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The 3 Worst Things People Do To Their Skin

July 11, 2014

1. It has been said a zillion times, but I will say it again:  DO NOT USE TANNING BEDS. EVER.

In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization,  added tanning beds and lamps the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation.  Let’s be clear, tanning beds are in the same category of risk to humans as Plutonium. In their report, which was made after a comprehensive review of research on skin cancer, they state that those who use tanning beds before age 30 increase the risk of melanoma by 75%.  people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell cancer and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell cancer.  A study from the Mayo Clinic published in January, 2014 looked at the incidence of skin cancer between 1970 and 2009 among men and women  40 to 60 years old. Skin cancer rates for men increased 4.5 fold while skin cancer rates for women increased an 24-fold.  This huge discrepancy was thought to be due to increased tanning bed use among the women.  in women between the ages of 18 and 29, they concluded that 76% of their melanomas were associated with tanning bed use.

To those who insist they use tanning beds to increase their vitamin D production, they should know that it is UVB which induces Vitamin D production in the skin, but tanning beds are 93-97% UVA-emitting, which does nothing for your Vitamin D levels.

I applaud Australia, who has BANNED tanning beds altogether, and the increasing numbers of states who are enacting legislation to limit tanning beds among those younger than 18.

My patients know this:  If you come to my office a little tan because you went on vacation and had a great time, you won’t hear a peep from me.  I believe in living life joyfully, and if that means getting a little sun, so be it (that does not include lying out and baking for 8 hours, which is dumb,  even if you have sunscreen on)  But if you use tanning beds, I am going to scold you and guilt you in my best Jewish-mother voice.


2. Smoke cigarettes

Sooooooo many reasons not to smoke, but let me appeal to your vanity.  You will look worse if you smoke.  Uglier, older, saggier, more spotted, more sallow. Period.

Below is a link to a WebMD  visual for how smoking impacts your skin – check it out.

3. Pick their skin – the fancy term for this is dermatillomania

I know it is hard not to do it.  But when you pick, whether you are picking a pimple or a hair follicle bump on your leg, or an itchy spot on your scalp, you increase inflammation. By increasing inflammation, you increase your chances of getting brown hyper-pigmentation if you are darker-skinned, and red marks if you are lighter-skinned as you heal.  And worst of all, you increase your chances of getting a scar. You also increase your chance of getting a skin infection, and with all these antibiotic-resistant strains of Staph around, that is not something you want to do.  Plus, I find that skin picking makes people feel bad about themselves, like they are failing in some way.  If you are a picker, and are motivated to stop, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has the highest success rates of different types of talk therapy.  Certain Psychiatric medications can be helpful for some people as well (the SSRI’s like lexpro, celexa, zoloft as well as zyprexa).  I recommend worry beads if people feel the need to do something with their hands while they are at work – google them. can also be a helpful resource.