Skin and Hair

What can my dermatologist do for my wrinkles that’s budget friendly?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm in my 60s and already have a lot of wrinkles. What can a dermatologist do for me that will make a difference but not be hugely expensive?

DEAR READER: Age isn't kind to skin. Years of sun exposure leave their mark in the form of fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration. I spoke to my colleague Dr. Kenneth Arndt, clinical professor of dermatology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Why do some scars last while others fade over time?

DEAR DOCTOR K: How and why does a scar form after injury or surgery? Why do some scars last, while others fade over time?

DEAR READER: It's actually amazing how few scars most people have despite a lifetime of injuries to the skin. Skin heals in a remarkably complicated process. When you cut yourself (or a surgeon makes an incision), three processes take place in roughly the following order, although they often overlap.

How can I protect my kids from frostbite?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My kids love to play outside, even in the cold and snow. How can I protect them from frostbite?

DEAR READER: Frostbite, ironically, results from the body's attempt to protect itself against the cold. Our body cares much more about the temperature of its inside self than the temperature of its outer self. What do I mean? The normal temperature inside our body (our "core temperature") is around 98.6 F. The organs inside -- the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and others -- function best at that temperature.

What causes under eye bags, puffiness, and dark circles?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why do I have bags, puffiness and dark circles around my eyes? What can I do about it?

DEAR READER: My Harvard Medical School colleague Dr. Robert Shmerling wrote about this a couple of years ago in the Harvard Health Letter newsletter. Here's some of what he said: Gently pinch the skin under your eyes and give it a little tug. You'll feel that it's a little looser and thinner than skin elsewhere. It's also looser and thinner than it used to be.

What is the best way to get rid of warts?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What is the best way to get rid of warts?

DEAR READER: Getting rid of warts can be a challenge. Fortunately, the more effective treatments are the simplest. Warts occur when skin cells grow faster than normal because they are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Why does my doctor want me to do a food challenge when my blood test showed negative for a shellfish allergy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last month I broke out in hives after eating oysters. I had a blood test, which came back negative for a shellfish allergy. Why does my doctor still want me to do a food challenge?

DEAR READER: Allergic reactions occur when your body's immune system overreacts against a harmless substance -- in your case, possibly, shellfish. Food allergies can cause a variety of symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening.

Can you explain how the new sunscreen labels work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Sunscreen labels have changed since I stocked up last year. What should I look for on the new labels?

DEAR READER: Sunscreen products do look different than they have in the past, as new rules for labels are now in effect. These new rules, mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have made sunscreen labels more informative and less misleading.

Is it possible to catch poison ivy from another person?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A co-worker came to work with a poison ivy rash. She assured me she's not contagious. Is that true?

DEAR READER: Your co-worker is right: You can't "catch" poison ivy from coming into contact with her rash. But it's summer, so let me give you a refresher course about the many plants that can cause a rash and how to take precautions against them.

Are sunless tanning lotions and sprays safe?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I like to look tanned, but I'm fair-skinned and can't spend too much time in the sun. Are sunless tanning lotions and sprays safe?

DEAR READER: Looking tanned is attractive, probably because it is equated with health. If you're tanned, you're the "picture of health." There are basically just three ways your skin can be tanned: (1) exposure to sunlight, (2) exposure to artificial tanning lamps, and (3) staining your skin with a sunless tanning lotion. But no one should spend too much time soaking up the sun's rays.