Lessons from dermatology

This rotation, my very last in medical school, has been in dermatology. I've picked up some useful tidbits this month about how dermatologists like to treat certain skin conditions, and I thought I'd pass them along, for A LOT less than the dermatologists charge, too.

1. WEAR SUNSCREEN. I know this seems obvious, but trust me. Sun-damaged skin does NOT age well. It ages very, very poorly. People who spend their lives in the sun without protection end up looking very wrinkled with discoloration and spots on their faces and arms. You don't want to look like that. After spending just a few days in clinic, I decided I was OK with staying the pasty white color I've always been.

And when you apply sunscreen, apply lots of it. Very few people actually put enough on to protect themselves, which is why you should use at least SPF 15, if not 30. Here are some brands that the dermatologists I worked with recommend: For adults, Neutrogena with Helioplex - this sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays, both of which are harmful. (Most sunscreens do not block against both.) For kids, especially very young children in whom you want to limit exposure to chemicals normally found in sunscreens that can cause allergies, try Blue Lizard - this works by reflecting the sun's rays, is waterproof, but shouldn't cause problems in people with sensitive skin.

2. Dry Skin - If you have very dry skin, or have a child with eczema, try putting on lotion just after you get out of the shower and aren't completely dry. By doing this, you lock the moisture from your shower into your skin before it evaporates and dries your skin out. One of the residents referred to this regimen as the "soak and grease." Good lotions that they are always recommending to people are: Cetaphil, Eucerin, or Neutrogena Norwegian Formula. For very dry and scaly skin, try Lac-hydrin lotion, which is just a little stronger. Especially for kids with eczema, the key to controlling it well is making sure the skin stays very hydrated.

3. Keep an eye on all moles and other skin lesions. The big things to worry about with moles is if they're changing, or if you see a new one. If you have a mole you've had your whole life and suddenly it looks different, please go and see a doctor. Likewise, if you or someone you know has a sore that just won't heal on their nose, forehead, ear, or other sun-damaged area, it could be cancerous. And young people can get these, too, so be self-aware. And if you start to notice something, please come in right away. Don't wait until you have a giant cauliflower-sized mass growing out of your nose, like one patient who came to clinic recently. (No kidding about the size.)

4. Steroid creams - Don't use these indescriminately unless you've been instructed to do so. They can cause permanent changes to your skin, especially thinner skin like that found on your face. Please don't borrow steroid creams from someone else and put them on your face. There are different types of steroid creams for your face that are more gentle.

5. Dandruff - Any shampoo like T-Gel or T-sal can be helpful. Sometimes it works best to use two different ones and rotate them. If these don't work, or if you find you're getting flaky skin around your nose or ears, you might benefit from a steroid cream to help clear this up, so visit your doctor.

I hope this info helps! Visit Shannon for more useful tips.


Pieces said…
Thanks for the tip on Blue Lizard. My son and I are both photo-sensitive to oxybenzone which is in almost every sunscreen I can find. Unbelievably, I live in Seattle and the nearest retailer of Blue Lizard is cities away. I'll try to find it online.
Melanie said…
Thanks for the sunscreen tips, Dr. Aunt Aubrey. We'll have to slather in on Sam at the beach!
Aubrey said…
I guess I should say that I have not been paid for any of these recommendations. Trust me. If you could see our bank account, you'd believe me. :)
Evelyn said…
Wow...thanks for the tips! Especially the one on steroid creams. The tip affirms what I recently found out...that I've been using steroids for far too long in my growing years and causing me to suffer the consequences!

An eczema sufferer,

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