By Michelle Konstantinovsky
Everyone seems to have different solutions when it comes to skin problems. Some advocate natural home remedies (ever heard of using lemon juice to fade freckles?), while others solely swear by pharmaceuticals and cosmetic procedures. But which methods actually make common skin quandaries go away, and which aren't worth your time? We asked dermatologists around the country to spill their secrets on achieving problem-free skin.
Is There Any Surefire Way to Fade Freckles?
Doctors aren't completely in agreement over what (if anything) helps diminish the tiny dots known as freckles that often pop up on fair complexions, especially after repeated sun exposure. According to Margaret Kottke, MD, dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente's Gwinnett and Crescent Centre Medical Centers in Atlanta: "There is no surefire way to fade freckles. But avoiding sun exposure may help fade them over time. "
Other doctors advocate more technologically advanced interventions to eliminate stubborn sun spots. "Some lasers can help," said Jeffrey Benabio, MD, dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente's La Mesa Medical Office located in San Diego, California. "Otherwise, most treatments are not effective."
If you're still determined to fade your freckles with topical products, you may have success with a relatively new method of skin lightening. "The best new way is with Elure," said Leslie Baumann, MD, head of the Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute and former Professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami. "It uses lignin peroxidase. This is a new way to break up melanin. The other ways, such as hydroquinone, just prevent melanin's development but do not break up melanin you already have."
What Are the Signs that a Mole Is Possibly Problematic?
You learned the alphabet in preschool, but it may be worth it to revisit your ABCs (and D's and E's) when it comes to spotting skin cancer early on. "Asymmetry, border irregularity, color differences throughout the mole, a diameter greater than 6mm, and evolution or change in a mole are all causes for some concern," said Dr. Kottke. "If you notice change in a mole that you have had for a long time, have a dermatologist take a look at it."
Read our Get Skin Cancer Savvy slideshow to learn how to spot a possibly cancerous mole.
Knowing your risk factors for skin cancer is important as well. According to Dr. Baumann, there are several traits that predispose people to melanoma: freckled skin, red hair, history of damage and family history. If you have one or more of these features, pay special attention to your moles, and see a dermatologist regularly.
What's the Best Way to Treat Body Acne?
The skin care aisle at your local drug store is chock-full of products claiming to be able to zap acne both below your neck as well as above, but do any of them work?
According to the experts, nothing beats the gold standard: benzoyl peroxide. Dr. Benabio recommends a benzoyl peroxide wash or prescription antibiotics depending on the severity of symptoms, while Dr. Kottke similarly suggests a benzoyl peroxide wash followed by a clindamycin solution. "For spot treatment, I often recommend using a benzoyl peroxide gel," said Dr. Kottke. "This combination is often gentle on the skin."
According to Dr. Baumann, you can indeed seek relief on those drug store shelves. Just look for "salicylic acid cleansers such as Neutrogena acne wash and topical 5 percent benzoyl peroxide such as Oxy."
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