Dr. Rehana Ahmed sits down with Minnesota Monthly. Find out the truth about "base" tans, the link between tanning beds and melanoma, and her cutting edge research. Dr. Ahmed talks with Minnesota Monthly.
I know you’ve dyed your hair. Most of us do! In fact, it’s estimated that up to 75% of woman and 10% of men use hair-coloring products. However, a recent article in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology “reviews the evidence relating personal hair-dye use to the risk of developing several type of malignancies.” In other words, those scientists asked: Is there any evidence out there that using hair dye can cause cancer?
Several studies have demonstrated that direct application of some of the chemicals found in hair dye can cause cancer in lab animals, but does this translate to humans? In the 1980′s some of these cancer-causing chemicals were banned from hair dye in the US. However, similar compounds can still be found in certain hair dyes currently on the market.
The authors reviewed 60+ studies on the topic. For most of the cancers examined, studies did not demonstrate an increased risk from hair dye use.
However, a couple of associations were seen. First, there was an increased risk of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), among women who used hair dye prior to the 1980s, and who used permanent, dark colored dyes for more than 15 years. One study showed increased risk of the follicular type of NHL in women who used dark colored dyes regardless of the year of use.
Second, the authors also reviewed articles that demonstrated a statistically significantly increased risk of certain tumors in children whose mothers used hair dye during pregnancy.
The writers concluded there may be an increased risk of NHL from hair dyes made of darker colors and increased number of exposures to such dyes and there may be an increased risk of childhood malignancy from hair-dye use in pregnancy.
The authors suggested a couple of anecdotal tips to decrease risk: before dying your hair “apply a petroleum-based ointment to the scalp” so as to minimize the dye’s contact with that skin. Also, “reduce the time of dye application by 25% for each dying session.” And finally, if you are pregnant, play it safe and avoid hair dye all together!
Saitta P, Cook CE, Messina JL, Brancaccio R, Wu BC, Grekin SK, Holland J. Is there a true concern regarding the use of hair dye and malignancy development? A review of the epidemiological evidence relating personal hair dye use to the risk of malignancy. The Journal of Clinical and Aethetic Dermatology. 6(1):39-46, 2013
photo by: Nathan O'Nions
It happens to most of us at some time or another and, in winter, it is more common: dandruff! There are a multitude of anti-dandruff products on the market and here are some tips to make the most of those over-the-counter shampoos: 1) Don’t rush the process. It’s important to lather and leave shampoos on for five minutes before rinsing. 2) Remember that anti-dandruff shampoos are treatments for the scalp, not your hair, so make sure you are getting the lather directly on the scalp skin. If you don’t like how your hair smells or feels after using one of these shampoos, you can follow with your preferred shampoo or conditioner. 3) It can help to get two or three different anti-dandruff shampoos (with different main ingredients) and alternate between them (e.g. use two or three different shampoos in a given week). The reason this strategy can work is because the various ingredients target different aspects of dandruff:
It’s that time of the year! Snowing and Minnesota-cold! Check out Dr. Ahmed’s skin tips for Jason DeRusha on how to treat dry skin. Are you using the right moisturizer? You’d be surprised!
Gifts of time… The birthday present you didn’t ask for… Any way you put it, there are tell-tale signs that skin is aging. These include the development of wrinkles, discoloration, mottling or patchy skin, broken blood vessels (red spots), decreased radiance and loss of firmness. Below the surface, we also see loss of the deeper tissue (skin, fat and bone). To our eyes, it appears that everything’s moving down — the effect of gravity — or the dreaded word, “sagging”. Why do these changes occur? A lot of the damage, both on the surface, as well as deeper within, comes from sun exposure. Free radical damage occurs throughout our body with age and from various exposures, including the sun and other toxins (pollution, cigarette smoking, and other damaging environmental elements). Free radicals are unstable molecules that form from these toxic exposures. When they develop, free radicals set in place a series of reactions that ultimately lead to the breakdown of healthy tissues. In the skin, they destroy the structure and accelerate premature aging, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation – the changes that we see on the surface. They also accelerate the loss of the deeper tissues in the skin. Antioxidants help protect against free radicals by stabilizing them. There are ways to slow these changes so that we age gracefully. Protect your skin from the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light speeds up the natural aging process of your skin, causing wrinkles and rough, blotchy skin. In fact, sun exposure is the No. 1 reason for signs of aging in the skin, including uneven pigmentation. Protect your skin — and prevent future wrinkles — by limiting the time you spend in the sun, never using tanning beds, and always wearing protective clothing and hats. Also, use sunscreen on exposed skin when outdoors, even in winter. Choose products with built-in sunscreen. When selecting skin care products, choose those with a built-in sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Also, be sure to select products that are broad spectrum, meaning they block both UVA and UVB rays.
Recently a case series was published describing five teenagers who had all experienced sudden onset of moderate to severe acne. On further questioning, the dermatologist learned that these teenagers had all independently started using whey protein as a supplement for body building prior to the acne. When these young men discontinued the whey protein supplement, their acne improved; for those who then restarted taking whey protein, their acne flared. Why would whey protein lead to acne? Whey protein in nutritional supplements is generally derived from cow’s milk. Whey makes up approximately 20% of the protein in milk (the other 80% is casein). Two larger well-designed studies have examined whether or not cow’s milk consumption is associated with acne in teenage girls and separately in teenage boys. (i.e. does drinking milk or eating cow-milk products cause acne?). Both studies showed a mild, but statistically significant, increase in acne in teenagers who drank more than two glasses of cow’s milk daily compared to teenagers who had less than one serving per week. Associations were slightly stronger for skim milk (compared to whole milk) consumption, which is interesting because there is a higher relative percentage of whey protein in skim milk. What does this mean?
Ingrown hairs are frustrating. Instead of a smooth shave, ingrown hairs look like skin-colored or pink bumps. Ingrown hairs occur when hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin. While they generally occur after shaving or waxing, they can occur anywhere–even without hair removal. Other causes include tight clothes that rub against the skin or keratosis pilaris. People with curly or course hair are more likely to get ingrown hairs. Unfortunately, ingrown hairs can lead to pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor bumps) and folliculitis, which is inflammation around the hair follicle. The dreaded red bumps. There are factors that increase your risk of developing razor bumps. Increased pressure or friction during shaving damages the skin where the hair grows out–called the ostia of the hair follicle. You can see your ostia more prominently when you get goose bumps – take a look! With increased pressure from shaving, you can make micro-cuts in your skin, which then increase the tendency for the hair to become ingrown as it grows back.
Do you know the best way to shape your nails when manicuring to help protect them? Rounded or oval-shaped nails are more prone to ingrown nails and chipping. Instead, nails should be trimmed straight across with minimal curve at the edges (arc). Quick Tips: File nails in one direction to reduce shear forces, rather than using clippers or scissors. Soak nails in water prior to trimming to soften them and help minimize cracking during trimming. Using blades with blunt ends minimizes trauma to surrounding tissue. Avoid using orange sticks to clean under the nails, as over time this can lift nails off the nail bed, which can become permanent. Avoid aggressively cutting or pushing on the cuticles, which can lead to infection.
Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a common problem that results in rough texture at the back of the upper arms, thighs, buttocks, back and sometimes cheeks. It’s so common that almost every day at least one patient tells me they have “goose bumps” or “chicken skin” that they would like help treating. 40% of adults, and up to 80% of adolescents experience this. KP looks like rough, slightly red or skin colored bumps. While KP is harmless and generally doesn’t itch or hurt, it can be quite annoying. It occurs when excess keratin, one of the major proteins in the skin, forms hard plugs within hair follicles. This plug then traps the hair in the follicle. KP runs in families and happens more when people have a tendency for dry skin or eczema. Sometimes it just happens. Because it’s associated with dryness, KP is usually worse in the winter or in dry climates, and improves in warm and humid climates.
We all know vitamin C is good for us – eat your oranges! Vitamin C can also be applied topically to the skin. Pure vitamin C, or L-ascorbic acid, is gaining a lot of attention for its benefits to the skin. First, when used during the day it works with your sunblock to protect from damaging UV rays – vitamin C neutralizes free radicals and reactive oxygen species that aren’t completely blocked by a sunscreen. Second, it helps brighten the skin and lighten dark spots. Vitamin C may also help improve skin tone and the appearance of fine lines, as well as reduce skin laxity. It couldn’t be easier to use. Apply Vitamin C after washing your face, neck and upper chest, and follow with a moisturizing sunblock in the daytime or a moisturizer if needed at night. Vitamin C can be used by a variety of skin types, including sensitive skin.
Melanoma occurs in young adults – and it’s increasing. Recently, researchers from the Mayo Clinic published compelling data indicating that rates of new cases of melanoma (skin cancer) increased among 18-39 year olds in Olmsted County between 1970 and 2009. And the rates increased quite a bit over the last forty years: 8-fold among women and 4-fold among men. This is a large increase: for example, in women, between 1970-1979 there were 5.4 cases of melanoma per 100,000 person-years compared to 2000-2009 when there were 43.5 cases of melanoma per 100,000 person-years. The average age at diagnosis was thirty years – in other words, half of these young adults were less than thirty years old at diagnosis.
Dr. Ahmed talks with Dana Oliver, Beauty Editor at The Stylist about BB Creams For Dark Skin: What Brown Girls Should Know About This ‘Miracle’ Product . Also, check out Oliver’s roundup of nine BB creams available in medium to dark shades.
One of my favorites is Elta MD UV Clear Broad spectrum block, which is a facial sunblock that is good for sensitive skin and acne prone skin (and so often the two overlap). It is a non-comedogenic SPF 46 and blocks both UVA and UVB rays without parabens or added fragrance. Hyaluronic acid plumps fine lines and niacinamide builds the skin’s barrier and calms irritation from breakouts. Another benefit is that this sunblock won’t leave a white residue because of the “transparent zinc technology” the company uses – it is so light-weight my husband will use it, and it can be used alone or under makeup.
Hats are in style again! And, hats are a simple way to protect your face and neck from UV rays. When looking for a hat for sun protection, look for one with a UPF rating (UV protection factor) of 30 or higher. There are a variety of great hats that will keep you protected all the way from intense sports to sophisticated social gatherings. For travel, there are hats designed to withstand being smashed between your clothes. Other important factors: It should have a 3 inch brim at least. It should cover the ears and the top of your head And, if it’s woven, the weave should be tight.
Did you know you can get clothes with sun protection built in? Clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) built in to the fabric are a great way to get sun protection while enjoying your favorite outdoor activities. UPF is a rating system, like SPF – UPF rates protection against both UVA and UVB. A garment with a UPF of 50 allows only 1/50th of the UV radiation falling on the surface of the garment to pass through. So, it blocks 49/50ths or 98% of the UV radiation. A UPF rating of at least 15 is required for a garment to be classed as solar UV-protective. Sun protective clothing are especially helpful when you’re going to be out and about for longer periods of time (think of sporting events, yard work, sight-seeing on vacation, swimming at the beach). They are also excellent for anyone with sensitivity to sunscreens or sunblocks.
The American Academy of Dermatology designates the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday® to raise awareness of melanoma and other types of skin cancer, and to encourage early detection through self-exams. Skin cancer is the only cancer that can be seen on the surface of the skin. By examining your skin for any changes, you can detect early warning signs. The first line of defense against skin cancer starts with you. Ask a dermatologist how often you should examine your skin for signs of skin cancer and consult a dermatologist if you notice anything suspicious. Always have a spot checked if it’s changing, painful, bleeds easily, or is not healing. These simple steps can help ensure that skin cancer is diagnosed in its earliest, most treatable stage.
Look at the right side of your face. Now the left. Now look at your left hand compared to your right. See a difference in the number of freckles or in the texture of your skin? It may be subtle, but many of us have a noticeable difference. Why? It’s from the time we spend every morning and afternoon, driving to and from work–the added UV exposure through the driver-side window (left side of the face) and through the windshield (driving hand). It adds up to quite a lot of sun exposure and ultimately premature aging of skin. In fact, the sun is responsible for 70% of skin aging! Many patients tell me they use sunblock when they’re out in the sun – but if you’re driving to work, or take a quick walk at lunchtime, you’re getting sun– and it’s the small amounts that add up.
Get your skin ready for summer – exfoliate! It’s important to exfoliate your skin, especially after the dry winter months. Exfoliating helps remove some of the top dead-layer of skin and opens the pores. Exfoliating helps acne prone skin, particularly heat or sweat-induced acne breakouts. Exfoliating also decreases the look of fine lines so we look younger and more fresh – glowing skin is in! There are different ways to exfoliate, from office-based procedures such as gentle chemical peels and micro-dermabrasion, scrubs you can use at home (once a week at most to avoid irritation), the Clarisonic, and washes (great for sensitive skin) or leave-on serums/lotions that include alpha hydroxyl acids (glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, citric acid and malic acid) and beta-hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid).
We all need to use sunblock or sunscreen to protect us from damaging UV rays, which not only increase our risk of skin cancer but also cause premature damage and aging. But, when I use sunblock I don’t want to feel it and I certainly don’t want everyone to be able to see it – no chalky film, please! Here are a couple of my go-to’s for the face.