April 2019: Issue No. 1
Letter from the Editors
First and Foremost, Thank You.
We are so grateful for our friends and families who like, share, and subscribe to everything we do. Taking this step to become a monthly publication has been a real marker in growth for us, and we really appreciate your support!
Secondly, we would be remiss if we didn't also express gratitude for the unbelievable gift of being able to live as expats in this magical city. San Miguel de Allende is a city teeming with interesting people and bursting with creativity. Her people, traditions, and history make it unlike any place on earth, and to live here is a true privilege.
The theme of our first monthly issue is renewal. This is the month we celebrate Easter, preceded by one of the most sacred traditions in Mexican culture, Semana Santa. Get ready to experience this centuries-old tradition in all its glory with an overview of the festivities.
We're excited to further share our expat lives with you as we take a field trip to an organic farm, share a skin care primer for dry weather, head to the Mexican pharmacy, and "Dress to Give" for children with neurological and motor disabilities.
With hearts full and eyes forward, thanks for taking this journey with us.
Martha & Nicole
Dry Weather Skincare
A Primer on Combatting Bad Skin
The dry season in San Miguel de Allende lasts from mid-September through the month of May. Rainy season begins in June and arrives just in time to rescue us from the hottest temperatures we’ll experience all year long.
During this time period, skin is more vulnerable to water loss and accelerated aging due to super low levels of humidity, high evaporation rates, and wide temperature swings from the morning to the evening. Elasticity starts to decline, and the effects are not pretty.
About six months ago, I noticed a dramatic loss of radiance and youthfulness in my skin. I didn’t take wearing sunscreen seriously, and I wasn’t drinking enough water. I had also given birth, lost some baby weight, and wasn’t getting enough sleep. It was time to get really serious about skincare.
I started doing research and implementing lifestyle changes to roll back the clock on my skin, and I can honestly say that I see massive improvement. No matter where you live or how old you are, it’s never too late to implement the following big-time changes:
Increase water intake and add electrolytes.
Not only is the weather hot and dry in San Miguel during spring months, but you also spend a lot of time walking on cobblestones and up large hills at high elevation. Fluid loss from heat and exercise can result in serious dehydration. Drinking plenty of water is critical—hydrated skin is healthy skin. Adding electrolytes to your water can help maintain fluid balance while stimulating the metabolism and preventing muscle fatigue.
Purchase a humidifier.
Using a humidifier at night helps alleviate dryness by pumping moisture back into the air while you are asleep. The water vapor helps your skin retain more moisture and prevents water loss. Humidifiers also help to alleviate sinus congestion, prevent cracked lips and nosebleeds, and reduce allergy symptoms. I see fewer lines in the morning, more plumpness, and my lips are not cracking off my face.
Step up nutrition.
While you may want to indulge in endless margaritas and delicious tacos, it’s far healthier to take advantage of the plentiful varieties of fruits and vegetables here in San Miguel. With a fruiteria on every corner, there is simply no excuse! Fresh fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and A, which can curb the damage caused by free radicals that harm skin cells and cause signs of aging.
Take supplements to fight inflammation.
Chronic, low-level inflammation from sun exposure, alcohol, and poor dietary choices eventually leads to a breakdown of collagen and elastin, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles. To fight inflammation, I take fish oil, turmeric, spirulina, a high-quality multivitamin, and selenium. I also add either chia seeds or flax seeds to every meal I can.
Wear an SPF 40+ tinted sunscreen daily.
This ain’t no joke. I learned it the hard way! Daily sun exposure just degrades the quality of your skin. Period. It becomes drier, flakier, more wrinkled, less elastic, and uneven in skin tone. Wearing a daily sunscreen in SPF 40 or more is critical to improving the look of your skin.
Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate.
Low humidity dries out the skin and can cause a buildup of dead skin cells, causing your complexion to appear dull and lifeless. Exfoliating one or two times a week at home keeps skin healthy and smooth. It also aids in the absorption of subsequent skin care products. Aim for a microdermabrasion treatment at least once a quarter, more often if possible.
Hydrate topically with high quality skincare products.
While products range from the grotesquely expensive to the relatively affordable, choose a line that is proven to help maintain moisture with high quality ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. I’m addicted to the French skincare line Vichy. The line is divided into three categories based on age: Idealia, Liftactiv, and Neovadiol and is available at Derma inside Farmacias del Ahorro.
Carry a mister.
The best way to fight the afternoon dryness is to start misting. Any time your skin is feeling tight or dry, give yourself a spray. Try a coconut water-based spray to improve elasticity and reduce roughness.
Keep up with quarterly med spa appointments.
No one likes to talk about this, but yes, it’s necessary. I’ve been using Botox since I was 29. I’m 37 this month, so you can do the math. I don’t have a single line in my forehead. It is important to also invest in a few facials a year and some microdermabrasion.
Reverse sun damage with a retinol-based product or Retin A.
The #1 addition to my skincare routine, yielding the most dramatic results, is the use of Retin A. Retin A repairs discolored areas and rough skin caused by ultraviolet light exposure and helps build collagen fibers in the layer of skin under the surface (dermis). The result is tighter skin, smaller pores, and more even skin tone.
In Mexico, we are super lucky to have access to Retin A (tretinoin) at the local pharmacy for less than $20 US. While there is an art and a science to getting the best results with the least amount of irritation and without more dryness, it can be done. See below for my nightly routine*. If Retin A is too much for your skin, give a retinol-based product a try.
Sleep on a silk pillow case.
Silk pillow cases reduce tugging and pulling on the skin while you sleep by allowing for more slip between your skin and the pillow case. They also help reduce hair breakage. Derma at Farmacias del Ahorro just added these to their inventory!
*How to use Retin A without drying and irritation => Wash your face with a non-foaming cleanser like Cetaphil. Immediately apply Vichy 89 serum (hyalauronic acid) to face and neck followed by Vichy eye cream all over your eyes and also your lips. Wait 5-10 minutes, and then apply Retin A. A little larger than a pea sized amount should cover your face, neck, and chest. Wait another 10 minutes and apply Vichy Neovadiol moisturizer. I like the Neovadiol Magistral line because it is designed for very dry skin that is losing density and starting to sag. This may be too much for someone in a more humid climate, but for me it has been a God send!
Dress to Give
Fashion Days SMA - April 10, 11,12,13
Fashion Days SMA was born of necessity. Fundraising was desperately needed for the Integral Rehabilitation Center of San Miguel de Allende (CRISMA), a charity now serving 260 low income children with neurological and motor disability problems. Under the umbrella of the Vamos Mexico Foundation, chaired by former First Lady Marta Sahagún de Fox, Fashion Days emerged from a brainstorming session with Director Blanca Salinas, and the rest is history.
Booking top notch fashion talent from around Mexico, the Fashion Days team produces shows twice annually and is now in its third year. In addition to raising the profile of Mexican talent, Fashion Days’ proceeds benefit CRISMA and increase tourism to San Miguel among the fashionable set.
From April 10 to 13, events will take place city-wide in venues such as Casa Armida, Plaza Civica, the Rosewood and Real de Minas hotels, and Casa Pineda Covalin. A full itinerary and tickets to the Fashion Hat Bruch are available on the Fashion Days SMA website. We can’t wait to play dress up and support this awesome charity!
Semana Santa in San Miguel
A Pageant of Passion & Faith - April 7-21
Holy Week (Semana Santa) and Easter Week (Semana de Pascua) are major religious holidays in Mexico. For several centuries, the Mexican people have marked the occasion with grand processions, altars, and elaborate reenactments of the Passion and Resurrection, breathing life into the Biblical account of Christ’s final days.
Pilgrims and travelers the world over visit San Miguel de Allende to experience the intense emotions brought forth by this unbelievable holiday. For those of faith, to participate is to experience a modern revival of ancient history, a reminder of the true magnitude of His sacrifice. For spectators, the pageantry and bursts of color are a feast for the eyes, with flowers and altars adorning every windowsill, doorway, and courtyard throughout the city.
Initiated by a procession of thousands from the nearby town of Atotonilco, Semana Santa festivities begin in the dead of night. From the Sanctuario de Atotonilco, the beloved statue, El Señor de la Columna, makes his way to the San Juan de Dios Church in San Miguel for mass at 8:00am on Sunday, April 7th.
Events for the next two weeks follow the liturgical calendar, culminating with Easter Sunday and the “Burning of the Judases” in El Jardin on April 21st. Then finally, the closing, with a sacred return of El Señor de la Columna back to Atotonilco on the Wednesday after Easter. We’ll post an addendum in the days to come with specific information regarding the best places to experience this year’s Semana Santa events.
The Grass-Fed Difference
Cañada de la Virgen Organic Ranch
When visitors to San Miguel de Allende hear about Cañada de la Virgen, they often think of the Otomi Archeological site located about 15 miles outside of town. (Read more about that here).
What they may not know, is that the family responsible for the conservation and preservation of the land surrounding the site, keeping the sacred pyramids free from commercial interests, are also cattle ranchers.
Raising certified organic, grass-fed, grass-finished beef, this amazing family of ranchers and cowboys believe in respectfully raising livestock without taking any of the shortcuts of industrialized meat production.
Their mixed-breed cows live a healthy life and enjoy a peaceful existence. Allowed to roam and commune with the herd, cows live approximately three times longer than factory farmed cattle. They enjoy an abundance of native pasture lands that are free of the herbicides, pesticides, and artificial fertilizers commonplace in traditional industrialized methods.
As nose-to-tail artisan beef producers, all parts of the animal are used including cartilage and organs that are dehydrated and sold as dog treats. Bones are used to make savory, collagen-rich, nutrient-dense bone broth, made with vegetables from their organic ranch garden.
Three times per year, Cañada de la Virgen conducts a cattle inventory to check the health and well-being of the herd, making sure none of the animals are sick or weak. They administer vitamins and minerals and brand new animals. The cows are never given antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, or anything synthetic that would alter the quality of the end product or impede the natural life of their cows. The entire ranch property, it’s soils, vegetables, and animal products have been continuously certified organic for ten years.
Each week, a set number of cows are taken to the city slaughterhouse, arriving early in the morning before any other animals are introduced, keeping the organic status intact. The process is swift and humane, and the quartered sides of beef are delivered to their in-house butchering facilities that same morning, greeted by the three on-staff butchers.
The beef sides are prepared and subsequently dry aged in walk-in coolers for 30 days to enhance the flavor. Once the meat has been portioned, packaged and frozen, it is then available for purchase in the front office located at Orizaba #2. Cañada de la Virgen also delivers their beef to many local organic shops, a few local restaurants, and several stores located throughout Mexico.
As many hip expats in San Miguel know, Burger Night at The Restaurant on Thursdays is the place to be. Chef Donny Masterson uses Cañada de la Virgen's ground beef for his delicious burgers at The Restaurant and his other venture, Birdie's Burgers, inside the Doce18 Concept Store on Relox.
Cañada de la Virgen is always looking to improve and enhance conditions at the ranch with optimal holistic management principles, regenerative agriculture methods, and soil improvements. By doing so, the ranch is providing products the community can all feel proud to support.
Visit the ranch for yourself with one of their organic gourmet countryside experiences. Imagine a delicious organic picnic or asado under ancient oak trees, overlooking the pyramid and the vistas of Guanajuato!
For an additional fee you can include horseback riding, a nature walk, or an archaeological and natural history discussion. Check out their website to book an Organic Gourmet Countryside Experience or to learn more about the organic beef products available for purchase at their offices and other stores throughout San Miguel de Allende.
A Trip to the Pharmacy
In Mexico, It's Complicated
At some point while in Mexico, you are likely to find yourself in a Mexican pharmacy. For most, it will probably be a simple trip for over-the-counter medications to combat a headache or allergies. For others, heading south of the border is a great way to purchase daily medications without breaking the bank. Regardless of what you’re looking for, there are a few things you should know to help make your experience a smooth one.
If you are in search of medications that have been prescribed to you by your U.S. doctor, you might be surprised to learn that many of these can be easily purchased over-the-counter in Mexico. Bring your prescription or the actual bottle to show the pharmacist. With the specific drug name on the bottle, it is unlikely that you will need to know the name of the Mexican counterpart, as the pharmacist can generally look this up for you.
However, if you are looking for an over-the-counter product (ie. no pill bottle or prescription to give the pharmacist), it is best to look up the active ingredient name in Spanish. Sometimes, U.S. brands are available in Mexico, but oftentimes, they are not. For example, the active ingredient in Benadryl is diphenhydramine. The Spanish name for this is difenhidramina. You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you can do a little homework before you get there.
If what you need requires a Mexican prescription, you will need to see a local doctor. Fortunately, many farmacias have a Consultorio Medico located right next door to the pharmacy. A young doctor, usually just out of medical school, will give you a brief exam, and write you a prescription, usually for free. An appointment is not required, but be prepared for a doctor that does not speak English.
Another reason to head to the farmacia while in Mexico is access to top of the line skincare products at a fraction of what they cost in the United States.
Our favorite place to shop is Derma, located inside of Farmacias del Ahorro at Ancha de San Antonio #7. French skincare brands like Vichy, La Roche Posay, Eau Thermale Avene, and Phyto are roughly $10-$15 less per product, which really adds up when when buying multiple items!
Also available at a huge savings are Latisse eyelash serum and Retin A (trentinoin). If you plan to really stock up, be sure to get a pharmacy card so they can keep track of your spending and give you rewards towards future purchases.
If you are in San Miguel de Allende and prefer to go the natural route, there are a couple of places to find vitamins, supplements, and homeopathic remedies. Dr. Yvette Maestas has a her own natural pharmacy set up at Sollano #50. Moonrise Health, located at Tinajitas 4A, is a great little store that sells hard-to-find naturopathic and organic products from the U.S. including supplements, herbs, and loose leaf teas. La Victoriana, at Hernandez Macias #72, sells an array of herbal tinctures, flower essences, and specialty products for pregnant and nursing women. El Arbol San Miguel, at Salida Real de Queretaro 143, is a natural marketplace and cafe where you can enjoy coffee, tea, or a smoothie while stocking up on supplements, vitamins, and herbs.
Whatever you’re looking for, it should be noted that federal law prohibits the importation of any drugs that have not been FDA approved, and this includes foreign-made versions of popular U.S. pharmaceuticals. Some of the more common prescription drugs that you CAN buy without worrying about breaking U.S. Federal law include:
Narcotics and certain other drugs with a high potential for abuse may not be brought into the United States, and there are severe penalties for trying to do so. Here are some examples of the controlled substances that are illegal to bring back over the border from Mexico:
Tylenol with Codeine
Thanks for visiting! Check us out next month for advice on luxury house rentals and how to adjust quickly as a tourist. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for up-to-date information on all things San Miguel!