Skin Tips

Acne:

Acne is a skin condition that almost every teenager experiences.  It can vary from mild to very severe.  An acne lesion occurs when the oil glands in the skin produce increased amounts of sebum, causing the pore to get plugged with dead skin, and bacteria break down the oil to cause inflammation.  A teenager may experience just some shiny skin with some small bumps or severe, large painful nodules that have the potential to produce permanent scars.  While some over-the-counter medications may help, prescription medications are definitely stronger and more effective.  Products available over the Internet and from TV are never prescription products, but contain the same ingredients as over-the-counter products that have been repackaged.

Eczema:  

Eczema occurs when the patient’s skin is overly sensitive.  Then, when extenuating circumstances such as heat, dryness, and stress occur, the skin becomes itchy and inflamed.  This leads to scratching and rubbing, which further increases itching, and cycle repeats itself.  We try to educate the patient about what causes the eczema to flare, and prescribe topical creams and pills to treat the itching and inflammation.

Skin Care and Aging:

The main cause of aging skin is sun damage and/or smoking cigarettes.  Ultraviolet light penetrates the skin and slowly damages the underlying collagen.  Cigarette smoking produces free radicals that also damage the skin.  The damage is cumulative and after many years, the skin sags because the collagen underneath cannot support the top surface.  The best treatment for aging skin is prevention, which means using good sun-protection from birth.  The skin should certainly not burn and, most importantly, not tan.  There is no such thing as a healthy tan.  Tanning is defined as the skin’s response to ultraviolet injury.  Once the skin has been injured, there is scientific evidence that topical vitamin A and some lasers can repair some of the underlying damaged collagen.  Most cosmetic products make claims that cannot be scientifically proven and may not be helpful at all.

Hydrating the Skin: 

Many people are concerned about dryness and its effect on wrinkled skin.  As stated above, aging skin is due to collagen damage, and not dry skin.  Thus no amount of moisturizers can help aging skin since moisturizers cannot repair damaged collagen.  In fact, it is constant washing, bathing, and long showers which cause the skin to dry out. It is important to take short showers with warm, not hot water, and to use gentle soap and to dry well.   If the skin is dry and flakey, then moisturizers will help correct this condition, but it will not help aging skin.  Moisturizing creams are generally more effective than lotions since lotions contain a lot of water, which evaporates easily.

Moles:

Moles are usually flat or raised, brown or black growths that occur anywhere on the skin, but often occur more on sun-exposed areas.  If they have a single color and well-defined round or oval borders, then they are considered to be normal and can be left alone unless they are irritated by clothing or otherwise symptomatic.  On the other hand, if an individual mole has more than one color or has a blurred or notched border, then the mole may be a dysplastic or atypical mole, or even a melanoma , which is a very serious skin cancer.  If a mole itches, bleeds, or changes its color or borders, then it should be evaluated.  Even if a patient does not have any moles that appear atypical, he or she should still perform a periodic self-examination every 3-4 months to make sure no pre-existing or new moles have changed.

Actinic Keratosis:  

These lesions are pre-cancerous growths that usually appear on sun-exposed skin of older fair-skinned individuals.  They appear as slightly red, scaling, raised growths.  While they are thought to be pre-cancerous and may transform into squamous cell carcinoma, most remain stable for long periods of time.  They are usually treated by freezing with liquid nitrogen, or, if they occur in large numbers, they can be treated with special anti-cancer topical creams.

Skin Cancers: 

There are three types of common skin cancers:

  • The most common, making up almost 66% of all skin cancers, is the basal cell carcinoma.  This lesion usually starts as a bright red, flat spot which does not go away, and can easily bleed with rubbing.  It can also present as a persistent red bump that can also bleed and become larger.  While it usually does not spread throughout the body, it is important to recognize the lesion early and remove it so that it does not enlarge and cause further destruction of local tissue that can lead to bleeding and infection. 
  • The second most common skin cancer, making up about 33% of all skin cancers, is the squamous cell carcinoma.  This skin cancer presents as a reddish bump with a rough scale on its upper surface.  While most of these skin cancers can be easily removed, if left untreated, large squamous cell carcinomas can eventually spread to nearby lymph glands and into the body. 
  • Finally, melanomas make up about 1% of all skin cancers, but they are the most serious type because they can cause death.  Melanomas are cancerous moles that present with multiple colors and abnormal borders.  They can be flat or raised and can occur anywhere on the skin, often in sun-protected areas such as the scalp, fingernails or toenails, hands and feet.  It is important to recognize and treat these lesions early, because, once they spread, they can cause death even with the best treatments available.