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Common Skin Myths

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Everyday, we as providers spend time dispelling common myths about our skin and the care of it. The following are some common ones we encounter:

1. Dry skin is caused by a lack of water. This is a myth. Dry skin is not caused by a lack of water, nor is it caused by simply not drinking enough water. Rather, what is thought to be taking place when dry skin occurs is that the intracellular matrix (the substances between skin cells that keep them intact, smooth, and healthy) has become depleted or damaged, bringing about a rough, uneven, and flaky texture that allows water to be lost. But adding water won't keep that moisture in skin unless the outer barrier is maintained or repaired. To prevent dry skin, the primary goal is to avoid and reduce anything that damages the outer barrier, including sun damage, products that contain irritating ingredients, alcohol, drying cleansers, excessive time in water(long baths and showers) and smoking. All of the research about dry skin is related to the ingredients and treatments that reinforce the substances in skin that keep it functioning normally.

2. Blackheads are just dirt in the skin. This is a myth. Blackheads are formed when hormones cause too much sebum (oil) to be produced, dead skin cells get in the way, the pore is impaired or misshapen, and the path for the oil to exit through the pore is blocked, creating a clog. As this clog nears the surface of the skin, the mixture of oil and cellular debris oxidizes and turns, you guessed it: black. You cannot scrub away blackheads, at least not completely. Using a topical scrub removes the top portion of the blackhead, but does nothing to address the underlying cause, so they're back again before too long. We prescribe topical medications that can effectively, in time, help reduce oil production and clear stubborn blackheads.

3. Let your cut or biopsy form a scab to speed up healing. This is a myth. We know that a wound heals fastest when kept moist, not wet. We prefer a thin smear of Aquaphor over the site to facilitate the various mechanisms that take place on the cellular level to promote healing. Scabs are dried collections of dead cells, blood clot, and white blood cells. This crusted debris actually hinders healing because it gets in the way of the skin cells migrating to cover the wound. Allowing a scab to form, then, actually slows healing and can worsen the scar.

4. Ridges in your nails are a sign of underlying illness and disease. This is a myth. Vertical ridges come with aging and are in some ways analogous to wrinkles on your skin. They occur as straight lines from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. They usually start in one or two nails and eventually develop in all of your nails as you get older. They can appear as early as your 30′s but become more noticeable as time goes on.

5. Going to the tanning bed before vacation will protect you from getting burned. This is a myth. Tanning beds are work of the devil. They offer absolutely no protection from getting burned on vacation. You may not feel the burn, but you will still be incurring sun damage. Tanning under the sun or a sunlamp gives protection that is equivalent to a sun protection factor (SPF) of 4 or less, which translates into a little extra time in the sun before you start to burn. But the larger issue is that any change in skin color is a sign of damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

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