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Archive for December, 2012

What can Catherine (Kate), the Duchess of Cambridge, do to Prevent Stretch Marks?

December 20th, 2012 | Treatments

The skin is like a large layer of spandex covering the body. If you pull on your skin and let go, it will snap back into place. When the skin is forced to stretch beyond the capacity of its natural elasticity, as is the case with rapid growth during pregnancy, stretch marks may form. The presence of increased cortisone levels in the body during pregnancy exacerbates the problem. Typically during pregnancy stretch marks occur over the abdomen, hips, buttocks and breasts.

Seen under a microscope, a stretch mark will reveal only a few elastic fibers in the centre and an abundance of curled and clustered elastic fibers at the edges. The collagen fibers, which are protein building blocks of the skin, are separated rather than grouped into bundles. These changes take place in the second layer of the skin, the dermis.

Initially stretch marks appear as red and purple lines of varying lengths and widths. Sometimes they are wrinkled and shiny. Gradually they fade to a color or shade lighter than the surrounding skin and remain that way.

So, for Kate the million dollar question is whether or not she can prevent stretch marks during pregnancy and the answer is no. There are an abundance of topical products on the market containing agents such as Vitamin E and aloe vera which claim to prevent stretch marks. These products will probably not work and they may actually result in allergic reactions.  There are also claims that moisturizing and massaging the stretched skin will encourage circulation and therefore keep the building blocks of the skin healthy. It is unlikely this will help to prevent stretch marks but it may help with the itch that sometimes occurs with dry, stretched skin.

A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals contributes to healthy skin and a healthy baby. Kate should also avoid unnecessary weight gain. Excess weight adds more stretch to the skin increasing the likelihood of stretch marks.

If stretch marks occur, what can be done? Some will resolve on their own once the skin is no longer under pressure and the hormones are back to normal. Others may have to be treated. Topical agents containing tretinoin in very high doses has proven effective in realigning some of the collagen and elastins in the skin. Unfortunately it is a very irritating course of action.

In the early stages of stretch mark formation when the striae are still reddish, purple in color, treatments with vascular removal lasers have proven to reduce the redness and realign the building blocks of the skin. This is the best treatment for improving the appearance of stretch marks.

Treatments to older stretch marks with lasers such as the DeepFX carbon dioxide laser have proven helpful although far from magical.

New Cleansing Routine May Cause A Rash

December 10th, 2012 | General Info

I recently heard a young woman enthusiastically describe a new cleansing routine involving the application of cooking oil followed by hot water to clean her skin. She informed me that her skin was softer and pimple free because of this new ‘natural’ regimen.

In an effort to forestall a possible skin disaster I explained that it is quite likely that this new routine might result in a condition call ‘cosmetically induced seborrhea.’ The purpose of cleansing the skin is to remove cosmetics, dirt and grime, and dead skin cells. The oil routine might successfully remove make up, however is unlikely to get at all the dirt and grime and will probably not remove the dead skin cells. If these cells are not removed they become matted to the skin. The build up causes flakiness and inflamed oil glands leaving a scaly, red rash that is sometimes itchy (seborrhea). People often interpret the flakiness as dry skin and apply more occlusive moisturizing creams or lotions to the skin. A vicious cycle begins which often results in a visit to the dermatologist.

The best cleansing routine is:

  • Remove make up with a makeup remover.
  • Wash the skin with warm water and a cleanser – mild soaps are better than cream cleansers. Glycerine soaps such as Pears and Neutrogena or Cetaphil Lotion are recommended.
  • Wait 30 minutes after cleansing to give your skin time to replenish its natural oils. If your skin is tight and dry then a light moisturizer may be necessary. Use a moisturizer with sunscreen protection.