How To Remove Plantar Warts

Plantar warts which occur on the feet are more common in summertime. Here’s how to treat 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

New Study Proves That Sunscreen Prevents Aging

A new study from Australia shows that daily use of sunscreen helps prevent skin aging, including wrinkles and dark spots.

wrinklesSunscreens prevent aging, don’t they? You’d think that would be an easy question to answer. Turns out, until a few days ago, it wasn’t. That’s because it takes years to conduct such studies.

Now, a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows conclusively that wearing sunscreen helps prevent photoaging — premature aging from the sun, including wrinkles and sun spots. The study participants who applied sunscreen every day showed 24% less skin aging than those told to use the cream as they normally do.

Researchers found that of the 900 men and women in the study, those assigned to use daily sunscreen were less likely to have wrinkles and dark spots after 4.5 years than those who did not regularly use sunscreen.

So, what should you do? Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily.

And remember, “buckle up and reapply.”

Photo credit, FCC, gracieandviv

Melanoma Is on the Rise in Children

Melanoma is on the rise in children. Learn how to protect your children in the sun while still having fun.

Classic beach picture

There are few sights cuter than a toddler waddling her way along the beach.

There are few sights sadder than a toddler with a raging sunburn, particularly to the eyes of a dermatologist. That’s because we know how damaging even one sunburn can be to a child. In fact, just one blistering sunburn in childhood will more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. 

An infant’s skin has very little melanin (the pigment that gives the skin its color) which makes them especially vulnerable to sun damage. This is why babies 6 months old and younger should be kept out of the sun completely. Sunscreen is too harsh for their delicate infant skin.

Why is sun protection so important? Because we know that sun damage causes skin cancer in children, adolescents, and adults. While melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is still rare in children, a new report published in April 2013, shows that it is actually rising in children. Researchers from Washington University and Harvard have found that the incidence of childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased an average of 2% per year from 1973 to 2009. Moreover, melanoma is nine times more common between the ages of 10 and 20 than it is between birth and 10 years. So, protecting your child from the sun will help protect her from skin cancer throughout her life.

Here’s how to keep your child safe while still having fun in the sun:

  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 to 50 about 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Reapply every 2 to 4 hours, or more frequently if your child is sweating or swimming. Don’t forget to apply it to their ears, neck, hairline, hands, and feet. Do not use sunscreen on children 6 months old and younger.
  • Cover up: Your child won’t get a sunburn through clothing. So wearing lightweight protective clothing such as long-sleeved tops and pants is an excellent way to prevent sun damage. Consider buying a protective baby suit like this one or a sun-protective rash guard clothing like this long-sleeved top for toddlers.
  • Hats & Sunglasses: They’re not just fashion accessories; they’re sun-protective.
  • Seek the shade: Remember that the sun is strongest between 10am and 4pm, so limiting your child’s time outdoors during those hours will help. If that’s not possible, then be sure to sneak in shade breaks throughout the day.

Skincancer.org offers more helpful information about sun protection for infants, babies, and toddlers.

One more thing…. Have you gotten naked for someone you love yet? May is Melanoma Awareness Month which means it’s time to get naked and do a skin exam. Please help spread the word by posting about this and about your skin check! Use the hashtag #GNFSYL on Twitter.

Photo credit: FCC, Stevie Lee

Get Naked For Someone You Love #GNFSYL

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Get Naked For Someone You to detect skin cancer early.

Mother and son

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. This year I want you to get naked for someone you love.

Why? Because melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer, yet when caught early, can have up to a 98% survival rate. Early detection of melanoma, therefore, is critical. The good news is that you can do something about it: Get naked.

You or someone you care about might have melanoma right now. Full body skin checks save lives and they’re easy to do. You can do it alone, or you can do it with someone you love.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Pick a day in May to get naked and do a skin exam. You’ve got 31 opportunities (and you’re likely to shed clothes at some point, so no excuses!)
  2. Go to this step-by-step self skin exam.
  3. Get naked.
  4. Perform the self skin exam, and take notes. If your husband, wife, or partner is around, then have them do the skin exam for you! Start at the top of the head and work your way down to the toes.
  5. Once you’ve done it, let us know! Post that you did your skin exam on Twitter and use the hashtag #GNFSYL. Share it on other social media platforms you use too.
  6. Share this story. There are thousands of undiagnosed melanomas out there right now and by catching even one early, someone’s life will be saved this month. It might be someone you love.

Melanoma Facts from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes.
  • An estimated 9,480 people will die of melanoma in 2013.
  • About 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
  • A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.
  • One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Tips for Preventing and Treating Dry, Cracked Hands

Tips on how to prevent and treat dry, cracked hands in wintertime.

Young girl in Red Cross uniform

When I went to shake my patient’s hand the other day, she reciprocated with a gloved hand. It was 70 degrees out and sunny.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“My hands are such a mess, I’ve resorted to wearing gloves,” she said.

After coaxing her to remove her gloves, I saw why she was dismayed. The skin on her hands was red, chafed, and cracked. She didn’t have a skin disease. She had extremely dry skin.

She’s not alone. In wintertime as temperatures drop, the relative humidity in the air also drops causing moisture to evaporate more quickly on your skin, leading to dry skin. In some cases, the skin becomes chapped (like chapped lips), cracks, and bleeds. While not dangerous to your health, it can be painful and frustrating. I assure you, there’s help!

Let’s start with how to keep your hands moisturized and healthy. You can help prevent dry, cracked hands by:

1. Using warm, not hot water to wash your hands.

2. Using gentle moisturizing soaps with softening ingredients such as glycerin or lanolin, not harsh bar soaps that strip natural oils off your skin.

3. Applying moisturizer after every hand wash while hands are still damp and gently pat dry.

4. Using hand gel sanitizers that are less drying than soap and water.

Already got dry hands? Here are 4 tips for treating dry, cracked hands:

1. Nighttime deep moisturizing: When you sleep, your hands get a break from the daily beating they take from water, wind, soap, and anything else that can irritate them. And since you sleep 7-8 hours (You do, don’t you?), your skin has time to  heal. You don’t need expensive designer moisturizers. Any moisturizing cream will do. Look for ingredients such as dimethicone or glycerin which lock moisture in the skin. Many creams are thicker and oiler than lotions, so they’re preferable for nighttime use.

You can also use plain ol’ petrolatum (Vaseline petroleum jelly) or all-natural olive oil. Coat your hands thoroughly, rubbing in the product around nails and cuts. Then cover your hands with cotton gloves (or even soft socks). You’ll notice a marked improvement when you wake up the next morning. Do this as often as needed until your hands are healed. It can take up to 2 weeks for badly chapped skin to heal completely.

2. Make friends with gloves. Wear gloves at all times when you’re outdoors. That includes when you’re running from your car to your office, when you’re carrying in the groceries, and when you’re pumping gas. Covered skin is protected skin.

You must also wear gloves when cooking, washing dishes, or doing any type of cleaning. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it works. The more you wet and dry your cracked hands, the longer they will take to heal. And harsh chemicals found in many cleaners can exacerbate your already chapped, painful skin. I recommend wearing cotton-lined rubber gloves, such as Mr. Clean Bliss Gloves, which won’t make your hands sweat. You can even apply lotion to your hands before you put on the gloves for added protection and moisturization. Even better, tell your spouse, kids, or significant other that you can’t cook or clean for a week or more until your hands begin to heal. When they balk, simply say, “Doctor’s orders.”

3. Replace lotions with creams. Switch from thinner lotions to thicker moisturizing creams which create a protective barrier on your skin. Any OTC moisturizing cream will do; just look for ones containing petrolatum, shea butter, mineral oil, lanolin, or dimethicone which help prevent water evaporation on your skin. I like Eucerin Intensive Repair Hand Cream, and Neutrogena Hand Cream (just remember to splash water on your hands before applying the Neutrogena cream for optimal absorption).

When to seek treatment?

If your hands are itchy, bleeding, and painful and aren’t responding to OTC treatments, then see your doctor.

How about you? Do you have any tips for treating dry, chapped hands? If so, please share them in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, Powerhouse Museum Collection

Can Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

Dandruff, no matter how severs, cannot cause hair loss.

Hole BioPic 05 F

Dandruff cannot cause hair loss.

While claims abound that dandruff causes hair loss and balding, there is no scientific evidence that it does. Though unsightly, dandruff is normal. Almost everyone experiences it at some point in his or her life, though it afflicts men more often. (For more on that, check out a recent post of mine titled, “The Truth About Men and Dandruff.“)

If you have dandruff and are experiencing patchy hair loss, then it could be any number of other hair loss diseases, including male pattern hair loss or alopecia aerata. See your dermatologist who can help you.

Photo credit: FCC, Carolyn P. Speranza

Food Friday: Eat Chocolate for Sun Protection

Studies show that dark chocolate, high in flavonols, provide some protection against damaging UV rays.

Chocolat de Bonnat tasting

Planning a Caribbean get-away this winter? Don’t forget to pack some hot chocolate.

Several studies, including a well known one 2006 German researchers have shown that dark chocolate beverages high in flavonols (plant-based antioxidants), may have protective properties against damaging UV rays. In the study, they compared two groups of women. One drank flavonol-rich chocolate beverages  while the other drank a less potent chocolate beverage. When both groups were exposed to UV-light, those who drank the richer chocolate beverage suffered the least sunburn.

A 2009 study published in The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology similarly found that regular consumption of chocolate high in flavonols offered some protection against sun’s damaging rays.

What’s the sweet spot for protection? 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate was found to provide an SPF of 2 or 3. While that’s better than no protection, it certainly is not enough to adequately protect you from sun damage.

Since chocolate doesn’t list the amount of flavonoids it contains, look for brands with at least 70% cacoa. So, pack your broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 for optimum sun protection and toss a few dark chocolate bars like Ghiradelli’s Intense Dark Twilight Delight 72%, in your carry-on.

Photo credit: FCC, EverJean