How to Avoid a Self Tanning Disaster

hamiltonSelf or sunless tanners are lotions that create a fake tan. Most use dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which reacts with protein in your skin, turning it brown (it’s the same chemical reaction that turns bread brown when it’s toasted!) The higher the concentration of the DHA, the darker your skin. Color from DHA develops in hours.

Some self tanners use erythrulose to create color. It’s similar to DHA, but works more slowly, taking up to two days to develop. Erythrulose creates a lighter color than DHA, but when combined with DHA, it gives a redder tan.

Unfortunately, many variables affect sunless tanners and you can just as easily develop an I’ve-got-hepatitis-glow as  a sexy Salma Hayek shimmer. Ask at the cosmetic counter which product matches your skin and apply sparingly — you can always apply more later.

Any irregularities in your skin’s dryness will lead to a streaky tan, so exfoliate before applying. Areas where your skin is thick will darken more than areas that are thin, so apply less in the thick spots like elbows and knees. Put  Vaseline on your fingernails before using your self tanner, otherwise your nails will turn brown giving that not-so-attractive fake smokers-nail look.

Many people prefer tanning wipes to lotions because the wipes apply evenly and you can adjust the color easily by increasing or decreasing the number of applications.

Remember, self tanners do not protect you — they actually oxidize your skin when exposed to sun or UV light (that’s why they’re called ‘fake’ tans, they are not a real tan, remember?). Avoid sun and tanning booths once you have self tanned. Avoid people if your self tan turns you bright orange.

Why Do We Have Fingerprints?

fingerprint-dime-d-sharon-pruitt

A patient of mine with severe hand dermatitis has an identity problem. She applied for a job that she is well qualified to get, except she doesn’t have any fingerprints. Her job requires a security clearance, and she has to have fingerprints to verify her identity (and to verify that she isn’t wanted in Montana). But her severe hand dermatitis has left her fingertips scarred, and she is unable to give adequate fingerprints.

Why do we have fingerprints in the first place? The ridges are unique and allow you to be distinguished from billions of other people. Although wonderful for the FBI, your fingerprints were never meant to assist in identifying you.

It has been traditionally thought that the tiny ridges increase the coefficient of friction of the skin making it easier to grasp and hold things. A smooth surface makes handling delicate objects like a dime, difficult, especially if your hands are wet.

New research suggests that the grooves have another, possibly more important function: they improve your sense of touch. Fingertips are exquisitely sensitive to touch. This is partly due to a special nerve called the Pacinian corpuscle. The tips of your fingers are packed with these sensitive receptors. One sensation that they are particularly attuned to is vibration. It turns out that the ridges on your fingertips when rubbed against an object create a  fine vibration that is not noticeable to you, but is detected by your Pacinian corpuscles.

Loss of fingerprints is uncommon. It can happen from trauma, as from a burn, or from chronic skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, or scleroderma. There are also rare genetic conditions such as dyskeratosis congenital, an inherited condition that leads to scaly skin and increased risk of skin cancers, where patients are born without fingerprints.

Excess inflammation, as from dermatitis or psoriasis, can sometimes lead to temporary changes in the fingerprints. These changes can be resolved with topical steroids or other systemic medications to treat the underlying condition. Once the fingerprint is scarred, however, there is no way to regenerate it.

Post written by Dr. Benabio Copyright The Derm Blog 2009

Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt (flickr)

What You Need To Know About Adult Acne

locker foundphotoslj

Argh! You cleaned out your high school locker years ago and now you have acne pimples on your jaw this morning. You’re not alone — 1 in every 5 women over 25 has acne.

Adult acne, in contrast to the teenage type, occurs more often in women. For some women, this is the first time they had acne; we call this late-onset acne. For other women, their acne never stopped from childhood into adulthood; we call this persistent acne. Many of my women patients have other names for adult acne, but they cannot be printed here.

It Must Be Hormones

We like to blame everything on hormones. In the case of acne, hormones contribute, but they are not the only factor. Stopping birth control pills causes a change in hormones and is  a cause for acne in adult women. Similarly, using progestin-only birth control pills affects hormones in such a way as to cause breakouts. Pregnancy is a time of dramatic hormone fluctuations and for some women, dramatic acne. Similarly, menopause can trigger outbreaks. Despite these known hormonal triggers, most women who have acne do not have hormonal imbalances (they are normal fluctuations in hormones). Foods or supplements that claim to balance women’s hormones don’t. So save your time and money, they won’t help your acne.

You Can’t Scrub Acne Away

Exfoliating to open pores can help, but only when done in moderation. Harsh scrubs or repeated microdermabrasion will irritate the skin and make acne worse. Instead, use mild chemical exfoliators such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid which are found in many women’s cosmetics and in acne treatments. Products that contain benzoyl peroxide also help to exfoliate and will treat adult acne.

Don’t Give Up Your Scharffen Berger Chocolate

Although myths of chocolate and pizza causing acne have been disproved, it is true that consuming cow’s milk (which contains hormones) as well as eating a diet high in carbohydrates (which causes inflammation) can contribute to acne. Eating chocolate once and a while, especially good chocolate, will not cause or worsen your acne.

Cosmetics Cause Acne

Many skincare products contain ingredients that clog your pores, triggering acne. Pantene shampoo as well as many hair conditioners have been known to cause this problem. Also, sunscreens are notorious for causing acne. If you notice that your acne is worse around your hairline or that it has flared since you started sunscreens, then try changing your products; it might be all you need to clear up your face.

Photo: Foundphotoslj (flickr)

Post written by Dr. Benabio Copyright The Derm Blog 2009

Your Hands Are Teeming With Bacteria

hands-pink-sherbert-photography

Right now your hands are teeming with bacteria. Countless trillions of organisms call your skin home, and that’s a good thing. Skin infections do not arise because you have bacteria on your skin. Rather, they arise because the type of bacteria on infected skin is not healthy bacteria but aggressive pathogenic bacteria.

Determining which bacteria are good and which are dangerous is difficult, but our immune systems have managed to get it right most of the time. When our immune systems are wrong, either an infection develops, or excess inflammation develops, as is the case in eczema or psoriasis.

Telling good from bad is hard. There are hundreds of types of bacteria on your hands right now. A recent study of college students (perhaps not the cleanest group of individuals) discovered that the average student has 140 different types of bacteria on his or her skin. There were over 4,000 different types of bacteria identified across all the students. Not surprisingly, the most common types were familiar household names: Propionobacterium (the bacteria responsible for acne), strep, and staph (of which the infamous methicillin resistant staph aureus, MRSA is a subtype).

There were also differences in the bacteria on the dominate hand versus the non-dominant hand — namely bacteria normally found in the gastrointestinal track was found more often on the dominant hand. This will no doubt lead to a follow up study of: “Do college students wash their hands before leaving the bathroom?” (Research so far does not look promising).

Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography (flickr)