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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Summer Hair Problems, Solved

If only summer hair were as easy as those magazines would have you believe!

Instead of “beachy waves” we’re left with greasy, frizzy, brittle strands that have seen far healthier days.

Luckily, there are easy and natural ways to tame your tresses. Here are some of the most common hair problems you’re likely to encounter this season, and how to fix them.

Chlorine Damage

It’s not just an old wives’ tale — too much time in the pool really can change the color of your locks, especially if they’re very light, Jessica Wu, M.D., author of “Feed Your Face” tells The Huffington Post.

But it’s not due to the chlorine. Instead, it’s likely because of copper lurking in poolswhere the chemical balance isn’t quite right, according to WebMD. “The chlorine molecules get trapped in the hair and oxidize the metals found in trace amounts in the water,” Jessica J. Krant, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, writes to HuffPost in an email. “It’s the oxidized copper that is actually the cause of the green color.”

Chlorine can still damage hair, though. “The outer layers of the cuticle of the hair — which are like shingles on a roof — start to lift up,” says Wu. “When the outer layers lift up, then [chlorinated] water can get into the center of the hair and make your hair more brittle.” Swimmers may find their hair breaks more easily in the summer, especially if it’s dyed or straightened, she says.

Luckily, there are a few simple ways to prevent the damage. The easiest can be done anywhere — just rinse your hair under tap water before taking the plunge. “Plain water binds to the hair, making it harder for chlorine to get to it,” says Wu. A leave-in conditioner will have a similar effect, and can be a good pre-pool option as well. A weekly hair mask can help repair the damage and seal the cuticle, she says.

The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends wearing a swim cap and washing with shampoo and conditioner specifically formulated for swimmers to replace lost moisture.

Grease

We’ve all had those summer days when a daily shower just doesn’t seem like enough. And yet we’ve also heard about how you don’t need to — and maybe shouldn’t —wash your hair all that often.

But during the summer, all bets are off. “I tell people you should wash more frequently in the summer,” says Wu, and not just because of all the chlorine and salt water. “Those of us with long hair, it touches our back, and the sunscreen on our back and shoulders can come off onto the hair making it dirtier, faster.” If you’re noticing an oilier-than-usual scalp, feel free to lather up.

Sun Damage

The same UV rays that damage your skin without proper protection can hurt your hair, too, says Wu. The sun breaks down the bonds that make the keratin of the hair strong, she explains, leading to weaker strands and fading color. Just like covering up your skin can help prevent sun damage, wearing a hat can help save your hair.

A number of hair products that boast UV protection may also work, as long as you’re thorough in your application, she says. “Work it through like you’re working in a conditioner so as many strands as possible are coated.”

To treat sun-dried hair, a moisturizing leave-in conditioner should do the trick, according to WebMD.

Sunburn

While you’re protecting your hair from the sun, don’t forget about your scalp. During skin exams, Wu notices “very striking” differences between the skin on patients’ hair parts and the skin on the rest of their scalps. If you often wear your hair in the same position, be sure to use sunscreen on the part, she says. And if you pull your hair back in the summer, apply sunscreen all the way up to your hairline — you may miss vulnerable skin that you’re not usually exposing.

“Using shampoos and products with antioxidant ingredients such as soy, green tea or vitamin C can sometimes be helpful” in protecting “that part of you that’s closest to the sun,” writes Krant, who is also the founder of Art of Dermatology in New York City. And if you do happen to do a little damage, cover up as soon as possible to avoid further sun, then use cool water in the shower and normal sunburn soothers like aloe, she says.

Frizz

Anyone with any wave or curl to her hair has spent her fair share of time fighting frizz. In the summer, thanks to the high temps and oppressive humidity, flyaway strands increase in size. “The generally smooth cuticle covering the shaft of healthy hair gets disrupted when the hair shaft absorbs moisture from the air, breaking some of the chemical bonds that keep the hair straight and roughing up the cuticle, taking away shine and smoothness,” writes Krant.

If you’re all too familiar, stay away from heavy products, says Wu, and look instead for an anti-frizz serum or spray. Krant recommends products with the moisturizer dimethicone — silicone-based products can also help smooth down the cuticle, according to Ladies Home Journal.

Split Ends

UV rays aren’t the only thing that can break summer strands. High temperatures can take their toll on the bonds that make hair strong as well, says Wu. While the temps won’t be quite as high as the heat of your blow dryer, writes Krant, the heat can still suck the moisture out of your locks and lead to breakage. To ease the brittleness, Wu suggests a heavier treatment like Moroccan oil.

Keep in mind, however, that according to Krant, once hair is outside the scalp, what’s done is done. “True damage can never really be reversed, only cosmetically improved until that part of the hair grows out and can be cut off,” she writes. Products can “temporarily ‘glue'” split ends back together, but “the best bet may be a little trim to freshen up,” she writes.

Summer’s Heat May Enflame Hives

Nearly one in four people developshives at some time or another, and they can be triggered by hot summer weather.

Hives are itchy, red or white bumps, welts or patches on the skin. The condition can be acute or chronic, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Acute hives, which can last less than a day or up to six weeks, are likely a reaction caused by contact with an allergen such as food, animal dander, insect bite, pollen or latex.

Other possible triggers included medications, heat, stress, exercise, chemicals or viral infection.

The academy says you should consult with your doctor to identify the cause of acute hives.

Most people with chronic hives have symptoms that last longer than a year. Allergies cause only a small percentage of chronic hives. In most cases of chronic hives, the exact cause can’t be identified. This means that routine testing such as general blood counts or screens are not cost-effective and don’t help in planning treatments to relieve symptoms, according to an academy news release.

Hives are not contagious, and most cases get better on their own. Doctors may advise patients to avoid hot baths and showers, wear loose-fitting clothing, or take antihistamines to reduce itching and swelling.

Corticosteroids are prescribed for people with severe flare-ups of hives. In rare cases, hives can be a symptom of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Call 911 if you or someone else experiences hives along with any of these symptoms: fainting, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat, tongue/face swelling, or wheezing, the academy said.

Hair Care Can Pose Health Risks

Certain hairstyling practices can result in serious hair and scalp diseases for some black women, an expert warns.

“Hair is an extremely important aspect of an African American woman’s appearance,” Dr. Diane Jackson-Richards, director of Henry Ford Hospital’s Multicultural Dermatology Clinic in Detroit, said in a hospital news release. “Yet many women who have a hair or scalp disease do not feel their physician takes them seriously. Physicians should become more familiar with the culturally accepted treatments for these diseases.”

Black women tend to shampoo their hair less often than other ethnic groups, and about 80 percent of black women use chemical relaxers, Jackson-Richards said.

She also said frequent use of blow-dryers and hot combs, combined with popular hairstyles such as weaves, braids and dreadlocks, cause physical stress to the hair and contribute to scalp diseases such as alopecia, or hair loss.

Proper hair care can help prevent diseases such as alopecia and an inflammatory skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, Jackson-Richards said Monday during a presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual conference in San Diego.

She said dermatologists need to become more aware of the hair and scalp issues that can affect black women, and also offered the following grooming tips to reduce the risk of developing a hair or scalp disease:

  • Wash hair weekly with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, and limit the use of blow-dryers, hot combs and other heated hairstyling products to once a week.
  • To detangle hair, use a wide-tooth comb while conditioner is still in the hair.
  • Use natural hair oils with jojoba, olive, shea or coconut oils.
  • Allow two weeks between relaxing and coloring.
  • Wash braids or dreadlocks every two weeks. Don’t wear braids too tight and don’t wear them longer than three months.

Tanning Salon Tax No Deterrent

A 10 percent federal tax, imposed on tanning salons in 2010 as part of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, does not seem to deter those who like the bronzed look all year long, a new study finds.

This is true, the researchers discovered, even though tanning salon customers typical pay the tax themselves, rather than the salon owners absorbing the extra fee.

“When the tax first went into effect, many tanning salon owners said they would pay it themselves rather than pass it onto customers,” said study author Dr. June Robinson, a research professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

She and her colleagues surveyed 308 Illinois tanning salons to assess the effect of the new tax. “The surprise is that almost none did this [absorb the cost],” she said. Instead, the salons are passing the tax on to customers. What’s more, they found the customers don’t seem to mind.

The study is published in the January issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Among Robinson’s findings:

  • Eighty percent of the salons collect the extra 10 percent from customers through pricing, rather than absorb it.
  • About the same number of customers come to the salons now as before the tax. The median number of customers per day is 41.
  • Seventy-eight percent of the salons said customers don’t seem to mind paying the extra 10 percent.

Experts such as Robinson are concerned about the increased risk of skin cancer that comes from using the tanning beds. For those under 18, she said, complete bans are needed.

California now has what is considered the strictest regulation on tanning salons, banning use for those under 18.

Most other states regulate use by minors in some way, according to California government officials.

The regulations banning those under 18 from tanning salons should be coupled with fines, Robinson said. “This model follows that of seat belt wearing with enforcement by police in traffic stops and fines in the hundreds of dollars.”

If a tax were to work, she said, it would probably have to be higher, say 30 percent, and be combined with fines.

The new study suggests that for some, “the desire [to tan] is stronger than the 10 percent tax,” said Dr. Jeffrey Dover, a Boston-area dermatologist and an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. He is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.

Another aspect of the problem, Dover said, is that tanning salons often offer package deals, making each session relatively inexpensive.

Other measures are needed, he agreed.

Meanwhile, Robinson said parents can help dissuade their teens. “Parents can behave as role models and offer substitutes to tanning to looking and feeling good,” she said. “Parents provide both the financial means and emotional support that can influence the teen’s behavior.”

In a separate study published in the same issue of the journal, other researchers from several universities found that about half of 181 women aged 18 to 38 surveyed who said they used sunless tanning products — considered safe — still had used a tanning bed in the previous 12 months.

Yet another study, published online in December in the same journal, found that young women who used sunless tanners tended to spend less time in the tanning beds and tanning outside.