The Skin Game
Although the traumatic memories of your acne-plagued teenage years may be fading, chances are you're still doing battle with your skin every day. Fortunately, the most common irritations are treatable, if not preventable. Here's how to deal with six of the most common adult skin ailments.
Problem: Dry skin
What it is: Skin that's itchy and flaky.
Why: Dry skin is usually caused by taking showers or baths that are too long or too hot and by using harsh deodorant soaps. Spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in winter, is another cause.
Solution: Take short, lukewarm baths or showers using mild soaps or skin cleansers like Ivory or Cetaphil. Pat yourself dry -- don't rub -- then apply a moisturizer with glycerin to lock in moisture. If you get shocked by static electricity at home, you need a humidifier to increase moisture in the air.
Problem: Skin dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis)
What it is: A chronic red, scaly, itchy rash that shows up around the scalp and facial hair, behind the ears, on the sides of the nose or parts of the cheeks -- all places where the oil-secreting sebaceous glands are most dense.
Why: The cause is unclear but stress can aggravate the problem.
Solution: Shampoo daily using anti-dandruff products. Leave the product on your scalp for at least five minutes, so it can take effect. Use mild soaps and hydrocortisone preparations, such as Cort-Aid ointment, on areas other than the scalp.
Problem: Adult acne
What it is: Ninety-five percent of adults will at some time be revisited by pimples, pustules, whiteheads and blackheads.
Why: Pores on the face, chest and back become blocked with excess oil.
Solution: Don't overscrub. Wash with a mild soap and use an oil-free moisturizer if you tend to have dry skin. Apply astringent sparingly, and dab topical creams, gels and lotions containing sulfur and resorcinol, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide directly on breakouts
What it is: Resembles acne except you don't get blackheads or whiteheads. Characterized by spidery broken blood vessels, flushing and overgrown oil glands that can make your face look like W.C. Fields' nose.
Why: Unlike acne, it can be affected by diet.
Solution: Avoid spicy foods, pork products, alcohol and caffeine. In mild cases, over-the-counter acne products may work, but most likely you'll need a dermatologist's help. The doctor will prescribe topical and oral medications, or use special electrical instruments to close off broken blood vessels and shrink enlarged oil glands.
Problem: Razor burn
What it is: An irritating, red facial rash. Can resemble a heat burn.
Why: Your shave is too close.
Solution: Soften your beard with steam and hot water and always shave with the grain. No matter how heavy your beard is, don't press too hard and don't tug your skin while shaving an area. Use an alcohol-free balm or moisturizer instead of an irritating aftershave.
Problem: Shaving bumps (pseudofolliculitis barbae)
What it is: Tiny, irritating bumps at the opening of a hair follicle.
Why: If you shave too close or have curly hair, individual hairs can get lodged in the skin when growing out.
Solution: Again, follow proper shaving procedure and don't stretch your skin in the process. Other options include using an electric razor and a shaving gel containing alpha hydroxy acids. These gels are also available in prescription strength from a