Skin Dye To Cover Up Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a common pigment disorder of the skin. It occurs when your immune system attacks your melanocytes, the pigment making cells. This results in splotches of lightened or white areas. The darker a person’s skin color, the more obvious the vitiligo will appear.

There are several ways to treat vitiligo. Applying potent topical steroids or other immune suppressing creams day after day can slowly repigment the skin.

A second way to treat vitiligo is with light therapy. Exposing the skin to ultraviolet light, specifically narrow band UVB, can suppress the immune response and allow the melanocytes to start making pigment again.

Some patients opt to bleach their skin totally white (as has been famously reported of Michael Jackson) rather than try to repigment the skin. This is tricky, though, because often few splotchy brown spots stubbornly remain.

A fourth option is to use skin dyes to cover-up the vitiligo areas. One dye that a few of my patients have had good results with is Dyoderm (Dy-O-Derm). The active ingredient in it, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), is the most common ingredient found in sunless tanners. DHA interacts with the dead cells on the surface of the skin leading to a brown color. It does not affect the pigment producing cells or treat the vitiligo. The brown color only lasts only for about a week before it fades, so it has to be reapplied every few days.

If you have dark skin, then it is unlikely that a dye like dyoderm can create a color dark enough to match your normal skin color. Dyes can, however, minimize the contrast between dark brown skin and white skin, making vitiligo less obvious.

It is also worth noting that DHA can cause a significant increase in skin-damaging oxidizers when it is exposed to sunlight. As a result, you have to be careful to not be in the sun for 24 hours or so after applying; otherwise, you could be exposing yourself to high levels of oxidizers in the dyed areas.

This post is written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD

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Fat is Determined in Childhood and Can Replace Itself

Despite countless thousands of websites, books, articles, diets, exercises, and research, about weight loss, surprisingly little is known about the tiny cells that cause all the trouble — fat cells. Recent research has shown that the number of fat cells you have is set in childhood and remains constant in adulthood, even after extreme measures like bariatric (stomach stapling) surgery.

Fat or adipose tissue is made up of adipocytes (fat cells). These cells function to store energy. When you eat more calories than you burn, the extra calories you eat are stored in adipose tissue. This trait of storing up energy was once beneficial: it kept our ancestors alive.

Before modern times, and even now in some parts of the globe, having enough food to survive is not a given. Humans, like all mammals, store calories so that when we are unable to find sufficient food for days or weeks, we are still able to survive by burning the energy stored in our fat.

Here in the US, many of us get far more daily calories than we need. Day after day these calories are systematically stored until years go by and obesity develops.

Many people think that the number of fat cells increase as we get fatter. This is not true. Excess fat is not from an increased number of adipocytes, but rather from an increasingly large volume of the cells you already have. Weight loss reduces fat cell volume but not the number of cells.

Researchers recently discovered that fat cells replace themselves to keep their numbers constant. They found that when fat cells die, new ones grow to take their place. About 8% of all fat cells are replaced every year and each adipocyte lives for about 8 years on average before it is replaced.

This is important because weight loss techniques like liposuction, which actually remove fat cells, may not have long term benefits. Even when fat is removed, this research shows that new fat cells will grow to re-establish the set number of cells that you developed from childhood.

This post is written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD

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The Plague Hits San Diego

The plague has hit San Diego. No, I don’t mean the Carolina Panthers, although they might as well have been the plague after defeating the Chargers yesterday. I mean the actual plague. The plague is the bacterial infection from rats that killed as as many as 100 million people throughout the world in during Medieval times. Continue reading “The Plague Hits San Diego”

Hair Loss 101: Traction Alopecia

I saw several women last week for hair loss (alopecia). Hair loss is a common condition; it can be especially traumatic for women, because hair is often an important part of their identity and of their beauty. Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that can be prevented if caught early, but can be permanent after it develops. Continue reading “Hair Loss 101: Traction Alopecia”