Women’s Facial Hair: Blame Your Hormones

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OK. Ladies, has this ever happened to you? You look in the mirror and spot a dark, thick hair on your chin or upper lip. Aghast, you immediately pluck it. It grows back. You pluck it again. It grows back again, only this time you swear it’s darker and thicker. What’s going on?

You’re not alone. The bad news is that it’s all too common among most women. The good news is that it’s almost always benign.

First, it’s a myth that plucking hairs causes them to grow in darker or thicker. These hairs are coarser and thicker because they are secondary sexual characteristic hairs; that is, they are the result of hormonal changes. They’re not unlike male facial hair, which is also coarse. These hairs appear thicker and darker than fine vellus hairs (peach fuzz) because they’re a different type of hair, not because of tweezing. Most women develop these hairs on the chin, jaw line, and upper lip. Though these hairs can appear at any age, they’re more prominent after menopause. They can also be the result of hormonal changes due to issues ranging from birth control pills and pregnancy to irregular periods and hormonal imbalances.

What can you do to get rid of them? For a fast and inexpensive option, tweezing is fine, as are depilatory creams. But the hairs will grow back. For permanent hair removal, try either electrolysis or laser treatment (at a doctor’s office). There are also some prescription medications that stop hair from growing. If that’s something you’re interested in, then speak with your dermatologist.

In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Remember, that it’s hormones at work, not you. And that it’s a fixable problem.

Photo credit: FCC, Michael

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

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 Safely Treat Acne While Pregnant

Are acne medications safe for pregnant women? Not always. In this video, I explain the different categories of safety for acne medications and offers recommendations for safe, effective acne treatments for pregnant women.

Do you have questions about acne and pregnancy? Ask me in the comment section below, on my YouTube site, or on Twitter @Dermdoc.

Movember: Men and Depression

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Based on the explosion of reality TV shows, you might think that anyone would feel comfortable sharing their problems in the privacy of a doctor’s office. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

When it comes to depression women are three times more likely to seek help. And though more women attempt suicide, more men actually commit suicide. Indeed, some 5 million men experience depression each year. And those are only the ones we know about.

Men often forget that psychological pain is as legitimate as physical pain. If you had a broken arm, you’d go to your doctor to fix it. Right?

Although both men and women suffering from depression experience feelings of loneliness and helplessness, there are some characteristic differences in men: Depressed men are more likely to exhibit aggression and engage in addictive behaviors, like alcohol abuse and risky behaviors, like unsafe sex.

Here are some common signs of depression in men:

Fatigue: Despite sleeping 10-12 hours a night, you still feel exhausted and depleted of energy.

Chronic Pain: Backaches, headaches, and stomach pain that won’t go away can also be signs of depression.

Anger and Irritability: Rather than sadness, men suffering from depression tend to show signs of irritability and anger, which often masks that there’s a deeper problem. Are you blowing up at people over minor problems? Are you itching for a fight? Are you unable to tolerate everyday tasks and activities without losing your cool?

Difficulty Concentrating: Are you having trouble getting your work done? Is your mind wandering during important tasks? Are you forgetful?

Isolation: Are you pulling away from your relationships? It’s not uncommon for depressed men to push away loved ones; it’s a defense mechanism.

Sexual Dysfunction: Are you having difficulty becoming aroused or experiencing orgasm? Are you less satisfied with sex than you used to be? Are you suddenly craving or engaging in unsafe sex? These are common in men suffering from depression. No matter how embarrassing, your best bet is to discuss it with your doctor. He’s there to help you, not judge you.

Men are less likely than women to seek help. Why? Is it just that we’re too proud? Sometimes. But, there are many more important reasons why men don’t seek help for depression, including:

  • Men often mischaracterize signs of depression such as fatigue and irritability as something other than depression.
  • They think it’s just something temporary that will go away.
  • They’re more likely to blame an issue or person such as their marriage or boss as the source of their problem.
  • Men are more concerned about the social stigma surrounding depression and fear of looking weak or less masculine.

If you or a man in your life is exhibiting signs of depression, then contact a doctor as soon as possible. This is a health issue that shouldn’t be ignored.

Photo credit: FCC, WorldIslandInfo.com

My Movember Update: The Easy-Rider Moustache

Movember Easy Rider Moustache

Here’s an recent FaceTime conversation I had with my 10-year-old niece in Rhode Island:

Me: Hey, Kiddo! How’s it goin?

Niece: What happened to your face?

Me: It’s my ‘stache for Movember. You like it?

Niece: No. It looks like you have chocolate cake all over your face.

Me: Yeah, but it’s for a good cause. (I go on to explain Movember to her)

Niece: Why not just make a donation and shave the moustache?

Based on feedback from her and my wife, I have decided to go with the Easy-Rider moustache. According to my niece, it makes me look like I can ride a motorcycle. Which apparently is a super cool thing.

For more information about raising awareness of men’s health issues, check out my post on Movember and becoming a member. And please consider donating to this cause.

Here are two more Movember posts you might enjoy reading: Why More Men Are Dying From Skin Cancer and The Truth About Men and Dandruff.

No Weight Loss Willpower? Start Setting Small Goals

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Dipped your hand in the candy bowl? Ordered a double scoop instead of a single? Think it’s because you’ve go no will power? Think again.

Big goals — say, losing 50 pounds — are much more easily accomplished by breaking them down into many smaller goals. Setting and achieving daily and weekly goals builds your self confidence and helps you stay focused. Done in small steps, big goals don’t seem so intimidating, and willpower (or lack thereof) doesn’t seem so daunting.

So, for example, instead of starting your diet by swearing off all carbs and exercising an hour a day, you might start by eliminating simple carbs (white carbs, candy, cake) and doing 10-20 minutes of exercise a day. After a couple of weeks, once you’ve achieved those goals, you might set two more small goals such as switching from diet soda to water and increasing your exercise to 20-30 minutes a day. Once those goals are achieved, you’ll feel successful and more motivated to keep going.

So, it’s set small goal. Accomplish goal. Feel good. Repeat.

Willpower’s got nothing on you.

Photo credit: FCC, Jan Tik