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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Winter Skin’s Checkup

The telltale symptoms of dry skin are easy to spot: Skin just generally feels drier and tighter. Other signs may include roughness, itching, severe redness, flaking and scaling. Sometimes pores become less visible or skin may look dull. In severe cases, skin may crack and bleed, especially on the hands and fingertips.

Why does it happen?

Sun exposure or cold, dry air can cause skin to become dehydrated. Dry skin is more common in the winter because the air contains less humidity. It can also be genetic or hereditary, or a natural effect of aging.

What are your options?

  • Over-the-counter lotions, such as Eucerin and Curél, can relieve dryness and flaking. Or try a body cream that contains oil to help seal in moisture. Look for fragrance-free products with alpha hydroxy acids, which gently exfoliate to allow more water and moisture into the skin.
  • Avoid antibacterial and deodorant soaps, which can be harsh and drying. Instead, use a gentle cleanser, such as Dove or Aveeno, or a mild shower gel with added moisturizers.
  • Don’t take extremely hot baths, or shower or soak in the tub for more than 10 minutes. Doing so breaks down your skin’s natural protective oils, which keep it soft and smooth.
  • Use a humidifier during the winter. Central heating and space heaters can dry out the air in your home.
  • Choose natural, breathable fabrics, such as cotton and silk, for your bedding and innermost layer of clothing.
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids to keep skin hydrated from the inside out. Omega-3s (essential fatty acids found in foods such as salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans and broccoli) can also help keep skin supple.

When should you worry?

See a dermatologist if dryness and itching keep you awake at night, if OTC lotions aren’t working, if you have open sores or large areas of scaling or peeling skin, or if you develop an infection from scratching. You could have a more serious condition such as eczema, psoriasis or another skin disorder.

Did you know?

  • Although everyone’s skin changes with age, a man’s skin tends to stay moist longer. That’s because a woman’s skin becomes much drier after menopause.
  • The best time to apply lotion is immediately after a shower or bath, when skin is still damp.
  • Since dry skin is extra-sensitive, it’s important protect it from the sun, especially if it’s snowing (snow can reflect as much as 80 percent of the sun’s rays). Apply SPF 15 or higher every day to your face, neck and ears.

Kick Dry Skin to the Curb

Winters here and with it come the harsh winds of irritated skin. The routine of cold and dry outside and hot and dry inside is wreaking havoc on our precious skin. So, what’s a girl to do? Thankfully, a lot according to Dr. Doris Day, MD, FAAD, New York dermatologist and author of Forget the Facelift (Avery Books) and Dr. Loretta Ciraldo Miami dermatologist and author of Six Weeks to Sensational Skin (Rodale) who share their winter-protecting secrets.

Be on a hot bath boycott.

In certain parts of the country, it’s chillingly cold. And it is precisely those cold temperatures that may lead many to a huge dry skin culprit:hot, long, baths. “Hot showers strip away your body’s natural oils,” says Dr. Day, leaving your skin dry and tight. Instead Dr. Day recommends taking not-so-hot showers, and then patting dry rubbing totally dry after so your body is a bit damp. “It’s about water retention,” says Dr. Day.

Still using summer products? Aint gonna cut it.

Using a rich cream instead of a lotion will make a huge difference in your skin,” says Dr Day, as lotions are thinner and not as emollient as their thicker cream counterparts. Instead, Dr. Day suggests switching out your light warm weather lotion for a richer, more penetrating cream.

Don’t worry about wrinkles.

“Women often see an exaggeration of wrinkles in the winter,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “because of skins dryness.” So if you look in the mirror and see more fine lines around your eyes and mouth, don’t add more stress to your sensitive skin by freaking out. It is most likely a temporary thing. Instead, defend yourself with a hydrating night cream and a good night’s sleep.

Soak in it.

“It’s important to put moisture back in your body,” says Dr. Ciraldo, and she means literally. Dr. Ciraldo recommends relaxing in a bathtub of tepid water until your fingertips are wrinkled, however long that takes “Your skin has a great capacity for holding water,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “it’s important to get re-hydrated.”

Read ingredients.

Because our skin loses lipids in the winter (the barrier that keeps water in) it’s important to use products that contain lipids, like the ever-popular Ceramides. Dr. Ciraldo also recommends looking for products with Stearic Acid (an animal fat) and Glyco-Lipids, that can also help in preventing moisture loss.

Get oily.

This is a good time to get on the Flaxseed oil and Fish oil bandwagon. Besides, being high in good-for-you Omega-3’s, these oils help keep the skin supple. Fish oil and flax seed oil supplements can also help improve skin’s appearance and reduce the pain of stiff sore joints, caused by the winter cold and possible the increase of you staying indoors and couch surfing.

Avoid Soap.

“Many soaps are drying, so it’s important to wash with a liquid non-soap cleanser,” says Dr. Ciraldo. In addition, Dr. Ciraldo suggests looking for cleansers or moisturizers that are possess botanicals, plant extracts like chamomile and lavender which are naturally body replenishing. Botanicals are often soothing as well; ideal for wind chapped or exposed skin.

Skin and Beauty Glossary

Acne conglobata: Type of acne in which interconnected nodules are located beneath the surface of the skin.

Acne mechanica: Acne caused by exposure to heat, covered skin, pressure, or repetitive friction.

Acne vulgaris: The most common type of acne, associated with blackheads, whiteheads, papules, and pustules, commonly referred to as pimples or zits.

Actinic keratoses: Precancerous growths that can appear red, thick, and rough; usually found on sun-damaged skin.

Age spots: Flat, brownish patches on the skin caused by sun exposure and perhaps aging; also known as “liver spots.”

Alopecia: Unusual hair loss, most often on the scalp.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs): Exfoliating ingredients derived from fruit and milk sugars and used to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots.

Antioxidants: Vitamins A (including beta carotene), C, and E, thought to repair and protect skin cells by neutralizing damaging free radicals.

Atopic: When an antibody present in the skin makes someone more likely to experience allergic reactions.

Basal cell carcinoma: Type of skin cancer that forms at the base of the epidermis of the skin and usually does not spread to other parts of the body; associated with long-term overexposure to the sun.

Benzoyl peroxide: Topical acne treatment that kills acne-causing bacteria.

Blackhead: A clogged pore usually filled with hardened oil and dead skin cells; the tip is visible at the pore opening.

Blepharoplasty: Cosmetic procedure to remove excess fat and skin from around the eyes.

Chemical peel: Chemical solution applied to the skin to remove damaged outer layers.

Dermabrasion: Procedure in which a rotating brush is used to abrade, or remove, the outer surface of the skin.

Dermatitis: Inflammation of the skin.

Dermis: The middle layer of the skin.

Eczema: Inflammatory response in the skin that can lead to redness, itching, and scaling.

Epidermis: The outer layer of the skin.

Exfoliate: To slough off the outer layer of skin cells.

Follicle: A shaft in the skin through which hair grows.

Isotretinoin (Accutane and other brand names): Oral vitamin A-based medication used to treat severe acne.

Laser resurfacing: Laser procedure to remove signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

Melanin: A chemical in the body that gives skin and hair their unique color.

Melanoma: Life-threatening form of skin cancer that usually develops in an existing mole.

Mole: Pigmented skin lesion also known as a nevus.

Noncomedogenic: A product not likely to clog pores and cause acne lesions.

Papule: Acne lesion that appears as a small, red bump on the skin.

Photo-aging: Skin damage that results from prolonged overexposure to the sun.

Phototherapy: Artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation treatment for some skin diseases.

Plaque: Raised, but relatively flat, patch of skin.

Psoriasis: Skin condition characterized by red, raised, scaly patches.

Pustule: Inflamed acne lesion containing pus.

Retinoids: Derivatives of vitamin A used to treat a variety of skin conditions.

Rosacea: Skin condition characterized by prominent spider veins and sometimes swelling.

Sclerotherapy: Treatment that reduces the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins by injecting them with a special solution.

Sebaceous glands: Oil-producing glands in the skin that are attached to hair follicles.

Seborrheic dermatitis: Scalp condition associated with itching and flakiness (dandruff) that can also occur on the face.

Skin biopsy: Diagnostic procedure in which a portion of the skin is removed for examination in a laboratory.

Spider veins: Small reddish or purplish sunburst-shaped veins under the skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma: Type of skin cancer that forms in outer layers of the skin, capable of spreading to other parts of the body, and associated with long-term overexposure to the sun.

Subcutis: The layer of fat beneath the skin.

Telogen effluvium: Hair loss that is temporary, often related to stress, illness, or recent childbirth.

Topical: A product applied on the skin.

Tretinoin: Topical retinoid used to treat acne by unclogging pores; also used to lessen signs of photo-aging.

Ultraviolet light: The sun’s UVA and UVB rays that can cause both skin damage and skin cancers.

Urticaria: Raised reddish, itchy areas, also called hives.

Varicose veins: Large blood vessels that appear as blue bulges beneath the skin; may be associated with swelling, pain, and other symptoms.

Whitehead: Closed acne lesion caused by a clogged hair follicle.

A Guide to Natural Skin Care Products

In today’s world of eco-conscious living, being good to the environment is a high priority, whether you’re buying light bulbs or a cream for dry skin and wrinkles. And cosmetics companies take advantage of that by offering natural skin care products with ingredients that are touted as being better for your skin and environmentally friendly.

“Natural skin care is more of a marketing term than a scientific one,” says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, a dermatologist and professor of dermatology at St. Louis University and president of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation.

“Products that have botanical ingredients that come from plants or nature — think honey or beeswax — tend to be labeled as natural,”’ says Dr. Glaser. They may or may not have the same ingredients that other products do. And you can find them everywhere, from drugstores to department store makeup counters to boutiques and even at dermatologists’ and plastic surgeons’ offices. In fact, so-called natural skin care products are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to tell whether they’re any better for you than other products.

“‘Natural’ really doesn’t tell you anything,” Glaser says. “It’s a way of marketing [a product] to make you feel good about its use when people are trying to be green and think environmentally.”

In some cases, natural skin care products may be the way to go, but not always. “Poison ivy is natural, but that doesn’t mean you want to rub it against your skin,” Glaser says.

The Benefits of Natural Skin Care Products

There are some ingredients in natural products that are soothing and calming to the skin, even if your skin is sensitive. Glaser notes the benefits of these ingredients:

  • Soy. Products that contain soy can soothe the skin while fading dark discolorations.
  • Feverfew. This herb can calm irritated, dry skin that’s prone to eczema.
  • Antioxidants. Vitamins C and E have real benefits for the skin. They scavenge for free radicals, which damage cell DNA, leading to wrinkles and skin aging. Unfortunately, many over-the-counter products don’t have a high enough concentration of antioxidants for them to be effective. But you can buy products such as CE Ferulic (which contains vitamins C and E) and Revaléskin (made from coffeeBerry extract) from a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon, Glazer says.

Natural Skin Care Concerns

Sometimes natural skin care products aren’t the best choice when you’re shopping for a moisturizer for dry skin or a cream to treat your wrinkles, Glaser says. Among the drawbacks are:

  • Sensitive skin irritation. Your skin type should dictate the type of products you can use, Glaser says. Someone with rosacea or sensitive skin — and about half of all women think they have sensitive skin — can be irritated by alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid, which are natural ingredients.
  • Allergic reaction. Allergens in natural skin care products can cause problems for some people.
  • Breakouts. Someone who’s acne-prone may not be able to tolerate natural lotions that contain oils because they may clog pores and lead to breakouts.
  • High cost. You can find expensive traditional and natural skin care products, but in general, natural skin care products tend to be a bit more costly. An oil-free traditional face cleanser is about $5 for 5.5 ounces, while a natural cleanser that contains bark, chamomile, rosemary, and echinacea costs about $9 for 6 ounces at the drugstore.

What to Look For in Natural Skin Care Products

The key to choosing natural skin care products is to choose wisely. When you’re shopping for skin care and you’re considering natural products, keep these things in mind:

  • The fewer ingredients, the better. When you’re buying any type of skin care product, including natural products, look for one with few ingredients, Glaser says. Natural skin care products tend to have extra ingredients added to them, but the more that’s in it, the more likely it is to cause irritation or an allergic reaction, she says.
  • Big brands tend to be better. Big companies such as Neutrogena, Dove, Oil of Olay, Aveeno, Cetaphil, and others test their products before putting them out on the market, so they’re unlikely to cause skin problems, notes Glaser.
  • Try retinol or retinoids. Retinol, sold over the counter in various products, and retinoids, which are available by prescription as tretinoin (Vesanoid) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), are derivatives of vitamin A that help reduce wrinkles. They’re natural products that really work, Glaser says.

The bottom line is that you should choose products that work for your skin, gives you results, and have the feel and fragrance that you enjoy.

It’s a matter of trial and error, says Glaser “Part of the challenge is to find ingredients that work for you.”