Ladies, got aspirin?

photo credit: top news

photo credit: top news

Got aspirin?

Perhaps you’ve heard that adding an aspirin to your daily regimen may help prevent heart attacks, strokes and decrease incidence of cancers including lung, colon, prostate and breast (good stuff right?), but I wanted to bring your attention this recent study by the derm folks at Stanford. (click on the link above to check it out)

Ladies, this is worth a read. Researchers found that women who took a daily aspirin had a lower incidence of melanoma compared to women who did not take the drug. They also found that the risk continued to decrease the longer duration the drug was taken. The study had it’s limitations, and additional research needs to be done, but it’s something to think about. Guys….I am really hoping the additional research will include you, but it looks like this research was chivalrous, “Ladies, first.” Sorry.

It’s important to note that taking aspirin is not a safe option for everyone depending on any underlying medical conditions you may have, so please, before you start any medicine consult with your physician.

-See you in the shade

Did you smell that?

photo credit: Zazzle.com

photo credit: Zazzle.com


Depending on what it is you may hope you didn’t right? Well as a Mom of two kids and two dogs, needless to say there are some er..um, unpleasant odors permeating the house on a not so infrequent basis. Now I realize that offensive smells are not directly related to skin care, but the fragrances and products used to camouflage said scents can be irritating if they come in contact with your skin so I thought this would be a good segue, yes? Bad smells are not the kind of thing most people like to talk about at the bus stop, in the coffee shop, or in the grocery checkout lane (although quite frankly it may help pass the time when you’re stuck behind the person with 50 items in the express 15 item limit line, did she not see the sign?), but I’m not like most people. So bear with me.

I wouldn’t say I have a huge nose by most standards but it’s certainly not petite. Not one of those cute button noses. Any hopes of having a “cute” nose washed out at sea when I got kicked playing water polo at the beach as a kid. I know, I know, who plays water polo in the ocean with strong undercurrents right? Exactly, so I get pulled underwater by the current, get kicked in the nose, blood everywhere….The good news was that my nose wasn’t “broken” per-se, more like “adjusted to the right slightly”, but the end result is that my nose doesn’t quite work like it used to, making breathing a bit more difficult. What I lack in breathing prowess however, I make up for with olfaction. It’s like my sense of smell went into overdrive after that fateful day at the beach. There are many times I wish this was not the case, believe me…I am constantly asking people, “Do you smell that?” and of course they don’t so I am left to endure the stink in solitude. Spending more time indoors since our move to the perpetually soggy Northwest, my inner voice is still yapping away, and she says she’s had it with all the over-chemicaled, synthetic, “can’t pronounce a single ingredient on the bottle”, skin irritating air fresheners, so I have indulged her again and found a solution for my lonely sniffer…homemade air freshener spray!

I have come across recipes that use only water or only vodka, but I have found that an equal ratio of both works best for me, but feel free to experiment. The alcohol will break down the oil while leaving the scent intact, allowing you to mix it with water. The added bonus is that alcohol has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, so if the spray gets on any surfaces, you can pat yourself on the back for multi-tasking…disinfecting and deodorizing!

So here are the basics:
4 ounce spray bottle (I prefer glass. Essential oils are stored in glass to prevent degradation, so I figured why mess with it, I can’t afford to have the good smell go away!)
2 ounces distilled water
2 ounces vodka (Any kind will do, but the cheaper the better because you may go through it fast if you get spritz happy.)
20-40 drops essential oils (The potency of oils vary so you can tailor the amount used to your preference. Also, several oils have anti-bacterial properties so in case you really do want to multi-task you may want to try: lavender, maleluca oil(tea tree), geranium and lemon.)

My favorite combinations are:
a. lavender and rosemary
b. lavender and sweet orange
c. cedar wood, rosemary, rose geranium, lavender (I know, I know, I can’t help it, I really like lavender)
d. eucalyptus and spearmint (seriously refreshing)

So the next time someone asks you, “Did you smell that?”, you can be armed and ready with your homemade air freshener. And who knows, you may actually enjoy talking about bad smells to total strangers once you find your olfactory bliss like me!

Sticks and stones….

photo credit: lyceum group

photo credit: lyceum group

Most of you know how this saying goes, but I’ve added my own spin on it so I’m giving it a whirl:

Sticks and stones may break your bones

But Sunburns can really hurt you!

For those of you who are willing to entertain my version of nursery rhymes, thank you because I’ve taken liberties to take it one step further…

I’m rubber and you’re glue

I hope what I tell you about sun safety, skin cancer and melanoma bounces off me and sticks to you!

I know what you are probably thinking. That’s so juvenile right? Maybe Dr. Barr washed down some goldfish with too many glasses of red wine. Could she be more childish?

But that is the whole point of this post…children. Your children, my children and children all over the world. Anyone with a relationship with a child (could be your best friends’ child, a niece/nephew or your own)  has experienced that undeniable instinct to protect them from harm. It doesn’t matter what form the threat of harm may take, whether it be psychological or physical, we as adults, put on our proverbial armor and prepare ourselves to defeat the perpetrator to a child’s well-being.  Somewhere along the way however, our armor got a chink in it and we have failed to adequately protect our children (let alone ourselves) from the damaging effects of the sun. Research recently presented at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting confirms our shortcomings. Although the incidence of melanoma in childhood is rare, statistics show that the frequency of children and adolescents diagnosed with melanoma is on the rise.

Data pooled from numerous U.S. cancer registries highlighted that the incidence of childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased an average of 2 percent per year spanning the time period from 1973 to 2009. Of note, girls had higher incidence rates than boys, and compared to younger children so did those aged 15-19. Similar to their adult counterparts, girls had higher rates on their lower limbs and hips, while boys had higher incidence on the face and trunk. While further research needs to be performed to determine the factors contributing to the rising incidence, we don’t have to wait for additional data to be pro-active about vigilant protection of children and adolescents from the damaging effects of UV radiation.

Wearing wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen (with re-application at least every 2 hours) and wearing UPF rated clothing (30 and above) coupled with modifying hours spent outdoors to avoid high intensity UV-radiation (currently recommended between 10a-4p but that may be hard to do, so doing your best to avoid 12-3p may be easier) are crucial steps in protecting children and adolescents more delicate skin. But that’s only part of the solution.

Artificial UV radiation sources found at tanning salons are a significant contributing factor as I touched on in my What’s the big deal post. UV radiation from tanning devices are a significant contributor to the rising rates of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancer.

We know that Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B(UVB) rays contribute to the development of skin cancer of all types. UVB is primarily responsible for contributing to sunburns. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and contribute to premature aging of the skin including: alterations in pigmentation (brown spots), fine lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity that contributes to a leathery appearance. Together, the synergistic effect of UVA and UVB rays contribute to the development of skin cancer. Of note, an Australian-US study has demonstrated that UVA causes more genetic damage than UVB in skin cells where most skin cancers arise – the keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. This information is critical as most tanning devices emit UVA radiation.
So what’s the bottom line you ask? It’s pretty simple: don’t let kids go to tanning salons and practice sun-safe behavior every day. Being sun-safe doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors, rather it’s a lifestyle choice. Choosing clothing that protects a greater proportion of your skin, altering the times of day you pursue your outdoor activities and putting on sunscreen as part of your daily personal hygiene regimen can easily be incorporated into your daily routine.

So how does this nursery rhyme end? Here goes:
Sticks and stones can break your bones
But Sunburns can’t hurt you if you are sun-savvy!
Doesn’t rhyme but I never said I was Dr. Seuss. Cheers to finding your Shaded Bliss!

References:
1. Skin cancer foundation: skincancer.org
2. Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 4 April 1, 2013 pp. 772 -785

The Versatile Blogger Award

versatile_blogger_award

My gratitude goes to Sheila, the goddess of The Summer Goddess of Dark Shadows for bestowing this award on me. Please visit her site! So the rules of this award require that I share seven things about myself, so here they are:
1. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner…the possibilities are endless
2. I may be tone deaf, but I still rock out in my car so no one else can hear me and complain
3. Princess Bride is still one of my all time favorite movies after all these years
4. I have lived in a lot of college towns, but I will always be a Wolverine, “GO BLUE!”
5. One of my guilty pleasures is looking at houses and scouring interior design websites…part of me really wants to be an interior designer/architect
6. I am married to my best friend (this really is my number one)
7. I am a perpetual klutz

Now for the fun part! I have the pleasure of bestowing this award to other blogs. As I am just getting starting with my blog and this experience, having the opportunity to explore so many of the amazing blogs out there is a wonderful opportunity to expand my community and highlight some seriously talented authors. There are countless of you out there so this is just a small sampling of what I have discovered so far…Please check them out!
1. Katie Hansen Brakeman
2. In Real Life
3. The Honest Toddler
4. The Jiggly Bits
5. What’s for Dinner Ma?
6. Learning to Hit the Curve
7. Hunting for Bliss

So…now that you know seven things about me and about seven amazing other blogs, here are the rules as I understand them from others who have received this award.
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their blog
2. Post the Versatile Blogger Award Picture on your post
3. Share seven things about yourself
4. Pass this award on to seven other blogs (Some have given it to more and sharing more love is always a good thing. Of course, this is an optional thing, so no pressure…pass it along if you wish, or just enjoy a mention. I think you’re fantastic!)

I hope you enjoy exploring the amazing community on WordPress as much as I do! Happy reading!

Like a fine wine…..

photo credit: www.trialx.com photo credit: http://www.trialx.com
We have heard the cliché countless times, “Aged like a fine wine.” But what does that really mean? What makes a wine so fine (aside from my rhyming ability)? As with many things, success is achieved through collaboration of multiple factors to produce a better end product. The same principle applies to winemaking. The creation of a fine wine rests upon factors including the varietal of grapes used, the light, temperature and soil conditions affecting the grapes and vines respectively, the length of the fermentation process and yes, you guessed it (this is a dermatology blog after all) the skin. Wine grapes, compared to table grapes, have a thicker skin; a desirable quality as the skin imparts the aroma to wine. Grape skin also contain tannins which produce the color of the wine. These tannins found in the skin help to preserve the wine for a longer period. Recently, it has been found that the skin of black grapes (used to make red wine, a personal favorite) contain a chemical called resveratrol; which is what provides the cardio and chemo-protective health benefits of red wine.

For those of you who love wine, these tidbits are good fodder to keep drinking, yes? Salut! But the point of all this information is not really about wine of course. It’s about skin. Your skin. Like the creation of a fine wine, the health of your skin is a significant contributing factor to the end product of your overall well-being.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body. As such, it is constantly exposed to the elements just like wine grapes, and light, in the form of UV-rays have a significant impact on the quality and appearance of your skin and your health. With regards to appearance, prolonged exposure to UV-radiation directly affects the color and texture of your skin. The acute changes may be a sunburn, followed by a tanned appearance. But what about the chronic changes? Those brown spots on your arms and hands that folks refer to as “liver spots” or “age spots” are in actuality the manifestations of chronic sun exposure and resultant sun-damage. They are irreversible.

For a grape, dried by the sun, the texture and quality of the skin transforms to a wrinkled, flaccid and shriveled form which we call a raisin. Our skin is very similar to the grape. Premature wrinkling, loss of elasticity and leathery feel to the skin (think Magda from “There’s something about Mary”) are direct by-products of extensive sun-exposure. So which would you rather be, a grape or a raisin? In a society where people are paying a premium for a youthful appearance with products like Botox, dermal fillers and plastic surgery, why not save money and be pro-active: protect your skin from the sun everyday!

With regards to health, it is known that UV-radiation suppresses the immune system. Suppression of the immune system leads to cancer. It has been reported that 90% of skin cancers are induced by UV-radiation exposure. 90%! This statistic is a vital reason that I encourage you to seek shade (where your bliss awaits), wear sunscreen and protective clothing on a daily basis.

Now some of you may be thinking, what? How can that be? Maybe Dr. Barr (that’s me) has been drinking too much of that red wine, because I know that phototherapy (delivery of UVB rays in a very controlled and time limited setting) make my psoriasis better! Psoriasis (a chronic skin condition +/- joint involvement) is known to be driven by an up-regulation of aspects of the immune system…so suppression of these “jazzed up” factors so to speak, is the desired end result. This principle applies to several conditions in dermatology, but these are the exceptions not the rule, and most importantly, the exposure to UV-radiation administered in a dermatologist’s office is tightly regulated and controlled to minimize adverse effects of said exposure.

Like a fine wine, your skin will age, but there’s a big difference between chronologic aging and physiologic aging. The latter of which is accelerated significantly by extensive sun-exposure. So the choice is yours, grape or raisin…which would you rather be?

What’s the big deal?

IMG_1934

Skin cancer is a big deal. More than 3.5 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer in over two million people and over 70,000 cases of melanoma are reported each year, which makes skin cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer the United States. This means that on an annual basis there are more new cases of skin cancer than the incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined. To break this down further, one in five Americans (one in three Caucasians) will develop skin cancer during the course of a lifetime. Bottom line…skin cancer is a big deal. In my skin cancer and sun safety basics post I go over a lot of the facts, so please refer back to it for a more in-depth discussion, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Also check out skincancer.org for a wealth of great information and photos of all of the different types of skin cancers.

So if I already talked about these facts in a previous post, why am I all riled up and repeating myself you might ask? Contrary to what my kids may say (and my husband and possibly the neighbors, but who likes nosy neighbors anyway?) I have not lost my mind, but my mind is most certainly boggled. A recent study reported that greater than 27% of melanoma survivors never put on sunscreen when spending more than an hour in the sun. Researchers at Yale also found that 15.4% of skin cancer survivors rarely or never sought shade from the sun, and 2.1% used tanning beds. This is insanity. Tanning beds? Evidence from several studies has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning beds is linked with an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and non-melanoma skin cancer. In fact, studies have demonstrated a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning. 75 percent! This evidence is the basis for championing the passage of legislation to ban the use of tanning beds for minors (currently 33 states have restricted teen’s access to tanning beds). So if these are the facts, and people who have already been diagnosed with skin cancer have been educated about these facts, and believe me, as dermatologists we tell our patients, over and over again, then why are skin cancer patients still ignoring them? This is a dilemma. This is my dilemma and I want to help change these statistics. But I need your help to do it.

We know that protecting your skin from the damaging UVA and UVB rays of the sun is imperative to minimizing your risk of developing skin cancer. Sun protection is a multi-faceted process: practicing sun avoidance during the hottest parts of the day, seeking shade (I promise you can find bliss there), wearing sunscreen (daily and reapplying often) and wearing clothing that has a UPF rating greater than 30, are all important to keeping you safe in the sun.

Based on the staggering number of skin cancers diagnosed annually and the results of the recent study noted above, it would appear that telling people this information isn’t enough. It would appear that a cultural shift, a “shade revolution” if you will, is in order. For starters, we need to embrace vintage times, go retro…what’s old is new again. It works for current fashion trends (hello neon and leg warmers!) and toys (yes, cabbage patch kids I’m talking about you!) so why can’t we embrace the way we used to behave in the sun. Back in the day our ancestors spent plenty of time outdoors, but clothing protected the majority of their body. Being pale was in vogue, whereas having a tan was undesirable. We can do this! You don’t have to give up that Caribbean vacation or frolic on the beach, just be sun savvy! Tap into your sun-conscious and take the necessary steps to protect your skin. Together we can change the perception of what’s “hot” in the sun and you will find your shaded bliss, I promise!

Still smelling like a rose ……

“Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower, and draws all good things toward you.” -Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

While I am pretty sure that this quote is not referring to my homemade deodorant experiment (day 11), the happiness radiating from my armpits, which literally do smell like a flower, is at least not driving anyone away from me (can I get woot! woot!).

Over the last week and a half, I have been pretty physically active so I can really put my concoction to the test. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have kick-boxed, kettle-belled, and added in some cycling to see how this stuff works.  Despite not being an anti-perspirant per se, I haven’t experienced being more sweaty than usual. A side note is in order here: I am a serious sweater when I work out. Those gals you see whose hair is in place at the end of a workout who look amazing and rejuvenated at the end of a work-out….yeah, I’m the other one. Hair barely contained by the ponytail, all wild and unruly and looking like I need to be rejuvenated, that’s me. So now that we have that established, you can imagine that I have literally given my deodorant a workout.

So now to down to business. I have read lots of recipes online and I applaud, appreciate and thank everyone out there who has shared their versions of homemade deodorant. Many people use coconut oil accompanied by baking soda, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, plus or minus essential oils. Great sites to check for a recipe using coconut oil are: Passionate homemaking and A Sonoma Garden.

Although I enjoy the smell and taste of coconut, my husband is not a big fan, so if I want to draw him towards me with my fragrance,  I need to use another base ingredient.  I have made 2 different versions of deodorant using shea butter accompanied by a variety of other butters. The first version is on the drier side and has a tendency to be more lumpy or crumbly upon application. Of course being my first attempt making the stuff, I didn’t write down the exact ingredients but here are the basics:

1st recipe

1st recipe


3 Tbsp organic Shea butter

1  Tbsp Kokum butter

1 Tbsp Illipe butter

3 Tbsp Pure baking soda (you don’t want any aluminum in it)

2 Tbsp Arrowroot powder or cornstarch

1 1/2 Tbsp beeswax granules

Essential oils (optional): lavender,rosemary, peppermint, lemon, tea tree oil: these are examples of oils with stronger scents for odor control and tea tree oil is also proposed to have anti-bacterial properties. The exact amounts can vary depending on your preference but to overcome the stronger natural scent of shea butter 25-40 drops is recommended.

  1. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler (glass bowl in pot of boiling water) or microwave
  2. Add butters and powders, followed by your essential oils and mix it all together
  3. While mixture still warm pour into your container (as this version is a little drier in consistency, I put it in a glass jar and apply with my fingers)
  4. Let mixture cool and it will firm up

The second recipe results in a softer more spreadable product and I used a traditional deodorant container to pour the mixture in at the end. You can either purchase these containers online or empty out and clean one that you already have.

This recipe is an adaptation of one I found at Our life simplified (great site, check it out)

2nd recipe

2nd recipe


2 Tbsp Shea butter

1 Tbsp Pumpkin butter

1 Tbsp Beeswax granules

2 Tbsp Arrowroot powder or cornstarch

2 Tbsp pure Baking soda

2 Tbsp Sweet almond oil

1/8 tsp (1 capsule) Vitamin E oil

Essential oils (optional): again I forgot to measure how much I used, but I combined lavender, sandalwood, sweet orange, and a smidge of eucalyptus

  1. Melt beeswax as above
  2. Add butters, sweet almond oil and Vitamin E oil (puncture hole in capsule and squeeze oil out)
  3. Add arrowroot powder or cornstarch and baking soda and essential oils and mix all together
  4. While mixture warm pour into your container and then let it cool and firm up

May you all radiate happiness with your ambrosial smelling underarms and draw all good things toward you! Enjoy!

Just the facts ma’am….

just-the-facts-ma'am

Sgt Joe Friday (Jack Webb)

I was recently asked by a new acquaintance if I had been diagnosed with ADHD. My initial response was surprise. Me? Attention problem? As someone who has sat in the same spot for hours on end reading textbooks cover to cover, studying for medical boards and looking at hundreds of slides (one of my favorite parts of dermatology and why I became a dermatopathologist) without getting up to eat, drink or use the loo (that just sounds better than “potty” don’t you think?), it hadn’t occurred to me that I might have a problem staying focused.  I know I have my idiosyncrasies and nuances, and that certain” je ne sais quoi” that I like to think of as part of my charm (aka: a New Yorker without a filter=inappropriate and sometimes vulgar to which I credit  my father: love you Dad ), but I didn’t think attention or focus was a problem. But as I thought about her comment some more, I came to the realization that my issue is not an inability to stay focused when tasked, it’s more that I am perpetually interested in lots of things and often more interested in something other than what I am doing at that moment. Which brings me to the whole point of this post.

I had originally intended to post topics that only had “dermatology” titles: topics relating to the health of your skin, how to manage issues with your skin, and how to protect it, as my passion is educating people about skin cancer and melanoma, but somehow I keep getting side-tracked. Like I said, I am interested in a lot of things, especially eating. Learning new ways to cook (or just learning to cook for that matter) has opened a whole new world for me and I am having fun experimenting and I want to share that with you.

You see, your skin is a window to the overall health of your body. There are many systemic diseases which manifest characteristic skin findings. Therefore, examination of the skin can be key to making diagnoses as well as prompting a more extensive evaluation to pursue the possibility of internal organ involvement. Though not common, skin findings can be the first clue to metastasis of internal malignancy leading to diagnosis, work-up and subsequent management.

So what I am getting at is that what you eat can have a big impact on your skin. For example, those of you with Celiac disease may have experience with dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). DH is a chronic, intensely itchy, blistering skin manifestation of gluten-sensitive enteropathy (Celiac disease) which affects 15 to 25 percent of people with the disease and is found mainly in adults (more common in men and people of northern European descent). A strict gluten-free diet is the only treatment for the underlying disease, though some people may require temporary use of oral medication in order to get relief from their skin symptoms as they transition their diets.

So even though my plan was just to stick to the “derm facts”, there are so many facets of our lives that are intimately linked to the health of our skin: food, fitness, travel (bed bugs, myasis and leishmaniasis, oh my) that you may find my attention wandering in different directions. Feel free to reign me in if you have questions, or jump on board and enjoy the ride it should be interesting!

Chocolate Almond goodness

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These little nuggets of goodness are made from a recipe adapted from an inspiring and beautiful blog I have come across (thank you Caitlin-roostblog.com)  It was originally made as a dinner biscuit, but I tweeked it make it an after dinner treat. Depending on which of my adaptations you try, you can make it more like a biscuit(less sweet) or more like a true dessert….a girls got to have her chocolate right?

Over the last few months, as I have jumped, I mean seriously, like off the high dive right into the deep end of a pool (and I’m afraid of heights mind you…another wonderful bonus of getting older, but I digress) into the gluten-free realm, I have tried to nudge my family, especially the kids into the “shallow water” of gluten-free eating. So when my son, the pickiest eater of us all gives something a thumbs up, believe me, I am going to shout the recipe out to anyone willing to listen. (just turn down the volume if I’m being too loud).

I have now made this 3 ways, using either butter or coconut oil for variety. Choose whichever one sounds good to you!

Chocolate Almond Goodness: Subtle sweetness for a mini-biscuit

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted organic coconut oil or butter (Note: coconut oil will impart a somewhat “tropical” flavor and butter will provide a true biscuit flavoring)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
    3 Tb organic cacao powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat (or whatever you’ve got so things don’t stick to pan).

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, cacao and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, brown rice syrup and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. With a spoon or if you are willing to get dirty (which is more fun in my opinion) scoop up some dough in your hands and make small/medium blobs (very technical term) probably equivalent to 2 teaspoons or tablespoon size depending on your blob preference.

Bake for 15 minutes (give or take depending on your oven) so that a toothpick inserted into the center of a biscuit comes out clean. Let cool briefly on the baking sheet. Serve warm. ( I have also frozen the leftovers and they keep well!)

Makes about 25-28

The one below is the sweet treat version and my favorite one so far. Not too sweet, but just enough to satisfy my cravings…and hopefully yours too!

Chocolate Almond Goodness: my version of an “Almond Joy”

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c organic melted organic coconut oil
  • 1/2 c organic light brown sugar
    1/4 c organic cacao powder

The mixing and cooking directions are the same as above but instead of brown rice syrup use the brown sugar and add it to your dry ingredients. Enjoy!

By the hair of my chinny chin chin….

My dog Beaudi. He graciously agreed to be the model.

My dog Beaudi. He graciously agreed to be the model.

As a kid, hearing about  hair on your chinny chin chin was an amusing part of a fairy tale. As an adult female, having hair on your chinny chin chin is no laughing matter, right ladies? And not to leave the guys out …..having rogue earlobe hairs and feeling like a sasquatch may not be your thing, so the good news is that over the last few decades the options for hair removal have expanded and improved.

There are numerous methods available for hair removal, some of which are very temporary and some of which have the potential to permanently reduce hair growth. Notice I didn’t say permanently remove hair. I am a New Yorker to my core, despite living on the West Coast for many years,  I’m gonna tell it like it is…if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is…so I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise.  As a dermatologist it is my job to provide facts, details and opinions so that my patients can make informed decisions. So even though this site is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or ailment, and as readers you are not patients, I am committed to providing clear, concise (well maybe not that concise, I am known to ramble a bit) explanations of issues in hopes of being helpful.

So let’s start with the basics of hair. I am sure many of you have tweezed, shaved, waxed, threaded,  sugared or “been lasered” only to be befuddled by the fact that some hairs stay gone and others rear their wiry heads way too soon. This is due to the fact that hair grows in three phases: the actively growing phase (anagen), which comprises about 80-90% of hairs. On the scalp this phase lasts about 2-6 years, whereas on the arms, legs, eyelashes, and eyebrows the phase is only about 30-45 days which helps explain why hair in these areas is much shorter than the scalp. The next phase or  transitional phase known as catagen comprises 3% of all hairs at any time. This phase lasts for about 2-3 weeks. The last phase is the resting  phase (telogen) which comprises 10-15% of hairs and last approximately 100 days. It is during the telogen phase when “shedding” occurs and about 25-100 telogen hairs are shed each day. The kicker is that hairs are not in sync with each other and while some hairs are growing, others are transitioning or falling out.  Moreover, it’s only when hairs are in anagen (growing hairs) that they are responsive to removal modalities (i.e. electrolysis, laser).

Now that we have the basics down, how do you choose the best hair removal method? There are several factors to consider: convenience, pain threshold (a very subjective factor), cost, goal for temporary vs. more long-lasting results and anatomic location. Most of these factors are intimately intertwined.

For instance, shaving is very convenient as you can do it yourself, in your home, cost is lower (although the cost of razor blades these days is nutty), pain is minimal but the results are very temporary as you have to shave every few days because you are only trimming the hair not removing it.

Waxing/threading/sugaring: convenient as the service is readily available and it’s quick, cost is relatively low, can be done on most if not all external anatomic locations. The downside is that it can be painful and the results usually only last about 3-6 weeks. With repeated treatments the hair follicles may be disrupted/ damaged  which may lead to permanent hair loss (but most likely patchy at best).

Electrolysis: So how does it work? An electric current is applied with a very fine needle-shaped electrode, or metal probe into each hair follicle to destroy the root. The pros are that this method has a good track record for permanent hair reduction and in some cases permanent removal. Since it targets the follicle itself, this method can be used on most skin types. The cons are that it can be painful, requires many treatments (can be upwards of 15-30)  and can be expensive. Also operator dependent so results can vary.

Laser: Laser hair removal is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures in the U.S. A beam of  highly concentrated light penetrates into hair follicles. It is the pigment in the follicles that absorbs the light and this destroys the hair.  The technology of lasers has advanced so that patients of color can safely have laser performed without damaging skin tone. As with other methods, only the anagen follicles are targeted so treatments need to be repeated every 6-8 weeks to capture more and more of the anagen follicles until the desired level of hair reduction is achieved.

The pros are that laser can be done relatively quickly depending on the site treated and the results are long-lasting. Treatments literally can take as little as 5 minutes! The cons are cost, number of treatments required (usually 6-12) depending on body part treated and pain. I can attest to the fact that current lasers are way less painful than lasers used in 2008 even, and that is saying a lot because I am a big wimp. Risks of treatment other than pain , include swelling at treatment site, burns (go to someone with expertise and experience, and have a test spot done first: settings can be adjusted to avoid this). Although with the advances in technology this does not happen as often, but lightening or darkening of the skin in the treated area can occur.  The other issue with lasers are that they are best used on course hair: legs, back, bikini, underarm, men’s beards. Although they are used for women’s facial hair, the light colored, peach fuzz found on women’s cheeks, chins and lips is unlikely to respond as well. Lasers target a color and the lighter the hair the less there is to target.

Topical therapy: A serendipitous discovery of hair loss was noted when using an anti-malarial drug (eflornithine). The medicine is formulated under the trade name Vaniqua which is a prescription cream used to reduce facial hair growth in women. The mode of action is to block the enzyme that leads to hair growth. This ” blockage” is gradual and can take up to six months to take effect, during which time other hair removal methods would need to be continued. It’s a twice daily application and the downside is that once you stop using it…the hair growth is no longer blocked and hair will eventually return.

So as you can see there are many options…this is a good thing. The best expected outcome is permanent hair reduction and in some cases permanent hair removal may occur. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a glass half full kind of a girl (and if the wine is really good, fill her up’) but when it comes to issues in medicine I am a realist, and I hope armed with this information you will be too so that you can decide which if any of these modalities might work for you and you will not be disappointed with the result. If none of these float your boat, au natural is beautiful too!