Healthy skin was the topic for the Healthy Woman Ladies Night Out event on July 25 at Fallbrook Library. Dr. Aimee Warren, D.O. was the featured speaker with an informative talk on skin care.
She pointed out that women can spend thousands of dollars on products, lasers, and other treatments trying to get better looking skin, but “what matters most is what you do at home.”
Babies have young skin that is pliable and plump; as people age, she said their skin becomes “seasoned.”
Stress, time spent outdoors and exposure to different things in the environment season one’s skin. Sun damage shows in sunspots or liver spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmented lesions. Exposed blood vessels or capillaries cool off the skin and can be genetic, but are also caused by alcohol or the sun.
The effects of the sun can be seen in the faces of people who drive vehicles for a living; their left sides develop lesions over time. These lesions are one of the precancerous conditions caused by too much sun. Another condition is actinic keratosis or solar keratosis, small scaly patches commonly found on the head, back of the neck and hands and can be an early warning sign of squamous cell carcinoma. Fair-skinned people with blonde hair and blue eyes are most at risk but it can develop in people with darker skin too.
Warren said she uses her fingers to check patients for those rough patches as they can be hard to detect with just the eyes. A precancerous condition that is more readily visible is cutaneous horns. The red base of a horn of hard tissue can also turn into squamous cell carcinoma and should be checked by a doctor.
Most nevi moles are also caused by overexposure to the sun but can appear anywhere on the body. Dysplastic or atypical nevi are not cancerous but can become cancerous. They can be flat or raised, smooth or rough. Warren described what to look for with the ABC’s of skin cancer identification: Asymmetry (one side looks different), Border (notched or fading), Color (mixed colors), Diameter (1/4 inch or larger) and Evolving (changing, bleeding, growing, or flaking).
There are three different types of skin cancer. Squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas are not as serious; if caught early, they can be cut out of the skin and no further treatment is necessary. Squamous cell growths can be indented with jagged borders, dry, scaly and bleeding, often seen on the lips, ears and head. Basal cell cancers can be shiny bumps or scaly patches that also bleed but heal, then reappear. They should be biopsied and removed.
Melanoma is the dangerous form of skin cancer; it does not always appear on sun-exposed areas but can grow anywhere on the body including under toe nails, between toes, on the bottom of the feet and even in the eye. More extensive treatment is needed for melanoma which can be deadly if not caught early.
Warren advised the women to keep an eye on their skin and record any changes on a body map which can be found on the website of the American Academy of Dermatology: www.aad.org (do a search for “body map”).
Warren reviewed several ways to protect skin from the sun. Broad spectrum (UVA and UVB included) sunscreen should be worn with at least an SPF of 35, every day and reapplied every two hours if one is in direct sunlight, swimming or sweating. Wide brimmed hats, sunglasses and long sleeves should be worn out in the sun. People should seek shade and avoid being outside during the most intense sunlight, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. She reminded the women to put sunscreen on their chests as many forget to do that.
She also recommended that those who smoke should quit as it makes them look older. She explained that smoking narrows tiny blood vessels in the outer most layers of skin, decreasing blood flow, depleting skin of oxygen and nutrients which damages the collagen and elastin, causing skin to sag and wrinkle.
Warren’s advice also included treating the skin gently which means using mild soap and detergents as harsh soap can strip skin of its oils, taking short, cool showers, and patting skin dry. She also suggested using a good hypoallergenic, fragrance free moisturizer.
Exercising regularly is another way to healthy skin. She said, “Sweat once a day to clear out toxins.” Drinking more water also helps the skin; 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of fluids for women and 3 liters (about 13 cups) for men daily are recommended. Eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains also helps. According to Warren, sugar aggravates acne.
Questions from the audience were answered with more tips. Taking photos of one’s skin is a good way to keep track of moles to see if they are changing. Skin tags are genetic and can be frozen or clipped off, but since they are harmless so she advised leaving them alone. She also recommended only exfoliating once a week, no more than three times at the very most.
She also explained what the D.O. after her name stands for – she is an osteopathic doctor, which means that besides four years of medical school, she had extra training in holistic medicine.
The event’s other speaker talked about beauty from the inside out and how “you are what you eat.” Her nutritional product contains dehydrated fruits and vegetables which are important to skin health and disease prevention.
The next event will be on Thursday, Aug. 29 with a talk on osteoporosis. For more information, see www.fallbrookhospital.com/HealthyWoman/Pages/ or call (760) 731-8143.