4 Common Skin Problems: How to Deal

Learn about the top four most common benign skin problems and how you can treat them on your own.

Sanaz Majd, MD,
December 2, 2010

The skin is often described as the largest organ in the body. As a woman, I understand and empathize with how important it is to feel healthy not just on the inside, but on the outside as well. That’s why this article will be about the four most common benign skin conditions that I find in my female patients and how you can deal with them on your own.

#1: How to Deal with Acne

Adult acne, believe it or not, is a pretty common phenomenon. Many of my patients in their twenties, thirties, and even forties come in complaining of pimples and blackheads. It’s a myth that certain foods cause acne. Zits are actually partly genetic and partly hormonal, and acne is typically caused from internal hormonal changes in the body.

If you’ve got pimples, I suggest starting with over-the-counter topical treatments. Good ones to start with are benzoyl peroxide washes or creams used twice daily, which help to kill the bacteria that forms underneath the skin in the oil glands. In addition, make sure to keep the skin clean, and if you use foundation or makeup, make sure it’s “non-comedogenic,” which means that it does not clog up your skin glands.

If over-the-counter products don’t cut it, ask your doctor for a prescription alternative, such as a topical antibiotic cream or gel. If that’s not enough, there are other stronger alternatives with a “tretinoin” derivative, such as Retin-A or Differen gel. These options tend to be a tad harsher on the skin, causing such symptoms as red or dry, flaky skin, but they generally do the job.  

No matter what option you select, realize that it often takes 6-8 weeks to take effect, and your skin may get worse before it gets better.

#2: How to Deal with Wrinkles

Wrinkles are a natural part of the aging process; they are a reflection of our wisdom and experience. But if you want to look younger, several treatments may help.

The best way to find a good dermatologist is by word of mouth, because not everyone injects the same concentration of the goods.

First of all, find a good moisturizer that you like, and use it twice a day. Don’t waste a lot of money on some of these department store moisturizers that claim to make you look younger if you only sign away your life savings. Any over-the-counter alternatives will do. As for prescription creams, studies have shown that treninoin derivates (which are now generic and much cheaper) effectively shed the outer deadened layers of skin, which allows the newer, younger skin layers to push their way through. That may help diminish wrinkles, albeit not overnight. It may take several months to see any changes. 

In addition, there are a dime a dozen dermatologists who will inject “fillers” and other injectables every three months to help cover up your wisdom lines for a high fee. The best way to find a good dermatologist is by word of mouth, because not everyone injects the same concentration of the goods. The more diluted the poisons, the less effective. So ask your friends if they’re happy with their dermatologist and shop around.

#3: How to Deal with Toenail Fungus

Onochomycosis is the fancy medical term used to describe toenail fungus, which is so common that I bet it affects almost 50% of the patients who walk into my clinic--male or female.  Is toenail fungus anything to lose any sleep over? Absolutely not. It’s completely benign and generally considered a cosmetic problem only. Fungus is everywhere--on the floor, the carpet, in our shoes, and in our bathtubs and showers. Best way to prevent it: don’t walk barefoot! Wash your socks in bleach. Bleach the bottom of your tub and shower once a week.

If you happen to notice the not-so-pretty yellow staining and thickening of your toenails, most commonly in the big toe, there are a few tricks to help improve your toenail fungus. First, start using terbinafine (or otherwise known as “Lamasil” cream) over-the-counter cream twice a day on your toenail. Changes are slow, and you may not see a significant change for even up to one year. But side effects are quite minimal, and you don’t have much to lose by giving it a good try. In addition, it will help to prevent your toenail fungus from worsening with time. Second, try soaking your foot in bleach-water soaks, using no more than one tablespoon of chlorox bleach diluted in half a gallon of water for 10-20 minutes every night. 

If you do not get the improvement you were hoping for after trying the previously mentioned treatments for at least six months to one year, you can always talk to your doctor about taking an oral medication. That medication does have side effects, is effective in 75% of patients only, and so should be a last resort.   And even if you take the pills and it resolves, if you don’t do the previously mentioned preventative measure, it can easily return.

#4: How to Deal with Dark Skin Patches

Melasma is a darkening of the skin around the cheeks and the face caused by the hormonal changes of pregnancy or hormonal contraceptives, like the pill. This darkening is completely benign and nothing to worry about. If you’ve been diagnosed with melasma, you can minimize its appearance by making sure to wear sunscreen each and every day (even while in the car). Choose sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher. If the skin changes are too much to handle, however, there are prescription creams that help lighten those skin spots, although very gradually. Unfortunately these creams, along with most cosmetic skin treatments, are often not covered by most health insurance. You also may want to discuss other non-hormonal alternatives for birth control with your doctor.

And there you have it, the top four most common benign skin conditions that women often complain about at the doctor’s office. Now you know the inside secret tips that many physicians often share with their patients in regards to these very common female skin problems, and perhaps this can save you a visit!

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

Woman Looking in Mirror image courtesy of Shutterstock