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

Can You Shrink The Size of Your Pores?

Beautiful Women

Like many things about your body, pore size is genetically determined and cannot be changed. If you were born with large pores, then you’ll always have large pores. There is, however, some good news: You can minimize the appearance of large pores. Here’s how:

1. Sebaceous glands pump out oil that fills pores making them appear larger. By reducing the oil that’s produced you can temporarily “minimize” large pores. Try a lactic-acid-based toner or alpha-hydroxy-acid-based peel pads such as Bliss Steep Clean Mattifying Toner Pads.

2. Unclog your pores. Clogged pores that are full of trapped dead skin cells appear larger, so unclogging can make them appear smaller. Look for products containing glycolic acid such as DCL Glycolic Acid Pads 10%. Other effective ingredients include salicylic acid, and retinoids such as trentinoin, which is a prescription.

3. Exfoliate. There are two types of exfoliators: Physical exfoliators are scrubs that unclog your pores through friction. Chemical exfoliators such as alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids dissolve the sticky glue-like substance that clogs the pores; no scrubbing is needed. When you exfoliate, you remove dead skin cells from the upper skin layer revealing new skin that looks brighter and smoother and feels significantly softer. It’s easy to overdo exfoliation, so be careful. Once to twice a week is enough for most people. If your skin becomes red, dry, or irritated, stop exfoliating.

4. Use a make-up primer. Primers such as L’Oreal Studio Secrets Professional Base, Magic Perfecting, fill in the pores, making them look smaller and providing a smooth base for your make-up.

How about you? Got any favorite products that help minimize the appearance of pores? If so, share them with us in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, RLJ Photography, NYC

What You Don’t Know About Antioxidants and Tanning

I’m amazed how often deeply tanned women ask me about topical antioxidants for wrinkles.

If you have $100 worth of antioxidants and anti-aging creams in your bathroom, and you have a tan, we need to talk.

The amount of oxidation damage that you’re doing to your skin by tanning far exceeds the minuscule benefit any topical antioxidant cream could provide.

It’s like being 75 pounds overweight and having ketchup with your bacon cheese burger and fries because you heard that ketchup has lycopene which prevents diabetes.

If you’re concerned about wrinkles, brown spots, and other signs of aging, then the sun is always bad for you. You should wear sunscreen and protect against sun exposure as much as possible.

Purposely tanning your skin while trying to fight off aging with topical antioxidants and wrinkle creams is a losing battle. You would be far better off to avoid the sun completely without using any cosmetics than to spend hundreds of dollars on antioxidants creams only to purposely expose yourself to powerfully oxidizing radiation.

Photo credit: FCC, Steven DePolo

Is Cheaper Better When It Comes to Sunscreen?

Education Save Money

If a sunscreen costs more money, it must be better, right? Wrong.

I’ve been telling my patients for years that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on sunscreens (or facial cleansers) because most brands have similar active ingredients. Now, I’ve got back up: A new Consumer Reports study of sunscreens shows that inexpensive store brand options were among the best.

Consumer Reports examined 12 sunscreens for their effectiveness at protecting against UVA and UVB rays — both of which cause skin cancer. Top honors went to Target’s Up & Up Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50 and Wal-Mart’s Equate Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 which were also among the least expensive. Other high-scoring sunscreens included: Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 Lotion and Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50.

So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then keep using it.

Photo credit: stockmonkeys.com

New Study Proves That Sunscreen Prevents Aging

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

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