6 Tips To Not Gain Weight During the Holidays

When you’re younger, you worry about “the freshman 15.” When you’re older, you worry holiday parties. Eggnog shots, peppermint fudge, Christmas cookies, bacon-wrapped everything. How can you not gain weight? It’s possible. Not easy, but possible.

Here are 6 tips to not gain weight during the holidays:

1. Exercise in the morning. Studies show that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to make healthier eating choices throughout the day. And morning exercise means you burn more calories all day long.

2. There’s an app for that. Whether you’re trying to drop a few pounds or simply maintain your weight, using a diet or calorie count app will help you stay on track. Studies show that when people record everything they eat and drink, they’re more likely to make healthier choices.

3. Be choosy. Going to a potluck or buffet? Scan all the food choices before digging in. One satisfying bacon-wrapped scallop may be fewer calories than 5 pieces of baked chicken. Eating what you’re really craving may help you to avoid overeating foods you don’t really want. Just remember one word: moderation.

4. Make it 2 for 1. For every alcoholic beverage you imbibe, drink two glass of water. It’ll help you stay fuller and less tipsy.

5. Eat normally. Don’t starve yourself the day of the party so you can pig out. You’ll slow down your metabolism and weaken your willpower, two things you do not want to do before a party. Instead, eat a light breakfast, lunch, and snack high all high in lean protein  whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

6. Step away from the table. See the guy in the picture above? Don’t be him. Walk around the room, strike up conversations, dance, and kiss under the mistletoe. You’ll eat less and have more fun.

How about you? What are your stay-slim tips for the holidays? Please share them with us in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, Average Jane

4 Tips to Use Retinoids the Right Way

Can’t tolerate your retinoid? You’re not alone.

I prescribe a lot of retinoids because they work. Originally intended to treat acne, we now know that retinoids are an effective anti-aging treatment as well, reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and spots. Yet, many of my patients who start on retinoids contact me within a week to complain that their face is red and peeling.

They’re not allergic or intolerant to the retinoid. In fact, redness and peeling are both signs that the retinoid is working. It’s actually sloughing off old skin to reveal new skin underneath. That doesn’t mean they or you have to suffer.

Here are 4 tips to use retinoids the right way:

1. Take a break. If your face is flaking like a Noreaster or looks wind-burned, then take 5 to 7 days off. When you resume the retinoid, use it every third or fourth night. You’ll get the same benefits without the discomfort.

2. Stop using all of your anti-aging and acne products, especially those containing glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide, unless otherwise directed by your physician.

3. Before applying a retinoid at night, be sure your face is washed and completely dry. This might require waiting a few minutes after washing. Apply pea-sized or smaller dabs of retinoid on your forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin and gently massage into the skin. Do not apply to your eyelids or lips.

4. Always wear sunscreen when you’re using a retinoid, even in winter, as it significantly increases your sensitivity to the sun.

Photo credit: FCC, Alyssa L. Miller

Why Do My Lips Dry Out At Night?

Lips dry out at night because all the moisture evaporates off your delicate lip skin. Drinking water doesn’t help. It’s a like a dolphin drying out when he’s out of water — giving him water to drink won’t help. Applying a barrier to prevent water from evaporating will help.

  • Use petroleum jelly (Vaseline, Aquaphor) or any lip balm that you like. Keep it at your bedside. Apply whenever you wake up.
  • Use a room humidifier and avoid antihistamine sleeping medications such as diphenhydramine.
  • Sleep with your mouth closed (not so easy, though).

Photo: Leo Reynolds, Flickr CC

3 Ways To Keep Warts From Spreading on Your Hands

Witches Party! Postcard art collection

Warts aren’t just for witches. People of all ages and races get warts, those ugly, sometimes painful skin growths, most commonly found on hands, feet, and genitals. That’s because warts are caused by a virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), that’s highly contagious and easily transmitted. You can get a wart by touching someone else’s warts, by touching contaminated surfaces such as soiled towels, or by picking at a wart, causing it to spread to other areas.

Here are three ways to keep warts from spreading on your hands:

1. Stop chewing your nails. Nail biting is the fastest way to spread warts. Nail biting causes tiny tears in the skin on your fingertips and on the nail beds which pokes a whole huge in your front line defense against HPV. The virus finds these tiny openings, takes root, and grows.

2. Stay moisturized: By keeping your skin moisturized, you create a powerful barrier against viruses. Remember that moisturized skin is healthy skin. When skin is dry and cracked, it’s vulnerable, making it easy for HPV to enter the skin and infect you.

3. Wash your hands regularly: Hand-washing is cheap, easy, and effective in the battle against spreading warts. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and to dry them throughly with a clean towel, paper towel, or air dryer.

Photo credit, FCC, koiart71.

An Unwanted Yoga Partner: Fungus

Yoga is good for your mind and body, including your skin. Yoga mats, on the other hand, might not be. Using someone else’s yoga mat for an hour could lead to an infection.

Fungus infections are common and appear as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, and ringworm. Unfortunately, the fungus can survive on surfaces like mats long after the infected person has left. Although most people blame the gym locker room when they develop athlete’s foot, you can catch the fungus from a variety of places anytime you walk barefoot.

Fortunately, even if the fungus comes into contact with your skin, it doesn’t always lead to infection. Dry, cracked skin, or soft, wet skin disrupt your primary defense against the fungus — the densely packed barrier of skin cells, oils and proteins on your healthy skin’s surface. Here are 5 ways to prevent taking a fungus home with you from your next yoga class:

1. Bring your own mat. At least you know what you have.

2. Use an alcohol sanitizer on your hands and feet after your class. Sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are excellent at drying up the fungus and killing it long before it has a chance to infect you.

3. Clean your yoga mat. Use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and scrubbing will act as a fungicide. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the wash so that your neighbor doesn’t think that vinegar smell from your mat is coming from you.

4. Take a shower after class. Be sure to scrub your hands and feet with soap and water. Fungus sitting on the surface of your skin can easily be washed off.

5. Keep your skin healthy. Damaged, cracked, or moist skin is vulnerable skin. Dry your feet well and use antiperspirant on them if you have trouble keeping them dry. Moisturize daily to preserve a protective barrier of healthy skin which will keep infections out.

Photo: Terriko

10 Tips to Get The Most From Your Dermatology Visit

Having a high quality doctor’s visit takes effort on my part and on yours. Here are 10 tips to get the most out of your next dermatology visit with me or any other dermatologist.

1. Write down all the questions you have and things you want to discuss with me. Be sure to list any spots you’d like me to check or any moles that have changed. Have a loved one lightly mark spots on your skin they are concerned about.

2. Know your family history: Has anyone in your family had skin cancer? What type? Patients often have no idea if their parents have had melanoma. It matters. If possible, ask before seeing me.

3. Know your history well: Have you had skin cancer? What type? If you have had melanoma, then bring the detailed information about your cancer. Your prognosis depends on how serious the melanoma was, that is its stage, 1-4. You need to know how it was treated, if it had spread, and how deep it was. The answers to these questions determines the risk of your melanoma returning.

4. If you have a rash, there are a few things I’ll need to know: Have you changed any of your medications? Soaps? Moisturizers? Cosmetics? Do you have a history of eczema? Asthma? Hayfever? Does anyone in your family have a skin disease? Take a picture of your rash at its worst with your phone; the rash might be improved by the time you see me.

5. If you are seeing me for acne, come prepared. Keep a journal of when your acne is worse. Is it around your period? When you are stressed? In summer or winter? What products or cosmetics are you using? What treatments have you tried? Have you had dryness or burning with previous treatments?

6. If you are seeing me for hair loss, then collect your hairs that fall out and count how many you lose in one day. It’s normal to lose 100-150 hairs per day. Make a list of other symptoms or health problems that you think might be related to your hair loss.

7. Always be honest with me. I’ll never judge you even if you are an avid tanner or a picker. I’m here to help, and I can only help if I know the whole story.

8. Have you read something online that you’d like to discuss with me? Print it and bring it. Sometimes patients will tell me they saw something about their disease on the web; without knowing the source, I cannot say if the information is valid or helpful.

9. Am I leaving too soon? Stop me. My time with you is yours. If you see me heading for the door, then tell me that you still have things you’d like to cover. If we are out of time, then ask me if you can set up a follow-up appointment to continue the visit.

10. Don’t leave empty handed — I’m not talking about the freebie hand lotion or drug samples. For every doctor’s visit, you should leave with printed or written instructions about what we discussed and what you should do next. Patients who receive hand-outs from their doctor are more likely to have positive outcomes.

Have you had an excellent or not-so-excellent dermatology visit you’d like to share? Do you have any tips for us?

Photo: Maggie Osterberg

Sunscreens Cause Acne! (and Other Summer Acne Facts!)

With blonde hair and big blue eyes, she looked like a young Betty Draper from Mad Men. My patient, Julie, had been faithfully treating her acne for months. Just when she was starting to clear (in time for her senior photos), wham! Red dots cropped up over her forehead and cheeks. What went wrong? Summertime.

July can be the cruelest month for acne. Acne on the chest and back (bacne) and big, red pimples on your face can make going to the beach an embarrassing experience. Here are a few acne facts for summer:

1. Although there is some suggestion that sun can help acne, its effect varies and sun often makes acne worse. (Bacne + sunburn = bacne burn. Not good).

2. Retinoinds such as topical Retin-A, tretinoin, Differin, Tazorac, Ziana, Atralin, and Accutane all remove the outer layer of skin, leaving you more susceptible to a bad sunburn. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid also peel the outer layer of skin, making you more sensitive.

3. Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline, minocycline, tetracycline, and sulfa antibiotics predispose you to a  painful pink burn on your nose, hands, and arms called a phototoxic rash; I see patients with this all summer long. The pink splotches can take weeks to fade and sting every time you’re in the sun.

4. Sunscreens can cause acne. It’s a cruel fact. Often the best sunscreens such as zinc and titanium, or water resistant sunscreens are the most likely to worsen acne. In order to be effective, sunscreens have to coat your skin which also clogs your pores.

Here are 5 tips to help keep you acne-clear this summer:

1. Remember that sun exposure is not a good way to clear up acne; most people get far more sun that what is helpful and just the right amount of sun to make it worse.

2. If you have fair or sensitive skin and are taking oral antibiotics for acne, then discuss with your physician if you are taking the best antibiotic during summer. Some patients take a break from antibiotics during summer months or switch to antibiotics that are less sun sensitizing.

3. Find ways to protect against the sun other than sunscreen: avoid the sun between 10 AM and 2 PM, wear a big hat (demonstrated here) and cover up.

4. When you need sunscreen, consider products designed for your face which are less oily or less likely to worsen acne such as: Neutrogena Ultra-sheer Dry Touch, Eucerin Facial Moisturizer with SPF 30, La Roche-Posay Antihelios Tinted Cream, or Proactiv’s Daily Protection Plus Sunscreen.

5. Avoid overusing scrubs, toners and slamming face-first into the beach; the added exfoliation will only make risk of sunburn worse.

Just hang-on, winter will be here again before you know it. Does your acne get worse in summer? What sunscreen do you use.

Photo: Foreversouls (flickr). Patient identity changed.