Woman with exfoliative keratolysis

Exfoliative Keratolysis

Exfoliative keratolysis is a common skin condition characterized by recurrent focal peeling that often affects the palms of hands, the surface of the fingers, and the soles of the feet. It manifests as air-filled blisters and skin flakes which will later slough off leaving skin dry and itchy. It can occur at the tip of the finger, resulting in a deeper crack which can lead to a numb sensation and make the finger feel hard.

Exfoliative keratolysis is prevalent in children and young adults. It is generally benign and painless though it can be made worse by constant exposure to detergents and soaps. The incidence of this condition is more common during summer months, and especially in individuals who tend to have sweaty hands. It usually resolves spontaneously with no long lasting damage, although extreme cases may result in bleeding as a direct effect of the cracking skin.

The first signs of exfoliative keratolysis are the air-filled blisters which usually appear on the palms and fingertips. These will eventually peel off or split and form skin tags. The peeling skin of the fingers and fingertips can lead to harder skin which can take a longer time before they resolve. As the blisters split, a new skin will be revealed. Though the skin will be tender, it will gradually develop into normal skin. However, the exfoliative keratolysis will recur after several weeks.

Although exfoliative keratolysis is generally harmless and painless, it is unattractive and can cause embarrassment on the part of those affected.

Exfoliative keratolysis involves the outer layer of the skin or the epidermis. The epidermis is composed of multiple layers of keratin, a protein essential to the strength and flexibility of the skin. These characteristics enable the keratin to serve as a water barrier. The breakdown in the keratin causes it to lose its strength, flexibility, and effectiveness as a water barrier which, in turn, causes the skin to exfoliate.  The cause of the breakdown in keratin is unknown although factors such as genetics and allergies are being looked into.

Excessive sweating can stimulate the breakdown in keratin which, in turn, exacerbates the peeling of the skin which is why exfoliative keratolysis is more common in summer months and among those with naturally sweaty hands. Soap and detergents will also trigger the exfoliation of the skin and stress is believed to trigger the incidence of the condition as well as aggravate symptoms.

Exfoliative keratolysis resolves spontaneously without lifelong damage, so treatment is not necessary. To prevent exfoliative keratolysis, it is recommended to avoid contact with irritants like soaps, detergents and solvents which will trigger the exfoliation of the skin. Extra care is also recommended during the seasons when breakouts are more likely to happen. One should also keep hands clean to prevent infection from setting in through the cracks resulting from the condition. Relief from dryness and other symptoms can be achieved through applying emollients containing urea and lactic acid. These are also effective in keep the skin from becoming infected.

Woman using aloe vera to sooth sunburn

Soothing Sunburned Backs and Shoulders

Sun protection is always important but the face, neck and shoulders are crucial areas. Skin is thin near the tops of our bodies which also tend to be closest to the sun and receive the most exposure. The face and neck are also the most susceptible to two of the most common forms of cancer, basal and squamous cell carcinoma. Furthermore, people with melanoma of the head and neck are almost twice as likely to die from the disease as patients with melanomas on other parts of their bodies. So what is the best way to keep these parts of our bodies safe?

Hats are a great line of defense. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you wear a hat with a brim that extends three inches or more all the way around to shade the face, neck, ears and even the tops of the shoulders.

Sunglasses are also essential. Solar UVR can cause or contribute to conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, ocular melanomas and other skin cancers. Five to ten percent of all skin cancers arise on the eyelids. The SCF recommends looking for glasses that cover the eyes, eyelids and as much of the surrounding area as possible. They should come with a tag that verifies that they block 99-100 percent of all UV radiation.

Many sportswear manufacturers also offer a variety of high UPF staples including hoods, scarves, wraps, sarongs and caps. These will offer protection to the head, neck and shoulder area. They are designed to keep you cool, dry and sun safe during outdoor activities. Choose high UPF swimsuits that cover more skin like one piece suits that might offer protection to shoulders.

Many people forget about sun protection in cold weather venues, but ice and snow reflect about 80% of the sun’s UV light, doubling the intensity of exposure. Also, snow and strong wind can wear away sunscreen and reduce its effectiveness. For optimum protection, go for hats made of high tech manmade materials that will keep you comfortable and sun protected. Wraparound sunglasses with UV protective cut glare will block most UVR.

Of course, sunscreen is always an important consideration for the face and neck area. “You might want to look for a sunscreen designed for the face since these products are formulated to suit the needs of different skin types,” explains Arielle Kauvar, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Many facial sunscreens are oil free which gives them a lighter feel. They are less likely to clog pores of those with oily or acne prone skin. These sunscreens are also easier to use under makeup. Beware of facial sunscreens with a strong scent since those are more likely to cause skin irritations. Also, avoid sunscreens for the face with high SPF as the higher levels of active ingredients will feel heavier on the skin. Products with SPF of 30 should offer a perfect balance of feeling lightweight on the skin while still offering the recommended amount of sunscreen protection.

Woman tying up her shoelaces

White Noise Insoles

Typically we use insoles to increase comfort or support. They can alleviate stress and pain in our bodies and joints. But now, thanks to the wonders of modern science and medicine, developers are upping the game in insole support as studies are being conducted on an insole that will electrically stimulate feet with random vibrations that can affect a person’s stride and increase stability. Find out more about how these insoles work and what it can mean for you or a loved one who may need more stability while walking.

The insoles work using a process called stochastic resonance, a method for amplifying weak signals by adding ‘white noise. Although the vibrations produced by the sole are imperceptible, they provide a signal upgrade to the sensitivity of the user’s sole which enables the user to walk with more stability. This was tested in a study in which participants wore the insoles and they were proven to improve balance. The study was published online in the May 2016 issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Daniel Miranda, the lead author of the new study and a Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University in Boston explains how this could help elderly people. “Somebody who’s 65 or 70, who’s generally healthy, may have some sensory deficits due to the natural aging process.” Earlier studies explored how this technique might improve balance in elderly people and help them recover some of the sensitivity they had lost.

Miranda and his colleagues wondered how these insoles could help younger people as well. Another study was conducted in which updated technology made the actuators and sensors small enough so that they could be installed inside a thin, flexible insole which could fit comfortably inside a shoe. This allowed the effects of SR to be tested during more dynamic activities.

Subjects walked up an inclined treadmill as SR vibration was applied during different times of the task; as they warmed up, during the peak of exertion and after they were fatigued. The subjects had no way of knowing when the vibrations were being administered since the pulses were too gentle to feel. Therefore they could not consciously adjust the way they walked. Results found that there was  a 10% improvement in a gait mechanism called step width which directly effects balance therefore improving balance and stability over all while walking.

The improved balance these insoles offer will ultimately keep people from getting hurt.

Woman running barefoot on beach

Are You Ready for Natural Running?

Running baefoot… it seems ridiculous, preposterous even…but believe it or not, it’s getting to be a real trend in the sporting industry. When Kate Clemens, personal trainer was feeling knee pain 6 miles into a 18 mile race, she took off her shoes and ran barefoot and the pain went away. But why run barefoot, what can you expect, and how do you know when you’re ready to run barefoot?

Runners who wear shoes tend to strike the ground heels first. This generates a force of up to three times the body’s weight which can lead to injuries like Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures. Barefoot runners land on the balls of their feet which generates less impact when their feet strike the ground.

Doctors, such as Irene S. Davis, PhD professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, believes that the running shoes over support feet to the point that they make them do what they are not designed to do. She feels that this over support results in muscles not working as hard and therefore becoming weak. She believes that your body will instinctively adjust once extremely lightweight or ‘barefoot shoes’ are worn. “Barefoot runners shorten their strides reducing impact on their lower bodies and automatically flex their knees, hips and ankles for a softer landing on hard surfaces,” said Davis.

There are a few things you know before you embark on barefoot running. The key seems to be to start off slow. You’re more likely to get injured if foot and leg muscles aren’t properly conditioned for barefoot running. Experts recommend you to start with walk-jog intervals. A good ratio might be walking for 9 minutes and jogging for one, then repeating. Gradually work up to longer distances. This will also help the skin thicken which is key in adjusting to barefoot running.

There is a risk of stepping on glass and pebbles while running. Although some claim barefoot running is safe, if this is a concern to you, you may want to opt for barefoot running shoes instead of going completely bare.

A good way to tell if you are landing properly when running is to run totally barefoot on a hard smooth surface that is free of debris. Sensory feedback will tell you if you are landing too hard, as a good landing should feel gentle, relaxed and compliant. You typically want to land on the balls of your feet without overstriding which will add stress on the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and the arch of the foot.

Barefoot running is not recommended for people with diabetes or those who lose feeling in their legs. If you have any history of foot problems, you should check with a doctor before barefoot running. The American Academy of Sports and Medicine and the American Podiatric Medical Association believe that more research is needed to check for any risks or benefits of barefoot running. They recommend consulting a podiatrist before handing in your running shoes.

Woman hiding from the sun

Avoiding Phytodermatitis

Phytodermatitis… sounds scary doesn’t it? For those who aren’t familiar with this condition, it develops when certain plant compounds come into contact with the skin making the skin more sensitive to light. So how can we avoid phytodermatitis, how can it be identified, and how can it be treated? Read on to find out.

Phytodermatitis occurs in two steps. First the skin is exposed to a photosensitizing chemical called furocoumarins that are found in certain plants and fruits. The compounds are at their highest level in summer and spring, increasing the risks of exposure. Plants and fruits to be aware of are celery, parsley, citrus fruits, parsnips, figs, Queen Anne’s lace, bergamot and more.

Symptoms will become apparent after skin is then exposed to UV light from the sun. Within 12 to 36 hours a red, swollen rash will develop which is then replaced by discoloration that can last months or years. The key clue that you have phytodermatitis, and not another condition, is that the rash often appears in the shape of drip marks or hand prints. This is because it is apparent only on the skin that was affected by the toxins. It will also burn rather than itch.

Phytodermatitis is commonly contracted from fruit drippings, airborne particles or scratches from branches. People at risk include those who handle fruits and vegetables, bartenders, grocers, and farm workers. It can also affect people who frequently run, walk, hike or bike in wooded areas or other wild places where the plants that cause this condition grow. Sometimes children might contract it from playing in grasses that come from the same family as Queen Anne’s lace. It can also be contracted from some natural perfumes or essential oils that come from wild plants containing the compound that causes phytodermatitis.

You can avoid phytodermatitis by washing hands after coming into contact with any of the agents that might cause it. Wear long pants and sleeves when you’re in wild and wooded areas.  Also, avoid sun exposure after cutting or squeezing fruit. Avoid drinking soft drinks or fruit drinks while you are out in the sun and avoid wearing perfumes while sunbathing. Also, be sure to use a potent sunblock and limit sun exposure.

Making a campfire can also lead to cases of phytodermatitis. Use only firewood and never put wild plants into the fire. If wild parsnip or other plants that contain phytodermatitis causing chemicals are burned, they will disperse into the air and come into contact with exposed body parts. This can result in an outbreak once you come into contact with sunlight.

Most cases of phytodermatitis are mild and don’t require a trip to the doctor. The spots will fade over time. Treat the rash as you would a poison ivy rash, with cool compresses, hydrocortisone creams and oral antihistamines. In a severe case, treatment may involve steroid pills which would be prescribed by a doctor.

Woman drinking water

Healthy Lifestyles Reduce Cancer Risks

If you can manage to avoid getting cancer in your lifetime, you’ll be dodging a bullet. Approximately 39.6 % of the population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. Odds of surviving 5 years or more are pretty good, with 66.9% of people diagnosed with cancer surviving at least 5 years. So your odds are pretty good, and they only keep getting better as medicine advances, but wouldn’t you like to do what you can to avoid having to deal with the insidious disease at all? Let’s talk about some lifestyle changes you can make to do just that.

Don’t Use Tobacco of Any Kind
And if you currently use it, stop. Using tobacco products makes you age faster, makes your skin look awful, makes you generally unhealthy, and increases your risk of cancer, especially (but not only) lung cancer. If you’re currently using tobacco and have had a hard time quitting successfully or are scared to try, reach out to others going through the same thing. You CAN do it, and you will feel much better once you do. Also consider trying a vapor e-cigarette, which has cartridges with a variety of concentrations of nicotine, so you can start with the normal cartridges and gradually switch to the ones with less and less until you’re totally nicotine-free. Vapor is also much easier on your lungs than smoke.

Limit Processed Foods
Consumption of highly processed foods may be linked with cancer risk odds. Processed meats are especially bad in this regard. Try to stick to lean proteins, dark leafy greens, and dark, colorful fruits. Whole grains and beans are also great choices. Try to maintain a healthy weight by avoiding over-consumption of fried foods, and high-sugar foods, especially processed sugars. When you do use sugars, try raw sugars, or better yet, replace sugars in your diet with sweeteners like stevia as much as possible. Some artificial sweeteners may or may not be linked to higher cancer rates, but stevia is not an artificial sweetener, and seems to be completely safe.

Moderate Alcohol
Drinking is fine in moderation, but don’t overdo it. Breast, colon, lung, kidney, and especially liver cancer risk all increase with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been regularly drinking.

Be Active
Physical activity might actually lower the risk of breast and colon cancer, and it’s just a good idea anyway to stay healthy and feel better in your day to day life. Aim for at least 20 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise. Your heart will appreciate it too!

Limit Sun Exposure
And when you do go out in the sun, use sunscreen! Make sure it’s broad-spectrum and that it’s SPF 30 or higher. If possible, don’t go in the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM, even with sunscreen. And be sure to apply the sunscreen even on overcast days! UV rays can penetrate clouds and are still a danger in winter, too.

And don’t tan. Not with natural sunlight, and not with tanning beds. Just don’t do it. It’s dangerous and damaging and impossible to do safely. Instead, if you really want the tanned look, use a self-tanning product like a tanning lotion or spray tan.

Woman gardening

Get a Hobby

A lot of people associate hobbies with people who have way too much free time, but it turns out, whether you think you have the spare time or not, having a hobby you enjoy may be worth making time for. This is true for everyone, regardless of gender, but in terms of men’s health, this is perhaps especially worth noting, because it’s an area that may often be lacking or not being nurtured in a healthy way. What exactly do we mean by this? Let’s take a look.

A Good Hobby Promotes Healthier Socializing
Toxic masculinity is, unfortunately, ubiquitous in our society. Men are told from a very young age that they need to be territorial, aggressive, domineering, and unfeeling. This can make it incredibly hard for men to form any healthy relationships with friends, family, their partner, etc, etc. Picking up a hobby could give you a reason to get out of the house for something other than work, and you could find yourself in a good environment to make lasting friendships with people who have similar interests. Ever thought painting could be fun, but you figured you’d be no good at it? Or that it wasn’t very “masculine?” Well, screw that, we all know dividing things by gender is generally entirely arbitrary anyway, go sign up for a class at your local community center! Or maybe you like working with your hands in the soil and the satisfaction of watching a little sprout grow big with love and care. Who says men can’t be gardeners? Whatever it is that interests you, make time for it. And if you don’t know what the hell you want to do, just try some new things! Take classes, talk to people about it, dabble until you find something you love to do!

Hobbies Are Good for You
And we mean that in more ways than one. They might actually be beneficial to your physical health! Studies have found evidence suggesting that engaging in enjoyable non-work activities is associated with lower blood pressure, cortisol, and healthier body fat and weight. Doing something you love in your down time relieves stress and gives you a boost that helps prevent or manage depression, anxiety, bad moods…the list goes on.

It’s Important that Your Hobby not Be Work
We’ve said a couple times now that a good hobby outside of your job has a lot of benefits. Thing is, it doesn’t even matter if you absolutely love your job; ultimately, it’s still work, and work feels different from a hobby. If you love your work, great! Even better! But it’s still what you do for a living, and all the positive effects we’ve listed apply more to enjoyable things you do outside your job, because no matter how fun your work might be, it still just feels different, on a fundamental level, than a hobby.

Some people have the experience of their hobby becoming their work. Professional artists or bloggers that started out as hobbyists, etc, etc. This can be a really neat experience, and allows one to do what they love for a living, but if you’re ever lucky enough for this to happen to you, you should really consider finding a new hobby to replace the one that became your job. You’ll probably notice a reduction in stress levels pretty quickly.

Man doing yoga

Yoga's Benefit for Men

Many people find yoga to be relaxing, energizing, and to help contribute to a sense of calm, contentedness, and well-being. It also helps one become more flexible and breathe better and more fully, and conceivably could count as a form of light exercise. It doesn’t replace a good 20-30 minutes of cardio daily, but every little bit counts.

Of course, the vast majority of yoga practitioners are female, so it could be intimidating for men to start a yoga habit. But don’t let that stop you: like most arbitrarily gendered things, thinking yoga is just for women is silly. Let’s talk about a few benefits of yoga, benefits anyone can attain from yoga.

Stress Relief
Many forms of exercise relieve stress in one way or another, but while vigorous or aggressive exercise routines can make one angry or just really tired, yoga uses techniques to make you overall calmer. For this reason, yoga makes a great way to start one’s day, because it promotes a calm but aware state of mind that can help get you through a busy work day with lots of quick thinking and tough choices, as well as help you stay on task better.

Strength
Did you think yoga was only about stretching and getting flexible? You’d be wrong. A lot of yoga exercises involve using your own body’s weight to build muscle. Your yoga routine may have a lot of stretching involved, but it can also include drawn-out pushups, leg lifts, squats, and more.

Flexibility
One of the more obvious benefits of yoga, you’ll find with just a few classes you might already feel more limber and springy. If you’re into any sports, know this: increased flexibility is an advantage in just about any sport. Those funny-feeling spine twists can especially help you relieve major tension and improve your tennis and golf abilities.

Injury Prevention
Yoga also has the benefit of reinforcing mindfulness of one’s own body and its needs and limits, which is a huge boon in other workouts you do or sports you play. The ability to listen to your body and be aware of its state at any given moment, and just how far its limits are being pushed, and most importantly, when you should stop, will be a huge boon in keeping yourself from getting hurt. Because seriously, who wants to nurse a broken bone, sprained ankle, etc, etc, when it could simply be avoided?

Goal Setting
Yoga classes also place a significant emphasis on goal setting. You are likely to be asked to set a goal for any given individual session, and to set goals for the future in other areas of your life. They can be as small or large as you like, but keep them attainable and realistic. Further, be sure and reward yourself whenever you meet or exceed a goal; yoga can, surprisingly enough, help with all of these, as the mindset it fosters is incredibly conducive to calm, clear thinking, which is required to set good goals and then take steps to reach them.

Woman eating healthy food

Eating Healthy on 2,500 Calories

Two thousand and five-hundred calories every day might seem like a lot of food (or it might not, it really depends on your mental concepts of such things), but for a respectable portion of the population, it’s actually an appropriate target. Specifically, sedentary men ages 19 to 30, moderately active men ages 31 to 50, active men over 50, and very active women of various ages all may need approximately 2,500 calories in their diet.

But of course, it’s not as simple as calorie-counting, regardless of the target number. Not all calories are created equal, and to eat healthily, you need to balance things properly. Let’s talk about how to do that.

Lean Proteins
Protein is essential for everyone, and lean protein is the best you can get in this regard. On 2,500 calories a day, you need approximately 6.5 ounces of protein a day. An ounce of protein can be found in an ounce of seafood, poultry, lean red meats, an egg, ¼ cup of tofu, ½ an ounce of seeds and/or nuts, and a tablespoon of peanut butter, roughly speaking.

Woman having food rich in fiber.

Lots of Fiber
Also incredibly important is fiber. Following a 2,500 calorie plan, you should get 3 ¼ cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruits a day. Variety is key here, and generally, dark, leafy greens and vibrant red and purple fruits are best. For conversion purposes, half a cup of dried fruit is equal to one cup fresh fruit or fruit juice (no added sugar!), and 2 cups of leafy greens roughly equals one cup of other vegetables

Opt for Healthy Fats
For every source of trans fat and saturated fat, there’s plenty of alternatives. That said, healthy fats are still fats, and shouldn’t be over-consumed regardless. You want about 7 teaspoons of oil a day on a 2,500 plan; any extra is going to interfere with your heart health. Olive oils, coconut oil (in moderation; it is still a saturated fat), and avocado oil are just a few examples of healthier fats.

You Don’t Actually Need Dairy
It’s a common misconception that dairy is a basic food group and essential for good nutrition. This is actually quite false, and humans are not really designed to consume any kind of milk once they stop breastfeeding. That said, we’ve evolved to tolerate dairy, and in moderation, it’s not necessarily harmful (unless you’re lactose-intolerant, of course), so there’s nothing wrong with having a little as a treat now and then, but don’t get tricked into thinking it’s essential.

Soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk are a few examples of tasty non-dairy milk alternatives, and can help you avoid the saturated fats of many dairy products or if you can’t tolerate lactose. Skim milk also features less lactose, which might be okay if your lactose intolerance is mild or moderate (as opposed to severe), and it also, of course, contains less fat.

Woman buying cosmetics from a store

Changing Up your Skincare Products

You know how you can develop a tolerance to things like medications (painkillers are a common example), alcohol, and other substances? It turns out, you might actually be able to develop a tolerance to certain skin care products too. What we mean by this is that there is evidence suggesting that if you use certain skin care products for long enough (around a year) they can stop being as effective, in the same way that if you take a certain painkiller a lot for the same kind of pain, it will get less effective at blocking it out for you after awhile, or how the more you drink alcohol, the more you can drink at a time without the adverse effects being as effective (do note, this is only provided as an example, and we do not encourage irresponsible drinking by any means; try to keep it to one glass of antioxidant-rich red wine a night).

How does this happen? And what can be done about it? Let’s talk about that.

The Process
The process wherein your skin can develop a tolerance to certain ingredients involves the particular enzymes that the ingredient activates. You can’t develop a tolerance to all skin care ingredients, because this applies specifically to ones that are active in a certain way. Some skin care ingredients, like retinol, vitamin C, and others, cause enzymes to be released in the skin cells and attach themselves to a specific receptor, which then triggers the desired effect of the product. However, your cells only have so many receptors, and if you repeatedly flood them with enzymes, eventually they will all be taken up and bonded to an enzyme and unable to accept more for awhile, lessening the effect the product can have on your skin.

How to Fix It
The solution here is to vary the skin care products you use; to change them up on a regular basis. It’s recommended to use the same set of products no longer than 6 to 8 months, and then switch to another set of products which aims at producing similar effects, but with different formulations of ingredients, and/or with ingredients available in different forms (recall, for example, that all vitamins have several different “forms” which all act as the vitamin, but trigger slightly different reactions in cells). Conveniently enough, this span of time lines up relatively well with the change of seasons from summer to fall and then winter to spring. As such, try taking advantage of this convenient timing and do what’s already recommended anyway: a seasonal switch. Use slightly heavier, more moisturizing products in autumn and winter than you do in spring and summer, and kill two birds with one stone.