We’ve all heard it: Love the skin you’re in. Although this advice sounds simple enough, exasperating skin conditions like ingrown hairs, cellulite, and brown skin spots make it anything but easy for you to follow through. To get to the bottom of it all, we talked to dermatology experts about the most common (and annoying!) skin conditions and how to treat them.
Boost your skin confidence with these tips from top dermatologists on how to treat those annoying ingrown hairs, brown skin spots, cellulite, and more:
There are various causes of the darkening of the underarm skin, says Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. "A skin rash triggered by a bad reaction to a deodorant can cause an eczema-like reaction that, once healed, leaves some darkening," she explains. Another culprit is an ingrown hair, which can leave a dark spot.<br>The way to treat this kind of pigmentation is to tackle the cause. "Once the trigger is removed, the pigmentation will improve," says Dr. Piliang. If it's a bad reaction to a deodorant, change to one that's hypoallergenic. Piliang also suggests trying a lotion that contains soy (which can slow hair growth and help with pigmentation) or a low concentration of hydroquinone, which is available over the counter. Higher concentrations are slightly more effective, she says, but would need to be prescribed by a dermatologist.<br>The dark mark could also be the sign of something more serious, Piliang says: type 2 diabetes. But in those cases, the skin in the area (which includes the neck) may appear "velvety" in addition to dark.
Cellulite develops when fat is deposited in pockets just below the surface of the skin, primarily around the hips, thighs, and buttocks, explains Lydia Juzych, MD, a dermatologist at Henry Ford Hospital. Collagen fibers that connect fat to the skin then break down and stretch, creating a dimpled look. In other words: Ugh! Cellulite is a problem for both thin people and those who are overweight. There are multiple causes: genetics, hormones, poor diet, slow metabolism, and dehydration, Juzych says. And the bad news is, there are no proven treatments for cellulite once it shows up. However, there are some ways to reduce the appearance of it.<br>"Methylxanthine creams, wraps, massage, mesotherapy, laser/light therapy, and liposuction are some treatment options," Juzych says. You can also keep cellulite from forming with healthy lifestyle choices like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding yo-yo dieting, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating foods high in fiber and fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes called prickly heat, these small, itchy, red bumps can develop on the chest and back. "It's caused by blockages in the sweat ducts, which happens when you get really warm and sweaty," says Jessica Wu, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Medical School and the author of Feed Your Face. A good way to prevent heat rash is by wearing loose, breathable clothing when you work out or when it's hot and humid outside. "Also, take a shower right after working out," Dr. Wu adds.<br>But if you've already been struck by the prickly curse, she recommends staying cool and dry and using cortisone creams (if needed) to ease the itchiness.
Its nicknames of "chicken skin" and "sandpaper arms" sound like something from the playground, and ironically this common skin condition often starts in childhood, says Donna Bilu Martin, MD, a dermatologist who practices at South Beach Dermatology in Miami, Florida. "It's caused by a buildup of keratin [dead skin cells] in the hair follicles," she says. These rough bumps are usually found on the backs of the arms, along the inner thighs, and on your cheeks. <br>Keratosis pilaris is often hereditary and can be associated with eczema and hay fever, Dr. Wu adds. "Treat it with creams containing urea or salicylic acid to help break down the dead skin," she advises.<br>Another tip: Try to exfoliate the areas to keep them smooth and improve the appearance of the bumps. "Don't pick or squeeze them," warns Dr. Wu. This can cause scabbing and scarring.
These brown spots on the face often occur in pregnant women or those taking birth-control pills and can be caused by the increased level of estrogen coupled with the sun's UVA rays, says Piliang. The patch of hyperpigmentation can usually be found on the cheeks, upper lip, and sometimes on the forehead.<br>Melasma may be a difficult condition to get rid of. "The most important treatment is sun protection: sun avoidance, hats, and sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen," Dr. Martin explains. Lightening creams that contain hydroquinone can also be effective, she says, when used with a dermatologist's supervision. Retinoid creams can be effective, too. Some patients opt for chemical peels and lasers to help lighten the pigment, but doctors warn that melasma does have the tendency to come back due to sun exposure.
Annoying razor bumps typically pop up as a sign that you probably didn't moisturize enough before reaching for your razor. "To avoid them," Dr. Juzych suggests, "make sure to thoroughly wet the shaving area, apply a thick layer of shaving cream, shave in the direction of the hairs, and avoid repeating strokes." And alwaysuse a clean, sharp razor.<br>Topical prescription medications can help the itch and irritation, Dr. Juzych adds. Ingrown hairs -- skin bumps that are bigger than razor bumps -- are caused by hairs that get trapped underneath the skin instead of growing out through the surface of the skin. "They may be caused by waxing or shaving, when the new hairs start to grow," says Wu. Do not tweeze them, she warns. "Instead, gently lift the tip of the hair, then clip it at the surface of the skin." Yanking it out will only create another ingrown hair.
These benign overgrowths can develop in armpits, the groin area, around the neck, and on eyelids. The soft "tabs" of skin often show up in adulthood, on obese patients, and during pregnancy, says Carolyn Jacob, MD, the director at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. "There are hormones that cause the top layer of skin to overgrow," Dr. Jacob explains.<br>Skin tags can be removed, for cosmetic reasons, in your dermatologist's office. (Basically, if they don't bother you, there's no pressing need to have them removed.) "They can be snipped with scissors, burned with a little cautery, or frozen with liquid nitrogen," Juzych says. It really depends on how many lesions you have and where they are located. "But remember, if any skin spot changes, bleeds, or itches," she adds, "be sure to have it checked right away."