Dr. Adeline N. via IG
By Kanisha Parks

Dr. Adeline N., a Resident Physician at the Corpus Christi Bay Area Dermatology Program in South Texas, is the creator of @brownskinderm, an Instagram account focused on providing vital information about how to properly care for and treat skin of color. Brown Skin Derm is a top resource for skin of color, literally jam-packed with information about brown skin—including topics such as identifying and maintaining your skin type, product suggestions, addressing skin concerns like acne, skin lightening/brightening, rosacea, psoriasis, lupus, and much more!

Dr. Adeline started Brown Skin Derm to shift the narrative from just caring about what makeup we put on our skin to also understanding it in order to better care for it. She says,
 "Our communities have lots of unaddressed skin and hair conditions coupled with the lack of access to medical expertise related to their dermatologic needs. It is my hope that this platform will educate the public and help them better articulate their skin issues to their physicians and more importantly, equip them to seek the proper professional care from dermatologists.”
She also aims to shed light on skin stereotypes and misconceptions in the black community, such as the impression that non-Caucasian people are immune to skin cancer and the detrimental effects of skin bleaching. For example, many people are often shocked to learn that the death of iconic musician Bob Marley was actually due to an aggressive form of melanoma: acral lentiginous melanoma, to be specific. What was dismissed as a soccer injury under his toenail turned out to be a skin cancer that caused the death of an extremely talented musician at the young age of just 36. His story serves as a reminder of the importance of the need for both medical providers and the public to be educated about skin cancer and skin of color.

Dr. Adeline shares, 
“Like many people in our community, I had grown up erroneously believing darker skin conferred immunity to skin cancers, thereby making the need for sunscreen pointless. Unfortunately, this uninformed perception is not only limited to darker skinned patients but also some physicians who share the same inaccurate beliefs.
I also remember as a child growing up in West Africa, witnessing the pervasive culture of skin bleaching to address legitimate disorders of hyperpigmentation but also as an affirmative rejection of darker skin in favor of a much lighter and cosmetically appealing skin tone. My college experience was a true melting pot of cultures. Interacting with my friends there from other cultural backgrounds such as West Indians, Jamaicans, Asians, and more, I learned the culture of skin bleaching was not unique to my experience as an African but theirs as well. Having knowledge of the harmful chemicals being utilized in these bleaching creams today and their side effects, I felt I needed to do more to bring awareness to these and other skin issues."
As a dermatologist in training, I have more knowledge than the general public of the dermatologic issues affecting the average person. It became increasingly hard to ignore some these misconceptions about skin care or the approach to treating skin conditions in our community. In reflecting on past experiences addressing my own dermatologic issues, I had to be honest in that I delayed seeking professional help and had a do-it-yourself mentality for most of my skin concerns very much to my own detriment.”
Dr. Adeline hopes to change these and other fallacious attitudes regarding skin health in people of color, starting with implementing basic habits like wearing sunscreen daily, removing makeup at night, cleaning your makeup brushes, keeping your hands off of your face, and making sure to seek professional help for specific skin concerns. Your skin is of utmost importance and it’s your responsibility to learn how properly maintain it.
Dr. Adeline N.
Stay tuned for future skin-related posts featuring her expert advice and in the meantime, follow @brownskinderm on Instagram!

How much time do you spend on caring for your skin?
Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than CurlyNikki.com, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, "Love Letters from the Master." Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at [email protected] 

What To Know About Moles

Beauty marks can give a person character. But as striking as they can be, they also needed to be understood for what they are: moles. And moles can be dangerous. Obviously this doesn't apply to every speck that calls your body home, but it's important to be alert about their appearance and if that changes. To advise, we called New York-based dermatologist Neal Schultz. You won't be able to diagnose a mole on your own, but you can know when it's time to get it checked out by a professional.

Know What You're Dealing With
Semantics are important. "All birthmarks are moles, but not all moles are birthmarks," Dr. Schultz says, referring to the fact that many moles can appear a good long time after we're born.

But more importantly, not all moles are the same in terms of risk. "People are always concerned with raised moles, but very rarely are raised moles bad," Dr. Schultz says. "It’s usually the flat moles that get into trouble. Raised moles are intradermal moles, or compound moles, and they have a much lower rate of malignant degeneration. Flat moles are where most of the cases of melanoma come from."

Symmetry Can Be Good And Bad
"All normal moles have what’s called an axis of symmetry," Dr. Schultz explains, meaning that if you could fold it in half over some point, one half would be the mirror image of the other half. "Any mole that does not have an axis of symmetry, you should show your doctor."

But there's a caveat: "There’s one other peculiar sign that’s really useful—if you draw a line down the middle of your body, from your chin down through your groin, and you have two moles that are mirror of each other, meaning roughly the same distance from that middle line and approximately the same level up and down, there is a good chance they are precancerous," Dr. Schultz continues. "It’s one of the few times in medicine where symmetry is bad."

Be On The Lookout For Change
"I tell people moles can change because they get hit, beaten up, and inflamed. But if in two weeks they don’t return to their normal appearance, then show up to somebody. Nothing terrible is going to happen in two or three weeks."

Check In Once A Year—And Thoroughly
"Your skin is the only organ in your body that you get complete control on whether or not you get cancer," Dr. Schultz explains. "I don’t mean by avoiding the sun—I mean by getting it checked regularly." Make sure you're seeing a dermatologist at least once a year—and dress down for it. "Go without your nail polish because you can get melanomas under the nail that we'll look for. Don’t go with tight-braided hair because we want to look through your scalp, too," Dr. Schultz adds. Basically, you can get a mole anywhere, so be prepared to check everywhere.

When you don't have an appointment imminently approaching, you can still be vigilant. "If you have any type of procedures done on your hair—a cut, straightening, trimming, whatever—there is somebody looking through your scalp. Know to ask before you go to your hair professional, 'Hey, if you see anything up there, let me know so I can show it to my doctor.'"

Photo by Jen Steele.

When to forgo the facial and see a dermatologist instead.

The post What To Know About Moles appeared first on Into The Gloss.

Everyone Has Combination Skin

The drugstore is great for many things—impulse buys, emergency face-wipe restocks, really big bottles of moisturizer...But as with any relationship, it’s important to acknowledge holes in communication. That's how you grow and mature and become more productive. So now seems as good a time as any to acknowledge that drugstore product descriptions have a major communication problem. 

Namely, the term “combination skin.” What does that even mean? Oh, so you’re dry in some areas and oily in others, and sometimes it changes? Welcome to having a face. At this point in our collective lives, I suggest we come to terms that this nebulous “combination skin” nonsense means nothing.

And I'm not alone.

"I never use the term 'combination skin,'" said dermatologist/psychologist Dr. Amy Wechsler. "I think people get confused by it. There are people who have acne and dry, sensitive skin, and they are like, 'I must be oily because of the acne, but I’m dry so it’s combo.' Or 'Normal skin is almost always more oily in the middle of the face and less oily on the sides, so is that combo?' That all sounds normal to me."

Sounds normal to me, too. But even then, I feel like we're overthinking it. "For most people there are more oily or sebaceous glands on the nose and central face," Dr. David Colbert of the New York Dermatology Group said, echoing Dr. Wechsler's remarks. "So this area is naturally more oily. Many of my clients say they have combination skin, and in a sense, they are right." Maybe we all have combination skin. But if everyone has it, then does anybody really have it?

Regardless of your answer to that question, there are steps to take to correct any wavering state in which you might find your face. Dr. Wechsler continues: "Sometimes people create their own dryness. If you’re over-scrubbing your skin, you could be making it dry. American women in general tend to over-cleanse. I like to tell people to listen to their own skin rather than listening to what a product says or listening to someone they met in a store telling them what to do for their skin."

Products flagged for "combination skin" might be pure marketing, so look for things that tout balance instead. Dr. Colbert recommends his Balance Purifying Cleanser to gently clean without the oil-stripping effects of soap. Both doctors said a routine with fewer products (albeit the right products) might be the very simple solution to happier skin. "If your skin is reacting differently, the ingredients in your products may have changed, or something bigger might be changing with your skin," Dr. Wechsler said. "But in general, I think if you find something that works for your skin, you should never have to change it."

—Emily Ferber

Photo via ITG.

So now you know your skin's not combination, but do you know its pH balance?

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Aesthetician Vs. Dermatologist: Who To Go To When

I don't know anyone who would pass up a facial. There's the spa-luxury aspect for sure, but then you hear the fairytale stories—that once you find the right aesthetician, finicky skin is solved, and it's nothing but clear-complexion sailing from here on out. But what happens when your trip to the facialist fails to leave your skin glowing for any sizable length of time? Although opting for peels, scrubs, and light therapy isn’t necessarily bad, they might not be what your skin really needs. Before you splurge on another treatment, consider the possibility your latest skin woe might in fact be a job for the dermatologist. To help you determine which expert’s opinion to seek when, here are a few points explained to make the most of your visit.

To get it out of the way: What's the primary difference between a dermatologist and an aesthetician?
To state the obvious: A dermatologist is a doctor and an aesthetician is not.

“A dermatologist is a medical doctor who has completed pre-medical studies in undergrad, four years of medical school, a one-year internship most commonly in internal medicine, three years of dermatology residency, and has passed national examinations for licensure and board certification,” explains Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist at NYC’s Skinney Medspa.

But aestheticians study, too, explains Joanna Vargas, celebrity skincare aesthetician and founder of the eponymous spa and skincare brand. The best of the bunch are schooled in various skin conditions, as well as on how to treat common problems with non-invasive procedures and non-prescription products. However, she notes, an aesthetician’s ability is primarily relative to their amount of experience in the industry. “Someone who has been doing facials for 10 years is going to have better skills in, say, extraction than someone fresh out of school,” she says.

So what skin problems can be addressed and solved from a trip to an aesthetician?
Acne, mild breakouts, sensitivity, dry patches, and aging concerns, says Vargas. Ultimately, it depends on your aesthetician’s expertise and your exact needs, but call your aesthetician if you’re looking for: microdermabrasion, extractions, pore cleansing, acid peels, exfoliating treatments, waxing, superficial skin peels, and various light, laser, ultrasound and radiofrequency procedures.

And what requires a dermatologist's eye?
Anything more than just basic skincare concerns. This includes skin cancer checks, checking moles or other skin growths, hair loss, severe acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, hives, etc., explains Dr. King. And if you’re looking for some serious cosmetic treatments, many dermatologists these days are trained in cosmetic dermatology and can even perform fillers, injections, and laser treatments.

Is there a quick rule of thumb for deciding to see the dermatologist versus getting a facial?
Although both an aesthetician and a dermatologist can offer advice for proper daily skin care, some skin issues require advanced medical treatment—think anything that might require a biopsy, surgical removal, an aggressive treatment, or an invasive procedure. However, there are other non-medical times when a dermatologist is also needed. Dr. King suggests visiting a doctor for even the most straightforward procedures like facials or peels if you think you might be at a higher risk for adverse side effects. She suggests those with darker skin or a history of scarring be cautious and seek out a dermatologist for these specific treatments. Better safe than sorry.

At the end of the day, which pro you see can also boil down to sheer personal preference. “Some people are really medical and like to have a doctor’s advice and a prescription,” says Vargas. “Most of the people who come to me are the opposite—they are seeking less invasive, more organic ways of treating their skin.”

Do dermatologists and aestheticians ever work together?
“Yes, it's a great relationship when one—the derm—oversees skin health on a global basis and the aesthetician helps to carry out the plan outlined by the derm,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of laser surgery at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. She suggests asking your dermatologist about specific ingredients that would be helpful for your particular skin type, then refer to your aesthetician to help find them in products.

How much time does each appointment take?
This will ultimately depend on your personal circumstances. When visiting a dermatologist's office, expect to see the doctor anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes per visit—longer if a procedure is required. If you’re not suffering from any specific problems, you only need to see your dermatologist once a year for a skin check. Otherwise, your frequency and length of visits will correlate with the issue at hand.

As far as your time with your aesthetician, this can also vary, but the standard facial time is an hour. Plan to see your aesthetician once a month for mild skincare problems. Call them mandatory facials.

Bottom line:
If you’re just having a bit of a flare up, are concerned about recurring pimples, need new product recommendations or just want to relax to the sweet soundtrack of a babbling brook, hit the spa. If you’re having some serious battles with your skin, think meds might be the solution, or want a more invasive procedure done, book an appointment with your derm. And for the best treatment around, see both.

—Caitlin Miller

Caitlin Miller is a beauty writer who cherishes her vast collection of cleansing oils above all else, including Netflix. She listens to Bob Dylan daily, eats nachos weekly, and would never travel without running sneakers and eyeliner.

Photo by ITG.

Time to get acquainted with your face map.

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A Primer On Lasers In Skincare

For the uninitiated, the concept of the 10-minute laser facial can seem daunting—sort of like that one-way trip to Mars too many people applied for. First of all, try free-associating the word 'laser.' Sci-fi might be the first word you come up with—or maybe something about newfangled weaponry. Laser hair removal might be in there somewhere if you happen to have experienced that, but skin resurfacing probably wasn't among the first dozen reference points. After all, lasers are a big topic. But seeing as this is a beauty site, today we'll tackle lasers as they relate to skincare—which can cover everything from a 10 second zap to take care of slight skin discoloration to the latest in nonsurgical facelifts.

The easiest way to understand what's treatable is to understand what technologies are at your disposal. But before delving too deep, there are a few important clarifications. Mainly: Not everything in this article is technically a laser. "People lump everything under that umbrella—but that’s just one specific wavelength of light," Dr. Patricia Wexler (of recent Top Shelf fame) clarifies. As the technology has evolved, there are now many tools to transfer energy through the skin, and in effect, injure it so that it heals stronger and more youthful looking. We'll start with lasers though, since it's the name of the game:

A definition: Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Within that, there are ablative lasers and non-ablative lasers. Both can treat color issues in the skin and stimulate collagen regrowth in the skin. The former has a greater capability of targeting the surface of the skin, all the way down to the sub-dermis, whereas non-ablative lasers can target the dermis without addressing the epidermis. "Albating means you’re actually punching holes in the skin," Dr. Neal Schultz explains. "With non-ablative, you’re just transferring the energy through it." These days, non-ablative treatments tend to be more popular—they're considered less invasive, and there's significantly less downtime after the procedure. However, effects of an ablative laser tend to be longer lasting, depending on the area of the face targeted (lip lines and other problem ares caused by excessive movement are going to come back no matter what you zap them with). The downside is the downtime—lasers like a CO2 or Erbium are going to leave the skin "black and blue for a few weeks," Dr. Schultz said. "But they'll get rid of the spot or the line the first time, every time." An Erbium can also treat benign moles and warts.

Both types of lasers can be used to treat discoloration or photo-aging (whether that's brown from sun spots or red from broken capillaries) and skin texture. "When we talk texture, we mean rough, dull, tired-pored, tired-looking skin and even fine lines," Schultz said. "All of these things create a skin surface that isn’t smooth. When you have junk accumulating on the surface, like dead cells and pore sludge, all of these things create irregularities where light hits and scatters instead of reflecting. The lasers that will remove that top layer of hanger-on cells tend to be non-ablative. You don’t need to drill holes to get rid of that stuff." Afterward, there might be a little flaking on the skin for a few days, but no serious down time. "Plus, when you peel off some of those cells, you'll also be getting rid of  some of the discoloration in the brown family," Schultz continued.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
While still reliant on specific wavelengths of light to target melanin or hemoglobin under the skin's surface, IPL doesn't have the same radiation associated with laser technology (all IPL is considered non-ablative, as well). It works by transferring short blasts of specific lights through the skin—different pigments are reached depending on the filter you use. As such, IPL can treat rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and some laxity related issues in the skin. All told, IPL tends to be less expensive, but it often takes several rounds of treatment to get the desired results. It may seem like an altogether more gentle procedure, but Dr. Wexler warns "since this is still a pigment sensitive area, people with darker skin have more trouble with this technique." IPL, along with a low-intensity YAG laser are used in Skin Laundry's facial.

Ultrasound & Radiofrequency
"Anything that heats that skin and fat in a controlled fashion to a certain temperature will make it shrink," said Schultz of heated therapies, which also prompts cells to rebuild by damaging the collagen. If you've ever heard people talking about Thermage, this is what they're referring to. "Think of it as overcooking your steak. It shrivels up, but the heat doesn’t char the outside of the steak. We’re just shrinking the fibers around the fat which will reduce the puffiness around your face."

As for that illusive (or not illusive anymore) nonsurgical facelift—"Ultrasound is amazing," said Wexler about the technology she admits she's the most excited about. "You're delivering a different energy to the layer of the muscle and the layer of the deep dermis." Those are the same two levels targeted during a traditional facelift—but you'd be cutting the muscle and tightening the skin. Instead, by heating the tissue at a specific temperature over the course of an hour and a half or so, it tightens and lifts. The most impactful results are seen several months down the line, once the collagen as regrown.

Now for an important reminder: Like with any procedure, there are always potential risks. But all doctors consulted for this story said with an experienced technician, there's very little to worry about in terms of laser treatments. "They're invasive, but without collateral damage," Dr. Schultz says about lasers and their popularity among patients. "If you want to take advantage of the laser, you also have to take the limitation of the laser—which is that you need a different laser for every single problem." You can do too much, however, and end up with an oddly shaped face, eventual discoloration, and thin-looking skin.

"Any time a patient has a risk of cold sores, we put them on Valtrex before the procedure and keep them on it afterward, but you can always get an infection whenever you have a procedure," Dr. Wexler said. "Cold sores in particular because you keep the virus in your body and it comes out during heat and stress." You also want to stop using hydroquinone products and self-tanners the week before and keep off of them for at least a week after.

The best way to figure out which laser suits your needs is to talk to a doctor. "Brands and types of lasers shouldn't really come into it at first," Dr. Schultz says about consulting your dermatologist, confirming that there is no such thing as the best laser: "One size never fits all. First talk about what the problem is and what the desired result is. And if you're in good hands, your doctor will know where to take it from there."

Illustration Lauren Tamaki.

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