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Monday, July 25, 2011

Preventing and Treating Ingrown Toenails

A toe may be small part of the body, but it can seem like a big problem if it has an ingrown toenail. This happens when the edge of the toenail grows into the soft skin of the toe — typically the big toe. Most often to blame are nails that curve or are trimmed improperly, shoes that squeeze the toes, or a toe injury. The result is pain along one or both sides of the toenail, redness, and swelling in the area around the nail. This can sometimes lead to an infected toenail.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails 
By taking a few simple precautions, you can help keep toenails from growing where they shouldn’t:
  • Wear shoes that fit comfortably. Footwear that pinches your toes or that’s too short may not give your nails the space to grow properly.
  • Keep your toenails short, but not too short; hey should be even with the tips of your toes. Trim them straight across rather than curving them to match the shape of your toe — curving them is more likely to lead to ingrown toenails.
  • Protect your toes from injury. Stubbing your toes or getting your toes stepped on can contribute to ingrown toenails. If your work or hobbies increases the risk of injury to your feet, it may be a good idea to wear steel-toed shoes.
Home Remedies for Ingrown Toenails 
In most cases, you can treat ingrown toenails on your own. Start by soaking the foot in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day. This relieves swelling and soreness. After soaking, gently lift the affected nail from the skin and put a small piece of cotton under the ingrown edge. This will help the nail grow out above the skin. Change the cotton every day until pain and redness are gone.
It also helps the healing process to apply a topical antibiotic to the area and cover it with a bandage. For pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. And as long as the toe is sore, it may feel better to wear sandals or shoes with plenty of room for the toes.
When to See Your Doctor
For ingrown toenails that don’t improve in a few days or get worse, a call to your family doctor or a foot doctor (podiatrist) is in order. He or she may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics. Your doctor may also need to trim the nail or remove part or all of it. Sometimes part of the tissue near the nail is removed, too. If ingrown toenails are a recurring problem for you, your doctor may suggest using chemicals or lasers to remove that part of the toenail and keep it from growing back.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to see your physician at the first sign of an ingrown toenail. People with diabetes can have problems with blood circulation to their feet, and even minor cuts, scrapes, or ingrown toenails may be likely to lead to an infection.
Treat your toes and toenails with care. In most cases, that’s all it takes to keep them healthy and problem-free.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What to Do About Slow-Growing Hair

If you think you have slow-growing hair or that your hair periodically stops growing, you’re probably not imagining things. To understand why your hair is like this, consider how it grows: A strand of hair grows out of its follicle during a period that can last from two to six years (this is called the anagen phase). Then, as its follicle shrinks and starts to die, the strand stops growing for a few weeks (the catagen phase). In the final stage, called the telogen phase, the hair follicle renews its activity, beginning the process all over again and making the old hair fall out to make way for new growth.
If you have slow-growing hair, this means your active growth phase is on the short end — it’s closer to two years than six. This gives you hair that stops growing at a shorter length than someone else’s might. Many factors can lead to slow-growing hair. Heredity plays a part. So does your level of a male hormone called androgen, which both men and women have. Hair growth also naturally slows as we get older and more hair follicles go into the final, or telogen, phase.
How to Help Slow-Growing Hair
You can give slow-growing hair a boost by keeping it — and yourself — as healthy as possible. Here’s how:
  • Eat a healthy diet. Though eating well won’t magically turn your short hair into long locks, nutrients that promote growth do help. These nutrients can be found in fish and poultry, dark green vegetables, whole grains, eggs, low-fat dairy products, beans, and nuts.
  • Avoid crash diets. Trying to drop too many pounds too quickly can affect the cycle of your hair growth. If you want to lose weight, talk to your doctor about a sensible eating and fitness plan.
  • Let your hair go natural. Washing, bleaching, and dyeing your hair too often can make hair weak and brittle. So can too-frequent use of blow-dryers and curling irons. Letting your hair do what it naturally does is the best way to keep it healthy.
  • Get your hair trimmed regularly. This will keep split ends from making your hair break off, which can leave you feeling like your hair doesn’t grow at all.
  • Go easy on nutritional supplements. Taking megadoses of vitamin A can contribute to slow-growing hair or hair loss. It’s safest to stick to the recommended daily allowance of this nutrient.
Dealing with Hair Loss
Sometimes hair is not just slow-growing, it actively falls out. If you’ve had a serious illness or severe stress, it can make more hair than normal fall out two or three months later. Fortunately, this will grow back on its own after a few months. If hair falls out in patches (in a condition called alopecia areata), your doctor can prescribe oral or topical medication to remedy the problem.
Certain medications can slow hair growth or make hair fall out, including those used to treat acne and control blood pressure and heart disease. Drugs used in cancer treatment can also cause hair loss. If you suspect that a medication is affecting your hair growth, ask your doctor if you can switch to something that doesn’t have this effect.
You can’t make slow-growing hair grow faster, but you can make sure it looks and feels healthy at any length.

Summer Skin Care

Summer-skin-careSunshine, heat, humidity, and chlorine can do a number on summer skin. For one thing, the sun’s rays are particularly strong, so the chances of developing wrinkles, age spots — or even worse, skin cancer — increase. Plus, higher heat and humidity mean more rashes, breakouts, and cloggedpores, while chlorine dries out your skin (and your hair!) Hey, don’t let these potential downers rain on your summer parade. Follow these 10 summer skin tactics and you’ll be good to glow.
Don’t skip the moisturizer: Your skin may be less dry these days, but don’t banish that moisturizer. Instead, switch to lighter, water-based formulas for both face and body, and swap your heavy eye cream for a lighter serum.
Slather on the sunscreen: Choose products that provide broad-spectrum protection (they block both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays) with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15. Apply sunscreen liberally (at least a one-ounce shot-glass-size amount) before you go outside; reapply every two hours and always after swimming. And don’t let those clouds fool you — apply sunscreen every single day!
Bring on the balm:Lips are susceptible to skin cancer too, so be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sun-protective lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 to keep lips sun-safe and supple.
Switch to summer makeup: Trade liquid foundation for a lighter, mineral-based powder with a minimum SPF of 15. Skip the creamy blush and instead go for a natural-looking glow with a touch of bronzing powder. Use waterproof mascara for streak-free swimming, and ditch that lipstick for a dab of tinted gloss.
Don sun-protective clothing: No need to cover up head to toe, but do consider a long-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses at the beach, at least for part of the day. Remember, tightly woven, darker fabrics are better sun blockers than lightweight, light-hued fabrics, or try clothing especially made for sun protection.
Go for the faux: Minimize your chances of wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer by skipping the suntan altogether and opting for a sunless self-tanner, spray tan, or airbrushing.
Exfoliate regularly: Sun, sand, sweat, and sunscreen only increase the amount of dead skin cells that build up on your face and body. Slough them off with an exfoliating scrub or loofah a few times each week. (A beautiful bonus: Exfoliating will also help your self-tanner go on more evenly and prevent streaking.)
Practice smart shaving: Short shorts and sundresses mean more frequent shaving sessions, and that can irritate and/or dry out skin. This season, be sure to replace your razor often, shave only after you’ve been in the shower for a few minutes (when your hairs will be softer), use a moisturizing shaving cream or gel, rinse thoroughly, and moisturize immediately afterward.
Head off heat rash: High temps and humidity may mean heat rash, especially if you’re overdressed or prone to sweating a lot. Do your best to keep cool and stay dry, and avoid wearing clothes that rub or irritate your skin. A mild heat rash should go away on its own, but if it’s accompanied by swelling, oozing, dizziness, nausea, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention ASAP, since those symptoms may be signs of an infection or a more serious heat-related illness.
Prevent rosacea: This common skin condition can be exacerbated by heat, causing your face to swell, get red, and break out in little pimples. If you’re prone to rosacea, seek refuge in air-conditioning, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, and keep cool by taking cold showers, misting yourself with a spray bottle, and drinking plenty of cold water.
Use these 10 simple strategies for skin care in summer and you’ll have the best-looking — and the healthiest — skin on the beach!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Better blondes

To give an extra shine to blonde or fairish hair, add a few tablespoons of pure lemon juice to your rinsing water. This lightens your hair and leaves it smooth and shiny.
Brunettes and redheads should try apple cider vinegar in the place of the lemon juice.
Brush your hair long and often to stimulate the natural oils.

Blepharitis: Dealing With Aggravated Eyelids

“Blephara” is the medical term for the eyelids. "Itis" is the Latin suffix for irritation. Put them together and you have blepharitis, a condition that affects up to 15 percent of Americans. Although it’s uncomfortable and unsightly, blepharitis is usually only a minor annoyance — but it can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Blepharitis can also cause considerable psychological distress, because its symptoms can be mistaken for excessive crying, alcohol use, or even drug abuse.
Classic symptoms noticed upon awakening include:
  • Eyelids crusting or flaking.
  • Eyelids stuck together.
  • Red eyes or eyelids.
Other symptoms include:
  • Excessive tearing.
  • Frothy tears.
  • Itchy eyelids.
  • Swollen eyelids.
  • A gritty, burning sensation in the eye.
  • Flaking skin around the eye.
  • Dry eye.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Misdirected or missing eyelashes.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Inflammation of other eye tissue, especially the cornea.
There are two types of blepharitis:
  • Anterior blepharitis, which affects the outside front edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are attached.
  • Posterior blepharitis, which affects the inner eyelid that makes contact with the eyeball.
Getting to the Root of Blepharitis
Anterior blepharitis is caused by:
  • Bacterial infection (staphylococcal blepharitis), which causes a mild sticking together of the eyelids, a thickened outside front edge of the eyelid, or misdirected or missing eyelashes.
  • Dandruff on the scalp or eyebrows (seborrheic blepharitis), which causes mild redness of the eyelids and greasy flakes or scales at the base of the eyelashes.
  • Less common causes include allergies and lice infestations of the eyelashes.
Posterior blepharitis is caused by:
  • Malfunctioning oil glands in the eyelids (meibomian blepharitis), which causes poor-quality tears and redness in the inner eyelid.
  • Other skin conditions. These include acne rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis of the face or scalp, and scalp dandruff.
Preventing Blepharitis
Good hygiene practices can help you avoid blepharitis. These include:
  • Regular face washing (morning and evening). Be sure to carefully clean your eyelids.
  • Regular hand washing (as often as necessary).
  • Avoidance of eye rubbing, especially with dirty fingers, a soiled handkerchief, or other contaminated surfaces.
  • Removal of all eye makeup before bedtime.
  • Dandruff shampoo (if dandruff is present).
Home Treatment of Blepharitis
Mild cases of anterior and posterior blepharitis can be managed by avoiding eye makeup, discontinuing the use of contact lenses, using dandruff shampoo if necessary, and practicing this step-by-step daily regimen:
  • Warm compress. At least once or twice a day, thoroughly wash your hands and apply a warm, clean compress to the affected eye for 10 minutes to loosen the crusts.
  • Eyelid and eyelash scrub. Moisten a clean washcloth with warm water and a few drops of "no tears" baby shampoo or an over-the-counter lid cleansing solution, and lightly scrub to remove oily debris and scales. Rinse with warm water, and pat dry with a clean towel.
Medical Treatment of Blepharitis
If your symptoms worsen or don't improve after following the above regimen for a few days, make an appointment with your doctor, preferably an eye-care professional. He or she may recommend additional home remedies, such as applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the eyelid immediately after compresses and scrubs, or using artificial tears. If you have posterior blepharitis, you may be advised to regularly massage your eyelid to clean the oil accumulated in the glands.
More severe cases of blepharitis can be managed with a combination of home treatments and prescription medications, which include:
  • Eyedrops that contain antibiotics and/or steroids. A newer treatment on the market — an eyedrop containing 1 percent azithromycin — is gaining favor with eye doctors because it needs to be applied less frequently than other eyedrops, has more potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity, and has continued effectiveness long after the one-week course of therapy.
  • Oral antibiotics such as tetracycline or doxycycline, which reduce bacterial colonization on the skin and may normalize oil-gland dysfunction.
  • Treatments for other skin conditions.
A comprehensive eye exam will help your doctor identify and treat any of several complications that may be associated with blepharitis. These include:
  • Stye, a painful lump on the surface of the eyelid caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Chalazion, a painful lump on the inside of the eyelid caused by a blocked and infected oil gland.
  • Corneal ulcer.
  • Pinkeye.
  • Eyelid scarring.
  • Dry eye, which can also be caused by Sjogren's syndrome or diabetes.
Although blepharitis generally doesn’t cause any permanent damage to eyesight, it's a beauty bummer because it's often chronic or recurring. But with proper home or medical management, you can control the itching, irritation, and redness — leaving your eyes to simply be the windows to your soul.