Hair removal is big business with sales in the billions of dollars. Now there is a new laser (currently undergoing FDA scrutiny) that will provide a safe way for women to do laser hair removal at home. Dr. Tina Alster conducted a study of 20 women who underwent treatment of underarm, forearm, bikini, and leg hair removal. The women had hair reduction of 40-75% after 3-4 treatments performed at 2-week intervals. The results were apparently better on the legs as compared to the underarms and bikini area.
The Silk’n hair removal device made by HomeSkinovations, Ltd. is expected to cost about $800 — similar to a laser hair treatment in a dermatologist’s office.
Can supplements prevent skin cancer?
Reports of foods and dietary supplements protecting us from skin cancer are highly exaggerated. There is little rigorous research to support such claims. The World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research has recently sorted though countless medical studies to help us find truths about cancer and diet. Their recent 500-plus page report has some important findings.
Vitamin A (retinol) might reduce the risk of skin cancer, but can be toxic
Retinol is a fat soluble vitamin that belongs to a family of compounds called retinoids. Other retinoids include beta carotene, isotretenoin (Accutane®) and tretinoin (Retin-A®). Their effects on the skin are profound: they correct wrinkles, smooth brown spots, and treat acne and skin conditions such as psoriasis. In patients at high risk for developing skin cancer, such as transplant patients, high doses of vitamin A (25,000 IU) helps protect them from developing skin cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma. Unfortunately vitamin A can also be toxic causing headaches, dizziness, vision changes, and even osteoporosis and liver damage. Doses greater than 10,000 can dangerous and should never be taken without the supervision of a physician.
Do beta-carotene supplements prevent skin cancer?
Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A and is found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, and winter squash. Although good for your health when obtained from natural sources, the report concluded that there was no prevention of skin cancer afforded by taking beta-carotene supplements. We also know that in smokers, taking beta-carotene supplements might actually increase their risk of developing lung and prostate cancer.
Should I take selenium supplements?
Not if you are trying to prevent skin cancer. The study concluded that taking selenium supplements failed to protect against skin cancer and was associated with an increase in skin cancer when taken at 200 micrograms a day. The evidence to support this increase was weak, but there was clearly no evidence that taking selenium was preventative.
The latest trend in the quest for youthful skin is acupuncture face-lifts. Devotees tout its holistic approach to solve the problem of aging skin. There are several theories purported to explain the effects. One expert claims that the tiny needles induce new collagen growth, another states simply that the procedure “heals from the inside out,” and a third actually uses tiny electric currents to stimulate muscle growth, thereby increasing muscle volume. However, not all “experts” agree that this will improve your wrinkles:
Not likely, said Dr. Richard D’Amico, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
‘First of all, increasing tone does not increase muscle volume,’ said Dr. D’Amico, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. [Moreover] ‘… anything that stimulates muscles will cause skin to fold even more and the wrinkles will get worse.’
Think about it. If simply contracting your muscles increased muscle size, then I would have massive fingers from all the typing I do and huge jaws from talking all day long. It doesn’t make sense.
As for the stimulation of new collagen, there are technologies such as Fraxel® lasers that blast microscopic holes in the skin which do induce new collagen growth. You would need literally thousands of acupuncture needles to equal one treatment of Fraxel, and it takes multiple Fraxel treatments to produce subtle results.
I believe in acupuncture; controlled studies have shown it can effectively treat conditions like chronic pain and high blood pressure. I believe that many medical or laser treatments are no better than acupuncture at treating wrinkles.
I want you to be an educated consumer. Before plunking down thousands of dollars ask:
- What is the evidence for this procedure?
- Has it been published in respected journals, such as the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology or Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery?
- Do you have photos from your office to demonstrate minimal, modest, and excellent results?
Photo by Natasha Calzatti for The New York Times.
Researchers in Brazil say a cream containing caffeine may make women’s thighs smaller. It makes for a nice headline, except:
It was not clear from a news release on the study if the work was a true experiment, with a control group and subjects randomly getting the treatment or a placebo.
Whether caffeine banishes cellulite is less clear. The researchers assessed cellulite changes with a handheld imaging instrument that reveals microcirculation in fat tissue. Imaging showed little change in cellulite, even in the hips and thighs that slimmed down.
Sound too good to be true? I’m sure it is. However, if you apply the caffeine cream immediately before doing 30 minutes on the elliptical five times a week for 10 weeks, then you’ll see those thick thighs melt away.
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At a recent dermatology meeting Dr. Christopher Zachary, a well know cosmetic and laser dermatologist and department chair, warned that the dermatology profession risks losing its credibility by promoting devices that just don’t work. Zachary cautioned doctors to be wary about purchasing devices that are popular but unproven.
In buying a new laser, doctors “can spend $200,000 to make patients look better. Some of them work; most of them don’t,” he told the panel, held at UCI. Zachary told the panel that, although many lasers and similar devices produce little, if any, actual change in patients, doctors still make presentations at medical conferences about the new technology…. “There’s a problem here. I go to lecture after lecture, and I think that if someone went to the podium with a carousel and the slides slipped out, they wouldn’t know which was the ‘pre’ picture and which was ‘post,” he said.
For both physicians and patients, buyer beware.
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