Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dry, Itchy Scalp - 5 ways to sooth it.

Good hair days start with a healthy scalp. Its job, after all, is to grow strong shiny strands. But dry indoor air can zap moisture and dissolve protective oils from the skin on your head, leaving it itchy and flaky--and your mane dull and unmanageable. Help keep the skin you rarely think about (but should) in top condition with this advice from Valerie D. Callender, M.D., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Howard University College of Medicine.

The basic facts

Like the skin on your body, the scalp renews itself every 28 days by shedding dead cells and allowing new, healthy ones to emerge. Cold temperatures and low humidity, a reaction to harsh chemicals (like those used in permanent hair color), or a buildup from styling products can interrupt this natural exfoliating process--causing cells to pile up and turn into fine flakes. This accumulation can clog hair follicles and block secretion of sebum, further exacerbating dryness.

What to look for

* An itchy, red scalp after coloring hair or using hot tools.

* Small powdery flakes These are telltale signs that your scalp is dry, as opposed to having dandruff, which is triggered by a fungus and results in white, oily clumps.

Simple solutions

These easy steps will help ease the itch, fast:

* Avoid scratching. It's irritating and can cause hair breakage.

* Use a moisturizing shampoo. Look for ingredients that help lock in moisture, such as sea-buckthorn oil, found in Aveda Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo ($12;

* Gently massage conditioner into your scalp after every shampoo to hydrate it and lift away some of the flakes.

* Lather up with clarifying shampoo weekly. These deep-cleaning formulas rid hair of product buildup and help loosen dead skin cells on the scalp.

* Turn down the heat. Hot water can zap natural oils from your scalp, making it ultra dry and sensitive; also choose the lowest heat setting on your blowdryer.

EXPERT STRATEGY If these tips don't alleviate the problem in four weeks, see a dermatologist. She'll check your scalp for a fungal infection, such as dandruff or ringworm (ringlike marks on your skin), and will most likely prescribe a topical steroid cream or shampoo, which will calm irritation and itch within a few days.

Courtesy - Mary Rose Almasi

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Acne Treatment - an expert view

What is acne or pimples?

Acne happens when the inside of a hair follicle becomes sticky and forms a plug. Every strand of hair grows from a follicle under your skin.

Oil glands in your skin keep making a greasy substance called sebum (say: see-bum). This sebum gets stuck behind the plug in the hair follicle. Bacteria get inside your hair follicle or oil gland and cause swelling, redness, and pus. Finally, a bump forms on your skin.

Acne is most common on the face, neck, back, and arms. There are three kinds of acne: mild, moderate, and severe.

Why do I have acne?

Almost everyone has acne at some time in life. People who have bad acne often have family members with the same problem. Acne is not caused by greasy foods or poor hygiene.

What kind of acne do I have?

Your acne is mild if you have only whiteheads (white bumps) and blackheads (dark specks) in your skin.

You have moderate acne if you have swelling, red bumps, or pustules, along with the whiteheads and blackheads. A pustule is a large red bump with a white head.

Your acne is severe if you have deep, painful bumps under your skin in addition to the whiteheads and blackheads.

How is acne treated?

The purpose of most acne medicines is to stop plugs from forming in hair follicles and to reduce swelling in your skin. Acne is treated with topical and oral medicines. Your doctor will tell you what kind of medicine is right for your acne.

You put topical medicines on the areas where you have acne. You can buy some of these medicines at a drug store without a prescription from your doctor. If you have mild acne, many of these medicines may help you.

Oral acne medicines come in pill or capsule form. Your doctor must prescribe these medicines. If you have severe acne, you might need to take an oral medicine called isotretinoin (say: i-so-tret-in-oyn).

You also need a doctor's prescription to buy some topical acne medicines. These medicines include topical retinoids and antibiotics. Retinoids work by loosening plugs or stopping plugs from forming. Antibiotics decrease redness and swelling, and they attack the germs that make acne worse.

Some topical acne medicines may irritate your skin, especially in the first few weeks that you use them. Mild moisturizing lotions and soaps (such as Cetaphil Cleanser, Dove, or Purpose) can help stop the irritation.

Washing your face more than twice a day can increase redness and discomfort. Picking at acne can worsen redness and cause scars.

What can I expect from acne treatment?

There is no cure for acne--but your acne can be controlled. Most acne medicines take eight to 12 weeks to work. The best results happen after taking medicine for three months.

Sometimes, acne may seem to get worse in the first few weeks of treatment, because hidden bumps rise to the skin surface. Your acne will get better if you keep using the acne medicine.

When you start using a new acne medicine, you may have mild redness and swelling of your skin. Call your doctor if the redness and swelling continue or become worse.