Embarrassing Beauty Questions…Answered!

two women smilingWe all have embarrassing beauty questions that we desperately want answered. The problem is that most of us are too embarrassed to ask them. But never fear! Here are some of the most frequently asked embarrassing beauty questions…and their answers.

1. Why is my face so shiny?
If you are also losing hair and have stopped getting your period, a hormonal imbalance could be the culprit, and you should see your doctor. If not, your skin is just oversensitive to your male hormones (we all have them) – and this is triggering the production of excess oil. Another possibility: a too-harsh cleansing routine. Many dermatologists believe that overuse of alcohol-based toners and gritty scrubs can overdry and irritate your skin and make it produce extra oil to compensate, says Doris J. Day, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University.

The Solution: Your best bet is to regulate oil without overdrying your skin. In the morning, wash your face with an oil-free cleanser, then rub on an alcohol-free toner (if you think your skin is sensitive to alcohol-based ones). Don’t forget to apply an oil-free moisturizer, preferably one with SPF. Throughout the day, mop up any shiny areas with blotting papers. Before bed, repeat your morning routine, substituting a moisturizer that does not have SPF. If you continue to shine, ask your dermatologist for help.

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2. Why do my feet stink?
When the normal bacteria on your feet interact with moisture trapped in your socks and shoes, they emit stinky sulfurous byproducts, says Dr. Day.

The Solution: Since dry feet equals odor-free feet, wear absorbent cotton socks with shoes made from breathable materials, like canvas and leather, and sprinkle an over-the-counter drying powder into your shoes every morning. Three nights a week, pour a pot of tea made with several regular (not herbal) tea bags into a basin, then soak your feet for five to 10 minutes. The tannic acid in tea temporarily inhibits sweat production. See your doctor if your feet are also red, swollen or scaly to make sure a bacterial or fungal infection isn’t causing the smell.

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3. Why does my breath smell despite constant brushing?
Although brushing will help prevent cavities (so don’t stop scrubbing), it can only mask bad breath, since the problem really lies within your throat and tongue, not your teeth. When the bacteria in your mouth lose access to oxygen (which can happen when you take certain prescription medications for depression or high blood pressure), they emit smelly sulfur compounds, says Harold Katz, D.D.S., founder of The California Breath Clinic in Los Angeles; this is the same principle at work with foot odor. Eating garlic and onion also makes your breath stink because they contain those same sulfur compounds.

The Solution: Contrary to popular belief, a tongue scraper won’t banish bad breath – sulfur compounds cannot be removed manually. Instead, keep your mouth oxygenated by drinking water throughout the day and using an over-the-counter oral rinse with chlorine dioxide in both in the morning at at night to help neutralize sulfur compounds. Chewing on oxygen-rich vegetables, like parsley and celery, can also diminish odors. If these tricks don’t work, see your dentist.

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4. Why do I get a bumpy rash along my bikini line every time I wax or shave?
A too-close shave or waxing can make hairs split and loop around just under the surface of the skin. As these off-kilter hairs grow, they push up against your skin, causing inflammation and redness, says Lawrence Moy, M.D., chief of dermatology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

The Solution: Put down your loofah; dermatologists now agree that rubbing the bumps to free trapped hairs will only make the problem worse. Instead, apply an ingrown hair solution to the affected area once or twice a day to gently exfoliate the area and shed the top layer of cells. Once you shed this layer, the looped hairs will be able to poke through. If ingrown hairs are a persistent problem, you may want to consider laser treatment, which damages the hair follicles and prevents hair growth. You’ll need about 3 to 6 treatments (each around $350), followed by a touch-up every six months to a year. Before beginning any laser procedure, be sure to ask if the laser being used has been approved for use on darker skin tones.

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5. Are the bumps on my butt and on the backs of my arms pimples?
No. They’re actually called keratosis pilaris – the cause is unknown, but some claim that it’s a hereditary condition.

The Solution: You can soften and help slough off bumps by rubbing them with a mixture of equal parts petroleum jelly and either water or cold cream. If that doesn’t work, prescription Retin-A probably will, but it can irritate the surrounding skin. A better alternative: prescription LactiCare-HC Lotion 2 1/2%, which contains lactic acid to dissolve dead skin cells and hydrocortisone to soothe any acid-induced irritation. Rub lotion onto bumps twice a day until they clear up.

7. What’s causing my toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is actually athlete’s foot (often picked up from shared showers or borrowed shoes) that has spread into your toenails.

The Solution: One of the most effective treatments is a prescription antifungal pill like Lamisil or Sporanox, but be warned: These treatments are only 70 to 80 percent effective at best, and even when they work it takes nearly a year and a half for the toenail to fully grow out, says Day. Prevent a recurrence by wearing shower slippers every time you rinse off at the gym and by not borrowing shoes. Also, a popular home cure for toe fungus is applying vapor rub onto affected areas once or twice a day.

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8. Why do my teeth look so dull and anything-but-white?
Smoking and excessive consumption of dark beverages (like coffee, tea, soda and red wine) are the main causes of stained teeth, says Lana Rozenberg, D.D.S., founder of the Rozenberg Dental Day Spa in New York City.

The Solution: As with clothing stains, the longer discolorations remain on your teeth, the harder they are to remove – so keep up those twice-a-year dental visits. You can lighten your teeth several shades with a whitening toothpaste that contains carbamide peroxide, but use it only once a day to avoi
d drying out gum tissue. Floss treated with the whitening agent silica has also been proven to polish away stains, which often form between teeth. For more dramatic results, your dentist can bleach your teeth up to eight shades brighter with a highly concentrated peroxide gel administered via laser ($800 to $1,500) or in a custom-fitted mouthpiece ($600 to $1,000) that you wear an hour a day for about 10 days, says Rozenberg.

9. What’s to blame for my stretch marks?
You may suspect that the marks on your tummy, thighs or hips were caused by pregnancy or significant weight fluctuations. What you may not know, though, is that hormonal changes that occur during normal growth spurts can also cause your skin to stretch and scar, says Lawrence Moy, M.D. Red marks appear when your skin stretches and thins so much that you can see your blood flowing through the skin’s thinned outer layers, says Joseph L. Jorizzo, M.D., When your skin stretches minimally or the stretched skin is thick, white marks result.

The Solution: Unfortunately, there is no treatment that is guaranteed to remove stretch marks, but you can make them less noticeable. Ask your doctor about the best fix for you, including laser therapy ($450 to $700 per treatment), which can tone down the brightness of recently acquired red marks, or microdermabrasion ($50 to $150 per session), which can diminish the appearance of white marks.

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10. Why this excess facial hair?
If you fight your follicles on a daily basis or sprout lots of hairs on your chin, see your doctor. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (a disorder characterized by high levels of male hormones) or an adrenal gland problem could be to blame. If you’re moderately hairy (you tidy up your brows or upper-lip area once a month), you’ve probably just got your genes to thank.

The Solution: You can try an odorless prescription cream to help decrease your light to heavy facial hair growth. Though it doesn’t yield immediate results (you’ll need to keep using your regular hair-removal methods at first), the cream blocks one of the enzymes responsible for hair growth, gradually slowing it down as long as you continue to use it, says Ken Washenik, M.D., director of dermatopharmacology at New York University School of Medicine. Other alternative solutions include laser hair treatments or electrolysis sessions. Ask your doctor for their help in deciding what plan of attack is right for you.

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