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Category Archives: Beauty

8 Ways to Reduce Wrinkles

Are you tired of waging a war against wrinkles? Scott Gerrish, MD, of Gerrish and Associates, PC, a non-surgical skin care specialist with offices in Virginia and Maryland states, “Don’t give up yet. There are steps you can take to lessen and even reverse one of the biggest signs of aging: wrinkles.”

8 Simple and Smart Skin Care Steps to Reduce Wrinkle

1. Avoid sun exposure. Try to wear white or light colors, and wear a hat when you’re outdoors. Also, don’t use tanning booths, which can be worse than the sun.

2. Wear sunscreen. For the best anti-aging protection, Dr. Gerrish strongly recommends, “Apply sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 (sun protection factor) thirty minutes before sun exposure to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Look for one with zinc or titanium oxide in the ingredient list.”

3. Avoid environmental pollutants. Ozone, smoke, and gasoline fumes are just a few of the pollutants that can age skin and cause premature wrinkles.

4. Start an anti-aging skin care program. June Breiner, MD, an internist in Maryland suggests, “Consult with a non-surgical skin care doctor. There are many products available that thicken your skin and reduce wrinkles.”

5. Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. Smoking takes away oxygen and nutrients, and it also increases the number of free radicals in your body’s cells, a main cause of skin aging. “The amount of cigarette consumption and the number of years you have smoked are correlated with an increase in premature wrinkles,” states Dr. Breiner.

6. Wear sunglasses. Other than staying indoors and away from windows, sunglasses are the best way to protect the thin, sensitive skin around your eyes from UV radiation.

7. Sleep on your back, if possible. Sleeping with your face pressed against the pillow can cause sleep lines, which can turn into wrinkles. Satin pillow cases can also help in the anti-wrinkle fight.

8. Use moisturizer. A good moisturizer will keep skin hydrated and soften wrinkles.

Dealing With Adult Acne

Women whose breakouts are associated with their menstrual cycle usually find that they get pimples or blackheads about two to seven days before the start of their period. That problem tends to go away after menopause, so you can look forward to some relief! However, you may still break out occasionally during the transition.

Fluctuating hormones could indeed be the problem. Although doctors don’t really understand what causes acne, they do know that an increase in androgens (male sex hormones) is an important factor. And, as you know, you do experience a change in the estrogen-androgen ratio during the menopause transition. In studies, women who had acne have higher levels of circulating androgens than women without acne. Similarly, women who had acne during adolescence also often get it again at midlife. Other possible causes: greasy makeup, medications (such as lithium for bipolar disorder or barbiturates used to control seizures) and even resting your cheek on your hand (a source of bacteria).

Contrary to myth, chocolate, fried foods, and dirty skin do not cause acne. Neither does stress, but it can aggravate acne, so try to relax more.

If pimples are really troubling you, try over-the-counter acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, or sulfur. These break down blackheads and whiteheads and reduce oil production in your skin. But don’t slather them on as you might have done when you were a teenager. Put the medication just on the spot—not on the area around it. Your skin is drier now, so you need to be careful. You should look for products made for adults, including some specifically formulated for menopausal women.

If you’re still not getting relief, see a dermatologist for antibiotics or other prescription medication. Oral contraceptives and menopausal hormone therapy may also help.

In the meantime, wash your face gently; don’t scrub or rub it. That will only exacerbate the problem.

Most of the controversy over hormone therapy at menopause has centered on the risks of cancer and heart disease. But many women who use estrogen say they like it because it makes them look younger. What’s the science behind their claims? Estrogen therapy does not alter the effects of genetic aging, and it can’t reverse the damage from sun exposure or smoking.

It has no effect on the risk of skin cancer. But clinical trials have shown that systemic estrogen may have some benefits for skin. It appears to limit collagen loss, maintain skin thickness, improve firmness and elasticity, and decrease wrinkle depth and pore size. Researchers say the data aren’t convincing enough to recommend taking estrogen for this reason alone and it’s not FDA-approved for this purpose.

Many Teen Girls Using Tanning Beds

Despite the risk of skin cancer, including deadly melanoma, nearly 30 percent of white female high school students use tanning beds and nearly 17 percent use them often, a new report finds.

Among white women aged 18 to 34, nearly 25 percent use tanning beds and 15 percent use them frequently, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The high rates of indoor tanning among this population is very concerning,” said report coauthor Gery Guy Jr., of the division of cancer prevention at the CDC.

Moreover, there have been no significant changes in the prevalence of indoor tanning in recent years, he said.

“Indoor tanning has been associated with skin cancer, particularly melanoma,” Guy said. “The risk is increased among younger users and those who use it frequently.”

Guy said young girls should be educated about the risks of ultraviolet ray exposure. Indoor tanning also should be restricted to adults, and claims about its benefits should be discredited, he said.

In addition, changing the perception that tanned skin is healthy and attractive would go a long way in reducing the use of tanning beds. “Tanned skin is damaged skin,” he said.

The report was published online Aug. 19 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Dr. Melanie Palm, a spokeswomen for the Skin Cancer Foundation and director of Art of Skin MD in Solana Beach, Calif., said the study’s finding are consistent with past research on the use of tanning beds.

More than 30 million Americans use tanning beds every year, Palm said. “There is a disproportionate number of girls and young women who use them,” she said.

Although tanning is a known risk for skin cancer, there is a “cultural disconnect between the risk and the desire for a ‘healthy glow,'” she said.

Parents need to be role models and educate their children about the dangers of UV exposure, Palm said. She said people should get into the habit of putting on sunscreen before going out, and girls and women who want a tanned look should use sunless tanning spray.

Cancer, however, is not the only risk of tanning. Exposure to UV rays ages the skin, making it less elastic, and causes wrinkles and spots, Palm said.

An industry spokesman, however, said the connection between indoor tanning and the risk for melanoma has not been confirmed.

“The body of studies on the relationship between UV exposure and melanoma skin cancer are replete with conflicting information,” said John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association.

“This study also ignores the many benefits of moderate exposure to ultraviolet light,” he said. “With any human activity, there are risks and benefits, and the key is balance.”

Another expert said many women weren’t told about the dangers of tanning when they were teens.

“Most adult patients that I treat for skin cancers preface their discussion with me by saying that when they were teenagers they were never told that sunbathing or tanning was bad for them,” said Dr. Jeffrey Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine.

“If there was a way for teens to be able to talk to their future self, the remedy would be easy,” he said. “But since the cancerous effects of tanning beds take time to evolve into skin cancers, it is hard for teens to personally identify with the risks. It is going to be a combination of parents, teachers and social media that will have to be used to target this audience.”

Injection Makes Laugh Lines Fall Flat

An injection that stimulates collagen production can smooth out nasolabial folds, better known as “laugh lines,” researchers reported here.

In a small, single-center study, a significantly larger proportion of patients had either “much” or “very much” improvement on clinician assessment 9 months after being treated with polycaprolactone (Ellanse) than when they were treated with hyaluronic acid (Perlane), according to Hassan Galadari, MD, of United Arab Emirates University in Dubai.

Galadari reported the findings during a late-breaking session at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting here.

Polycaprolactone has been used for many years, namely for orthopedic surgery and as a suture material, and consists of microspheres in a gel matrix of glycerin and water. The microspheres stimulate tissue production that creates new collagen and replaces the gel carrier and the tissue scaffold.

To assess whether the treatment works against nasolabial folds, Galadari and colleagues conducted a randomized, prospective, single-center study in 40 patients — 37 of whom were women — with moderate to severe nasolabial folds.

Outcomes were assessed via the Global Aesthetic Improvement Scale (GAIS) or the Wrinkle Severity Rating Scale (WSRS), for safety and efficacy through 12 months, though Galadari noted he would be reporting data through 9 months only.

The study was a split-face study, in which half of the face had an injection of hyaluronic acid and the other half was injected with polycaprolactone.

Overall, clinicians used 17.4 percent less product to achieve the desired results with polycaprolactone than with the hyaluronic acid at the initial visit, Galadari said, and they used 13 percent less product in the follow-up “touch-up” visit.

They found that on investigator-assessed GAIS, a significantly larger proportion of patients had “much” or “very much” improved with caprolactone compared with hyaluronic acid at 9 months.

At that time, the researchers noted that “no change” was seen far more often with hyaluronic acid because it typically lasts 6 months, rather than 9 months.

For patient-rated GAIS findings at 9 months, polycaprolactone again had a greater proportion of “much” or “very much” improved, even though patients tended to be “more generous” with their self-ratings.

WSRS scores fell by 1 month and bottomed out at 3 months in both groups, but remained lower with caprolactone through 9 months than with hyaluronic acid, which had started to climb back up at that point. At baseline through that time, patients generally fell from a mean of 3.5 on wrinkle severity scores to about 3 with hyaluronic acid and 2 with polycaprolactone.

Nearly half (48 percent) of all patients reported adverse events — with all of the caprolactone patients complaining of pain, Galadari noted, but all were mild and resolved quickly.

He noted that in normal circumstances, dermatologists will use anesthesia for the procedure, but for the sake of the study it was done without any potential confounders.

Also, patients had unequal inflammation on both sides of their faces given the split-face nature of the study. Galadari said polycaprolactone is associated with edema, so clinicians could identify rather quickly — usually within 2 days — which side of the face carried which treatment.

The reason for the excess edema is likely that the gel carrier in polycaprolactone includes glycerin, which can absorb more water than hyaluronic acid and can cause a more pronounced inflammatory response, although this tends to resolve in about 3 to 4 days, Galadari said.

He also noted that there was one case of unilateral periorbital edema with polycaprolactone.

In conclusion, Galadari said that most of the injections in the study were done conservatively, which meant that the doses of filler used in the study were lower than in other studies, with a relatively low initial and high touch-up volume.

Patient satisfaction scores will also be assessed, he said, to determine whether patients would be satisfied enough to come for a follow-up treatment.

The Best Foods for Your Skin

Tomatoes

Definitely one of your skin’s best defenses, tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. While studies have not yet been entirely conclusive, many suggest that lycopene may be responsible for helping to protect the skin against sun damage.

Lycopene is best absorbed by the body when it has been cooked or processed, so eating tomato sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup is likely to be more effective than just eating raw tomatoes when trying to safeguard your skin against harmful UV rays. Lycopene is also fat soluble, which means that it is absorbed more easily when consumed with fat, such as eggs, avocado, and olive oil.

Red Meat

Sometimes it gets a bad rap, and even though red meat does contain saturated fat and cholesterol, lean red meat is one of Dr. Wu’s favorite Feed Your Face foods because it’s so high in protein and zinc. In fact, recent studies suggest that red meat may be even better at treating acne than antibiotics.

To produce collagen, your skin needs the amino acids glycine and proline, and theprotein in red meat has the highest concentration of these two amino acids. Themineral zinc is also crucial for collagen production. “It’s an essential cofactor,”says Dr. Wu. “Without enough zinc, it’s difficult for the skin to make collagen. Plus, zinc is a natural anti-inflammatory.” And vegetarians don’t need to miss out. Dr. Wu adds that high concentrations of glycine can also be found in seafood, proline in cottage cheese and cabbage, and zinc in lentils, kidney beans, and raw oysters.

Green Tea

It’s no secret that green tea is an antioxidant powerhouse. Its strong anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects are attributed to its high concentration of catechin compounds. Studies have shown that green tea can be used both orally and topically to help protect the skin from sunburns and UV-associated skin cancers. Research also suggests that drinking one cup of green tea twice a day over the course of six months may actually reverse sun damage and significantly improve any problems you have with redness and broken capillary veins.

Green Beans

As long as we’re going green, let’s talk about how these low-calorie beans can help you grow thicker hair and healthier nails. Green beans are a star Feed Your Face food because they’re one of the richest sources of silicon — not to be confused withsilicone,which is found in bad lip jobs and breast implants! The USDA has not yet established recommended daily intakes (RDIs) of silicon, but 10 mg per day seems to be adequate for strengthening hair and nails, according to recent studies. Dr. Wu recommends choosing organic green beans, since they retain more silicon from the soil. Don’t like green beans? You can also get your silicon fix from volcanic mineral waters such as Volvic, which contains 14.5 mg per liter.

Walnuts

Usually it’s salmon that’s synonymous with omega-3 fatty acids, but did you know that walnuts are also incredibly high in omega-3s? If you’re concerned with redness,swelling, blotchiness, acne breakouts, or wrinkles, walnuts may be your new best friend. Plant-based omega-3s, such as the ones found in walnuts, are naturally anti-inflammatory; they can help seal moisture into your skin and protect it from chemicals and other toxins. In particular, the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in these omega-3s can work to combat the dryness associated with aging that leads to wrinkles. But don’t stop with walnuts; you can also increase the amount of plant-based omega-3s in your diet by eating almonds,olive oil, and flaxseed, too.

Yogurt

Not only is it the main ingredient in the best smoothies, yogurt is a natural probiotic, which means that it helps replenish the “good” bacteria in your body and keeps yeast in check. This can come in handy if you have gastrointestinal issues or you’re prone toyeast infections, but what does it have to do with feeding your face? Well, according to Dr. Wu, yogurt is an excellent Feed Your Face food for dealing with acne breakouts, eczema, and even dandruff. Just be sure to choose a low-fat and low-sugar yogurt, since sugar can aggravate inflammation. And if you think your breakouts are related to dairy, Dr. Wu suggests skipping the yogurt and going straight for a probiotic supplement instead.

5 Daily Skin Habits

You may spoil your skin silly with facials, fancy products, and a skin care regimen that would make your dermatologist proud. But there are a few important (and surprisingly simple) steps that can make a huge difference in having healthy, glowing skin.Incorporate these five best skin care habits into your routine and you’ll have smoother, clearer skin in no time.

1. Wear sunblock 365 days of the year

In rain or shine, winter or summer, whether you have ivory white skin or a dark complexion, your skin is always susceptible to sun damage. “You’re consistently exposed to the sun’s rays during daylight hours, even when you don’t realize it,” warns Jeanine Downie, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. “You should be wearing an SPF 30 every day, not only to protect against skin cancer but to prevent fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, and uneven skin tone.” In addition, it’s essential that you reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours, especially if you’re out and about — one morning slathering of SPF 100 won’t last you until sundown!

2. Refrigerate your eye cream

You can get more bang from your eye cream simply by storing it in the icebox. “The cold constricts the blood vessels, immediately reducing puffiness,” explains Manhattan-based dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. “It’s best to apply cold eye cream in the morning; at night, the product can migrate into your eyes and create swelling and irritation.” Look for creams containing caffeine, which will further decrease any swelling. To combat fine lines and wrinkles, products that contain peptidesor retinol will do the trick.

3. Add antioxidants to your skin care and your diet

Here’s a two-point plan to rid your skin of environmental pollutants: Attack the problem from the inside and out. Use topical products containing vitamin A (in the form of retinol), vitamin E, vitamin C, and coffeeberry directly on your skin, and eat brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and other good-for-you foods like blueberries, pomegranates, and olive oil. “Both will help to combat free radical damage, reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and inflammation,” says Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles–based dermatologist and the author of Feed Your Face. She also recommends eating a balanced breakfast that combines protein, fiber, and healthy fats to regulate blood sugar throughout the day. Studies have shown that when blood sugar rises too quickly, it can cause acne, wrinkles, and rashes.

4. Lightly exfoliate regularly

While you might think anti-aging creams and high-end moisturizers are the key to youthful skin,experts agree that exfoliation is one of the best ways to achieve and maintain a gorgeous complexion. “A good exfoliating agent will slough off the dull top layers, minimizing wrinkles, acne, and dry spots to reveal new, healthy,glowing skin,” explains Fusco. Of course, if you have a sensitive or acne-prone complexion, you don’t want to use a harsh scrub too often. Instead, try a cleanser that contains smooth microbeads just two or three times a week. An even gentler solution for every day: Use a textured cleansing pad, which will very lightly scrub the skin without irritation.

5. Exercise often

Sure, you know you should be hitting the gym, not only for a toned physique but because it’s better for your overall health. Well, here’s another reason to work up a sweat: Exercise tightens the skin on your entire body. “Strength training and cardio boost circulation and improve muscle tone, which results in younger-looking, toned skin,” Downie says. “Not only that, but it also reduces wrinkle-causing,skin-damaging stress.” Just make sure to wash your face post-workout. What good is a hot body if you’ve got clogged pores all over your T-zone?

8 Cellulite Treatments That Don’t Get Rid of Cellulite

Even in a down economy, women are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to conquer their arch-nemesis: cellulite. Cellulite tips and remedies constitute a booming multimillion-dollar business catered to the nearly 90 percent of women who are afflicted by the classic “orange peel” or “grape bunch” texture on their hips, legs, or buttocks. But weeding out the truth between the beauty tips and overhyped cellulite treatments can be a challenge.

The classic appearance of cellulite is caused by changes in fat cells that live in between collagen fibers – the latticework of your skin. Fat cells rupture and sag between collagen supports, causing that distinctive dimpling effect.

One known reason that women get cellulite is genetics – it’s essentially written into your genes. But beyond genetics, understanding why some women get it more than others is a challenge. “Speculation ranges on a wide set of issues including inflammation and edema fluid,” says dermatologist David McDaniel, MD, an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and founder of McDaniel Laser Cosmetic Center of Virginia in Virginia Beach.

Other possible causes of cellulite include:

  • Diet. Experts note a correlation between a diet high in processed foods and the development of cellulite. Populations that eat more whole foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meats) seem to have less cellulite.
  • Hormones. Cellulite is found most often in women and almost never in men — probably because of the hormone estrogen. And for women, cellulite increases as estrogen levels drop.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Granted, some athletes develop cellulite, but since circulation plays at least a small role in the biology of cellulite, many women develop cellulite in part because they habitually keep the blood pumping slowly.
  • Underwear. Quirky, maybe, but many women develop dimpling and cellulite in a classic pattern that mirrors their panty lines. Underwear that’s too tight could be a contributing factor because it interferes with the fluids circulating through your skin, so loosen up a bit or opt for thongs.

Cellulite Treatments That Don’t Work

“Nobody talks about the social and emotional impact of cellulite on women,” says Lionel Bissoon, MD, a cellulite specialist and author of The Cellulite Cure. Some patients tell him that cellulite can be “emotionally devastating,” and despite a challenging economy and costly out-of-pocket expense for treatments, he sees several new clients at his New York City practice every week.

Given the expense, some of the following treatments should be avoided altogether — others may be worth a small try.

  • Creams. Dozens of over-the-counter beauty creams are promoted ascellulite treatments. Though some may temporarily tighten or brighten skin, be skeptical. “When you look at cellulite, there are three treatable aspects: the fat, dense collagen, and circulation,” says Bissoon. There is no topical product that successfully addresses all three, he adds.
  • Brushes. Cellulite does seem to be affected by circulation concerns, but skin brushing increases circulation only at the surface and not in a way that will repair the damage that leads to cellulite. Massages, wraps, and similar therapeutic touch remedies aren’t effective beauty tips either, although they could help you feel better in your body.
  • Cellulite garments. Specialized garments, often called “massage garments” or “compression garments,” have been developed and promoted as ways to manage cellulite. How long these effects last may depend on individual use of the garments.
  • Roller-suction treatments. The devices often go by a name like “cellulite massagers” — they roll or suck the skin and, at least in theory, increase circulation. “The roller-suction devices seem to give some — I think usually temporary — improvement, but it depends on the device, settings, technique, patient,” cautions Dr. McDaniel.
  • Liposuction. It might seem that simply removing the troublesome fat would fix the problem, but that’s not the case with cellulite. “Liposuction is intended for body sculpting or contouring,” points out Bissoon. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of lipo is increased dimpling.
  • Weight loss. Weight loss is a worthwhile health goal, but it can actually make cellulite look worse. If your weight loss is significant, you could end up with “redundant” skin — loose skin that can make cellulite seem more severe than it is.
  • Lifestyle changes. Overall it’s a good idea to start eating more healthfully(more fruits and veggies, please!) and exercising, but these changes alone can’t cure cellulite completely, although its appearance may improve.
  • Hydration.Staying hydrated won’t conquer cellulite, but you should do it anyway, says Bissoon. “Take your body weight and divide it by 2.2 to give you the number of ounces you need to drink per day,” he advises. This will help you look and feel better, even with cellulite.

The good news for cellulite sufferers is that researchers are working to find a solution to the problem. Some approaches, such as radio-frequency treatments, low-level LED light treatments, and mesotherapy (injecting proprietary compounds directly into the cellulite-afflicted areas), show some promise, but they still need larger and more controlled clinical studies to support their effectiveness and safety, says McDaniel. The challenge for researchers is to distinguish between treatments that provide some temporary improvement and those that can change cellulite at the structural level.

Skin Cell Transplant May Offer New Hope to Vitiligo Patients

Skin cell transplants can restore pigment to the skin of some patients with the disorder known as vitiligo, new research finds.

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which melanocytes, or the cells in skin that produce pigment, are destroyed. The result is the skin loses color, often in patches. Vitiligo affects about one in every 200 people in the United States.

In the study, researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit removed a postage stamp-sized sample of skin from the upper thighs of 23 patients. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 60 and included whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics.

Researchers then isolated melanocytes and keratinocytes, another type of skin cell, into a liquid solution.

Next, researchers used a device called a dermabrader to scrape off the white patches of skin, and sprayed the liquid containing the skin cells onto the skin, allowing it to disperse over the entire white patch. The area was then covered in dressings for about a week.

Gradually, the transplant, including the melanocytes, took hold and began to grow. Over the course of one to six months, color gradually returned to the white patches.

On average, the skin regained about 45 percent of its original color, although some patients saw better results than others.

The technique worked best in people who have what’s known as “focal” or “segmental” vitiligo, in which color is lost only on one portion or side of the face or body, while the other is normally pigmented. On average, they had about 68 percent of their natural color return.

The treatment didn’t work as well in people with “symmetrical” vitiligo, or pigment loss on both sides of the body or face, said senior study author Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi, a senior staff physician in Henry Ford’s department of dermatology.

Researchers believe the immune system is more active in those patients, and continues to destroy color-producing cells, including the transplanted ones.

“This is a step forward but it’s not a solution for everybody,” Hamzavi said.

There were few complications. No patients developed an infection, and only one patient developed mild scarring, he said.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Although this is among the first published studies on using skin cell transplants to treat vitiligo in the United States, a similar technique has been used in India and Saudi Arabia, Hamzavi said.

Vitiligo can occur at any age, but it often strikes when people are in their teens and 20s, Hamzavi said. It can be an especially difficult time for people to deal with the cosmetic issues of the disease, he added.

Among the patients who had the procedure done, one admitted he would wear bandages on his face in public to avoid stares; others avoided socializing, Hamzavi said. After their pigment was restored, the patients no longer practiced these behaviors, he said.

It’s unknown how long the color remains intact. Researchers followed patients until about six months and none had lost color, while initial reports from Saudi Arabia and India have also not described color loss over time, Hamzavi said.

The researchers are continuing to offer the procedure at their hospital, and Hamzavi said they handle several cases per month.

Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the technique would be welcomed by many patients and dermatologists. Currently, there isn’t much in the way of treatments for vitiligo, Green noted.

“It’s amazing, if it’s really as good as they say it is,” Green said. “There are some laser [procedures] that are mildly effective, but short of that there is no treatment for vitiligo. And it’s cosmetically extremely disfiguring for these patients. It’s really big news.”

But, Green cautioned, more research needs to be done. Only 23 patients were treated this way, and not all were helped, she said.

In addition, more needs to be learned about who has the best chances of success with the treatment, including whether it works better on new-onset vitiligo or if it works as well if people have had the disease for many years.

“It’s a great preliminary study and very promising, but more investigation needs to be done,” Green said.

Summer’s Heat May Enflame Hives

Nearly one in four people developshives at some time or another, and they can be triggered by hot summer weather.

Hives are itchy, red or white bumps, welts or patches on the skin. The condition can be acute or chronic, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Acute hives, which can last less than a day or up to six weeks, are likely a reaction caused by contact with an allergen such as food, animal dander, insect bite, pollen or latex.

Other possible triggers included medications, heat, stress, exercise, chemicals or viral infection.

The academy says you should consult with your doctor to identify the cause of acute hives.

Most people with chronic hives have symptoms that last longer than a year. Allergies cause only a small percentage of chronic hives. In most cases of chronic hives, the exact cause can’t be identified. This means that routine testing such as general blood counts or screens are not cost-effective and don’t help in planning treatments to relieve symptoms, according to an academy news release.

Hives are not contagious, and most cases get better on their own. Doctors may advise patients to avoid hot baths and showers, wear loose-fitting clothing, or take antihistamines to reduce itching and swelling.

Corticosteroids are prescribed for people with severe flare-ups of hives. In rare cases, hives can be a symptom of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Call 911 if you or someone else experiences hives along with any of these symptoms: fainting, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat, tongue/face swelling, or wheezing, the academy said.

‘Fish Pedicure’ a Recipe for Bacterial Infection

“Fish pedicures” in health spas can expose recipients to a host of pathogens and bacterial infections, a team of researchers warns.

The practice of exposing your feet to live freshwater fish that eat away dead ordamaged skin for mainly cosmetic reasons has been banned in many (but not all) American states, but it is apparently a hot trend in Britain.

So much so that the British researchers sent their warning in a letter published in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officially known as “ichthyotherapy,” the procedure typically involves the importation of what are called “doctor fish,” a Eurasian river basin species known as “Garra rufa.” The fish are placed in a spa tub, the foot (or even whole body) joins it, and the nautical feeding on dead or unwanted skin begins.

The problem: such fish may play host to a wide array of organisms and disease, some of which can provoke invasive soft-tissue infection in exposed humans and many of which are antibiotic-resistant, according to the scientists from the Center for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in Weymouth.

In the letter, CEFAS team leader David W. Verner-Jeffreys referenced a 2011 survey that suggested the U.K. is now home to 279-plus “fish spas,” with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 fish coming into the country every week from a host of Asian countries.

Verner-Jeffreys noted that in April 2011, 6,000 fish imported from Indonesia for U.K. fish spas were affected by a disease outbreak that caused hemorrhaging of their gills, mouth and abdomen, resulting in the death of nearly all the specimens.

In turn, U.K. scientists uncovered signs of bacterial infection (caused by a pathogen called “S agalactiae”) in the fishes’ livers, kidneys and spleen.

Following this discovery, Verner-Jeffreys said, his team conducted five raids on imported fish batches coming through Heathrow Airport, which uncovered further signs of infection with a number of additional pathogens. Many of those were found to be resistant to such standard antimicrobial drugs as tetracycline, fluoroquinolone and aminoglycoside.

“To date, there are only a limited number of reports of patients who might have been infected by this exposure route,” Verner-Jeffreys said in his letter. “However, our study raises some concerns over the extent that these fish, or their transport water, might harbor potential zoonotic disease pathogens of clinical relevance.”

At particularly high risk, the scientists said, were people already struggling withdiabetes, liver disease and/or immune disorders.

Verner-Jeffreys suggested that spas offering fish pedicures use disease-free fish raised in controlled environments.

George A. O’Toole, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., added his own concern.

“I would stay away from this experience,” he said. “It’s probably not feasible to sterilize these fish. And as for the water itself, even if you dump it between patients, these organisms will form rings of biofilm communities attached to the surface of the tubs themselves. It’s like a contact lens case that you never disinfect. Simply wiping them down is not good enough. Unless you’re incredibly responsible about sterilizing those tubs you’re not going to kill them, and they will reseed the next batch of water. The whole thing is a bad idea.”

Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and pathology at New York University Medical Center in New York City, agreed.

“It’s a bad idea in several ways,” he said. “Because these pathogens can give you a serious wound infection. Or blood-borne infection. Or diarrhea. Or even pose a threat to a pregnant woman’s fetus or newborn.”

“Really, you have the potential for multiple types of infection,” Tierno added. “Because theoretically when you’re touching the area that has been nibbled on by these fish, you can still have the organisms there. And then you can inadvertently touch your mouth and introduce them into your system.”