Want to Be Successful? First Be Beautiful.

Life is better if you are beautiful. Totally unfair but somewhat true. A recent article in The Economist explored the economics (fittingly) of this timeless truism.

[W]hen all other things are taken into account, ugly people earn less than average incomes, while beautiful people earn more than the average. The ugliness “penalty” for men was -9% while the beauty premium was +5%. For women, perhaps surprisingly considering popular prejudices about the sexes, the effect was less: the ugliness penalty was -6% while the beauty premium was +4%.

There might be some biologic basis to our attraction for attractive people:

[Certain] aspects of beauty … are indicators of health. Skin and hair condition, in particular, are sensitive to illness, malnutrition and so on (or, perhaps it would be better to say that people’s perceptions are exquisitely tuned to detect perfection and flaws in such things).

Is it any wonder that cosmetics is a $250 billion dollar industry?

Photo of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen from www.celebspin.com.

Skin Care Myths: Drinking More Water Will Hydrate Your Skin

This is a popular one, perpetuated by fitness and fashion magazines.

Only one study ever linked drinking water with skin hydration. That study used expensive mineral water, not plain bottled or tap water, and the study didn’t have a control group.small-glass-of-water.JPG

No study has ever shown regular water has any impact on your skin and no controlled study has ever shown that any type of drinking water has an effect on your skin.

From a physiologic perspective, drinking water could only have a negligible impact on your skin’s hydration. In fact, patients who have too much water in their tissues (edema) do not have healthy skin. For example, patients with venus insufficiency who have swollen, fluid filled legs have skin that is often dry, itchy, and scaly.

The amount of water in your skin after a 5 minute shower is magnitudes higher than you could achieve by trying to hydrate it from the inside out. The key is to apply a cream or ointment when your skin is still wet to seal in the moisture.

Then drink as little or as much water as you like.

Allergic to Your Cell Phone?

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I have heard of people addicted to their Blackberry® (not me of course), but allergic to your Blackberry? Turns out, it is possible.

An 18-year-old patient from Rhode Island was found to be allergic to his cellphone. The case was reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. He presented with an itchy rash on his face as well as on his abdomen.

Rashes on the abdomen sometimes indicate a nickel allergy. The snaps in jeans and belt buckles are often made of nickel and contact the skin on the lower abdomen. Suspicious that the rash on the patient’s face could also be to nickel, the dermatologist tested the cellphone — it was strongly positive for free nickel.

The patient changed to a nickel free cellphone and his dermatitis cleared. When he went back to using his old cellphone the rash returned.

The dermatologists published a list of cellphones that contained nickel here. You can also order your own nickel test kit to use at home here.

Bercovitch L, Luo J. Cellphone contact dermatitis with nickel allergy. CMAJ. 2008 Jan 1;178(1):23-4. Copyright 1995-2008, Canadian Medical Association.

Photo: Derek Olson (flickr)

Skin Care Myths: It’s Normal for Moles to Change During Pregnancy

It is a widely held belief that moles or nevi change during pregnancy. However, there is no convincing evidence to support this. There are many changes that happen to a woman’s skin when she is pregnant. She may develop melasma, brown splotches on her face, or linea nigra, brown pigmentation on her belly. She may also develop benign growths such as skin tags or angiomas.

It might be that some of these skin changes are misinterpreted as changes in the size or color of already existing moles. Also, since women’s skin stretches during pregnancy, moles might appear to be growing or spreading. This is not the same as a mole actually changing. According to an new review published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology:

The best data available … suggest that nevi do not typically change over the course of pregnancy; therefore a changing nevus during pregnancy should undergo biopsy, just as in a nonpregnant patient.

If you are pregnant, or are a physician who has a pregnant patient with a changing mole or nevus, then it should be evaluated by a dermatologist. Though uncommon, a new or changing nevus, can be a melanoma skin cancer.