Will Less Shampooing Help With Oily Hair?

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

4 Ways to Treat Damaged Winter Hair

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

A Surprising Finding About Athlete’s Foot

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

Are Skin Tags Dangerous?

Nothin but skin

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

How to Treat Keratosis Pilaris or “Chicken Skin”

Homemade OvenFried Chicken Raw

If you’ve got tiny, dry bumps on your thighs, then you likely have keratosis pilaris (KP). KP is a common, harmless, genetic skin condition caused by a buildup of the protein keratin that plugs up the hair follicle, resulting in an acne-like bump that can be either white or red in color. Since it resembles goosebumps, KP is often referred to, albeit ungraciously, as “chicken skin.”

Keratosis pilaris most commonly occurs on the backs of the upper arms and on the thighs, and less commonly on the face, neck, and buttocks. Although adults can develop KP, it’s most common in children and adolescents who as they age, typically outgrow it.

Although it’s benign, KP can be unsightly and embarrassing, leading many sufferers to hide their skin and avoid wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts.

How do you treat keratosis pilaris? Although you can’t be cured of KP, there are several things you can do to reduce the bumps and improve your skin’s overall appearance:

1. Moisturize daily. Moisturizing daily, particularly after showering or bathing when the skin is still damp, is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to treat KP. Moisturizing is especially important during cold weather months when KP often worsens.

2. Look for products containing lactic acid, glycolic acid, or urea. Many over-the-counter lotions and creams contain these ingredients that help exfoliate dead skin, making skin feel smoother and softer. With prolonged use, they can help remove bumps and improve the appearance of your skin. Always use gentle moisturizing body washes that both cleanse and moisturize the skin.

4. Consult your dermatologist. If you haven’t had any improvement with OTC products, then talk with your dermatologist about other options. Prescription retinoids can help KP, and in some severe cases, laser treatments can be used.

Photo credit: FCC, snowpea&bokchoy

Itchy Ears? It Could Be Your Artisan Earrings

So Steady as She Goes

A woman came to see me recently with red, itchy, scaly earlobes. She thought she had psoriasis. She didn’t. She had hand-crafted earrings.

Many earrings contain nickel, one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis. Developing an allergy to something requires that you are exposed to it, often repeatedly, which is why nickel allergy is more common in women. Though still used extensively here in the US, there are restrictions on nickel in jewelry in Europe.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that locally crafted earrings were more likely to contain excessive levels of nickel as compared to store-bought earrings. They did not, however, find that there was a relationship between the price of the earrings and whether or not they contained nickel. The study found that   69% of earrings purchased from local artists contained nickel while only 24% of earrings in chain stores contained the metal.

The authors recommended that all jewelry be labelled as containing nickel or being nickel- free to increase public awareness and to help those who are known to have a nickel allergy. Until then, there is a test that you can buy to determine if a metal contains nickel. It’s called dimethylglyoxime (DMG), and can be purchased over the counter or online. When DMG is applied to nickel, it turns the DMG red or pink.

So, should you toss your favorite earrings if they contain nickel? If you have a true nickel allergy, probably so. Unless you don’t mind developing an itchy, red crusty rash. But before you toss (or re-gift) them, you can try to seal the nickel in the jewelry so it doesn’t contact your skin: One way is to paint the metal part with 3-4 coats of clear nail polish. Or you can purchase a nickel protectant, which might work better.

Photo credit: FCC, Evil Erin

How To Remove Plantar Warts

Ah, summertime. Beach volleyball, swimming, plantar warts.

Plantar warts, or warts on the soles of your feet or toes, can occur anytime but are more prevalent during summer. That’s because plantar warts are caused by the human papilomavirus or HPV that thrives in warm, moist environments such as swimming pool decks, public showers, and locker rooms.

Plantar warts usually start as a black dot, grow bigger (typically to the size of a pencil eraser), remain below the skin’s surface, and can become painful. And they’re tenacious — they typically return in spite of proper treatment and like to spread.

Plantar wart treatment options include:

  • Over-the-counter topical wart removers with varying amounts of salicylic acid. You can use liquids, gels, or pads. Some familiar brand names are Dr. Scholl’s Wart Remover, Compound W, and Wart-Off. Whichever product you choose, be sure to follow package directions because over-application of these products can burn the skin. It’s also a good idea to soak the affected area in warm water for five minutes before applying the salicylic acid which will enhance the effects of the medication. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months for warts to resolve.
  • Cryotherapy at the doctor’s office. Your doctor will use very cold liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart off.
  • Minor surgery at the doctor’s office. Your doctor may excise the wart (using local anesthetic) if it has grown deeply into the skin and is causing a lot of pain.
  • Use duct-tape. Although duct tape actually makes warts go away, it’s not my first recommendation. There are less sticky ways (pun intended) of removing them, such those mentioned above. If you want to use duct-tape, however, here’s how: Apply duct tape to the wart and leave it on for six days. Remove for ½ a day. Reapply the duct tape on the following morning and leave it on for another six days. Repeat this process until the wart is gone. It can takes up to a few weeks to a few months to work. Please, don’t ever try this on genital warts.

Never, cut off a wart yourself; it can to lead to pain, stitches, infection, and scarring.

If the wart isn’t painful and you don’t mind the way it looks, then you could opt to leave it alone. Warts will eventually dissolve on their own, but it could as long as two years.

Even if you successfully remove the wart, it can come back and spread, because the treatment doesn’t kill the virus that causes them. If you have a history of recurrent warts, then talk with your doctor about pursuing more aggressive treatment options.

Photo credit: FFC, aussiegall