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Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Basics of Hair Removal

In addition to plucking, your options include waxing, bleaching, and chemical depilatories. Waxing keeps hair at bay four to six weeks. Plucking, bleaching, and depilatories last about two to three weeks or less. Each method has pros and cons. Waxing removes hair quickly and smoothly but can be painful and expensive if you get it done in a salon. You also run the risk of damaging your hair shafts and gettingingrown hairs. Bleaching is pretty easy, but it can burn and sting if you leave it on too long. Be sure to use a product made especially for the face, not the arms or legs. It’s a good option if your hair color contrasts with your skin color. The day before, test a patch on your inner wrist to make sure you don’t get redness or swelling. You should do a patch test with depilatories as well. These products, which come in aerosol, lotion, cream, and roll-on preparations, contain a chemical that dissolves the surface of the hair, separating it from the skin.

Read instructions very carefully; leaving a depilatory on too long can irritate your skin. Also, make sure you get a preparation made specifically for the part of your body you’re targeting. A product aimed at hair on your legs could well be too strong for your face. In any case, you shouldn’t use depilatories around your eyes or on inflamed or broken skin.

For longer-term hair removal, you can hit hair follicles with the more expensive options of lasers or electrolysis. Lasers work best when you’re attacking dark hair on pale skin; however, some newer methods target other skin and hair combinations. It usually takes several treatments to get at hair in different stages of growth. Electrolysis also takes several treatments and can be painful; if your technician isn’t properly trained, you could get an infection from an unsterile needle or even scarring. And both of these procedures can be costly. For either, be sure to check the credentials of the operator. Most states require people to be specially licensed to perform these procedures. If you can, get a recommendation from a dermatologist or your physician.

You may have seen ads for face creams and moisturizers that claim to slow hair growth. Try these products and see if you notice a difference. They may not actually slow growth but rather make it less obvious. That could be enough for you. If it isn’t, you might ask your doctor about prescription medications to slow hair growth. One of the newest is Vaniqa (eflornithine HCl). After about eight weeks, you may find that you need to tweeze or wax less frequently.

Diet for Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, you know that lotions and moisturizers help. But can certain dietary choices combat dry, itchy, scaly skin?

“The most important part of the skin barrier is lipids, including phospholipids, free fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides,” says Amy Newburger, MD, an attending physician in the Dermatology Department at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Medical Center. “Skin without enough fat in it has a protein predominance and is kind of like a mess made just of twigs with no glue between them.” Water easily escapes through a barrier without lipids, allowing skin to become dehydrated.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are necessary for the production of intercellular lipids — the “glue” between the “twigs” in the stratum corneum, or surface of the skin. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect on irritated skin. Two types of fatty acids that are “essential” — that is, they must be obtained through the diet — are omega-3s, and omega-6s.

Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines, as well as flaxseed oil, some types of eggs, and grass-fed beef. Evening primrose oil and borage seed oil, which are high in omega-6s, help hydrate the skin and prevent water from evaporating, says Leslie Baumann, director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute. “If you don’t like fish or are pregnant and can’t eat it, omega-3 supplements are a good option.” Most Americans get enough omega-6s through their diet because they’re contained in corn and safflower oils.

While anecdotal success of fatty acids for alleviating dry skin has not been conclusively bolstered by research, several studies have shown significant positive effects: In a 2006 study of 50 patients with atopic dermatitis, 96 percent of those given capsules of evening primrose oil for five months showed notable reduction in intensity, itching, and dryness of the skin. In another study, of 29 elderly patients, borage seed oil supplements taken in pill form helped reduce water loss from the skin by 10.8 percent. And in a study of 118 infants with high risk of developing atopic dermatitis, those who were given borage seed oil and went on to develop the condition experienced a lower severity of the disorder than those in a placebo group. On the other hand, a 2006 meta-analysis of 22 studies that tested the effects of essential fatty acid supplementation found that no significant benefit was conferred on people with atopic dematitis by plant and fish oil supplements. More studies must be conducted before conclusions can be reached.

Vitamins and Minerals for Dry Skin

“Vitamin C is necessary for the function of the enzyme that causes collagen to form,” says Dr. Newburger, “and collagen acts as a sponge for moisture.”

Newburger adds that copper and zinc are also necessary. Together, vitamin C, zinc, and copper keep collagen denser, which in turn allows for plump, hydrated skin. “Any good multivitamin with trace minerals in it contains zinc and copper,” says Newburger. Zinc has also been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, which is vital for maintaining smooth skin.

Caffeine, Alcohol, and Dry Skin

While consuming caffeine is unlikely to dehydrate you, it does make the blood vessels constrict, which is why it’s used in eye creams (to reduce puffiness). “Long term, this means a reduced amount of blood flow and nutrients though the tissues,” warns Newburger. “And if you don’t have healthy circulation, you won’t have age-appropriate cell turnover.”

In the case of alcohol, Michele Murphy, a registered dietitian at NewYork Presbyterian–Weill Cornell Medical Center, explains that although it’s a diuretic, you’d need to be severely dehydrated to experience any noticeable changes. “The average person having a glass of wine with dinner every night and maintaining adequate fluid intake is unlikely to see any real difference,” she says. Contrary to popular belief, drinking large amounts of water does not affect skin. “The water we drink that’s processed internally isn’t going to impact the external look or feel of the skin,” Murphy says. Instead, it’s the skin’s outer layer that is essential for keeping moisture in.

Don’t Overdo It

If you’re already eating a balanced diet with sufficient fats, adding more fats or taking supplements is not necessarily a quick fix for dry skin. “If you’re deficient in fat or certain vitamins, it does have the potential to affect the look or feel of your skin,” says Murphy. “But supplementing beyond what the body needs has not been shown to improve skin.”