Sunday, 1 May 2011

Solutions for Your Top 9 Body-Skin Issues

Ninety percent of women will get stretch marks over their lifetime. Yes, 90. The marks—caused by thinning of the skin during a quick weight loss or gain, or pregnancy—aren't necessarily a life sentence. First off, they're much easier to treat when they're new. They start out pink or red, and that's when they're most receptive to Vbeam (at $400 to $800 per session) or, once they turn white, Fraxel laser treatments ($500 to $1,000 per session, depending on the area treated).

Since sweat and oil production ramp up in the summer, pores on your chest and back get clogged more easily. The best approach starts in the shower: Use a body wash with at least 1.25 percent salicylic acid (Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash Pink Grapefruit contains 2 percent and doesn't smell medicinal). If that doesn't do the trick, once you're dry, add a layer of benzoyl peroxide (just remember, it can bleach clothes) or a prescription antibiotic lotion.

These lumps are among the most vexing beauty problems—there is no cure (not even liposuction). Lessen dimples with Thermage, a treatment that uses radio frequency to tighten tissue for up to two years. (Though you need only one treatment, it costs roughly $4,000 and takes about six months to see results.) For a quick and temporary approach, caffeine creams, such as Clarins High Definition Body Lift, dehydrate fat cells for a few hours, so skin appears tighter.

Short of living like the girl in the plastic bubble, it's hard to avoid an occasional bruise. When a splotch first appears, massage it daily with a botanical anti-inflammatory lotion, like Arniflora Arnica Gel, which may speed up healing. In the meantime, try this genius tip from makeup artist Scott Barnes: Dab red lipstick on the mark, then set it with powder and apply Dermablend Cover Creme or a creamy foundation; the red helps neutralize the dark bluish tone of a bruise more than foundation alone can. Pat it on with a makeup sponge and blend it outward to the nonbruised area.

The standard way to zap veins is sclerotherapy, an injection that irritates the vein, causing it to shut down and get absorbed back into the body, usually after as few as two $450 treatments. Though it's been available in Europe for roughly 40 years, the FDA just approved Asclera last year: It's another injectable that costs $500 per treatment and works as well as traditional saline, without the burning sensation. Be sure to start injections long before you need to see results: Sclerotherapy causes bruises for about two weeks, and the veins won't disappear completely until your treatment is completed.

Small scars, such as those from shaving nicks that are less than six months old, can be treated at home with a silicone cream, such as Kelo-cote Advanced Formula Scar Gel. To flatten scars, massage the cream in for 30 seconds twice a day for two months. Four sessions with a vascular laser (for red scars; $200 to $600 each) or four treatments with a Fraxel laser (for white scars; $500 to $1,000 each) can help restore skin to its normal color. If a scar is raised, two steroid injections ($250 each) can make it flatter and thinner.

Skin can get stretched out from damage, aging, pregnancy, and even minor weight fluctuations. A new treatment is Exilis, a noninvasive device that combines ultrasound and radio frequencies to tighten skin. It's especially effective on stomach pooches and requires one treatment a week (about $350) for four weeks—skin will stay taut for at least 18 month

If the backs of your arms look like gooseflesh and feel scratchy, like sandpaper, and you're prone to dry skin or eczema, you could have a benign, common condition called keratosis pilaris. (It's caused when keratin, a protein in the skin, forms hard plugs within hair follicles.) Whatever you do, don't try to scrub the raised bits away with rough exfoliants—you'll just irritate the skin, making the bumps inflamed. Instead, use washes and lotions with alpha hydroxy acids (like the Glytone Keratosis Pilaris Kit, which contains both). Then use a hydrocortisone cream to reduce the redness, and the bumps should clear up in three weeks.

These small, loose pieces of skin tend to appear on women's necks and underarms during hormonal changes. Skin tags are harmless, but easy for a dermatologist to cut out if they bother you. With a few numbing shots, you can get several removed at once.

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