If you’ve ever battled with a skin condition like eczema, cold sores or impetigo, you know how frustrating it can be, both for your body and your self-esteem. The last section of our FAQ Handbook offers help for anyone who’s struggling to achieve clear, healthy skin from head to toe. Find out how to identify and treat skin conditions, plus prevent future outbreaks from occurring.
“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” - Sophia Loren
Looking for a solution to those little white bumps on your upper arms, an itchy rash or rosacea? Need a way to minimize stretch marks or spider veins? Before you invest in pricey treatments that may or may not be effective, check out our handy FAQs on common conditions like keratosis pilaris, eczema and psoriasis. Learn about treatments available for both facial and body conditions, including couperose, impetigo, cold sores and athlete’s foot.
Common skin conditions
» Q: What can I do to manage keratosis pilaris?
A: Keratosis pilaris (KP) can be a frustrating condition. Thankfully, it doesn’t affect the health of your skin, but it does produce small, unsightly bumps. Though you can’t eliminate these bumps, you can minimize them. Here’s what you can do: Exfoliate with products that contain alpha hydroxy acids but avoid scrubbing aggressively, and use an ultra-rich moisturizer. Learn more about KP along with its causes and treatment here.
» Q: Are those little bumps I get after shaving the same as KP?
A: No, the bumps you get after shaving or waxing are typically razor burn or ingrown hairs. These are generally red and inflamed, rather than whitish and rough. To reduce your risk for razor burn, use a brand new razor blade each time you shave, and apply a product specifically designed to soothe the skin after shaving or waxing.
» Q: I have eczema and live in a place with low humidity. What kind of ingredients should I look for in a moisturizer?
A: According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), when humidity is below 60 percent, your skin starts losing moisture, so you need ultra-hydrating ingredients. AAD suggests looking for “petrolatum, mineral oil, linoleic acid, ceramides, dimethicone, or glycerin.” Also, be sure that you’re using a mild cleanser that’s free from alcohol, fragrance and dyes. See here for more on eczema.
» Q: I've heard chamomile is good for treating eczema. Can you tell me about some of the research?
A: Studies have shown contradictory results. An older study from 1985 demonstrated that chamomile was as effective as 0.25 percent hydrocortisone among 161 individuals; however, this study excluded a placebo. In another study, published in the European Journal of Medical Research, findings revealed that chamomile was more effective than 0.5 percent hydrocortisone cream when applied topically. Strangely, though, the chamomile cream wasn't more effective than the placebo.
» Q: What is the treatment for psoriasis?
A: Mild psoriasis can be treated with topical ointments, such as cortisone, vitamin A derivatives and vitamin D derivatives. In severe cases, oral medications and ultraviolet light therapy may work. Learn what the experts have to say about psoriasis here.
» Q: I often feel uncomfortable about having psoriasis. What’s a good way to feel better about myself?
A: According to Dr. Paul Yamauchi, “Psoriasis can tremendously affect your quality of life. Think about joining and getting involved in a psoriasis support group. Here people help one another in a positive way. You’ll boost your confidence by talking openly about psoriasis and how it has impacted your life.” You can find a support group in your area by going to the Web site of the National Psoriasis Foundation or calling them at (800) 723-9166.
» Q: What makes rosacea worse?
A: A few common factors that can aggravate rosacea include allergic reactions to hot liquids, highly seasoned foods, caffeine and alcoholic beverages. Our article about rosacea explains more of what you need to know.
» Q: Which foods are considered triggers for rosacea?
A: The following foods have been known to cause flushing: soy sauce, paprika, vinegar, tomatoes, avocado, eggplant, sour cream, yogurt, parmesan cheese, chocolate and spinach. White pepper, black, red and cayenne pepper are also known to trigger rosacea.
» Q: Are earrings labeled "hypoallergenic" safe for people with contact dermatitis?
A: Many people often assume that "hypoallergenic" products are safe for individuals with sensitive skin. However, there’s no official definition so the meaning can vary by company. Check with your dermatologist to determine which products are best for individuals with contact dermatitis.
» Q: How do I know if I just have a skin rash or allergic contact dermatitis?
A: A rash or irritation often occurs when a substance penetrates the protective barriers of the skin, according to dermatologist Richard Thomas, M.D., on the Skin Care Guide, a Web site written by dermatologists for patients. For instance, this can happen when you’re washing your hands too much. Allergic contact dermatitis, on the other hand, involves a substance entering the skin over one to two weeks and producing a reaction in the immune system. Allergic contact dermatitis tends to appear as red and swollen blisters at the site of contact with the allergen. They can, however, spread to other parts of the body. In more serious cases, the skin may take on a tough, scaly appearance. Contact your dermatologist if you think you may have these symptoms.
Miscellaneous skin conditions & treatments
» Q: Are there homemade alternatives to chemical lighteners?
A: Try these quick alternatives: Mix 1 tsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of milk powder, 1 tsp of honey and ½ tsp of almond oil. Apply the mixture on your face and wash it off after 10 to 15 minutes, one to two times a day until you see results. Or soak four almonds in water overnight. Remove from the water and add enough milk to grind into a fine paste. Apply this paste to dark spots overnight and wash it off with cold water in the morning. Do this once a day for 15 days and then twice a week until you see results.
» Q: Are sun spots always harmless?
A: Typically, they’re harmless; however, if you notice any changes in your spots, it’s important to see a dermatologist. According to Mayo Clinic, if the spot is "darkly pigmented; rapidly increasing in size; has an irregular border and/or an unusual combination of colors," make an appointment.
» Q: What can I do to minimize the appearance of a cold sore after it’s already appeared?
A: You can try several remedies for cold sores, such as a topical treatment of L-lysine, or a mixture of tea tree oil and myrrh (it can be applied directly to the blister). In addition to topical treatments, you can also take L-lysine supplements.
» Q: What is the first thing I should do to treat a burn?
A: The first thing to do is run cool water over the burned area. If the burn is minor, you can use a topical ointment to stop the burning sensation. If you see blisters, the burn requires medical attention.
» Q: What is vitiligo?
A: Vitiligo is a common skin disorder. It’s characterized by a loss of skin pigment, which results in the appearance of white patches on the skin.
» Q: How can I cover up vitiligo?
A: A good product line is Dermablend Corrective Cosmetics. These products have been recommended by dermatologists for years because they’re easy to apply and are excellent for matching skin tones to hide pigment irregularities.
» Q: Will sharing a towel put me at risk for contracting impetigo?
A: Yes, it can. Impetigo-causing bacteria are transferred by touch and therefore can be passed onto someone else, or even back to your own skin, by sharing an infected towel.
» Q: Can impetigo cause other problems or complications?
A: Possibly, but these are rare. Examples include poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation), which can cause blood and urine problems; cellulitis (fever, tissue infection and possibly infected lymph nodes); and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), a very serious, potentially fatal bloodstream infection that’s resistant to many types of antibiotics. Septicemia and scarlet fever can also result from impetigo. Other complications can include pigmentation changes or scarring.
» Q: Can I use a mask if I have couperose?
A: Yes, you can. Look for masks with ingredients that are gentle and calming to the skin, like honey, yogurt or papaya. To soothe and hydrate your complexion plus reduce redness, use Sothys Clear and Comfort Clearness Refreshing Mask twice a week. Keep the mask on your face for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse well with warm water.
» Q: My doctor can’t figure out why I have hives. Any ideas about what might be the cause?
A: Sadly, in many cases, it’s impossible to find the exact cause of hives. These cases are termed “idiopathic.” One theory is that the hives are autoimmune, meaning that the patient’s “immune system is attacking the normal tissues of the body and causing hives as a result,” according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. In fact, some people with chronic hives have other autoimmune conditions, like blood or joint problems.
» Q: Can I do anything to prevent my hives?
A: Your doctor can perform blood or skin tests to try and determine the cause of your hives. If you can identify the specific food, medication, irritant or allergen that triggers your outbreaks, then avoid it at all costs. Also, keep antihistamines and any prescription medications on hand, so you’re prepared in case of an outbreak. Here’s more on hives.
Body skin conditions & concerns
» Q: Are there any ways to get rid of stretch marks?
A: There’s no known cure for stretch marks, but laser therapy and microdermabrasion are popular methods to smooth out stretch marks. Some people use creams to help stretch marks fade after prolonged use. For more information, check out our interview on treating stretch marks with cosmetic dermatologist Nelson Lee Novick, M.D., here.
» Q: What’s the best way to treat spider veins on the legs?
A: Sclerotherapy is the gold standard for effectively treating spider veins on the legs, cosmetic dermatologist Nelson Lee Novick, M.D., tells Skincare-News. He explains that "Sclerotherapy works by irritating the lining of the unwanted blood vessels to such an extent that they collapse upon themselves and eventually scar over and disappear from view entirely." For more information on treating spider veins and broken blood vessels, check out our interview with Dr. Novick.
» Q: What is athlete's foot?
A: Athlete's foot is more than a mild skin irritation. According to orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Cluett, M.D., athlete's foot is an infection caused by the fungus tinea pedis. Like many fungi, tinea pedis thrives in damp environments, which makes your shoes and socks ideal places for it to grow. Check out our article on athlete’s foot for more details.
» Q: Does it help to have an antibacterial hand sanitizer with you for cleaning cuts and scrapes?
A: Actually, no. While there’s been a lot of hype about antibacterial cleansers, using plain soap and water is still your best bet. According to The Seattle Times, soap is made up of animal and vegetable fat and cleans by creating suds. These soap molecules wash away both viruses and bacteria, making them more effective than antibacterial gels and foams.
Whether you’re suffering from a one-time outbreak or want to treat a chronic skin condition, educate yourself on the best treatments available to restore healthy skin. While some skin concerns, like stretch marks, have no cure, there are effective ways to treat them and improve their appearance. Refer to our FAQ Guides to help create the most effective beauty routine for all your skincare needs.
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 14: Skincare Routine & Lifestyle
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 13: Sun Protection
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 12: Natural Skincare
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 11: Men