Common Skin Problems

Collection of articles and tips dealing with common skin problems.

Dealing with Blackheads

Posted: Oct 25th, 2010

Blackheads are an annoying and unsightly form of acne that can cover all or part of the face with tiny yellow or black spots. Blackheads aren't as serious as some other forms of acne, like pustules, nodules, or cysts, but blackheads can cause serious dread when they appear on your forehead, nose, cheeks, or chin. Contrary to myth, blackheads aren't a sign of poor hygiene and dirty skin. Like all forms of acne, these tiny yellow or black spots result when oil glands in your skin secrete too much oil and clog your pores or hair follicles.

Blackheads - also known as open comedones - are simply a basic acne lesion that opens to air, which oxidizes and darkens its contents. The other type of basic acne lesion - whiteheads, or closed comedones - also contains excess oil, but stays white because it's not exposed to air.

Common triggers include:

  • Hormone fluctuations
  • Medications
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Skin and hair products. Oily sunscreens, hair greases, and some cosmetics can promote a type of acne called "acne cosmetica.". To help prevent this condition, only use skin and hair products that are labeled "non-comedogenic" or "non-acnegenic."

Blackhead Prevention Strategies

Proper skin care is essential. Here's what I recommend:

  • Practice gentle face washing. Wash your entire face from under the jaw to the hairline twice a day with a facial cleanser, and then rinse thoroughly. Also wash after heavy exercise. Vigorous washing - especially with strong soaps or a rough scrub pad - irritates the skin and worsens acne.
  • Protect your skin. Rule number one is to resist the temptation to pick at your blackheads, because it can lead to potential permanent scarring. Also be sure to use a non-comedogenic sunscreen of at least SPF 15 when you spend a lot of time outdoors, and avoid clothing and sports equipment that rub and irritate the skin.

Home Treatment for Blackheads

  • Moisturizers and foundations that contain proven acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid.
  • Blackhead strips, which contain glue that binds to blackheads and whiteheads, and remove them when peeled off.

Crow's Feet

Posted: Oct 25th, 2010

Crow's feet - the wrinkly imprints that appear along the corners of your eyes - are often one of first signs of aging. In adolescence and young adulthood, crow's feet - also known as squint lines or worry lines - usually aren't a concern. That's because youthful skin has a lot of elastic fibers called elastin and a protective protein called collagen.

Over time, however, skin loses elastin and collagen, and the inevitable result is wrinkles. For many women, the appearance of crow's feet - radiating lines that form along the corners of the eyes - is the first distressing sign of aging.

Fortunately, thereís a lot you can do to prevent these unwanted bird tracks from forming, and to minimize their appearance with home or medical treatments.

The Causes of Crow's Feet

You're more likely to develop crow's feet if you:

  • Spend a lot of time in the sun
  • Smoke cigarettes

Not only do both of these factors prematurely age the skin, but they force you to squint to avoid either excessive sunlight or irritating tobacco fumes, a muscle motion that promotes the formation of crow's feet. Other factors associated with crow's feet include a family history of early wrinkling, dehydration, and even sleeping on your face.

Prevention of Crow's Feet

Most dermatologists agree that you're unlikely to develop crow's feet if you don't tan your face, smoke, or squint. So, starting early in life, the best prevention strategies include:

  • Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen before going outdoors
  • Avoiding tanning salons
  • Wearing sunglasses and hats
  • Either not starting smoking, or quitting smoking
  • Drinking an adequate amount of fluid
  • Using skin moisturizers. Because skin around the eyes contains very few oil glands, it's especially likely to be dry
  • Adopting other healthy lifestyle habits. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve skin elasticity. Technicolor fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain high concentrations of antioxidants that may protect skin. In addition, regular exercise helps relieve stress, which promotes the formation of crow's feet and other wrinkles.

The Causes of Crow's Feet

Over-the-counter eye creams tout their ability to reduce fine lines and facial puffiness. Although these products are unlikely to make crow's feet disappear, some of them may minimize their appearance. Look for products containing either glycolic acid or tretinoin (Retin-A), which encourage wrinkled cells to slough off and promote formation of smoother skin.

SW Skincare Treatments for Crow's Feet

If crow's feet are cramping your style, I would recommend procedures such as:

  • Chemical peels, which remove the skin's outer layer and promote the formation of new skin.

Dark Circles - What Causes Them?

Posted: Oct 25th, 2010

Dark circles under eyes can make you look old, unhealthy, and exhausted, even if you're young, healthy, and well-rested.

The Causes of Dark Circles

Skin under the eyes is extremely thin - only about half a millimeter thick - so it is naturally likely to take on a blue or grayish tint from the veins that rest beneath. Dark circles may be more noticeable if you have inherited traits such as fair and transparent skin, or deep-set eyes.

Other causes of dark circles include:

  • Allergic conditions such as hay fever or eczema. The associated itchiness often leads to eye rubbing, resulting in what is sometimes called an "allergic shiner."
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention, often caused by smoking; a salt-rich diet; conditions affecting the heart, thyroid, kidney, and liver; or medications that cause blood-vessel dilation.
  • Sun exposure, which prompts excessive melanin production
  • Thinning skin. Over time, skin under the eyes loses fat and collagen, which makes dark circles more noticeable.

Prevention of Dark Circles

Strategies for preventing dark circles include:

  • Appropriate treatment of allergies, nasal congestion, and other medical conditions
  • Adequate fluid intake
  • Avoidance of smoking, excessive salt intake, and sun exposure
  • Foods rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. These include cranberries, blueberries, bilberries, tea (green or black), black currants, onions, legumes, and parsley, and dietary supplements such as grape seed extract and Pycnogenol

Home Treatment of Dark Circles

Time-honored home treatments, which may temporarily reduce the appearance of dark circles, include the regular application of cool cucumber slices, raw potato slices, or tea bags under the eyes for 15 minutes at a time. Other possibly effective applications include:

  • Preparation H cream, a hemorrhoid treatment that may tighten skin and decrease the appearance of eye bags
  • Creams containing vitamins C, K, E, or retinol

Dry Skin: Prevention and Treatment

Posted: Oct 25th, 2010

Properly hydrated skin is beautiful, soft and smooth. But dehydrated skin -- also known as dry skin, xerosis, and winter itch -- is dull and rough. Not only can it look awful, especially if it leads to severe flaking, deep cracks, or inflamed pink or red patches. It also can feel awful, especially if it causes such intense itching that you feel clad head-to-toe in wool.

The Causes of Dry Skin

Common environmental causes of dry skin include:

  • Low humidity. If you live in a northern climate, dry skin may be more noticeable during winter, especially if you have a forced-air heating system. But if you live in an arid climate, dry skin may be a problem all year long.
  • Frequent showers and baths. Hot water breaks down the skin's protective fats. So do and harsh soaps and shampoos -- particularly those containing deodorants and anti-bacterial ingredients.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Sunlight dries skin, and exposes its lower layers to radiation that damages collagen and elastin fibers, which causes wrinkles, sagging, and the symptoms of dry skin.

Home Care for Dry Skin

Simple lifestyle measures can effectively rehydrate the skin. These include:

  • Short showers. If you limit showers to five or 10 minutes -- preferably with warm but not hot water, and mild soaps -- you can add moisture to skin. Longer showers deplete skin moisture.
  • Moisturizers. Apply a moisturizer -- preferably an ointment or cream instead of a lotion -- within three minutes after bathing. Contrary to popular belief, moisturizers don't "moisturize" the skin, but provide a protective barrier that prevents water loss.
  • Humidification. If the relative humidity in your home is below 40 percent, you may need to use either a portable home humidifier or one attached to your furnace.
  • Skin-friendly fabrics. Choose non-irritating fabrics such as cotton or silk. Washing clothes with unscented detergents also may reduce skin irritation.
  • Anti-itch strategies. Cool compresses or ointments containing at least 1 percent hydrocortisone may provide relief.

There's no need to suffer the agony of dry skin. With proper home care you can minimize itching, redness, scaling and cracks, and restore your skin to its natural softness and smoothness.


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Fall Skincare Tip

Your skin can appear dull and dry after a summer spent in the sun, exfoliation can remove the dull outer layer of skin, and unclog pores plugged by regular sunscreen use. But be gentle with exfoliation: A mild scrub, baby washcloth, or exfoliating cleansing towelette will do a fine job. Exfoliate only once or twice a week, and don't get over-aggressive, too-vigorous scrubbing can scratch, tear, and damage skin, compromising the glow that gentle exfoliation gives. Another exfoliation option: Microdermabrasion or glycolic acid peels. These procedures are more effective and quicker at removing the superficial dead layer of skin.
Oct 20th, 2012

Did You Know

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), up to 80 percent of ultraviolet rays can pass through clouds! Also another surprising bit of info: Just because youíre indoors doesnít mean the sun canít find you ó window glass blocks the UVB light that causes sunburns, but cell-damaging UVA rays still penetrate. The bottom line: Sunscreen is a must, indoors or out, year-round, every day.
March 31st, 2012

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