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What the Heck Causes Skin Tags?
Valerie Monroe
Photo: Patrik Andersson
Q: What causes "skin tags," and how can I get rid of them?

A: Just tell your dermatologist, "Remove my acrochordon, please." After the good doctor compliments you on your fine command of medical terminology, she will clean the skin tag (simply an overgrowth of cells, most often benign) with alcohol and then either snip it off with surgical scissors or freeze or burn it off. The procedure takes a few minutes, feels about as painful as a mosquito bite, and usually heals in 24 hours, says Steven H. Dayan, MD, clinical assistant professor in the division of facial plastic surgery at the University of Illinois. By late middle age, about 60 percent of people have skin tags. They tend to run in families, increase during pregnancy (estrogen and progesterone may influence their growth), and appear on the neck, under the breasts, or near the armpits.

Bottom line: Thank your genetics (or pregnancy) for your skin tags; a quick trip to the doctor will relieve you of them.

Next: Is there any way to get rid of turkey neck? 
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As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.

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    How Can I Get Rid of Dry, Itchy Skin?
    Valerie Monroe
    Photo: Jonathan Skow
    Q: In winter I get itchy, dry patches everywhere, and moisturizers don't seem to help.

    A: Did you know that 50 percent of women take long, hot showers, even though most of them know that it dries out the skin? (That would be me.) Instead, we should be taking short, lukewarm showers, patting ourselves nearly dry, and applying a rich moisturizer to damp skin, says Marsha Gordon, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Gordon recommends moisturizing twice a day: after that sadly short, tepid shower, and again before bed. If you follow this advice and you still get dry patches, or if they don't go away in the warmer months, you may be allergic to an ingreident in your moisturizer. Then applying it is like rubbing salt in a wound: ouch. Or rather: itch. A dermatologist can do a patch test to determine if you have any allergies.

    Bottom Line: Cut short the showers and increase the moisturizers.

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      Tips to Get Rid of Bumpy Skin
      Valerie Monroe
      Photo: Patrik Andersson
      Q: Even though I use a mild soap and moisturizer, the chicken skin on my upper arms is getting worse. What causes those bumps, and how can I get rid of them?

      A: Good work with the mild soap and the moisturizer; both should help alleviate your chicken skin (formally called keratosis pilaris). But don't you hate it when a problem persists even though you do the right thing to treat it? Cold, dry winter air or dry heat indoors may be partly to blame for your worsening condition. Be sure you moisturize damp skin immediately after showering or bathing, says Howard Sobel, MD, director of the New York Institute of Aesthetic Dermatology and Laser Surgery. You might also try using moisturizer on a polyester sponge (like a Buf-Puf; a loofah might be too abrasive) to remove the bumps, which are plugged hair follicles. An exfoliating treatment—a lotion or cream containing salicylic, lactic, or glycolic acid—can also help smooth the skin. (Sobel recommends Lac-Hydrin lotion—with 12 percent lactic acid—and his own brand, DDF Glycolic 10% Exfoliating Moisturizer.)

      Keep in mind: If there's no improvement in three to four weeks, see your dermatologist; a low-dose prescription retinoid cream may be in order.

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        How Can I Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
        Valerie Monroe
        Photo: Patrik Andersson
        Q: How can I get rid of stretch marks? Creams don't seem to work.

        A: They don't seem to work because they don't work. "With stretch marks there's no home-run treatment," says Heidi Waldorf, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. But the Vbeam laser can fade the color of new, reddish marks, Waldorf says. The laser's heat stimulates collagen production and improves skin texture in three to six treatments. Using a topical prescription retinoid cream for about six months might also help. Two to four treatments with the Fraxel Re:store laser may help reduce the appearance of older, white stretch marks.

        Keep in mind: Help doesn't come cheap. The Vbeam treatments cost $400 to $600 each; Fraxel Re:store, $1,000 to $2,000 each, both depending on the depth and width of the marks.

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          What to Do If Your Prescription Cream Irritates Your Skin
          Val Monroe's beauty advice
          Photo: Jonathan Skow
          Q: I tried using a prescription retinoid to improve my skin texture, but I stopped because it was so irritating I could use it only once a week. What else might I try?

          A: You might try, try...again. Dermatologists like to use the word noncompliance a lot when they're talking about prescription retinoids. That's because the problem you describe is common; retinoids can cause redness and flaking, so patients often stop using them. Case in point: you. The thing is, they're very beneficial for treating fine lines and sun damage, and they've been shown to increase cell renewal and prevent collagen breakdown, which is why they're still the gold standard of noninvasive skin treatments. To get back on the wrinkle-reducing wagon, Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute at the University of Miami and author of The Skin Type Solution, suggests using an over-the-counter retinol for a few months and then graduating to a prescription product (like Renova, Differin, or Atralin, which are less irritating than other retinoids). You can also dilute the prescription with your moisturizer till you can tolerate it full-strength.

          If you have rosacea, eczema, or ultrasensitive skin, you may not ever be able to tolerate a retinoid. Instead, try a serum or lotion with pentapeptides, vitamin C, or other antioxidants like green tea, says Debra Jaliman, MD, clinical assistant professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

          Bottom line: Build up your tolerance by using over-the-counter retinols before moving on to a prescription.

          As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.

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            The Trick to Keeping Skin Looking Young
            Valerie Monroe
            Photo: Robert Trachtenberg

            Q: I have rosacea, so I can't use retinoids or exfoliators on my face. How can I keep my skin looking youthful?

            A: You're right to avoid using a prescription retinoid (the potentially irritating vitamin A derivative that diminishes fine lines and helps regenerate collagen); most people with rosacea have sensitive skin, says Diane Berson, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. As an alternative, you might try over-the-counter products containing retinol, a milder retinoid. Also look for cleansers and moisturizers containing salicylic acid, which helps unclog pores and exfoliates. Every three to four weeks, you could get a salicylic acid peel (cost: around $200), which has the immediate effect of smoothing and tightening, and the long-term effect of improving skin tone and texture and reducing pigmentation and fine lines.

            Keep in mind: Don't forget to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily—it's especially important if you have sensitive skin.

            Ask Val a question or find out how to manage dry, frizzy hair

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