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Identifying Melanoma

Since this is Melanoma Awareness Month, I felt it was important to republish an article I wrote last year that can help to identify the characteristics of melanoma so that you can detect it early and successfully treat it, if need be.  Unfortunately, the incidence of skin cancer is increasing rather than decreasing, which makes it imperative you know how to protect yourself and your loved ones and know when skin conditions warrant concern.

Have you heard about the ABCD criteria for melanomas? Treatment and cure of melanomas rely on early and accurate diagnosis. The ABCD mnemonic was created for individuals and primary care physicians to create awareness of the clinical features of melanomas.

  • “A” stands for asymmetry.
  • “B” stands for border irregularity.
  • “C” stands for color variation in the same lesion.
  • “D” stands for diameter greater than 6 mm.

Not all melanomas have all ABCD characteristics, but may have a combination of some of the clinical features.  Benign growths can also demonstrate some of the ABCD criteria. Therefore, the ABCD criteria are only a screening tool for clinical evaluation of the skin lesion. Suspicious moles can be biopsied to establish the diagnosis.

Recently, the mnemonic changed to ABCDE in order to increase one’s ability for earlier diagnosis of melanomas. The “E” stands for evolving lesions characterized by change over time. Such lesions are characterized by change in symmetry, change in borders, shape, diameter, and symptoms over time.  Evolving lesions may lack significant asymmetry, fairly regular borders, mild color variation and smaller than 6 mm, but represent a non-healing, changing pigmented lesion.

As with other forms of cancer, self-examination plays a very important role in the early diagnosis of skin cancer.  The earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat.  “Leave no stone unturned”, as they say, when doing a self-exam.  Be sure to look closely at all the following areas:

  • Sides of your body with arms raised
  • Complete front and back of your torso
  • Forearms, underarms, and palms
  • Legs (front and back), feet (soles and between toes)
  • Scalp and back of neck
  • Lower back and buttocks

Moles and suspicious lesions that fulfill the ABCD criteria can be biopsied to confirm a diagnosis, including identifying benign lesions, which require no further treatment.  I, along with the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Cancer Society, advocate the ABCD criteria for the early detection of melanomas and encourage you to perform a self-exam today.

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Are Vitamins the Best Solution to Acne Skincare When Hormones Are Involved?

Acne is most definitely the bane of nearly 80 percent of teenagers and young adults. It affects them at a time in their lives when hormones are “raging,” as if they don’t already have enough stressful issues to deal with during those very important growing up years.

The fact is that a lot of women 25 years of age and older are also affected by an acne condition called acne rosacea. This condition can be affected by hormones, which don’t cease wreaking havoc on your skin (and other physical and mental health conditions) once you’ve reached that magical age of 21.

Hormones obviously play a huge role in acne.  What compounds the problem is that stress aggravates hormones, and so it can end up being the proverbial vicious circle. Unfortunately, hormonal affects can be challenging to treat.

Vitamins can be a helpful asset to your skincare routine and can also be important when considering how to treat acne.  I’ve written articles before addressing the benefits to your skin of vitamin C.  Vitamin A has been known to help with challenging skin conditions; but as is the case with vitamin C, you can’t ingest enough of it orally to actually have an impact on your acne.

Accutane is an acne treatment, which is a synthetic form of Vitamin A. It’s a very good product for treating acne, however, those who use it must be aware (as with any prescription drugs) of the possible side effects.

Birth control pills are also used in the treatment of acne and hormonal fluctuations; however, this is obviously not an option for male patients looking for the best acne products for them.

Keep in mind that the hormonal difficulties are not causing your acne. Clogged pores, skin bacteria, increased oil production, and not enough exfoliation of the dead skin layers are the basic causes of acne. All of these contribute, as well, to the inflammation that is an after affect.  If you make an effort to focus on these issues, the hormones that may be out of whack could have less of an influence on your overall acne skincare problem.

Therefore, when you want to know how to treat acne that you feel is precipitated by hormones, you may want to consider a top acne system that addresses the causes mentioned above without having to use prescription medicines. A cleanser containing salicylic acid and glycolic acid is effective for exfoliating your skin, getting rid of oil and “debris” that could be clogging your pores and dead skin, as well.

It also important to use a topical acne control solution that contains Azelaic acid and salicylic acid. Lastly, to aid in the reduction of bacteria, reduce inflammation and accelerate the healing of existing blemishes, a direct blemish treatment is desirable.

If you have further questions regarding how to treat acne or what you should incorporate into your acne skincare program, please send me an email!

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Basic Steps for Anti-Aging Skincare for Your Eyes

As a dermatologist, there are certain facial skin issues that I am routinely asked about nearly every day.  I think it’s because you don’t necessarily have to be older, with years of skin abuse, to run up against these problems.  I’m talking about eye puffiness, dark circles under or around the eyes, and fine lines.

Naturally, as with most skincare dilemmas and challenges, it makes sense that getting a jump on these problems by starting sooner than later is important.  It’s quite a bit easier to have an affect on the outcome when you’re taking proactive, preventive measures, rather than reacting to a more serious, glaring condition that already exists.

When I’m asked what causes dark circles, lines and puffiness, it isn’t an easy question to answer; because everyone is different, and there are any number of contributing factors, depending on backgrounds and lifestyles.  Contributing factors can include:

  • UV rays (sun damage)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking (very detrimental)
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise

Also, as they say, you can pick your friends; but you can’t pick your family.  Many people inherit the dark-circle and puffy-eye traits, which makes them harder to avoid.

It should go without saying that, if you want to greatly minimize your chances of having to deal with these eye skincare situations, you should avoid or change whatever contributing factor or factors are applicable to you, if you can.

That being said, the other steps you can take to improve upon the look of your eyes may seem obvious; but many people regularly skip one or all of these anti-aging skincare processes and then wonder why they get less-than-satisfactory results.  The steps to which I’m referring are:

  • Cleansing
  • Specialized eye serum
  • Reparative eye cream
  • Sunscreen

Be sure your skin is clean before beginning any skincare regimen.  When cleansing around your eyes, tread lightly!  The skin around your eyes is thin and delicate.

After cleansing, the primary thing you will want to do is use a product that helps repair the fine lines, dark circles and puffiness. Some methods of treating these skincare problems either don’t work or are a brief, temporary fix.  A quality eye serum can start to replenish the antioxidants to this sensitive area that may have been damaged by the elements referred to above (smoking, sun, etc.). In addition, these antioxidants can boost the firmness of your skin through removing dead skin cells.

The third step in this process is to make use of a reparative eye cream, preferably one that uses peptides.  These naturally occurring components of your skin can also improve its firmness, because they build up the areas with collagen and elastin.

As I have advised in the past, using a good sunscreen (which can be incorporated into your moisturizer) throughout the day, even around the eye area, is extremely important to a total skincare regimen. In this case, sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will block the UVA rays that contribute to those dark circles under your eyes, as referenced above.

If you take the time to do these few things as a part of your anti-aging skincare program, improvement in the skin under and around your eyes should show become evident over time.