Your Hair Care Can Help (Or Hurt!) Your SkinFeatured

Let your hair care help, not hurt, you.

Believe it or not, your hair care matters to your skin.
Comedogens in shampoos, conditioners and styling products can trickle down onto skin, clogging pores and causing acne. Allergens can cause acne, too: while they don’t clog pores the way comedogens, do, they can irritate pores, causing an infected pore, aka acne. If your problem is sensitivity, flaking or rashes, allergen-free hair care can prevent flare-ups…sometimes dramatically!
For more on how hair care can affect your skin, check out these articles:

Featured, Skin

Stubborn Skin Problems? You May Need An Investigative DermatologistFeatured

Your skin may need further investigation.

Most dermatologists can handle the majority of skin concerns, and jumping from doctor to doctor isn’t the best idea. Usually, it takes a few visits for a doctor to get a full history and see how you’re responding to certain suggestions, procedures, or treatments.
But some specific skin conditions or chronic problems may require a more investigative diagnostician or a specialist.

  • Does your doctor take a full, detailed history, including past diagnoses and test results, other health conditions, vitamins, nutritional supplements and medications, nutrition and exercise, your work and hobbies, your favorite clothing and the materials you’re normally exposed to (such as laptop or phone cases, eyeglass frames, etc.)?
  • If you’ve had chronic sensitivity or hyperpigmentation, does your doctor recommend a patch test (for the former) or photo-patch test (for the latter)?
  • Does your doctor explain to you possible cross reactions or interactions between certain vitamins, food, beverages, or drugs that are known to cause acne, sensitivity or hyperpigmentations?
  • Is your doctor a specialist in contact dermatitis, with knowledge of various ingredients and substances, and how their chemistry might make them related to other ingredients and substances?
  • Does your doctor tend to explain her or his recommendations to you based on current studies?
  • Does your doctor do research or teach residents?
  • Has your doctor ruled out other possible health concerns that could be affecting your skin, such as PCOS, diabetes, thyroid issues, inflammatory conditions, etc.? Does he or she ask for other blood or hormone tests? Has she or he mentioned the possibility of referring you to another doctor to explore other health concerns? For an example, check out My Dermatologist Has X-Ray Vision.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a specific skin disease, are you seeing a physician who is known to be a specialist in the condition?
  • Is your doctor a dermatopathologist (someone who can read biopsies) as well as a dermatologist?
  • Does your doctor seem supportive of you seeking a second opinion, and/or working as part of a team with your other doctors to manage your health?

Again, most well-trained, properly boarded dermatologists can effectively manage the majority of skin concerns. But a subset of people may require more specialized care. Don’t hop around, but don’t give up, either.

Featured, Skin

Get The Right DiagnosisFeatured

An accurate diagnosis is gold.

And it’s not as simple as it might seem.
Dermatology has one of the broadest ranges of possible diagnoses in medicine. What looks like acne could be keratosis pilaris (a condition of dry skin). And there are different types of acne and acne-like conditions the may require different treatments — pityrosporum folliculitis, for example, is a fungal condition and will not respond to typical acne antibiotics. Some bumps could be milia or scars or a myriad of other things. Skin cancers can be misdiagnosed. Dry patches of skin could point to a thyroid condition. And the best doctors can look at your skin and see possible internal problems worth exploring further.
Tip 1: Tempting as it can be to rely on the internet for information, don’t think you know better than a doctor.
Tip 2: If you have a complex, chronic or stubborn skin problem, be picky. Dermatologists who research, teach and publish, who treat hospitalized cases, and who regularly work with diagnostic tests such as patch tests and biopsies may be the specialists you need.

Featured, Skin

My Dermatologist Has X-Ray VisionFeatured

Or, How My Skin Doctor Found My Thyroid Problem.

My dermatologist isn’t Superwoman (although I think of her that way). No doctor can see through you, to your blood, thyroid, heart, or bones. I’m not sure anyone would want that. But my dermatologist took one look at my skin and knew something was off with my insides.
It was, frankly, fascinating. My doctor (a dermatologist and dermatoPATHOlogist) “saw” my endocrine system in the state of my skin. I’d gone to her for some dark spots on my neck that I thought were a reaction to a new necklace (metals are common allergens). Assessing the size of my pores and the presence of facial hair (the bane of my waxing aesthetician), she asked if I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS. My Ob-Gyn had only recently diagnosed me with the same condition based on other symptoms, so my dermatologist was spot on. From there, she looked some more, paused, and suggested I consult an expert endocrinologist for Insulin Resistance Syndrome (often tied to PCOS) because the hyperpigmentation that started appearing at the back of my neck looked like Acanthosis Nigricans. I went to see her thinking I just needed a chemical peel or stronger prescription medication for the dark spots — and came out concerned about my pancreas! True enough, after some lab work, I found out how urgent the management of my insulin had become. And who suspected it? My dermatologist. From looking at my SKIN.
Dermatologists help us look good. They also help manage some pretty serious skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema, and some very serious ones like melanoma and pemphigus vulgaris. But a dermatologist can also be the first person to spot signs of internal problems.
The skin is our largest organ and it is also the most immediate, most visible monitoring system we have for the state of our internal systems. Before a blood test, ultrasound, x-ray, or MRI can reveal an issue, dermatologists can recognize signs on your skin that may point to an internal problem. For instance, before blood sugar values are elevated, diabetes can show tiny distinctive scarred patches on the leg or small areas of numbness; a slow thyroid gland can be indicated by a form of skin thickening in various parts of the body; tiny red spots can signal inflammation of blood vessels both in the skin and in the body’s internal organs. In my case, my pore size and facial hair implied Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS — the addition of my dark spots to the puzzle led to the suspicion of Insulin Resistance Syndrome and an endocrinologist referral.
For other internal health issues that dermatologists can spot just by looking at you, check out What Doctors Can Tell About Your Health Just By Looking At Your Skin, and for more inspiring dermatology-detective stories, search “Ace Skinvestigators” in skintelligencenter.com.
We tend to forget that dermatology isn’t all Botox® and peels and creams and fillers. Dermatologists are so fantastic at helping us look good (wonderful, don’t get me wrong!)…but their talent at this can sometimes make us forget that they are trained to do much, much more. I was so thankful that my dermatologist’s know-how was a cut above most. Her Sherlockian diagnosis sent me to an endocrine specialist before it ever would have occurred to me to see even a GP! Remember, the only symptoms I thought I had were dark spots. And I work in skincare — a photo-allergic reaction to metal was not a stupid guess (we see this quite a bit in our line of work as we cater to some of the most sensitive skin conditions). If lesson number one was don’t think of dermatologists as “just” skin doctors, lesson number two is: don’t think you know it all. No matter how smart you think you are about skin care, nothing beats a proper diagnosis by a specialist.
Lesson three? Be picky. Don’t let the beautification promise trick you into choosing a dermatologist who’s just about beauty. Dermatologists who research, teach and publish, who treat people who are hospitalized, can spot signs in your skin that can alert you to a potential internal problem (and other specialists) before you even think of getting a blood test or other exams. Top dermatologists may seem less glamorous but, in a very real way, the best of the best can save your life.
Ask Karen more about her experience or share her globe-trotting, music-stalking, surfer-loving, skin-healthy life by following her on Instagram/Naranwoah.