OK. Ladies, has this ever happened to you? You look in the mirror and spot a dark, thick hair on your chin or upper lip. Aghast, you immediately pluck it. It grows back. You pluck it again. It grows back again, only this time you swear it’s darker and thicker. What’s going on?
You’re not alone. The bad news is that it’s all too common among most women. The good news is that it’s almost always benign.
First, it’s a myth that plucking hairs causes them to grow in darker or thicker. These hairs are coarser and thicker because they are secondary sexual characteristic hairs; that is, they are the result of hormonal changes. They’re not unlike male facial hair, which is also coarse. These hairs appear thicker and darker than fine vellus hairs (peach fuzz) because they’re a different type of hair, not because of tweezing. Most women develop these hairs on the chin, jaw line, and upper lip. Though these hairs can appear at any age, they’re more prominent after menopause. They can also be the result of hormonal changes due to issues ranging from birth control pills and pregnancy to irregular periods and hormonal imbalances.
What can you do to get rid of them? For a fast and inexpensive option, tweezing is fine, as are depilatory creams. But the hairs will grow back. For permanent hair removal, try either electrolysis or laser treatment (at a doctor’s office). There are also some prescription medications that stop hair from growing. If that’s something you’re interested in, then speak with your dermatologist.
In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Remember, that it’s hormones at work, not you. And that it’s a fixable problem.
Photo credit: FCC, Michael
I get this question all the time from patients, particularly men. Here’s the truth about shampooing and oily hair:
No matter how frequently you shampoo, your scalp produces the same amount of oil. Cutting back on shampooing will have no effect on your sebaceous glands; genetics and hormones determine the amount of oil they produce. But it will cause dirt and oil to accumulate on your scalp and hair follicles, and could cause inflammation and irritation that might stunt hair growth. How often you wash your hair is a personal decision. Wash your hair with a moisturizing shampoo when you feel you need it, whether that’s daily or weekly. Or if you like making shampoo mohawks.
Photo credit: FCC, Denika Robbins
It’s been a rough winter for most of the country. When you’ve got arctic temperatures and gusting winds you’ve also got low humidity in the air. And low humidity not only dries out your skin but also dries out your hair. If your hair is feeling dry and brittle and is seeking the summer warmth, then read on.
Here are four tips to help you repair your damaged winter hair:
1. Reduce shampooing. Shampooing every second or third day will allow natural oils to remain on your hair and scalp and prevent further drying.
2. Go deep. Once to twice a week, massage a deep conditioner into your hair and scalp and let it rest as you shower. Then rinse with warm water. For extremely dry hair, try using a leave-in deep conditioner or conditioning hair mask that you apply before bedtime and rinse the following morning. Be sure to wear a hair net and to place a towel on your pillow so you don’t stain your bed sheets.
3. Go natural. Using hair dyers and other heating devices take a toll on your hair. When possible, allow your hair to air-dry, but aim for at least once to twice a week.
4. Cool off. Some women who chemically treat their hair (think highlights) and use heating devices regularly (think flatirons), develop trichorrhexis nodosa, or hair breakage. Once hair is broken, you can’t fix it. You can minimize additional damage by reducing usage of heating devices. Try every second or third day instead of every day.
Photo credit: FCC, Philmoore47
If you’re a guy reading this, I can be sure of two things: 1. You’ve probably suffered from athlete’s foot. 2. You’ll probably suffer from athlete’s foot again.
We know that walking barefoot in public locker rooms, gyms, and pools put you at risk for athlete’s foot. But now there’s a new culprit in town: your laundry. When researchers in Israel compared fungus-laced socks that were washed in warm water to those washed in hot water, they found that 36% of the socks in the warm water remained contaminated while only 6% of those in the hot water did.
The take-away? Wash your gym clothes in hot water. Which would you rather have, a higher heating bill or itchy feet?
Photo Credit: FCC, Timothy Richards
Recently I had a middle-aged male patient come to me worried that he had cancer-causing growths under his arms and on his neck. Turns out all he had were harmless skin tags.
A skin tag is a benign growth of skin cells. They tend to form in areas where the skin creases such as your neck, breasts, armpits, and groin area. Although close to half the population has skin tags, they’re more common among certain groups: women, particularly during pregnancy, the elderly, and overweight or obese individuals. Skin tags tend to run in families, so if your grandmother and mother has them, chances are good you will too.
A typical skin tag (or acrochordon) is small, oval or round, and hangs off the skin. Skin tags are not dangerous, and they are not a sign of early skin cancer. Indeed, since they’re benign, there’s is no medical need to remove them.
However, if you don’t like the way skin tags look, or find them bothersome, then you can have them removed by your dermatologist. He or she can remove a skin tag by snipping it off with a scalpel or scissors, by freezing it off with cryosurgery, or by burning it off with electrosurgery (using an electric current). The entire procedure takes only a few minutes, is virtually painless, and typically heals with 24 hours.
Photo credit: FCC, Kevin Dooley