Archive for March 2010

Skin Cancer...Aren't I Too Young?

Q. My mother is concerned about my sun tanning habits, but I use sunscreen most of the time and only sunburn at the beginning of the summer and then tan. I am only 34 years old and don’t think I have any problems with my skin. Should I have any concern about skin cancer at such a young age?

A. Skin cancer is no joke. There were more skin cancers (basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer, and melanomas) in 2009 than all other types of cancer combined. Treatment and cure rely on early diagnosis and treatment. Anyone can develop skin cancer; however, there are risk factors that increase an individual’s chances of developing skin cancer, such as light skin or eye color, freckling, sunburns in the past, and a family history of skin cancer.

In order to increase earlier diagnosis of melanomas and other skin cancers, a test for moles and suspicious lesions called “ABCDE” was created. The “A” stands for “asymmetry”; the “B” stands for irregular “borders”; the “C” stands for variation in “color” in the same lesion; the “D” stands for “diameterlarger than a pencil eraser (6mm); and the “E” stands for “evolving” lesions, which are characterized by change in symmetry, borders, shape, color, diameter or symptoms over time.

Moles and suspicious lesions that fulfill the ABCDE criteria can be biopsied to confirm a diagnosis. Early diagnosis allows adequate treatment and cure and identifies benign lesions, which require no further treatment.

Don’t forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of repair. Be safe in the sun. Adequate sunscreen use with broad spectrum UVB/UVA products, especially with micronized zinc oxide such as Rx Systems PF Facial Moisturizer SPF 35 and sun avoidance during peak UV hours (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.) can reduce the chances of skin cancer.

What Can Be Done About Thinning Hair?

Last week’s question asked not only about frizzy hair, but also about thinning hair. Today’s blog deals with the latter.

Female pattern baldness (alopecia) can have any number of causes in women as they age (our question came from someone over 40), not the least of which is declining estrogen levels (and other hormone imbalances). Here are several:

  • Deficiencies in vitamins or minerals
  • Eating disorders
  • Anemia
  • Severe stress
  • Hair products, processing or styling instruments
  • Allergies
  • Glandular disorders
  • Disorders involving thyroid, liver, adrenals or ovaries
  • Drug toxicity
  • Severe infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Medications
  • Protein deficiency
  • Severe infections

That being said, 95% of the 20 million women who suffer from alopecia have what is called androgenetic alopecia (hereditary) which is caused by changes in hormones (androgens) that are present in all of us. Testosterone, in particular, is the culprit when it transforms into dihydrotestosterone, causing hair and follicles to shrink.

The typical “life cycle” of your hair is that it grows anywhere from two to seven years, after which it does nothing but look (hopefully) great for about three months. After that time off, hairs fall out and then, normally, the new hair comes in. If androgenetic alopecia is in your makeup, your hair follicles become sensitive to testosterone and start to shrink, losing strength and length, sometimes ceasing to grow at all.

The three most routine treatments for hair loss are medical, surgical, and cosmetic methods.

Medically, the topical drug minoxidil is used to stop hair follicles from shrinking in about 60 percent of women. Minoxidil is quite expensive and can take six months to get results. When Minoxidil treatment is stopped, it’s possible that hair loss could recur. There is a prescription drug called Finasteride, which affects testosterone levels, but only seems to work for men and which is unsafe for women.

Surgically, we can do hair restoration, but primarily that is done on the top of the head. Follicular unit transplantation is the latest and greatest technique, replacing hair that has fallen out with “units” of hair (one to three tiny hairs) which have been harvested from elsewhere on the head.

Obviously, cosmetic methods refer to using hair products, such as thickeners and concealers, as well as styling techniques that give the illusion of thicker hair. Concealers, also known as “scalp shaders”, can be used by women and men. When applied to the thinning area, the concealer covers up the scalp by blending it in with the hair that is there.

Hopefully, this helps shed some light on the problem of alopecia and thinning hair. If you have other questions regarding this topic or other skin and hair issues, please let me know!

How Do I Control Frizzy Hair?

Q. I am 41 years old and have coarse, thick hair. In the past several months, my hair seems frizzy and breaks very easily. My hair dresser thinks my hair is thinning. What can I do to prevent the breakage and thinning areas of hair?

To understand frizzy hair, one needs an understanding of the structure of the hair shaft. There are two distinct functional layers.

The cuticle is the outer layer, consisting of hard, flattened cells which overlap one another like shingles on a roof. This creates a strong, but flexible arrangement to the hair shaft. The function of the cuticle is to protect the inner, more delicate cortex. The cuticle is resistant to damage; but it cannot withstand excessive environmental damage resulting from humidity, wind, cold, sun, etc. or excessive hair treatment damage from drying, coloring, perms, etc. The number of overlapping cuticle cells (thickness of the cuticle) and type of cuticle cells varies from loose and open to tight and firm scales. Also, the porosity of the cuticle cells is variable. These are characteristics that vary from one individual’s hair to another.

The cortex makes up 75-90 percent of the hair shaft mass. The behavior of the hair is determined by the cortex. These physical properties include strength, elasticity, pliability, diameter, and quality of the hair shaft.

Any insult that damages the structure of the hair shaft (cuticle and/or cortex) can make the hair frizzy. The cuticle is tough and protects the cortex, but does not hold it together. The cortex is strong but cannot resist wear and tear. The cortex holds itself together, but is easily damaged without normal cuticle protection. Any excessive stress that damages the cuticle layer will ultimately damage the hair cortex and cause frizzy hair. Repairing damage to the cuticle layer of the hair shaft will protect the cortex layer and eliminate frizzy hair. It’s important to know the hair shaft has no power to repair itself, as in the case of damaged skin.

Extreme climate conditions (dry or extremely humid) can cause frizzy hair. The cuticle is used as a base for hair sprays, lacquers, conditioners, fillers, and hair cosmetics. If the cuticle layer is damaged, one can apply treatments that can be beneficial to fixing the problem. Also, over-brushing and handling the hair can aggravate frizzy hair. There are some hair products that can aggravate or cause frizzy hair; gels, mousses, and hairsprays with high alcohol content should be avoided.

One should not overlook the fact that stress, illnesses, medications, and nutrition can have a negative impact on hair growth and frizz.

Products that restore and maintain a normal scalp and hair pH (shampoos that are pH adjusted), restore moisture content (conditioners), and flatten cuticle cells (pH adjusted conditioners), and products which help fill, coat, and repair cuticle cells (pH adjusted protein treatments) will prevent frizzy hair. There are some conditioners formulated to help smooth hair. In addition, there are deep conditioning treatments that can be used once a week to help smooth and soften frizzy hair. Pomade and hair creams can be used to combat hair frizz, as well as anti-frizz serums that contain silicone (dimethicone and cyclomethicone). Non-alcoholic mousses can be better than styling gels for frizzy hair. Products need to be used repeatedly and are not a one-time solution.

Use styling implements with wide teeth to avoid hair static and frizz.

Remember, you can control and tame frizzy hair, but not cure it.