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Skin, Hair, and Nails Are More Than Mere Accessories

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Recently, new uses have been discovered, and a new technique to decrease excessive sweating is showing promise. "Botulinum toxin is one of the greatest advances in dermatologic surgery," he tells WebMD. "It shows dramatic benefits, is reversible, and rarely has side effects."

Nails -- composed primarily of keratin, a hardened protein also found in skin and hair -- also reflect a woman's physical condition, and many diseases and serious conditions can be detected by changes in the nails. Today, an increase in common problems has been associated with nail products, acrylic nails, hardeners, and glues. When handled and used properly, nail cosmetics are generally quite safe, and the booming $6 billion industry "has risen to the challenge by increasing sanitation standards in nail salons and improving nail products," Phoebe Rich, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, tells WebMD.

"Problems from nail cosmetics can be divided into four general categories. Allergic reactions to nail cosmetic ingredients, irritant reactions, traumatic factors, and infections are the most common," Rich says. "In many cases, once the problem is identified, it can be easily treated."

Growth of facial hair increases at various times in a woman's life, including her midlife and senior years. More than 40 million women are affected by this chronic condition. Many spend a great deal of time and money searching for the best way to eliminate facial hair. Dermatologist Marty Sawaya, MD, PhD, reported today on a new cream applied to the skin that has shown promise in studies for long-term relief from unwanted hair. Sawaya is with the Aratec Clinics in Ocala, Fla., and is an adjunct professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Miami.

Called Vaniqa, the treatment has shown "significant improvement" in the reduction of facial hair growth, with only mild side effects. The FDA recently approved the prescription medication, and it will be available in September 2000. Women should consult their dermatologist or family practitioner to determine the appropriate course of treatment.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a few simple steps to protect your skin. They suggest that if your skin is dry, use moisturizers and gentle, non-drying cleansers. You can help prevent skin cancers by daily using sunscreen (at least SPF 15) outside and by wearing protective clothing, hats when outdoors, and gloves when gardening, for example. Wearing gloves is also helpful when working with detergents, chemicals, or water, such as when washing dishes. Proper skin care also should include regular visits to a dermatologist, who can inspect the skin for changes in moles, possibly heading off skin cancer.

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