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Skin Cancer Risk Factors | How to Prevent Them

Skin Cancer: How to Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Skin Cancers 

Understanding skin cancer risk factors and educating yourself about the effect of sun exposure on your skin is an essential part of protecting yourself against skin cancers.  Dr. Mona shares how to stay sun safe and reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.

How does the sun affect my skin? 

The sun emits ultraviolet radiation (UV Rays) that come through the atmosphere and penetrate our skin. UVC Rays are filtered out by the ozone for the most part, leaving UVB and UVA Rays.  UVB Rays are what we call “Burning” rays because they can lead to a sunburn.  They do not penetrate as deep into your skin as UVA Rays, which we call “Aging Rays. UVA Rays go deeper in the skin and can cause more free radical damage. Which can lead to both increased risk of skin cancers as well as more aging effects with loss of collagen, elastin, and brown spot formation. A tan is our skin’s way of trying to protect itself from the burning effects of the sun but at the cost of increased risk of both skin cancer and aging. Sunscreens can help to decrease the effect of harmful UV Rays.   

Why should you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen?

We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects your skin against both UVA and UVB rays since both rays can cause damage at different levels of your skin. Dr. Mona suggests choosing a mineral sunscreen that contains Zinc Oxide because it protects against the full UV spectrum. Mineral sunscreens, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, are what we call physical blocks because they physically block the UV Rays and have the added benefit of being well tolerated by all skin types.  If you want a broad-spectrum chemical sunscreen look for ones that include Avobenzone, since this covers into the UVA spectrum. Chemical sunscreens chemically alter UV rays once they get to the skin. 

Why is SPF so important?

SPF stands for sun protection factor, which is the measurement of how well sunscreen protects your skin against UVB, NOT UVA, Rays. Using a broadband sunscreen with an SPF that is at least over 30 or 40, and reapplying it every two hours, will ensure full coverage. While products with high SPFs of 90 or 100 may seem helpful, they do not provide a significant increase in protection. SPF of 30 allows 3% of UV Rays to penetrate, therefore protecting you against 97% of the sun’s rays while an SPF of 50 allows only 2% of the sun’s rays to penetrate, giving you protection against 98% of the sun’s rays and an SPF 100 protects you against 99% of the sun’s rays before you get sunburned. Although SPF matters, having a broad spectrum sunscreen that you are willing to wear and reapply every 2 hours is more important than the SPF number. 

 Enhanced Skin Cancer Protection

Though sunscreen is the best way to protect yourself against the sun, there are other ways to get extra protection. Try limiting your exposure to the sun between 10 am to 2 pm, since this is when the sun is at its strongest. Wearing hats and /or protective clothing can also provide you with some protection. For example, you can try wearing a broad-brimmed hat. Visors and baseball hats protect your face front but not the sides, ears, or back of your neck. We suggest choosing a broad-brimmed hat for the best full-face protection to get fuller coverage. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C are great at helping to decrease free radical damage for the rays that penetrate your skin and get passed your sunscreen. 

 Are you checking your skin monthly? 

First, make sure that you are scheduling your yearly skin exams. In addition to your in-office skin exams, we encourage you to get to know your skin and keep an eye out for new growths and suspicious moles. Point out new red bumps, scaling patches, and any funny-looking mole to your provider. When looking at a mole, consider the ABCDEs. This acronym is used to identify suspicious moles and potential melanomas. Remember, with early detection comes a better chance to treat and cure skin cancer.  

ABCDE’s:

(A) Asymmetry: Moles should be symmetrical, not asymmetric.

(B) Border: Moles should be round or oval-shaped.

(C) Color: The color of a mole should be uniform, not darker or different colors.

(D) Diameter or Different: A mole should not be bigger than a pencil eraser or look different from your other moles.

(E) Evolving: The mole should not be evolving or changing.

 

SCHEDULE A SKIN EXAM

It’s not too late to schedule your yearly skin exam! To learn more, schedule an appointment online or give us a call at 513.984.4800.

The Best Menopause Skin Care + Products for Women Over 50 | As Featured In Woman’s World

Dr. Mona Foad expands upon the insights she shared in her recent Woman’s World feature: The Best Menopause Skin Care + Products for Women Over 50.

The Best Menopause Skin Care + Products for Women Over 50

Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life characterized by hormonal changes, particularly a decline in estrogen levels. These hormonal shifts can significantly impact the skin, leading to various changes and potential skin issues. For example, lower estrogen levels can result in decreased production of natural oils (sebum) in the skin. This can lead to dryness and flakiness. This dryness can make the skin feel tight and more prone to irritation. Decreased estrogen levels can also lead to thinning skin, making it more susceptible to bruising and tearing.

Collagen and elastin production also decrease during menopause, causing the skin to lose its firmness and elasticity. This leads to the formation of wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin that become more noticeable. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations during menopause can trigger an increase in melanin production. This increased melanin can form age spots, dark patches, and uneven skin tone, particularly on sun-exposed areas. Fluctuations in hormone levels can stimulate the production of sebum, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. For this reason, some women may experience acne or worsening of existing acne during menopause. The skin can also become more sensitive during menopause, reacting more strongly to irritants, allergens, and environmental factors. This increased sensitivity can contribute to skin redness, itching, and discomfort.

During menopause, women may experience hot flashes with these hormonal shifts.  Hot flashes can cause flushing, whichever tie can lead to persistent redness and rosacea. Making sure to use gentle products to avoid exacerbating this more sensitive skin is important.   

There are changes to the vaginal canal as well.  The vaginal epithelium becomes thinner and more atrophic with less glycogen-rich producing cells.  This leads to more vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse, and an altered pH, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of UTIs.   

Does the woman’s pH level of woman’s skin shift around the age of 50?

The pH level of a woman’s skin can shift around the age of 50, particularly during menopause and as a result of hormonal changes. The pH level of the skin refers to its acidity or alkalinity on a scale from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral and healthy is slightly acidic, typically around a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. This helps maintain the skin’s protective barrier function and supports the growth of beneficial bacteria while preventing the growth of harmful microbes. However, hormonal changes during menopause can disrupt the skin’s natural pH balance, leading to an increase in skin alkalinity. This shift towards a more alkaline pH can compromise the skin barrier, making it more susceptible to dryness, irritation, and increased sensitivity.

To reduce increased sensitivity and maintain skin health during menopause, women should use mild, fragrance-free cleansers, moisturizers, and other skincare products formulated for sensitive skin. Avoid products containing harsh ingredients such as alcohol, fragrance, and sulfates, which can further irritate sensitive skin. Keeping the skin hydrated and nourished by using a moisturizer helps to restore the skin barrier and prevents moisture loss. Look for products containing hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin. Wearing sunscreen daily is very important to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. UV exposure can exacerbate skin sensitivity and accelerate aging. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and reapply it every two hours, especially when outdoors.

Additionally, using hot water during bathing or washing can strip the skin of its natural oils and exacerbate dryness and sensitivity. Try to avoid doing this and instead use lukewarm water and pat the skin dry gently with a soft towel. I often suggest that my patients incorporate antioxidants to reduce sensitivity and promote overall skin health. Add in antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E to help protect the skin from oxidative stress and inflammation. The easiest way to do this is in the form of serums or creams in your skincare routine

Does acne occur if female hormones drop? Can it be treated the same way as teenage acne? 

Fluctuations in female hormones, particularly a decrease in estrogen levels, can contribute to the development or worsening of acne in women. This is especially true during certain phases of life such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. This type of acne is often referred to as hormonal acne. It typically manifests as deep, cystic lesions primarily around the chin, jawline, and lower face.

Hormonal fluctuations can stimulate the production of sebum (skin oil) and increase the proliferation of skin cells within the hair follicles, leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts. 

While hormonal acne shares some similarities with teenage acne, it may require different treatment approaches. This is due to hormonal differences and potential sensitivities associated with age. Some treatments commonly used for teenage acne, such as harsh topical medications or oral antibiotics, may not be suitable or recommended for adult women, particularly those experiencing hormonal fluctuations during menopause. 

Instead, treatments for hormonal acne in adult women may focus on addressing the underlying hormonal imbalances and targeting specific factors contributing to acne development. Common treatment options for hormonal acne in women include hormonal therapies where certain hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptives (birth control pills) containing estrogen and progestin, can help regulate hormone levels and improve acne in women. Other hormonal treatments, such as spironolactone, may also be prescribed to block the effects of androgens (male hormones) on the skin and reduce oil production. Topical retinoids, such as tretinoin or adapalene, can help unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and promote cell turnover, which can be beneficial for hormonal acne, but retinoid use should be balanced with any drying or irritating effect. It may be better to use a retinol as opposed to a prescription tretinoin.  Although retinols may work more slowly than a retinoic acid, they are less irritating

Additionally, topical medications containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or azelaic acid may help reduce acne lesions and prevent new breakouts but these can also be too drying in more mature skin.  Make sure to add these in one at a time to avoid over-drying the skin.

What are your recommendations on skin care products as menopause sets in? What about to target increased dryness and/or more wrinkles, sagging, and age spots?

As menopause sets in and hormonal changes occur, it’s often beneficial to reassess your skin care routine and make adjustments to address specific concerns such as increased dryness, wrinkles, sagging, and age spots. For example, switch to a gentle, hydrating cleanser that effectively removes dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping the skin of its natural oils. Look for formulations with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or ceramides to help maintain skin hydration. Choose a rich, emollient moisturizer formulated to provide intense hydration and nourishment to dry, mature skin with ingredients such as shea butter, squalane, and jojoba oil to replenish moisture and restore the skin’s barrier function. Incorporate anti-aging serums containing ingredients like retinoids (retinol or prescription-strength retinoids), vitamin C, peptides, and niacinamide to target wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. These ingredients can help stimulate collagen production, improve skin texture, and reduce hyperpigmentation.

Prioritize daily sun protection by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to shield the skin from harmful UV radiation. Sunscreen helps prevent further damage from occurring and minimizes the appearance of age spots and other signs of sun-induced aging. Additionally, use a hydrating and nourishing eye cream to address the delicate skin around the eyes, which is prone to dryness and wrinkles. Look for formulas containing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, and antioxidants to hydrate, firm, and brighten the eye area. 

Incorporate gentle exfoliation into your skincare routine to remove dead skin cells, improve skin texture, and enhance product absorption. Opt for chemical exfoliants such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which are gentler on mature skin compared to physical scrubs. If you are more sensitive, mandelic acid, lactobionic acid, or gluconolactone may be a safer place to start with chemical exfoliants.  Consider using hydrating masks, facial mists, or overnight sleeping masks to provide an extra boost of hydration and nourishment to dry dehydrated skin. Professional skincare treatments such as chemical peels, light and laser-based treatments,  microneedling, and tightening procedures can also help address specific concerns like wrinkles, sagging, and age spots. 

In general, what kinds of skin care ingredients might be best suited for skin during menopause? 

Some key skincare ingredients that may be particularly well-suited for menopausal skin include:

  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Retinoids
  • Growth factors or peptides
  • Ceramides
  • Antioxidants

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture in the skin, helping to hydrate and plump dry, dehydrated skin. It can improve skin elasticity and smoothness, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinoids, including over-the-counter retinol and prescription-strength retinoids like tretinoin, are vitamin A derivatives. Retinoids promote collagen production, increase skin cell turnover, and improve skin texture. They can help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots, while also enhancing skin firmness and elasticity. 

Peptides and growth factors are amino acid chains that can help boost collagen production, improve skin elasticity, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. They support skin repair and renewal processes, promoting a smoother, firmer complexion. Ceramides are lipid molecules that help maintain the skin’s barrier function, preventing moisture loss and protecting against external irritants. They reinforce the skin’s natural barrier, improving hydration and resilience, particularly in dry, mature skin. Antioxidants like vitamin C or E , green tea extract, and resveratrol help neutralize free radicals and protect the skin from oxidative stress and premature aging. They support overall skin health, reduce inflammation, and help to protect the skin from free radical formation that can promote aging.    

What skin care products are best for menopause?

I recommend the following skincare products to help target menopausal skin concerns. These common concerns include dryness, wrinkles, sagging, and age spots.

I like TNS Advanced+ by SkinMedica because it has a growth factor and peptides to prevent the skin’s internal aging.  Growth factors and peptides help to promote collagen production and improve cell-to-cell communication so that the skin acts younger.  

CeraVe Renewing Retinol Serum contains retinol, a form of vitamin A known for its anti-aging properties. Retinol helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots by promoting collagen production and increasing skin cell turnover. CeraVe’s formulation also includes ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. These ingredients hydrate and nourish the skin, making it suitable for menopausal skin prone to dryness and sensitivity. 

SkinCeuticals Phloretin and SkinMedica’s Lumivive are potent antioxidant serums that help protect the skin from free radical damage, reducing inflammation, and brightening the complexion. Vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis, improves skin texture, and fades hyperpigmentation, making it an excellent choice for addressing multiple signs of aging in menopausal skin. For a moisturizer, I recommend

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer, is a hydrating and soothing moisturizer suitable for sensitive, dry, and mature skin. It contains ceramides, niacinamide, and glycerin to strengthen the skin barrier, lock in moisture, and alleviate dryness and irritation. This fragrance-free formula is gentle enough for menopausal skin prone to sensitivity. It can be used both morning and night to provide long-lasting hydration and comfort.

Is there anything to avoid skin care-wise when in menopause?

During menopause, it’s important to be mindful of certain skin care practices and ingredients that may exacerbate common skin concerns or sensitivities associated with hormonal changes. Some things to avoid in your skincare routine when in menopause:

  • Harsh cleaners that can strip the skin of its natural oils
  • Over-exfoliating the skin: this can disrupt the skin barrier and lead to irritation and dryness. Limit exfoliation to 1-2 times per week using gentle exfoliants suitable for mature skin.
    • Tip: Opt for gentle, hydrating cleansers that effectively remove dirt and impurities without compromising the skin barrier or causing further dryness.
  • Products with fragrances: can be irritating to sensitive, menopausal skin.
    • Tip: Choose fragrance-free or unscented formulations to minimize the risk of skin reactions.
  • Alcohol-based products that can further dry mature skin.
    • Tip: Avoid skincare products containing high concentrations of alcohol like toners and astringents that can disrupt the skin barrier and exacerbate dryness, leading to increased sensitivity and irritation.
  • Most importantly, sun protection is essential for menopausal skin, as it becomes more susceptible to sun damage and premature aging. Avoid skipping sunscreen, even on cloudy days or during indoor activities.
    • Tip: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to protect against UVA and UVB rays.

What skincare advice do you have for woman entering menopause or in menapause?

It’s important to keep in mind that hormonal fluctuations during menopause can have a significant impact on the skin. This can lead to changes in moisture levels, elasticity, and overall texture. I always encourage my patients to be proactive in adjusting their skincare routine to address these changes to help minimize the effects of hormonal imbalances on the skin.

Pay attention to lifestyle factors that can influence skin health during menopause. These include diet, hydration, stress levels, and sleep quality. Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, staying hydrated, managing stress, and getting adequate sleep can all contribute to healthy, radiant skin during menopause.

Schedule regular skin checks with a dermatologist to monitor changes in your skin and address any concerns or issues promptly. Early detection and treatment of skin conditions are essential for maintaining skin health and overall well-being. Skin conditions common in these age group include skin cancer, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea 

Don’t neglect skincare for the rest of your body during menopause:

  • Keep your skin moisturized with body lotions or creams
  • Protect it from sun damage with sunscreen when exposed
  • Consider incorporating exfoliation and hydration treatments to maintain smooth, healthy-looking skin from head to toe.

Most importantly, learn to embrace the natural changes that occur in your skin during menopause. This is part of the natural aging process! Focus on nurturing your skin with gentle, effective skincare products and practices. Aim to cultivate self-acceptance and confidence in your appearance at every stage of life.

Can You Use Aloe Vera on Your Face? | Featured In Real Simple

Dr. Mona Foad expands upon the insights she shared in her recent Real Simple feature: Is Aloe Vera Good For Your Face?

 

Is Aloe Vera Good For Your Face, Featuring Dr. Mona

Is it OK to use aloe vera on your face?

It is generally safe to use aloe vera on your face. It can have numerous benefits for the skin, including moisturizing, soothing inflammation, reducing acne, and promoting healing. Many skincare products contain aloe vera as a key ingredient due to its calming and hydrating properties. However, if you know you have very sensitive and reactive skin, I would recommend doing a patch test first. This allows you to ensure that you don’t have any allergic reactions or sensitivities to aloe vera. Apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to a small area of your skin (such as the inside of your wrist or elbow) and wait 24 hours to see if there’s any adverse reaction before applying it to your face.  If you are sensitive, applying aloe vera may cause redness, burning, or a rash. 

What are some of the key benefits of using Aloe vera on your skin?

Aloe vera has been around for centuries and has been used in many cultures for its healing properties.  The over 70 active components in aloe vera have many skin benefits.  It contains water, which helps to hydrate the skin without leaving it feeling greasy. It is also an excellent natural moisturizer, particularly for people with dry or sensitive skin. Aloe vera also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to calm irritated or inflamed skin. For this reason, it can be beneficial for soothing sunburns, rashes, and other skin irritations.

Aloe vera contains salicylic acid, which has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. This can help to reduce acne and prevent breakouts by unclogging pores and reducing inflammation. It promotes wound healing and can help speed up the recovery process for cuts, burns, and other minor injuries. It also contains compounds that stimulate the production of collagen, which is essential for repairing damaged skin tissue.

Aloe vera is rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, which can help to protect the skin from free radical damage. This can reduce the signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. It has a natural astringent effect, which can help to tighten and tone the skin. This can help reduce the appearance of pores and give the skin a smoother, more refined texture.

What’s the best application method?

When it comes to the best application method for aloe vera on your face, this really depends on personal preference and the specific needs of your skin. One way to use aloe vera includes sourcing it directly from the plant itself. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can cut open a leaf and extract the gel directly from the plant. Apply the gel directly to your face as a moisturizer or soothing treatment. This method ensures you’re using pure, natural aloe vera without any added ingredients or preservatives.

Many skincare companies today produce aloe vera gel products specifically formulated for topical use. These products can include moisturizers, serums, masks, and cleansers. Be aware that they often contain additional ingredients such as preservatives, thickeners, or other beneficial compounds. Look for products that contain high concentrations of aloe vera gel and minimal additives.

You can also creating your own aloe products by mixing aloe vera gel with other natural ingredients, such as honey, coconut oil, or essential oils. DIY recipes allow you to customize the formula to suit your skin type and address specific concerns.  Always make sure to patch-test products to ensure you do not have a sensitivity. 

Who shouldn’t use Aloe Vera?

While aloe vera is generally safe for most people, some people may be allergic. If you have a known allergy to plants in the Liliaceae family (such as onions, garlic, or tulips), you may also be allergic to aloe vera. This is why performing a patch test before using aloe vera on your skin is important, especially if you have sensitive skin or a history of allergies. 

Even if you’re not allergic to aloe vera, it’s possible to experience skin irritation or sensitivity from its use. If you have very sensitive skin or any existing skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, it’s a good idea to consult with a dermatologist before using aloe vera. 

For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the topical application of aloe vera gel is unlikely to pose a risk. However, oral use of aloe is not recommended in pregnant women due to a theoretical risk of stimulating uterine contractions. Oral aloe is also not recommended during breastfeeding as this has been known to cause gastrointestinal upset in nursing infants. In general, it is always best to err on the side of caution and consult with a healthcare professional before using it.

There are also some interactions with other medications. Concomitant use of aloe vera with topical steroids may cause increased absorption of the steroid cream. Oral use can lower potassium levels, so should not be used with digoxin, digitoxin, or furosemide and should be used with caution in patients using insulin or oral hypoglycemics.

How does this Aloe Vera compare to other ingredients?  

Aloe vera is a popular ingredient in skincare due to its hydrating, cooling, and soothing properties. While it is effective for many people, other ingredients can serve similar purposes. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture in the skin, helping keep it hydrated and plump. It is often used in moisturizers and serums to provide and maintain hydration.  

Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is very popular in skincare. It promotes a healthy skin barrier by reducing moisture loss and dehydration and helps to calm skin with its anti-inflammatory properties. It helps with oil control and can also help with acne 

Cucumber extract is another ingredient known for its cooling and soothing properties, making it a popular ingredient in skincare products designed to calm irritated or inflamed skin. It also has hydrating benefits and can help to reduce puffiness and dark circles around the eyes. Calendula extract is derived from the marigold flower and is known for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. It can help to soothe redness, irritation, and minor skin wounds, making it suitable for sensitive or damaged skin. Chamomile extract is another ingredient that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it beneficial for soothing sensitive or irritated skin. It can help to reduce redness and inflammation and promote overall skin health. Additionally, oat extract is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it ideal for calming and soothing irritated or itchy skin. It can also help to improve skin barrier function and retain moisture.

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