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

Tips for Preventing and Treating Dry, Cracked Hands

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

How to Apply Sunless Tanners in 8 Steps

spray tan dublin

When I opened the door to my exam room the other day and greeted my teenage patient, she said, “Hi,” and gave me a little wave. I noticed her palm was burnt orange.

“Been eating a lot of carrots lately?” I joked.

“Self-tanner,” she replied, deadpan.

“Right,” I said.

I proceeded to tell her that I was happy she was choosing sunless tanner over actual tanning, especially since melanoma is soaring in young adults and that using an indoor tanning device can increase your risk for developing melanoma by 74% compared to non-users.

The safest tan is no tan, but I know that many teens and adults like the look of tanned skin. So, the next best option is sunless tanners. The “tan” from unless tanners comes from dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a coloring agent that binds to proteins on the skin’s surface, making it appear tanned. While rumors swirl about the dangers of tanning aerosols, there is no clear evidence that DHA, when applied topically and used as directed, is dangerous to humans. DHA does not penetrate the skin like UV rays; therefore, it is a safe alternative to actual tanning. It’s also the only agent approved for use by the FDA.

Despite it’s safety, it’s still a good idea to use aerosol self-tanners in a well-ventilated area since the effects of inhalation are still unknown. Self-tanning wipes are easily portable, but can go on streaky, while gels can cause drying, making the skin feel tight. Creams and lotions are the easiest to apply and are most popular. Self-tanners should always be used in conjunction with broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

Here’s how to apply sunless tanners in 8 steps without looking like a carrot:

1. Exfoliate skin with a dry washcloth to slough off dead skin cells and smooth out skin’s surface.

2. Apply moisturizer and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before applying your tanner. If your skin is at all greasy, gently dab it with a soft, dry cloth. Pay particular attention to elbows and knees, where the skin is thicker, as color deposited there can become more concentrated.

3. Wear latex gloves to avoid orange-stained palms like my patient’s. If you don’t like gloves, then apply Vaseline petroleum jelly on your fingernails and fingertips to avoid staining.

4. Apply in sections, such as legs, abdomen, back, arms, etc. It’ll reduce your chances of streaks and missed spots.

5. Blend well at joints including wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles for a natural look.

6. Dry and set. Wait 15 to 20 minutes for the tanner to set before getting dressed. Avoid sweating and washing for the next 3 hours.

7. Reapply as needed. Most sunless tanners last about 5 days. Be patient. It may take 2 to 3 applications to reach your desired color. Once you do, reapply about 3 times per week to maintain that shade.

8. Use sunscreen. Sunless tanners are NOT sun-protective. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 daily and re-apply every 4 hours, or more frequently, if sweating or playing water sports.

Do you have any questions about using self-tanners or any recommendations to share? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, jaissus

Should I Use a Lotion or a Cream for Dry Skin?

Cooler, dry air has hit San Diego, and it is making my patients’ skin dry. Many tell me that their skin remains scaly and itchy despite moisturizing daily. The best advice I can give is to teach them to moisturize properly.

The first question I ask is: Are you using a lotion or a cream?

The difference between the two comes down to the water content. Creams and lotions are mixtures of oil and water. It is the oil component that is most important for your dry skin.

Lotions are droplets of oil mixed in water. They have a high water and low oil content. As such they are easy to spread on dry skin. However, the water is not well absorbed and quickly evaporates, which actually dries your skin further.

In contrast, creams are droplets of water mixed in oil. They have a high oil and low water content. They are more difficult to smear on dry skin but apply easily to moist skin. Therefore, they are best used immediately after your shower or bath when your skin has soaked up the water like a sponge. Applying cream then creates a layer of oil that locks the moisture in your skin. The water does not evaporate, and your skin stays hydrated.

This is why in the wintertime I advise patients to use only creams. In the warm, humid summer, lotions are actually better.

Products I recommend include: Olay Body Creme Serum and Eucerin Body Creme.

Or, if your budget is a bit tight this winter, even old-school, plain Vaseline Petroleum Jelly works quite well. Rub some onto your hands then apply a thin coat all over your body.

Photo credit: FCC, Mandarin Strawberry.