What It Was Like Recovering From a Double Mastectomy (My Top Surgery Healing Journey)

Disclaimer: This article is written from my personal experience getting an elective double mastectomy. I do not, nor have I ever, had breast cancer and did not get my breasts removed because of cancer or the BRCA gene. I simply wanted my breasts removed and got them removed with a plastic surgeon (you can read more about my decision to get this surgery here).

While cancer patients may be interested in this article for healing purposes, please be aware that this article is written more with people who want their breasts removed for gender reasons in mind. I say this simply because I don’t want to offend anyone with the language I use in this article to describe my journey or my desire to get my breasts removed, so please keep this in mind when reading.

That being said, I am also not transgender and so transgender individuals reading this article, please also keep in mind that I didn’t get top surgery because I changed genders.

I am also not any type of health professional and am not recommending my personal healing protocol, including herbs or supplements, to anyone. I would always advise following your surgeon’s instructions for healing and following up with an herbalist or another natural health professional as you see fit.

There will be photos of surgical incisions, scars, blood, and bruises in this article. Please be mindful of any triggers you may have in regards to trauma, body dysmorphia, etc. before continuing to read this post.

Also, this post is going to be long!

So here we finally are! I’m almost 13 weeks post-op as I’m writing this. I got my breasts removed via a double mastectomy with a plastic surgeon on November 23, 2020.

I wanted to post a longer, more detailed article about my recovery journey because when I was looking for information about top surgery it was hard to find all the details I needed to feel “prepared” for my surgery (put that in quotes because I feel like you can’t ever really be prepared for something you haven’t experienced).

Don’t get me wrong—some of the videos and articles I saw were super helpful. I’m just posting my experience in the hopes that it could also be helpful to someone else recovering from this procedure!

While this article won’t be a day-to-day guide, it will be a week-by-week guide up until week eight post-op. I will also continue to update this post as I heal throughout this year with photos and any other information I feel belongs here.

Before I begin with my week-by-week process, I have to say one thing: I am SO happy that I got my surgery at the time of year that I did. There are a few important reasons for this:

  1. I got my surgery at the end of November, and it’s cold where I live in November. I could not imagine having gotten this surgery done in the summer when it’s nice outside and I would have been moping about all the things I couldn’t do. It was the perfect time of year to cozy up on the couch with my husband, watch movies, and eat toast. I’m convinced would have been miserable if I had gotten this surgery done during warmer weather.
  2. My binder after surgery was super tight and itchy and horrible and I felt that if it was warm outside, I would have been more sweaty and irritable with that thing on. As it was, I was already so irritable with it that when I texted my husband after my post-op appointment to tell him that they had taken the binder off and the drains out, he sent me an emoji of a sweaty face (like he was nervous about what would happen if I came out with my drains still in and that binder still on, ha).
  3. I got my surgery done the week of Thanksgiving, which gave me a perfect excuse to not see anybody for that holiday (I wouldn’t have seen anyone anyway, but still, it was nice to have an excuse).

So now that you know why I’m happy I got my double mastectomy done in November, here’s my healing journey (there is also a scar salve recipe and some FAQs at the end!).

Table of Contents

But First, Some Before + After Pics

There will be other pictures in this post, but here are my before and after pictures:

Before (taken in a parking lot sometime in 2010, don’t ask):

Don’t let this too-small neon purple push-up bra fool you—my boobs didn’t actually look like this. In fact, my surgeon used the word “deflated” in my case notes when he described my breasts (thanks, doc!). They were between a 34 D-DD size.

After (taken February 2021):

Now I have about 14 inches of scar tissue where my breasts used to be. It may sound weird to some, but I am so much happier without my breasts and feel like this is “me”.

Herbs and Supplements I Took to Help My Healing

Before we get into my week-by-week journey I want to start with what I took to heal so that my week-by-week healing journey will have more context for you.

I worked with my herbalist to incorporate some herbs into my usual herbal routine to help me better heal after my procedure. Although I can’t recommend specific dosing or what herbs would be best for you, this is what I took:

  • Arnica. My herbalist recommended homeopathic arnica tablets taken just before and after the surgery (I took them for about four days after the surgery).
  • Calendula. I added one tablespoon of organic calendula flowers to my herbal broth that I drink every day for about two months post-op.
  • Comfrey. I added one tablespoon of organic comfrey to my herbal broth that I drink for three weeks following the procedure.
  • Horsetail. I added one tablespoon of organic horsetail to my herbal broth that I drink every day for about two months post-op.
  • Violet. I added one tablespoon of organic violet leaf to my herbal broth that I drink for about two months post-op.

I had to stop taking my ginger infusion, stop eating any garlic, and stop taking fish oil supplements before the procedure and had to avoid them for two weeks following the procedure (I didn’t avoid garlic for that long, that just wouldn’t have been humanly possible for me).

As I likely have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), my body is also pretty bad about healing and I scar easily, so I was taking hyaluronic acid (40-60 mg a day) and collagen supplements for my skin and for healing. I’m currently still taking these. Please keep my potential EDS diagnosis in mind when looking at my scars 🙂

I also drink an herbal broth every day that contains burdock, chaga, astragalus, dandelion root, codonopsis, reishi, shitake, and garlic, so I’m not sure if all these babes helped me heal or not (this was the broth that I added my calendula, comfrey, violet, and horsetail to).

Medications I Took

I HATE taking medication and will avoid it at pretty much all costs. However, I did take the medication my surgeon prescribed because I wanted everything to go smoothly after the procedure.

I know this sounds weird but I don’t know if I really NEEDED these medications, it was just hard to tell how much of a difference they made. But these are the ones I took:

  • Celecoxib. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. I took this for one week following my surgery.
  • Gabapentin. This is an anticonvulsant drug that also can treat nerve pain. I took this for one week following my surgery.
  • Tylenol. I took OTC generic Tylenol for one week following my surgery.
  • Zofran. HOLY SHIT I would never want to take this anti-nausea medication again! I’m pretty sure this medication, in combination with the drugs they used in my IV, made me constipated.
  • Nausea patch thing. I don’t know what this is called but I had to put it behind my ear 12 hours before the surgery and took it off later that night. It made me nauseous.

I think what surprised me about these meds is that a) I’m not sure if they really helped and b) THOSE NAUSEA MEDS MADE ME FRICKIN NAUSEOUS! The only thing the nausea meds did that was helpful was prevent me from actually throwing up (I did not throw up once).

I did not have to take any narcotic medication because my surgeon injected some sort of numbing stuff into my chest after the surgery, which we agreed on prior to the procedure. I paid extra for this. I really wasn’t in any pain which was surprising!

So now my week-by-week healing!

Week One

That first week was the worst. This is what my binder and drains looked like (this picture was taken as we were leaving for the plastic surgeon’s office to get the binder and drains removed one week after my surgery):

I was crazy nauseous and panicked when waking up from the anesthesia. My anesthesiologist never told me I was going to fall asleep while I was in the operating room, so it felt like I was awake and conscious one second and the next, I was waking up in a dream.

I don’t remember much of this but I remember telling the nurses “I can’t breathe!” over and over again, probably because my binder was so tight. I remember someone saying, “You are breathing”. This was after the procedure.

Later, my husband told me that the nurses told him they gave me Valium to calm me down, which was awful. I don’t remember hardly anything of leaving the hospital outside of flashes of nurses dressing me and feeling the cold air of the parking garage.

At home, I slept most of that day and was super out of it. I was nauseous for three days following the surgery (with the first two days being the worst). I was able to type and start working the day after the procedure (I freelance write full-time), but I only did a little work and mostly rested and slept.

I wasn’t able to reach anything or do much of anything at all. I wasn’t able to bathe or take care of my bunnies. Getting out of bed by myself was almost impossible. I was upset and didn’t want to see people, I felt gross and weird and not like myself. I slept propped up on pillows to help my chest drain better. Sleeping was surprisingly easy; I was knocked out every night.

A few days after the procedure I began having strange buzzing sensations and sensations of almost stabbing in my chest. They were brief but still felt really weird. My chest was mostly numb and I wasn’t in any pain really, but I was uncomfortable because the binder was so tight and the drains became sore and itchy by the end of the week.

I was also constipated from all the drugs they put in my IV which was frickin awful! I wish I started taking flaxseed or chia seeds a couple days before my procedure, but I thought since I wasn’t taking narcotics that I wouldn’t be constipated. That was a mistake!

Week Two

After getting my drains out one week after the procedure, I felt so much better. I was much less nauseous, able to reach more, and began taking care of my bunnies (although I wasn’t able to fully care for them and so relied on my husband to help).

This is what my chest looked like after the binder came off (it’s gross, sorry, at this point I hadn’t bathed yet):

Also, I love how my surgeon wrote L>R on my chest, because my left breast was bigger than my right one.

Reaching, lifting, and twisting were still difficult, although I was still able to type on the computer and work. I wasn’t able to cook or do much still. It was really weird seeing my new chest and feeling like the procedure was more real.

I still wasn’t able to wear regular shirts and so needed to wear capes and button-down shirts which was annoying. I really just wanted to wear a tight t-shirt and show off my new chest. I was able to sleep flat on my back and took the binder off halfway through the second week, as I felt I didn’t need it anymore (although my surgeon told me to wear it for at least one more week).

I also began having arm pain during my second week. Every morning when I woke up my arms were numb, but it went away as I moved around. This was a little alarming.

One surprising thing was how tight the skin on my chest was. I did tell my surgeon that I wanted everything to be tight, but every time I tried to stand up straight, it felt like my skin was pulling from my neck all the way to my abdomen. It was really weird and uncomfortable. I was a little alarmed by this, but fortunately, it got better as the weeks went on and now I don’t even really notice any pulling in that area.

Week Three

The surgery still doesn’t feel super real three weeks in. I was still processing it. I’ve shown friends my surgical scars, but my family didn’t want to see them (now I know why so many transgender individuals have wanted to show me their new chests—I really just wanted to show people my new chest!)

It hurt my feelings when my family didn’t want to see it. If someone wants to show you their new chest, just let them unless you feel it would do massive phycological damage to you.

This is what my chest looked like during the third week:

I was able to drive at the end of week three and became fully able to take care of my bunnies. Lifting and twisting were still difficult. My arm pain continued throughout week three, but I was able to lift heavier things like grocery bags. The Steri-Strips my surgeon put on at my post-op appointment have mostly come off at this point and I’ve begun using my scar salve (we’ll talk about that in a bit).

I was taking comfrey and horsetail in my herbal infusion but discontinued using them at the end of the third week. However, I did still take violet and calendula in my broth.

Week Four

Emotionally, I was still coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have breasts. The surgery still doesn’t feel real in so many ways. During week four after my Steri-Strips came completely off, I noticed that there were still some stretch marks above my incisions from my breasts. I’m mad that the surgeon and I didn’t discuss this and mad that my drain holes appear to be scarring.

Fourth-week photo:

I’m using my scar salve nightly and putting Covidien bandages over my scars to keep the salve on overnight. I’m able to do everything I was doing before the surgery except for lifting weights, yoga, and running. I’ve been walking for exercise but that’s it.

I can vacuum and mostly get in and out of t-shirts. I’ve been sleeping well. I can sleep on my side for only a few minutes without it getting uncomfortable (not sure if this is because my incisions go so far into my armpit area). I’ve been mostly sleeping on my back during my healing process.

I’m still having arm pain in the mornings and my underarms are a little numb. I have had a couple days without this during this week. After researching online, it appears to be nerve pain from the surgery and should go away in time.

Week Five

I’m feeling pretty good about things five weeks in, but I’m still getting used to my new chest. The scars are really visible and taking their shape. My arm numbness/pain has been much better, but I still have trouble lifting really heavy stuff.

I can get in and out of t-shirts fairly easily but I do have trouble getting in and out of tighter shirts by myself. Towards the end of this week, I did a really short jog and a few long walks, it felt great to be doing some of my normal stuff again. I could even sleep on my side for brief periods of time without my incisions hurting.

I feel optimistic about my scar salve but towards the end of this week, I started developing a bad rash around my incisions. I thought it was from the scar salve but I found out it was from the Covidien bandages I was using. I have discontinued them.

Week Six

By week six I’m feeling pretty upset that my stretch marks are still there and that the surgeon and I didn’t talk about this. I’m still getting used to the way my chest looks and slowly feeling more and more like I don’t have breasts. That’s been one of the most surprising things about having this surgery—how it didn’t even feel like my breasts were gone afterward. I’m not sure how to explain that.

The rash took a turn for the better and is starting to look good. While the rash was healing I didn’t use anything on it except organic rosewater. By the end of this week, I’ve started using my scar salve again. Instead of using Covidien bandages, I instead sleep with a clean old t-shirt on to prevent the oils from the salve from ruining my sheets and comforter.

I can sleep on my side without it hurting much. The arm pain is mostly gone but returns intermittently. It’s a weird numb and aching feeling, mostly underneath my arms extending between my armpit and my elbow, and mostly on my left arm (my left breast was bigger so not quite sure if this had anything to do with it).

Week Seven

I went back to work at my job in DC (I work on-call at a women’s homeless shelter in addition to my freelancing work) during week seven. More people have been finding out about my surgery; it feels weird to share what used to be my deepest secret (that I hated my breasts) with people. Upon hearing that I’d gotten my breasts removed, most peoples’ initial reactions were horror.

“Oh my God, do you have cancer?”

“Are you ok?”

“What happened??”

It was, I have to admit, pretty entertaining to watch my coworkers’ expressions change from horror to confusion to the realization that I didn’t have cancer, I just hated my breasts. The ending line was always “As long as you’re happy.”

Thank you, Mary, Allison, and Jaynada, I am happy!

Anyway, during week seven, I’m still feeling weird about my stretch marks. I just wish I had been prepared for the fact that they would still be there. My rash is completely gone, which is good, but there are still some purple marks on my skin where it was. It takes my skin forever to heal!

I’m using my scar salve every night with just a t-shirt to go to bed. I can sleep on my side without much pain, and my arm pain is completely gone. I even went for a 1.5-mile run this week and I’m feeling good. I can get in and out of t-shirts easily, but tight clothes are still a little difficult for me to manage.

Week Eight

So week eight, there’s not much to note. My rash is gone but still some marks where it was. I have no arm pain. I’m continuing to exercise more, although I still have a little trouble getting out of tight shirts.

I’m feeling better about my chest in general and starting to accept my stretch marks. I’m feeling a little more each day like I don’t have boobs.

I’ve been lifting heavier things and have some mild pain when doing so. Sometimes when I wake up, my incisions feel sore. Twisting my body is difficult. At the end of week eight, I began doing yoga and weights again. Surprisingly, the hardest part has been lifting my arms over my head. I can feel the skin stretching in a weird way, almost like my incisions are pulling apart (this is the sensation I talked about in Week Two). It’s not painful, it just feels uncomfortable. I’m guessing this will go away with time.

My surgeon also told me before my procedure that my chest wall (whatever that is) was extremely asymmetrical and that he couldn’t fix that, so my chest would have an unusual shape after the procedure. I’m certainly noticing it more as I heal, but I actually think it’s adorable and it makes my body really unique (if I can get a good picture of the asymmetry and its effect at some point, I’ll update this post with it!).

My Magical Scar Salve

So I’m still figuring out how magical this scar salve really is, but I have high hopes for it. My herbalist Mischa Schuler at Wild Carrot Herbs assisted me with enhancing this recipe for scars and stretch marks.

  • 8 tablespoons herb-infused olive oil (I used a mix of organic violet flowers, arnica, comfrey, calendula, and yarrow)
  • 5 tablespoons rosehip seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons moringa oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea buckthorn seed oil
  • 2 teaspoon vitamin E oil
  • 2 tablespoon beeswax
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa butter
  • 24 drops helichrysum essential oil
  • 16 drops lavender essential oil

It was really fun (but also really expensive) to make this salve. I’ll post updates as I see how it’s working, right now, all is going well but it’s too early to tell if it’s helping my scars and stretch marks. It made enough salve for me to use for a long time, I’m expecting it will last me a year with daily use, if not longer.

For scar management, I’m exclusively using this salve and didn’t use the silicone strips my surgeon recommended. I just wanted to go this route; it’s a personal preference. I just massage the ointment into my chest scars every night and put a clean t-shirt on and hop into bed.

FAQs About My Top Surgery Experience

How Did You Choose Your Surgeon?

As a Cancer and an empath, my relationships with people are very important to me and I am easily affected by people’s attitudes and energy.

I chose my surgeon because he was very experienced and I had an initial positive experience with his practice. He has almost 20 years of experience doing breast surgeries, including mastectomies. I didn’t choose him because I loved his personality. But he did spend an hour with me during my initial consultation, and invited me to return for a second consultation just to be sure I still wanted to continue with the procedure and to answer follow-up questions.

I’ve seen a lot of transgender and non-binary individuals say they are embarrassed about showing their breasts to the surgeon. It is awkward! I mean, you’re exposing a part of your body that you hate to a complete stranger. Of course, I didn’t like that part of the consultation (or the part right before the surgery, when the surgeon draws on and around your breasts) but unfortunately, it’s part of getting top surgery.

For the most part, I had a positive experience with my surgeon although, in a perfect world, I would have chosen a surgeon I felt really connected with AND was super experienced.

What Questions Did You Ask During Your Consultation?

I asked so many questions! Here’s the list of the exact questions I asked:

Will all breast tissue be removed?

Do you have experience with aesthetic flat closure?

Can I see pictures of before/after with no nipples?

Will the surgery reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Recovery time?

Risks/complications?

Will my breast tenderness with periods go away completely?

Will I get liposuction around breasts to prevent “dog ears”?

Will I have drains?

Are there any long-term effects, for example, I like to exercise, will I feel pain when running/lifting weights/yoga?

What happens to my breasts once they are removed? (do you keep them/use them for research, can I keep them, etc.?)

If I get pregnant, will there be any breast tissue left that would produce breastmilk, swell, or affect my chest/surgery results?

Do you offer financing?

Does the estimate (price) include follow-up appointments, post-op procedures such as drain removal?

Will I be able to go home the same day? How long will surgery take?

What type of anesthesia will be used?

How exactly will the surgery be done (incisions)?

Where will my scars be? What shape/size will they be?

What can I do to help scars heal?

Will I need revisions? What percentage of your patients ask for revisions? What is the pricing for revisions?

Am I at higher risk for seroma? What percentage of your patients experience this?

What needs to happen before the procedure? Bloodwork? Letter?

Here are the questions I did NOT ask but SHOULD have asked:

Will my stretch marks still be there after the surgery?

I didn’t ask this question and REALLY wish I did because I didn’t realize that I would still have some stretch marks around my scars and my surgeon and I never talked about this.

You REALLY have to be proactive and advocate for yourself and ask every single question you can think of. It really sucks, but you CANNOT expect your surgeon to tell you these things. You have to ask even if it seems like a stupid question. There are no stupid questions, especially not compared to how dumb you’ll feel after the procedure is over, and wham! There are your stretch marks.

Don’t feel like you’re bothering them with all your questions and if they make you feel like you’re bothering them, find another surgeon. You (or your insurance company) are paying this person thousands of dollars to do this very important and sensitive procedure—you deserve to know every detail and inform yourself of the process!

Will the drain holes leave scars?

Didn’t think to ask this but there were actual holes in my body where the drains were (one hole on each side just under my incisions). It’s still early on in my healing process but it looks like they will scar.

A pic of one of my drain holes taken a week after the surgery:

How long will my scars be?

This is a specific question and although my surgeon and I had several conversations about where exactly my scars would be as far as how far up they would be on my chest, we didn’t talk about how long they would be. My scars are pretty long and extend to the very end of each armpit. So I have two scars, one for each breast, that are seven inches long each, which is about 14 inches of scar tissue.

Can I purchase my own binder for after the procedure?

I didn’t know to ask this and ended up getting charged $200 for a binder that cost $28.50 online (from the same exact website the surgeon ordered it from). The surgeon’s office refused to refund me the difference (and they were rude about it).

Did You Need a Letter to Get Top Surgery?

No. For those who don’t know what this is, this is a letter from a therapist stating that you want the surgery for gender-related reasons and that you have documented gender or body dysphoria. Even though I’m not transgender, I was a little surprised that my surgeon didn’t require a letter prior to my surgery. All he asked was that I come in for a second consultation before actually scheduling the surgery. He also didn’t require any blood work prior to the procedure, which was a little surprising to me too. The whole thing was relatively easy as far as my feelings being validated and the surgeon being willing to do the procedure.

How Did You Pay for the Procedure? Did Insurance Cover It? How Much Did It Cost?

Since I am not transgender and it was an elective procedure, my insurance did not cover any of my surgery. I had to pay a facility fee, a surgeon’s fee, and an anesthesia fee out of pocket. The total cost of everything was $11,225.

I could have went through the process of finding a therapist and getting myself documented as non-binary, but this would have taken at least a couple years and I’m still not sure if the insurance could have covered the procedure. I’m not sure how well that would have worked out since I don’t really consider myself a certain gender, and I present as female for the most part.

While I technically had the immediate funds to cover my procedure, I didn’t want to drain my disposable funds and so instead opened up two new lines of credit to pay for the procedure. I have good credit and got approved for two credit cards, one of which offered 15 months interest-free financing and the other 20 months.

So I paid for the anesthesiologist upfront (which was a little over $1,000) and my down payment for the surgeon (which was $1,000), but then put the rest on these two credit cards, so now I have 15 and 20 months to pay off the balances interest-free, which is great (I would highly recommend this option to people who have good credit and are looking for a way to pay off a large balance interest-free, I’m SO happy I found out that I could do this! Here’s an article about it in case you’re interested).

ALSO I had to pay for my breast tissue to be tested for breast cancer after removal. This was something my surgeon required. The cost of that was over $2,300, but fortunately, insurance covered a lot of it, so I ended up having to pay $650 in addition to the $11,225.

How Long Did You Have to Take Off Work?

So I took off seven weeks from my on-call job in DC at a women’s homeless shelter and I only took off one day of writing. I was writing in bed the day after the procedure: freelancing life! I probably didn’t need to take the full seven weeks off of my DC job, but I wanted to be safe and that job can be unpredictable as far as things happening on the job, so wanted to be sure I would be recovered enough to handle anything that might happen. If I had a standard office job, I would think taking off at least a week (more like 10 days) would be appropriate. If I could have, I would have taken a full week off of everything to do nothing but watch movies and eat toast.

How Long Until You Were Able to Drive?

I drove at the end of week three but felt like I was probably ok to drive at the three-week mark.

How Much Pain Were You In?

Not much pain at all! My surgeon used some type of numbing stuff (I don’t have the name for this, sorry) which prevented me from having to take narcotics at all. I only had to take Tylenol for about a week and that was it. Of course, my surgical site was sore, but as far as actual pain, there really wasn’t any.

What Was the Worst Part of the Surgery?

There were three parts of the surgery that I felt were “the worst”, but the primary one was the nausea. I was intensely nauseous for two whole days following the surgery, and it finally started getting better on the third day. However, I’m prone to motion sickness and nausea in general, and I found that my nausea was worse in general in the weeks following my surgery.

The other two horrible parts were:

  • The drains. My drains were in for seven days and as my chest slowly became less numb and was healing, the drain holes felt itchy and irritated and every time I sat down they just felt like they were tugging and it was awful. I was SO happy to get those out at my seven-day post-op visit!
  • The binder. I was really dreading wearing the binder. It was pretty awful. Fortunately, I only wore it for 10 days, and it was very tight for the seven days following the surgery until my post-op appointment. After that, I got to take it off to shower and only wore it for another few days after that. I really just felt like I didn’t need it after the 10 days. I’ve heard other people say they have to wear it for six weeks—I wonder if this just has to do with whether or not you get nipple grafts?

Why Didn’t You Get Nipple Grafts?

This is a really personal question but it has a simple answer: I didn’t want to. All the years I had envisioned my chest without breasts, I imagined it without nipples too. I didn’t even know nipple grafts were a thing until I got older and learned more about top surgery. My nipples weren’t important to me and I chose not to keep them.

Why Did You Get Straight Scars Rather Than Following the Pectoral Line?

My surgeon wanted to follow the pectoral line for the scars but I told him no. That wasn’t what I wanted. I felt that it would have given my chest a more masculine appearance, and since I’m not transgender and didn’t want to appear more masculine, I opted for straight scars. My surgeon said straight scars like mine are more of what cancer patients who get double mastectomies get. That’s not the reason why I wanted it, I just felt that aesthetically they were more pleasing to me. I’m very happy with my decision to do this!

How Long Did You Need Someone’s Help After the Surgery?

I’m sensitive to medication was extremely nauseous for two whole days following the surgery even with taking two kinds of anti-nausea medication (read that again). After that, I felt more capable and aware, but not enough to fully take care of myself. I’m also a bunny mom and was not able to fully care for my bunnies until about two weeks post-op.

In my experience, having someone there until you get your drains out (which is normally seven days following the procedure) is necessary. At least, this was the case for me. If you can’t get someone to stay with you for the full seven days, I would say for a minimum of three days following the surgery (just make sure you have clothes that are easy to put on and put all of your necessary things within easy reach!).

What Surprised You the Most About Having Top Surgery?

There were so many things!

  • How scary it was to be in the operating room as the nurses strapped me down to the operating table, hearing the anesthesiologist say he was giving me “the medication”, just waiting to be unconscious. It was literally like someone flicked a switch and it was lights out.
  • How sick (nauseous) I felt after the procedure.
  • I had some vaginal bleeding after the surgery, which I noticed after I got home. My husband called the surgeon and he said he wasn’t sure what it from, but could be from the trauma of the surgery. That freaked me out a little (has anyone else had this experience??).
  • How it didn’t even feel like I’d gotten my breasts removed.
  • Discovering days after the procedure that the surgeon (or someone) had cut my armpit hair.
  • How emotional and in need of emotional support I felt (I’m so grateful to everyone who checked in on me!).
  • How much I hated wearing button-down shirts (this is really weird but I would recommend having clothes you actually like to wear after the procedure. There was something about wearing powder-blue button-down shirts that just made me feel awful. I wish I had something fun to wear to make me feel better during this crappy time).
  • How much I enjoyed saying “my chest” instead of “my breasts”.
  • How I didn’t remember much after the anesthesia.
  • How I didn’t realize that after surgery, I thought my body would be perfect. It was NOT perfect. I had ugly, uneven scar tissue, stretch marks, and an asymmetrical chest wall. I think I thought that once my breasts were gone that my body would be perfect and beautiful. It’s still beautiful, but it’s definitely not perfect. The surgery didn’t magically make it perfect.
  • How I immediately began noticing boobs after my surgery. Did anyone else have this experience? It was super weird! I literally never paid attention to anyone else’s boobs before the surgery and now it’s like I’m seeing them everywhere. Not sure how to explain this.

What Were the Things That Helped You the Most?

  • Straws. I kept reading about these but felt like they were overrated. Turns out, I really needed them for the first few days after surgery!
  • Button-down shirts. I hate button-down shirts but unfortunately you just really need them following surgery.
  • Lemon and honey tea for my nausea, as well as smelling lemon essential oil. I wish I had a diffuser at the time; I didn’t know how good lemon was for nausea! Normally I would take ginger but I couldn’t take ginger because it thins the blood and can increase risk for bleeding following surgery.
  • V-neck shirts. This is a weird one, but I slept with a t-shirt on after my surgery for two reasons. The first is that I wanted to protect my scars from rubbing on my sheets and comforter, and the second is that I was using my scar salve which contained a bunch of oils and cocoa butter, which would have stained my bedding. The V-neck style was nice because I didn’t feel like I was getting choked while I was sleeping because I move around a lot and regular t-shirts were just too constricting.
  • Freezing food. I made smoothies, broth, and frozen lasagna and chili, all of which really helped when my husband and I didn’t feel like going to the store and I still needed nutrients, ha.

Is There Anything You Would Have Done Differently?

YES! Outside of asking my surgeon the questions I neglected to ask, there is one big thing I would have done differently. And that thing is—DO NOT eat pizza the night before your surgery!

I couldn’t eat or drink after midnight the night before my surgery and for some idiotic reason my husband and I still aren’t sure about we decided to get takeout (something we almost never do) and have a gluten-free dairy-free pizza the night before my surgery.

The result? I was INSANELY thirsty and couldn’t drink anything! By the time I arrived at the surgery center at 8:30 the next morning, I was practically dying of thirst. It was miserable. The nurse couldn’t even get a vein on me because I was so dehydrated, which is something that never happens to me (I have good veins, thank you very much!). The result was this:

So yeah next time… I would literally eat a fruit salad and lots of water the night before my surgery.

Do You Miss Your Breasts?

Honestly? It’s really weird but I do miss them sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I rarely feel this way. Sometimes I miss them during sex which is weird because I kinda hated doing anything with them during sex. Sometimes I miss how soft my chest used to be (it’s really hard now). Mostly I’m ecstatic that they’re gone but I think it’s to be expected to miss them sometimes, even if you hated them (it’s like missing an ex you don’t regret breaking up with, ha).

Finally! That Was a Long Post!

I had tried to prepare so much for my surgery, and I think I did a good job, but there are some things you really just can’t prepare for, and you just have to experience it.

If you have any questions about my journey or healing process, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or reach me directly at jenn@thegreenwritingdesk.com. I’d also love to hear from you (and I’m sure other readers would love to know too) if you’ve gotten top surgery and found something helpful or surprising about having the procedure!

I’d like to thank the transgender community and all the individuals who posted videos or articles about their experience, they helped me SO much and without them I would have been so lost with preparing for this procedure. Their information empowered me to advocate for myself as much as possible, and it’s part of the reason why I’m writing this article and sharing this information with you now. So THANK YOU!

These 8 (Mostly Vegan) Natural Tattoo Aftercare Products Will Make You Forget About Aquaphor

Getting a tattoo is a super exciting time.

I remember when I first started getting tattoos. The artists simply gave me little packs of A&D ointment and told me to follow up with Aquaphor. No mention was made of natural tattoo aftercare.

By the time I started getting tattoos, I already knew that products such as these contained toxic ingredients. However, for the record, Aquaphor and its maker Eucerin do not test on animals, which is surprising but apparently true.

What I did find when searching for alternative products is that there’s definitely a market for natural tattoo aftercare products that cater to both vegan and non-vegan audiences. You have options besides using nasty, petroleum-based, animal-tested products to heal your beautiful new ink!

First—What’s Wrong with Aquaphor?

Let’s talk for a second about why you might want to avoid ingredients in brands that some tattoo artists recommend and instead go for natural tattoo aftercare products.

The main active ingredient in Aquaphor is Petrolatum. In case you didn’t know, Petrolatum is just another word for petroleum jelly, so don’t be fooled. Why should you be concerned?

Petrolatum contains possible carcinogens which can lead to cancer development, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Needless to say, this likely isn’t the best product to put on your open wound, especially when there are other natural tattoo aftercare products available.

In addition, some tattoo artists argue that using petroleum-based products can inhibit healing of the tattoo and even testify that they believe tattoos heal faster when using natural tattoo aftercare products.

8 Natural Tattoo Aftercare Products

Let’s forget about those other crappy products and talk about some authentic, natural balms that you can use so your new tattoo heals beautifully!

All the natural tattoo aftercare products listed here do not test on animals and do not contain synthetic ingredients or fragrance, which can be very toxic to our wellbeing.

1. Ohana Organics Tattoo Butter (Vegan)

So I’ve personally used this natural tattoo aftercare product for my last two tattoos and have really enjoyed (you can see my last two pieces on Instagram here and here).

This tattoo butter is vegan and uses very simple ingredients including shea butter and olive oil.

If you’ve never used shea butter before, it does have a greasy feel to it and so that’s my only problem with this product. I definitely have to be careful with what I touch when I have this on.

Ohana Organics offers half an ounce of their tattoo butter in an adorable tin for $4.99 with larger sizes available. Shop here.

2. Wild Rose Herbs Ink Spray (Vegan)

I’m actually really excited to try Wild Rose Herbs’ natural tattoo aftercare products. I just bought some of their stuff for my sister-in-law for Christmas and they seem to be high-quality products. (Update to this post: I have tried the non-vegan ink balm and so far love it!)

What I love about this ink spray is that it uses peppermint to help with the sometimes severe itching that happens while a tattoo is healing. It also has some other really cool ingredients including witch hazel and German chamomile.

This spray is also vegan!

Wild Rose Herbs sells 1 ounce of their ink spray for $9.95. Shop here.

3. Wild Rose Herbs Tattoo Balm (Both Vegan and Non-Vegan Formulas)

So Wild Rose Herbs carries both vegan and non-vegan formulas for their natural tattoo aftercare balm with the difference being the inclusion of beeswax in the non-vegan formula.

These tattoo balms also use peppermint to help with itch and lavender which tends to be gentle and soothing for healing skin.

Wild Rose Herbs sells both their vegan and non-vegan tattoo balm formulas starting at $10.49 for .85 ounces with larger sizes available. Shop here for vegan and here for the beeswax formula.

4. Brooklyn Grooming Tattoo Balm (Not Vegan)

Ok so I have again not tried Brooklyn Grooming’s natural tattoo aftercare balm; however, it contains pure organic ingredients and is not tested on animals.

With ingredients such as hemp seed oil, shea butter, and vitamin E, it’s hard to go wrong with this tattoo balm. Remember that this formula isn’t vegan friendly due to the fact that it contains beeswax.

Brooklyn Grooming sells their tattoo balm in 2-ounce sizes for $22. Shop here.

5. EiR NYC Tattoo Balm (Vegan)

If you’re looking for a vegan version of Brooklyn Grooming’s tattoo balm, check out EiR NYC’s tattoo balm. I haven’t tried this one but I love the simple, organic ingredients in this natural tattoo aftercare product, including dried rose petals and rosemary!

This balm also includes coconut oil and shea butter and is sold in half-an-ounce containers for $10. Shop here.

6. After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer (Vegan)

So I actually have tried this tattoo moisturizer from After Inked. It’s vegan, which is great, but I’m not too crazy about the formula.

The ingredients aren’t super pure (it contains preservatives), but one big pro to this natural tattoo aftercare product is that it’s not greasy, so it acts as more of a lotion than a balm.

It’s weird though because this is precisely what I didn’t like about it; it didn’t really feel like it was “protecting” my tattoo. However, if you’re looking for a non-greasy tattoo aftercare lotion, this could be your pick!

After Inked sells their tattoo moisturizer in 3-ounce sizes for $20. Shop here.

7. Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve (Not Vegan)

I have not tried this natural tattoo aftercare product but it’s another great pick. It contains a lot of fun herbs including calendula (I LOVE calendula for healing skin and also dry skin among its other benefits), comfrey, thyme, and St. John’s Wort.

Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve contains beeswax so it’s not vegan. You can find sizes starting at 1 ounce for $11.88 here.

8. Susie Q Skin Ink Salve (Not Vegan)

This one made the list even though one of their ingredients is “natural fig fragrance”. I would absolutely question the company about this ingredient before buying to find out if it is actually natural and not synthetic. (The site does say their products don’t contain any synthetic fragrances but I would double check just to be sure.)

I’m putting this natural tattoo aftercare product on here because their other ingredients are pure and they contain other products that could be good as well including tattoo wash. They also have this cool page on their website speaking out against animal testing.

Ingredients in Susie Q Skin’s Ink Salve include hemp seed oil, lemongrass, rose, arnica, and turmeric. You can find 1-ounce sizes and up starting at $19.95 here.

What Are You Waiting for?

When it comes to natural tattoo aftercare products, you absolutely have the power to choose products that aren’t toxic to your body and don’t suffocate your skin.

Your tattoo was something you dreamed of, it’s now a part of you forever, and you want it to heal perfectly. Isn’t your new ink worth investing in some aftercare balms that are good for you as well as the planet?

What do you use to heal your tattoos? I’d love to hear if you know of any more natural products (or home ingredients) that you feel make the cut for superior tattoo aftercare!

Also–if you’ve got fresh ink–check out my post about the five stages of grief and your new tattoo!

How to Get Rid of Butt Acne—7 Simple Habits

If you think acne is frustrating, thinking about how to get rid of butt acne (also called buttne or even assne) is even more frustrating.

Fortunately, butt acne is relatively easy to get rid of, although it does take a little bit of time and effort. With the adoption of healthier habits including eating habits, you can have a clean, smooth-looking bum in no time.

I know no one wants to talk about how to get rid of butt acne, but there are people out there who have lived with it and people out there Googling it, and so here we are.

The following list isn’t necessarily in order of most importance, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne. So while loose clothing might majorly help you out, dry brushing might not, and vice versa.

Here are seven simple habits that will help you if you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne! 

1. Wear Loose Clothing

If you’re into wearing tight yoga clothes that don’t let your skin breathe, you might be doing your bum a disservice.

Often, yoga clothes and other tight clothes such as leggings are made from synthetic materials like polyester. These toxic clothing materials often suffocate our skin in addition to introducing it to toxins, making it a poor garment choice.

Wearing loose clothing in addition to organic clothing can help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne because it actually lets your skin breathe and detoxify itself.

I’m not saying you have to wear loose, flowy cotton skirts forever, but it’s a good idea to wear loose clothing most of the time while trying to get your butt acne to clear up and then you can enjoy wearing tight clothes on occasion.

2. Try Dry Brushing

After reading about some of the benefits of dry brushing, I decided to give it a try.

Basically, it’s just getting a dry brush (which are relatively inexpensive, I think I got mine for $15 on Amazon) and then brushing your skin towards the heart, so starting with your legs and then working up.

I’ve really liked dry brushing although as someone with dry skin, it does tend to be a little harsh on the skin. It’s just another way to exfoliate basically but I have really enjoyed doing it and it’s pretty refreshing and makes your skin feel amazing!

Dry brushing can help your skin recover from bouts of butt acne, just be sure to do it gently and once a day for the best benefits when you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne. 

3. Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)

I’ve been doing a lot of research about omega-3 fatty acids lately, especially since the majority of mine had always been mostly plant-based (I’m not a big fish person).

In addition to being excellent for inflammation and menstrual cramps, omega-3 fatty acids are also great for the brain and body, including your skin.

Plant-based sources of essential fatty acids include chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and avocados. These are great, but they provide the body with ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) when the body primarily needs EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but research shows the conversion rate is rather poor. Getting the necessary amounts of EPA and DHA can pretty much only come from fish.

Taking a quality supplement such as cod liver oil (I take fermented cod liver oil) or an omega-3 capsule is your best bet (after my research, here’s one of the best ones I’ve found). I take an omega-3 capsule in addition to raw fermented cod liver oil in a liquid form every day. This can help clear your skin right up when you’re thinking about how to get rid of butt acne!

4. Consider Probiotics

I’ve talked about probiotics in a previous blog post and how finding the right one is really important, as many of them contain milk proteins (which I can’t have, being intolerant to dairy).

However, probiotics provide many benefits to the human body. They help digestion, can clear your skin up, boost energy, and overall provide you with a great foundation for a healthy body.

I take a vegan probiotic supplement a few times a week, but natural sources of probiotics are your best bet (and they’re a lot cheaper). These include anything fermented, such as:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Kefir (do not eat this if you can’t have dairy, although I have yet to explore water kefir)
  • Yogurt (I eat cashew and coconut milk yogurt, no milk)
  • Apple cider vinegar

You don’t need to overdo it on the probiotics—an herbalist once told me they should be considered as medicine, so there’s no need to overdose. A daily serving can be enough to help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne and clear up your skin!

5. Exfoliate Regularly

If you don’t exfoliate, you’re missing out on a body pampering routine that will change how you shower (or bathe if you’re a bath person—hello fellow bath lovers!).

Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells, stimulate circulation, and refresh your skin. I always feel pretty boss after I exfoliate. If you have sensitive skin, you probably shouldn’t exfoliate any more than once a week, but if you have oily or normal skin, two times per week is fine.

I’m really into making homemade exfoliating scrub (this is my all-time favorite recipe here), they are super easy and fun to make. Certain scrubs tend to be harsher on the skin than others. In my experience, I’ve found that salt-based rubs are too harsh on my skin while sugar-based ones are perfect for me.

Exfoliating at least once a week can help improve your skin and help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne!

6. Eat Clean

Eating clean sounds easy, but I want to mention food intolerances here since acne is a symptom of an unhappy gut.

Since everyone’s body is different, everyone will react differently to different foods. For instance, I can’t have gluten or dairy, but I’m fine with most other foods. Some people respond fine to gluten and dairy.

A food intolerance is not the same thing as an allergy. Though they both can have dramatic and life-threatening symptoms (yes, my gluten intolerance was actually life-threatening), an intolerance tends to take a day or two to show symptoms while an allergy will have more immediate symptoms.

If a certain food makes you feel a certain way, you might consider removing it from your diet. Food intolerances can cause acne, even butt acne. Other symptoms that you’re reacting to a certain food may include:

  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Rash or eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal problems (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc.)
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches

This list is by no means complete; even psychiatric symptoms have been shown to be associated with gluten intolerance.

If you suspect you have any food intolerances or need supplementation of any kind, I would really recommend working with a natural health doctor or an herbalist instead of just self-diagnosing and taking random vitamins. I have a vitamin and herbal regimen in addition to my diet that helps me a lot but it took years to develop with professional help!

7. Move!

Our bodies were made to be in motion. Similarly to wearing tight clothing, if you’re not moving throughout the day and are just sitting at a desk, you’re suffocating the skin on your bum. If you want to be successful when you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne, you need to get up and move!

Whether you choose to exercise a few times a week (your best option) or just take numerous breaks throughout the day to take a spin around the office, do it. I promise, your bum will thank you!

Conclusion

So as you can see, working on how to get rid of butt acne will take some time and effort. Switching to loose, organic cotton clothing, exfoliating and dry brushing, and eating clean and supplementing can help you achieve that baby bum skin you’ve missed!

How to Heal Leaky Gut with Tea and Herbs

I was diagnosed with leaky gut in January 2016. I learned how to heal leaky gut with the help of a natural doctor and some intuition.

I had a bizarre rash on my face for four months that wouldn’t go away regardless of what I did.

I  tried everything—essential oils, cutting out a bunch of different foods (I’m already gluten and dairy-free), trying to neutralize the pH of my body, and overdosing on vitamins, including B vitamins.

Nothing worked when it came to how to heal leaky gut.

Eventually, I went to the doctor and got tested for food intolerances, which was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time but just didn’t do it.

Turned out I was intolerant to a bunch of different things, all having slight reactions to them. The doctor diagnosed me with leaky gut and put me on a powder supplement composed of herbs to help me heal.

In addition to the rash that spread along my chin on both sides of my face, I also had hives around my eyes after having an allergic reaction when eating nutritional yeast.

I later determined that I had accidentally been consuming dairy through my probiotics. This likely caused the leaky gut. I then developed a yeast allergy, which was causing the hives around my eyes. All of this was the result of my leaky gut.

After I was diagnosed with leaky gut and tried to determine what had caused it and how I could heal it, today after just a few short weeks I can eat yeast again and found some amazing herbs that helped me heal.

Here’s how to heal leaky gut!

Healing Leaky Gut First Begins with Eliminating the Things That Caused It

You’ll be able to calm your gut with tea and herbs, but how to heal your leaky gut begins with removing anything and everything that’s irritating it, otherwise you won’t be able to convince your body that it doesn’t need to react to stuff.

When leaky gut happens, your body gets confused and starts attacking things that it previously labeled as ok, like gluten or dairy proteins, yeast, etc.

It could be reacting to anything, including pesticides or GMOs, and it could cause just about any type of health symptom. My bloodwork showed that I was reacting to sesame seeds, eggs, garlic, peanuts, corn, oats, etc. My symptoms just included the rash and the hives.

I would highly recommend that you get tested in order to determine what’s irritating your gut when it comes to how to heal leaky gut.

However, if you can’t afford this (many natural doctors don’t accept insurance), begin by cutting out the big gut irritants.

These are mainly gluten and dairy. However, you may also choose to cut out legumes, all grains, and maybe even molds (natural molds are present in foods such as cheese, alcohol, and dried fruits). Listen to your body!

Once you figure out what’s causing your leaky gut, you can begin supplementing your diet with the following herbs to help when considering how to heal leaky gut.

After a few weeks off of the offending foods (I know it’s hard. I had to print a list of everything that contained yeast and hang it on the fridge!), but it’ll be worth it to eat these foods again in a few weeks and drink some delicious tea in the meantime.

How to Heal Leaky Gut with These Herbs

Go to your local herb shop and grab these essentials:

Stinging Nettle
Slippery Elm Bark
Licorice Root
Marshmallow Root

You’ll ideally want the marshmallow and licorice in a cut-and-sifted form rather than the powder; it’s so much easier to make tea that way.

The stinging nettle is a great anti-histamine and all of the other herbs (slippery elm, licorice, marshmallow) mixed together make a great tea when it comes to how to heal leaky gut! I drank 2-3 cups of plain stinging nettle tea every day with a bit of local raw honey to improve the taste (after a while I didn’t mind the taste, though).

If you choose to do a powder supplement made of these herbs for your leaky gut, choose one with quality ingredients. My doctor gave me Designs for Health GI Revive, which was so easy and tasty to put into smoothies when it came to how to heal leaky gut.

The herbs may be cheaper and even more effective, depending on how much of them you buy and how long you plan to use them for.

You could also get the herbs in supplement form, but I find that those are harder to regulate the ingredients and you’re not really sure how much of it your body is absorbing.

Making a Healing Tea

How to heal leaky gut with tea is easy.

Just get a quality metal tea strainer or cloth tea bag (they’ll have these at your local herb shop) and add a pinch of each of these herbs to your tea for a mixed tea with licorice, marshmallow root, and slippery elm bark.

Use a small pinch of the licorice root—that stuff is powerful and will make your tea really sweet! How to heal leaky gut begins here.

For plain stinging nettle, brew a strong tea by filling up your tea strainer and allow it to steep until dark. The stinging nettle is really important if you’re having histamine reactions because it’s a natural anti-histamine.

Stinging nettle looks like this in its fresh form. If you have the plant handy (and you know with absolute certainty it’s stinging nettle), you can make a tea this way too.

For me, my body was producing histamine whenever I ate yeast, so I broke out in hives. The stinging nettle helped calm my body’s reactions and helped my gut to heal.

The dairy was causing a different reaction (the actual eczema-looking rash) and once I stopped taking those horrible probiotics, was able to get my rash to go away relatively quickly. This also helped calm my leaky gut in addition to the herbs.

I would not recommend mixing the stinging nettle with the other herbs. I have not tried this but I would imagine that it would not taste very good! The slippery elm, marshmallow, and licorice all have sweet tastes that pair well together. The stinging nettle is more bitter and plant-tasting.

Consider Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil helped my body to stop reacting to yeast by producing an anti-histamine effect for my dilemma of how to heal leaky gut.

Yes, just like stinging nettle, it’s a natural anti-histamine. This is for food allergies, though, not for food intolerances (my body was allergic to yeast but intolerant to dairy). There is a difference—the allergy symptoms are more severe faster.

Intolerance symptoms can be just as—if not even more—severe, but they usually develop over a longer period of time. Read more about the difference between allergies and intolerances if you’re interested!

Evening primrose oil contains excellent fatty acids that can help with many things, including dysmenorrhea (another word for wicked terrible menstrual cramps).

I found that it was an essential skin healer and anti-histamine for my body while healing leaky gut. Consider a vegan, organic option such as Deva Vegan Evening Primrose Oil.

Other Essential Practices for How to Heal Leaky Gut

Leaky gut sucks, I know. But do you know how it happens?

A bad diet, antibiotics, stress. Nearly everybody has come into contact with these things. So while you’re considering how to heal leaky gut, it’s a good idea to do the following things.

Sleep a lot

Just make sure you get at least eight hours. I prefer nine or ten myself but again, listen to your body. Sleep is so important and helps you manage stress and weight and can help your body to heal itself.

Avoid stress like the plague

Dude, just relax. It’s not easy, I know. But you can do it. Stay present (read some freaking Eckhart Tolle! Love that dude) and take one thing at a time. Stress is your body’s worst enemy, so relax and take care of yourself.

Exercise

Wait, didn’t I just say to relax? Of course, I did. But, you still need to take care of your body when you’re practicing how to heal leaky gut. Exercising will help promote healing in your body also. Do something you enjoy—dancing, jogging, kayaking, who cares!

Stay away from conventional medications

Prescription medications such as antibiotics can damage your delicate gut flora and even trigger leaky gut. Stick to natural stuff whenever possible. They are your gut’s enemy!

Eat well

When considering how to heal leaky gut, it’s hard to know what to eat. Just do your best. Plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and healthy fats and fiber can help you look and feel great and encourage your body to heal.

Take vitamin C

I make homemade vitamin C out of dried lemon and orange peels and take a teaspoon every day. This will encourage your body to heal when it comes to how to heal leaky gut.

Stay organic

Buy organic produce and buy organic herbs. Leaky gut syndrome can cause your body to react to pesticides as well, and you don’t need your body reacting to more stuff than it already is when you’re considering how to heal leaky gut.

Avoid sugar

Yes, sugar is so bad for your gut bacteria and can aggravate leaky gut. Try to avoid it while you’re healing, it does so much more damage than good! Actually, can’t think of anything good sugar does…

Consider Probiotics

Wait, didn’t I just say that probiotics caused my problem in the first place? Yes, those probiotics contained milk proteins, and I’m intolerant to dairy. However, my doctor also put me on a different, vegan probiotic (I was able to call the company and confirm that they were vegan—this is the probiotic I take here) to help heal my leaky gut. If you’re vegan or intolerant to dairy, never take a probiotic without confirming that it’s not made from milk proteins! Unfortunately, you just can’t trust the labels.

A Word of Caution

I am not an herbalist or a nutritionist. I would not recommend just going out and gathering plants when you’re thinking about how to heal leaky gut.

Plants are easily misidentified. I would recommend getting fresh or dried herbs from your local herb shop or online. Mountain Rose Herbs is a fantastic resource.

I would also recommend not self-diagnosing your leaky gut and getting tested. Yes, this step may be pricey, but if you don’t heal your leaky gut the first time, you’ll waste lots of time and money trying to figure out what’s going on.

When you get tested and can clearly see what you’re reacting to, you can eliminate these foods and you’ll know how to heal leaky gut. You can also work with a certified herbalist to help you.

Having leaky gut and trying to figure out how to heal leaky gut isn’t fun.  However, working with a natural doctor or herbalist makes it so much easier than working alone (I was sick for almost five years before finally seeing an herbalist and curing my autoimmune disease with a simple diet change—read the story here).

I healed my leaky gut and you can too. Don’t give up!

Homemade Sunscreen without Zinc Oxide

I made my own homemade sunscreen after finding out that the one I bought at the store had weird ingredients in it.

I didn’t exactly want these to be absorbed into my skin (yes, even despite it being cruelty-free). This recipe was adapted from several different recipes and was my first time making my own sunscreen.

Welcome to my homemade sunscreen recipe without zinc oxide! With just seven ingredients and seven easy steps you can be on your way to enjoying the sun without getting burned!

Homemade Sunscreen Recipe without Zinc Oxide

Ingredients

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1/4 cup shea butter

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/8 cup avocado oil

2 tbsp. beeswax granules

1 tsp. carrot seed oil

1 tsp. red raspberry seed oil

Any essential oils you want to scent it (trust me, you’re going to want to scent it) I used lavender but you can use whatever you want.

Update Note: Readers have commented that citrus essential oils are photosensitive, so you may want to avoid these!

So How Do You Make It?

Step One

In a saucepan, put the shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and beeswax in over medium heat. You’re on your way to having great homemade sunscreen!

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Step Two

Let all of these ingredients melt together, stirring occasionally. The beeswax will be the last thing to melt.

Step Three

After everything is melted, pull the pan off the heat and let it sit until it cools down to room temperature. It’ll look something like this once it’s cooled:

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Step Four

Put the whole thing in the fridge for 15-45 minutes. You want it to set up a bit but not be too firm!

Step Five

Remove pan from the fridge and add the carrot seed oil, red raspberry seed oil, and your essential oils if you want to scent it (I used about 20 drops of lavender in mine). Then stir! You can use a regular spoon for this, it doesn’t matter. When you first start to whip it, it’ll look a little lumpy:

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Step Six

Keep whipping for about two minutes or until smooth. The mixture should look something like this when you are finished:

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Step Seven

Find an appropriate sized jar or container for your homemade sunscreen (whatever you’d prefer to keep your sunscreen in) and scoop the mixture in. Walaah! You are done. I used an old honey jar for mine:

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Note that this doesn’t make that much homemade sunscreen. This jar is pretty small. You may want to double the recipe if you are planning on sharing this or using it a lot. For me, I didn’t want to make a ton because I wasn’t sure how it’d turn out. Now, I’d happily make another batch!

These are the amounts of the SPF in all the ingredients used:

Coconut oil: SPF 5

Shea butter: SPF 5

Red raspberry seed oil: SPF 25-50

Carrot seed oil: SPF 35-40

Avocado oil: SPF 7

Also just FYI, I had to order the beeswax, red raspberry seed oil, and carrot seed oil online. I couldn’t find these at my local stores.

I was able to find the shea butter at the supermarket and of course, I already had the essential oils, avocado oil, and coconut oil on hand. All of these ingredients are a little pricey but the good news is that there will be enough for you to make batches and batches of homemade sunscreen to come.

When I finished it, despite the essential oils, all I could smell was the carrot seed oil. It was an overpowering, strange smell. But, I applied the sunscreen to my arms and face today and Ian smelled my face and said all he could smell was lavender. Hm? Well, okay. If you say so. The man approves. It smells nice.

So why shouldn’t you just go to the store and buy cruelty-free sunscreen? Well sure, you can do this. For me, I find joy in making things for myself because then I know exactly what’s in it as well as how it’s been made.

Plus, while some sunscreens have nice ingredients that are safe, the majority of them do not, in case you were wondering. The other thing is that if you buy a nice sunscreen, it’s probably going to be expensive, especially if you keep buying it over time.

Protecting your skin is important, but it shouldn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s more economical to buy ingredients that you can use over and over again to make your own homemade sunscreen.

A Note on Zinc Oxide

Almost all of the recipes I found online included zinc oxide as one of the ingredients for homemade sunscreen. All of these recipes cautioned the user about not breathing in the particles of zinc oxide.

I was confused by this. If I don’t want to breathe it in on accident, why would I want it touching my skin? It looks sketchy to me, and I didn’t want to use it in my homemade sunscreen. I would encourage you not to either.

I’ve recently found that some conventional sunscreens contain nanoparticles of zinc oxide which can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Scary?

Update to this post: I’ve been using this sunscreen for about a year now and not once been burned. It’s fabulous! I have also found that it loses its potency not long after that time, so I wouldn’t keep it for more than one year.

Happy homemade sunscreen making! 🙂

4 Amazing Things for Healthy Skin Care

Healthy skin care is so essential to your beauty routine! I’ve found some wonderful natural things (plants, not products) that are just downright bad at making your skin supple, shiny, and healthy. And by bad I mean awesome. Young people lingo, right?

Here are some amazing things for healthy skin care!

1. Shea Butter

Shea butter

I just recently started using shea butter for healthy skin care. I picked up shea butter at the store because I needed it to use in my homemade sunscreen recipe. I did use shea butter in my sunscreen recipe, but I’ve also been loading heaps of it onto my skin.

I bought the organic unrefined version, which smells a little like barbecue sauce to me. Yeah, it’s also gray… Really odd… (obviously you can tell this picture is not the one I bought, ha).

I love it because I don’t mind smelling like a walking pork chop when my skin looks amazing. And you get used to the smell for healthy skin care. It just has a smoky smell to it.

So far, this is my favorite thing to use. I love it too because it stays put where aloe absorbs into your skin so quickly and the coconut oil will just rub off on your clothes or sheets before it absorbs properly. I would recommend a naturally-scented version for your healthy skin care to avoid toxic synthetic fragrances.

2. Coconut Oil

coconut oil

I will always love coconut oil, and no one will ever tell me that I can’t love it.

I do love it for skin use but also for cooking and putting in my tea. I use coconut oil as a moisturizer for my face and body. I ditched regular lotion about a year ago after finding that most brands had paraben and other weird things in them.

Choose organic, especially to put on your skin, otherwise, your skin will be absorbing the pesticides. Yuck, right? Healthy skin care involves coconut oil!

3. Vitamin C

vit c

I don’t care where you get it from, you have to have this for healthy skin care.

I take a supplement every day in addition to eating foods rich in vitamin C just because it’s hard to get the amount you need from just food alone. A long time ago, our bodies made vitamin C, but somewhere along the way, they stopped. So now we need it from external sources.

Load up on the oranges, lemons, limes, peppers (seriously, peppers have more vitamin C than oranges!) and get yourself a proper supplement for healthy skin care.

Fun fact about vitamin C: most supplements are synthetic. Ascorbic acid is the thing that your body has to turn vitamin C into in order for it to be absorbed properly. The good news? Your body apparently can’t tell the difference. This doesn’t mean that you can skip out on a quality supplement, though.

P.S—Watch out for cheap supplements, they may contain GMOs!

4. Aloe Vera

aloe vera

I was buying big leaves of this stuff at my supermarket, breaking off pieces, and rubbing that clear gooey stuff on my skin for healthy skin care. It was wonderful.

It absorbed quickly and yet left my skin feeling supple and smooth. This is also great for scar tissue. Perfect for when you need something that dries really quickly and will yet keep you feeling refreshed and fabulous.

Downside: sometimes digging your fingers into that cold, clear gooey stuff just got old.

Another huge part of healthy skin care is protecting your skin. All of these things will help protect your skin but sunscreen is also important. My next post will be about homemade sunscreen. For reasons you will soon find out (or may already know about if you know about animal testing), you may want to steer clear of that stuff at the store.

5 Reasons to Avoid Animal Testing That Will Help Create a Better Planet

If you’re looking for reasons to avoid animal testing, you’ve come to the right place.

Animal testing kills 100 million animals each year. Before you begin to say that these animals would overpopulate the planet if left alive, let me assure you that many of these animals are specifically bred for animal testing purposes.

Not only is animal testing inaccurate and unreliable, it’s completely unethical. Animals like those in the pictures you see here are tortured so you can have mascara that won’t make you go blind or perfume that won’t cause skin rashes.

It’s not just the cosmetics industry—cleaning products, pharmaceutical drugs, even food is tested on animals. There are so many reasons to avoid animal testing. Here are five of them.

1. It Saves Countless Animals

These are just a few of the animals that are used in animal testing:

  • Rabbits
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Birds
  • Monkeys
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Mice

When you stop buying products that support animal testing, you are saving these animals from a life of pain and torture. Imagine your dog or cat being injected with a carcinogenic drug just so researchers can see what happens.

Look at what happens to innocent animals who are subjected to toxic substances so we can enjoy things like makeup, cleaning products, and drugs.

animal testing

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel like I’m responsible for that. The truth is, you’re responsible every time you pick up a tube of Crest toothpaste, spray your house with Febreeze, or put Neosporin in your grocery cart.

Anything that you buy at a supermarket has been tested on animals unless noted on the packaging. Here’s how it works: companies are not really about marketing the fact that they’ve tortured puppies and kittens and monkeys to bring you this “wonderful” product that they’ve made. So, if the product has been tested on animals, it won’t say anything about animal testing on the packaging.

You can stop being a supporter of the millions of animals that are suffering right now because you didn’t know what else to buy besides Tide.

2. Help Create a More Sustainable Planet

If the company or product does not test on animals, they’ll brag about this fact on the packaging.

Know why?

Because not testing on animals costs a lot more than testing on animals, so the product will be more expensive. Ever wonder why some of your favorite products are so cheap compared to the “natural” brands? It’s because your products have been created at the expense of animals suffering.

Your purchases have an impact on the planet. When you choose to avoid animal testing, you’re not only saving animals but helping to create a more positive planet.

Of all the reasons to avoid animal testing, helping to create a healthier planet is undoubtedly one of the most significant. You can invest in healthier products instead of toxic chemicals that are polluting the earth. You’ll eliminate unnecessary breeding of animals for torture.

You are an essential part of stopping the cycle of animal testing. The more products you buy from companies that test, the more of a supporter you are.

Stop being a supporter. Look at the reasons to avoid animal testing. You can create a better world by making more informed decisions.

3. Be Healthier

If the ingredients in the products we use were natural to begin with, animal testing would not be necessary.

Think about it. If something needs to be tested on animals before you come into contact with it, don’t you feel a little weird about that? The world would be a simpler place if we just used natural products to begin with.

Instead of using lotion filled with toxic artificial fragrance and hormone-disrupting parabens, why not use coconut oil or shea butter? Instead of taking a pharmaceutical drug for blood pressure, why not just eat garlic? Instead of using toxic perfume, why not just use essential oils?

One of the best reasons to avoid animal testing is that you can be healthier by making better choices.

4. Feel Better

Buying (or making your own) products that have not been tested on animals can be challenging.

However,  making your own products can actually be really fun and cultivates self-sustainability. It requires some researching and lots of label reading but compared to how you feel when you find out that you’ve been supporting this industry for years, it feels as light as a feather.

Feel better about what you support and what you put on your body as well as in it. When you’re not taking drugs, chances are you’ll feel better. When you’re not inhaling toxic chemicals, you’ll probably breathe easier.

When you’re looking for reasons to avoid animal testing, consider that you’ll feel better once you stop supporting this industry and choose better, healthier products.

5. Invest in Better Research

There are other methods we can use to ensure our products are safe.

If it’s fine for a mouse it must be fine for a human. Right?

This is not a logical train of thought. Yes, mice and humans are both mammals. However, we share different DNA. How could a creature other than a human dictate whether something is safe for humans?

When you stop supporting animal testing, you help invest in better research. This includes more ethical means of testing if dictated to be necessary, such as in vitro testing. Shouldn’t we use human cells if we’re doing human research?

For those who would argue against the reasons to avoid animal testing by saying that dog eye drops or medications require a dog, think again. Most medical ailments can be treated naturally. For those that can’t, we could utilize alternative testing methods rather than making the animal suffer.

What You can Do

Think you’re not torturing animals?

If you live in the United States and pay taxes, you’re actually contributing about $16 billion towards unethical animal experiments through government-funded research.

Also, if you use any of these products, you’re supporting the animal testing industry with cold hard cash:

  • Windex (anything from SC Johnson tests on animals)
  • Loreal
  • Febreze
  • Dawn
  • Vaseline
  • Lysol
  • Arm & Hammer
  • Snuggle
  • Tide
  • Rimmel
  • Maybelline
  • CoverGirl
  • Noxzema
  • OxyClean
  • Nair
  • Orange Glo
  • Trojan condoms
  • Clorox
  • Glad
  • Pine Sol
  • Soft Scrub
  • Speed Stick
  • Colgate
  • Palmolive
  • Softsoap
  • Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Band-Aid
  • Bengay
  • KY
  • Neosporin
  • Neutrogena
  • Garnier
  • Purell
  • Kleenex
  • Cottonelle
  • Huggies
  • Kotex
  • Pull-Ups
  • Playtex
  • Lancome
  • Dolce & Gabbana
  • Gain
  • Head & Shoulders
  • Gillette
  • Listerine
  • Crest
  • Mr. Clean
  • Old Spice
  • Puffs
  • Secret

This is not a comprehensive list. This list goes on and on. For a more comprehensive list, check here. For a list of companies that don’t test on animals, click here.

When you’re looking for products that have not been tested on animals, you need to look for a label that says, “Not Tested on Animals.”

Some products say they are “Cruelty-Free”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have not been tested on animals. It could mean that they still test but consider their animal testing techniques to be “humane”. You should always question and ask the company if you need to!

Also, some companies are “parent” companies, meaning bigger, more unethical brand names such as Unilever own brands that would otherwise appear to be ok such as Seventh Generation.

It’s a jungle out there, am I right?

But you can do this.

Let’s consider the reasons to avoid animal testing next time we make a purchase. It’s so important for our health, our planet, and our animals. Thank you for considering the reasons to avoid animal testing!