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EWWW!: Summer Skin Conditions

Oh my gaaawwwd! (*Sigh.)
It’s so haaawwwt! (*Harrumph.)
Summer
If the heat alone isn’t enough to insight your inner crybaby to riot, surely an oh-so-zany Today Show segment on heat-induced skin problems will do the trick. In an attempt to be informative, the ever-wacky Hoda and Kathie Lee welcome Today Show regular Dr. Jeanine Downie who offers up a few basics on summer’s skin foibles — naturally, Hoda attempts to keep the show on task, while Kathie Lee derails the info-train at every possible opportunity. Insanity ensues. Let’s begin.

The segment, called “Healing Summer Skin Conditions”, offers up “soothing solution” (alliteration compliments of Hoda) for five of the most common seasonal skin problems, including heat rash, rosacea, tinea versicolor (which the segment helpfully calls ‘white patches’), ingrown hairs, and a little something called ‘Swimmers Itch’ or Cercarial Dermatitis.

First up on the 3-minute segment chopping block? Heat rash. You know, itchy red or pink patches, oftentimes accompanied by small pinpoint bumps that irritate the crap out of you when the weather gets all steamy and humid. Caused by sweat ducts that become blocked (generally by clothing) and swell, heat rash can usually be treated by over-the-counter products like zeazorb — (Gosh that’s fun to say. Zeazorb. Go ahead and say it.) — clotrimazole, and/or washing with a super-gentle cleanser like Cetaphil. But if the problem relentlessly attacks your summer dermis, you may want to see your dermatologist.


Those goofy Today Show gals tackle Rosacea next… and god knows it needs tackling. (It’s haaawwwt.) Rosacea is the facial flushing, burning and irritating red bumpiness that can appear on your forehead, cheeks, nose and chin. The condition is known to affect any skin-type or color … so no one is safe, and it can even be caused by enjoying a glass of wine or scarfing down spicy foods. (*Eek!) So what can we do? Sunblock is an important factor, since the sun often brings out the most irritable side of rosacea, as does stress. In fact, here is a lengthy list from the National Rosacea Society consisting of causal percentages from a study of 1,066 rosacea patients — Enjoy:

Sun exposure 81%
Emotional stress 79%
Hot weather 75%
Wind 57%
Heavy exercise 56%
Alcohol consumption 52%
Hot baths 51%
Cold weather 46%
Spicy foods 45%
Humidity 44%
Indoor heat 41%
Certain skin-care products 41%
Heated beverages 36%
Certain cosmetics 27%
Medications (specifically stimulants) 15%
Medical conditions 15%
Certain fruits 13%
Marinated meats 10%
Certain vegetables 9%
Dairy products 8%

Methinks some lifestyle changes may be in order, no? A visit to your dermatologist can help you determine the main culprits and also help deal with their symptoms and causes.

Hoda and Kathie Lee keep it super-real by addressing “white patches” next. Thankfully Dr. Downie knows that they mean tinea versicolor — or a fungal infection of yeast-gone-wild. While Kathy Lee gets all crazy verbalizing her disgust with continual “Ews!” and “Disgusting!” at Hoda’s admittance that she suffers from tinea versicolor, Dr. Downie tries to stay on task. “Everybody gets it.” (*Laugh. Laugh. Laugh.) To which K.L. responds, “Personally I would have never admitted it.” (*Laugh. Laugh. Laugh.) — Journalism at it’s finest, folks.

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Tinea Versicolor is a spotty and/or patchy discoloration of the skin caused by an overgrowth of yeast. Often times the discoloration can be itchy, scaly and dry and is generally caused by the onset of hot, humid weather, excessive sweating, and oily skin. And while a prescription is sometimes required to get rid of a case of “white patches” (they can also be pink or brown), applying an antifungal cream like Lotramin or using an anti-dandruff shampoo (also antifungal) on the affected area can help.

I’ve not been shy about my mission to remove unwanted hair from my person. From waxing to shaving to lasers… I’ve over-shared on this one topic ad nauseum. (You’re welcome.) What I haven’t done is imply that one-hair-removal method fits all. The gals at the Today Show have, however, and do, and put it right out there: Laser hair removal. “Just take it off. Get it off. Leave it off.” – thanks ladies.

And what brings the ladies to such a clear understanding of how best to be rid of hair: Bikini season and dreaded ingrown hairs. (*Insert more “Ewwws!” from Kathie Lee.) Caused by shaving, waxing, and tight clothing, ingrown hairs happen when the hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin, sometimes leading to an infection of the follicle, causing tender red bumps and itchiness. Using an exfoliant and a deep cleansing scrub can help remove old layers of skin off of the hair follicle, and there are handy products like ingrown hair eliminating pads that can help too — so, if you’re not into the laser hair removal thing — despite the disapproval of the Today Show — there are other alternatives.

The final warm weather affront to Kathie Lee’s delicate sensibilities: Swimmer’s Itch. (*Cue Laughter. We’re not sure why.) Swimmer’s itch, also known as cercarial dermatitis, and is caused by cercariae, the larval stage of a parasitic fluke. Essentially, when you dive into your tropical vacation with aplomb, and land in water containing the parasite, it can cause an allergic reaction that appears on the skin in the form of small reddish pimples that itch and tingle and burn like the dickens. (*”Ewww!” – K.L.) Oftentimes a simple over-the-counter antihistamine and applications of Caladryl over the area will help relieve Swimmer’s Itch symptoms. But, again, if it doesn’t go away, you may need to see your dermatologist.

“Ewww!” — Thank you, Kathie Lee. You may go now.

20, July, 2012Dr. Richard Schwartz

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