It’s important to keep an eye on your skin and any changes that may occur. Patients are recommended to take a good look at their own skin once a month. So put a reminder in your phone and spend 5 minutes doing a good check:
- Examine your face, especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears — front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
- Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
- Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms.
- Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget your underarms.
- Next, focus on the neck, chest and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the undersides.
- With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4.
- Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks and backs of both legs.
- Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check the front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.
Refer to the ABCDE’s when monitoring a spot on your skin:
Asymmetry: when the shape of the lesion is not even;
Border: if the border is uneven or not well-defined;
Color: if there is more than color in the lesion;
Diameter: bigger than the size of a pencil eraser;
Evolving: if the lesion has been changing in any way over time, either slowly or quickly.
There are two ingredients that you have probably seen listed as active ingredients of acne products at your local pharmacy are: benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These two ingredients have dominated the market for years– here’s how they work:
- Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide unclogs skin pores by stopping bacteria from growing and causing an acne pimple. It acts as an antiseptic against Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. In addition to killing bacteria, benzoyl peroxide makes some prescription antibiotics more effective in their fight against acne causing bacteria. Furthermore, benzoyl peroxide can prevent resistance from developing to antibiotics. Benzoyl peroxide is available in many forms: soap, lotion, cream, gel, liquid, pad and foam. Although it is available in strengths ranging from 2.5% to 10%, more is not always better! Once you get above 5%, the benzoyl peroxide doesn’t work any better to kill bacteria, it just will make your skin more dry. One caution with using benzoyl peroxide as it can bleach your towels or clothes so apply with caution!
- Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid has the ability to break down sebum that clogs pores. Because salicylic acid can unclog pores, it can help reduce blackheads and whiteheads. Salicylic acid does not reduce the acne causing bacteria. It is also available in many different forms and strengths over the counter. There are also chemical peels available to treat acne that contain salicylic acid.
Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are tried and true ingredients that can help clear acne. Recently, a new acne-fighter has been introduced to the pharmacy: Differin
. Up until a few months ago, Differin was a prescription-only medication. It has recently been approved for over the counter use and has kept its original strength of 0.1%. This is a different mode of treating acne than benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, as it is a retinoid product. Retinoids are a form of vitamin A. They also reduce acne outbreaks by preventing dead skin cells from clogging pores. Talk to your dermatologist about which topical may be right for you.