Know Your Skin Type

Looks are only skin-deep, you’re always told. So unless you want to wow women with your inner beauty, you’d better take good care of that skin. The trick, says Ellen Marmur -- author of the book Simple Skin Beauty and chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York -- is knowing how to do it properly.

Marmur recommends what she calls a PET strategy: protect, enhance and troubleshoot. Protect means to use sunscreen. Most men don’t, even though it dramatically reduces wrinkles and other effects of aging over the years. Enhance means use the right skin and shaving products. And to do that, you need to troubleshoot, or identify your unique skin care needs. We’ve enlisted the advice of Marmur and Valentina Chistova, a renowned aesthetician and owner of ABC Day Spa in New Jersey, to aid you in this part of the process. As for the inner-beauty part, you’re on your own.

Skin type: Dry

How to identify it: Your skin feels tight after you wash it. You may notice chapped splotches in spots, and it can appear dull from excess dead layers.

How to treat it: Apply moisturizer in the morning after you shave and at night before you go to bed, Chistova recommends. “In the evening, you can use a rich moisturizer, one that is specially noted for nighttime use,” she adds. You might also want to consider using cleansing milk instead of soap, as it removes fewer natural oils. You should probably refrain from using aftershave if you’ve got this skin type, says Marmur, since it tends to close pores and further dry your cheeks, chin and neck.

Skin type: Oily

How to identify it: Within thirty minutes of washing your face, your skin is already shiny. When you touch your face, you notice oily residue on your fingers. You also have a tendency to get blackheads.

How to treat it: Use one of the many gel facial cleansers designed specifically for oily skin. Also, says Chistova, after washing your face, apply a toner -- which cleans the skin and closes pores -- with a cotton ball. You still need to moisturize, but probably only once a day, in the evening. Marmur suggests experimenting with different aftershaves to find which one complements your skin the best and slows it from getting shiny during the day.

Skin type: Combination

How to identify it: Marmur calls this the most common skin condition among men. Your cheeks and forehead may be dry, but then shiny oil may build up along the T-zone (across the brow and down the nose).

How to treat it: Cater your approach to whichever area of the face you’re treating. Use the strategies best suited for oily skin on the T-zone, and the ones for dry skin on the cheeks and forehead. And, adds Marmur, apply sunscreen everywhere to prevent aging effects.

Skin type: Sensitive

How to identify it: Your face sunburns easily and is prone to redness, hives and bumps.

How to treat it: If you have this type of skin, you should seek a dermatologist or a skin-care professional for specific advice based upon your unique needs. But Chistova provides some simple, basic tips: Wash your face a couple of times a day at most, and use the most delicate soaps and facial products possible. Some brands make a face wash for sensitive skin, which would be far superior to a bar of soap.

Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/atanasija

Is Your Skin Spot Cancerous? The Skinny on Moles

The importance of wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer has been drilled into your head since the day you were born. But you’re way too young to start inspecting yourself for iffy moles, right? Actually, say dermatologists, you’re not. Dr. Jessica Krant, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and founder of Art of Dermatology in New York City, says the time to start is now. “If you get used to how your moles and skin look when nothing is wrong, you’ll be ready to notice changes over time,” she explains, adding that, though rare, “skin cancer does occur in teens and even in children, so there really is no age too young to start knowing your skin.” But how can you “know” your skin? When is a mole just a mole, and when is it a sign of something worse? To answer these questions and more, here are three healthy habits you should be using to keep tabs on your body’s largest organ.

No. 1: Get an annual checkup.
Make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist for a complete head-to-toe skin cancer screening. For most people, this will become an annual event, but depending on your skin type and coloring, sun exposure, and family skin cancer history, you may need to go more often. “Everyone is truly different, so your dermatologist should work with you to figure out the schedule that works best for your situation,” says Krant.

No. 2: Check yourself using the ABCDE’s.
In between dermatological visits, you need to inspect your own skin. In order to get to know what’s normal for you, Krant suggests looking at easy-to-see spots once a month. Less visible areas can be looked at every four to six months. Although cancers are more likely to develop in parts of the body that are more exposed to the sun, they can still form in areas the sun doesn’t see. That means a complete skin exam includes the bottoms of your feet, in between your toes, your scalp and your underwear area. “Use a mirror to look at hard-to-see areas,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research for the Department of Dermatology of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “Ask your wife or girlfriend to check out your back.”

What you’re looking for, says Zeichner, is the ABCDE’s of moles.

A = Asymmetry, when one side of the mole does not look like the other side
B = Border, when the border of the mole is irregular and not round
C = Color, when there are various shades of brown, black, blue, or white in the mole
D = Diameter changing (according to Krant, dermatologists used to warn against moles that are larger than a pencil eraser, but doctors now know that melanomas can be smaller)
E = Evolution, when the mole changes over time

Another general guideline, says Krant, is to search for anything that looks different from when you last saw it or that doesn’t look like most of the other marks on you. “There are three main types of skin cancer,” she explains. “Each is formed when a different skin cell type goes bad.” When a brown mole turns malignant, it forms melanoma, the least common but deadliest skin cancer. But there is also a type of melanoma that has no brown pigment; it can look pink or red and is easily overlooked. “Basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, can appear as a clear ‘pearly’ bump, a flat white scar-like patch, or a pimple-like sore that may bleed and heal and then bleed again,” says Krant. Squamous cell carcinoma often appears as a flaky, scaly red bump, or a small patch that looks like a rash but won’t heal.

No. 3: When in doubt, call a professional.
With all the different places on your body to check and all the different types of spots to look out for, it can feel overwhelming. Just do the best you can to keep track of your skin, and head to your specialist if you spy something that makes you uneasy. At the very least, he or she will reassure you that it’s benign. And if it isn’t, rest assured you did the right thing: All three types of skin cancers are potentially deadly, but they’re also curable if caught early.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/zuzusaturn

The Ultimate Summer Hygiene Guide

If you’ve been cooped up all winter and can’t wait to get active outdoors, more power to you. But be warned: Whether you’re hitting the track, the links or the tennis courts, you’re going to build up a real sweat, which, if left unchecked, could leave you facing a host of unappealing side effects. We’re talking body odor, jock itch, athlete’s foot, and the dreaded bacne.

Fortunately, all of these conditions are largely avoidable -- and also treatable. Men’s Life Today consulted with three experts from very different backgrounds -- a dermatologist, an herbalist, and an Olympic athlete -- to get a range of approaches to these all-too-common afflictions. Pick an approach or mix and match from all three, but ignore their advice at your peril. Girls really don’t like bacne.

Sweat and Body Odor

The Doctor:
“As you perspire, particularly in areas under the arms and feet and around the groin, bacteria grows that can create an odor,” explains Dr. Francesca Fusco, a New York City­-based dermatologist with more than 25 years of experience. “Anything you can do to minimize perspiration will help cut down on that odor.” She recommends an antiperspirant with deodorant, and daily or more frequent showers. Little-known fact: If you have excessive sweating on your hands or feet, you can use deodorant there too.

The Herbalist:
A healthy liver assists in dealing with some of the toxins that can cause you to stink, says Barry Sherr, who opened Chamomile Natural Foods in Danbury, Conn., more than 30 years ago. If your liver is overtaxed or unhealthy, it simply can’t keep up. To help get it back on an even keel, Sherr recommends chlorophyll tablets, spirulina, chlorella, mixed greens, wheatgrass or barley grass. Fiber in the diet is also important, and hydration is essential -- particularly when engaging in athletic activity -- so that the body can continue to flush out the toxins, even as it loses water through perspiration.

The Athlete:
“I sweat a ton,” says three-time Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper, “so I always have towels ready and a spare shirt too.” Mostly, Kemper recommends staying hydrated. “If you’re running a loop, put water bottles out along the route beforehand so you can hydrate as you go.” If you’re running particularly hard, he adds, it’s a good idea to occasionally pour the water over your head. “Not only will it help you stay cool, it will help you in your performance.”

Athletes Foot and Jock Itch

The Doctor:
“Moisture is your worst enemy here, so it’s very important to keep these areas dry,” says Fusco. “Towel between each toe and in all the nooks and crannies of the groin area.” If you get a fungus despite your best drying efforts, try an over-the-counter product such as Lamisil, she says, which should clear up your issues within two weeks. If not, you’ll need to seek assistance from a dermatologist.

The Herbalist:
Sherr recommends a three-pronged approach. “Fungus lives off glucose, so you should cut down on carbs; yeast in the body can mutate to a fungal form outside the body.” Second, Sherr advises consuming antifungal foods and supplements, such as garlic, caprylic acid and black walnut. Lastly, he counsels a diet with an ample supply of probiotics -- the good bacteria that will help your body fight the good fight.

The Athlete:
“When I go cycling, my shoes get really wet,” says Kemper, who is hoping to qualify in London this summer for his fourth Olympic games. To keep them from becoming fungal breeding zones, he changes out the insoles regularly, and never steps into a pair of shoes with a wet insole. His key to avoiding many fungal issues is simply to be smart -- for example, wearing sandals in the locker room and gym shower to protect himself from contagious fungus.

Bacne

The Doctor:

Good hygiene is particularly important here, says Fusco. As your pores get clogged from sweating, and dead skin begins to build up, acne can take hold. To prevent it, she says, you’ll need to exfoliate and make sure you keep yourself clean, ideally with a deodorant soap. If you’ve already developed a bad case of bacne, don’t fret: Your dermatologist can prescribe a low-dose antibiotic such as Oracea, or a prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide.

The Herbalist:
According to Sherr, the herb sarsaparilla will prevent testosterone -- which can contribute to back acne -- from getting to the skin. Zinc supplements, omega-3 fish oils and B-vitamins can also help keep problems at bay. The larger issue, though, could be that you need to detoxify. “Skin problems stem from impure blood and impure lymphatics,” he explains. For those with intolerances, cutting out gluten and/or dairy can work wonders toward correcting skin issues.

The Athlete:
Kemper suggests investing in clothes that wick moisture and dry quickly. Or you can make it even easier on yourself: “Outdoors, I run without a shirt,” he says.

Give Your Feet a Makeover

Tired of wearing Nikes to the beach to contain the smell? Sitting on your heels at picnics to hide your hideous feet from view? MLT talked to foot experts about the most common problems that affect our most used and abused appendages, and how to fix them. You might never make it as a foot model, but your paws will be good-looking enough to take out of hiding.

Problem: Smelly Shoes

What it is: No need to explain … we’ve all experienced it at some point.

Why you have it: Odor-causing bacteria thrive in dark, damp spaces, making your sweaty shoes an ideal environment.
How to get rid of it: Wear socks made of natural fibers and alternate between different pairs of shoes daily to give them time to dry. You can also spray them with Lysol or special shoe spray designed to exterminate odor, sprinkle them with medicated foot powder or baking powder, or simply pop them in a Ziploc bag and stick it in the freezer overnight. “The cold temperature will kill most odor-causing bacteria,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, a podiatrist at Manhattan-based City Podiatry.

Problem: Smelly Feet

What it is: Pew! Even if you throw your shoes out the window, the smell won’t go away.
Why you have it: “Most times, smelly feet are caused by infection,” says Sutera. Telltale signs include yellow nails, blisters, flaky “dry” skin, peeling, itchy skin, rashes, and red or white rough patches.
How to get rid of it: If you spot any of these, make an appointment with a foot doctor. The problem will only get worse if left untreated. If, however, your feet look shipshape -- they just smell of rotten fish -- there are some simple steps you can take: Lather up and scrub in between your toes when you shower; then let them dry off completely. Dust them with a deodorizing foot powder or cornstarch to absorb moisture, or spritz with foot deodorant/antiperspirant, either over-the-counter or prescription-strength. “You can even try your favorite underarm deodorant,” suggests Sutera.

Problem: Corns and Calluses

What it is: “A callus generally refers to a more diffuse thickening of the skin, whereas a corn is thicker and more focalized,” says Dr. Jonah Mullens, a podiatrist with sports medical group SOAR in the San Francisco area. Most of the time the problem is just aesthetic, but sometimes it’s painful, infected, and won’t stop getting bigger. If that’s the case, see a podiatrist.
Why you have it: Corns and calluses are the result of skin thickening in response to excessive pressure -- from tight footwear, for example -- usually in combination with some friction. “The skin thickens to protect itself,” explains Mullens.
How to get rid of it: After showering, Sutera suggests using a pumice stone or foot file. Gently rub the toughened skin in one direction; if you go back and forth aggressively, you’ll just rip the skin and make it rougher. A special foot moisturizer with lactic acid, urea or alpha hydroxy acid should be used on a daily basis.

Problem: Fungus

What it is: Fungal infections of the feet (like athlete’s foot) can cause dry skin, redness, blisters, itching and peeling. Toenail fungus causes thick, brittle, discolored yellow nails that can be painful under pressure.
Why you have it: The warm, dark and moist environment in our shoes is the ideal place for fungus to grow. Sometimes it can spread to the nail. An injury from soccer or skiing, for instance, can create a damaged portion of the toenail where fungus can easily get in.
How to get rid of it: Try an over-the-counter antifungal powder or cream. If you don’t see results within two to four weeks, Mullens advises going to the doctor, who might prescribe an oral medicine. To prevent infections, keep feet clean and dry by wiping down the area between your toes after showering and changing your shoes and socks regularly.

Problem: Ingrown Toenails

What it is: Skin on the side of the toenail gets irritated, causing swelling, odor, pain and redness.
Why you have it: We’d make a bet you were a little too aggressive with that nail trimmer.
How to get rid of it: Cut your nails in a gently rounded shape, and avoid hacking into the corners. “If the skin does become inflamed, try soaking the toe for 10 to 15 minutes in warm water with Epsom salt three times daily,” says Dr. Jennifer Saam, a podiatrist in Bellevue, Wash. “If it’s not improving, you may need antibiotics or even a procedure to remove the offending portion of the nail.”

Problem: Dried, Cracked Heels

What it is: The skin around the edges of the heel thickens. Sometimes it cracks, which can be pretty painful, especially if the cracks are deep enough and get infected.
Why you have it: From going barefoot or wearing sandals or flip-flops regularly.
How to get rid of it: Once your skin softens in the shower, shave the hard spots with a callus razor. After toweling dry, slather on a good moisturizer. Do so right before bed, suggests Dr. Saam, and stick on a pair of socks so the moisture will penetrate your feet while you sleep.

Summer’s Here: Keep Your Skin Clear

Ah, summer, at last: surfboards and swizzle sticks, swimmies and softball mitts … and skin that’s so burned, dry or broken out, you can forget about shaving. To avoid the latter -- yep, it’s avoidable -- we sought advice from two pros who’ve seen more than their fair share of damaged dermis. And if you, like us, insist on doing everything bad for you anyway, we’ve got recovery strategies so you can soon return to your favorite summertime activities -- and regular shaving regimen -- without having added years to your face.

Prevention, Prevention, Prevention
As the owner of the Alma G. Salon in Manhattan -- a favorite of celebs, including Ashton Kutcher and freshman “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler -- Alma G. is a firm believer in preventive measures to keep your skin in tip-top shape. Wearing sunblock is foremost among her precautions. “I recommend SPF 30 for your face and 15 or higher for everywhere else,” she says. “Apply it 15 to 20 minutes before you go outside to let it fully soak in. If you’re engaging in activities where you’re sweating a lot, reapply a couple of times during the day.”

Daniela Pranjic, spa manager of the Paradisus Punta Cana and the Paradisus Palma Real resorts in the Dominican Republic, encounters many guests who -- having been pent up all winter in North America -- zip off to the Caribbean for a quick dose of sun and sand only to come back looking like a roast. “You need to take it easy, especially in those first few days,” says Pranjic. Before you jeer at those clueless vacationers, note that the same applies to the early days of summer, wherever you live. To prepare for your first big spate of outdoor activities, Pranjic recommends drinking lots of water and juices. Clothing-wise, a hat and sunglasses are a must, and she also suggests UV-protective shirts.

Can’t wait to hit the pool? Go for it, but note that chlorine can deliver a one-two punch: stripping away your sunscreen and drying out your skin. To deal with the latter, just remember to re-lube after getting out of the water. You won’t need sunblock for a nighttime dip, but you might consider rubbing on some baby oil, which will repel the chlorine from your skin and thus keep it from drying out. And though chlorine kills germs in the water -- a good thing -- it’s not so good for your face. “It will make you more prone to blackheads and whiteheads,” says Alma G., “so it’s important to exfoliate after you’ve been in the pool.”

If chlorine is killing your complexion no matter what precautions you take, try going for a dip in the ocean instead. Although it’s still important to wear sunscreen, saltwater can work wonders for the skin. “It acts like a scrub and dries out irritations,” says Alma G. Surprisingly, blowing sand can also have benefits, acting as an exfoliant. But if you’re going to spend an extended period of time exposed to this ocean-side loofa, make sure to slather on a good moisturizer before and after, lest your skin become raw.

… and Recovery
OK, so you got carried away frolicking in the ocean with your summer crush and forgot to reapply your sunblock. And now you’ve turned a disturbing shade of fuchsia. Not to worry: Alma G. has a host of home remedies in her arsenal to soothe and rehydrate burning skin. Capsules of vitamin E, split open and gently spread over the affected areas, will expedite the healing process, as will aloe vera or olive oil. A slightly more time-consuming treatment Alma G. swears by is mixing whole milk and sweet apples in a blender to create a masque for the burned areas. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to yank off the peeling skin that will inevitably appear a few days after your ill-fated rendezvous with the sun -- the new skin underneath will be extremely vulnerable, especially on your face. We know that’s a tall order, but find some bubble wrap to pop instead and leave your poor skin alone.


Photo: @iStockphoto.com/kzenonkzenon