Ktchn Apothecary – The New Fresh Skincare

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Mmmmmm fresh-made skincare you say?? That will get my attention every time! And that’s exactly what Ktchn Apothecary did.

Founded by Kevin Lesser, Ktchn Apothecary began by simply wondering what ingredients really comprise our skincare regimen? Per the Ktchn Apothecary website, standard skincare is made with up to 75% synthetics for shelf life – not for the good of your skin! Due to my own sensitive skin (and body…), natural skincare is something I’ve begun to delve into the last year, creating my own various home recipes. While I LOVE this method of delivering freshness to my skin, it did take some time, research and experimentation to discover what really works. These exact factors can easily make it intimidating to someone jumping into fresh skincare for the first time! Unless you or a loved one has a health issue that propels you into the natural world, we’re all so used to brand names and convenience that cooking your facial moisturizer isn’t likely to top your priority list.

That’s where Ktchen Apothecary comes in. The company aims to bring you a convenient, quick and user friendly method of delivering hassle-free freshness to your skin that you make fresh at home. MAKE. FRESH! Who does this? A skincare company that allows you to do such a thing…..yourself?? I had to find out.

I tried their Revitalizing Facial Cream which gets delivered to you in the most adorable packaging comprised of such fresh ingredients as a special blend of facial oil that smells like delicious essential oil, pure aloe, beeswax, oats (my fav <3) and a precious reusable beaker and whisk for mixing!

Through a combination of mixing the ingredients and cooking some in hot water on the stove, you have fresh facial cream in about 10 minutes that lasts you approx. 60 days. The texture is creamy and smooth, very hydrating. I keep mine in the fridge since summer is bringing the heat fierce in my house and it’s incredibly refreshing when I apply it to my face and neck.

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When I began this process, I was having what I would call your general “life breakout” (ya know – work stress, occasional unavoidable lack of sleep, period starting soon, perhaps a gluten free Sidecar Donut that I shouldn’t have encountered…all the usual suspects…) but I applied my facial cream morning and night for 10 days and had fantastic results. The natural ingredients agreed beautifully with my skin and I plan on using my cream for the entire 60 day life span until it’s gone.

I had SO much fun following the super easy instructions and cooking up my own beautiful product. I felt like a real chemist! Not only did I have a physical connection to a product I created, but I knew exactly what ingredients were in it. No fillers, no preservatives. Just fresh, legit skincare. The biggest takeaway I have from this experience is that the process was soย  e a s y! If you’re intimidated by the research that goes into fresh skincare, haven’t even heard of such a thing as fresh skincare, or simply don’t have the time for any of this, I recommend you give Ktchn Apothecary a try. Not only will you love the product but you’ll have the most fabulous time mixing up your own concoction in no time. Truly the most convenient foray into fresh, homemade skincare.

Let me know what your favorite skincare items or ingredients are?! xoxo

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Hot AF? Cooling Summer Strawberry Cilantro Limeade!

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Nothing like delish homemade strawberry cilantro limeade in this f*n HOT summer weather!

If you’re like me, you LOVE lemonade. But as I started learning more about Ayurveda for my intestinal disfunction, I found that lemons heat up your insides! Usually that’s helpful for digestion and elimination BUT for those with fiery pitta constitutions like me, we need limes. Although part of the citrus family, limes have a sweeter taste than sour lemons and a cooling effect on the bod. I’ve been drinking limeade lately which has been hittin’ the spot during my lemonade hiatus.

In today’s delectable concoction, I’ve added additional cooling ingredients for the ultimate summer refreshment. Cilantro cools the intestines, clears the urinary tract and refreshes the immune system. And for that sweet touch, summer berries like strawberries have a cooling effect on the liver and are packed with Vitamin C.

If you’d like to try this cooling summer summer bev, recipe below!

Summer Strawberry Cilantro Limeade

Ingredients:

  • Organic strawberries
  • Fresh organic cilantro
  • Limeade (start with 1 cup lime juice, add 1/2 cup filtered water. Add either 1/2 cup organic cane sugar (or preferred natural sweetener) OR for a sugar free touch add 5-10 drops Stevia to taste)

Directions:

  • Grab a mason jar or cup of your choosing
  • Wash and core 5-8 organic strawberries, mash them into the bottom of your cup/jar to your preferred texture
  • Fill jar or cup 3/4 full of limeade
  • Add splash of filtered water
  • Add a pinch of finely chopped cilantro
  • Add ice cubes if the day is hot AF ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Stir, pop in a straw and enjoy!!

What other summer fruits do you enjoy? Let me know what versions you enjoy!

 

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Steroid Injections for Pain – All Risk, No Reward?

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My outpatient bracelets for the procedure

I recently heard this intense story on NPR about patients who were dangerously affected by contaminated steroid injections administered as nerve blocks. At least 64 people died and about 700 more were seriously sickened, causing their lives to be changed forever. The tainted steroid compound was mixed at a Massachusetts pharmacy in 2012 with expired ingredients in unsanitary conditions.ย Barry Cadden, an owner of the pharmacy, is now on trial in U.S. District Court in Boston. He faces federal charges that include racketeering and second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty.

This story really struck me because last year I went through a series of steroid injections or “nerve blocks” for my chronic pelvic pain. The experience of the injections was really unsettling and I feel I wasn’t made as thoroughly aware of (or warned of) the side effects as severe as what happened to the patients mentioned above. I had a lot of feelings pre and post procedure(s) but the thought of having infected substances injected directly into my body is utterly horrifying. While I’m thankful I did not endure long term complications from my experience, I feel so thoroughly pained over what’s happened in the lives of these affected patients and their families.

I had no idea of a “nerve block” prior to my own experience with them so I wanted to share what I went through…

Post Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block Procedure with bandage at coccyx (forgive the photo quality!)
Post Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block Procedure with bandage at coccyx (forgive the photo quality!)

“Here, I’ll Refer You to a ‘Pain Management Specialist'” – Sounds great!

In June 2016, I found myself at the UCI Women’s Health Department. After being referred to Dr. Lane, a Uro/Gyno Specialist, I was then referred to Dr. Shah, a Pain Management Specialist, who was to “address” my pain. During my initial meeting with the very pleasant Dr. Shah, she seemed extremely certain that since nothing had been found on my tests and no diagnosis had been made, that my nerves must certainly be the culprit of my pain. She went on to explain that nerve blocks had been used to relieve chronic pelvic pain and that a Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block would be the most effective place to begin treatment. Every step along this journey I’ve been so hopeful of anyone with “an answer”. So many doctors have simply turned me away, perplexed at what I’m going though, so I would have jumped 100 miles at any opportunity for a diagnosis and cure. After leaving the appointment with Dr. Shah, I decided to go ahead with the procedure.

Procedure #1: Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block – This seems intense, but I got this!

One month later (the soonest available appointment for the procedure), I found myself slathered in antiseptic and face down on an operating table in a room filled with an x-ray machine, my doctor and a crew of fellows and assistants. For these nerve blocks to be administered, they offer no sedation, only topical anesthetic at injection site (Lidocaineย  1%). The Ganglion of Impar is administered at the base of your coccyx (right at your tailbone), you’re awake the whole time as the needle is guided into your pelvis by x-ray. The needle reaches to the center of your pelvis to administer a combination of numbing drug (Bupivacaine 15cc 0.25%) and steroid drug (Dexamethasoneย  10mg – anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, same class as infected meds from the NPR article) to remove inflammation in the area. Since you receive no sedation, you feel EVERYTHING. A fellow administered my injection while the doctor observed. Once the needle was slightly into my body I jumped from searing pain and the doctor quickly warned me to stay still as the positioning of the needle and efficacy of the procedure would be compromised. The pain was extreme, but I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and I breathed through it. The whole procedure took approximately 10 minutes.

I was told if the procedure had worked, I’d feel relief within 30 minutes to 24 hours of the procedure. Unfortunately, I felt no relief immediately after. I went home and alas, 24 hours later still felt no relief. I instead developed a whole host of other issues: a small rash around the injection site (red bumps that lasted approximately 10 days that the doctor believed was due to the bandage adhesive), a wicked yeast infection (which the doctor said was likely caused by the ingredients of the injection resulting in a PH imbalance) and tingling sensations running through my legs (instilling in me the fear of nerve damage) which lasted about a week.

Three months passed and my doctor told me since the Ganglion of Impar didn’t take, we could try a Pudendal Nerve Block. The pudendal nerve is the main nerve of the perineum, supplying sensation to the genitals and for pelvic muscle function – there are two separate pudendal nerves running down each side of the body. (*FUN FACT: Latin for “pudendal” is “parts to be ashamed of” – for real. Google it. One of the many historically sexist things I’ve learned about medicine which begs a whole ‘nother conversation about female sexual health and acceptance in modern culture. I digress…) Desperate for relief, I agreed to the procedure.

Procedure #2: Pudendal Nerve Blocks – Holy hell, what did I sign up for!?

One month later (again, the soonest appointment), I found myself once again, slathered in antiseptic and face down on the operating table in the same room with an x-ray machine, my doctor, and this time a room full of a different crew and different fellows. Again, a fellow administered my injection while the doctor observed. After my uncomfortable previous experience with the Ganglion of Impar Block, I requested an oral sedative prior to the procedure. They would not oblige and again, I only received topical anesthetic at the injection site (Lidocaineย  1%). Where the Ganglion Block was administered through the coccyx, the Pudendal Nerve Block is administered in two separate injections, one through each pudendal nerve running through each butt cheek – I did not learn this until day of the procedure. This time they injected the numbing drug (Bupivacaine 15ccย  0.25%) with a new steroid drug (Triamcinolone 20mg – synthetic anti-inflammatory cortico steroid).

As the first injection took place through my right butt cheek, I almost passed out from the pain. It was infinitely more excruciating than my previous procedure. I tried to breath through it – I could actually feel the minute tissues in my butt cheek ripping as the needle was being forced into my body. After the first injection was done I thought to myself “I cannot possibly take another one of these. I’ve got to get up and run away before the next one” then my doctor said “And now, the next one…”. I tensed my body and breathe/cried into the pillow below me for yet another excruciating 10 minutes.

After the procedure, I felt no relief. Mostly I was traumatized from having gone through the torture of the Pudendal Nerve Block. As every moment passed, I realized how inhumane it was for the doctors to not administer local anesthesia for this procedure (one of many torturous procedures I’ve had sans anesthesia). I had asked specifically for an oral sedative too and they did not honor my request which made me feel helpless as a patient. As the next week passed, I received no pain relief and one month later I met with my doctor for our follow up appointment. She informed me that since both nerve blocks didn’t take, there was nothing more she could do for me. No doctors note to give my employer, no referral to someone else who could help, not even a follow up phone call after our last meeting. Simply, nothing more she could do…

When Reality Hits You Pretty Hard…

Not only are these situations physically and emotionally painful, they’re financially painful as well. The cherry on top was receiving the healthcare bill in the mail for these experiences. On top of my growing medical debt pile, my cumulative $1,200 out-of-pocket cost for these procedures was more than I could afford and this is something that many Americans face. The patients in the NPR story have been tied up in litigation since 2012 and have not received a dime for their hardship. Family members have died, individuals have been deemed paralyzed/unable to live life properly and yet they still were expected to pay their out-of-pocket portions for these botched procedures.

The entire time I worked with my pain management doctor, she never really managed my pain. She never prescribed me effective oral pain medication (instead she advised a strict Advil only regimen and vaginal Valium suppositories, both of which didn’t touch the pain) and she administered the blocks which were supposed to relieve the pain but in the event that they caused more pain, she had no back up plan for me. I left this experience feeling completely deflated.ย  It showed me that most doctors are very limited to their specialties and our American healthcare system is not set up to venture outside the box to help you. The one and only good thing that came from this was my renewed sense of self-advocacy. You must fight for your health. When someone tells you no, you have to keep going until you find a yes. I have since journeyed my way through the grapevine of medicine and continue to find new avenues for my potential cure. I will continue this until I am back to 100% health and I implore you to do the same if you have similar experiences!

What To Do Next

If you find yourself in the position of considering receiving nerve blocks for chronic pain, I have two recommendations:

  1. Make sure that the pain you’re living with is enough to justify traumatic procedures. I was to the point where I had nothing to lose – death would have been better than continuing on with the pain. Frankly, the perfect candidate.
  2. DEMAND anesthesia or at least an oral sedative prior to procedure. Especially for the Pudendal Nerve Block since it’s two very intense injections into a very sensitive, nerve-rich area of the body that in my opinion is a crime against humanity to expect a patient, already in extreme amounts of pain, to endure even more unanesthetized pain AND THEN refuse to prescribe appropriate pain medication for post-procedure healing and comfort.

Have you had this procedure or a similar one done? What was your experience? Let me know!

-xo

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/24/511442863/victims-of-contaminated-steroids-still-hurting-my-lifes-upside-down

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#FreshStartFive Natural Skincare Challenge with Little Green Dot

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Honey Cleanser, Apple Cider Vinegar Toner & Sunflower Oil Moisturizer

Little Green Dot is my new recent fav discovery from Instagram. It’s run by natural skincare maven Militza Maury who crafts natural skincare recipes as an alternative to standard cleansers and lotions with questionable or toxic ingredients.

As an introduction to DIY skincare, Little Green Dot just launched the fabulous five day, email-guided #FreshStartFive challenge. The challenge was based around an A.M./P.M. routine of Honey Cleanser, Apple Toner and Oil Moisturizer that you prep at the beginning of the week. The most exciting part? Each day I received a new email in my inbox incorporating a different recipe to the routine!

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Day 1: Honey cleanser
The first step in the A.M./P.M. routine was to cleanse. I will admit rubbing honey on my face was suuuuuuper funny. I’d never done it before… But it smelled so nice and I rubbed it on my lips and was def snacking while cleansing! After finishing the A.M. routine, my skin immediately felt so clean, fresh, and most importantly, not irritated!

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Day 2: Glow Scrub

The recipe for step 1 of Day 2’s P.M. routine was so delish I almost ate it before I put it on my face! Honey, oat flour, rice flour and sunflower oil produce the perfect scrub texture. I went ahead and scrubbed my dรฉcolletage and back of hands too.

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Day 3: Soothing Oat Cleanser & Mask

We’re on an oat roll! And for good reason since oats are so calming to the skin. Day 2 was an oat scrub but Day 3’s P.M. routine mask called for oats mixed with water, adding honey to make a leave-on mask consistency. Yup, basically oatmeal with honey for your face! I personally know how helpful oats can be. For years I’ve dealt with eczema and keratosis pilaris and used Aveeno Active Naturals Oat Body Wash to soothe and soften, so I showered with the extra from this mask and it was so much better with fresh, natural ingredients.

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Day 4: Fresh Start Check In!

We’re nearing the end of the challenge and Day 4 was a day of taking stock. The A.M. and P.M. routines were the same as the first day: Honey Cleanser, Apple Toner and Glow Oil. But today, Little Green Dot encouraged research into natural beauty brands from around the world and compiled a FAB list to delve into. After all, ingredients and company message make a big difference in how your skin feels and where you choose to spend your $$, amiright?? As I’ve mentioned before, I have extremely sensitive skin, especially on my face. Searching for natural makeup and skincare brands has been on my radar for quite some time. I’ve recently been using products from two natural skincare lines I really like –ย  Ilia and Kahina Giving Beauty. The products are just lovely and have caused no irritation! Check out my recent blog post on which products I’ve been using and what I recommend.

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Day 5: Shower Workout Body Scrub

This delicious, muddy concoction is a body scrub. For the final day of the challenge, we’re taking it below the neck! This scrub is made of coconut oil, brown sugar and coffee (I may have added too much coconut oil – wait, there’s no such thing!). The active ingredient is coffee which activates the tinglies when applied to your body. Little Green Dot brings everything together by highlighting the importance of movement in life, even in your skin care routine! Little circular motions scrubbing your body gets the blood flowing and is great for circulation. In the shower this morning, the bathroom instantly smelled like a coffee shop while the pooling water at my feet legit became a cup of coffee … #indulgent

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#FreshStartFive Done!

I’m a fan! This challenge has been really enlightening. Having an A.M./P.M. routine for the week was a great intro to natural skincare. I truly feel that the base routine (honey cleanser, #acv toner, sunflower oil moisturizer) was as good OR BETTER THAN my standard beauty/cleansing products that I’ve been using. It was much less expensive and really didn’t take much time to prep. Especially after having the base routine prepped at the beginning of the week. The skin is the largest organ in the body so you’ll see benefits from head to toe by using more natural recipes. Instead of running to the store the next time you run out of body wash or face cleanser, consider peeking into your cupboard and creating a yummy, fresh and natural recipe!

 

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Purity On Your Face – Ilia & Kahina

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Ilia & Kahina Skincare Lines

I wanted to share an exciting skincare discovery. I have extremely sensitive skin, especially on my face which is really easily irritated by makeup, lotions or cleansers with heavy chemicals and unnatural ingredients. Over the years I’ve used (and loved) MAC, Clinique, Benefit and Origins liquid face foundations and bronzers until each one developed reactions with my face skin. Similarly, my cleanser, toner, and moisturizer game has not been on point… I felt for months my skin was missing the oomph and glow it had – even recently.

The past 2 years have been a journey to rid my body and daily routine of chemically altered, corporately owned product lines with mysterious origins and practices and replace them with natural products. After trying many natural skincare contenders, I have found a routine that I am in love with!

The Ilia and Kahina – Giving Beauty skincare lines have really revitalized my skin. Each are completely natural lines that focus on purity for the skin. Kahina – Giving Beauty specializes in argan oil and rhassoul clay from traditional Moroccan skincare recipes while Ilia touts certified organic bio-active botanicals that nourish and rejuvenate the skin.

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After cleansing, my daily routine is as follows:

  1. Kahina – Giving Beauty toning mist is the start. The aloe vera based mist cools and adheres to skin so it can completely absorb, and it does. It feels so refreshing and dries within a minute, which I then follow with my SPF moisturizer.
  2. Ilia Vivid Foundation – blend as base. Because this product is all natural, it lacks the binders/hardeners/drying agents we’re used to in traditional liquid foundation so the trick is to use a layer of Ilia Setting Powder with a fan brush. P E R F E C T I O N!
  3. Ilia Bronzer – final step! This loose powder has a rich, natural glow. Very attractive earthy tones that warm your face right up.

This coverage is so full that I often don’t even use under-eye concealer. And best of all, no skin reactions!

I’ve been using these products for about 6 weeks and I feel like my skin is recovering! Below are a couple shots in different lighting that show the coverage and skin quality.ย  I’m definitely a fan and will keep you posted on future products.


Do you use any natural skincare products? I’d love to know about them! Let me know below or @BlakeVmedia on all social media.

-xo

 

 

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What Even Happened? My Health Story….

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For years I’ve been uncomfortable talking about my health. I’ve felt confused, embarrassed, helpless, in shock and ashamed – until now.

2 1/2 years ago my life changed when I suddenly starting experiencing chronic pain in my pelvis and lower abdomen. It has since affected every part of my life, personally and professionally. I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences, this blog may become a platform for anyone dealing with similar circumstances to connect. I really look forward to gaining any insights from others too!

My entire life I’d been relatively healthy and super active. I swam, surfed, hiked, biked you name it. All with no problems until June of 2014. After an “off” time in my life, I had begun a really intense workout routine accompanied by a clean eating meal plan, determined to tone up. I pushed myself extremely hard for approx. 10 days when I suddenly felt a sharp pain within my pelvis. The pain was something similar to a UTI (urinary tract infection) and I thought it was not a big deal and would be fixed in no time. I went to the doctor twice in that week following the sharp pain and nothing was found, no diagnosis was made, and the doctors refused to “treat anything they couldn’t see”. Turned away, I simply lived with the pain for about a week until one evening I was home from work, standing at the stove in the midst of cooking a deliciously clean meal when I felt something burst in my abdomen. I instantly felt a heated shock run through my body. My abdomen became immediately swollen with excruciating pain. I could no longer stand yet sitting was utterly unbearable. All I could do was lie down.

This pain was nothing I’d ever experienced in my life. I couldn’t even explain the sensations happening in my body. Although I didn’t know what had happened, I would never have guessed my life was about to change so drastically.

From that day forward, I continued to experience variations of this pain every single day. I began a 2 1/2 year long journey of visits with doctors and specialists in every field, countless treatments and procedures with absolutely no diagnosis or explanation of pain to date, and racked up thousands of dollars in medical debt. The pain continued to shift in my body and created new symptoms and sensations. After countless times of responding to family, friends and doctors with “What’s happening to me is really weird. The pain is really hard to explain…”, I’ve had to focus on studying and analyzing the details of the pain to even begin to describe what I’m feeling.

I’ve come across some very disturbing encounters as well as some helpful tidbits during this time. The fact still remains that as of today, I am in that same boat I was in Jun of 2014 when this happened to me overnight – constant chronic pain with no cure in sight.

As defeated as I feel some days, I refuse to let this define me. Although it has affected every aspect of my life, I am now empowered with the idea of taking control, navigating this situation and bringing awareness to others who have been dealing with this alongside me OR educating those who have never heard of such a thing. I continue to live my life as positive as possible focusing on travel, fashion, music, fitness and the alchemy of wellness and happiness on the way to my cure.

This is a very brief overview of my story. There are much more posts, stories, pieces of information and advice to come. Have you experienced or do you know anyone with similar symptoms? Or if you have health stories you’d like to share, please do! You’re in fab company here.

-xo

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