Think Before You Ink: The Truth About Tattoo Removal

Tattoo

Maybe it’s because I’m a dermatologist, but there’s one thing I’m certain about when it comes to tattoos: Many people who have them wish that there was an easy way to remove them.

A recent survey from England shows that close to 1/3 of people end up regretting their tattoos and that men are twice as likely as women to suffer such regret.

The first thing to realize about tattoos is that the ink is placed in the dermis, which is the deeper layer of the skin. The dermis is where all the connective tissue lies that make up the structure of your skin. It is also the layer of skin that leaves a scar if damaged. Superficial damage to your skin can typically heal with little or no residual mark. However, when the deeper layers of the skin are damaged, the tissue cannot repair itself without leaving a scar. This is an important point to consider before getting a tattoo.

Because the ink is deep in the skin, there is no cream or ointment that can get rid of a tattoo without leaving a scar. Although there are no shortage of websites claiming to remove your unwanted tattoo by applying their special cream or ointment, I know of none that is effective. It is not possible to bleach the pigment down deep without damaging the skin at the surface. Chemical treatments or acids that claim to get rid of tattoos could only do so by leaving a significant scar, like a third degree burn.

Lasers tattoo removal works best. It can eliminate a tattoo by targeting the pigment. Since different lasers target different ink colors, they can more effectively blast the tiny ink fragments.. The blast and destruction of the ink triggers your immune system to come in and clean up the spots, carrying the ink with it. Because the laser targets only the color, it is able to treat the tattoo that is deep in your skin while leaving the surface of your skin undamaged. Professional tattoos tend to use a higher quality ink in higher quantities, which makes complete tattoo removal difficult. Therefore, realize that oftentimes a shadow of the tattoo remains even after extensive or repeated laser treatments.

Newer tattoo inks have been developed that are engineered specifically to be good targets for the laser. The laser is more easily able destroy these pigments, and the tattoo can be removed entirely, without any residual color. You might want to ask your tattoo artist about this ink before you get your tattoo.

If you decide to remove your tattoo, then make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist who has experience with laser tattoo removal. Realize that different color inks require different lasers; black and red inks are easier to remove. Most patients need several treatments over a period of months to fully remove a tattoo, depending on the color and size of the tattoo and your skin color.

Keep in mind that laser tattoo removal is timely and expensive. Treatment sessions can be several hundred dollars each, and most people need several sessions over the course of many months. Even so, some tattoos are never completely removed.

So, please, think before you ink. It could save you a lot of time and money if the day comes when you no longer want it.

Photo credit: FCC, Jhong Dizon

Can You Shrink The Size of Your Pores?

Beautiful Women

Like many things about your body, pore size is genetically determined and cannot be changed. If you were born with large pores, then you’ll always have large pores. There is, however, some good news: You can minimize the appearance of large pores. Here’s how:

1. Sebaceous glands pump out oil that fills pores making them appear larger. By reducing the oil that’s produced you can temporarily “minimize” large pores. Try a lactic-acid-based toner or alpha-hydroxy-acid-based peel pads such as Bliss Steep Clean Mattifying Toner Pads.

2. Unclog your pores. Clogged pores that are full of trapped dead skin cells appear larger, so unclogging can make them appear smaller. Look for products containing glycolic acid such as DCL Glycolic Acid Pads 10%. Other effective ingredients include salicylic acid, and retinoids such as trentinoin, which is a prescription.

3. Exfoliate. There are two types of exfoliators: Physical exfoliators are scrubs that unclog your pores through friction. Chemical exfoliators such as alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids dissolve the sticky glue-like substance that clogs the pores; no scrubbing is needed. When you exfoliate, you remove dead skin cells from the upper skin layer revealing new skin that looks brighter and smoother and feels significantly softer. It’s easy to overdo exfoliation, so be careful. Once to twice a week is enough for most people. If your skin becomes red, dry, or irritated, stop exfoliating.

4. Use a make-up primer. Primers such as L’Oreal Studio Secrets Professional Base, Magic Perfecting, fill in the pores, making them look smaller and providing a smooth base for your make-up.

How about you? Got any favorite products that help minimize the appearance of pores? If so, share them with us in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, RLJ Photography, NYC

What You Don’t Know About Antioxidants and Tanning

I’m amazed how often deeply tanned women ask me about topical antioxidants for wrinkles.

If you have $100 worth of antioxidants and anti-aging creams in your bathroom, and you have a tan, we need to talk.

The amount of oxidation damage that you’re doing to your skin by tanning far exceeds the minuscule benefit any topical antioxidant cream could provide.

It’s like being 75 pounds overweight and having ketchup with your bacon cheese burger and fries because you heard that ketchup has lycopene which prevents diabetes.

If you’re concerned about wrinkles, brown spots, and other signs of aging, then the sun is always bad for you. You should wear sunscreen and protect against sun exposure as much as possible.

Purposely tanning your skin while trying to fight off aging with topical antioxidants and wrinkle creams is a losing battle. You would be far better off to avoid the sun completely without using any cosmetics than to spend hundreds of dollars on antioxidants creams only to purposely expose yourself to powerfully oxidizing radiation.

Photo credit: FCC, Steven DePolo

Is Cheaper Better When It Comes to Sunscreen?

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If a sunscreen costs more money, it must be better, right? Wrong.

I’ve been telling my patients for years that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on sunscreens (or facial cleansers) because most brands have similar active ingredients. Now, I’ve got back up: A new Consumer Reports study of sunscreens shows that inexpensive store brand options were among the best.

Consumer Reports examined 12 sunscreens for their effectiveness at protecting against UVA and UVB rays — both of which cause skin cancer. Top honors went to Target’s Up & Up Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50 and Wal-Mart’s Equate Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 which were also among the least expensive. Other high-scoring sunscreens included: Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 Lotion and Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50.

So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then keep using it.

Photo credit: stockmonkeys.com

Best Budget Facial Cleansers For Different Skin Types

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Is a $46 facial cleanser better than a $6 one? That usually depends more on the user than on the products. The truth is most facial cleansers, no matter the price, have similar active ingredients. So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then by all means continue to do so.

Every day in my office, I have at least a couple of patients ask me what I recommend for affordable facial cleansers, which I consider to be under $15. Here’s what I tell them to look for in a facial cleanser:

1. Avoid harsh bar soaps which strip natural oils off your skin, leaving your face dry and tight. See all those suds on the woman’s face above? They’re stripping oils off her skin, like dish washing detergent strips oils off of dirty dishes. It may feel good while it’s lathering, but your skin will end up feeling tight and dry.

2. Use gentle non-soap liquid or foaming cleansers designed specifically for the face. They’ll clean the skin, removing dirt and makeup, without removing the skin’s natural oils.

3. Use lukewarm water when washing your face, as hot water can strips off natural oils. And always gently pat dry; never rub.

4. Wash your face with cleanser once a day before you go to bed. For most people simple rinsing with water in the morning is sufficient.

5. I know you want my product recommendations now, and I’m happy to share them. Just remember, that there are many more quality products available, but the ones listed here are ones I have either personally used or have been highly recommended by patients for years.

Normal Skin:

Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser: A low-foaming, creamy, gentle liquid cleanser. (About $6 at drugstores.) It’s in my medicine cabinet right now.

Normal to Oily Skin: 

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash: A low-foaming salicylic acid wash that helps prevent breakouts yet is gentle, not drying, on your skin. (About $8 at drugstores and online.)

Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub: Unlike other scrubs, this one is gentle on your skin, and with beta hydroxy acid, it helps keep skin feeling soft. (About $7 in drugstores and online.)

Normal to Dry Skin: 

Purpose: This non-soap cleanser is gentle, not drying, on the skin. (About $6 at drugstores and online.)

Dry Skin:
Cera Ve Hydrating Cleanser: This moisturizing cleanser with glycerin helps cleanse dirt and oil without drying out skin. It’s good for people with sensitive skin as well. (About $15 in drugstores and online.)

Sensitive Skin, Combination Skin, and People with Skin Conditions:

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser: A creamy, gentle liquid cleanser that is non-irritating and non-comedogenic. (About $9 at drugstores and online.)

Oil of Olay Foaming Face Wash for Sensitive Skin: A lightweight foaming cleanser that’s both oil and fragrance- free, making it ideal for sensitive skin. (About $5 at drugstores and online.)

How about you? Which facial cleansers do you like? Please share with us in the comment section below. 

Photo credit: FCC, shannonkringen

Can Argan Oil Make Your Hair Grow?

Argan

Wild blueberries. Tea tree oil. Acai berries. They’ve all had their 15 minutes of “it’s a miracle!” beauty product fame. Now it’s argan oil’s turn. Argan oil is produced from the argan tree that is native to Morocco. Its devotees claim argan oil can do everything from heal scars and erase wrinkles to prevent sunburns and promote hair growth. Oh, if only it were so.

Last week a patient of mine brought in an expensive shampoo made with argan oil that she believed would make her hair grow more quickly. She wanted to know what I thought about it.

Makers of beauty products can make claims such as “argan oil encourages hair growth” without having to back them up with proof. Here’s the truth about argan oil and hair growth: There is no scientific evidence that argan oil can help hair growth.

If you want your hair to feel silkier and smoother and like the feel and fragrance of hair products made with argan oil, then use them. But if you’re buying products with argan oil in the hope that they will produce some sort of physical or biological effect, then save your money. The only proven ingredient shown to promote hair growth is minoxidil which is found in Rogaine.

As with any oil product used on the hair, remember this: It’s best for dry, coarse, or frizzy hair. People with thin, fine hair may find it too greasy and heavy.

Photo credit: FCC, meshugas

How to Apply Sunless Tanners in 8 Steps

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When I opened the door to my exam room the other day and greeted my teenage patient, she said, “Hi,” and gave me a little wave. I noticed her palm was burnt orange.

“Been eating a lot of carrots lately?” I joked.

“Self-tanner,” she replied, deadpan.

“Right,” I said.

I proceeded to tell her that I was happy she was choosing sunless tanner over actual tanning, especially since melanoma is soaring in young adults and that using an indoor tanning device can increase your risk for developing melanoma by 74% compared to non-users.

The safest tan is no tan, but I know that many teens and adults like the look of tanned skin. So, the next best option is sunless tanners. The “tan” from unless tanners comes from dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a coloring agent that binds to proteins on the skin’s surface, making it appear tanned. While rumors swirl about the dangers of tanning aerosols, there is no clear evidence that DHA, when applied topically and used as directed, is dangerous to humans. DHA does not penetrate the skin like UV rays; therefore, it is a safe alternative to actual tanning. It’s also the only agent approved for use by the FDA.

Despite it’s safety, it’s still a good idea to use aerosol self-tanners in a well-ventilated area since the effects of inhalation are still unknown. Self-tanning wipes are easily portable, but can go on streaky, while gels can cause drying, making the skin feel tight. Creams and lotions are the easiest to apply and are most popular. Self-tanners should always be used in conjunction with broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

Here’s how to apply sunless tanners in 8 steps without looking like a carrot:

1. Exfoliate skin with a dry washcloth to slough off dead skin cells and smooth out skin’s surface.

2. Apply moisturizer and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before applying your tanner. If your skin is at all greasy, gently dab it with a soft, dry cloth. Pay particular attention to elbows and knees, where the skin is thicker, as color deposited there can become more concentrated.

3. Wear latex gloves to avoid orange-stained palms like my patient’s. If you don’t like gloves, then apply Vaseline petroleum jelly on your fingernails and fingertips to avoid staining.

4. Apply in sections, such as legs, abdomen, back, arms, etc. It’ll reduce your chances of streaks and missed spots.

5. Blend well at joints including wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles for a natural look.

6. Dry and set. Wait 15 to 20 minutes for the tanner to set before getting dressed. Avoid sweating and washing for the next 3 hours.

7. Reapply as needed. Most sunless tanners last about 5 days. Be patient. It may take 2 to 3 applications to reach your desired color. Once you do, reapply about 3 times per week to maintain that shade.

8. Use sunscreen. Sunless tanners are NOT sun-protective. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 daily and re-apply every 4 hours, or more frequently, if sweating or playing water sports.

Do you have any questions about using self-tanners or any recommendations to share? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, jaissus