and easiest foods we can make.

For skin and body health, try to eat at least one serving per day of one of the following fermented foods:
  • Good yogurt (whole fat, organic, preferably raw, and definitely unsweetened. Even better to make it yourself.)
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Fermented soy foods (and only fermented soy foods): Miso, tempeh and natto
  • Kimchi
  • Real buttermilk from raw cream - easy to make and so delicious! (Recipe coming soon.)
To get you started, come on over to the Home Cooking Project for my recipe for the easiest raw sauerkraut ever.

Here's to good health and beautiful skin!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Wiggle, Jiggle, Glow

Let's talk about  dermal fillers. 
Better yet, let's talk about soup. And Jello.
Last year I read a book called Deep Nutrition, Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, by Catherine Shanahan MD and Luke Shanahan. Read my thoughts about it here.  
Here’s Dr. Cate on mineral-rich soup stocks for skin:
Better yet, let's have Jello.
“The highest quality skin care products contain the collagen-building ingredients your skin needs to restore itself. Even skeptical doctors agree that regular use of these expensive products can have impressive results.  However, skincare expert Dr. Dennis Gross, MD warns that it’s not an overnight solution.  “It takes time, molecule by molecule, to build collagen fibers.” Dermatologists advise patience and regular application to get anti-wrinkle creams in contact with skin as much as possible.  Why not also feed your skin from the inside?

If a cream containing two or three collagen-building nutrients can help your skin, imagine how effectively you could nourish and rebuild your dermal collagen if you ate a meal containing dozens of dermal growth factors. The nutrients in bone stocks switch the genes for collagen manufacture to “on.”  This effect is magnified by vitamins A, D, E and C, and a few common minerals.  Whether in a skin cream or your soup bowl, the same natural ingredients help you look young. But when you ingest them, you infuse all the layers of your skin, and all the other tissues in your body, with rejuvenating nutrients. “
According to Weston A. Price Foundation President and prominent nutrition researcher Sally Fallon Morrell, stock not only contains gelatin, it has “minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.”

Now, I will admit to being a regular consumer of that broken down material from cartilage and tendon. I take daily hyaluronic acid and silicon supplements for the health and hydration of my skin. They’re not cheap but they and a good skin care regimen work well to decrease the giant chasm that too many years of refusing to wear glasses has etched deep between my brows.  Still, nutrients from real food are always best since they work together synergistically in a way that isolated supplements never can. For the health of my skin, my hair, my digestion, and my overall body, I make and consume many quarts of mineral-rich, nutrient-dense, and delicious broth every week, for soup broth and as the base for sauces.  I also channel Betty Draper and make a great big jello-mold every week for snacks and kid lunches. Yes, gelatin is just powdered bone broth, without the savory flavor. And it’s actually a health food.

A good gelatin makes beautiful, smooth, cellulite-free skin.  It’s one of my favorite “beauty treatments” and it’s easy as can be.

My recipe is over at The Slow Kitchen.  What are your favorite “beauty foodie” staples?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Detox Not Botox Redux

Spring is here and that can only mean one thing: Apotheca's annual Detox Not Botox EVENT. (Okay, it's more of a series than an event but EVENT-all-caps has a certain advertising-lingo grandiosity, hasn't it?)

This is our third year of offering the package, and through the previous two we have talked to countless clients who report their skin, weight, and energy levels have improved until long after the program is over.

Here's what Detox Not Botox at Apotheca ISN'T:
  • It is not a cleanse or a fast of any kind
  • It is not a crazy diet or prescribed eating plan of any kind
  • It is not something that involves chemicals, fillers, or anything bad for you

Apotheca's Detox Not Botox is a hand-picked series of good for you treatments to lower stress, smooth your skin, get you into a regular movement practice, and just take care of you. In this reset button for springtime wellness you get:

  • One 60-minute detox facial treatment with lymphatic drainage facial massage

  • One 45-minute skincare for the back treatment with our amazing Swamp Dust detox mask, featuring Pacific coast seaweed, French green clay and an amazing blend of essential oils sure to banish back acne and get your skin glowing for Spring.

  • One 70 -minute massage for stress relief or Integrated/ deep tissue massage with full-body dry brushing

  • Two private yoga sessions

  • Our own delicious herbal tisane, custom-blended for the season and made from the highest quality organic nutritive herbs, for you to take home. 

To reap the full benefits of the program and to get a jump on your springtime wellness routine it is recommended that you complete your series within three weeks of beginning.

Regular price: $470. Package price: $423. Buy this package before March 15th for the reduced rate of $399!

Go to our secure booking page and select Detox Not Botox from the package drop down menu. 

For those of you who are doing your own springtime dietary reset, why don't you come over to Apotheca's brand-new sister blog Slow Kitchen: The Home Cooking Project to read all about Kirsten's crazy food-obsessed past, follow her adventures in radical dining in, get delicious whole food recipes, and share what you're eating and how you're feeling. There will be a really great giveaway on the Slow Kitchen blog next week, so be sure to join it today and stay tuned.

 Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” ~John Lennon

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ayurveda at Apotheca

I had a lovely conversation with one of my favorite regular clients this morning, about Ayurveda and specifically about Abhyanga massage. Our resident Yoga Teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner Karly offers some amazing work in this discipline and if you haven't yet tried it, now is a perfect time to come in, get warm, and get balanced.

What is Abhyanga? A warm oil massage that nourishes the skin, deeply relaxes the muscles and brings ease to the mind. Abhyanga is a traditional Ayurvedic massage modality designed to relax, rejuvenate and restore balance within the whole person. Tailored to each client's particular dosha, or Ayurvedic constitutional type, this is a wonderful stand-alone treatment everyone should try at least once. Book your session here.

What is Marma Point Massage? A traditional Ayurvedic style of massage which utilizes the body's vital points to promote healing and relaxation. Pressure, massage, and essential oils are used to balance of the flow of energy through the muscles, joints and organs of the body. Customized to each client's particular dosha, it makes an amazing addition at the end of a traditional deep tissue or stress-relieving massage, and is available as an add-on to these sessions for $25.

To make an appointment with Karly or to learn more about her Ayurveda services, visit our booking page here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Now is a Great Time to Renew Your Skincare Routine

We're in it! The new year. Our fluctuating Bay Area temperatures combined with holiday travel and lots of office time spent with heaters blazing can leave skin crying for attention. As the weather goes crazy (sunny, freezing, foggy, freezing, rainy, sunny? How do we keep up?) it's a great time to check in and review your skincare routine. Today I'll be talking a bit about the skincare step I see most often neglected and also most frequently overdone: Exfoliation.

Like I said, some of us may overdo it and some of us don't exfoliate at all. We all need modest exfoliation to dislodge dead skin cells, remove impurities and help the skin refresh and renew. But too much can not only sensitize the skin, it can also cause what we call "topical addiction." When the skin doesn't have to metabolize and renew by itself, it becomes lazy and reliant on over-use of product. It's a vicious cycle, and best avoided for the long-term health and beauty of your skin.

So how often is often enough? Once to twice a week at the most! No exfoliant is "gentle enough for every day." If your exfoliating product is as gentle as its marketing hype says then it isn't giving you any benefit. And if it is giving your skin cells a good dislodging then more than twice a week is too much.

Start your exfoliation routine with a gentle cleanser without acids (glycolic, salicylic, other AHAs), without granules (such as bits of apricot kernel shell and synthetic "beads"), and finally without synthetic colors, scents, or surfactants. We use 302 around here and we couldn't be more pleased. On opposite ends of the spectrum we have 302 Acne Cleanser ($26.10), a gentle but effective product for breakout-prone skin, and the 302 Sensitive Rx (also $26.10), also gentle enough for even the most sensitive/sensitized skin. We also carry products for oily and combination skins, as well as the more nebulous and highly coveted skin of the "normal" variety.

If you've been following along you get now that everyone with skin should add an exfoliating step to their skincare routine no more than twice a week. If you are using a gentle cleanser like the ones mentioned above, simply add a quarter teaspoon of plain baking soda to it and apply with a circular motion for two minutes. Effective, easy, non-toxic and dead cheap at roughly 3 cents per treatment.

Other effective and gentle exfoliants you may try at home are a weekly or twice-weekly yogurt mask (around $4.). Yogurt has lactic acid, which gently exfoliates as it moisturizes. Always use unsweetened, high-quality yogurt: low-fat for oily skin or full-fat for drier skin types, and add a touch of rice- or oat bran for extra gentle deep cleanse.

Lately my favorite exfoliant is our own Sweet Honey Weekly Mask ($22) from k23 Skincare. Its rich, raw honey base is intensely hydrating and anti-bacterial. Fig extract lends anti-oxidants for healthy aging, and papaya enzyme dissolves dead skin cells gently and effectively. Jojoba meal adds just the right kick for the rosy glow of healthy circulation. Add essential oils for balance and healing and you have the perfect weekly treat for your face.

For some of you, exfoliation will mean using your trusty rotating brush. I have one and I love it but I don't go crazy with it and neither should you. Definitely do not use the stuff that came with it. Invest in some quality skincare products (without synthetic scents, colors, and unnecessary fillers) and your skin will thank you for it.

What about acids? There is a time and a place for acid exfoliation, and unless your skin is quite aged and very hardy (and I am not addressing my 30-something clients here), that time and place is within the context of your monthly professional skincare treatment. More often than not, Apotheca skincare therapists will choose enzyme exfoliation in our professional treatments, since the majority of our clients fall in the 20 to 45-year-old range. If you do opt for acid products they should never constitute a daily part of your skincare regimen.

As with all things, under-doing is usually better than overdoing it. Treat your skin kindly and you will be rewarded with a glowing and healthy complexion, no matter what insanity the Bay Area weather may throw your way.