Posted by on January 17, 2014 - 2:01pm

Everyone wrinkles at the same rate and there’s not really much we can do to prevent it, right? Wrong. There are certain habits that can help you avoid premature wrinkles, making your skin look younger (and healthier) longer. Tanning is one of the leading causes of premature wrinkles. When you go tanning, ultraviolet rays are penetrating deep layers of the skin, weakening the skin’s support structure. Wearing lotion with SPF 15 or higher will help protect your skin, and should become part of your routine. Smoking also accelerates the skin’s aging process, and early wrinkling has been found in smokers as young as 20! The smoke from tobacco also turns the skin an unhealthy color and texture, so the best thing you can do for your skin and your body is to quit smoking!

Sun exposure and smoking are the fairly obvious skin detriments, but there are more culprits to wrinkling than meets the eye. Daily facial contractions, such as frowning, smiling, and squinting are thought to cause crow’s feet and frown lines. Wearing sunglasses or corrective eyewear to avoid squinting, while also relaxing your resting face, will help minimize extraneous contractions. Yo-yo dieting is another surprising factor in wrinkle development. Some experts attest that years of losing weight and gaining the weight back can damage the skin’s elastic structure. Losing or gaining weight in a healthy, steady manor can ease your skin into accepting the size of your new body.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ and needs protecting. Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated with plenty of water will help keep your skin healthy. While you can never truly rid yourself of wrinkles entirely, protecting your skin can help minimize signs of aging. Take this wrinkles quiz to see how much you know about your skin!

Source: WebMD

Posted by on August 5, 2013 - 2:38pm

You may have heard of swimmer’s itch—it’s an itchy skin rash that occurs after swimming in fresh shallow waters during the early summer. Maybe your kids have come home from camp with an itchy rash in areas their bathing suit didn’t cover them? Even though swimmer’s itch is reported worldwide, most cases in the US occur in northern states, particularly in those bordering the Great Lakes, including Illinois.

Swimmer’s itch occurs when larval stages of certain microscopic flatworms, called “cercariae,” leave their temporary host (freshwater snails) in search of their definitive host (waterfoul and certain mammals), but instead come into contact with humans. We can’t see cercariae in the water, since they are microscopic. Once a person comes out of the water, larvae burrow into the skin as water evaporates and die within the skin shortly after. Rather than producing an infection, dead larvae are recognized as foreign proteins by the immune system, inducing the development of an allergic reaction manifesting as a skin rash.

Swimmer’s itch initially manifests with a tingling skin sensation, followed by the development of small, reddish skin spots. These are generally short-lived and give rise to raised, reddish bumps. The later can become intensely itchy, and may last up to 15 hours, and can then turn into blisters. Blisters disappear within 2-3 days, leaving residual dark spots, which eventually fade away within a month or longer.

Here are some tips to minimize risk of getting swimmer’s itch:

1. It is important not to feed water foul to prevent them from accumulating in water areas frequented by people.

2. While swimming, try to avoid swimming close to the shore, as cercariae tend to get drift to the shore.

3. The longer you spend in infested waters, the greater the likelihood cercariae enter your skin. Swimming for extended periods of time should therefore be avoided.

4. Finally, since cercariae burrow as water evaporates from the skin, toweling off immediately after emerging from the water may prevent this from happening.

Most cases of swimmer´s itch do not require specialized medical attention. Applying cool compresses to affected areas may relieve symptoms. Nevertheless, if itching is severe, you may seek medical attention from a dermatologist. In most cases, topical steroids may accelerate resolution of skin lesions, whereas oral antihistamines may be useful in reducing itching.

By: Guest Blogger, Monica Rani, MD
Departments of Dermatology and Internal Medicine
Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine

Sources: State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin, Swimmer's Itch, and Koralova L, et al. Cercarial dermatitis: a neglected allergic disease. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol, 2012.

Posted by on January 4, 2013 - 11:16am

Many African-American women in a small survey said they avoided exercise at least sometimes because it could ruin their hairstyles, researchers reported.

Among 103 African-American women interviewed in a medical center waiting room, 39 said they had kept from exercising at some point because it would interfere with their hair-care practices, according to Amy J. McMichael, MD, of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues.

On the other hand, half the respondents indicated that they had considered changing their hairstyles to accommodate exercise, the researchers reported online in Archives of Dermatology. Thirty-one said they exercised less than they would like because of their hair.

The findings emerged from a more general inquiry into hair-care practices among African-American women. McMichael and colleagues -- mostly dermatologists -- noted that Americans cite a great many reasons for not exercising as much as they know they should, such as interference from work or household responsibilities and lack of access to appropriate facilities.

"Dermatological barriers are not as well explored in the literature," they wrote, although at least one previous study had found that some African-American women had reported that heavy exercise was incompatible with their hairdos.

To fill this gap, the investigators developed a 40-item survey and sought to administer it to a total of 123 African-American women in a dermatology clinic waiting room. Of those, 20 did not give responses, leaving 103 for analysis. Their mean age was 42 (range 21 to 60).

Only 27% of the respondents said they left their hair natural. Some 62% had adopted a relaxed look, with 18% using weaves or wigs, 22% using hot-combing or flat-ironing, 19% having braids, and 6% using chemical curling (numbers add up to more than 100% because hairstyles could have more than one of these features).

Most of the women reported some problems with their hair or scalp such as strand breakage with normal styling (55%), itching (55%), flaking (32%), hair falling out (23%), and pustules or bumps (10%). About one-third of those reporting itching said it worsened with exercise or heat.

Among the 39 respondents who said they had avoided exercise because of their hair, the following specific problems were cited as the root of the conflict:

  • Sweating out the styling: 38%
  • Time needed for washing/drying afterward: 22%
  • Itching/burning: 5%
  • Bumps on scalp: 3%

McMichael and colleagues concluded that there may be a role for dermatologists in helping African-American women exercise more regularly.  Noting the substantial number of respondents with scalp complaints, they suggested that dermatologists should be attentive to such symptoms with their African-American patients.   Moreover, they argued, "dermatologists can discuss hair management strategies that facilitate routinely performing exercise."

The researchers reported some limitations to the study. It may not be generalizable to African-American women in other parts of the country, they noted. Also, because respondents were recruited in a dermatology clinic, individuals with hair and scalp complaints may have been overrepresented.

Source reference:
Hall R, et al "Hair care practices as a barrier to physical activity in African American women" Arch Dermatol 2012; DOI: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.1946.

John Gever

Senior Editor

John Gever, Senior Editor, has covered biomedicine and medical technology for 30 years. He holds a B.S. from the University of Michigan and an M.S. from Boston University. Now based in Pittsburgh, he is the daily assignment editor for MedPage Today as well as general factotum on the reporting side. Go Pirates/Penguins/Steelers!

Posted by on May 25, 2012 - 6:26am

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day.”  This year it is May 25.   The goal?  To make sure people stay safe in the sun and protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors—on “Don’t Fry Day” and every day.

Here’s why. Skin cancer is on the rise in the United States; the American Cancer Society estimates that one American dies every hour from skin cancer. In 2012 alone, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 76,250 new cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

“Don’t Fry Day” offers simple steps that you and your family can take to prevent sun-related skin cancer, such as:

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher
  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wrap on sunglasses.

For more information on resources available for "Don’t Fry Day" and skin safety, visit

Learn more about how to protect your skin by clicking HERE.